Communicating Science & Technology

I recently attented a conference on communicating science and technology in Tromsø, Norway June 6-9 (CST060606). The conference was filmed and the presentations can be viewed over the internet broadcast. There were many very good presentations bringing up important points, and one by Lawrence Krauss (Science under Attack) should not be missed. Also, the presentation by the nobel laurate Ivar Giaever provides a lot of food for thought, and Janet Sumner told how the science can be ‘jazzed up’ and made more accesible on the BBC (touching onto the climate science – climate chaos season – and showing clips of ‘Rough science’, ‘Labrats’ and ‘Science Shack’, in association with the Open University). The conference was attended by scientists, teachers, politicians, and people from the media. The topics of presentations span issues such as climate, ID, media, schools, and politics (the Norwegian minister of education). [I also gave a fairly diasterous :-( presentation on communicating climate with reference to :-).]

96 comments on this post.
  1. Steven T. Corneliussen:

    To what extent did your conference engage the important contrast between the deficit model and the engagement model?

    In my experience too many scientists assume, without even realizing it, that science communication must be improved only under what some people call the “deficit model” — the name refers to the deficit in public knowledge about science — to the exclusion of what’s been called the “engagement model.” (Maybe this contrast has been talked about in RC threads that I missed.) In fact, it’s my impression that many scientists aren’t even remotely aware of the contrasting approaches.

    But maybe that problem is diminishing. It seems to me, for example, that itself represents a breakthrough in the relation of science and society precisely because RC balances engagement-model benefits with deficit-model necessities.

    Anyone interested in the contrasting approaches might want to see a thoughtful 27 June 2005 essay by David Dickson, editor of “The case for a ‘deficit model’ of science communication” appears at .

    Here’s an excerpt: “Increased knowledge about modern science does not necessarily lead to greater enthusiasm for science-based technologies. Indeed, there is considerable evidence to the contrary. For example, the more knowledge an individual has about a potentially dangerous technology (such as nuclear power or genetic engineering), the more concern he or she may well feel about that technology. In modern societies â?? particularly given the power and pervasiveness of today’s communications technologies â?? trust and respect need to be generated; they cannot be taken for granted or imposed from above, whether in science or any other type of social activity. That implies the need for an openness to dialogue, … .”

    In my view, respect for that need for an openness to dialogue is what makes engagement-model-based, which is at the same time a great deficit-model source of information, so valuable. Thanks.

    [Response:Good question - if you listen on the internet broadcast of the presentations, I don't think that you find it, but there were some parallel sessions and I could not attend all. There was an understanding that the level of sciences is low in general in the society. There were also some presentations on survey, suggesting that people in general are interested in science & technology, despite this. By 'science', knowledge of potentially dangerous technology, such as nuclear physics, is not what first that comes to mind... Science is so much more than that. -rasmus]

  2. JMG:

    How striking to find this here this morning, as I was visiting the site to find your e-mail addresses to send a comment that occurred to me this morning and that I thought was urgent to share with you.

    My background is as a nuclear engineer turned attorney. These disparate fields have given me lots of opportunities to read and wrestle with the questions of risk communication: the art of conveying honestly the risks inherent in an activity in a form that is useful to the people who are the target audience for the communication, so that they actually understand the risk and can make intelligent choices.

    What I want to suggest is that one of the reasons that the science of global warming is not better understood and accepted by the mass media and public is that we have unthinkingly chosen a set of units (degrees) that seems almost fiendishly designed to reduce the apparent urgency of the problem. Members of the media–and the general public–have a very hard time comprehending that the difference between 58F and 60F or 62F is HUGE. It is simply not a huge difference in their lifetime of experience–thus, encapsulating the punchline of a global warming threat assessment in such anodyne terms is disastrously bad risk communication.

    I would like to propose and hear your ideas on a better method of reporting the magnitude of the changes. The first one that occurs to me is this:

    Figure out the range of average temperature changes between this climactic period and the prior one. If I recall correctly, it might be on the same order of magnitude as some of the higher estimates for what we can expect from current IPCC projections (10 degrees).

    Anyway, whatever that range is, that would define a range of 100 Hansen units (or Arrhenius units, if you prefer), and we would begin to describe predicted changes using both scales (e.g., if 100 Hansens spanned a range of 10 degrees F, then when discussing the predictions for a 4F increase, we would say 4F (40 Hansens).

    Or maybe you can come up with better ones–but the idea has to be something that compresses the scale so that the human-caused variation looks like a raging fever and is not rendered artificially benign-looking simply because the temperature units we happened to start using make it seem like global warming is merely a global mild fever.

    We can argue that people “oughta” understand the huge magnitude of a 1 or 2 degree change in global average temperatures until we’re blue in the face–or we can recognize that when serious threats masquerade as harmless, your first priority has to be making it possible for people to appreciate the threat.

  3. Wacki:

    Speaking of Communicating Science & Technology, why don’t you guys have an open forum? I have a ton of questions I’d like to ask and there doesn’t seem to be an acceptable venue for this. I’m sure many of your readers are more than happy to help teach others. The simple fact that the discussion on an article is closed after only one month really harms the learning process for those that are new to this website.

    [Response: That's a fair suggestion. We've experimented a little with open threads, but we generally find that they degenerate very quickly and it's much more difficult for interesting points to be noticed. You are of course welcome to email us at the contact address with specific questions. These can often be answered very quickly, or if there is enough substance, we end up doing a specifc post on the topic. There are other forums that are more user-driven - I'd recommend globalchange or UKww Climate forum - but please don't hesitate to ask us questions - they are all read. - gavin]

    [Response: Sometimes I think we ought to have a once-a-month open forum to field questions on all relevant topics, and on topics that may embrace the subject matter of more than one post. As Gavin said, these can easily degenerate into sci.env type brawls, but perhaps that could be fought off with judicious moderation. --raypierre]

  4. Thomas Lee Elifritz:

    Increased knowledge about modern science does not necessarily lead to greater enthusiasm for science-based technologies. Indeed, there is considerable evidence to the contrary. For example, the more knowledge an individual has about a potentially dangerous technology” …

    Such as coal and oil extraction and hydrocarbon combustion, and the associated ecological and environmental destruction and degradation, noxious and poisonous exhaust gass emissions and toxic waste, to say nothing of global warming, climate change and future hurricane enhancement, for instance. What did I miss?

  5. pete best:

    I just like the way politicians and decision makers have relied on science and technology to make them look good and to offer +ve progress about peoples material ambitions. To suddenly have a scientific subject come up that is seemingly -ve in nature (AGW) and scary to boot (if the projections of change are true) that is at odds with materialistic progress as to almost stop it in its tracks if the CO2 cuts that scientists are asking for are made is just to much for politicians. All that is happenning at the moment is that politicians are going to keep economic progress happenning (democrocies have no choice do they)and hope for a solution to come along that eliminates CO2 before it is tool ate.

    the amount of effort and money that combating climate change requires can at the present time put us back to the dark ages. The entire infrastrcuture of the western world is CO2 based on fossil fuels and now the east to is forging ahead with a CO2 fuelled economy.

    I have not seen any real implementable options – just a little bit of carbon reduction via kyoto that is next to useless in the grand scheme of things

  6. jhm:

    RE No. 2
    How about the energy required to raise average global temperatures, perahaps expressed in megatonnage (probably too big a number to grasp), or number of category 5 hurricanes.

  7. Liam:

    one of the problems there is in engaging the public about the nature of problems relating to global warming is the scale of the issue. Traditional media, including the internet is literally too fragmented to be able to give a coherent picture of the type of changes that could occur.

    In contrast scientists have models (and the necessary understanding) to determine likelihood scenarios based on those models projections.

    Given the erosion of traditional medias importance, including the ubiquitous TV, why not try and engage with the average person using the technology they use. Essentially combine entertainment with science.

    I’ll attempt to explain. I’m not a fan of computer games in any way shape or form, but i remember a game called Civilisation where people could try and build a civilisation based on set inputs and consequences. They made investments and if they weren’t balanced their civilisation collapsed. An example was not investing in fire fighting services caused massive fires. And so on.

    At the same time many games out there are now internet linked so people play one against the other on the internet. Alongside that i saw that the BBC used a quite innovative program to run a climate model based on the British met office climate model

    software to link the model together available from

    Whilst this is very innovative, the limitation is that it is only going to be run by people who are already clued in to some degree, whilst those that are sitting at their playstations are outside the loop (and they are a huge chunk of people).

    In other words, create a game, that could also serve as a model that works as people play, giving them a graphic picture of the consequences of their choices. They build twenty new coal plants, the land starts disappearing, and so on. It should be possible.

    Essentially i think there is a real disconnect, and that will only be broken by innovatively engaging with people and it will be most effective if its done on their terms.

    [Response:I talked to some people from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) - part of the United Nations - who mentioned this possibility. The UN has already made a multimedia educational game - the fiirst action peace game, they claim - which is available on This game teaches the player some of the aspect of saving people affected by some disaster (there is some hint of climate relation in it). -rasmus]

  8. Wacki:

    Ok, I just watched the Lawrence Krauss video. It’s very good food for thought. One problem I have with it is the NSF stats. I’ve done lots of heavy labor in my lifetime and I’ve never met someone that didn’t know the orbit of the earth was a year long. So I am incredulous that the 50% number is true.

  9. Brian:

    Re #7
    In other words, create a game, that could also serve as a model that works as people play, giving them a graphic picture of the consequences of their choices. They build twenty new coal plants, the land starts disappearing, and so on. It should be possible.

    This already exists in the game you mentioned, the Civilization series. I believe the newest iteration, IV, was one of the best selling games in the world for awhile after it was released. Can’t comment on that version, but in III, which I played 4-5 years ago, modern development leads to heavy pollution consequences as well as eventual signs of climate change (unpredictable agriculture, forests and jungles shrinking or growing rapidly and uncontrollably, etc), mitigated only by heavy investments in environmentally sound technology. The better question is how many people play that game and leave the experience having accepted AGW as real? Or, how many people just say “**** it” and decide to rampage their opponents via military means as opposed to seeking a solution?

    A bit off topic!

  10. Michael Jankowski:

    Re7,9 – One of the first versions of SimCity was exactly that. It was quite popular among college students in my time (early 90s) and has a series that apparently has expanded to this very day. I recall that you had a choice of various types of power plants (coal, nuclear, etc) each with their pros and cons. Spend too little on fire protection and police, and you have problems. Raise taxes too high, and you have other problems. I can’t remember the benefits of parks/greenspace (property values? population growth? etc), but they were there. The idea was to create a wonderful and sustainable city.

    Of course, what does a video game really provide other than entertainment? Many video games are all about violence and destruction (some quite realistic and graphic war simulations, etc), and that doesn’t seem to influence people one bit. If any, it probably numbs them.

    [Response: I don't know how much computer games would help in communicating the science to the general public, but something like SimCity/Earth which combined GISS's EdGCM (a fast GCM) with a simple economic model (e.g. Nordhous' RICE or DICE) and a carbon model (ISAM) would be a great tool for college level courses. It could help people think about things like how soon you need to start reducing emissions, or about what happens if you let a lot of cheap coal fired power plants get built early on, but then have to deal with their effects later. --raypierre]

  11. Steve Sadlov:

    RE: #1 – Allow me to draw an analogy. Although I was trained in Earth Sciences, these days, I delve quite a bit into things like Statistical Process Control. So here is the question of the day. Imagine that I have a process that has been running for a really long time. I have some data, but not complete data, about its past performance. I have some idealized notions about how it ought to perform, but I cannot definitively tell you exactly how much variation is too much. The next best thing, then, would be to use the past data to attempt to come up with a figure for Cpk (process capability). Based on the fact the process has been running as long as it has, I can be reasonably confident that, assuming I can recover enough past data, excise biases and errors, and put it in order, then I can determine at least some initial control and specification limits. In this conception, then, the control limits would constitute sort of a red flag, and the specification limits a no go. Now, given this, the need to be very, very sure about what the innate, expected level of variation is is aparent. This is something I would need to be very agnostic about. The last thing I would want to do would be to set inappropriate control and spec limits. On the one hand, I would not want to overreact to every little wiggle, and on the other hand, I would not want to miss an opportunity to stop a problem. In this scenario, overreliance on any sort of precautionary principle might result in a situation where while I may be stopping problems, I also am never running the process and I would go out of business. At the other extreme, I would be getting sued left and right and spending more on product recalls than I was making. This is the essence of the climate science problem.

  12. Richard Wesley:

    Re: 2, 6

    I think this “units” critique in #2 is a valid one, but I think that the solution in #6 is a better choice. To try to illustrate this, I need to make a small digression.

    A few days ago I made a posting in another thread asking why NOAA (and Hadley) use ACE as a measure of seasonal hurricane activity instead of PDI. Unfortunately, I did not get to follow up to the response I got from another poster pointing out the (rather obvious) fact that a cubic tends to exaggerate extremes, so the choice depends on the argument you are trying to make. My response would have been that using this justification, one can choose an arbitrary function of the data to make any point one likes, which is somewhere between confused and immoral!

    It seems to me that a better choice is to require that the value be physically meaningful – which is why I asked why PDI (a measure of the energy content) is not preferred to ACE (a measure of…the integral of the square of the wind speeds). And even if I am mistaken about the physical relevance of ACE, I trust that this little digression illustrates the issue here a bit.

    Returning to the topic at hand, we should pick something that covers the full scale, but let’s make sure the units are meaningful and comparable. Energy dissipated sounds good, but the issue of scaling it remains. It should be relative to the planetary energy budget, but scaled in some way so that we can make meaningful comparisons to the past and future.

  13. Steve Bloom:

    Re #11: I’m no expert, but the impression I have is that Emanuel developed PDI because it is a more accurate scaling of the potential destructiveness of a hurricane, more accurate since slight increases in windspeed result in much larger increases in destructiveness (as with, e.g., the difference between a cat 4 and a cat 5). ACE doesn’t reflect that difference very well.

  14. Steve Bloom:

    Re #3: Recognizing the concern about a too-open forum, would it be possible to hold all of the question on an open thread for moderation? If so, that sounds like a solution. Alternatively, if the software doesn’t allow that, questions could be sent to a separate email address established for the purpose and posted by the RC authors as they see fit. Doing something like this on a monthly basis strikes me as very valuable.

    For example, it’s obvious that there are a lot of very good questions that are a little too technical or obscure to be material for a post of their own. A question I have that falls into this category regards the import of the recent glaciation/Milankovitch work by Huybers and Wunsch, and how this relates to David Lea’s stuff.

    Another reason for a monthly Q+A might be to make it easier for other scientists to give a quick answer of two or three paragraphs and not have to go to the effort of writing up a full-blown post. It’s great when someone like Tom Crowley does a guest post, or when folks like Peter Webster or Isaac Held participate in a thread, but I have the impression that most scientists won’t do that. Such replies could even be done anonymously.

    One last thought is that creating such a “mini-post” opportunity might be a good way to get some participation in filling in RC’s major expertise gap (IMHO), which is the ecological effects of climate change.

  15. John Peach:

    Re: 2,6,12

    How about KWH? Here’s a simple calculation that most everyone can understand, although I admit that it doesn’t tell the whole story:
    From Hansen et al ( the excess energy due to GHG is ~.85 W/m^2, so
    .85 W/m^2 * 5.1e8 km^2 (surface area of the Earth) * (1e3 m/km)^2 * 1/6.5e9 (population of the Earth) = 66.7 KW/person.
    In 30 days this amounts to 48,000 KWH per person of excess energy which is something that we can all relate to our electric bills.
    This of course ignores the heat capacity of the planet, but it does make it very personal.

    [Response: Or how about this: Imagine dividing up the surface of the earth into room-sized patches of about 20 ft by 20ft. Over each one you turn on a 100 Watt light bulb -- and leave it on basically forever. (That's 20,402,561,643,070 light bulbs, by the way). That's roughly equivalent to the effect of doubling CO2 on the Earth's energy budget. --raypierre]

  16. llewelly:

    … PDI (a measure of the energy content) …

    It is PD (note: no ‘I’) which measures the power dissipation of a tropical cyclone (TC).
    PDI is a simplification of PD; PDI ignores the extent and distribution of TC winds, whereas PD is a double integral, integrated not only over storm lifetime, but also over the whole of storm’s wind field.
    (see Emanuel 2005).

    The difference is quite relevant to the remainder of your post. Suppose a theory suggests AGW reduces average sizes of TCs. Can you test this theory by examining trends in PDI? No, because PDI ignores the extent and distribution of winds. You would need to use PD. But in Emanuel 2005, Emanuel considers PD first, and then chooses PDI. Should we then conclude that Emanuel selected PDI over PD in order to bolster the argument that AGW is making TCs more dangerous? No, because there a simpler and more likely explanation: for most of the historical record, the extent and distribution of TC winds are poorly recorded, if at all. Simply put, Emanuel could not easily use PD, because that data has more errors and more gaps. There are plenty of cases where one function of the data is selected for entirely honest reasons.

    (Later, a related study used ERA-40 data to estimate PD, and concluded that PD trends were similar to PDI trends – that is, increasing along with AGW. I seem to recall the same study also showed that AGW is correlated with larger TC wind fields, although I don’t see that in the abstract, and I don’t have a copy handy.)

    Given the behavior of certain researchers, it is certainly wise to be wary of people selecting a potentially misleading function of the data to make an argument (however, I strongly suspect Gray’s own metric, NTC, shows a correlation with tropical Atlantic SSTs as well). Given the origin of ACE, I can see why one might be more suspicious of ACE than of PDI. But in this case, I think you are barking up the wrong tree; ACE is also well correlated with tropical Atlantic SSTs, despite the fact that extreme wind speeds do not dominate ACE as much as PDI. In fact – Emanuel & Mann uses simple TC count – treating all wind speeds above 35 kt alike – and nonetheless shows a strong connection with AGW.

  17. Richard Wesley:

    Re: 16

    You are right that PDI assumes a constant wind field speed and area. My point is simply that it is closer to the physical reality than ACE hence maybe a better choice for comparison purposes and public discussion. (And I was not meaning to imply that Emanuel was trying to skew anything, just to contrast two existing metrics as part of a discussion on selecting a new one for public consumption in the global temperature policy debate.)

    I wish that Emanuel had discussed his rejection of ACE, but all he does is say that PDI is “similar” to it. Nevertheless, is very reassuring that all these different measures correlate well with SST and I will have a look for that paper on storm size estimates. With any luck I can join the data into my tracks database and do my own PD trend computation!

  18. Steve Sadlov:

    RE: #15 – Raypierre’s comments – That’s an interesting way to look at it. I thought that the running theory was that the increase in effective thermal resistance due to CO2 is affecting how energy dissipates. And as claimed by many, the main source of that energy is the reradiation of energy from the sun. So, the lightbulb increment idea does not seem to really be analogous. Am I missing something here? I sure hope that this is not how you are setting up your climate model, by imparting an equal distribution of new energy sources. Please tell me it’s not so!

    [Response: Don't be so pessimistic. This is just a way of communicating what 4 W/m**2 means. It is, in fact, what the situation would look like if you immediately doubled CO2, before the planet had warmed up enough to come back into equilibrium. Note that the Earth still hasn't reached equilibrium with the current amount of CO2, so the out of equilibrium picture isn't entirely inapt. For that matter, Ken Caldeira has shown in essence that the kind of climate you get by changing
    the solar energy input by 4 W/m**2 is about the same as what you get by changing the infrared radiative forcing by 4 W/m**2, so the lightbulb experiment would in fact
    give you a climate that wasn't terribly different from what you would get by changing the radiation balance using CO2 instead. --raypierre]

  19. Tim McDermott:

    Re: 11

    Statistical Process Control is useful for processes that run near equilibrium. But weather is the poster child of chaotic processes, and it is likely that climate is too. So it isn’t (IMHO) so much finding the control points, it is finding the point at which our climate is captured by a different attractor.

    And once that happens, we are stuck there.

  20. Terry Aust:

    Given that the majority of people believe the Greenhouse efffect.

    The next problem is giving the framework and information needed for them to have confidence that we are making rational decisions.

    If getting the science across is hard then expect some difficulty in getting across what is the net chnages of greenhouse effect (this land goes unproductive other land goes productive) the comparative costs of various ways of minimising the increase in temperature versus the comparative costs costs of adapting, the effects on jobs and wealth in various countries,and what mix we should choose, who gains and who loses from the various options, and politics (what if a republican suggests the right solution [only an Australian joking]).

  21. Karen Street:

    In California’s 2006 Climate Action Team Final Report to the Governor and Legislature, section 4 contains a sentence I consider effective, “To comprehend the magnitude of these projected temperature changes, over the next century, the lower range of
    projected temperature rise is slightly larger than the difference in annual mean temperature between Monterey and Salinas, and the upper range of project warming is greater than the temperature difference between San Francisco and San Jose, respectively.”

    Definitely makes the predictions more comprehensible. And pretty scary for those of us who live on the coast instead of where there is weather.

  22. Liam:

    Thanks for the responses Rasmus and Raypierre. I agree a game could have real potential for universities, something i hadn’t really considered as i had something else in mind. I’ll elaborate a bit below.

    Re 9 & 10

    9. The better question is how many people play that game and leave the experience having accepted AGW as real? Or, how many people just say “**** it” and decide to rampage their opponents via military means as opposed to seeking a solution?

    A bit off topic!

    10. Of course, what does a video game really provide other than entertainment? Many video games are all about violence and destruction (some quite realistic and graphic war simulations, etc), and that doesn’t seem to influence people one bit. If any, it probably numbs them.

    Ironically considering my thread, thats exactly why i don’t play games. However that’s not a reason to disengage. When people don’t understand the choices put before the choices they make are often emotional and intuitive. Whether they believe in AGW or not should be irrelevant to the effort at communication, as ultimately it is the behaviour and choices these people make on a daily basis that will determine the severity of a climate response.

    My apologies if i am off topic, however I think this is entirely relevant. This is a post about “communicating science and technologies” i think and one of the problems with communicating the science of AGW, and engaging people with science, even some highly intelligent people is that it simply bores them. For many getting a grasp of what’s being discussed is completely beyond them. There’s an esoteric language used, necessary granted, but it excludes a huge portion of the population and actually turns them off.

    On the other hand one of the possibilities of using a game format is to present the results of the science in an entertaining way. A project like this has the potential to work in a couple of ways.

    1. Run over the internet using the type of software i linked above creates huge computing power. The British Met Office has awoken to that. Thus real modelling could be conducted whilst people play. If marketed correctly players would be aware that the game is based on scientific data and is serving a purpose.

    2. If it is done with a working model, new information (i.e. peer reviewed papers) as it occurs could be added to the game/model, with an explanation of what the new information means, how it was derived, explanations of concepts, acronyms, etc, etc.

    3. By repetitive play, which i’ve observed most computer game players doing, concepts, causes and consequences do sink in. The game itself wouldn’t need to be graphically complex, just challenging.

    I don’t mean to be critical, I think this website is a fantastic resource, and an example of real innovation, but if you want to communicate with the average person, you need to think outside the box. I’ve just outlined one possible (?) way.


  23. Mark A. York:

    I’d settle for one the realclimate team publishing an op-ed on the NY times verifying Al Gore’s movie as they did here. It would really make an appeal to authority argument, since syndication could take it to the heartland cities where voters are skeptical of the threat and prone to believing Bill Gray. Along this line Roger Pelkie Jr. was quoted today in the LA Times. His quotes leave me a bit queasy. They sound denieresque. We more voices in the fray.

    U.S. Panel Backs Data on Global Warming

    “It’s a pretty profound, easy-to-understand graph,” said Roger A. Pielke Jr., director of the University of Colorado’s Center for Science and Technology Policy Research. “Visually, it’s very compelling.”

    This makes it sound like some sort of ruse; obviously not the impression one wants in the press.

  24. wayne davidson:

    #23, I would add that the debate is often misrepresented pitting one scientist with one view against another with the contrarian stance, resulting in a failure
    in presenting or getting the science through. Information, or a census
    of consensus scientists vs contrarian scientists would do a great deal of good.
    William Gray just gave a rebuttal calling another study confirming a large temperature contribution from the effects of GW, pitting him against a study and a NCAR director:

    BLITZER: Welcome back. With last year’s hurricane season behind us but this year’s hurricane season in full swing, many want to know what’s fueling all the hurricanes. A new study names a usual suspect. Let’s go to our Fredricka Whitfield at the CNN Center. She’s pursuing the story and has some details –Fred.

    WHITFIELD: Well, Wolf, this new report adds to the debate over whether global warming does, in fact, contribute to hurricanes.


    WHITFIELD: This year’s hurricane season opened on the heels of a record year in 2005, which included the devastating Hurricane Katrina. But has global warming been a factor in the high number of storms? A new study claims that global warming contributes more to high ocean temperatures than other factors like natural cycles or El Nino. CNN spoke with the director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research which conducted the study.

    TIM KILLEEN, NATIONAL CENTER FOR ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH: The global warming increase in sea surface temperatures associated with greenhouse warming gave roughly half of the observed increase in the sea surface temperatures, about .5 degrees Celsius.

    WHITFIELD: Warm ocean water is the fuel for hurricanes. And last year, ocean water temperatures were unusually high. If global warming is contributing to hurricanes like Katrina, it would provide an argument for trying to slow global warm. But one of the nation’s top forecasters says natural cycles are to blame, not global warming.

    WILLIAM GRAY, COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY: I think that’s a gross exaggeration, that that’s not true. Nature functions this way.

    WHITFIELD: Regardless of the reasons, hurricane experts say we should be prepared for another stormy season.

    MAX MAYFIELD, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Even without invoking the global warming arguments, the research meteorologists are telling us that we’re in this very active period for hurricanes that may very well last at least another 10 to 20 years.

    WHITFIELD: Forecaster William Gray told us today he thinks the study’s findings are ridiculous, that you can’t blame last year’s hurricane activity on global warming. But one study last month came up with a similar finding that there is a link between global warming and hurricane activity — Wolf.

    BLITZER: I suspect this debate’s going to go on for sometime. Thanks very much, Fred, for that. ”

    The study in question makes a great deal of sense, then it gets marred by the usaul tired contrarian ideas. it needs to be presented more thouroughly along with all the scientists which support it.

  25. Paul Duignan:

    Raypierre’s response on comment 15 suggesting using the analogy of a single light bulb over each “room sized” patch of the earth’s surface being turned on, could the analogy of a small electric heater being turned on for each “house sized” patch be used, or would this be a mistaken analogy from the point of view of physics?

  26. Nick Riley:

    Pictures tell stories. One of the most dramatic ways, I believe, of communicating the issue of global warming, is to generate a map of future coastal positions due to eustatic sea level rise. We have just tried this at the BGS for Europe. Unfortunately, for 1m rise, the DTM data is not good enough to really bring things out accurately- but the 7m rise that will happen, just by Greenland’s ice going, is quite dramatic- and of course we would reach 7m before Greenland went. We have also done a map at 90m – assuming all the world’s ice goes- and much of the UK, and lowland Europe is thus submerged. Denmark, the Netherlands, the German and Polish plains, and much of western Russia ceases to exist.

    Before we put the map out on the web- can anyone give me the latest estimate (with reference) of sea level rise for if all the ice melted?.

  27. Deech56:

    Re #25: This is a good idea – I’ve got the mug to prove it. One thing to take into consideration is the time at which the seas will be at these levels. The point that contrarians make is that Greenland’s melting would be a bad thing, but this won’t happen for centuries or whatever. The sea level changes that are happening now are on a scale that is miniscule, and are difficult for the American public to fathom.

  28. Karen Street:

    This is a question that occurred to me after a climate skeptic showed at yesterday’s discussion of the Gore movie: don’t we have a pretty clear idea of how warm the moon was in 1960 and is today? If the warming were all solar increases, wouldn’t we be seeing it there first?

    Emphasizing the particular fingerprints of global warming seems to be a step the media could do more of, because those not committed to “skepticism” find them helpful: warming during the night and winter greater than during the day and summer, cooling stratosphere, rising tropopause. Others?

    A tiny bit off subject, maybe, but as a teacher I try to pay attention to the explanations that interfere with the understanding people bring into the room.

  29. Steven T. Corneliussen:

    Re #1 and Rasmus’s response to it, here’s some more concerning the deficit model of science communication (whereby scientists look for better unidirectional ways to convey understanding to nonscientists who get to listen but not to speak) versus the contrasting engagement model (whereby scientists look for better ways to wade into civic discussions that are often conducted under notably unscientific rules).

    Here’s the deficit-model rhetorical tactic offered in comment #2 for better informing people: “What I want to suggest is that one of the reasons that the science of global warming is not better understood and accepted by the mass media and public is that we have unthinkingly chosen a set of units (degrees) that seems almost fiendishly designed to reduce the apparent urgency of the problem.”

    The underlying communication tactic seems to me, and apparently to others who responded, to offer a really interesting prospect for decreasing the public’s knowledge deficit. Great stuff. And at conferences like the one in Norway, people offer lots of other good ideas about decreasing that deficit.

    A problem, though, is that deficit-model communication tactics — useful and important as they are — don’t account for all the dimensions of the communications challenge. Consider a particularly virulent dimension, a tactic that I believe I’m seeing increasingly employed against climate science: sarcasm.

    This week in “Best of the Web” at, James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal — a writer who pays close attention to quotation marks used to stigmatize a phrase, and who calls global warming “global warming” — came up with a legitimate criticism of unscientific handling of climate science. ABC news is soliciting anecdotes that viewers believe demonstrate effects of global warming in their own lives.

    Mr. Taranto blasted that, and the next day published some sarcasm from two of his readers. Both had sent him the sarcasm that they’d submitted to ABC. The first began, “This winter was unusually warm here in New England. I went the whole time in my light jacket rather than my heavier leather one. I had great heating bills. Still, it was unusual.” The second began, “Tharg and me used to hunt mighty mammoth but he scared to cross ice bridge. It now too thin to take weight of even saber cat. Only mouse or rabbit can cross.”

    The ironies in the thing are multiplied, of course, in that Taranto himself does precisely what he’s blasting ABC for doing. That is, he treats anecdotal information as scientifically meaningful. Taranto himself portrays climate science irresponsibly every time he recycles his gag about Vice President Gore’s delivering a global-warming speech on an outlier of a really cold day.

    Now, it might be objected that Taranto and those two readers will never be reached anyway. Fair enough. But what about all the people who read Taranto and the WSJ? Can they be reached only through earnest, straightforward, unidirectional communications conceived under deficit-model thinking, or should science seek ways actually to engage them?

    This morning’s newspaper contains another in a series of sarcastic attacks on climate science in the right-wing comic strip “Mallard Fillmore.” That strip’s central character, a journalist duck, can actually be pretty funny once in a while, as when he once narrated a spring-break road trip to Florida by two babe-chasers in a convertible: Bill Clinton and Jesse Jackson. Today’s strip, though, has no whimsy. It’s just grimly propagandistic in a sarcastic way, a way that can’t even be called satire. It posits “global media climate-hysteria” and portrays a man at a microphone screaming hysterically “We’re either gonna have global warming or freezing, and it’s all humans’ fault!”

    Does anyone here want to write the strip’s author and try to reduce his journalist duck’s deficit of understanding about what I’ll call, for this occasion, the old first-they-say-cooling, then-they-say-warming canard?

    My point is that we need more innovations like RealClimate, where scientists not only follow the deficit model in useful ways, but also follow the engagement model. I don’t know what to do about Taranto’s and Mallard Fillmore’s readers, but I do know that they aren’t going to be reached by earnest scientists speaking to them unidirectionally.

    One last thing: It appears to me that Rasmus is right if he’s implying that the excerpt I quoted in 1 gets things a bit off topic in a climate-science blog, in that it focuses on technology, not science. Fair enough, though it’s still true that the essay recommended in 1 is highly germane to the present thread.

    But it also appears to me that Rasmus has conflated nuclear power, a technology with lots of complicated dimensions, with nuclear physics, the arcane, pure science conducted at the laboratory where I work. My lab’s researchers are elucidating the quark structure of nuclei, not the applications of nuclear knowledge that was gained decades ago.

    Now, probably Rasmus knows full well why those two things are different. But that wouldn’t stop some of our nuclear physicists from wishing to sit Rasmus down as a captive audience and defray what they’d see as his knowledge deficit. Many nuclear physicists, like many scientists in other fields, operate on the deficit model without even realizing that there could be another model for science communication. They wouldn’t care that Rasmus would want not just to listen but respond, because under the strict application of the deficit model, that whole dynamic isn’t even considered.

  30. Mark A. York:

    Yeah, good ole Jim Taranto who failed to graduate from my alma mater Cal State Northridge. The scare quotes are used because he doesn’t believe it. As I’ve proven if I submitted a reasoned comment he wouldn’t publish it, except on a rare occasion. They have a message at opinionjournal, and Bill Gray is only a part of it, but that’s the tune.

  31. edward lanwermeyer:

    There is a useful book on climate change “After the Ice: A Global Human History” by an archeologist (Steven Mithen, Reading University, 2003) that is both a history of the various stages of proto and early Meso-Neolithic (as the last of these Stone Age’ periods were known), and its variety of evidence faunal and floral, those climate induced changes both preceding and following the last ice age, and then the Younger Dryas (c. 10500 BC) , to the final warming that occured after that. The treatment is global in scope but its focus is clearly to the story as it is told in still working digs in the MIddle EAst and Europe. MIthen integrates for the general reader very well the knwon data on historical climate change, the dramatic social and material changes this brought into the physical and social world of early Homo Sapiens, our ancestors, as he takes the reader on this immense–and very readable– journey.

    I personally don’t know anything in the current climate literature (which I don’t read weekly I must confess) that can compare to it in sheer effective communication on the subject , the topic (communication) of this latest exchange of points of view in RC here.

    But, you have to put down the New York Times, to get to it.

    edward l. June 24

  32. Michael Tobis:

    Regarding open threads:

    I am a co-moderator of a new ongoing open forum on global change issues that includes but is not limited to climate change at

    The other moderators are James Annan, Raymond Arritt, Coby Beck and William Connolley.

    This has been going for only a month, but has several dozen subscribers already. You may participate with or without a subscription.

    We welcome intelligent submissions on subjects relevant to the management of the global environment, including energy policy, demographics, politics and philosophy; our moderation policy is comparable to realclimate’s, but our subject matter is somewhat broader. There are no feature articles; this group is structured similar to the usenet of old, but with light moderation.

    (We’d welcome a link under “other opinions” from the RealClimate homepage!)

  33. Francis MASSEN:

    I am teaching physics (and computing) to 17-20 years students at highschool/college level now for 38 years. In my opinion one big problem is the grasping of the intensity or order of magnitude of a phenomen or problem. So the light bulb illustration by rasmus is a very telling illustration. But when it comes to energy needs, many see no difference in output between a wind-farm and a nuclear park (not to speak from the availability problem) So the exspectations on clean energy sources are often extremely naive, and rarely is a simple division ( or multiplication) made to compute the energy equipment needed just for running the homes and livings of the students and their family of one single school.

  34. Chuck Booth:

    Re # 21: “…the lower range of
    projected temperature rise is slightly larger than the difference in annual mean temperature between Monterey and Salinas, and the upper range of project warming is greater than the temperature difference between San Francisco and San Jose, respectively.”

    I suspect that type of comparison will put many people at ease, esp. those living in northern latitudes – they’ll say to themselves,hey, now I don’t have to sell my house and move to Florida when I retire.

    As for adopting units other than temperature (excuse me if I missed the point here), that is a sure way to lose, or confuse, the general population. Temperature may not be the best metric of global heat storage, but people are familiar with it.

  35. Jim Roland:

    Communicating climate change? The following gives some interesting research findings if anyone’s not seen them:

    Basically – don’t speak about scary weather, don’t suggest that tiny every-day actions will save the planet. Instead speak of values, like responsibility, stewardship, competence, vision and ingenuity. Speak of the necessary action as new thinking, new technologies, planning ahead, smartness, forward-thinking, balanced alternatives, efficiency, prudence and caring. Charge opponents with irresponsibility, old thinking and inefficiency.

    Interestingly, the term ‘greenhouse gas effect’ is best avoided – heat-trap and CO2 blanket are more meaningful.

    (I’ve plagiarised this good summarisation by Almuth Ernsting).

  36. pat neuman:

    Re: 35.

    Can we charge opponents with injustice and state that the wrongdoers should be punished for harmful actions against individuals and groups, the human race and other inhabitants of Earth? What and how much action constitutes a wrong doing? How far should can we go in verbally charging an opponent for what we think is wrong doing? If it does no good to punish the wrongdoers, should they allowed to go scat free?

  37. wayne davidson:

    Stereotyping Laurence Krauss as something is the first sign of the simple minded road to a childish debate, which serves some politicians quite well, but here we are interested in climate science, you know something a tad more serious than character bashing. I rather characterize ideas or statements as nonsense rather than trying to define someone who we really don’t know. Krauss is trying to wake up a collective giant, scientific Americans, its surely needed at this time.

  38. Wacki:

    Re #37 or wayne davidson,

    My previous response was deleted which I find unfortunate but whatever. I fully understand what you guys are doing and I know how quickly conversations like this can degrade into what can only be described as mindless ballyhoo. I did not mean any disrespect toward Laurence Krauss. In fact, I agree with his general statement very strongly and I said that in my previous post. I just have problems with his arguments. I was incredulous that the National Science Foundation’s survey, particularly the 54% statistic, was accurate. I mean seriously, have you ever met anyone that didn’t know the earths orbit was one year long? I haven’t. And then he goes on to make jokes about who votes for who based on those miserable statistics. I’m not a Republican and I’m not even religious. However, I found that to be in pretty poor taste and a pretty dumb move considering what he was trying to accomplish. His anti-Republican comments did not stop there. And then I proved one of his statements about the missile program to be completely wrong. Anytime someone is emotionally charged in a formal lecture setting, stereotyping large groups, and citing even one incorrect fact I am forced to do nothing less than double check every single fact they say. I may have stereotyped him, but he stereotyped an entire country. And to be honest I feel I have the right to stereotype him given some of the statements he made. I have only one message to Lawrence Krauss and anyone interested in “Communicating Science & Technology”. My message is:

    Both political parties have strengths and both parties have weaknesses. If you are trying to send a message, it’s best not to needlessly alienate, insult, and stereotype the party you are trying to talk to. This is especially true if that party is in power.

  39. Wolfgang Flamme:

    I’d also recommend the presentation Key questions in climate research from this conference.

  40. cwmagee:

    Re: sea level change maps-
    Do those maps account for isostatic compensation, or do they merely draw a line at the appropriate modern contour line?

    Re: civilization, and climate games- in the original civilization, my brother once triggered a run-away greenhouse effect that turned every non-mountain or hill on the planet into swampland. The resulting loss of productivity meant that he counldn’t afford the units needed to clean up enough pollution and stop the process. Unfortunately, I think this potential outcome was removed from later versions to make the game more winnable.

    A simplified climate model that was computationally forgiving enough to run on a modern home computer would be an interesting learing tool, however.

    [Response:You actually have two choices for that. The first is, which will run a GCM in the background. You don't get much control over the experiment, but you get to monitor its progress and share results with others, which is quite instructive. The second is EdGCM, which is a simplified version of the GISS GCM. It has a very nice interactive user interface, and gives you a lot of flexibility in experimental design. Check out . Now, if somebody would just couple EdGCM to a carbon cycle model and maybe a simplified economic model, then give the whole thing a neat SimCity type of interface, we'd really be cooking. --raypierre]

  41. Gareth:

    raypierre: “we’d be really cooking”

    I thought we were anyway…

  42. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Re #40 — I could probably put my gray model into javascript and make it a web page, if anybody’s interested. But considering how my last effort went over, I don’t want to do it unless I know someone will want to look at it.

  43. Eli Rabett:

    Somewhat off topic, but I think you need to reopen the discussion of sudden (defined as tens of years) catastropic sea level rise given the recent Hansen article in the NY Review of Books, and new results on Greenland glaciers (some of which was dealt with in a recent Real Climate thread). This idea has suddenly and strongly moved into the mainstream media. Links in the updates at

  44. Sinjin Eberle:

    Any thoughts on the new article in the WSJ today regarding ‘consensus’??

    [Response: The article is by Richard Lindzen 'There is no 'consensus' on global warming". I don't have the full text, but it is disccused at - gavin]

  45. JMG:

    re: #34′s response to my #2 (“As for adopting units other than temperature [excuse me if I missed the point here], that is a sure way to lose, or confuse, the general population. Temperature may not be the best metric of global heat storage, but people are familiar with it.”)

    I think we’re in violent agreement–you see the famiarity as a good thing, I see it as a bad thing, because the deceptive familiarity of a “few degrees” completely masks the massive disruption represented by global scale heat retention.

    My point is that the use of familiar units is, in my opinion, becoming a barrier that impedes recognition of the vast _unfamiliarity_ of what we’re doing to the earth.

  46. Richard Simons:

    CBC Newsworld ‘Passionate Eye’ is showing a program on climate change and the reaction of the US Government this evening (Monday) at 10pm ET and 10pm PT. Last night they showed an introductory program on climate change that to me, as a non-climatologist, seemed fair if rather superficial (but then, I’ve been following the discussions here and alsewhere).

  47. Hank Roberts:

    >40, cwmagee — this deserves a journalist’s attention if it can be nailed down. Dumbing down a game is like dumbing down politics, eh? Look where we’re going.

    Quoting: “in the original [C]ivilization [game], my brother once … turned every non-mountain or hill on the planet into swampland. The resulting loss of productivity meant that he counldn’t afford the units needed to clean up enough pollution and stop the process. Unfortunately, I think this potential outcome was removed from later versions to make the game more winnable.”

    I wonder if the original Civilization game was realistic enough to be scary about warming, and the business-as-denial effect is what they actually simulate now?

    The denial lobby is so big because the real consequences of business as usual make the game less “winnable” in real life, so they deny those possibilities.

    Dick Fugett of Whole Earth Review long ago wrote — reviewing the original Flight Simulator — that the game’s “Pause” feature would be a popular option if available in real aircraft operation. Practice furthers.

    Agree with Ray’s comment — the gamers I know (chess players all) would readily understand and play a good climate model. They know they’ll be doing it in real life, and would appreciate the practice.

  48. Karen Street:

    Re 44, if there were debate in the scientific community, Lindzen would be publishing his arguments in scientific journals. Does the debate count as scientific if the discussion takes place outside of scientific journals, conferences, etc?

  49. Steve Sadlov:

    RE: #18 – Raypirre’s comments. Not to be picking a nit here, but is is really correct to try and model an increase in de facto thermal resistance with an increase in energy output? Inquiring minds want to know.

  50. Steve Sadlov:

    RE: #19 – But nonetheless, even if the process is somewhat or wholely chaotic, it should be possible to get a handle on a reasonable control band. It is not so chaotic that it has gone into runaway in the past. If anything, there are hints of an innate tendancy toward periods of shutdown. So, what harm would there be in attempting this approach as a first step. In terms of models, finite element modeling best practices from the electronics industry injected into the GCMs, would be something to pursue.

  51. tom root:

    Please forward this to Mr. Riley

    “Pictures tell stories. One of the most dramatic ways, I believe, of communicating the issue of global warming, is to generate a map of future coastal positions due to eustatic sea level rise. We have just tried this at the BGS for Europe. Unfortunately, for 1m rise, the DTM data is not good enough to really bring things out accurately- but the 7m rise that will happen, just by Greenland’s ice going, is quite dramatic- and of course we would reach 7m before Greenland went. We have also done a map at 90m – assuming all the world’s ice goes- and much of the UK, and lowland Europe is thus submerged. Denmark, the Netherlands, the German and Polish plains, and much of western Russia ceases to exist.

    Before we put the map out on the web- can anyone give me the latest estimate (with reference) of sea level rise for if all the ice melted?.

    Comment by Nick Riley – 24 Jun 2006 @ 3:20 am”

    The Fall Line in the southeastern US (and runs up past Maine) is the approximate high point for sea level when all ice has melted. That would be the altitude of cities such as Augusta, Ga., Macon, Ga. or Columbus, Ga. I think that it’s elevation is just under 300 feet.

  52. Steve Bloom:

    Re #49 (SS): Ray made no reference to a model. In any event, to say that the amount of heat being trapped can be thought of in terms of heat generated by any means one wants to postulate (light bulbs, portable heaters, rodents on exercise wheels, political speeches, Canadian “auditing” blogs) is reasonable to do without addressing the irrelevant question of whether point sources of heat low in the atmosphere would act identically to GHGs.

    Re #50 (SS): You would first have to show that electronics models are in any way appropriate to use for climate. In any case the point you were responding to was discussing climate tipping points, which are hard to model since we have not had the benefit of being able to observe them happening. It seems to me that denialists like you are not at all “agnostic” about tipping points; rather you take the uncertainty surrounding them as a reason to ignore them.

  53. Wacki:

    Re: #48

    Lindzen has a ton (216 to be exact) of papers in journals.

    However, he went from 12 journals in 2002 to 1 journal in 2003. 2 in 2004 and 0 in 2005.

    As for his lack of recent papers Lindzen responds in the WSJ:

    “Scientists who dissent from the alarmism have seen their grant funds disappear, their work derided, and themselves libeled as industry stooges, scientific hacks or worse. Consequently, lies about climate change gain credence even when they fly in the face of the science that supposedly is their basis.”

    His response is somewhat tough to respond to given his history and status at MIT. Not that I believe him of course. However, Academia does contain a high percentage of the “far left”. Anyone that has worked in academia has surely seen anti-bush computer print outs taped to a wide variety of lab equipment. Although I am extremely skeptical about some sort of Science/Nature/Cell conspiracy, sometimes I wonder if some how many scientists funding have been cut simply because people simply didn’t agree with their research. And given how tight funding is, it’s certainly plausible. Again, it’s merely something I simply can’t rule out at this point.

    Outside of his Annan bet (which reason had a *somewhat* resonable albeit shady response to) and now this Peiser incident, I don’t have much ammo to use against Lindzen.

    [Response: If Lindzen had any evidence that his funds had been cut off due to his views on global warming, you can be sure that we would have seen it. Similarly, you can see for yourself what kind of research gets funded - I'd be impressed if you can find evidence for exaggeration for the sake of funding. Having been on a number of panels that dish out grant money, I can assure you that a) it's very competitive, b) panelists and reveiwers are pretty tough on unsupported claims, c) the grants that get funded are the ones that are most interesting, tractable and acheivable, not ones that will support some pre-determined outcome. -gavin]

  54. wayne davidson:

    #44 None better time to answer Lindzen’s assertion with hard facts, something
    he might respect. A scientist census seems needed on the subject of AGW (aside from impressive IPCC). Its time for a survey with teeth, or if there was one done, to make it known once again…

  55. Steve Sadlov:

    RE: #52 – “It seems to me that denialists like you are not at all “agnostic” about tipping points; rather you take the uncertainty surrounding them as a reason to ignore them.”

    Stopping trying to pigeonhole me. I am trying to solve a problem. Solving it would be good for the environment. So, if you are truly motivated by ecological considerations, you ought to want to solve the problem as well.

  56. Eli Rabett: for maps of the US East Coast lower than 3.5 m. Click on the map to blow it up

    Located through Jim Titus’ links

  57. cwmagee:

    re 47 (and getting off-topic)
    The runaway greenhouse in the original civ was due to simplicity, not complexity. basically:
    1. unlike later versions, the first game did not equilibrate warming based on pollution levels. As long as the threshhold level was exceeded, it just kept initiating warming events.
    2. In the first version, the AI was incapable of cleaning up pollution, so there was no way to clean up pollution in enemy territory. So if, like my brother, you nuked a large number of enemy cities but then failed to capture them, the pollution in the enemy territory would keep warming the map forever.

    Perhaps the next version will include climate effects in its strategic calculations, so that an AI side in a lush region would intentionally pollute if its adversary relied on irrigated, marginal land.

  58. Barton Paul Levenson:

    *sigh* figures…

  59. pat neuman:

    re 56.

    Also, public users can now go to:
    click: ChgSeaLevel
    click: EPA maps -regions vul to initial SL rise
    click: little map of east half of U.S. for blow up, …

    … which shows regions vulnerabe to sea level rises based on epa modeled elevations along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts.

    Note that the comment at the bottom of the image is to the link below.

    At the link it states: Maps of Lands Vulnerable to Sea Level Rise: Modeled Elevations along the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf Coasts was originally published in Climate Research , 18:205-228 (2001). You can download the underlying geographical information system (GIS) data for an example quadrangle and learn how to obtain the entire dataset underlying this study.

  60. Matt:

    I notice the geo engineers are getting a little more communication space in the media.


  61. Gerald Kelleher:

    Climate scientists tend to explain global climate norms through and astronomical mechanism based on hemispherical meteorological patterns and extend these patterns over a longer period to morph into ‘climate studies’.

    Take a look at the temperature signatures over the course of an annual orbit of the Earth,a truly global perspective of climate -

    The oscillation of the temperature bands is a consequence of both the inclination to direct radiation and the amou8nt of time the geographical latitude spends in the Earth’s orbital shadow.

    The unfortunate consequence of allowing an archaic variable axial tilting Earth to dictate global climate norms is hardly an occasion to fault the public for its low interest and knowledge on the subject.


    Gerald Kelleher

  62. Nick Riley:

    Re #51- Tom,
    Thank you for that link- 300 feet is close to what we have chosen for Europe- we have contoured at 90m rise above present sea-level for the full melt of present day ice.

    This can only be approximate because of isostatic/tectonic effects- but its good enough to convey the main impression.

  63. C. W. Magee:

    How “on board” are meteorologists with the whole climate change business? If you REALLY want to wake people up about climate, you need to get the TV weatherman involved. Specifically, instead of comparing the day’s weather to the 30 year mean, he needs to compare it to both the pre-1970 mean, and to the IPCC “best guess” projection.

  64. Hank Roberts:

    Kim Stanley Robinson’s book “40 Signs of Rain” reads well next to today’s East Coast weather reports.

    Both predict more rain and higher floods as inland storms collide with Atlantic storms.

    Makes me wonder what one really big longterm rainstorm would do toward melting the Greenland ice, if warm rain went on for days as it’s doing all over the East Coast.

  65. Kent Bye:

    First I wanted to thank you for this blog, it’s certainly a very informative resource for those with a science background.

    I realize that you are professional scientists and not in the business of countering every piece of disinformation that emerges from the political arena, but I was wondering if this group could shed some light on this press release from the US Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works: AP Incorrectly Claims Scientists Praise Gore’s Movie

    The AP published this article: Scientists OK Gore’s movie for accuracy And this EPW committee seems to be trying to muddy the waters as characterized by the Center for America Progress’ blog Think Progress in this post: Senate Committee Launches Taxpayer-Funded Misinformation Campaign About Gore Movie

    This EPW release is getting a lot of play in the Global Warming denying sections of the blogosphere. I realize that you already weighed in with your thoughts on Gore’s movie, but this example highlights the fact that right now the scientific community does not have a mechanism to explicitly express and communicate consensus viewpoints that can counter deliberate disinformation campaigns.

    To make matters worse, the “He Said / She Said” journalistic paradigm fails to handle the complexities of these issues, and so citizens are left with political think tanks and industry-funded propaganda to interpret / minimize the political implications of your work.

    I would love to see this group engage in this dialogue that is emerging right now by doing some truth squatting of this EPW press release in plain English.

  66. Coby:

    The majority of that EPW release seems to be sourced on a particular Canada Free Press article that I look a breif look at here and I link to a Deltoid post that does a more thourough job as well.

    The initial stuff about the AP is really kind of laughable…

  67. pat neuman:

    re 63.

    In reply, meteorologists were not on board before Bush took office in 2001. Meteorologists at NOAA National Weather Service offices in Minneapolis, Chicago and Detroit were telling people (in 2003) that there is no global warming problem. Most meteorologists today probably still think and say to others that global warming isn’t a problem, so most people in the U.S. who listen to them continue to get the message that global warming is not a problem.

  68. Chuck Booth:

    Re #45 “you see the famiarity as a good thing, I see it as a bad thing,”

    As a scientist, I agree with you fully. But, as a teacher of college biology to non-science majors, I find the more familiar concepts tend to work best. In fact, there are a number of examples of fairly dramatic “environmental” consequences of small temperature increase: If our body temperature increases by 3 degrees C (37 to 40 C) we will end up in the hospital with a very serious fever; if summer sea surface temperatures in the tropics are a couple of degrees warmer than normal for even a few weeks, corals die; I recently saw an article (possibly in Science, but I don’t have the ref. handy) on how climate warming will likely affect disease outbreaks – I don’t recall if it was malaria, or cholera, or some other disease,but the temperature sensitivity was dramatic – e.g., a one degree C rise in temp. is predicted to cause a 5-fold or so increase in disease prevalance. I do teach my non-majors about specific heat and the notion of water being a temperature buffer (they quickly realize why they can’t comfortably swim along the New England coast until mid-summer, yet can continue swimming into October). But, I am a bit skeptical that switching from temperature rise to heat storage units to convey the seriousness of global warming will “resonate” with the general public. But, given the number of people who are still skeptical about global warming, it might be worth a try.

  69. Stephen Berg:

    David Parker’s study that concluded that the Urban Heat Island is not responsible for the current records of large-scale global warming is featured in the current issue of Journal of Climate:

    (A subscription is required to view the full document)

  70. Steve Sadlov:

    RE: #64 – Indeed, precisely what does happen when one of those East Coast storm systems reaches Greenland? Good question (although, some here might not like the answer)

  71. Steve Sadlov:

    RE: #69 – It’s quite a stretch to comment responsibly on a paper from reading only its abstract. In any case, even based on the abstract I can see some possible problems with that paper. First problem is the a priori assumption of clearly defined “islands” of heat that are particular to urban areas. That’s a nice first level way to understand arthropogenic energy dissipation and arthropgenic environmental modifications, but it’s only a highly simplified first level conceptual model. If you are going to treat the aforementioned direct arthropogenic impacts, a global approach that looks at each and every source of dissipation and every modification is really the only accurate way to encompass it. Good luck trying to do that. First one to do it will definitely be a strong candidate for a Nobel Prize.

  72. Stephen Berg:

    Re: #71,

    Steve, I have read more than just the abstract, as my university has an online subscription to the AMS journals. I have also read the Nov. 2004 article in “Nature” and have made a bit more sense of both. If you can get ahold of a full-text version, it would clarify a lot of the findings.

  73. pat neuman:

    Latest river flood levels and probabilities

    Click town of interest at:

    To view probability plots, from the plot click “Chance of Exceeding Levels” (upper right box). How’s that for communicating science and technology by a federal agency?

    The probability values are based on NO climate change because NOAA’s National Weather Service is in the dark about global warming and ignores climate change in it’s river forecast modeling procedures.

    Flood victims shouldn’t be in the dark about the rivers and people shouldn’t be in the dark about global warming.

  74. craigthomas:

    I ve one question plz………Is there any effect of earthquakes on climatic conditions too apart from earthly destruction?????? reply would be a pleasure.

  75. Barton Paul Levenson:

    [[I ve one question plz.........Is there any effect of earthquakes on climatic conditions too apart from earthly destruction?????? reply would be a pleasure. ]]

    There would be some release of greenhouse gases, but the amount would be trivial compared to fossil-fuel burning. Fires due to infrastructure destruction might cause a little temporary cooling due to particulates.

  76. wayne davidson:

    Ok the latest counter argument from a meteorologist with respect to the recent record breaking warm spell, in a nutshell its the 30′s, 40′s and 50′s all over again, with perhaps the 1890′s! :

    ……………………” “KING: Joining us now for our continuing coverage of the weather situation in the east and Boston is Dr. Paul Epstein, associate director of the Center for Health and Global Environment at Harvard Medical School. He was the lead author of “Climate Change Futures: Health, Ecological, and Economic Dimensions.”

    In State College, Pennsylvania is Joe Bastardi, expert senior meteorologist for And at the CNN Weather Center in Atlanta is Reynolds Wolf, CNN’s worldwide meteorologist and weather anchor.

    Let’s start with Joe Bastardi. How do you explain all this from a meteorological standpoint? Joe, do you hear me? I don’t hear Joe. Dr. Epstein, we’ll start with you. Is this part of what is supposedly a trend in climate getting worse?

    PAUL EPSTEIN, HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL: Exactly, Larry. We’re seeing a trend in extreme weather events. The fundamental issue is that the oceans have warmed. Over this past half century, the oceans have warmed 22 times more than the atmosphere.

    So what we see is not what we get. And this is where more water is evaporating, we’re seeing ice melting, water vapor rising, and these kinds of events are becoming more common as the atmosphere fills up with water and then when it condenses, it comes down in these buckets.

    KING: So it’s not just hurricanes?

    EPSTEIN: It’s hurricanes, it’s floods, it’s droughts, it’s wildfires in the West. It’s freak storms in the Pacific right now hitting the coast of Chile all the way up to California. This is a pattern of multiple types of events. And the fundamental issue is that the oceans have warmed, ice is melting, water vapor is rising. The whole earth’s water cycle is speeding up. And this is changing our weather patterns and our seasons.

    KING: Reynolds Wolf at CNN’s Weather Center, how do you view it?

    REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: The way I view it is I will defer to my colleague in that regard, but I can tell you that for the here and now, we’ve definitely seen an incredible event. The entire scenario there, Larry — earlier you were talking about is there a similarity between this and a tropical system like a hurricane? Well, very similar. We had a stationary front that was sitting right across the Appalachians, that’s upstate New York. We had a system that was forming right off the eastern seaboard, which very, very closely became a tropical depression. That combination gave us this incredible rain event.

    KING: Do you expect this to be a bad summer, Reynolds? Is this a foreteller?

    WOLF: Well, all signs point to that. I mean, there’s no question that things are very, very active in the inner tropical convergence zone, right along the equator where these storms often form and intensify. There’s plenty of warm water out there to sustain these storms. If you happen to have a storm again in the tropics move into an area where there’s a minimal shear environment, I would say yes, it’s very possible for a very active season. But to see more activity like this, definitely it’s possible.

    KING: We can check with Joe Bastardi now, the expert senior meteorologist at Do you share the views of Dr. Epstein, Joe?

    JOE BASTARDI, ACCUWEATHER.COM: Well I’d say it’s a time of climatic hardship in this country, similar to the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s. If you do your research on what happened in this country, in the 1930s, the 1940s, the 1950s, this is straight out of that book there, where the Atlantic warm, the Pacific was in a cooling cycle.

    Let’s take a look at what the ocean water temperatures looked like last year at this time. Notice all the warmth up in the Arctic regions and the Atlantic is cooler, except in the tropics.

    Now, we go to this year and we see a cooling in the Arctic regions, but we also see a very warm off eastern seaboard of the United States and into the Gulf of Mexico, closer to the United States. If you go back and do the research, 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s summers of heat and drought in the Plains and attacks on our coastline by tropical systems and non-tropical systems. So we’re right back into that cycle there we had in the 1890s and early part of the century also.

    KING: So Dr. Epstein, Joe is saying, what’s new?

    EPSTEIN: What’s new is that the deep oceans have warmed. It’s not just the sea surface temperatures. And what we’re seeing in weather is a combination of natural cycles and this long-term warming of the oceans.

    What we’ve seen over the last three decades is that rain has increased over the U.S. about seven percent. Heavy rain events, more than two inches a day, have increased 14 percent, and very heavy events have increased 20 percent, over four inches a day.

    So this is what we’re seeing throughout the world. And it’s not just the sea surfaces. They feed these kinds of storms. They feed Katrina. But it’s the warm water that wells that up feeds Rita and the warm water that continues to well up that feeds Wilma. So it’s the sequences of storms.

    KING: And what can be done about it?

    EPSTEIN: What can be done? This is the good question. Because here we’re seeing the insurance industry affected. We’re seeing them begin to discuss new policies and the need for enabling incentives and regulations that can help us move towards healthy solutions that are profitable that can help stabilize the climate.

    KING: Would you say, Joe — Joe, would you say that’s not necessary?

    BASTARDI: Well, I’m not going to say that. But what explains the down tick in the Pacific cycle since the Atlantic has come up? We’re going through a month of June that ties 1954, 1969 for least activity in the Pacific basin.

    So we have to look at the total picture as far as that type of thing goes. I have no doubt this may be some value to human-induced global warming, but there are a lot of things that are happening now that have happened before.

    For instance, how were we measuring deep ocean water temperatures back in the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s when we saw similar cycles? We’ve got new instruments now to look at these things. So we’re measuring the same variable with two different set of instruments and sort of looking at things a different way………………..”

    Cooling in the Arctic? interesting:

    ” June 23, 2006 … Kivalliq smashes temperature records. Temperatures soared in the Kivalliq this week, breaking records in both Rankin Inlet …”

  77. Jim Redden:

    Hopefully no one will mind if I revisit Al Gore’s movie as a fine example of science education and technology… A long rambling post, but some may have interest.


    While the sharpest bullets of climate change information can be had at the World Resources Institute, ,

    in the form of a short annotated brief, Gore’s movie (and book) has entertainment and education value in that it’s a bit more digestible.

    By intention, the level of language and graphic explication of “An Inconvenient Truth” book seems to reside at the high school level or below; thus, the viewer’s cognitive load is less allocated towards unfamiliar terminology, and more associated with engaging the material.

    Moreover, the key talking points are humanized. In the movie, the creative use of a man-lift to illustrate the “off the charts” level of carbon dioxide, emphasizes “the moving into unfamiliar uncharted territory”. The printed material uses a very strong layout and color scheme, with foldout pages effectively.


    A few weeks after the release of the movie and book, I shared a conversation with a bookseller and customer at the Barnes and Noble in Santa Monica, CA. The 20 year old fellow, who worked at the bookstore, voted for George Bush the last election. The patron, a woman in her late thirties, or so, had seen the movie.

    What was interesting is that the bookseller had read the book, but had not seen the movie–he did, however, feel compelled to see the movie, even though he had missed the free employee screening.

    And the woman: I queried her to determine her level of recall. One thing that stood out for me was that she said that Gore indicated that the hurricanes as of late were caused by global warming. She was unclear on the names of Revelle, and other mentioned players.

    Yet she did clearly grasp the mileage differences amongst the various cars sold in the US and the rest of the world.

    Having seen the movie twice, and read the book, but also after hearing Hugh Willoughby speak on the “hurricane gang’s” view on the random nature of hurricanes, I wondered if the implication of the movie went a bit far. Consistent with global warming? Very. Proven? Not in total.

    Curious, as Gore never states Hurricanes frequency is caused by global warming per se… just that heat drives the engine. My point is that she seemed comfortable with talking about the concepts, and the young Republican, who claimed “compassionate conservative” status, had also experienced an attitude shift as a result of the book.


    One can contrast the modalities of a movie and a book–100 year technology and 600 year technology. A certain humor is afforded by the audio-visual modality of cinema when Gore alludes to the sixth grade teacher who disdains a notion that the continents all fit together (Pangaea), while in the book, this statement is played straight. The cinema also allows the use of sound to cue an emotional orientation.

    Seminal social scientists in the fifties and sixties took to movies as an area of great interest in purposeful activities of attitude change, even when the viewer has self-stated views that contrast and conflict with those presented in a movie. Six to eight weeks later there is a measurable shift.

    In contrast, the book, An Inconvenient Truth, provides insight into how urban living can act to falsely and dangerously separate us from an experiential knowing of the forces and energy exchanges of nature that we all depend on… in the book, Gore relates his past arm’s length interaction with nature, and an implied humility in dealing with nature. These asides are called out on the yellow pages of other anecdotes to round out the human experience.


    Still, I was left to wonder if–now–that an awareness of the situation will result in widespread behavior change. For me, it is pretty clear that when 10,000 scientists converge in San Francisco for an AGU meeting, that there is a lot of oxidized carbon and soot imparted to all levels of the atmosphere. The situation will be the same this year. So what kind of changes, that are beyond the level of individual action, can be made?

    I ride my bike to work, only to watch Arnold Schwarzenneger’s G3 burn more fuel taxiing on the runway than I would burn in an entire year of driving. Other than a karmic point of view, what is the point? Should the externalities of consumption be born by the consumers? This would be a hard pill for America to swallow.

    It’s clear by presenting the work of Scolow and Pacala, Gore acknowledges and supports our need to find structural and big solutions in the motivators of self serving economic behavior..


    Akin to the very technological nature of this forum, online discourse is an interaction that could be carbon neutral. Conferences can be networked via the Internet on a more global level–using technology very much like that I used to view the various presentations linked to at the instigation of this discussion. Bravo.


    When I consider someone like Sallie Ballinaus, with a Manhattan bound urban developed point of view, and a fantasy life of Star Trek, perhaps a lack of experiential learning of nature and the circular relationships contained therein blind her to the sensitivities of the Earth’s life flux. A little money from oil companies also can bind an opinion per Gore’s quote of Upton Sinclair.

    To sum up, it would seem that a minimum base level knowledge of physics and biology, along with ecology, is a requisite to understanding one’s personal involvement (and responsibility) in consumer roles, as well as reasoned democratic action. Therefore, a goal of an education, like David W. Orr has written about, is to ensure that any institution of education weaves ecology into the all of the curriculum. Otherwise, we just continue on a course of ripping the stuff out of the ground faster, thoughtlessly advertise to more pollution, and televise the end of civilization.


    I’d submit to instruct learners in these issues, we must acknowledge and consider diversity, in both state of intellectual development, and also, in encouraging novelty and designing intrinsic rewards of the process.

    The move for scientists to write abstracts with less jargon and more common understandable language is a good one.

    With respect to curriculum development, the learner must be able to interact with the material in both abstract mental, and perhaps even electronic and traditional manual interfaces. The more psychic energy and modalities used to interact, the greater the likelihood of retained learning, and a facility of knowledge.

    B.F. Skinner has a compilation book, The Technology of Teaching, that is actually more relevant today than at the time of publishing, since the tools and acculturation of computer based learning is more receptive. He makes some very interesting points about encouraging exploration and diversity, that to those who have only a superficial understanding of behaviorism, will find surprising.

    Overall, our market driven system seems to work against the short term reward of knowledge for knowledge’s sake. Perhaps a systems view and analysis of education and educational systems is on order.


    The flip side of the coin is that any competent leader must have a facility to understand the reliance and overlay of economic systems on general earth systems, and also be able to apply system thinking to the broad scope of social issues to help determine courses of action and predispose human behavior to realize an outcome we all might find tolerable.

    After an “inopportune” chance meeting with Mr. Gore, when he signed some copies of his book in Westwood, it’s clear that Al Gore certainly evidences awareness… Hope he has much luck on this particular mission.

  78. Mark A. York:

    The shame is the same disproven fallacies are widely accepted by politicians like this Calif. state senator.


    I appreciate your letter regarding Assembly Bill 32 (Pavley), which
    expands the responsibilities of the California Climate Action Registry
    by requiring certain regulations of greenhouse gas emissions.

    This bill is one of several being pushed through the Legislature that
    advocate a theory that humans are perpetuating catastrophic global
    warming. This theory is based on faulty and incomplete science, and
    given the potentially devastating economic impact of such proposals,
    policymakers must be confident that sufficient scientific evidence
    exists to support the underlying premise of global warming.

    Our planet is subject to natural, periodic shifts in climate. In fact,
    we have seen three distinct periods of atmospheric climate change just
    in the last century: warming in the early 1900′s, cooling in the
    mid-1900′s, and warming toward the end of the century. And remember,
    only three decades ago a TIME magazine cover story warned of apocalyptic
    consequences as a result of the earth’s cooling trend, which gave rise
    to congressional hearings warning of an “Ice Age.”

    While AB 32 is relatively modest, it is still based on the same alarmist
    rhetoric and incomplete science, and I find it difficult to support such
    a measure.


    George Runner

  79. Steve Sadlov:

    RE: #76 – certainly, with the ongoing moisture deficit in North Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, it would appear that at least one aspect of the 1930s appears to be repeating somewhat.

  80. wayne davidson:

    #79, There are of course familiar weather signs, but none so prevalent as lately,
    this message gets drowned with long time recurring climate disasters. There is as I write, world wide events occurring simultaneously, like melting glaciers, abnormal Arctic warming, continent wide above normal temperatures amongst other features which didn’t occur in the recent past. There is also human history, either oral or written, which reminds us that these days of warmer weather are unusual. Who has ever heard of a planet wide retreat of glaciers in the 30′s?

  81. llewelly:

    Who has ever heard of a planet wide retreat of glaciers in the 30′s?

    There was world wide glacier retreat in the 1930s. See Retreat of glaciers since 1850:

    The Little Ice Age was a period from about 1550 to 1850 when the world experienced relatively cool temperatures compared to the present. Subsequently, until about 1940 glaciers around the world retreated as the climate warmed. Glacial retreat slowed and even reversed, in many cases, between 1950 and 1980 as a slight global cooling occurred. However, since 1980 a significant global warming has led to glacier retreat becoming increasingly rapid and ubiquitous, so much so that many glaciers have disappeared and the existence of a great number of the remaining glaciers of the world is threatened.

    Emphasis mine. It is warmer now than it was in the 1930s, and today’s glacier retreat is more severe, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t world-wide glacier retreat in the 1930s.
    I’d call this a nit, but it seems popular to believe AGW is limited to the last 30 years or so. But see this IPCC TAR graph of forcings .
    You can see that the forcing of well-mixed GHGs increases from about 0.5 W/m2 in 1900 to about 0.9 W/m2 in 1950, and the solar forcing increases by about 0.2 W/m2 in the same period. 1980 is not the year global warming began; it is the year it overwhelmed all other forcings.

  82. Jim Redden:

    RE: 78 Mark, I can relate to your frustration…

    The response of California congressman George Runner seems to be a variation of a standard response message–as inferred–we have all heard it before from various officials.

    Perhaps the relativistic world of reactive politics, where a specious reality can be created out of rhetoric, makes for a poor lens to determine fact, analyze risk, and be proative.

    Success in politics doesn’t seem to ensure clarity of thought. The solution is a tricky puzzle that seems to elude an easy fix. Education does fit in there somewhere…

    A groundswell of votes seems harder than finding the right levers.

    If 20 scientists lined up, as you were ready to board an airplane, and told you the plane was going to crash, and one, who was paid by the manufacturer, said all was good, would most folks board the plane?

    Perseverance is one key I suppose.

  83. Mark A. York:

    “Perseverance is one key I suppose.”

    It is for me.

  84. Mark A. York:

    The latest attempt. Consensus means wrong. Up is down.

  85. stevensieragreg:

    I wanna know a lot about “Global warming”, as such i preparing a theisis on it.

    Your site prooved a much better than “Climate audit”. Thanx for the links and loads of information on other subjects too.

  86. Wacki:

    Here is a quick question. Of all the mainstream newspapers, who is the most accurate regarding climate change?

    Obviously the WSJ is not on the list.

  87. Grant:

    Re: #86

    I certainly don’t know the answer to your question — but I got a good laugh thinking about it! If it’s to be decided by majority vote, I’ll pick “none of the above.”

    I only trust two sources for *accurate* information about global warming: 1. peer-reviewed scientific literature; 2. RealClimate!

  88. Chuck Booth:

    An interesting essay by Harvard psychologist, Daniel Gilbert [excerpt]:

    Published on Sunday, July 2, 2006 by the Los Angeles Times
    If Only Gay Sex Caused Global Warming
    Why we’re more scared of gay marriage and terrorism than a much deadlier threat.

    by Daniel Gilbert

    No one seems to care about the upcoming attack on the World Trade Center site. Why? Because it won’t involve villains with box cutters. Instead, it will involve melting ice sheets that swell the oceans and turn that particular block of lower Manhattan into an aquarium.

    The odds of this happening in the next few decades are better than the odds that a disgruntled Saudi will sneak onto an airplane and detonate a shoe bomb. And yet our government will spend billions of dollars this year to prevent global terrorism and â?¦ well, essentially nothing to prevent global warming.

    Why are we less worried about the more likely disaster? Because the human brain evolved to respond to threats that have four features â?? features that terrorism has and that global warming lacks.

    First, global warming lacks a mustache. No, really. We are social mammals whose brains are highly specialized for thinking about others. Understanding what others are up to â?? what they know and want, what they are doing and planning â?? has been so crucial to the survival of our species that our brains have developed an obsession with all things human. We think about people and their intentions; talk about them; look for and remember them.

    That’s why we worry more about anthrax (with an annual death toll of roughly zero) than influenza (with an annual death toll of a quarter-million to a half-million people). Influenza is a natural accident, anthrax is an intentional action, and the smallest action captures our attention in a way that the largest accident doesn’t. If two airplanes had been hit by lightning and crashed into a New York skyscraper, few of us would be able to name the date on which it happened.

    Global warming isn’t trying to kill us, and that’s a shame. If climate change had been visited on us by a brutal dictator or an evil empire, the war on warming would be this nation’s top priority…

    The human brain is a remarkable device that was designed to rise to special occasions. We are the progeny of people who hunted and gathered, whose lives were brief and whose greatest threat was a man with a stick. When terrorists attack, we respond with crushing force and firm resolve, just as our ancestors would have. Global warming is a deadly threat precisely because it fails to trip the brain’s alarm, leaving us soundly asleep in a burning bed.

    It remains to be seen whether we can learn to rise to new occasions.

  89. Brian Gordon:

    Re: 86: Reliable media

    I have found the BBC Online to be quite good (as a non-scientist). On the whole, they report the news with some perspective, and without the deceptive ‘he said/she said’ reporting practised by US media. The BBC actually has a Science/Nature section, apparently staffed by editors with some background.

  90. Hank Roberts:

    > 1950-1980 cooling

    We’ve heard elsewhere about atmospheric nuclear testing correlating with cooling.

    I wonder — Has anyone looked at the amount of iron and other material dispersed in the oceans during and after World War II? Any ideas on the biological availability of that material?

    I know much shipping tonnage burned before it sank, which would speed disintegration of sheet steel; a lot was sunk in relatively shallow water, and the war also dispersed a lot of munitions (nitrogen source) at sea. But I haven’t turned up any studies on this, poking around.

  91. Grant:

    Re: 1950-1980 cooling

    First of all, there isn’t really cooling from 1950 to 1980. There is *very small* cooling from ~ 1945 to ~ 1947, but no statistically significant trend from there, until about 1975 when we get significant *warming*. There is, however, a period of no trend (~ 1947 to 1975), which is believed to be a period when GHG warming was offset by aerosol cooling.

    The timing of the true cooling period coincides so closely with the explosion of the first three nuclear bombs (test at Los Alamos, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki) that I investigated a possible relationship between above-ground nuclear explosions and cooling. Although the “non-warming” period (1945 to 1975) is also the period of nuclear testing, there’s no real correlation of global average temperature with the number of explosions, or with the total megatonnage. In fact the only demonstrable cooling (1945 to 1947) corresponds to the period of (as far as I know) only 3 nuclear detonations, and those are the weakest of all. The only thing I can think of that would make these three more effective in inducing cooling, is that they were the crudest, and therefore probably the “dirtiest” of the bombs.

    So I’m very skeptical about the possible relationship between nuclear testing and global temperature. But I too, am curious how wartime activity (WWII) might have affected global climate. After all, there’s more than just nuclear explosions; there are massive wildfires association with “saturation bombing” of European cities by the allies toward the end of the war, and other effects of which I’m not aware.

  92. Hank Roberts:

    Speaking of fires, here’s a contemporary view of what’s burning where:

  93. Hank Roberts:

    And the first six months of the year finds the country divided between “red states” and, er, “pink states.”

  94. Claire Kenyon:

    I just had a frustrating conversation about the dangers of global warming. The objections which I had to face:
    - who said a warmer world would be bad anyway?
    [My answer: the transition to the next equilibrium is the most dangerous part of it]
    - there have been climate changes in the past and the world has adapted just fine
    [My answer: the timescale is different, things are happening much faster and it is not clear that the natural world will have time to adapt.]
    - these climatologists’ predictions are just based on models; models rely on hypotheses, and are only as good as the hypotheses. The data is only a sample and is too recent anyway. There is no way models can predict 50 years into the future.
    [I didn;t know how to answer that in social conversation.]

    [Response:I may write a short post soon to give some counter-arguments to this statements. -rasmus]

    - statistical correlation is not the same as causality.
    [My answer: of course. Scientists are well aware of that and use physical explanations, not just statistics]
    - if a few animal species go extinct (such as polar bears), that hardly qualifies as a catastrophy on a global scale.
    - Scientists are unduly worried and we’ll be just fine; we’ll deal with problems as they come up. Without being daring there can be no progress. See the development of trains for example. Scientists had all predicted that going through tunnels was a physical impossibility because people would suffocate, but engineers went ahead and built train tunnels anyway, and found solutions to safety problems as they came up.
    [My answer: but how will we solve these huge problems? We need some ideas and we currently have no clue!]

    Basically: there is supposedly nothing to worry about. The person I was talking to was not interested in learning about the science: his point of view was already set, and nothing I could say would be able to change his mind. Plus, there was a blind optimistic faith in the future.

    I have hit a brick wall. There is no way to raise awareness with just science. Symptoms of a disturbed world won’t do it either, because each of them is only a symptom, not a catastrophy in itself.

    I am beginning to think that we will need exceptional catastrophic events to actually occur in order for people to take climate science seriously.

  95. Ron Taylor:

    I just watched a two-hour special on global warming on the Discovery Channel, hosted by Tom Brokaw. To my layman’s eyes, it was excellent. It covered all the major issues, had interviews of good people, including Jim Hansen, and did NOT include the usual skeptics “for balance.” It covered that issue by having some of the experts used in the show comment on how they had been converted from skeptics to believers.

    The DC website also has some excellent resources for the average citizen. See here, and especially the “Signs and Sources” item on the left

    Unfortunately, DC has also done some hokey stuff, which does not help its credibility. But this piece seems very good. Have any of you experts seen this and care to comment? I would like to refer it to others, but with some expert recommendation.

  96. Hank Roberts:

    I’ve seen a few comments about the Moyers piece elsewhere but nothing from any of the climate experts I’m aware of.

    On communicating science and tech — specifically electric demand — here’s how the California electric system load is being presented.

    During the previous summers’ electric shortages I’ve been impressed; seems to me the demand drops noticeably within an hour after the news comes out about the need for people to reduce electric demand right away.

    Today the demand only just now jumped up to the predicted level — right at sunset — and people had been told to please hold off during the day on unnecessary electric use.

    There was a major plea out for conservation today again.
    As I write this the page is showing:

    Current System Demand: (numbers in megawatts)
    (Actual Demand at this point in time) 43163

    Today’s Peak Demand:
    (Highest point thus far today) 45765

    Today’s Forecast Peak Demand:
    (HIghest point expected today. 47690
    Tomorrow’s Forecast Peak Demand:
    (Not included on graph) 52336

    Air conditioners — people asked to set at 78F (for those who have them); turn off unnecessary lights; and not use heavy appliances and electronics during the day. And not to drive; photochemical smog’s pretty bad all over.

    Tomorrow (Monday) the forecast peak demand is much higher of course.

    This system came in during or a bit after the Enron energy crisis here. It’s a decent job of communicating the situation on a realtime basis, I think.