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Peter Doran and how misleading talking points propagate

Filed under: — group @ 28 July 2006

Peter Doran, the lead author on a oft-cited, but less-often read, Nature study on Antarctic climate in 2002 had an Op-Ed in the NY Times today decrying the misuse of his team’s results in the on-going climate science ‘debate’. As we discussed a while back (Antarctic cooling, global warming?), there is a lot of interesting stuff going on in Antarctica: the complexities of different forcings (ozone in particular), the importance of dynamical as well as radiative processes, and the difficulties of dealing with very inhomogeneous and insufficiently long data series. But like so many results in this field, it has become a politicized ‘talking point’, shorn of its context, that is mis-quoted and mis-used by many who should (and often do) know better. Doran complained about the media coverage of his paper at the time, and with the passage of time, the distortion has predictably increased. Give it another few years, maybe we’ll be having congressional hearings about it…


152 Responses to “Peter Doran and how misleading talking points propagate”

  1. 51
    Eric (skeptic) says:

    Thanks for the info Gavin. The tipping point discussion mentioned lots of longer term positive feedbacks (e.g. snow and ice melt decreasing the earth’s albedo) and short term effects were limited to CO2 itself and (implicitly) weather feedbacks from the CO2 warming. In any case it seems to me that the tipping point argument remains at least somewhat political and polarized since the warming effects of uniform CO2 are relatively modest and other effects must come from models using feedback for which one set of scientists will focus on positive and others on negative.

    So it appears that the nonuniform gases (water vapor, methane) are up for debate since their sinks are quicker and will vary more. CO2 (and any other uniform anthro gases) should generate relatively little debate since we are stuck with them, but we will still have to consider and debate other effects (e.g. ocean acidification).

  2. 52
    Ron Taylor says:

    In speaking with my denialist friends, I would like to be able to say something like: “Look, five years from now no one will still be arguing about this. In the meantime, the five years that we will have lost can mean an additional (fifty?) years of global warming. Just how much punishment do you want to inflict on future generations?”

    The problem is the number (fifty?). Could simulations be made assuming a reasonable schedule of CO2 abatement, with a variable starting point, to project when global warming would cease and what the resulting temperature rise would be? Just to be able to say, “Simulations show that every year we delay may cause global warming to continue for an additional (X) years,” is the kind of thing a layperson can understand.

  3. 53
    Leonard Evens says:

    Re #51:

    Which scientists, in the scientific, peer reviewed literature, have shown via models that the net feedback effects are negative? The closest anyone has come to this, as far as I know, is Lindzen’s ‘iris effect’ and that seems to have gone nowhere, either theoretically or observationally. The IPCC surveys of many different analyses have consistently shown a range of sensitivity under CO_2 doubling of 1.5 to 4.5 (or therabouts) deg C, with a most likely value about 3 deg C. This sensitivity is consistent with paleoclimate studies.

    As many people have pointed out, including in RC articles, the major uncertainty is the forcings, which depend on what we do. One uncertainty is when and how fast we depart from the present pattern of accelerating greenhouse gas emissions. Another is what we do about sulfate and other particulate emissions, which mainly cool but in the case of soot may warm. You an’t argue that since we don’t know what we will do, we shouldn’t plan to do anything except continuing buisness as usual, which will result in a major perturbation of the radiative properties of the atmosphere.

  4. 54
    Hank Roberts says:

    Wacki’s right. I tried to explain how aquifers collapse, yesterday, to a lawyer. The law says, to keep your old well rights, you have to keep pumping the same amount of water, when it becomes apparent that others have started draining the aquifer past its recharge.

    Yes, now we know that the aquifer collapses, pore space goes away, soil sinks, and nobody will ever be able to get water at those rates again even if the rainfall comes back. But the law doesn’t have a way to consider that. And the law is about zero-sum games, not about intelligent cooperation in sharing limited resources.

    Reporter: “Mr. Gandhi, what do you think of Western Civilization?”
    Gandhi: “I think that it would be a good idea.”

  5. 55
    Chuck Booth says:

    re #49 That scenario sounds like the epilogue to The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance that was cut from the film during the final edit. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Man_Who_Shot_Liberty_Valance [I'm joking, of course]

    Re #48 I hate to point this out, but revelations like this fuel the skeptics who argue that the peer review process for science papers is biased. [I'm not joking this time]

  6. 56
    Eric (skeptic) says:

    Leonard, to my knowledge no models are net negative. But there are lots of negative feedbacks that are difficult to model globally such as concentrated (including medium and small scale) convection. Also smaller negative feedbacks such as forest fires and increased soil moisture that might not be modeled at all. It’s not a comparison of my model versus your model, but a disagreement over the accuracy of current models. I have no doubt that models will have a definitive answer about AGW in the next 10-20 years as well as the cheapest way to fix it if necessary. That’s why some skeptics will argue most strenuously against tipping point (“must do something now”) scenarios.

  7. 57
    Eric (skeptic) says:

    Leonard, arguments over forcing must boil down to energy balance since everything else is feedback. I’m not sure if the CO2 “saturation” argument has been resolved, but there doesn’t seem to be much of an argument for more than 1 degree C for CO2. Am I mistaken?

  8. 58
    tom root says:

    Bush Briefed on Global Warming’s Impact on Storms
    (from Reuters/Planetark)

    US: August 1, 2006

    MIAMI – Officials tracking the approach of the peak hurricane season told US President George W. Bush on Monday that data linking a series of devastating storms to global warming was inconclusive.

    Eleven months after Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on the US Gulf Coast and caused catastrophic flooding in New Orleans, Bush visited the National Hurricane Center in Florida, a state often battered by hurricanes.
    Showing Bush the maps and other devices used to predict storms, Max Mayfield, the hurricane center’s director, said one question he is asked often is whether the powerful hurricanes of the past few years, like Katrina, Rita and Wilma, were the result of the earth’s warming.

    A scientist at the center, Christopher Landsea, told Bush there was “not a consensus” linking the two.

    Hurricane and climate scientists outside the government have been wrestling with that debate as well. Many environmental groups are upset with Bush for his rejection of the Kyoto agreement to cut greenhouse gases.

    Many climate scientists believe carbon dioxide and other gases trap heat like the glass walls of a greenhouse and cause global warming. Skeptics doubt people affect global climate change and say temperature fluctuations have occurred throughout history.

    Bush came under scathing criticism for the botched federal response to Hurricane Katrina, which hit on Aug. 29 and killed 1,300 and displaced hundreds of thousands.

    The White House is eager to show that the president has learned lessons from that disaster and that the federal government has been thorough in preparing for the possibility of harsh storms this year.

    June marked the official start of the hurricane season, but the peak season for the storms is between mid-August and mid-October.

    I leave this for your comments.

  9. 59
    Hank Roberts says:

    > 57, Eric-Skeptic, wrote: “I’m not sure if the CO2 “saturation” argument has been resolved, but there doesn’t seem to be much of an argument for more than 1 degree C for CO2. Am I mistaken?”

    Searching, I found this answer. I gather it’s basic physics.
    Look for other postings by David Archer, and see his link in the sidebar under Contributors.

    (I am just another reader here, did a quick search, I’m not the expert who can answer you, just suggesting how to look for answers. The issue of “band saturation” is common as a PR talking point, I think it’s a question that is frequently answered.)
    http://forecast.uchicago.edu/text_revised.doc.

    “If the edges of the absorption bands were completely abrupt, as if CO2 absorbed 600 cycles/cm light completely and 599 cycles/cm light not at all, then once an absorption band from a gas was saturated, that would be it. Further increases in the concentration of the gas would have no impact on the radiation energy budget for the earth. CO2, the most saturated of the greenhouse gases, would stop changing climate after it exceeded some concentration. It turns out that this is not how it works. Even though the core of the CO2 band is saturated, the edges of the band are not saturated. When we increase the CO2 concentration, the bite that CO2 takes out of the spectrum doesn’t get deeper, but it gets a bit broader.”

  10. 60
    Ike Solem says:

    I’m a bit surprised (well, not really) that a question that was settled so long ago is still being used as a misleading talking point by the industry lobby. The issue is covered by Spencer Weart, and a description is at http://www.aip.org/history/climate/co2.htm; better yet buy his excellent book “The Discovery of Global Warming”. Here are some relevant comments from the above site, but I’m afraid a single ‘talking point’ won’t work here:

    100 years ago: The initial objection.

    “A still weightier objection came from a simple laboratory measurement. A few years after Arrhenius published his hypothesis, Knut Angstrom sent infrared radiation through a tube filled with carbon dioxide. He put in as much of the gas in total as would be found in a column of air reaching to the top of the atmosphere. The amount of radiation that got through the tube scarcely changed when he cut the quantity of gas in half or doubled it. The reason was that CO2 absorbed radiation only in specific bands of the spectrum, and it took only a trace of the gas to produce bands that were “saturated” – so thoroughly opaque that more gas could make little difference.(7*)”

    Still more persuasive was the fact that water vapor, which is far more abundant in the air than carbon dioxide, also intercepts infrared radiation. In the spectrographs of the time, the smeared-out bands of the two gases entirely overlapped one another. More CO2 could not affect radiation in bands of the spectrum that water vapor, as well as CO2 itself, were already blocking entirely.(8) After these conclusions were published in the early 1900s, even scientists who had been enthusiastic about Arrhenius’s work, like Chamberlin, now considered it plainly in error. Theoretical work on the question stagnated for decades, and so did measurement of the level of CO2″.

    Now, 75 years ago: Challenges.

    “There was also the old objection, which most scientists continued to find decisive, that the overlapping absorption bands of CO2 and water vapor already blocked all the radiation that those molecules were capable of blocking. Callendar tried to explain that the laboratory spectral measurements were woefully incomplete.(20) Some other scientists too kept an open mind on the question. But it remained the standard view that, as an official U.S. Weather Bureau publication put it, the masking of CO2 absorption by water vapor was a “fatal blow” to the CO2 theory. Therefore, said this authority, “no probable increase in atmospheric CO2 could materially affect” the balance of radiation.(21)”

    And, finally, 50 years ago: Issue resolved.

    “The complacent view that CO2 from human activity could never become a problem was overturned during the 1950s by a series of costly observations. This was a consequence of the Second World War and the Cold War, which brought a new urgency to many fields of research. American scientists enjoyed massively increased government funding, notably from military agencies. The officials were not aiming to answer academic questions about future climates, but to provide for pressing military needs. Almost anything that happened in the atmosphere and oceans could be important for national security. Among the first products were new data for the absorption of infrared radiation, a topic of more interest to weapons engineers than meteorologists.(23)

    The early studies sending radiation through gases in a tube had an unsuspected logical flaw – they were measuring bands of the spectrum at sea-level pressure and temperature. Fundamental physics theory, and a few measurements made at low pressure in the 1930s, showed that in the frigid and rarified upper atmosphere, the nature of the absorption would change. The bands seen at sea level were actually made up of overlapping spectral lines, all smeared together. Improved physics theory, developed by Walter Elsasser during the Second World War, and laboratory studies during the war and after confirmed the point. At low pressure each band resolved into a cluster of sharply defined lines, like a picket fence, with gaps between the lines where radiation would get through.(24)”

    If you want to continue with radiation and molecules, look at R. Feynman’s “QED” on the interaction between light and matter, written “for the interested layperson”. The key point is that the spectral bands are sharpened by low temps – which is why most spectroscopists keep liquid nitrogen and helium on hand. The ‘saturation’ argument is 100+ years out of date! But it makes a fine talking point, I suppose. The actual explanation takes a bit more then a sound bit, unfortunately, but I think the general public can understand it, even the lawyers (in the clear prose of Spencer Weart, at least). These concepts are also critical for any analysis of the inland Antarctic temps – it seems the low ozone plays some role there.

  11. 61

    Thanks Solem,

    In other words adsorption goes on at all levels of the atmosphere?

  12. 62
    Ron S. Nolan says:

    Permafrost Thawing: An Exclusive Interview with Ecologist, Dr. Edward Schuur, University of Florida

    Ron S. Nolan, Ph.D.
    Solar Metro Online

    July 31, 2006

    In the July 16, 2006 edition of SCIENCE a research team in which Dr. Edward A. Schuur of the University of Florida participated, reported new findings about the reservoir of carbon stored in the permafrost in Siberia. The researchers specifically addressed loess soil, known as �yedoma� in Siberia, a wind and water-born dust frozen in permafrost in depths up to 50 m (~164�). The concentration of carbon in the deep yedoma deposits was much higher than expected compared to deep soils elsewhere.

    SMO: Dr. Schuur, your paper estimates the varying reservoirs of carbon in gigatons (Gt)

    oceans 40,000 Gt
    soils 1,500 Gt (all soils globally, including tundra to a depth of 1 m (3.3�)
    vegetation 650 Gt

    SMO: Could please explain how the mass of carbon is measured and estimated in the atmosphere and in the other pools?

    DR. SCHUUR: Mass of carbon is the concentration times the volume. In the case of yedoma, we need to know the thickness of the yedoma (av = 25m), the bulk density (weight of dry soil per volume of soil, in other words kg of soil per cubic meter) and then the carbon concentration, which we can measure on an elemental analyzer. The elemental analyzer combusts the soil sample and measures the amount of carbon dioxide that is released upon combustion. We take soil samples from a range of geographic locations and vertically throughout the yedoma to describe a large area. A similar approach is used for ocean, atmosphere too.

    SMO: Please elucidate on carbon reservoirs in the Arctic and how your team�s discovery fits in

    DR. SCHUUR: There are two comparisons in our paper: the first comparison is between deep permafrost yedoma (~500gt) and the surface values that are typically used for northern ecosystems ~450gt. The latter value is focused on 1m depth. So, we are saying that there is another, more or less equivalent (large) amount stored deeper below.

    The second comparison is an estimate carbon pools for >10,000 years ago when there were ice sheets at the last glacial maximum. The first comparison is the most relevant for current and future changes.

    SMO: Most scientist believed that the organic material locked beneath the permafrost in Siberia, Canada and Alaska was in the form of partially decomposed peat, Sphagnum moss. But your study seems to indicate that the yedoma is also carbon repository.

    a) How was this overlooked before?
    b) Where did the yedoma come from? What plants or animals? When?
    c) How was it sequestered in permafrost?

    DR. SCHUUR: We are studying soils that are deeper than the traditional 1m depth that many soil studies focus on. Because carbon enters soil as plants and animals die and decompose, it is reasonable in most places to focus on the surface because that is where the biological activity is.

    The reason that yedoma is different is that the surface of the soil was rising because in the glacial/interglacial periods, dust was falling and accumulating on the surface. Even though it was only mm to cm falling per year, over decades, this adds up to a lot of material, up to 53m (174�) thick in some places.

    As the surface of the soil rose, carbon that was in the soil became trapped in permafrost (permanently frozen) before it had time to decompose fully. As a result you can see intact plant roots preserved deep in the frozen soil. This happened at a time where the ecosystem was steppe-tundra with lots of grasses and herbivores (think mammoth, bison, etc., other Pleistocene mega fauna)

    This process resulted in carbon trapped much deeper than is expected in many places, and cut off from decomposition by microbes because it was frozen.

    SMO: In regions at the southern extreme of continuous permafrost, how fast is it melting and what CO2 contributions to the atmosphere is this making today?

    DR.SCHUUR: This is the $64,000 question. There is permafrost thawing (that is the word that permafrost scientists prefer rather than melting) occurring, and we are trying to estimate how fast it might be coming out. This paper is mostly about the size of the pool, and given how large it is, it is something that we should be worried about if it decomposes. Our lab experiments show that this old frozen carbon can be decomposed when thawed, now it is a matter of making projections into the future with the use of models.

    SMO: If the melting is an accelerating positive feedback loop, can you make any estimates of how much faster the out gassing might be with a given temperature or atmospheric CO2 level increase?

    DR. SCHUUR: Again this is the current and future research figuring out how much of a climate impact this pool will have using g/c/ms and future scenarios.

    SMO: What are the most important actions that you believe should be taken to halt or retard the melting of the permafrost layer?

    DR. SCHUUR: Permafrost stability (and preservation of carbon therein) is affected by climate change. Currently, human-caused changes in atmospheric greenhouse gases are likely to affect global climate, thus anything that we can do to reduce emissions to the atmosphere will help mitigate this problem.

    SMO: There is a school of thought which believes that permafrost melting will result in the tundra becoming a carbon sink rather than a carbon source. The theory is that as the polar climate warms, plant communities currently limited by the cold temperatures will expand their range northward. And since plants are carbon sinks, the net effect of carbon and methane release from the melting permafrost in the tundra will be cancelled.

    DR. SCHUUR: This is an important point and cannot be ignored. It depends on the rate of plant response and soil microbe response. In the yedoma soils there is far more total carbon than can be offset by plant growth, but then that depends on how extensively/fast the soil thaws. In general though there is so much carbon in yedoma down deep (~500gt), that if you consider the total land plant biomass (~650gt) worldwide that you can see that if all the yedoma thawed that there is no way to grow enough plants to offset.

    SMO: Wildcard. Here you can ask your own question and answer it if you wish.

    DR. SCHUUR: Here’s a comment regarding surprises in climate change research. One aspect about this yedoma pool is that we are saying that this is 500 billion tons of carbon that was not really considered before. One extension of this is to think that if this surprise is out there, might there not be other surprises in the earth carbon cycle/climate system that can have a significant impact on our climate trajectory? This research makes me think that there are more surprises out there, and some we might only discover as they change in response to changing climate.

    Dr. Ron S. Nolan is co-founder of Solar Metro Online (www.solarmetro.com), a website dedicated to providing the latest news, articles and commentary about solar energy and transportation for those concerned about the social and environmental impacts of rising oil prices and global warming.

  13. 63
    Joseph O'Sullivan says:

    #50 Wacki & #54 Hank Roberts

    Lawyers aren’t familiar with the scientific process. Most lawyers, except for patent lawyers, have little or no scientific training. It’s not so much the details, but its the entire process that is different.

    There are many people who aren’t familiar with the scientific process.It’s a reason why scientist’s work is some times isn’t accurately portrayed in the media.

    Here’s a good article:
    http://www.progressivereform.org/perspectives/science.cfm

    “legal system makes most decisions through an adversarial process driven by affected parties who interpret and re-interpret the science to prove that they should ‘win.’ This method of making decisions is largely alien to scientific practice”

  14. 64
    Eric (skeptic) says:

    Thanks Ike, the “Marsh Primer” at http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA361.pdf shows a logarithmic change in GH forcing in current concentrations. That seems to not be “saturation” as much edges of the 14.99 micron band being not quite saturated. In any case if the absorption spectrum does change with temperature and pressure it seems like there still is going to be less LW radiation in that band to be absorbed by CO2 at those higher altitudes. It seems to me that altitude is a minor consideration compared to surface temperature and clouds as shown in fig 7h-3: http://www.physicalgeography.net/fundamentals/7h.html

    What would be really interesting is seeing the changes in net absorption as the weather patterns change.

  15. 65
    Eric (skeptic) says:

    “Max”, hurricanes cause cooling.

  16. 66
    Dan says:

    re: 66. It is a bit more complicated than that. Hurricanes, especially strong ones, cause upwelling which can cool surface sea temperatures (SSTs) temporarily. But obviously that is after the fact that they have formed over warm SSTs. Last year was an excellent example of the fact that upwelling does not always mean fewer hurricanes. Several of last year’s storms went over the same paths of previous storms.

  17. 67
    Matt says:

    Ike, I am curious as to why you believe that CO2 saturation has been disproved. It is well understood that CO2, at varying altitudes, absorbs IR radiation at specific wavelengths–however, if CO2 concentrations were to reach supposed “saturation” values at each atmospheric level, then adding more CO2 to the atmosphere (at any level) wouldn’t lead to further warming. The amount of upwelling IR is finite, so this suggests that their must be an upper limit to the amount of warming that CO2 (alone) can cause. If you see any flaws in this argument, please feel free to correct me–I am, by no means, an expert in radiative transfer!

  18. 68

    Sorry, it’s satire … the heat is killing me.

  19. 69
    Ike Solem says:

    At this point is should be obvious to any observer that global warming is continuing at a rapid pace; we aren’t seeing ‘natural variability’. The recent climate events taken with the less recent climate events show increasing long-term trends; temperature records are coming more frequently then ever.

    Regarding the absorbtion of radiation by the atmosphere, a modern approach would be to build a computer model of horizontal slices of the atmosphere. For each layer, you’d have a quantum-mechanical equation relating the absorption spectrum to temp, pressure and chemical composition – for simplicity, the first stab at this would leave out water vapor. Then you’d have to consider incoming radition from the earth, the sun and from other slices above and below – and water vapor. The result would be a terribly complicated set of coupled differential equations, requiring full-time effort to work with. And that’s just one part of a complete coupled atmospheric-ocean climate model – the most complicated and computer time-sink models ever created, as far as I know.

    It’s not a matter of ‘seems to me’ anymore, it’s a matter of running calculations and comparing them to data, and I can’t believe that these decades-old, settled issues are being dredged up again by self-styled ‘skeptics’. It really seems like the product of a very large disinformation campaign, since any honest observer could easily refute their claims – in fact, they’ve been refuted over and over again! How many times is enough? The radiation absorption issue might be the best-understood part of the whole picture, compared to ocean circulation and ice sheets.

    There are some good news reports of the California heat wave out there, but the majority of the reporting has included misleading, un-contexted one-liners from various scientists. Somehow I don’t think that any of the quoted scientists would have limited their statements to “Well, it’s not possible to blame a single specific event on global warming” – which was, in some cases, the only quote. Why not let the quoted scientist have a whole paragraph? The readers could handle it. A much better analysis is here:

    http://www.thinkandask.com/2006/072906-6calif.html

    I don’t know who wrote this (no author listed), but it’s a detailed play-by-play description of the development of the heat wave conditons, and the sense is that it was a combination of individual events that created the observed record statewide temps – reduced upwelling combined with a strong monsoon desert system. – which looks like two GW-forced events lining up on top of each other, rather than a single event.

    The last-ditch efforts of the industry lobby seem aimed at convincing the public that global warming will be a ‘good thing’ – more plant growth, etc – but the heat spikes that are damaging crop yields across the US are just one small example of why that particular ‘talking point’ is pure tripe. Indications are that the California wine climate is going, too.

  20. 70
    Eric (skeptic) says:

    Dan, I was only considering subsidence, a large area of LW radiation compared to the much smaller area of cold cloud tops. There is also the convection itself, but according to this paper 3088067 in http://www.ccsm.ucar.edu/publications/PhD%20and%20Masters%20Theses.htm concentrated convection causes a drier upper troposphere and thus less warming.

  21. 71
    Hank Roberts says:

    >65, 66
    Eric-Skeptic, you should learn to be skeptical — part of being an honest skeptic in the sciences is citing sources and reasons for your belief that they reliable for what they’re claiming, so people can check.

    NCPA is one of Exxon’s favored advocacy/PR sources, not a science site.
    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=National_Center_for_Policy_Analysis

    Where did you find the idea that hurricanes cause cooling? I find no source for that idea anywhere.

  22. 72
    Eric (skeptic) says:

    Ike, I appreciate your comments and for me, once is enough, although I admit there are plenty of references out there. Unfortunately the one you pointed out in your first post is not quantitative. I understand the models are, but I hope you can understand why I’m a model warming skeptic: mostly because of considerations like the convection discussed here. How can concentration of convection be determined if it isn’t even modeled at a medium scale or smaller?

  23. 73
    Eric (skeptic) says:

    Ike, that’s a very interesting link you provided. It does suggest to me however, that almost none of the heatwave causing conditions are in the GCM models. In the link I provided to the NCAR-CCM3 model theses, the monsoon modeling and local terrain effects are not very accurate.

  24. 74
    Eric (skeptic) says:

    Hank, I did not know the Marsh Primer was biased. But the basic idea of logarithmic CO2 warming has been supported here before (comment #7) http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=222

  25. 75
    Grant says:

    Re: band saturation

    It’s my understanding (please correct me if I’m wrong!) that even if the CO2 absorption bands are *completely* saturated, increased CO2 can *still* increase global warming. This is because IR radiation cannot penetrate as far through the atmosphere, so the “skin height” (the height at which the atmosphere radiates to space at the pure-blackbody temperature) is elevated. Because of the “lapse rate” (the increase of temperature with depth in the atmosphere), there will therefore be a greater difference between the pure-blackbody temperature and the surface air temperature — more global warming.

  26. 76

    I do know about the Upper Air warming, but not quite certain about the exact mechanics involved, estimating that increased CO2 leads to increase heat, and therefore water vapour density. The precise CO2 positive feedbacks dynamics throughout the the entire atmosphere needs to be thouroughly re- explained, even if its a bit off topic, don’t mind to be better educated any time…

  27. 77
    Ike Solem says:

    The notion that hurricanes cause cooling is taken out of context and presented in a very misleading manner. As a hurricane passes over a warm pool, the warm water evaporates, cooling the ocean (think sweating here) – but where does all that heat energy go? Right up into the atmosphere, where it can then move polewards much faster then if it was carried as an ocean current – and then we can see the warming atmosphere over Greenland, where that warmth helps melt the surface of glaciers, leaving a pitted surface on the ice and percolating water into the glacial interior and lubricating the rock-ice surface. So, the statement was not technically false, but was deliberately misleading and incomplete – in scientific research that is called fraud. You can see more of that kind of thing at http://www.co2science.org, a subsidiary of the Marshall Institute and ExxonMobile, if you really want to.

    As far as the radiation issue goes, think about a still night in the desert (to simplify the atmospheric radiation inputs). The only real radiation source is the warm desert floor; it warms the air above, which warms the air above, and so on. The faster that process can happen, the faster the surface temperature decreases. If you start adding IR-absorbing gases like H2O and CO2 the process is slowed – this is very relevant, because night-time temps should increase in an AGW scenario – and California also set a number of record ‘high-lows’ during the past heat wave, which were the main reason behind the 100+ deaths – an inability to cool off at night. Odd that I couldn’t find news stories that mentioned ’100 deaths’ and ‘global warming’ in the same article.

    To revisit the ‘events’ issue, how many single events that can’t be attributed to AGW does it take before we have a set of events that can be attributed to AGW? The ‘science explanation’ I’ve seen in the media is that even if you are playing with loaded dice, no single outcome can be ‘blamed’ on the loading – to which the only response is, tell that to the bruiser standing by the pit boss. Spin a loaded dice about the various axis and you can see that something’s wrong – and all the statistical nonsense you can come up with won’t help you out much in that situation.

  28. 78
    Ike Solem says:

    RE #67 – try reformulating your question in terms of rates – how fast or slow things happen – and I’ll try and answer it if you want – but I have no idea what you are talking about, sorry.

  29. 79
    Mark A. York says:

    The tipping point is a measured window in which CO2 reduction could prevent warming beyond our control and not some political concoction by a PR company. Eric the S wants 20 years and over the falls in a barrel with a wishbone. Bon voyage. Wiser heads are going to do something in that window. Your appeal is to those who know the least.

  30. 80
    Hank Roberts says:

    > 35 Google is your friend, this should get you started:

    Results … about 274 for deltoid peiser lambert.

    “Peiser sent me the abstracts of the 34 papers that he claims reject or …”

    http://www.scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2006/03/miranda_devine_garbage_in_garba.php

    http://backseatdriving.blogspot.com/2005/07/updates-benny-peiser-john-ray-and.html

    Then vary your search by adding other relevant terms, like this:

    http://www.google.com/search?q=%22benny+peiser%22+and+oreskes&btnG=Search&hs=Iet&hl=en&lr=&safe=off&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla%3Aen-US%3Aofficial

  31. 81
    Chuck Booth says:

    Re #51 Eric the skeptic wrote: “we will still have to consider and debate other effects (e.g. ocean acidification)”

    In other words, search for new straws to grasp?

  32. 82
    Eric (skeptic) says:

    Ike (#77), the simulations show net cooling for concentrated convection such as hurricanes, but perhaps they were not simulating feedback such as the polar glacier melting you refer to. But if there is indeed more pole-tropic air movement (i.e. an amplified jet stream) that is also a net negative feedback for the climate, see my #142 http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/07/runaway-tipping-points-of-no-return/

    As far as Greenland itself, I have no quantitative data except that the surface melting you are talking about would only occur for part of the island for a month or two in summer. Warming and moisture any other time would bring fresh snow.

  33. 83
    Eric (skeptic) says:

    Mark (#79), my appeal to the climate modelers (besides continuously improving accuracy and resolution) is to model the solutions to global warming to solve it directly and inexpensively. If the “solution” is left to politicians, we end up devoting scarce fossil energy to politically favored boondoggles (e.g. corn to ethanol, oil from shale, etc). Instead I would like to see what chemical or biological modifications can have the most impact on climate while understanding, to the greatest extent possible, any unwanted side effects. Models that include the biosphere will eventually be able to do this.

  34. 84
    Eric (skeptic) says:

    Chuck (#80), I should say study, not debate. Ocean acidification is serious concern and deserves more study.

  35. 85
    Chris Rijk says:

    #82, maybe you’d like this rather cheekily written article:
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/08/01/an_artificial_volcano/

    I don’t see how why you expect there to be “solutions” that would directly involve climate modelers though. Chucking a load of sulpher into the stratosphere isn’t a “solution” – at best, it would be just a temporary fix. (Hmm, how much sulpher do we have anyway?). I think the potential for lawsuits would scupper such plans anyway.

    “biological modifications” is vague, but the only thing I can think of is creating some very CO2 hungry bacteria, plants or whatever and chuck ‘em in the ocean. However, this has some obvious problems – like, if they work, how do you make sure that they won’t take out too much CO2 in the long term? If they don’t work, then you’ve just wasted a lot of time and money – and meanwhile things will have gotten even worse. If they do work “just right”, for them to start improving things quickly, I don’t see how that could happen without a massive impact on the oceans ecosystems.

    Prevention not cure, is the only sane solution.

    The sad thing is, smart solutions to reducing CO2 output would have many short/medium-term benefits. Done right, you can improve economic growth and standard of living, while saving the planet…

  36. 86
    Eric (skeptic) says:

    Chris, the problem we are trying to prevent is currently modeled (i.e. requires water vapor or other feedback to be an actual problem), so the solution can be too. There’s no reason for the Register to be so cavalier about the sulfur or for you to quickly dismiss your plankton in the ocean idea. Those solutions can be modeled and side effects (whether beneficial or unwanted) can also be modeled. If the problem can be modeled, then so can the cure. If “prevention” is the only allowed solution, then the required CO2 reductions will be far more painful than the politicians will allow, and the corn farmers and other special interests will make end up wasting lots of energy indirectly. Tractors don’t grow on trees.

  37. 87
    Leonard Evens says:

    “logarithmic CO_2 effect”?

    Note that if warming were proportional to concentration of CO_2, we would be in such serious trouble that not even the Exxon CEO would be arguing about it. But the log function is still an increasing function with no upper bound. Also, it would be the composite effect of rate of increase of greenhouse gas concentrations and the functional dependence of temperature on concentration that would determine the warming rate. For example, if CO_2 concentrations increase exponentially, and temperature depends logarithmically on concentration, then the effect ends up being linear in time.

    But this is really a total diversion. No one is arguing that the warming is proportional to concentration. The estimates are already based on a logarithmic scale. That is what it means to give CO_2 sensitivity as the number of degrees C change expected from a DOUBLING of CO_2 concentration. The most likely estimates for this based on models and paleoclimate studies appears to be something like 3 deg C and is extremely likely to be in a range something like 1.5 to 4.5 deg C. (I am giving the figures I remember. There are a variety of estimates, but they are all in this ball park.) A skeptic should be arguing about the details of how that estimate is made. I haven’t seen any convincing arguments which can assure us that the sensitivity is so small, say less than 1 deg C, we need not concern ourselves about the problem. It is not enough, given potential consequences, to argue that it can’t be proved beyond any doubt whatsoever that is isn’t that low. It also can’t be proved beyond any doubt whatsoever that it isn’t significantly higher.

    Some people, who should know better, have raised the issue of logarithmic dependence, perhaps as a red herring. They bring up something that might look scary to a lay person and explain why it is not as scary as it might look. If that were what climate scientists were concerned about, they might have a point. but they know quite well it isn’t, and they wouldn’t seriously raise the issue in a discussion with other scientists.

    Unfortunately, people who don’t understand the science see such arguments and try to use them without any real understanding of what they are saying.

  38. 88
    Hank Roberts says:

    Hurricanes don’t cause cooling. They rearrange heat.

    ‘If the problem can be modeled, then so can the cure’ is meaningless — the problem is the rate of introduction of CO2 into the atmosphere from fossil fuels. Throwing more of something else in too isn’t a solution, it’s a complication to a problem.

    We know a few bits of the problem — ocean acidification and greenhouse effect — well enough for competent scientists like Hansen to be warning us we have to be well into reducing fossil fuel use within the coming decade, or see the planet change beyond anything in human experience.

    And we get bafflegab and handwaving as a response.

    That’s what people do. Maybe that’s what intelligence does anywhere and this is the explanation for the Fermi paradox — a silent universe: intelligent life uses up its readily available fossil fuel and easy metals before getting competent to manage longterm, and dies off.

  39. 89
    Chuck Booth says:

    RE #85 ” the only thing I can think of is creating some very CO2 hungry bacteria, plants or whatever and chuck ‘em in the ocean. However, this has some obvious problems – like, …’
    Like, what happens to the carbon taken up by bacteria, algae, or plants? Unless those organisms are somehow sequestered (e.g., buried deep in the ocean sediments, or deep underground), they will decay and their carbon will re-enter the ocean and/or atmosphere – it won’t just disappear.

  40. 90
    Eli Rabett says:

    Might I suggest a modest change in nomenclature to clear the air in one area
    http://rabett.blogspot.com/2006/07/european-warm-period.html

  41. 91
    Roger Smith says:

    There are other creative solutions for getting rid of carbon like turning plant matter into a charcoal-like substance and burying them. Whether this makes more or less sense than using plants for biofuels is another question.

  42. 92
    Hank Roberts says:

    Or this:
    http://md1.csa.com/partners/viewrecord.php?requester=gs&collection=ENV&recid=5949123

    Seasonality of climate-human mortality relationships in US cities and impacts of climate change
    Davis, RE; Knappenberger, PC; Michaels, PJ; Novicoff, WM
    Climate Research [Clim. Res.]. Vol. 26, no. 1, pp. 61-76. 19 Apr 2004.

    “Human mortality in US cities is highest on extremely hot, humid summer days, but in general, winter-mortality rates are significantly higher than summer rates. The observed winter-dominant warming pattern, which has been linked to increasing greenhouse-gas concentrations, has led some researchers to propose future mortality decreases, while others contend that increasing heat-related mortality in summer will more than offset any winter-mortality reductions. … net future climate-related mortality rates are very low relative to the baseline death rate, indicating that climate change will have little impact in defining future mortality patterns in US cities. “

  43. 93
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    HOW NOT TO DO SCIENCE (RE denialists’ misuse of Doran’s findings):

    Grasp at any straw you can that supports your position. If you can’t find any (because they’re becoming more and more scarce), then bend the darned straws to fit your position.

    AKA: BACKWARDS SCIENCE, might makes right, money helps too.

  44. 94
    Ike Solem says:

    Re #82, # 83, etc, etc, etc.

    You know, Eric (skeptic), the last time I saw writing like yours was when I was grading undergraduate research reports, and I’d always come across some paper that, while very verbose and full of technical terms stacked together (more or less at random), made no sense – as if the student had flipped through the text looking for impressive statements, and had then strung them together without rhyme or reason, probably at the last minute. Responding to or attempting to grade such papers was always tedious, and the student would usually be upset, stating that their failing grade didn’t reflect all the work they had done, and I’d have to say – yes, but you made no sense whatsoever, your references don’t apply to the topic of your paper, and I can’t accept this – sorry. Have you thought about a public relations major instead?

  45. 95
    John L. McCormick says:

    RE #94 relating to #82

    Ike, I’d suggest Eric drop the class. It would be an honorable choice for him.

    See (below) his profoundly inept effort to hoodwink the prof. Looks like a sloppy cut and paste job to me! Or worse, a deliberate attempt to mislead.

    [As far as Greenland itself, I have no quantitative data except that the surface melting you are talking about would only occur for part of the island for a month or two in summer. Warming and moisture any other time would bring fresh snow.]

  46. 96
    Doug Percival says:

    Hank Roberts wrote in #88:

    “… scientists like Hansen [are] warning us we have to be well into reducing fossil fuel use within the coming decade, or see the planet change beyond anything in human experience. And we get bafflegab and handwaving as a response. That’s what people do. Maybe that’s what intelligence does anywhere …”

    While there may be an inherent psychological tendency among “people” in general to want to deny frightening or “inconvenient” truths, whether it is a diagnosis of fatal disease or global warming apocalypse, in fact the “bafflegab and handwaving” that dominates public discussion of anthropogenic global warming is the deliberate (and expensive) creation of the fossil fuel industry and the federal government which it has locked in a death grip.

    In the era of “peak oil”, with worldwide oil extraction peaking and irreversibly declining, while worldwide demand is growing, those who control the extraction of oil (and natural gas and coal) stand to become even more unimaginably wealthy and powerful than they are already. They do not want that wealth to be redirected from them to other sectors of society (which is what an aggressive transition from fossil fuels to renewables would do), hence the “bafflegab and handwaving” to prevent that from happening.

  47. 97
    Eric (skeptic) says:

    Ike and John, I did string together a few ideas but those were suggestions of examples of quantitative data. Glaciers in Greenland may become pitted from hurricane heat as Ike suggests in #77, but where is the quantification of that? How does compare to the other climate effects of hurricanes? What would the net effect be? I am not flipping through the textbook for “impressive” statements, I am looking for quantitative discussion that includes positive and negative feedbacks, although in this forum there’s already plenty of discussion about the positive ones.

    I appreciate your leniency, I have had much tougher professors, but I plan to stick around at least until we get back to hockey sticks and sunspot cycles.

  48. 98
    Phillip Shaw says:

    Re #91:

    “There are other creative solutions for getting rid of carbon like turning plant matter into a charcoal-like substance and burying them. Whether this makes more or less sense than using plants for biofuels is another question.”

    Roger, we already have a buried charcoal-like material derived from plant matter . . . it’s called coal. I’m afraid that digging up old coal and burning it for the energy to make new charcoal would just exacerbate the problem of AGW.

    It seems to me that most of the suggested ‘solutions’ to AGW make as much sense as the old joke about the man who was tired of bailing out his leaky rowboat so he drilled a hole in the bottom to let the water out.

  49. 99
    pete best says:

    Re#96 Governments are here to sometimes do the common good. If Type II climate change is real then we will all be affected quite seriously sooner, if type I prevails then we can burn more fossil fuels before problems occur. However if pans out year 2100 will be horific with our current business as usual attitude.

    Peak Oil will cause an issue if it is true but Oil companies reckon that there is a lot more Oil out there to be found and at $75 a barrel they are going off to find it because the money is now there to do exploration. I reckon that Oil will be plentiful until the end of the century myself. Gas is in a somewhat similar position to Oil, more to find. Coal is in plentiful supply and will be the major contributor to climate change due to there being several hundred years of it left.

  50. 100
    Wacki says:

    Re #80 Hank Roberts,

    Thanks for the links. There was a lot of fun info there. Peiser certainly does seem to be a dishonest person. After spending several hours going through every link and sublink on those blogs I still haven’t found what I’m looking for. As a computational biologist I always have to make my data available and I don’t understand why people who analyze abstracts don’t seem to do the same unless they are specifically asked to do so. I certainly have enough information to discredit Peiser based on his behavior alone but I still haven’t seen an answer to the very specific and very simple questions I asked.

    I have the following 37 page document:

    “Consensus in science: How do we know we’re not wrong,” presented at the AAAS meeting on 13 February 2004.

    Which is the full report the BEYOND THE IVORY TOWER was extracted from. A quick scan of the document doesn’t seem to show the 928 abstracts listed in separate groups but maybe I am wrong. Looking at the bibliography I certainly don’t see 928 references. Heck a lot of them aren’t even journals. Reading random sections of the paper and I see lots of paragraphs with the phrases “In 1965, Revelle and his colleagues wrote,”, “discovery of the hypothetico-deductive method in 1847″,… etc etc etc. All stuff that isn’t relevant to my question.

    Again no listing of abstracts in groups. I’ll read the entire 37 pages and get back to you but I’m incredulous that the info is going to be here either.

    What I’m looking for is very specific. In figure 1 of that paper she has the abstracts scored in 6 groups. 1) methods 2) impacts 3) yes 4) historical 5) mitigation 6) no.

    I want to know which abstract is in each group. I want to be able to pic an abstract at random and see if it falls in the same group she put it in. Does that make sense? We did this to Peiser, so why can’t we do this to Oreskes? I don’t know how else to say this.


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