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Aerosols, Chemistry and Climate

Filed under: — gavin @ 12 July 2008

Everyone can probably agree that the climate system is complex. Not only do the vagaries of weather patterns and ocean currents make it hard to see climate changes, but the variability in what are often termed the Earth System components complicates the picture enormously. These components – specifically aerosols (particulates in the air – dust, soot, sulphates, nitrates, pollen etc.) and atmospheric chemistry (ozone, methane) – are both affected by climate and affect climate, since aerosols and ozone can interact, absorb, reflect or scatter solar and thermal radiation. This makes for a rich research environment, but can befuddle the unwary.

I occasionally marvel at the amount of nonsense that is written about climate change in the more excitable parts of the web, and most of the time, I don’t bother to comment. But in relation to the issue of aerosols, chemistry and climate, I read yesterday (h/t Atmoz) probably the most boneheaded article that I have seen in ages (and that’s saying a lot).

The hook for this piece of foolishness were two interesting articles published this week by Ruckstuhl and colleagues and a draft EPA report on the impacts of climate on air quality. First, Ruckstuhl et al found that as aerosols have decreased in Europe over the last few decades (as a result of environmental standards legislation), the amount of solar radiation at the ground has increased while the amount reflected to space has decreased. They hypothesize that this may have helped Europe warm faster in the last few decades than it would have otherwise done. Or equivalently, since the aerosols are anthropogenic, that European temperatures had been subdued due to the cooling effects of the aerosols – and since they are now decreasing, the full effects of the greenhouse gases are starting to be felt. This is just an update to the ‘global brightening‘ story we have touched on before. The EPA report is concerned with the impacts that climate change can have on atmospheric chemistry, and in particular the summertime peaks in urban ground-level ozone which are a well-known and serious health hazard. These are affected by local temperatures, cloudiness, temperature sensitive biogenic emissions and patterns of weather variability. Again, it is a story we have discussed before.

But the NewsBusters article succeeded in getting almost every aspect of these stories wrong. How do I correct thee? Let me count the ways.

  1. Aerosols are not smog:

    First they confuse aerosols with photochemical smog. Both are pollutants, but the first is dominated by sulphate emissions from coal burning power plants, the second from ozone precursors such as NOx, volatile organic compounds, and carbon monoxide mainly emitted from vehicles. (Note that ozone is not directly emitted, but is created by chemical reactions from the precursors with the addition of a bit of photolysis – i.e. sunlight-driven chemistry). The effects on climate are very different: ozone is a greenhouse gas, so increases cause a warming, while sulphate aerosols are reflective, and so increases cause a cooling. The air quality issues in the EPA are almost all focused on ozone.

  2. Europe is not the Globe:

    The next error is to equate changes in temperatures in Europe to the globe. While it would be true that if global aerosol levels declined it would lead to increased global warming, aerosol trends in Asia are increasing strongly, even while those in the US and Europe are dropping. The net effect is possibly a slight drop, but the impact on global temperature is as yet unclear. This regionality matters in both the sulphates case and for ozone. The relevant chemistry is sensitive to water vapour and temperature in varying ways as a function of the pollution level. In remote ocean areas, surface ozone will likely decrease as the globe warms for instance (due to increasing water vapour). In polluted environments increased temperatures and larger temperature-sensitive emissions of isoprene cause enhanced ozone levels.

  3. Surface ozone is not in the stratosphere:

    Next, NewsBusters asserts that the ozone story is confusing because of the

    .. treaty called the Montreal Protocol. This was designed to reduce and eventually eliminate the production and release of a number of substances thought at the time to be depleting ozone.

    Ummm…. those substances (chiefly chlorofluorocarbons – CFCs) are still thought to be depleting the ozone layer – which is in the stratosphere, some 30km above the ground-level ozone that people shouldn’t be breathing. CFCs have no impact on ground-level ozone at all (since their reactive chlorine is only released in the stratosphere).

  4. The final inanity:

    Wouldn’t it be fascinating if such efforts [such as the Montreal Protocol] lead to cleaner air around the world which ended up warming the planet, and that additional warmth is now breaking down the very ozone we thought we could save?

    Every part of this sentence is wrong. The Montreal Protocol had no impact on cleaning the air, it stopped the growth of CFCs which are powerful greenhouse gases (in addition to their role in depleting stratospheric ozone), therefore it slowed global warming, rather than increasing it, and we aren’t trying to save ground-level ozone. Had any of this been true it would indeed have been fascinating.

What should we make of this? Unfortunately one must conclude that no mistake is too dumb for someone, somewhere to make if they think they can spin it into supporting their anti-science agenda. For them complexity is something to be abused rather than a challenge to be understood, underlining quite clearly (again) the difference between science and propaganda.


356 Responses to “Aerosols, Chemistry and Climate”

  1. 101

    Re. #95 johninoregon

    You bring up an interesting point that I will try to shed some context on. Current conservatives are not really conservatives. They are ideologues that believe profit is more important than value. This also exposes the misnomer that profit is money. There are many ways to understand this though.

    I believe in objective value which supposedly has a component of reason. What people like, Larry Kudlow, on MSNBC talk about, is free market. Free markets rule!

    They are all missing one critical point.

    We don’t exist in a free market.

    [edit - I'm not going to go down the gold standard road - please stay approximately on topic]

    We exist in a mixed market that is subject not only to regulation to ensure stability by the world banking system and the Basel conventions, but one that is also, courtesy of Buckley v. Valeo and other laws and legislation, to special interest influence over our political system.

    That is the reason to be religiously conservative in the modern definition. One must protect ones profits.

    But real profit is something tangible. something you can hang on to. So temporary profits that will go away as the economic system is strained by global warming and the overuse of fossil fuels and other resources is not profit at all. It is a fallacy even an temporal illusion to think that that is profit. Because it is degrading the entire system.

    People live in illusions because they are convenient and take little thought. No one wants to think. no one wants to work to earn money. Entitlement has taken over the republican party and while it has they are claiming that the democrats are the ones that are pushing the entitlement agenda. In truth, both parties are committing the same heinous crime of supporting entitlement over work and value.

    It didn’t happen overnight, it snuck up on us. But it did happen and now we need to fix overwhelming problems. In the mean time, people like ‘Clear Thinker’ above try to get us to believe they know how to think clearly while selling us their own particular brand of snake oil.

    Don’t buy it, the markets are not free and at this point in time it is not possible for them to be free. This is actually, and arguably the reason that while we are supposed to be cooler on the planet, and be heading in to our next ice age, it is no longer possible. We have abused value to such an extent through entitlement, that we have altered our climate system, and all those pretend dollars that people think they are earning in this regulated system will come under the influence of factors that will soon be difficult, if not impossible to control.

    What a tangled web we weave.

  2. 102
    Dave Baker says:

    Does smoke from increased wildfires due to drier conditions in some areas because of global warming have a similar cooling effect as volcanoes? Is there any kind of feedback loop there? Or is it marginal? Does the soot and CO2 output from a wildfire overbalance any cooling effect in the long run?

  3. 103
    Poptech says:

    Gavin, you seem to be contradicting yourself:

    First they confuse aerosols with photochemical smog. Both are pollutants

    Aerosols are any atmospheric particle – sulphates, nitrates, dust, pollen, organics, sea salt etc. – they are not exclusive to anthropogenic sources and for the most part are not pollution

    First you define them as pollution and then for the most part not. So which is it? It is clear from the many and varying definitions of smog, it can be composed of Aerosols.

    Smog, as all the definitions state, is an amorphous mix…

    Actually all the definitions do not state this…

    Smog – “a mixture of fog and smoke or other airborne pollutants such as exhaust fumes” (Encarta)

    Smog – “fog or haze intensified by smoke or other atmospheric pollutants.” – Compact Oxford English Dictionary

    Smog – “air pollution, especially in cities, that is caused by a mixture of smoke, gases and chemicals” – Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary

    Smog – “a haze caused by the effect of sunlight on foggy air that has been polluted by vehicle exhaust gases and industrial smoke” – Wordsmyth

    Smog – “Mixture of particulate matter and chemical pollutants in the lower atmosphere, usually over urban areas.” – American Geography Glossary

    Smog – “Originally smog meant a mixture of smoke and fog. Now, it means air that has restricted visibility due to pollution.” – NOAA.

    You are correct your post is confusing because it states that Aerosols are not smog but are a pollutant, yet the definition of the word smog allows for it to be defined as composed of Aerosols and you then change your mind and claim it is not really pollution. This sort of inaccurate information coupled with links to an unreliable source such as Wikipedia makes one question the scientific integrity of this site. Someone reading you post would come to believe that smog cannot be composed of Aerosols which is not true.

    [Response: You seem to be under the impression that all words must define single things that must either be exactly equal to or exactly orthogonal to all other words. Aerosols can be pollutants, they can be part of smog, they can also be natural. However they are not the same as smog - you cannot use the two words interchangeably. The two studies that were being discussed were related to sulphates (mainly) in Europe and tropospheric ozone in the US. Ozone is not an aerosol, though it does create photochemical smog and is also a pollutant. I'm sorry if this is confusing to you, but keep reading around and maybe it will get clearer. Meanwhile, I am still waiting for your acknowledgment that the equating of aerosols and smog was incorrect in the NB piece. - gavin]

  4. 104
    Clear Thinker says:

    Wow, where to start. So much love from so many people makes a guy tear up. Let me first address the non-scientific stuff.

    Someone asked me my real name, which I thought was a little odd because I see other people here using their net nicks without question…. Anyway, I am retired now so the only name I answer to is Pa-Paw by my lovely Granddaughter. You can just call me Clear for short. And no, I do not work for NB, but I am a long time poster and a long time advocate for the site. One of you seems confused about News Busters because you have only seen the once a week posting of what’s called News Busted which is our version of political satire and comedy. News Busters as a site covers bias in the media on a daily basis. I hope that clears up the confusion. One last note on News Busters… we* are a loving, humble group of people that love the opportunity to debate others, and can be the most genteel and polite folks you ever want to converse with. Unless you start attacking people, then at least in my case, I grow fangs.

    *The ‘we’ I speak of are the posters and I am in no way trying to speak for the management of News Busters.

    The other issue that I take issue with, is someone (actually more than one someone) trying to express what they think Conservatism is. I can clear this up very easily. A Conservative is someone that belives in the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense. Now when it comes to AGW, or Climate Change, or whatever it’s called, most Conservatives do not believe that the end of the world is here. Most of us are still waiting for science to step in and settle the argument once and for all. Presently, all we have is some consensus by some experts, and some non-consensus by lot’s of other experts. So in the meantime, we see no reason to scare the hell out of people, and we see no need to bankrupt this nation just to satisfy some experts consensus. Besides, the last five years have shown a cooling cycle not a warming one. Before you go off on my last sentence I would like to ask a question of Mr. Schmidt.

    I have been following some of your arguments and it has raised a few Q’s…
    Could you reply to Sheppard’s contention that your arithmetic was flawed concerning temperatures rising in Europe due to cleaner air not having an impact on global warming? Since average temperatures are a collection of data-points from around the world, if one continent’s temperatures are rising, doesn’t this impact the average? Isn’t this basic arithmetic?

    I truly hope we can continue our little conversation over many polite and civil postings. Once again, thank you for your time.

  5. 105
    pete best says:

    OFF TOPIC – TGGWS, Offcom ruling.

    Dear RC, http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/jul/19/channel4.climatechange

    Its just another unbelieveable ruling by humanities students who understand nowt about science but lots about the media.

  6. 106
    Danbo says:

    Gavin, In response to #6 you state “the sum total of the connection was a letter offering legal help which was not accepted. – gavin]”

    With all due respects; Is this letter from Mr Hansen?
    http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/20070927_Lawlessness.pdf

    In it it states “I received a call from the President of the Government Accountability Project
    (GAP) telling me that I had won the Ridenaur Award’ … “and offering pro bono legal advice. I agreed to accept the latter (temporarily), signing something to let them represent me (which had an escape clause that I later exercised).”

    There is also a letter from Thomas Devine of the Government Accountability Project to Dr Michael Griffin, stating “The Governmental Accountability Project represents Dr James Hansen.

    I would like to know if this is actually Mr Hansen’s letter.

    [Response: yes. - gavin]

  7. 107
    Ike Solem says:

    Re#73 (tamino) “I think that since APS has decided to give airtime to Monckton, and since this is getting a lot of play in the denialosphere, it would be well worth the effort to compose a proper reply.”

    That is probably not the best idea as it will merely serve to elevate another nonsensical issue. Rather than debunking drivel, the authors of this site should do what they do best – explain complex scientific topics related to climate change to the public.

    In any case, the APS already published this statement on their website regarding the “paper”:

    APS Climate Change Statement

    APS Position Remains Unchanged

    The American Physical Society reaffirms the following position on climate change, adopted by its governing body, the APS Council, on November 18, 2007:

    “Emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are changing the atmosphere in ways that affect the Earth’s climate.”

    An article at odds with this statement recently appeared in an online newsletter of the APS Forum on Physics and Society, one of 39 units of APS. The header of this newsletter carries the statement that “Opinions expressed are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the APS or of the Forum.” This newsletter is not a journal of the APS and it is not peer reviewed.

    It’s a mistake to give the likes of Christopher Monckton and Michael Crichton any air time. They’re not interested in honest debate, just in manipulating public opinion – and to do that, they need to put themselves in the spotlight, which is what their silly “papers” are intended to accomplish.

    Climate Science (the Roger Pielke Sr. website) has been doing their part to promote Monckton as a climate scientist – see their April 08 “guest scientist post”. They state that “Other climate scientists are encouraged to submit guest weblogs which support or seek to refute the analysis presented below.” Monckton is of course a newspaper editor who worked in the Thatcher administration.

    This is actually good news – it means that the supply of Richard Lindzens has dried up, and that the holdouts in the fossil fuel lobby are now having to turn to third rate hacks to cook up their “scientific arguments against global warming” for them.

    If you want to discuss how Monckton got his “paper” published in a offshoot of the APS, the people to ask are the chairs of that offshoot, the APS Forum on Physics and Society:

    Chair: Andrew Post-Zwicker (04/08 – 03/09)
    Princeton Plasma Phys Lab

    Chair-Elect: Donald Prosnitz (04/08 – 03/09)
    Rand Corp

    Vice Chair: Charles Ferguson (04/08 – 03/09)
    Univ of Maryland-College Park

    Co-Editors: Al Saperstein and Jeffrey Marque.

    Obviously, the paper couldn’t stand up to peer review – so the thing to do would be to call these folks up and ask them what kind of review process they put the “paper” through, and if they didn’t, why they chose to publish it. Now that would be an interesting discussion.

  8. 108
    Chuck Booth says:

    Re # 91 Thomas Lee Elifritz’ response to # 78:

    Maybe he thinks that with sufficiently hight heat and pressure you can remove the ‘a’ from Ca, leaving behind the C?

  9. 109
    Geoff Wexler says:

    (Off main topic but relevant to #104)

    Should regulation replace peer review by scientists?

    The Guardian and Times on Line are carrying leaks from the report of the regulator (OFCOM) concerning the Great Global warming Swindle, due tomorrow, 21st July 08 after 15 months.

    The subtitle of the Times report is “Scientists’ complaint on accuracy is rejected” is consistent with the Guardian’s version.

    So what does this mean? That OFCOM has decided that the programme is beyond criticism? Not quite; Channel 4 will be reprimanded for confusing David King with Jim Lovelock and for not warning Carl Wunsch that the programme was going to be a polemic although they add “… his views were accurately represented”.

    There is an obvious danger that some people will rely on OFCOM instead of peer review to decide on the state of scientific research. But is OFCOM reliable? were they right for example in claiming that Wunsch was accurately represented? When he referred to CO2 coming out of the oceans he was referring to the distant past, and warning about the future (if it warms too much) but the narrator changed this to mean that he was arguing that the observed rise in CO2 was not man made (in the face of lots of deleted evidence such as the ocean acid effect). When he referred to his doubts about the shutting down of the thermohaline circulation the framing made it appear that he was doubting man made global warming. But that is not all…

    This programme shows that artificially created CO2 is not the cause of global warming. This is a remarkable achievement considering that so much research on the attribution problem points to CO2 as being the main cause of the last thirty years global warming. It had looked as if the alternative explanation based on sunspots was not doing at all well during the last few years because the sunspots had leveled off whereas the temperature had just kept rising. So what was wrong? The idea behind the new approach is quite revolutionary , it involves overthrowing the calendar, the evidence and the physics. No, it is not 2007 now as you have been told. The date is now 1975 or 1988 depending on which source you use. Applying these corrections has the effect of removing most of the contentious warming from the data. What’s left correlates quite well with the length of the sunspot cycle especially if you start with an obscure set of temperature data , pull it about a bit and attribute it to NASA for the sake of familiarity. Going back in time there was a shortage of sunspot data, so it is convenient for educational reasons to make it up. After all, it makes it easier to see the relationship between the two curves if they coincide completely.

    It is stated that “man made CO2 is the main cause of global warming” is the fundamental assumption made by researchers. This is very helpful to the viewers who do not have to bother with all of the research which was designed to arrive at this conclusion after years of work. The strongest evidence for man made global warming (MMGW) depends on the period between 1975 and 2007. But luckily this has not yet arrived; it is now 1975 and since that research does not exist, the programme has to consider some alternative evidence from the ice cores from way back. Discussion of the causes of the ice ages and of feedbacks obviously have to be omitted on grounds of balance. The other side were given an opportunity earlier and they used it to talk about carbon footprints. This much fairer account of the ice core evidence makes nonsense of the CO2 theory.

    In order to test the CO2 theory and the climate models it is usual to consider the spatial distribution of the warming. The trouble is that this tends to corroborate the CO2 theory. This is unfair and biased and in the new fairer revolutionary account it never happened. To provide balance, the programme reports just one example where the evidence was anomalous for a while. The removal of this anomaly in 2005 never happened because (as you will recall) it is now 1975 or 1988.

    The evidence that the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere is caused by the burning of fossil fuel is based (amongst other things) on the ratios of the three different isotopes of carbon. This can’t be right because most of it comes from natural causes. Ban physics! ban isotopes! ban chemistry! These silly scientists have their S’s and C’s confused. That is why they think that volcanoes emit SO2 ; this programme has discovered that volcanoes emit huge quantitities of CO2. The date is now 15,000 years BC and the oceans are also liberating lots of CO2 . Measurements in the twentieth century which show the opposite i.e that the oceans are net absorbers of CO2 thus making the oceans more acid ( a very bad effect) have never occurred.

    According to researchers the levels of CO2 in the middle of the century were still so low that they were being masked by global dimming due to aerosols. This effect has to be censored on the grounds of balance. For the sake of fairness it must not be mentioned that the researchers do include solar changes anyway. It is much easier if the viewer is given a simple choice between all CO2 , no aerosols and all sunspots, no aerosols.

    Any discussion about the difference between weather and climate is out. Since weather forecasts now (about 1975) are so poor, it follows that all calculations concerning the climate must be equally unreliable. Apart from corporate campaigners and lobbyists there is at least one respected climatologist amongst the interviewees. That looks good. The trouble is that he is under the misapprehension that it is 2007. The solution is to leave that bit out and chop up his remarks and frame them so as to make them mean the opposite of what he intends.

    Control of the calendar has meant that the years before 1970 can also be abolished. The theory of MMGW dates back to a paper by Arrhenius in 1895 or even to Tyndall in about 1851. This would be too confusing for viewers. It is better that they do not know about that work or any of the numerous papers between 1895 and 1970. A strange new idea originated in Sweden in the 1970′s. That is Channel 4′s version of the history of the subject.

    (The commented transcript is here:

    http://www.zerocarbonnow.org/wordpress//uploads/ggws.html )

  10. 110

    Re. # 103 Poptech

    Add this one as well

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/smog

    You have illustrated a near perfect example of a complete lack of critical thinking capability. I am assuming that you are educated in America which, unlike Europe (where they teach critical thinking in elementary school) does very little in the area of critical thinking (which is why we need a complete overhaul of the educational system, id est, critical thinking should be taught more effectively at all grade levels).

    The word smog clearly originated from human caused pollutants. While NOAA may have a reason for having it’s own definition, and language morphs due to aggregated understanding and usage, on small and large scales, such as the word community, which means something different to a small town church that it does to the Mayor of Los Angeles due to perspective and connotative usage, that does not negate reason or common sense in such usage or understanding of usage.

    By your implication, it seems you are attempting to say that smog, or more specifically aerosols, represent ‘all’ airborne pollutants. To summarize the general definition from the examples you gave it is mainly from exhaust fumes and around cities. Plus you are reading the short definitions and not the multiples and derivatives, slang usage and so forth. but in general smog comes from exhaust and is found around cities by the definitions.

    It might behoove you to pick up a real dictionary and read the definitions their. definitions also largely rely on usage, context and relevance, just like science. This is an area you night like to brush up on though as you don’t seem to have a handle on critical thinking just yet.

    Open mindedness is more important than intelligence. You can have all the intelligence in the world but if one refuses to see the forest through the trees, then one is blind as well as foolish. Merely claiming the trees are not their whilst standing at the edge of the forest is even worse, it is ignorance; and it it is done with purpose then it is dishonest and likely dishonorable.

    To be clear, aerosols can be naturally occurring, or a pollutant. It’s not that hard to understand. Pollution, as generally understood, is from man made sources. Gavin did not say aerosols can not be smog, you need to read his words more carefully and try to exercise critical thinking when doing so.

    Let’s replace our ‘community’ example above with ‘dust’ and change the context.

    Dust is normally not pollution, but if a dust storm is caused by human interference such as poor land use practices, then the dust jumps from aerosol particulate matter in a naturally occurring perturbance to a pollutant.

    http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/briefs/cook_01/

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pollution

    Lastly, you are saying wikipedia is an unreliable source? While it is not perfect, you might want to check the authors of the items that RC might refer to in wikipedia. They are typically scientists that have more experience in critical thinking than yourself for example. Mind you, I don’t know you, maybe you are great at critical thinking and are merely being deceptive in your posts on purpose, but that would just mean that you are dishonest.

    Now if you are comparing wikipedia to say newsbusters as a reliable source. That is just laughable. You have literally no solid ground to stand on. Even the mere insinuation is ludicrous.

    Gavin is correct, if newsbusters does not retract their statement about aerosols and smog, then in order for newsbusters to have any semblance of integrity they should state that they are not a news site and do not represent science in any way, shape or form; and in fact ,should also state clearly at the beginning of all pieces, that they are a form of disinformation that is catering to a less knowledgeable base that is willing to remain ignorant by virtue of wallowing in limited vision because money is more important that truth.

    There is an old saying though that also applies here, there are no bad students, only bad teachers. So if you have an audience that can not see the forest through the trees because you are generating fog to obscure vision, then newsbusters is guilty, whether they realize it or not, of the highest form of treason I can think of, ‘purposeful academic dishonesty’.

    But I would never expect such a site to have any integrity or honor that abides holistic reasoning, common sense; they have a stated agenda that is biased to their own definition of what is ‘right’. That in and of itself is the proof of their guilt in bias.

  11. 111
    Hank Roberts says:

    Looking at that APS newsletter, their named editors don’t edit or proofread much. I doubt anyone’s paid them much attention til now. From April 2008:

    “More than two hundred people, including myself, had the great privelege of attending a two-day conference, called the Physics of Sustainable Energy …. our conference was superior to the “other Woodstock physics meeting”, i.e., the APS March meeting of 1987 in Manhatten: I was there in 1987, and I therefore know that nobody at the March 1987 meeting handed out delicious box lunches to all the attendees …”

    Looks on a quick glance like a gossip and industry-PR blog. I’d guess they put stupid out hoping to attract lightning bolts to energize their creation, as Mr. Buster did earlier. Eschew!

  12. 112

    Poptech (#103):
    A cow is an animal, but an animal is not (necessarily) a cow.

  13. 113
    zap123 says:

    Re: 96

    I made no point, but it seems to me that a “campaign” is quite something different than a mere “letter.”

    note: The Strategic Opportunities Fund includes grants related to Hurricane Katrina ($1,652,841); media policy ($1,060,000);
    and politicization of science ($720,000).

    “The campaign on Hansen’s behalf resulted in a decision by NASA to revisit its media policy.”

    [Response: NASA did revisit it's media policy and it is now much clearer than it was. Whether SOF had anything to do with that is debatable - I'd wager front page coverage in the New York Times, combined with embarrassment at the cack-handed media supression (see the Inspector Generals report) was more effective. But I still don't see the relevance of your queries. Please explain why you posted comments on this in this thread. Do you perhaps think that I am Jim Hansen in disguise? - gavin]

  14. 114
  15. 115
    Lawrence Brown says:

    The subject article from NewsBusters seems to be both confusing and confused about aerosols and tropospheric ozone. For my own edification I went back to basic definitions on the subject and found that:

    (1) aerosols are suspensions of particles with a diameter of 10 micrometers or less. They can exist as solids or formed in the atmosphere when gases like SO2 condense into liquid particles as sulfates. Human sources are created principally by the combustion of fossil fuels and biomass. Natural sources come from wind blown dust,evaporation of sea salt droplets and volcanic eruptions.

    (2)Ozone in the troposphere is formed by photochemical processes involving short lived precursor gases which include nitrogen oxides, non methane hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide as stated by Gavin in NO. 1 in his original post.It’s the principal gas in photochemical smog.

    Aerosols can effect the energy by either reflecting incoming solar radiation back into space, by providing cloud condensation also increasing albedo, or carbon particles such as soot can increase the absorption of incoming solar radiation.
    Hope I’ve got it straight again as regards my own understanding. My main source is “Introduction To Environmental Engineering and Science” Second Ed. by Gilbert Masters, Chapter 8.

  16. 116
    John Mashey says:

    re: $#106 Ike

    On the APS – Monckton mess – there’s another player

    1) It appears that Saperstein did the “review”, which can be seen on page 2 of:
    Monckton’s letter.

    As can be seen, Saperstein expresses his lack of understanding of topics like “forcings” and “feedback”.

    2) BUT, how did all this happen? Does it seem odd to anyone that FPS, which normally publishes comments by and for physicists, seeks out Monckton? What is that connection?

    3) I conjecture that the answer lies with a Physics Professor at the University of Hartford named Laurence (Larry) Gould. (H/T to Ian Forrester). His views of climate can easily be ascertained just by looking at his home page. His background can be found in his C.V..

    Dr Gould:
    - is the co-editor of the newsletter of the New England Section of the APS, and during 2004, was the Chairman of the NES. [He is often labeled as Chairman, 2004 having been omitted.]

    - has been studying climate science for about 4 years, although as far as I can tell, has never published any climate research in peer-reviewed journals. It looks like that interest dates from a APS-NES meeting in 2004 with Christy, Lindzen, Rock, and Weart.

    - Wrote an editorial in Fall APS-NES Newsletter, which could serve as a useful catalog of denialist writings, although references to peer-reviewed material are … scarce…

    - About that same time, appears to have signed on for the OISM Petition Project. At least, “Laurence Gould PhD” appears in the Connecticut list.

    - Wrote yet more in the Spring 2008 newsletter: An Open Letter to Members of the American Physical Society/NewEnglandSection — Anthropogenic Global Warming Alarmism: A Corruption of Science.

    THEN:
    - As it happens, Viscount Monckton spoke at the University of Hartford on March 5, 2008. This is labeled as by invitation from UHA President Walter Harrison … but one wonders where the impetus came to do this, and who hosted him. [Monckton was in NYC for the Heartland March 2-4 conference.]

    SPPI says: “Apocalypse? NO! been described by Professor Larry Gould of the University of Hartford, Connecticut, as the best film ever made on climate change.”

    BUT FINALLY:

    - one wonders if there was any contact between Gould and the editors of FPS – is that how Monckton got hooked into FPS?

    Larry Gould is quoted widely as supporting Monckton’s work.
    Google: larry gould monckton aps

    In SPPI July 15 we find:

    ‘Larry Gould, Professor of Physics at the University of Hartford and Chair (2004) of the New England Section of the American Physical Society (APS), has been studying climate-change science for four years. He said:

    “I was impressed by an hour-long academic lecture which criticized claims about ‘global warming’ and explained the implications of the physics of radiative transfer for climate change. I was pleased that the audience responded to the informative presentation with a prolonged, standing ovation. That is what happened when, at the invitation of the President of our University, Christopher Monckton lectured here in Hartford this spring. I am delighted that Physics and Society, an APS journal, has published his detailed paper refining and reporting his important and revealing results.‘

    “To me the value of this paper lies in its dispassionate but ruthlessly clear exposition – or, rather, exposé – of the IPCC’s method of evaluating climate sensitivity. The detailed arguments in this paper, and, indeed, in a large number of other scientific papers, point up extensive errors, including numerous projection errors of climate models, as well as misleading statements by the IPCC. Consequently, there are no rational grounds for believing either the IPCC or any other claims of dangerous anthropogenic ‘global warming’.’

    Note that this appeared on the SPPI website on July 15, in the *first* mention of it by SPPI, and the FPS article appeared either on the 14th or the 15th. From past watchings of SPPI, Ferguson tends to be “ready-to-go”, so one would expect that Gould had seen this material earlier. From his C.V., it’s not clear whether he would count as a “Distinguished Physics Professor” or not, but he certainly would not count as a climate scientist.

  17. 117
    Monika says:

    Poptech, zap, ClearThinker, maybe even Danbo…, It looks to me that there may be since few days a group of people working for NB posting opinions instead of sincere questions or relevant science.

    I read their web site mission statement in “About NewsBusters.org”:
    “Welcome to NewsBusters, a project of the Media Research Center (MRC), the leader in documenting, exposing and neutralizing liberal media bias.”
    And about it’s founder NB states: “Working with the Media Research Center, he created NewsBusters in 2005 as the first-ever collaboration between a major Washington policy group and the blogosphere.”

    I am from Switzerland and I still am not accustomed yet with the fact that in the US opinions are presented as “News” and that a court ruling decided that it is not against the law to present “News” that are knowingly not true (a lie).
    What is the NB web site? NB states: “Matthew is also executive producer of the fake news vlog, “NewsBusted,” ” It certainly doesn’t have the standard of News, but “fake news” packaged professionally as “News”, a communication tool misrepresenting facts on a high level of professional public relations efforts – representing the “Washington policy group”. RC is not about politics, but science, please respect.

  18. 118
    Arch Stanton says:

    John Mashey, excellent sleuthing.

    I am not as scientist, but the “scientific review” looks more like a meticulous proof reading to me.

    I am looking foreword to reading whatever letters the APS Forum on Physics and Society publishes in response to Monckton’s paper.

  19. 119
    Clear Thinker says:

    Dear Monika,

    You wrote…”RC is not about politics, but science, please respect.”

    In the spirit of understanding the science behind what some term as a Climate Crisis, I would respectfully ask if the question I posted above could be answered. It was originally meant for Mr. Schmidt because he was the one that questioned Mr. Sheppards piece. Since Mr. Schmidt has yet to respond, I now leave the question open for others to answer.

    Q…..

    “Could you reply to Mr. Sheppard’s contention that your arithmetic was flawed concerning temperatures rising in Europe due to cleaner air not having an impact on global warming? Since average temperatures are a collection of data-points from around the world, if one continent’s temperatures are rising, doesn’t this impact the average? Isn’t this basic arithmetic?”

    I look forward to any and all answers to my very basic Q.

    Also, it’s unfortunate, but even people here at RC have to admit that the AGW issue has become political. If anyone is interested, I would be happy to explain why.

    One last note concerning civility. I have been very pleasant and respectful to everyone here during my short time here. I hope to recieve the same treatment.

    Thank you for your valuable time.

  20. 120
    Phil. Felton says:

    Re #118

    I am a scientist and I agree with you, a very superficial review which didn’t address any of the science, as you say just proof-reading.

  21. 121
    Hank Roberts says:

    Mr. Clear, try the link at the top of the page, “Start Here” — and also try the first link under Science in the sidebar. You’ll find most of the frequently asked questions are answered there, including the one asked by Mr. Sheppard. It’s an intermediate-type question, that will be understood after reading some of the basic ‘Start Here’ FAQ answers.
    Most of us here are like me ordinary readers; we try to point new readers to the basics to avoid retyping the answers where they’re digressions.

  22. 122
    Steve Bloom says:

    In addition to the statement from the APS Executive Committee noted above, the following statement from the FPS Executive Committee now appears on the July newsletter index page:

    ‘The Forum on Physics and Society is a place for discussion and disagreement on scientific and policy matters. Our newsletter publishes a combination of non- peer-reviewed technical articles, policy analyses, and opinion. All articles and editorials published in the newsletter solely represent the views of their authors and the Editors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Forum Executive Committee nor those of the American Physical Society.

    ‘The executive committee of the Forum on Physics and Society, however, believes that the statement in the July 2008 edition of our newsletter, Physics and Society, that “There is considerable presence within the scientific community of people who do not agree with the IPCC conclusion that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are very probably likely to be primarily responsible for the global warming that has occurred since the Industrial Revolution,” exaggerates the number of scientists who disagree with the IPCC conclusion on anthropogenic CO2 and global warming. That statement does not represent the views of APS or the Executive Committee of the Forum on Physics and Society. The FPS Executive Committee strongly endorses the position of the APS Council that “Emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are changing the atmosphere in ways that affect the Earth’s climate.’

    That seems clear enough.

  23. 123

    Re #112 Bart Verheggen

    I am compelled to compliment you on your beautifully succinct point made well.

  24. 124

    Re #104 Clear Thinker

    The someone was me. I don’t understand why you would not just say, John P. Reisman said?

    Most people here post with their real names although in this thread I notice that the ones that are not using their real names are probably NB posters. I can’t imagine why you would be worried about using your real name though, especially since you are retired.

    Thank you for trying to clear up the misunderstanding about the difference between news busters and news busted. But I have to say that since both efforts come from the same people that claim:

    Welcome to NewsBusters, a project of the Media Research Center (MRC), the leader in documenting, exposing and neutralizing liberal media bias.

    Then there really is no point in trying to differentiate the two other than stylistically. They are both cut from the same cloth of bias against liberal media. It is sad that we are not more like Europe where the report news plain and simple, like we used to here in the old days. Now it’s all about fanfare and marketing.

    I (in general) agree with your definition of conservatism

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/conservatism

    and so would my father, so I don’t see why you are taking issue with what I wrote earlier as it is a generally accepted component of conservative thinking, and that includes conservation historically. The aspect I now disagree with is complex but quickly, it is the free enterprise part. Since we are not on any objective base like the gold standard, free enterprise and free markets are no longer possible. So espousing it as a value is purely academic and has no relevance anymore.

    To get a very good lesson in value, I always recommend Atlas Shrugged. Unfortunately, many misinterpret Rands theme to say that profit is most important, and that has led to some pretty egregious abuses of the legislative body and value itself… enough of that.

    “Now when it comes to AGW, or Climate Change, or whatever it’s called, most Conservatives do not believe that the end of the world is here.”

    As one who was raised traditional conservative, I have to point out that your statement is quite incorrect simply because I am conservative and I disagree with it.

    “Most of us are still waiting for science to step in and settle the argument once and for all.”

    Unfortunately due to myopic vision in the realm of conservatives (don’t feel bad, the democrats have similar problems with myopia but that is the nature of group psychology and is evident in general sub-cultural group tendencies) they have not noticed that the science is settled amongst the relevant scientists. I won’t go in to detail but if you read enough on this site and take a look at the arguments and scientific references on NASA, NOAA, EPA, NCDC, NSIDC etc. you will come to the same conclusion. This global warming event is human caused currently the climate forcing is 1.9 W/m2 and Co2 hangs in the atmosphere for a good long time so even without any more sunspots we will continue to warm for a long, long time. I would also suggest taking a look at the following to get some context in the arguments.

    http://www.uscentrist.org/about/issues/environment/john_coleman

    “So in the meantime, we see no reason to scare the hell out of people, and we see no need to bankrupt this nation just to satisfy some experts consensus. Besides, the last five years have shown a cooling cycle not a warming one.”

    You obviously have not reviewed all the relevant evidence in context, so statements like the above are completely out of touch with reality.

    the last 8 years have shown cooling but that is only because the data is taken out of context. Climate is long term trend, 30 years or more (ref IPCC). The unusual spike in temp was due to an unusually strong El Nino event which set up a different short term trend.

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2008/07/global-trends-and-enso/langswitch_lang/bg

    It is important to differentiate weather and climate

    http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/noaa-n/climate/climate_weather.html

    We also are in the cool phase of the solar Schwabe cycle and 2007 was a la Nina year. The temperature is rising. The thing that should give you pause in your argument is that we were in a cool phase in 2007 and it still tied as second warmest year on record in modern history.

    http://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/news/topstory/2008/earth_temp.html

    People tend to act in a herd mentality and stay pretty close to their base. You are apparently no different than people in general at this point in your argument. If you really believe in individuality, then stop following the crowd and venture off on your own into the science. You seem to have bought into the idea that the sciences is somehow flawed likely because you exist in a world where everyone agrees with you and you generally with them. I can tell you right now that what people think does not change the science one iota.

    On your question regarding Gavin’s

    “arithmetic was flawed concerning temperatures rising in Europe due to cleaner air not having an impact on global warming?”

    Everything is inter-dynamic, and every scientist knows it. It’s a silly question so it does not deserve much time.

    Re #119 Clear Thinker

    Monika is right, this site is about the science. You and I and everyone else know that there are political ramifications as well as societal. But that does not change the purpose of this site.

    I doubt anyone needs any more information on the political reality, etc. I touch on it only when I see that it helps understand the scientific arguments in context with the disinformation campaign.

    Relevant comments and criticisms welcome,
    John

  25. 125
    Martin Vermeer says:

    In #119 Clear Thinker inquires:

    “Could you reply to Mr. Sheppard’s contention that your arithmetic was flawed concerning temperatures rising in Europe due to cleaner air not having an impact on global warming? Since average temperatures are a collection of data-points from around the world, if one continent’s temperatures are rising, doesn’t this impact the average? Isn’t this basic arithmetic?”

    A starting point in answering this is observing that the surface area of Europe is only 2% of that of the world — 5% max, if you generously include surrounding sea areas. In science, as opposed to arithmetic, numbers include uncertainties. It is rather flattering of you to imply that global warming is known to a precision where a correction of at most 5% makes a difference :-)

  26. 126
    Pete Best says:

    OFF TOPIC but another contrarian scientific letter to the head of the IPCC. Can anyone here at RC refute the scientific content of this letter?

    http://www.tech-know.eu/uploads/Letter_UN_Sec_Gen_Ban_Ki-moon.pdf

    I’d be interested in seeing the Guardian investigate who the experts signing this letter are and what their angle is:

    Piers Corbyn Astrophysicist & forecaster, WeatherAction, UK

    Vincent Gray IPCC Expert Reviewer, Climate Consultant, NZ

    Richard Courtney IPCC Exp. Rev., Energy & Envir. Consultant, UK

    Hans Labohm IPCC Expert Reviewer, Economist & Author, Holland

    Will Alexander Prof. Em. Dept. Civil & Biosystems, South Africa

    Don Parkes Prof. Human Ecology (Ret.) Australia & Japan

    Joseph D’Aleo Certified Consultant Meteorologist, Fellow AMS, USA

    Svend Hendriksen Nobel Peace Prize 1988 (shared), Greenland

    Alan Siddons Climate Researcher, USA

    Bob Ashworth Chem. Eng. (Energy & Environment), USA

    Norm Kalmanovitch Geophysicist, Canada,

    Jim Peden Atmospheric Physicist (Ret.), USA

    Hans Schreuder Analytical Chemist (Ret.), UK

  27. 127

    “Clear Thinker” posts:

    Now when it comes to AGW, or Climate Change, or whatever it’s called, most Conservatives do not believe that the end of the world is here.

    And that’s exactly what’s wrong with American conservatism — they conclude that, if AGW were true, government policies they dislike might need to be implemented, and conclude from that that it’s not true. That kind of separation from reality disgusts and frightens me.

    Most of us are still waiting for science to step in and settle the argument once and for all.

    It’s settled.

    Presently, all we have is some consensus by some experts, and some non-consensus by lot’s of other experts.

    At this point, 90-99% of climatologists agree that global warming is happening, that human technology is causing it, and that it’s an extremely serious problem.

    So in the meantime, we see no reason to scare the hell out of people,

    People should be scared. We’re on the verge of seriously disrupting our agriculture and our economy.

    and we see no need to bankrupt this nation just to satisfy some experts consensus.

    Bankrupting the nation has nothing to do with it. Nobody is calling for bankrupting the nation. Measures to deal with AGW will not bankrupt the nation.

    Besides, the last five years have shown a cooling cycle not a warming one.

    It’s not a cycle, and five years isn’t long enough to prove anything. The World Meteorological Organization defines climate as mean regional or global temperature over a period of thirty years or more. That’s how long you need to smooth out the noise.

  28. 128
    dhogaza says:

    Also, it’s unfortunate, but even people here at RC have to admit that the AGW issue has become political. If anyone is interested, I would be happy to explain why.

    We know why. Some people find that scientific truth interferes with their personal political and/or economic beliefs, and therefore find it necessary to try to undermine science by whatever means necessary.

    No different than creationists and biology.

  29. 129
    Lawrence Brown says:

    Comment # 119 by Clear Thinker states:“Could you reply to Mr. Sheppard’s contention that your arithmetic was flawed concerning temperatures rising in Europe due to cleaner air not having an impact on global warming?….”

    Temperatures may not necessarily rise due to ridding the atmosphere of impurities. The physics are more complex than that. Some impurities such as carbonaceous particles like soot from fossil fuel combustion can increase the absorption of incoming solar energy. Clearing the atmosphere of them will take away this warming effect.

    As far as the cleaner air over Europe is concerned, there is a statement in the latest Ipcc report that says:
    ” Eleven of the last twelve years (1995-2006)rank among the warmest years in the instrumental record of global surface temperaturre(since 1850)”. From IPPC 2007 ‘Summary For Policy Makers’ The Physical Science Basis.

    I think that a clearer atmosphere over Europe would have a negligible effect on this overall observed global warming.

  30. 130
    dhogaza says:

    Pete Best:

    I’d be interested in seeing the Guardian investigate who the experts signing this letter are and what their angle is…

    Vincent Gray’s a well-known crank (even by typical denialist standards).

    D’Aleo is the founder of The Weather Channel, who has some fundamental misunderstandings regarding climate science.

    Note some call themselves “Expert Reviewer IPCC…”.

    Want to put that after YOUR name? Just write some comments during the next IPCC round. There are absolutely no requirements, any one can do so and put that after their name.

    There’s one atmospheric physicist there, none of the rest have anything much to do with climate science. Nobel Peace prize winner? Human ecologist? Engineer?

  31. 131

    Re #126 Pete Best

    Re. the letter you refer to:

    (i) The chart in our letter of 14 April (page 3) which shows, using official data, that for the last decade World Temperatures have been falling whilst CO2 keeps rising, and

    Natural variability causes fluctuations in the general uptrend. One decade of measurement does not override the 30 year uptrend. The notion they are claiming that we are now cooling is incorrect because they are not looking at the forcing levels above equilibrium, therefore the assume that we are cooling based on limited data and myopic analysis.

    (ii) A geological (Greenland ice core) chart of polar climate covering the last 10,000 years (Ref B) which shows that while CO2 levels have been rising, temperatures have been falling since the Bronze Age around 4,000 years ago (see page 2).

    The Greenland Ice core does not represent global temps. That would be like saying the temp in the Sahara desert represents the temp in Antarctica, it just doesn’t make any sense.

    The pictures on page 2 (pdf) are not put in context of relevance and therefore misrepresented and irrelevant.

    Page 3 (pdf) assumptions are again based on limited data stating that a single data set from a single region/sector, not modeled with other measurements and without error potentials, represents the global temp. The MSU Joe is showing is a data set that has been corrected by NASA, they just don’t want to use the corrected data because it does not support their agenda.

    How to cook a graph in three easy lessons
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2008/05/how-to-cook-a-graph-in-three-easy-lessons/langswitch_lang/bg

    The sky IS falling
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/11/the-sky-is-falling/langswitch_lang/bg

    How to cook a graph in three easy lessons
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2008/05/how-to-cook-a-graph-in-three-easy-lessons/langswitch_lang/bg

    Page 4 (pdf) (letter page 2) They are making the same mistake they make in page 1 of ignoring long term trends and forcing and making assumptions not supported by trend evidence. Again 10 years does not override the long term trend.

    Uncertainty, noise and the art of model-data comparison
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2008/01/uncertainty-noise-and-the-art-of-model-data-comparison/langswitch_lang/bg

    I can’t comment on the Co2 upper troposphere Co2 levels, but the Mauna Loa which is the longest term measurement of atmospheric Co2 is still showing increase in the trend.

    Tropical tropospheric trends
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/12/tropical-troposphere-trends/langswitch_lang/bg

    Tropical tropospheric trends again
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2008/05/tropical-tropopshere-ii/langswitch_lang/bg

  32. 132
    Dan says:

    re: 130. Minor correction: D’Aleo was the supposed “Director of Meteorology” at The Weather Channel. John Coleman, another denier with fundamental misunderstandings about climate science, was the founder of The Weather Channel.

  33. 133
    Rod B says:

    John P.R., et al (anyone): This is a long-standing basic question that I’ve generally just accepted but with a seed of not understanding hiding in the back of my mind (and it may have been addressed before; sorry if I missed it). I do not understand the significant lag of temperature increases following CO2 increases. I kind of understand why, in times past e.g., there are physical and geophysical scenarios when it happens in reverse (CO2 lags temperature). But, all else being equal, why doesn’t the temperature increase immediately after a CO2 molecule is added? Why is not that molecule, probably less than a meter off the ground, immediately capable of absorbing IR radiation that otherwise might not have been absorbed, and immediately likely to turn it into heat and a temperature increase with a collision? (I’m using a “one” molecule example just to keep the picture simple.) Minutes, hours, days, maybe even months I might not think much of. But years and decades?? Or is the devil in my “all else being equal”? I’m aware how short-term weather patterns can overwhelm long-term climatic patterns for a while, but they don’t seem (to me) to fully answer the question.

  34. 134

    With regard to Monckton’s paper in the APS P&S forum newsletter; I have attempted a bit of analysis of the maths, since I had serendipitously been reading some of the papers (Bony, Colman, Soden, etc) on feedbacks, which Monckton mangles. The result is at The APS and global warming: What were they thinking?.

    I’m a comparative novice myself; and it is likely I have made a few mistakes of my own. I’d be very grateful if some of the folks here with a good understanding of subject matter would cast an eye over it and let me know of any errors.

    As an aside, I’m also interested (and say so) to know if there is a credible way for a meaningful yet simple calculation to get into the right ball park for the non-feedback climate sensitivity term; given as 3.2 K W^-1 m^2 in many references. The simplistic calculation (assuming uniform temperature change, fixed lapse rate and emission height) gives 3.7 or so. I’ve tried a simple integration over latitudes and that didn’t seem to help. Treating Earth as a grey body with emissivity of 0.61 or so works, but is that even sensible?

    BTW… thanks very much for this site! I am a regular reader, and it has helped me a lot in recent months learning more about the topic.

  35. 135
    Rod B says:

    BPL, dhogaza, et al: I think you are overstating the case that skeptics are the way they are because it doesn’t fit with their political or economic beliefs. There may be some of that (there has been in the past — AIDS in America comes to mind where in the 80′s we tried desperately to put it off on Haitians, then homosexuals, then a few dentists, etc while it was generically rampant and heterosexual in Africa; plus I agree, as dhogaza et al point out, that creationism, while not politically nor economically based, is probably mostly religious and not science based.) but I think the vast majority is not driven by our politics. Politics and economics might cause us to scrutinize the science with more focus (true in my case), but it’s the science, not the politics, that we question. We just question it with more vigor because the political and economic ramifications, tons of very sanguine guesses and predictions by most AGWers aside, are potentially society shattering, and I think warrant extraordinary scrutiny, even by (especially by) folks outside the climate science field.

    I’ve said before, I’m perplexed over the conservative/liberal right/left split over the issue. I find no rationale for that — though I admit it seems to be the case in many instances…

  36. 136
    Clear Thinker says:

    There are so many items I would like to respond to, but am finding time short today. I will tackle them later when I do have more of the precious commodity we call ‘time’.

    Remarks for you to ponder…. It seems that most scientists and non-scientists here at RC claim that only their science is true. What do you say to the other large group of scientists and non-scientists that say theirs is true? They can’t both be right. This should lead people to the only conclusion possible… the debate is NOT over!

    Thanks for listening.

    [Response: Well, that's not very clear thinking. Since science doesn't deal in truth, but only likelihood, you assert that everything is therefore debatable. In some sense that's true, but I don't see you querying gravity, the heliocentric model, the big bang etc. and I doubt very much whether your concerns are over the ultimate truth value of science as a whole. You will notice if you spend any time with scientists (I recommend it to everyone), that they are very particular what they debate over - they don't bother with the things (like the radiative impact of CO2, heliocentricity, the roundness of the Earth) where the evidence is already overwhelming, or on questions for which there is no evidence (what's the point). Coming here with meaningless talking point cliches like 'the debate is not over' is not however useful. Do at least try to be constructive. - gavin]

  37. 137
    Jesse Brown says:

    You know, I read all these blogs with a degree of skepticism – both the AGW and the so called denialist’. Granted many of the denialist web sites and reporting are on a par with Kennedy assassination or 9-11 inside job conspiracy theorists but not all. In particular since this blog’s authors and many others who support the idea that our current warming trend is almost entirely man made hold that credentials in climate science or physics is necessary to make informed comment on the issue, I always look for scientists who rebut those ideas. Increasingly what I find is that more and more of them are coming out of the closet to point out the weaknesses in the AGW argument.

    The latest is Dr. David Evans, who wrote the carbon accounting model that measures Australia’s compliance with Kyoto and was definitely a big believer in AGW early on. Now he raises serious questions:

    [Response: No they aren't - they are just the same old nonsense. Just to prove it, each one has been discussed on this blog way before this 'new' op-ed piece. To whit... ]

    1. No greenhouse signature – no hot spot

    [Response: Confused. Tropical tropospheric warming is because of the moist adiabat - it has nothing specific to do with GHGs. See here and here.]

    2. No evidence to support the idea that carbon emissions cause significant global warming. None.

    [Response: Nonsense. Try 150 years of radiative transfer theory, evidence of significant climate sensitivity from the paleo record and incontrovertible evidence that anthro emissions are responsible for the rise in CO2, CH4, N2O, CFCs etc. ]

    3. Satellites that measure the world’s temperature all say that the warming trend ended in 2001, and that the temperature has dropped about 0.6C in the past year (to the temperature of 1980). Land-based temperature readings are corrupted by the “urban heat island” effect: urban areas encroaching on thermometer stations warm the micro-climate around the thermometer, due to vegetation changes, concrete, cars, houses. Satellite data is the only temperature data we can trust, but it only goes back to 1979. NASA reports only land-based data, and reports a modest warming trend and recent cooling. The other three global temperature records use a mix of satellite and land measurements, or satellite only, and they all show no warming since 2001 and a recent cooling.

    [Response: Factually wrong. NASA reports a land ocean index, the presence of natural variability makes nonsense of attempts to detect trends in short time periods, and the satellite datasets have larger differences in the long term trend among them than they have differences with the surface record. ]

    4. New ice cores show that in the past six global warmings over the past half a million years, the temperature rises occurred on average 800 years before the accompanying rise in atmospheric carbon. Which says something important about which was cause and which was effect.

    [Response: Yes. Orbital forcing is the cause, glacial-interglacial CO2 levels are an amplifying feedback due to the impact of climate on the carbon cycle. Why does the existence of a natural positive feedback mean that CO2 is not a greenhouse gas? This just makes our perturbation even more serious. ]

    The point being none of this is settled. There is no consensus among top scientists and nobody is really sure what the hell is going on.

    [Response: BS. Evans' might like to think that nobody knows anything, but he is absolutely and fundamentally wrong. ]

    Everyone I talk to about this says the Peer Reviewed literature points absolutely to AGW. Yet peer review must be taken with some degree of skepticism itself. Is it not to make sure that articles and research reports adhere to the current orthodoxy with the review made by those who already adhere to the current models and theories? I see the same thing happening in Cosmology where any work that might shake the foundation of Big Bang Cosmology is barred from publishing even as more and more evidence is emerging that the BB just doesn’t work, much like what is going on in climate science now.

    [Response: Peer review is necessary, but not sufficient. It's only the first level of scrutiny. The next level is seen in assessment reports like the National Academies, or IPCC. ]

    I’m concerned that:

    1. Science on which major public policy is being or projected to be made is not settled and is in fact hotly disputed – by other highly qualified scientists.

    2. The peer review process is in serious doubt especially when the issues surrounding the science have become so politicized.

    3. A relatively small and underfunded science community in the past has now become well funded and patronized by the government and media to the point that many many careers and much funding at universities are at stake if it is found that the science is indeed flawed or incomplete and different conclusions are warranted.

    I hope someone can respond to my questions and concerns in a civil and professional manner.

    - A concerned citizen who did not sleep through freshman calculus and physics.

    [Response: If we were in it for the money we'd be pushing uncertainty all the time. We don't and we aren't. Asserting that peer-review is fundamentally flawed because the papers that get published don't agree with a certain political agenda is simply the last refuge of the contrarian scoundrel. All sorts of things get published - the bad stuff gets heavily criticised and is then largely ignored. In the meantime the illusion of dissent is maintained by frequent op-eds like this. The fact of the matter is that there is a very wide consensus on this, a few individuals notwithstanding. Go to any scientific meeting and scan the abstracts. - gavin]

  38. 138
    Geoff Wexler says:

    re: #126

    (OFF TOPIC but relevant to Pete Best’s comment)
    The letter discussed in the above comment contains a new stick with which to beat the CO2 theory of global warming i.e. that it is accused of leading to starvation because of the rise in biofuels. But what we are seing is the divergence of the two crises i.e that of peak oil and CO2 accumulation. Converting waste material such as used chip fat is one thing,R but fermenting maize is quite another. This has all been discussed in recent peer reviewed papers such as that of Searchinger
    (Abstract here: http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/1151861)
    which concludes that most biofuels produce no net benefit from the CO2 standpoint. This is consistent with the fact that the drive for their introduction has often come from people who have no interest in the CO2 problem but are most concerned that people should be allowed to continue with their existing lifestyles. Most environmentalists on the other hand oppose the introduction of biofuels.

    As for the climatological side of the letter, most of it has been answered before on Realclimate e.g. its reliance on one decade of temperature data starting with an El Nino. It would also be more convincing if they examined the evidence in favour of the CO2 theory instead of pretending that it does not exist.

  39. 139

    Re #133 Rob B

    I can give you the general answer, someone else might go into detail for you.

    The Milankovitch cycles are the main regulator of the natural cycles, they include eccentricity, obliquity and precession with long time scale variation. The eccentricity has to do with the ellipse of the orbit and is altered by the gravitational pull of other planets in our solar system. The obliquity is a tilt cycle that changes the planets angle to the sun, and the precession is a wobble cycle that alters exposure of the surface to the sun as well. Each of these have different time scales and therefore the forcing influence is cycling with the magnitude of forcing imposed and the timing of the alignments of the forcing imposed.

    In the natural cycle, Co2 lags behind temperature change. My current understanding is that when the obliquity angles the earth to heat up the northern hemisphere along with perihelion of the eccentricity cycle we tend to pop out of an ice age rather quickly. When that occurs it puts in motion other cycles such as Co2 release form oceans and more biomass is able to grow and accentuate the cycle. I’m confident this is a gross oversimplification, maybe someone else will jump in and fill more holes.

    The forcing coming out of an ice age in around .2 W/m2 average for the past 10 cycles (last 1 million years). Ice ages tend to be around -3.4 W/m2. To say this more generally, the forcing is around -3.5 W/m2 in an ice age and around 0 W/m2 in an interglacial. That is the natural cycle.

    We are currently around 1.9 W/m2 and that is a massive number above the natural cycle. The anthropogenic influence is clearly the culprit as the Co2 has an isotopic signature and is there for identifiable. Of course we also know we are adding methane and nitrous oxide.

    In summary, the Co2 behind temperature in the natural cycle, but now Co2 and other GHG’s are causing an un-natural climate forcing and Co2 leads instead of lags. It’s all about the forcing imposed on the climate system. Once you get your head wrapped around that, it starts to make betters sense.

  40. 140
    Chris Colose says:

    # 134 Duae

    Climate Sensitivity is roughly 0.75 K/W/m^2. Non-feedback sensitivity is 0.3 K/W/m^2

  41. 141
    Mark says:

    Further to JPR’s post #193, as an astrophysicist I can tell you that the warming levels we would see by the orbital changes and other variabilities that make up these cycles is NOT ENOUGH to cause the warming or cooling necessary and seen in the records.

    The 800 year lag is how long it takes natural processes that increase atmospheric CO2 to feedback and increase the small changes the orbital change produces. The CO2 feedback has itself as a feedback other things that increase its’ effect and so increases the effect of these natural CO2 increasing processes.

    800 years.

    That’s how long it takes for nature to produce too much CO2 to be stable in the glacial mode.

    We’ve done more change and haven’t taken 800 years to do it.

  42. 142
    tamino says:

    Re: #139 (John P. Reisman (The Centrist Party))

    I don’t think Rod B. is referring to CO2 lagging temperature during deglaciations, but to the lag of warming behind CO2 increase in modern times.

    Re: #133 (Rod B.)

    Bear in mind that CO2 is not a heat source, it’s “extra insulation” for the planet, obstructing infrared radiation to space.

    So consider an analogy: it’s chilly in the house when you get into bed (because you’re saving money and reducing carbon emissions by turning down the thermostat), so you add an extra blanket. Does your body warm *instantly*? No, it takes time for the reduced rate of heat loss (due to the extra blanket) to enable the extra heat to build up and bring you to a nice warm temperature.

    The dynamics are complicated by the fact that there are many distinct components to the climate system, each of which responds on a different time scale. The atmosphere reacts quickly (relatively speaking), exhibiting “prompt” response (time scale on the order of a few years); we see this in the response to a large volcanic eruption. The deep ocean has so much “thermal inertia” that it takes much longer to respond. Model simulations indicate that for the climate system as a whole to equilibrate to a new sustained forcing takes several decades (somewhere around 30 years).

    It has also been suggested that there are even slower components of the climate system that take even longer fully to equilibrate (e.g., the cryosphere).

  43. 143
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Clear Thinker claims that there is another “large group of scientists and non-scientists” who dispute the climate consensus. Really? So where are they? Why don’t they publish except in obscure Hungarian Meteorological journals or newsletters that are not peer reviewed? Why don’t they come up with models of their own that can explain the observed trends? Why do those few contrarian papers that do get published always seem to be published (often self-published) by professors emeriti with no actual climate expertise. Tell ya what. Why don’t you actually provide us with some names, along with their qualifications and their publication record?
    No one is saying that we know everything there is to know about climate. Yes, there are many uncertainties–but the role of CO2 is not among them.

  44. 144
    Marcus says:

    Rod B. (#133): Isn’t the short answer to your question “thermal inertia”? Basically, adding more CO2 turns the burner up, but it takes a while for the pot to warm.

    And the biggest component of the earth system’s thermal inertia is, of course, the oceans. The upper layers of the ocean will heat somewhat quickly, but the deeper layers will take a very long time (centuries at least). So basically, we add CO2, it causes a radiative imbalance, and then the rest of the system (oceans, atmosphere, and upper layers of the soil) slowly warm up until the increase in their radiation balances out the original imbalance.

  45. 145
    Jesse Brown says:

    Thanks Gavin,

    I’ll keep and open mind and keep reading and studying. Hopefully you won’t mind a pointed question from time to time.

    [Response: Pointed is fine. - gavin]

  46. 146

    Re. #145 Jesse Brown

    I’ve made the same mistake in the past of saying something before searching, reading, verifying, it’s a lot of learning… luckily, I love learning :) I try not to jump ahead of myself to far these days.

    Pretty much every question you will have has likely already been discussed here. Just do a quick search for the subject keywords on this site or google and include ‘realclimate’ as a keyword as they have a good indexing system. The articles are well linked to source material and sometimes event data sets from relevant government and related institutions.

    RC is great on real science as opposed to other sites that reference cherry picked political perspectives and displayed basic ignorance of the fundamentals. When they do get their hands on a real piece of data they tend to use it out of context. Probably because they just don’t understand the context (because they have not looked) and sometimes because they are being purposefully deceptive.

  47. 147
    Rod B says:

    John P.R. (139). Thanks for all of that. I pretty much understand the basics of the “natural cycle” though you did fill in some blanks. But my question remains while I continue to digest — what is the physics hypothesis of the extensive lag of the “unnatural” temperature lagging the CO2. More than the deductive logic, which I understand btw, that says it’s doing something odd and the only difference is all of that human inserted carbon, therefore…… What is the physics behind the additional absorption of IR by the increased concentration of CO2 which get converted to atmospheric heating through collision, often within a nanosecond, then bounced around up or down untill it radiates a new photon out, a new photon down to heat the surface, or just keeps the atmosphere a little warmer — not the process per se, but why does it not go to completion within seconds, minutes, hours, even days? Why years and decades?

  48. 148
    Chris Colose says:

    To bring back the whole “ice core data” argument discussed a bit above, the “800 year number” often quoted is very loose and varies by glacial-interglacial cycle. This is complicated since the age of the air is younger than the age of surrounding ice (and results are somewhat model dependent), but the “lag” has varied between around 300 years to over 2000 years depending on which “termination” you are looking at, CO2 actually leading a bit around 550,000 years ago.

  49. 149
    Hank Roberts says:

    Rod, short amateur answer:

    The whole climate system (air, atmosphere, and upper surface of the planet) is what warms up. The effect of slightly increasing CO2 is to slightly decrease the outgoing infrared from the top of the atmosphere. But remember it’s not the incoming infrared that’s heating the planet, it’s almost entirely the visible range.*

    What heats up? The ground, the surface of the ocean, where the light hits something and energy is absorbed.

    You’re looking for terms including “committed warming” and “climate-system response time” I think.

    One full text article from the first handful I scanned:
    http://www.pnas.org/content/102/31/10832.full

    I suggest finding the statements in this article that they simply footnote — reading the footnote itself for the basis — then follow that cited source forward in time.

    For example the question you’re asking is just mentioned here — cited to footnote 12:

    “It is well known that the time scale of commitment depends not only on the climate-system response time but also on the atmospheric lifetime of the radiative forcing agent in question (gas or aerosol) (e.g., see ref. 12). …

    And ref. 12 is — surprise?

    12/ Rawaswamy V, Boucher, O., Haigh, J., Hauglustaine, D., Haywood, J., Myhre, G., Nakajima, T., Shi, G. Y. & Solomon, S. (2001) in Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis: Contributions of Working Group I to the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, pp. 349-416.

    (I’d suggest finding the corresponding pages in the Fourth Assessment report if that’s not sufficient.)

    Experiment: Your house is cold at night, your bed is cold, and you get in and you’re cold.

    You throw on another blanket. How fast does the bed warm up?

    Instead of adding a blanket, you add another layer of insulation at the top of the house (like you get 18 inches of nice fluffy snow, which serves as insulation). How fast does the bed warm up?

  50. 150
    David B. Benson says:

    Rod B (147) — I’m not sure I understand your question, but inserting extra CO2 into the air causes some extra plant growth, which takes some time; causes some to go into the ground (microbes?), which takes some time; causes some to go into the oceans, which takes some time. Maybe also result in some ice melting, whcih takes some time.


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