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Perspectives from China

Filed under: — gavin @ 26 September 2007

I spent the last three weeks in China partly for a conference, partly for a vacation, and partly for a rest. In catching up over the last couple of days, I notice that the break has given me a slightly different perspective on a couple of issues that are relevant here.

First off, the conference I attended was on paleoceanography and there were was a lot of great new science presented, particularly concerning the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (around 55 million years ago), and on past changes to tropical rainfall patterns (see this week’s Nature) – two issues where there is a lot of relevance for climate change and its impacts today. I’ll discuss the new data in separate posts over the next few weeks, but for now I’ll just mention a topic that came up repeatedly in conversations over the week – that was how to improve the flow of information from the paleo community to the wider climate community, as represented by the IPCC for instance.

There was a palpable sense that insights from paleo-climate (in this case referring mainly to the ocean sediment record rather than ice cores or records from the last millennium) were not being given their due, and in fact were frequently being misused. In a panel discussion (hosted by Stefan), people lamented the lack of ‘synthesis’ that would be useful for the outside community, while others stressed (correctly) that synthesis is hard and frankly not well regarded within the community or their funders. I think this is a general problem; many of the incentives for success within an academic field – the push for novel techniques, the ownership of specific slices of data, the desire to emulate the paths to success of the previous generation – actually discourage work across the field that pulls together disparate sources of information.

In the paleo-oceanography case, this exhibits itself in the overwhelming focus on downcore records (the patterns of change at a single point through time) and the relative lack of integrated products that either show spatial patterns of change at a single time, or that try to extract common elements from multiple events in the past. There are of course numerous exceptions – the MARGO project that compiled records from the peak of the last ice age, or the work of PMIP for the mid-Holocene – but their visibility makes their uniqueness all the more obvious. There were no ideas presented that would fix this overnight, but the discussions showed that the community realises that there is a problem – even if the solutions are elusive.

My second thought on China came from travelling through some of the most polluted cites in the world. Aerosol haze that appeared continuous from Beijing to Hong Kong is such an obvious sign of human industrial activity that it simply takes your breath away (literally). In places, even on a clear day, you cannot see the sun – even if there is no cloud in the sky. Only in the mountains or in deeply rural parts of the country was blue sky in evidence. This is clearly an unsustainable situation (even if you are only thinking about the human health impacts) and it points the way, I think, to how China can be engaged on the climate change front. If reducing aerosol emissions can be done at the same time that greenhouse gases can be cut, the Chinese will likely jump at the chance. As an aside, I noticed that Compact Florescent Light bulbs were being used almost everywhere you looked, and that the majority of Shanghai’s motorbikes and scooters were electric rather than gasoline powered. These efforts clearly help, but they are just as clearly not sufficient on their own.

Finally, the limited access to the Internet that one gets in China (through a combination of having better things to do with one’s time and the sometimes capricious nature of what gets through the Great Firewall) allowed me to take a bit of break from the constant back and forth on the climate blogs. In getting back into it, one appreciates just how much time is wasted dealing with the most ridiculous of issues (Hansen’s imagined endorsement of a paper he didn’t write thirty six years ago, the debunking of papers that even E&E won’t publish, and the non-impact of the current fad for amateur photography) at the expense of anything substantive. In effect, if possibly not in intention, this wastes a huge amount of people’s time and diverts attention from more significant issues (at least in the various sections of the blogosphere). Serious climate bloggers might all benefit from not getting too caught up in it, and keeping an closer eye on the bigger picture. We will continue to try and do so here.

183 Responses to “Perspectives from China”

  1. 51
    steven mosher says:

    RE 45.


    I think one issue the nit pickers have with Tamino’s analyis of trend since 1975 is
    the subjective selection of the period. To be sure it appears to be a change in regimes.
    In fact, you’ll find me on CA making a similiarly misguided assumption.

    So first a cite that I am plowing through as I get time.

    The issue is Tamino looked at the data and said ” its natural to see ” and then
    he sketched out three regimes the last starting in 1975.

    Regime changes in time series that have red noise need more attention to method
    than this appeal to naturalness, perhaps. I’ll stand corrected if a professional
    time series analysis guy can explain how regime shifts in a time series
    can be skillfully ,reliably and naturally detected by eye with 95% confidence.

    Imagine if you would some skeptic who did trend analysis from 1998 to present.

    Imagine if I picked the last two years and fit a line to them.

    Perform a test for regime change in a time series and you have some footing.

  2. 52
    SteveSadlov says:

    RE: #46 – In the Pearl River Delta, the air pollution is so severe that the frequent northerly winds blow the effluent south into Hong Kong. Hong Kong was never pristine, at least not since the mid 1900s. However, it has taken a major turn for the worse in terms of air quality. Respiratory diseases are proliferating. Many of my friends who live there have the equivalent of a chronic smoker’s hack although they are non smokers. Getting expats to live in HK has become difficult – they do not want to expose their families to the air. Some commute from places like Australia and Singapore. That is a long commute but doable leaving work mid day Friday and returning late Sunday night. 20 years ago, Hong Kong was considered a choice expact location, even 10 years ago it was considered pretty good.

  3. 53
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    Welcome back Gavin & Stefan.

    And we should all remember that a chunk of China’s pollution and GHGs are involved in their manufacturing products for US. Soooo, in my thinking it’s our pollution (that portion generated by products for us), not theirs.

  4. 54

    I really hope you’ll stick to your guns and ignore the “noise”, including the “noise” in the comments section. Less time rebutting old arguments long dealt with, more time exploring new knowledge.


  5. 55
    Stephen Pranulis says:

    Different topic. Arctic Ice.

    Is open ocean, (or ocean with fragmented ice for that matter), perhaps a better vehicle for transforming wind, wave, or tidal energy into heat than, say, ordinary solid ice pack?

  6. 56
    Stephen Pranulis says:

    Open Ocean and Arctic Ice. (see my previous post) I am sure that I am be-laboring the obvious by suggesting that this might explain the unexpectedly rapid diminution of Arctic ice, and it might be an accelerator of climate change worthy of note.

  7. 57
    SteveSadlov says:

    RE: #55 and #56. An open ocean is a more active ocean. Wind fetch directly affects the liquid, currents, as a result, can be stronger and more easily changeable. Therefore, as a result, from and energy tranfer standpoint, open water means tighter and faster reacting coupling between atmosphere and ocean. From a energy flux standpoint, flows are bidirectional. Mainly, I would anticipate great flow rates in both directions, and, as a result, more drastic, faster and more extreme interactions between atmosphere and ocean. No one know for sure what all the second order effects are, or what they might be in the future. Some of them may be expected and seemingly intuitive, over both short and long time frames, some may be unexpected and counterintuitive. Both may be going on simultaneously depending on synoptic conditions versus location. Climatic seasonality may become more pronounced in some places and dulled in others. The world could end up, at the extremes, either like the one depicted in the film “AI” or, like a much slower evolving “Day After Tomorrow” one, or, (and probably more likely) something different but not at either such extreme.

  8. 58
    Marcus says:

    PHE: take any of the various temperature datasets (I don’t care if 1998 or 2005 is the highest). Now, take any running mean you want: 3 years, 4 years, 5 years, whatever. Do you see a continuing temperature trend?

    Effectively, one anomalous year does not a trend make (in either direction). There is a physical reason that 1998 was extremely warm: a strong el Nino shifting heat out of the ocean into the atmosphere. So if you have a long term trend, you occasionally get such events (el Nino in ’98, Pinatubo in the other direction in ’92).

    The misuse of such basic statistics is some choose to label people like Tim Ball as “deniers” because “skeptic” gives them too much credit. There are uncertainties and tradeoffs in both climate science and policy discussions where legitimate disagreements could exist, but the “world hasn’t warmed since ’98” argument is not one of those.

  9. 59
    dhogaza says:

    What has that to do with the facts, and are you more qualified to comment on climate change than a retired PhD and Geography Professor?

    Why would a Geography Professor, retired or otherwise, be qualified to talk about Climate Science? He’s an amateur in the field.

  10. 60
    Dan says:

    re: 49. A very simple search here on RC (and on other sites) would tell you that the difference between the two years is statistically insignificant. We know that 1998 had an exceptional El Nino which served to warm the global average even higher. Along comes 2005 and it is just as warm, without the extra El Nino affects. We also know that if one includes Antartic data or not, it makes one data set very slightly but not significantly warmer than the other. For goodness sake, read and learn and stop cherry-picking.

  11. 61
    Dan says:

    A correction: In my last post, I wrote “Antarctic” when I meant “Arctic”. In any event, read the points made re: 1998 and 2005 global temperatures in The small difference changes nothing. The denialists clamoring is just another in the long list of their anti-science, failed attempts to spread disinformation; move along. ;-)

  12. 62
    Timothy Chase says:

    Steven Mosher (#51) wrote:

    I think one issue the nit pickers have with Tamino’s analyis of trend since 1975 is
    the subjective selection of the period. To be sure it appears to be a change in regimes.
    In fact, you’ll find me on CA making a similiarly misguided assumption.


    Actually Tamino’s most recent analysis which involves the presence of red noise in the global average temperature trend would seem to suggest that whatever variation has existed in the rate of temperature rise since 1979 has not been statistically significant. Although for rhetorical purposes, it might be nice to be able to say that it has accelerated, obviously it is preferable that it has not – for practical reasons. Moreover, given the near logarithmic relationship between temperature and CO2 concentration and the near exponential rise in CO2 over time, it makes more sense that the rate of temperature increase would be roughly constant. Personally the last these matters more to me that the first two: I prefer a world that makes sense.

    As for picking two years…

    How many data points would you have? What statistical significance would this imply? Statistics is one of the tools we make recourse to in order to avoid “by-eye” subjective judgments or impressions – to the extent that this is possible.

  13. 63
    David Moore says:

    As a respiratory therapist and part time climate activist, I would check keywords, coal, sulfur dioxide, methyl mercury, cancer, asthma, bronchitis, heart disease.

  14. 64
    Jack Roesler says:

    Re: #53: Lynn. I think about that all the time. China is becoming the factory to the world. Imagine what our GHG emissions would be if we made all our products here. But it’s not only China anymore. We’ve exported a good portion of our manufacturing to many different countries. Kind of sad that we’ve reduced our economy to one of servicing things made elsewhere.

    On the other hand, I read yesterday that we could power our entire country with the energy off 92 sq. miles of solar panels. Obviously we wouldn’t want them all in one location, but it seems we could be off fossil fuels in a matter of a few years, if we made it a priority.

  15. 65
    PHE says:

    Re Dan (60) “read and learn and stop cherry-picking”. Perfect advice for anyone following the climate change debate. I would add: make sure you know why you take a certain viewpoint. It should be because you have assessed and understood the arguments and evidence yourself and not through following the headlines or ‘consensus’.

  16. 66
    Aaron Lewis says:

    Let us see if I have this correct?

    If China keeps putting out aerosols, the soot and sulfate will precipitate onto polar ice, cause melting, and runaway global warming.
    If China stops putting out aerosols, then our atmospheric warming will intensify, causing runaway global warming.

    OK! What is the best policy to steer between these two threats?

  17. 67
    Jack Roesler says:

    Re: #66: You have said pretty much word for word what the owner of a local auto repair shop said recently when I explained the aerosol issue to him. His conclusion: we’ve had it either way, so why change what we’re doing!

    Since then, I saw “Dimming the Sun” on PBS. Dr. Hansen was interviewed at the end, and made it clear that regardless of the aerosol issue, we have to cut back drastically on the burning of fossil fuels within the next 9 yrs, or global warming will possibly spiral out of control. I trust his judgment. I’ve cut my CO2 emissions by 66%, to about 8 tons/yr. I think most people can do likewise, with readily available technology. Additional cuts are possible when solar panel costs come down a bit. That should happen in the next few years.

    As for China, they’ve got some serious work to do. They’d better do it fast, or we’re in a heap of trouble.

  18. 68
    Andrew Sipocz says:

    Re the Nature Paper: So west Pacific convection strength may control the Atlantic Meridional Overturning circulation? Could this explain why the west Pacific and Atlantic tropical cyclone active periods seem to work opposite one another? This seems a ripe issue to discuss regarding AGW and tropical cyclones.

  19. 69
    Stephen Pranulis says:

    Re: 55,56, 57 With apologies for this divergence from the original thread about China.. What my earlier posts were trying to articulate was the speculation that ocean, freed of ice, would facilitate the transfer of wind energy to waves, which, upon reaching the ice mass, would cause ice pieces to smash into each other, causing some immediate local melting. The melt water thus formed would, I think, immediately mix with turbulent,saline, lower-MP sea water and be thereby hindered from easily refreezing. I’m just trying to come up with an explanation for what I understand to be the unexpectedly rapid loss of an unexpectedly large amount of the Arctic ice cap this year….

  20. 70
    David B. Benson says:

    North China Plain: land use change and water:

  21. 71
    Nigel Williams says:

    Don’t panic!

    While nothing new really, it does give Denial another nudge. The developing world is not going to turn around any time soon, so this is confirmation of a trend we will see more of. As Ive noted previously with Greenland and WAIS holding enough water for 15m sea level rise, loss of just 10% of that will see places like Bangladesh and the great river delta communities in deep trouble. So:-

    *NASA Finds Greenland Snow Melting Hit Record High in High Places*

    A new NASA-supported study reports that 2007 marked an overall rise in the melting trend over the entire Greenland ice sheet and, remarkably, melting in high-altitude areas was greater than ever at 150 percent more than average.


    *Remarkable Drop in Arctic Sea Ice Raises Questions*

    Melting Arctic sea ice has shrunk to a 29-year low, significantly below the minimum set in 2005, according to preliminary figures from the National Snow and Ice Data Center, part of the University of Colorado at Boulder. NASA scientists, who have been observing the declining Arctic sea ice cover since the earliest measurements in 1979, are working to understand this sudden speed-up of sea ice decline and what it means for the future of Earth’s northern polar region.

  22. 72
    Dan says:

    re: 65. It also helps to know what the scientific process and method is all about. It appears most denialists do not understand or follow either. Nor do they understand that the scientific method is a solid cornerstone of science. It is through peer review and consensus that science proceeds.

  23. 73
    SteveSadlov says:

    RE: #69 – Simple. Higher than normal SSTs plus a slight positive air temperature anomaly, both at the same time in the area near the international date line (Chukchi and East Siberian Seas). It tracks the temp anomalies perfectly. The anomalous region is where the open water showed up during high summer.

  24. 74
    John Norris says:

    re #24 ” … There is nothing there now that Marx, Lennin, or even Mao would recognize. …”

    The ruling party has a slightly different opinion then you of Marx, Lennin, and Mao’s input on how the party operates and what your obligations are as a member of the party.

    “Article 3 Party members must fulfill the following duties:

    (1) To conscientiously study Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory and the important thought of Three Represents, …”

    re #27 “C’mon, John, the Chinese have communism like the USA have a republic.”

    I agree with that statement; sans your cynicism of course.

    It will certainly be interesting to view with hindsight 20 years from now if communist China manages their CO2 output more appropriately then the US republic does.

  25. 75
    Harmon says:


    I’m a denier. I know you guys love folks like me, so I thought I’d just get that out of the way up front.

    Even though I’m just a denier, and obviously haven’t thought much about it, I still have a question that maybe somebody can answer.

    I believe I have seen it written that the emission altitude to space is 6 km. I’d like clarification.

    Is it true that the climate models assume that photons emitted from carbon dioxide at an altitude of 6 km actually reach space?

    I ask because the troposhere is roughly 12 km, and it appears that there is plenty of carbon dioxide above 6 km altitude.

    If the CO2 above 6 km absorbs the photons emitted at 6 km, and then itself emits, it would seem that the CO2 at 6 km does not in fact emit to space.

    I would be quite a bit happier with an assertion that CO2 near the upper altitude reached by CO2 emits to space.

    I have a hard time believing that for some reason after CO2 clears an altitude of 6 km, it stops interacting with the electromagnetic field.

    So there it is.

    Does gas phase CO2 emission from an altitude of 6 km reach space?

    If not, what altitude is important for emission, and where does this number come from? I didn’t make it up.

  26. 76
    Daniel C. Goodwin says:

    I am thrilled, gratified, dancing-around-the-office-chair overjoyed with Gavin’s closing comment about getting too tied up in nonsense-wad badminton (denialist-rebuttal). The next time a shill pops up in the corporate media (probably in another 15 minutes) with a tattered, thrice-recycled (at least – do you ever wash that thing, dude?) talking-point, it should be enough to merely point out the person’s track record, something along the lines of: “Apparently, the source of this surprisingly-crude piece of disinformation is one of those unfathomable nihilistic empty suits who has been up to no good (specifically, the exact same public-relations flavor of psuedo-scientific no-good) since the days of big legal problems for the tobacco companies. Nobody ever has, or ever will, figure out what drives people after they’ve lost the last discernible trace of humanity or intelligence. Going around literally blowing smoke, wasting everyone’s time. It’s worth taking care not to enable these psychopaths (see Kurt Vonnegut’s thoughts on the issue of corporate psychopathology, which is neither funny nor hyperbole) with too serious or hasty a response to fools.

    Thanks so much for that thought, Gavin. You folks (all of you) have such awesome resources of training and talent. Scientifically, the issues at hand, and the very synthesis you say is often professionally discouraged, are so intellectually absorbing (to say nothing of their obvious importance for humanity’s future), so deeply fascinating, that there comes a time to really wise up and not squander bandwidth in the service of Newspeak-rebuttal. Hold onto that thought, please! We desperately need people like you to stay focused through this thing, whatever the heck this thing is turning into.

    Whew! Now let me catch my breath… I think there’s more CO2 in the atmosphere than there used to be or something. It’s harder to catch my breath. (I must allow the possibility, however unimaginably miniscule it may be, that changes I notice in my own physiology are primarily due to old age. (Incidentally, sorry about all the paretheses; and the semicolons; I’m trying to learn how to write properly.))

  27. 77

    #69& 73… Observations from up here are astonishing, calm sea waters not freezing with -12 C surface temperatures (it warmed up since) around Islands with new snow and frozen lakes (just frozen a few days back). Near Resolute (Canada) sea surface is just above 0 C. With steep surface based adiabatic lapse rates at times (10 C/km), and no surface based inversions. But I really saw the dawn of a new arctic age (you can see this on my website), with spherical and very early sunsets seen whenever the cloud cover is scarce ( given from all this open water), sounds funny but spherical sunsets are extremely rare here. There are big Polar related issues that need be discussed on RC, hope there will be a link dedicated for this soon. BTW, I believe the NE passage just opened, and the dynamics of arctic ocean ice recovery may be severely impaired by the lack of sea ice cover, past Baffin Bay yearly freeze ups may be the model for the wide open arctic ocean.

  28. 78
    Bob Schmitz says:

    Re 71, Nigel Williams. About Tedesco & Valle, the melt days on Greenland in the summer 2007 study:


    Does the study contain data about the volume of Greenland ice melted?

    It seems a little strange to me to express the melting in surface area, not in cm of snow melted. Melt days would vary in the amount of snow melted, as temperature rises above zero.

    It would be nice to see a 2007 ablation map!

  29. 79

    Amusingly, PHE posts:

    [[ I would add: make sure you know why you take a certain viewpoint. It should be because you have assessed and understood the arguments and evidence yourself and not through following the headlines or ‘consensus’.]]

    The scientific consensus is part of how modern science is done, PHE. It’s perfectly rational for someone who is not a climate expert to listen to professional climatologists. The consensus has been wrong in the past, but not as often as pseudoscientists have been wrong. The smart way to bet is always on the scientific consensus.

    I, personally, got into this debate because I was interested in habitable planet astronomy and wanted to use climate models to predict the surface temperatures of habitable planets. The remark that “faith is more important to [me] than science” is quite correct; I’m a born-again Christian and my faith in Jesus Christ is of paramount importance to me. But I don’t believe in global warming on faith. I believe in it because I understand how the greenhouse effect works.

  30. 80
    Harmon says:

    RE: #76

    If you’re responding to my post in #75, you’ll have to be a more direct. I’m a little slow.

    I realize there is more CO2 in the atmosphere. I also realize that the claimed emission altitude is roughly 6 km. The argument appears to be something to the effect, based on models provided elsewhere on this site, that more CO2 will raise the emission altitude to colder heights, decrease emission, and cause cooling.

    In light of that argument, it does appear pertinent to ask for clarification on the altitude, since it seems to be pretty important to the argument.

    I have also read that the stratosphere contains CO2. I’d like to know if this particular batch of climate scientists believes the stratosphere to be in local thermal equilibrium. Since the general concensus appears to be that atmospheres in LTE emit radiation purely as a function of temperature, without regard to pressure, it is important to know whether or not the stratosphere meets LTE conditions.

    I’m assuming the response will be that the stratosphere does not meet LTE. If it did, then we could expect that where the stratosphere T crosses 255 K, on its way to even higher T, the downward radiation in this model should cancel the upward radiation from 6 km, and none of it actually goes to space.

    I realize that many people are more than happy to simply appeal to authority and fall down in praise before the altar, but sometimes you learn a little more if you think for yourself, even if you turn out to be incorrect. If Gavin and others have no time for silly questions, then why bother with this site at all? They should expect that the general person posting has less knowledge than they do. It is natural for those with less knowledge to question aspects that don’t appear to make sense. You have the choice of clearing those up or not.

  31. 81
    Hank Roberts says:

    Harmon — use the Search box, top of page? Search: 6 km
    Short answer: “6” is an average, not a yes or no altitude.
    Also useful: “Start Here” link, see above. Off topic here.

  32. 82
    Dan Hughes says:

    Regarding how science works, consensus, and independent replication and Verification, this is interesting. I don’t have access to the Science News article.

  33. 83
    Phil. Felton says:

    Re #75 & 80 I suggest you read Clough & Iacono, J Geophysical Research, pp100, 1995. Shows the switchover to emission at about an altitude corresponding to 200mb.

  34. 84
    Harmon says:

    RE 81

    Thank for responding Hank.

    I’m sure six is an average. Stefan’s Law depends on the fourth power of T, and T more or less declines linearly through the troposphere. I’d like more of an idea of the range covered.

    I have a strong suspicion that the choice of 6 km has more to do with a black body radiation calculation for temperature than it has to do with measurement. I’d like to point out that in addition to the stratosphere crossing 255K, it happens a few more times higher up.

    I am looking for a convincing justification for choosing the troposheric temperature crossing as opposed to any of the others. If the stratosphere is in LTE, then I could use an identical argument to those presented on this site to claim that raising CO2 will increase the altitude of emission, go to a higher T, and cause cooling instead of warming.

    THis may sound silly to you, and others, but this type of reasoning is sometimes quite convincing to members of the general public who don’t know what to think and have no background. These are precisely the people you need to reach, and many of them are just as easily convinced by someone else.

    If this turns into a fairly complicated explanation without a quick answer, then I’m not terribly happy with being fed a quick answer by models on this site. If the answer is quick, easy, and obvious, then I just turn out to be wrong, no harm done.

  35. 85
    Hank Roberts says:

    Gavin, these two announcement look relevant to the concerns you state in the first post — is this pertinent? Useful?

    National Geophysical Data Center … database (, providing online access to data and information about sea floor and lakebed samples curated by the participating repositories ….

    NGDC will report on the NOAA Climate Data Modernization Program project L-19 to digitize and make available online data and photographs from the collections of several of the participating institutions.

    October 5, 2007, … Mr. Kuiying Chen of the Chinese National Marine Data and Information Service, National Oceanographic Data Center, Professor Fuyuan Zhang from the China Second Institute of Oceanography, and Dr. Xiaoyu Zhange from the Department of Geosciences of Zhejiang University in Hangzhou. Mr. Chen and colleagues will be meeting with NGDC staff and Dr. Chris Jenkins of the University of Colorado Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research to discuss deep-sea sediment classification. Following their visit to NGDC, the group will meet with Dr. Peter Blum of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program in College Station, TX and Ms. Ramona Lotti and Dr. William Ryan at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University.
    ( or 303-497-6339)

    [Response: Well, ocean drilling produces a lot more information than simply climate data and all of these efforts go some way towards helping bring it together. But in the climate realm, bringing together different cores on consistent time scales is hugely time-consuming at the moment and so is rarely done (Liesicki and Raymo 2005 is a good example; they only used 57 records – out of the hundreds that should be available – and it took years to do). It seems to me that a step change in how the data is handled will be required before ‘synthesis’ can become routine. In conversation yesterday, I was reminded of how similar this is to what happened in physical oceanography when Levitus started his climatology project (now the most cited work in the whole field). Anyway, I will be writing more about this and I’ll try and flesh out my thoughts more clearly soon. – gavin]

  36. 86
    Jim Cripwell says:

    REf. 72 “. It is through peer review and consensus that science proceeds.” It might be worthwhile noting that the original letter to Nature on the structure of DNA by Watson and Crick was NOT peer reviewed. I remember reading it at the time. Two quotes “The tragedy of science; an elegant theory slain by an ugly fact” Thomas Huxley. “Dust for oblivion! To the solid ground
    Of nature trusts the Mind that builds for aye;
    Convinced that there, there only, she can lay
    Secure foundations.” William Wordsworth.

  37. 87
    Hank Roberts says:

    Harmon — _wrong_thread_
    Use the search tool. Find the thread on your subject. It’s there.
    Don’t just dump into the topic you see first. Use the search.

  38. 88
    Simon D says:

    Right on. We climate science / policy bloggers need to step back and breathe once in a while rather than, say, waste our energy fighting with a clearly flawed paper not even in-review suggesting something that the entire community knows is wrong and in turn giving said paper un-warranted attention. Let’s keep our eye on the ball here.

  39. 89

    An interesting an informative post. Thanks,Gavin. You say:
    “In getting back into it(the climate blogs), one appreciates just how much time is wasted dealing with the most ridiculous of issues (Hansen’s imagined endorsement of a paper he didn’t write thirty six years ago, the debunking of papers that even E&E won’t publish, and the non-impact of the current fad for amateur photography) at the expense of anything substantive. In effect, if possibly not in intention, this wastes a huge amount of people’s time and diverts attention from more significant issues (at least in the various sections of the blogosphere). Serious climate bloggers might all benefit from not getting too caught up in it, and keeping an closer eye on the bigger picture……”

    Great advice! A word to the wise, and not so wise should be sufficient. The time for debate has past.It’s past time for action.In fact the science has been in for over a decade, but the nitpicking goes on. You can’t convince everyone. There may even be some flat earthers out there. There’s an old joke about the man who says he never votes because it only encourages them. In a more real sense, by trying to respond to every piece of endless horsecrap that comes along may only motivate some of the more perverse, among skeptics.

  40. 90
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    We’ve had a steady, magnetic obsession here on RC with the ice melt this summer. No matter the subject of the thread, we turn around and *bingo* Ice Melt! Was the melt really all that much different that we should hear these cries of concern or was it simply a novelty and we should understand that there’s still lots and lots of ice left?

  41. 91
    spilgard says:

    Re #86: “It might be worthwhile noting that the original letter to Nature on the structure of DNA by Watson and Crick was NOT peer reviewed.

    Informal letters do not require peer review. Formal publication of research does. Often, the informal letter is simply an announcement which precedes formal publication — a means of documenting your discovery before someone else beats you to publication and bags the credit.

  42. 92
    Mark Chopping says:

    This speaks to action (cf. #89), Socolow & Pacala and the issue of solutions: China is at least trying… hard. See Reuters, Sept. 21, 2007: in China “the industry is still booming. Most analysts think Beijing’s target of 30 gigawatts (GW) of installed capacity by 2020 is too modest, as China is already nearing its 2010 goal”. That is impressive and shows that China is serious about this — but with 1.3 billion people to support, its problems are an order of magnitude more difficult than those of developed nations.
    Reuters Vestas article P.S. I’m with Ray on China.

  43. 93
    John L. McCormick says:

    RE # 90

    RE # 90 Jeffrey Davis, you said

    [Was the melt really all that much different that we should hear these cries of concern or was it simply a novelty and we should understand that there’s still lots and lots of ice left?]

    Well, one would hope you are on to something nobody has considered. Ice melts. It does every spring in the north. Lots of ice left. What is the big deal! Is this your logic path?

    Have you read anything about the consequences of this former mass of albedo rapidly changing to a mass of dark surface taking in and giving off heat?

    Come out of the woods and join the discussion after you have done some serious reading and thinking.

    Start with something simple—see the following link:

    Do not stop there. Dig a bit deeper and convince yourself if the cries of concern are valid and, to some, maybe inconvenient.

  44. 94
    steven mosher says:


    You misrepresent my comments. You wrote:

    “If independent analyses of the same raw data give the same result, then the sometimes arbitrary choices that go into different analyses don’t matter. ”

    Actually, we dont get the same result. We show a difference in tend between class1 and class2 sites
    and class5. The difference is in the tenths of degrees. Further, The analysis actually used DIFERRENT
    raw data. Now, in Rabbets rush to say ” nothing here” and your rush to say “nothing here” neither
    of you checked JohnVs work. In fact, in the midst of his work GISS change the data files that it used
    a fact documented on GISS web site. Now, JohnV , ClaytonB and I have not jumped to conclusions about
    validity or any such thing. I found it interesting that both you and Rabbet did without reading
    JohnVs description of the code and the data. In All fairness to you you probably
    just linked rabbetts post with reading the entire context on CA and the studies that have been
    conducted since then.

    You continue

    “If the analyses do differ in any substantive way (which in this case they don’t), then it’s worth looking deeper into it to find the sensitivity.”

    Actually they do differ substantially depending on the time period you use or the classification scheme.
    For, example when we use class5 sites we get noticeable differences throughout many time regimes.

    “So if you find something that makes a real difference, then we can pursue it. If a one month extra in one station is all you find, I think even you would admit the effort expended was not particularly cost-effective. – gavin]”

    The one “extra month” issue was merely an explaination of the type of bug that we encountered in
    compling the program. It’s actually not a bug, just an example of why having an independent
    team run your code is a good idea.
    Further the issue is not cost effectiveness. No one pays us to make mistakes
    or find them. Amateurs. Consider us to be like those amateur astronomers who worked in collaboration
    with NASA. What we have been committed to is open inquiry open science open source and posting results
    come hell or high water. We have no funding, but we are having fun.

    Now, What do I expect to find. Our current working estimate of the difference between the best sites
    and the worst sites is something on the order of .3C in a century trend. Since only 15% of the sites
    are class5 you can see that in all likely hood we would not predict major changes to the US record.
    But that is not the issue for us. In its adjustment of Temperature records the USHCN make a +.05F
    adjustment for the introduction of the MMTS system at selected stations. That’s fine. We like that
    attention to detail. So, if we identity a warming bias in class5 or class4 stations we would expect responsible scientists to consider removing these sites ( say 15% of 1221) from the calculations.

    [Response: Time is unfortunately money, and in using the phrase ‘cost-effective’ I’m describing the the time involved that necessarily precludes doing things that are going to be more of an effective use of your time (or mine in dealing with your comments). The big picture is not whether you can see a difference in raw data compilations of CRN1 or CRN5, but whether it makes any difference to the structure or trends in the regional or global picture. It doesn’t (so far). If it ever does, let me know. – gavin]

  45. 95
    Jim Cripwell says:

    Ref 91 “Informal letters do not require peer review.” Now you have lost me. I have always believed that scientific documents were valid because the science they contained was valid; not because they were peer reviewed and a scientific consensus had been agreed. Now there seem to be different sorts of scientific papers. There are those that have been peer reviewed and a scientific consensus has emerged, and no-one is allowed to disagree with them. Then there are paperes which have not been peer reviewed, like Watson and Crick, but their science can be valid because they are informal. But there are other papers which have not been peer reviewed, such as Dr. Manuel’s hypothesis about the solar system being the remnants of a supernova, which are not valid because they have not been peer reviewed. How do we know which documents are only valid if they have been peer reviewed, and which can be valid even though they have not been peer reviewed?

  46. 96
    Phil. Felton says:

    Re #84, It’s not temperature and its effect on emissions that is key here it’s the dramatically reduced number density and its effect on the probability of an emitted photon encountering another absorber before leaving the atmosphere (think mean free path). Also the probability of losing energy to collision partners before emission is reduced.

    By the way Gavin did you notice how many trees they are planting in Beijing? When I was there early this summer they were planting them everywhere, must have been in the millions!

    Regarding #90, the reduction in the Arctic Sea Ice had been progressing at about 100,000 sq km/year (september value), this year it dropped by over 1,000,000 sq km or a decade’s worth in one year! Why wouldn’t that get our attention? Maybe this winter it will all return to normal but there are good reasons to doubt that

  47. 97
    Rick Brown says:

    Re# 86, 91, 95: While Watson and Crick’s letter to Nature was not peer-reviewed, due to what the editor perceived as exceptional circumstances (see Nature 2003, vol 426, p. 119), current editorial practice is that letters in that journal are peer-reviewed.

    “A Letter reports an important novel research study, but is less substantial than an Article. . . . Letters are peer reviewed.”

  48. 98
    Rod B says:

    Oh, well! I also think Gavin makes a good point in trying to limit irrelevant (even if interesting) posts and discussions to make room for relevant science. And I might have been carried away a time or two and been a guilty party. But you guys who are just beside yourselves, unable to contain your exuberance, dancing and shouting, ‘the wicked witch is dead‘, and expecting that skeptics and “deniers” will never ever be allowed to speak again are just too much. Not to mention taking a large portion of this thread for irrelevant stuff.

  49. 99
    Jim Cripwell says:

    Ref 96 “Regarding #90, the reduction in the Arctic Sea Ice had been progressing at about 100,000 sq km/year (september value), this year it dropped by over 1,000,000 sq km or a decade’s worth in one year! Why wouldn’t that get our attention? Maybe this winter it will all return to normal but there are good reasons to doubt that” Let us get the facts right. Each year approximately 9 million sq kms of ice melt. Each year approximately 9 million sq kms refreeze. Since measurements started in 1979, approximately 35,000 sq kms extra ice has melted each year, and approximately 35,000 sq kms of ice has failed to refreeze, for a net loss of about 70,000 sq kms each year. This year about 10 million sq kms melted compared with 9 million normally. My bet is that within 10 years, sea ice in the arctic will be back to, say, 1985 levels.

  50. 100
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    Re: 93 & 96

    Whoa, fellas! I’m a confirmed AGW believer and cautioner. Even unto despair over global inaction. My observation and question were just that. Commenters have harped on the melting to an almost alarming degree. A ten fold increase in the rate of melt as Phil Felton has pointed out is the definition of an order of magnitude increase.

    I’d been reading the recent Hansen paper (“Climate change and trace gases”) in which he talks about the time necessary for significant melt. I’d always assumed that the span would be centuries, but he wouldn’t rule out decades. (“It is difficult to predict time of collapse in such a nonlinear problem, but we find no evidence of millennial lags between forcing and ice sheet response in palaeoclimate data. An ice sheet response time of centuries seems probable, and we cannot rule out large changes on decadal time-scales once wide-scale surface melt is underway.”) Publication of that was in May before this summer’s news.

    My observation and question were intended to focus commenters concerns beyond a recitation of the immediate effects.