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Mind the Gap!

Filed under: — rasmus @ 18 November 2008 - (Italian)

Mean temperature difference between the periods  2004-2008 and 1999-2003
Confusion has continued regarding trends in global temperatures. The misconception ‘the global warming has stopped’ still lives on in some minds. We have already discussed why this argument is flawed. So why have we failed to convince ;-) ?

The confused argument hinges on one data set – the HadCRUT 3V – which is only one of several estimates, and it is the global temperature record that exhibits the least change over the last decade. Other temperature analyses suggest greater change (warming). Thus, one could argue that the HadCRUT 3V represents the lower estimate, if a warming could be defined for such a short interval.

Global mean temperature estimates: CRU, NASA-GISS data and the NCEP and ERA40 re-analyses
A comparison with other temperature analyses, such as the NASA/GISS (pink in the figure on the left), reveals differences. We can also compare with model-generated data (re-analyses), keeping in mind that one must be very careful with these data since they are not appropriate for studying long-term climate change (they give a misrepresentation of trends – at least on a local scale). Nevertheless, information from independent data suggest an increase in global mean temperatures even over the last decade.

All scientific questions involve some degree of uncertainties (error bars), and these can only be reduced if one can prove that they are influenced by an external factor (‘contamination’) or if some of the data are not representative for the study. Hence, if some of the data are incorrect, then it’s fair to exclude these to reduce the error bars. But this requires solid and convincing evidence of misrepresentation, and one cannot just pick the low values and claim that these describe the upper limit without proving that all the data with higher values are wrong. In other words, arguing that a lower limit is the upper bound is utter nonsense (even some who claim they are ‘statisticians’ have made this mistake!).

Another issue is that some of the data – i.e. the data from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) – have incomplete coverage, with large gaps in the Arctic where other data suggest the greatest increases in temperature. The figure below reveals the holes in the data knowledge. The figure compares the HadCRUT 3V data with the NCEP re-analysis.

Temperature measurements over the Arctic: CRU data and the NCEP re-analysis
Figure caption: The difference between Oct. 2007 – Sep. 2008 temperature average and the 1961-1990 mean temperature for HadCRUT 3V (upper left) and NCEP re-analysis (upper right). Below is a comparison between the 12-month 60N-90N mean temperature evolution (red=NCEP, black = HadCRUT 3v)). (click on figures for PDF-version)

Re-analysis data are results from atmospheric models where observed data have been fed into the models and used to correct the simulation in order to try to get a best possible description of the real atmosphere. But it’s important to note that the NCEP re-analysis and other re-analyses (e.g. ERA40) are not regarded as being appropriate for trend studies due to changes in observational systems (new satellites coming in etc). Nevertheless, a comparison between the re-analyses and observations can highlight differences, which may suggest where to look for problems.

Mean temperature difference between the periods  2004-2008 and 1999-2003
The animated figure shows the temperature difference between the two 5-year periods 1999-2003 and 2004-2008. Such results do not show the long-term trends, but it’s a fact that there have been high temperatures in the Arctic during the recent years.

The recent Arctic warming is visible in the animated plot on the right showing the NCEP re-analysis mean temperature difference between the periods 2004-2008 and 1999-2003.

The NOAA report card on the Arctic was based on the CRUTEM 3v data set (see figure below) which excludes temperatures over the ocean – thus showing an even less complete picture of the Arctic temperatures. The numbers I get suggest that more than 80% of the grid-boxes north of 60N contain missing values over the most recent decade.

Temperature measurements over the Arctic: CRU data and the NCEP re-analysis
Figure caption: The difference between Nov. 2007 – Oct. 2008 temperature average and the 1961-1990 mean temperature for CRUTEM 3v (upper left) and NCEP re-analysis (upper right). Below is a comparison between the 12-month 60N-90N mean temperature evolution. (click on figures for PDF-version)

The funny thing, however, is that the last decade of the Arctic CRUTEM 3v temperatures are closer to the corresponding estimates from NCEP re-analysis than the more complete HadCRUT 3v data. This may be a coincidence. The re-analyses use additional data to fill in the voids – e.g. satellite measurements and predictions based on the laws of physics. Thus, the temperature in areas with no observations is in principle physically consistent with surrounding temperatures and the state of the atmosphere (circulation).

Below is a figure showing a similar comparison between HadCRUT 3v and GISTEMP (from NASA/GISS). The latter provides a more complete representation of the Arctic by taking spatial correlation into account through an extrapolating/interpolating in space. But GISTEMP does not really have a better empirical basis in the Arctic, but the effect from the extrapolation (the filling in of values where there is missing data) gives the recent high Arctic temperatures more weight.

GISS-CRU warming difference over 1996-2004
Figure caption: The 2007 mean temperature anomaly wrt to 1961-90: (upper left) HadCRUT 3V, (upper right) GISTEMP, and (lower) temperature evolution for the Arctic (red=GISTEMP, black = HadCRUT 3v).

A comparison between temperatures over the most recent available 30-year period (1978-2007) shows high temperatures over parts of Russia (Figure below – upper left panel), and the difference between the GISTEMP and HadCRUT 3v shows a good agreement apart from around the Arctic rim and in some maritime sectors (upper right panel). The time evolution of the Northern Hemisphere mean for the two data sets is shown in the lower panel, showing a good agreement over most of the record, but with slightly higher GISTEMP estimates over the last 10 years (the global mean was not shown because my computer didn’t have sufficient memory for the complete analysis, but the two data sets also show similar evolution in e.g. the IPCC AR4).

GISS-CRU mean difference over 1976-2005
Figure caption: (upper left) HadCRUT 3V mean T(2m) anomaly over 1976-2005 (wrt to 1950-1980) ; (upper right) The GISS – HadCRUT 3V difference in mean T(2m) over 1976-2005; and (lower) the Northern Hemisphere mean temperature variations (red=GISTEMP, black=HadCRUT 3v).

Note, the low Arctic sea-ice extent over the last summers are independent evidence of high Arctic temperatures.

The insufficient observational coverage has also been noted by the IPCC AR4 and by Gillett et al. (Nature Geoscience, 2008), who argue that the observed warming in the Arctic and Antarctic are not consistent with internal climate variability and natural forcings alone, but are directly attributable to increased GHG levels.

They also suggested that the polar warming is likely to have discernable impacts on ecology and society (e.g.).

In their study, there are at least 15 grid boxes with valid data (usually representing one measurement) over 1900-2008 period. Furthermore, the only valid observations they used from the Northern Hemisphere were from the Arctic rim, as opposed to in the high Arctic itself. The situation is slightly better for the Antarctic (with one observation near the South Pole). Nevertheless, the title ‘Attribution of polar warming to human influence’ [my emphasis] is a bit misleading. Parts of the high-latitudes yes, polar no.

The attribution study was based on series of 5-yr-mean temperatures and spatial averages of 90 degree sectors (i.e. to four different sectors), where sectors and periods with no valid data were excluded.

There are some caveats with their study: The global climate models (GCMs) do not reproduce the 1930-1940 Arctic warm event very well, and the geographical differences in a limited number of grid-boxes in the observations and the GCMs may have been erased through taking the average value over the 90-degree sectors.

The 1930-1940 Arctic warming was probably not externally forced, but one could also argue that the models do not capture all of the internal variations because few reproduce similar features. Furthermore, the present GCMs have problems reproducing the Arctic sea-ice characteristics (which tends to be too extensive), ocean heat content, and fail to capture the ongoing decrease in Arctic sea-ice area. Most of these problems are seen in the gap with no CRUTEM 3v data, but there are also some uncertainties associated with the lack of data in the Polar regions.

The optimal fingerprint analysis hinges on the assumption that control simulations with the GCMs realistically reproduce the climate noise. I think that the GCMs do a good job for most of the planet, but independent work suggest local problems in the Arctic associated with a misrepresentation of the sea-ice extent. This may not have affected the analysis much, if the problem is limited to the high Arctic. Furthermore, the results suggested a one-to-one correspondence in trends between simulations and observations, but the analysis also gave a regression coefficient of 2-4 for natural forcings. The latter suggests to me that there may be some problems with the analysis or the GCMs.

Thus, this is probably not the final word on the matter. At least, I’m not convinced about the attribution yet. The whole boils down to insufficient amounts of empirical data (i.e. observations), GCM limitations at the high-latitudes, and too large data gaps. But the pronounced changes in the Arctic are consistent with AGW. The irony seems to be that the real world shows signs of more dramatic changes than the GCMs project, especially if you look at the sea-ice extent.

The lack of data in the polar region is a problem, and the ongoing International Polar Year (IPY) campaign is a huge concerted international effort to improve the data. Data is irreplaceable, regardless of the modelling capability, as science requires the theory to be tested against independent empirical data. The re-analyses provide a physically consistent description of the atmosphere – suggesting high temperatures in the Arctic – but we can only be sure about this when we actually have been there and made the real measurements (some can be done by satellites too)

A glimpse into the technical details
More technically, the complicated analysis involved a technique called ‘optimal fingerprinting‘ or ‘optimal detection’, looking for best signal in the noisy data and puts emphasis on regions where the GCMs give most realistic description of the climate variations. Basically, the optimal fingerprint techniques involved linear least-squares regression, which is familiar to many analysts.

The analysis of Gillett et al. involved ‘time-space’ orthogonal empirical functions (EOF) with truncation of 28 (and up to 78 modes for the Arctic, where the maximum truncation was the number of sectors multiplied with the number of 5-yr means – see supplementary material Fig. S3). These come into the equation through the estimation of the noise (covariance matrix), i.e. the internal variations and their magnitude. The clever thing is that they let each EOFs describe a set of 20 maps of 5-year-mean temperatures, thus representing both the spatial features as well as their chronology.

For the mathematically inclined, EOFs are similar to eigenvectors, and are mainly used to prepare data before further analysis. The purpose of using EOFs is often either to (i) compress the information or (ii) to make the data more ‘well-behaved’ (in mathematical terms: orthogonal). While one typically only use a few of the first EOFs, Gillett et al. experimented with just one up to the whole set because they took advantage of their orthogonal properties to allow the calculation of the inverse of the noise co-variance matrix. This is a neat mathematical trick. But this doesn’t help if the GCMs do not provide a good description of the internal variations.

419 Responses to “Mind the Gap!”

  1. 351
    jcbmack says:

    The Maasai also practice genital mutilations as well.

  2. 352
    jcbmack says:

    Weather and climate conditions affect evolutionary patterns as well, and Rich #346, absolutely right! Someone here knows the some of the recent great minds in the studies of evolution. Margulis= endo- symbiotic theory… my personal favorite writer on the subject. Gould is good and related to this discussion as well.

    Ernst Meyer wrote an intro to Margulis’s book.

  3. 353
    Jim Eager says:

    Re Phil. Felton @348: “But for the CO2 in the atmosphere there would be substantially no water vapor in the atmosphere and it would be a damn sight colder! You need a permanent gas not a condensible vapor.”

    Excellent point, and one that will serve me well in future discussions. Thank you.

  4. 354
    Mark says:

    350 if you were reading you’d see that I’d already mentioned about blood. And that goat milk is more digestible.

    But you’d rather piss about wouldn’t you.

  5. 355
    Mark says:

    #345. How is that? A negative impact could be the reduction of the whole by 0.0000001%. Sum infinite series and you get about 0.0000002%. That’s the infinite series. Taking an infinite time to get there.

    So how does a negative feedback only have to be tiny to reverse global warming? The answer should be particularly interesting since you seem to know that the same change but as a positive feedback has a limiting effect.

  6. 356
    Mark says:

    #336. FCH I’ve had good reason. That you can’t see it doesn’t change it.

  7. 357
    Barton Paul Levenson says:

    jcbmack writes:

    Evolution is random like weather, sensitive to minor perturbations, but adaptive through adaptive emergent properties, and difficult to understand in totality, but well understood in pieces and in short periods of time,

    In general I agree with what you’re saying here, but I question the use of the word “random.” Mutation is random, changes in surrounding climate, and the process of natural selection, are anything but random. Biologists debating creationists coined the phrase “natural selection is the antithesis of chance.”

  8. 358
    Barton Paul Levenson says:

    Furry writes:

    Another part is that I do remember when “The Coming Ice Age” was a big problem, and instead of acknowledging that, a large number of AGW proponents try to brush that under the rug.

    “Scientists in the 1970s said global cooling was coming!” is an urban legend. There was NEVER a consensus behind “global cooling” the way there was behind global warming. Check here:

  9. 359

    Re @ 358:


    Then why do people remember it? It’s really annoying to be told that everyone who remembers it was suffering from a mass-delusion.

    And every time I’m told “Oh, we already did GCRs”, I wonder if they’ve looked at this chart.

  10. 360

    #359–Furry, there *was* a media hooha about it; that is what people remember. (Newsweek was the biggest pusher of the scare, I believe.) However, as BPL said (and I had said earlier, in my #338), there was not a scientific consensus on the putative cooling. Most scientists then expected warming, not cooling, and the NAS officially reported that there was insufficient evidence to make a prediction. Do take the time to check out the references that BPL or I cited (not to mention the Wiki that Gavin mentions in his inline response to #338.)

  11. 361

    #359–Solar spots: I’ve just looked at your chart and have little idea why it is supposed to persuade me of anything, other than a much lower number of sunspots this cycle compared with last.

    Though you really don’t make it clear, context suggests that you think that the spots affect atmospheric GCR intensity, which affects temperature, presumably via the mediation of cloud formation. However, those latter steps of the process are so far not well-supported in the research, which means that the sunspot data by itself has little persuasive value–to me, anyway.

  12. 362

    Further to my #361:

    I could even use the data you supply to argue it the other way–that is, the two minima you compare seem quite different, yet both ’96-’97 and ’07-’08 are pretty hot periods globally, with 2007 for instance just a few hundredths of a degree warmer than ’97 in HadCRUT. Shouldn’t they be much different if there really were a strong correlation between sunspots and global temps? (By the way, there is a long history of unsuccessful attempts to correlate these two–see Weart’s “The Discovery of Global Warming.”)

  13. 363
    simon abingdon says:

    #349 Ray, thank you again for responding to me. I can’t confute you. Science is always informed by facts and I have to accept the facts that you confidently assert. But as DR said, as well as the facts we know we know and the facts we know we don’t know (uncertainties in cloud behaviour for instance) there remain the facts we don’t know we don’t know (Mother Nature having enabled evolution to keep going for billions of years and no tipping points having extinguished the biosphere during that time). Because?

    I grew up in the steam age and as a boy was thunderstruck by the implication of E=mc^2: a limitless abundance of energy for next to nothing and an end to needing to dig dirty coal out of the ground. It didn’t happen; people stopped it. Now there’s a sudden panic and a mad headlong rush to stop using the very energy sources that enabled our modern way of life to happen. (No jetting around the world for our grandchildren then).

    I remember Leo McKern (Rumpole of the Bailey) in the B-movie “The day the Earth caught fire”(1961) saying “They’ve altered the tilt of the Earth!”

    Can we alter the tilt of the Earth? Surely no.

    Can we alter the Climate? Yeah, sure. Just all keep/stop burning fossil fuels for warmer/cooler.

    Such hubris.

  14. 364
    Ray Ladbury says:

    What we cannot alter, Simon, is the laws of physics–and they clearly indicate that adding CO2 changes the climate. What constitutes hubris is not contemplating how the actions of 6-9 billion people change the environment, but rather in assuming that our actions have no consequences.

  15. 365
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Furry Cat Herder, Might I suggest that the reason people remember the “Coming Ice Age” meme is:
    1)It got air play on the cover of Newsweek (or Newsweak as I call it) because spectacular claims sold magazines
    2)Anti-science types love to trot it out and say, “See, science was wrong.”

    However, I would also point out that
    1)Newsweek is not a refereed science journal
    2)The reason some scientists were concerned about cooling was aerosols from fossil fuel production, and these same scientists assumed a CO2 sensitivity that was too low. Rather than throwing anthropogenic causation into question, this whole incident supports the consensus view of climate.

  16. 366

    “Can we alter the Climate? Yeah, sure. Just all keep/stop burning fossil fuels for warmer/cooler.

    Such hubris.”

    Simon, years ago I drove a school bus; one of the teenage boys thought it would be amusing to snap his cigarette lighter next to a girl’s ear. Unfortunately, she was wearing a flammable hairspray and the resulting fright was considerably more than either had bargained on. (Though luckily no serious damage was done.)

    The boy, simply by virtue of his age, probably was guilty of hubris–if “guilty” is the word we want to use for a common concomitant of a developmental stage. Simultaneously, he seriously underestimated the negative potential of his actions.

    So, is an adolescent humanity to assess our concern with AGW as hubris, or as a realistic attempt to assess the gravity of our ongoing actions? Surely the difference is whether or not we “do our sums”–that is, whether or not we think realistically and clearly, with reference to the best information we can unearth–or develop.

    With reference to the current climate situation, it is not problematic or controversial–much less “hubris”–to think that humanity has already altered the CO2 content of the atmosphere. (As an example, I just read the Singer et al “NIPCC report,” linked on this site, and though they question much about AGW, they don’t question this.) The question, then, is whether it is realistic to think that this well-documented change can affect planetary climate. I would suggest that to uncritically reply “no” would be irresponsible–a good deal more irresponsible than the young man on my bus all those years ago, in fact.

  17. 367
    Hank Roberts says:

    It’s not hubris, it’s physics.

  18. 368
  19. 369
    jcbmack says:

    Data analyses and model simulations have indicated that as the planet is warming, the chance for extreme events increases. Karl et al. [1995] examined precipitation records over the 20th century and showed that the high-frequency (up to interannual) variability has increased. Subsequently, Tsonis [1996] showed that the low-frequency variability has also increased. These variability trends indicate that the frequency of extremes (more drought events and more heavy precipitation events) has increased whereas the mean has remained approximately the same. Such a tendency is observed with other variables and is consistent with model projections of a warmer planet. A tendency for increased extremes is often translated as increased randomness, simply because the fluctuations increase. Strictly speaking, however, this is incorrect. An increase in the extremes affects the probability distribution of a random variable, but the variable is still random and thus is equally unpredictable. This is in agreement with the Chaitin-Kolmogorov-Solomonoff complexity definition of randomness. According to this definition, the degree of randomness of a given sequence is determined by the length of the computer program written to reproduce it. If the program involves as many steps as the length of the sequence, then the sequence is called maximally random. Random sequences generated from probability distributions are all equally maximally random because their values appear with no particular order or repetition, regardless of the form of the distribution. As such, to describe such sequences one must write a program that involves as many steps as the length of the sequence. It follows that changes in the degree of randomness cannot be assessed by changes in the probability distribution. Changes in the degree of randomness can only be probed by changes in the dynamical properties of a system with complex behavior. If the dynamics change, the system may become more (less) complex, which will imply that a longer (shorter) program will be needed to describe it.


    Severe climate changes during the last ice-age could have been caused by random chaotic variations on Earth and not governed by external periodic influences from the Sun. This has been shown in new calculations by a researcher at the Niels Bohr Institute, Copenhagen University.

    Several large international projects have succeeded in drilling ice-cores from the top of the Greenland inland ice through the more than 3 km thick ice sheet. The ice is a frozen archive of the climate of the past, which has been dated back all the way to the previous interglacial Eem-period more than 120.000 years ago. The ice archive shows that the climate has experienced very severe changes during the glacial period. During the glacial period there were 26 abrupt temperature increases of about 7-10 degrees. These glacial warm periods are named Dansgaard-Oeschger events after the two scientists first observing them.

    Using mathematical models of the climate shifts he calculated the probability of the periodicity. He focused on the time intervals between the climate shifts. How regular are they really? As a baton, periodically beating, how far from the beating are the climate shifts? If the distances are perfectly periodic 100% is obtained. It turned out that the climate shifts hit the beats of the baton by 70%.

    NATURAL SELECTION—Differential survival and reproduction among members of a population or species in nature, due to variation in the possession of adaptive genetic traits. Natural selection, the major driving force of evolution, is a process leading to greater adaptation of organisms to their environment.

    Process by which some genes and gene combinations in a population of a species are reproduced more than others when the population is exposed to an environmental change or stress. process described by Darwin’s theory of evolution that favors certain genotypes and disfavors others. This process is entirely guided by the interaction of an organism with its environment. See also adaptation.
    University of Copenhagen. March 2007

  20. 370
    jcbmack says:

    Then let us not forget that although entropy (heat loss) escapes the earth system, some is trapped in increasing random motions which influences both, short interval and chaotic weather, and longer term climate and as well as other biological factors, like evolution and carrying capacity.

  21. 371
    jcbmack says:

    And finally read: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, Institute for Space Studies, 2880 Broadway, New York, NY 10025, USA. E-mail: drind – at-

  22. 372
    Hank Roberts says:

    I dunno. “ENSO a ‘safety valve’ against a runaway climate system” — that’s one I hadn’t heard before.

    But the rest of the abstract sounds like something that was being discussed over at Tamino’s just recently:

    “Here we show how observed and model data lend support to this theory. The analysis shows that temperature increases (decreases) tend to lead El Niño (La Niña). Coherency in the correlation peaks at a significant level at approximately three years (roughly the period of the ENSO “oscillation,”) and three months. The latter peak gives a possible interpretation for an El Niño trigger in that it approximates a basin-crossing time for a Kelvin wave. The analyses from SOI, Nino 3 index and GCM’s are all comparable.”

    That’s from:
    Global Temperature Fluctuations Regulate El Nino Frequency
    Authors: Tsonis, A. A.; Elsner, J. B.; Hunt, A. G.; Jagger, T. H.

  23. 373
    jcbmack says:

    For sure ENSO will help stabilize the climate system to some extent,the Earth has many response systems which keep it in balance, if it did not cooling or warming would have been devastating in our time already. As far as excact correlations in that article from harvard I would treat that with a thorough statistical analysis, but the qualitative data is well supported.

  24. 374
    jcbmack says:

    Of course people anthropomorphize climate and evolution which may be useful but lends false ideas to lay persons or people without much understanding of evolution, especially.

    The system does not really ;respond,’in a conscious way and random external forces will affect gene drifts and shifts and some mutations will be beneficial, others located on short tandem repeats (introns, proven by the way)will be neutral and others will be harmful, just like random, chaotic weather can affect habitats and alleles passed down to progeny which should be beneficial to the host, but it is not driven by any organized force outside the environment, not to say one cannot have faith, but it cannot be scientifically proven or disproven.

  25. 375
  26. 376
    Phil. Felton says:

    Re #359 FurryCatHerder Says:
    1 December 2008 at 9:01 AM


    Then why do people remember it? It’s really annoying to be told that everyone who remembers it was suffering from a mass-delusion.

    Articles in newspapers referring to forthcoming Ice ages are not the same
    thing as scientific predictions.
    In the preface to his book on ‘Climatic History and the Future’ H.H. Lamb
    “Recent research……has rendered more specific the expectation that the
    beginnings of the next glaciation will be upon our descendants within 3000
    to 7000 years. It is to be noted here that there is no necessary contradiction
    between forecast expectations of (a) some renewed (or continuation of) slight
    cooling of world climate for a few decades to come, e.g., from volcanic or
    solar activity variations; (b) an abrupt warming due to the effect of increasing
    carbon dioxide, lasting some centuries until fossil fuels are exhausted and a
    while thereafter; and this followed in turn by (c) a glaciation lasting (like
    the previous ones) for many thousands of years.”
    This was written in the early 80s, at which time Prof. Lamb was Director Emeritus of the
    Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.
    This represents the scientific view of the time, those garbled versions that appeared
    in the press of the time don’t change that but they are what is remembered,
    similar misrepresentation goes on to day and is a very unreliable way to
    find out what the scientific view is on any subject.

  27. 377
    Mark says:

    FCH, A lot of people remember the death of Diana. I don’t remember there being any science papers in journals telling us of it.

    Just because you have heard of something doesn’t mean it was in science journals you know.

  28. 378
    Barton Paul Levenson says:

    simon abingdon, apparently thinking he’s making a very telling point, writes:

    Can we alter the tilt of the Earth? Surely no.

    Can we alter the Climate? Yeah, sure. Just all keep/stop burning fossil fuels for warmer/cooler.

    Such hubris.

    Hubris doesn’t have a damn thing to do with it. I don’t care whether AGW theory is humble or arrogant, progressive or reactionary, bold or conservative. I care whether it’s true or false. So should anyone in their right mind.

    The mere fact that you find it hard to believe proves exactly nothing. Does the evidence support it or not? Until you’ve determined that, comments about hubris are premature at best.

  29. 379

    Re @ 376 —

    Phil, the “Global Cooling” scare didn’t start in the early 1980’s. It was in full swing no later than 1972.

    I’m not agnostic (cynical is more accurate) on the subject of AGW because I don’t understand the science. I’m agnostic because it really just doesn’t matter, the way I see the near term playing out.

    My beliefs are simple — SC24 and SC25 will give us a 20 or so year reprieve. One of the papers I was told to read up-thread agrees with that — a prolonged solar minimum will have the same effective as removing two decades of CO2 emissions. However, a 20 or so year of failing to move off fossil fuels will have the result of economic catastrophe. If we make it past SC24 and 25 without reducing CO2 emissions, when AGW takes over again in 20 years, we’re royally screwed on two fronts — AGW returning with a vengeance and serious shortages in fuel stocks to make the technological changes without dramatic reductions in lifestyle.

  30. 380
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Furry, All I can say is that you have a whole lot more faith in the science we don’t understand (climate effects of grand solar minima) than in well understood science (CO2 as a greenhouse gas). Moreover, I think you are failing to take into account that while Oil is running out, we have more than enough coal, oil shale, tar sands, etc. to continue to cook our goose. In order to come to the RIGHT solution as we develop a new energy infrastructure, we need to acknowledge the reality of the effect of fossil fuels on climate. No one is asking you to “believe,” merely to acknowledge the evidence.
    I am not as convinced as you that Mr. Sun is going to give us a break, and even if it does, I suspect people it will simply postpone human action to the point where we have no good options left. If you care at all about the future environment, now is the time to act.

  31. 381
    FurryCatHerder says:


    I hate spam filters AND Capcha.


    I have a lot of faith in economics — if those alternatives could provide energy at present costs, someone would be doing it large scale. They don’t. So, I think concerns about oil shale and tar sands are overdone.

    As for acting, I’m carbon negative and getting more so every month. I’m “acting” plenty.

    To me, AGW — assuming economic ruin and destruction by refusing to get off carbon-based fuels — is a done deal. But as I’ve said before, I think we’d have to bankrupt the planet to keep at the present rate of carbon-based fuels consumption. I’d rather focus my message on the financial ruin that will happen in people’s lifetimes, than the environmental ruin that will happen in their grandchildren’s lifetime.

  32. 382
    jcbmack says:

    Interesting recent reads on both climate change on those on the economics:
    I should note that the economists are still fighting this one out, I know this because of my subsciption to the Economist, Harper’s, NY Times, watching PBS and my talks with an economist professor of mine, and other sources.

    Interesting recent reads on both climate change on those on the economics:

    Oh and also, long term fossil fuel reductions and the investments in alternative energy sources will be very economically rewarding, I know this because I calculated it myself… I will post this up later this month.

  33. 383
    Hank Roberts says:

    “AGW theory” according to who, tom? Arrhenius?

  34. 384
    jcbmack says:

    Tom proxy data can be very shaky, but in recent times, the last few hundred years the accuracy is very reliable, (even a thousand or more can reveal reasonable approximations, but we do not know the exact sensitivity) with the last few decades from multi ensembles being the most reliable. I cut and pasted one article and left the links for the others:

    Abstracts of presentations at the RESMoNA meeting in Oslo 14th-15th May 2003

    1. Multi-model ensembles of climate scenarios: an overview,
    by R.E. Benestad, Norwegian Meteorological Institute, Oslo, Norway.
    Comparisons of climatic trends from GCMs and historical station series show that one
    GCM integration cannot give a reliable reproduction of the past climatic change on
    time scales of several decades (Benestad 2001, 2002, 2003). A multi-model ensemble
    consisting of GCM integrations following the ICC IS92a scenarios (including
    sulphate forcing), however, described an evolution that tends to span the past
    observed temperatures. In order to carry out the evaluation against the observations,
    the GCM results have been downscaled empirically, using common EOFs as a
    reference frame. The common EOF method extracts identical spatial pattern in the
    model results and the observations, and utilizes time series of weights describing their
    evolution in time. Thus, the common EOFs also involve a type of model evaluation.
    Empirical downscaling is fast an inexpensive, and therefore suitable for comparing
    long time series derived from many GCMs. Although the downscaling is done for
    individual stations, the results from several stations can be combined through spatial
    interpolation to produce spatial maps. The spatial interpolation can be further
    elaborated by taking into account geographical parameters such as distance from the
    coast, altitude, latitude and longitude if the values are sensitive to these parameters.
    The residuals from a multiple regression are used as input for spatial interpolation
    schemes such as Kriging. The mapping of the downscaled results can be done for
    multi-model ensemble mean temperature trends as well as probabilities of exceeding
    certain threshold values. Although all downscaled temperature trends project a future
    warming, scenarios for precipitation are more ambiguous. So far, the precipitation
    scenarios have only been derived from SLP-fields, and do not take into account
    increases in humidity. Different GCMs yield trends ranging from drier to wetter
    future for a given location.
    R.E. Benestad (2001), The cause of warming over Norway in the ECHAM4/OPYC3
    GHG integration, Int. J. Clim. 15 March Vol 21 371-387.
    R.E. Benestad (2002), Empirically downscaled multi-model ensemble temperature
    and precipitation scenarios for Norway, Journal of Climate Vol 51, No. 21, 3008-
    R.E. Benestad (2003) What can present climate models tell us about climate change?
    Climatic Change in press.
    2. Investigations of differences in the scenarioes from MPI
    and the Hadley centre for Norwegian regions
    Viel Ødegaard and Jan Erik Haugen, Norwegian Meteorological Institute, Oslo,
    Dynamical downscaling of the climate simulations from the MPI ECHAM4 model
    and the Hadley Centre AM3 run on a subarea covering Northern Europe and the
    North Atlantic shows differences both in the simulations of present climate and future
    climate. The results of the downscaling are analyzed on a monthly basis for five
    regions in the Norwegian land area with the scope of presenting a common analysis of
    the data. The regions are defined on the basis of model climate, which shows large
    variation over Norway, from inland to coast and from north to south.
    The simulations of future climate from the two runs are valid for different time
    periods. In order to compare the results it has been suggested to scale in time with the
    global temperature tendency as a scaling factor. The tendencies of temperature are
    positive in all regions and all months, but highest in the winter and in the most
    northern regions. The tendencies in wind force and precipitation rate are close to zero
    and negative in some regions and some months. It was chosen to use the local
    monthly temperature tendency as a scaling factor for the temperature from the runs
    forced with the Hadley Centre data, while precipitation rate and wind force are kept
    Negative tendencies in wind force and precipitation rate are seen in the Hadley runs in
    August and September in the southern coastal region and in January in the northern
    coastal region. This is due to different mslp-patterns in the simulations in the two
    scenarios in the autumn. The density of monthly means is not a normal distribution,
    neither from the separate datasets nor from the combined dataset. The present and the
    future climate are therefore presented in terms of median and quantiles. For all
    regions an increase in temperature is predicted, and the inter quantile range is larger in
    the winter. The latter is also the case for precipitation and 10m wind speed.
    3. Snow Cover Changes Over Northern Eurasia

    Raino Heino, Finnish Meteorological Institute, Helsinki, Finland
    The snow extent over Northern Eurasia influences the air temperature through the
    positive albedo feedback, which has been demonstrated by many diagnostic and
    modeling studies. According to the recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on
    Climate Change satellite data show that there are very likely to have been decreases of
    about 10% in the extent of snow cover since the late 1960s.
    An INTAS-funded research project has been initiated to study the possible trends in
    snow cover during the last century over Northern Eurasia and the relation between
    snow cover variability and variations in atmospheric circulation patterns. A qualitychecked
    database of snow-related parameters is being established covering the
    northern part of the Eurasian continent for further use by the scientific community.
    4. Natural climate variability of the Arctic atmosphere, the
    impact of Greenland and PBL stability changes
    K. Dethloff *, A. Rinke *, W. Dorn *, D. Handorf *, J. H. Christensen **
    * AWI Potsdam, ** DMI Copenhagen
    Unforced and forced long-term model integrations from 500 to 1000 years with global
    coupled atmosphere-ocean-sea-ice models have been analysed in order to find out
    whether the different models are able to simulate the North Atlantic Oscillation
    (NAO) similar to the real atmosphere. A regional atmospheric model have been
    applied for simulations of the Arctic climate. The regional dimension of Arctic winter
    climate changes in consequence of regime changes of the North Atlantic Oscillation
    have been analysed. The regional model has been forced with boundary data of
    positive and negative NAO phases from NCEP data and from a ECHAM4 control
    simulation as well as from a time dependent greenhouse gas and aerosol scenario
    simulation. Global changes of the atmospheric composition and natural circulation
    changes are in competition to each other in determining the Arctic surface climate.
    In sensitivity experiments the influence of removed orography of Greenland on the
    Arctic flow patterns and cyclone tracks during winter have been determined using a
    global coupled model and a dynamical downscaling with the regional atmospheric
    model HIRHAM. In simulations with the orography of Greenland removed, the
    Icelandic low became deeper and shifted north-eastwards compared to the control
    simulation. The strength of the Siberian high decreased and the storm tracks, usually
    entering the central Arctic shifted towards Eurasia. One major storm track stretching
    from the south along the western coast of Greenland into the Baffin Bay disappeared
    and a tendency to stronger zonality occurred in the simulations with removed
    Greenland orography.
    The influence of additional vertical layers in the planetary boundary layer below 1000
    meters on the Arctic climate has been investigated. A decoupling of the surface
    climate from that of the free troposphere occurs connected with changes in the
    surface climate and the vertical stability.
    By Ralf Döscher and H.E.Markus Meier
    SMHI/Rossby Centre, SE-60176 Norrköping, Sweden
    Six regional coupled 30 year time slice simulations with the Rossby Centre
    Atmosphere Ocean model for a European domain have been carried out: two control
    runs based on the HadAm3 (HC) and ECHAM4/OPYC (MPI) GCM’s, followed by
    two A2 scenarios (2071-2100) and two B2 scenarios. Sea surface salinity (SSS) of
    the HC control run matches observations, but is much too low for the MPI control
    case (1.2 psu). This is related to an overestimation of freshwater supply caused by a
    positive precipitation anomaly over Northern Europe, indicating a deficiency of the
    MPI cases. The Runoff is even more increased for the scenarios. The vertical structure
    shows frequent renewal even at the bottom for HC control and scenarios whereas the
    MPI based runs all show a catastrophic freshening due to strong freshwater supply,
    efficiently blocking deep water renewal. Even after 30 years of integration, no
    equilibrium for the deep salinity is reached. The extra runoff in the MPI cases is
    related to a northward shift of cyclone activity. The SST and sea ice extent of the
    Baltic Sea is well reproduced in both control runs (1961-1990). The scenarios show a
    warming of 1.9 – 3.8 K. Sea ice extent is distinctly reduced in the scenarios.
    6. PRUDENCE Simulations of European Climate Change
    Ole Bøssing Christensen
    Climate Res.Div./Danish Climate Center
    Danish Meteorological Institute
    The EU project PRUDENCE aims at investigating sources of uncertainty in
    climate projections through an exploration of various combinations of global
    and regional models and of emission scenario and resolution. We now have
    results for 6 different regional models run with identical boundary
    conditions for two 30-year periods covering a control period 1961-90 and a
    scenario period 2071-2100 according to the SRES scenario A2 as simulated
    with global models from the Hadley Centre.
    Seasonal mean temperature and precipitation from these models will be compared
    and validated here. Generally, several model biases are shared among the
    models. The largest inter-model spread occurs in summer; this is expected, as
    the model physics plays a larger role in this season.
    7. An ensemble CMIP2 runs with the Bergen Climate Model
    by Sigbjørn Grønås, Geophysical Department, University in Bergen & Asgeir
    Sorteberg, Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, Bergen, Norway.
    An ensemble CMIP2 integrations – runs for 80 years with CO2 increasing 1 % per
    year; doubling of CO2 is obtained after 70 year; the results from the last 20 years are
    compared with a control run – is presently being run with the Bergen Climate Model
    (BCM). So far four members are completed, and the preliminary results from these
    will be given. The resolution of the atmospheric part is T63, linear grid, which means
    that linear terms and topography are resolved in T63, while non-linear terms and
    “physics” are computed in T42. The ocean grid has a similar resolution, but it is
    somewhat focused towards the tropics.
    As normal for such runs, the initial states are taken from a control run, which in our
    case has been for 300 years with the same resolution (constant CO2 and constant solar
    forcing). In this run the meridional overturning circulation in the North-Atlantic
    varied on a multidecadal timescale. The strategy for picking initial states has been to
    select states in different phases of these variations. Further, the comparison of the
    results from the last 20 years of the 80 years integrations has been against results for
    the same period – after the initial state – in the control run.
    Results for temperature and precipitation over Europe are presented. The “normal”
    decrease in precipitation in south and increase in precipitation in north is evident.
    However, there are significant differences between the different runs. In particular, it
    is interesting to note that one case shows precipitation patterns over Scandinavia that
    are similar to those in a future scenario from the Hadley Centre used by RegClim for
    dynamical downscaling, while other cases are more in accordance with the scenario
    from MPI also used by RegClim. This indicates that both the downscaled scenarios in
    RegClim might be interpreted as equal members of an ensemble of possible future
    climate states.
    All four members show an increased NAO-index for double CO2 conditions. The
    change is both a result from a deeper Icelandic Low and small displacements of the
    low towards northeast. The overturning circulation in the Atlantic is decreasing in all
    runs, but only slightly (about 2 Sv). More runs will be made, and the results will be
    analysed according to the starting phase in the overturning circulation. for those who like differential equations and can handle a 1,000 year span or so based study.

    Also keep in mind that as the grid amounts and sizes are manipulated different aspects of data will better resolved while others will be more difficult to measure, hence why larger grid box diagrams, larger and smaller boxes, randomization, and the consdieration of other source data are all very important. (informative, but also entertaining, good overview)

  35. 385
    jcbmack says:

    “To me, AGW — assuming economic ruin and destruction by refusing to get off carbon-based fuels — is a done deal. But as I’ve said before, I think we’d have to bankrupt the planet to keep at the present rate of carbon-based fuels consumption. I’d rather focus my message on the financial ruin that will happen in people’s lifetimes, than the environmental ruin that will happen in their grandchildren’s lifetime.”

    So (should not begin or end a sentence with a preposition, oh well) you are someone who prioritizes the here and now more than the future… some might call you a prioritarian from the point of the view the present is almost certainly poorer (and thus more important) than the future economy, (provided it does not completely bubble and burst)some economists are utilitarians and consider the present and future consequences equally important.

    Our children and grandchildren are certainly a consideration and this blind faith in economists when two experts cannot even agree on the value of Rossevelt’s arbitrary changing of the value of the US dollar to increase the value of gold during the 1930’s. (1933 on)

  36. 386

    FCH, can you say more about your “economic message?” I’d love to have more info on fossil fuel costs, why you are so sure that alternate energy will be such an economic success, etc.

    I hope I don’t sound skeptical. I find the warnings of economic doom and gloom one hears from the (predominantly AGW-contrarian) naysayers rather overblown and unbalanced; yet I have to admit that I really am not very well-informed either way.

    (Captcha has one of those vaguely portentious comments: “coal Corbin.”)

  37. 387
    Jim Eager says:

    Indeed, Corbin, KY, is a railroad hub in the middle of Kentucky’s coal producing region.

  38. 388
    jcbmack says:

    I also want to add that it is expensive in the short term to provide these alternative energy sources. I know the issues with the windmill placements for example and that as the dollar value goes down, and oil is cheap we face real economic strains upon the transition. Mid term the value of currency will begin to be on the incline and the loss to profit ratio will begin to stabilize as will investor confidence and green market share if you will indulge the term, however, these actions must be ever so carefully carried out and exercised with extreme caution. Long term returns will be tremendous, and the planet would greatly benefit, but not in a linear fashion, (lag phase, build up of ghg and certain variables)and the science would keep analyzing so the mathematicians and engineers can create the needed tools for improvement and more sophisticated models.

    It is not a cheap thing, saving this planet, but I believe it is worth it and I know economically possible. We have to cap free trade, watch the free markets and tighten our belts, but this does not mean the loss of millions of jobs if carried out carefully, the plan to do this effectively does exist, and it is in gradations not all at once.

    The contrarians are not wrong about economic issues, and some green people are too enthusiastic about spending money, but there are ways of we do not allow greed (ode to engles and Marx, ironically) and commerce cloud or judgement…we all have to eat, I get paid very well to teach, the business man is rich who is a CEO or high end executive in an oil company, but when you discuss all life and the fate of the planet, here are issues we must face realistically and with great courage.

  39. 389
    jcbmack says:

    Kevin #386

    Read the economist and watch the PBS and NBC specials regarding the costs, I also left a few sites for further reading… know you were asking FCH, but I figured I would add to the conversation.

  40. 390


    Appreciated, jcb!

  41. 391

    To jcbmack and Kevin —

    I like the term “prioritarian”. Yes, I prioritize near term because the state of the economy between now and twenty years from now will determine the state of the economy from twenty years until whenever.

    Why do I have faith in economics when economists can’t agree with each other? Because the free market works and that business people are basically greedy. Because if coal to liquids was profitable at the present price of oil, we’d be seeing someone open a coal to liquids plant and making a profit based on the difference. We don’t, QED, it isn’t.

    But I also have faith in the economics because I see a lot of obstructive behavior happening in the field of renewable energy. If renewables were just a crack-pot, no-threat-to-big-energy situation, my electric company wouldn’t be doing their best to get free electricity from me — 3MWH is a lot of electricity and they want it from me and I ain’t giving it away. Fortunately, the cutting edge of the state of renewable energy is learning how to tell the utilities to drop dead the same as early cell phone users dumped their land lines. There are a lot of creative behaviors going on in the area of demand-response and the utilities will have to start playing ball.

  42. 392
    Ray Ladbury says:

    FCH, I have faith in markets to allocate resources if prices reflect the full cost of goods and services. I do not have full faith in markets to ensure that all costs are passed on to the consumer. Otherwise, I don’t think I could buy durian more cheaply than locally grown apples. Markets have traditionally done a poor job at reflecting costs like environmental damage. I suspect they will do an even poorer job when that damage affects the next generation.

  43. 393
    Mark says:

    E.g. The Market didn’t correct Enron.

    It didn’t correct the dot-com era.

    It didn’t correct the housing crisis.

    Oracle says: others BLAMED

  44. 394
    jcbmack says:

    Adam Smith was not a fool, but his free market theories went too far.

  45. 395


    There’s a major difference now with renewables — fossil fuels are a dwindling resource with escalating costs, renewable energy is an evolving technology with declining costs. If any kind of CO2 reduction scheme is embraced in the States, fossil fuel based energy costs are only going to go up, and renewable energy costs are only going to go down.

    For areas with commercial quality wind — Class III or better — wind is just dirt cheap. Solar is becoming competitive, with advances coming all the time. The only way these sources won’t be adopted is if the utilities are allowed to interfere.

  46. 396
    jcbmack says:

    Wind needs to be carefully implemented, otherwise the “planning,””transport,” and widespread implementation will be far too expensive. I was reading today’s Wall Street Journal and USA Today, and the amount of money GM,Chrysler, and Ford are asking for while flying to the senate meeting in private jets is astounding. Also, the utility and oil companies are and will interfere with progress that hurts their bottom line; economics has a place to be sure, but just old fashioned greed hinders progress…still, there are hard working people who support families and citizens who do cannot afford any upgrades or changes, the building of the wind infrastructure is already past a billion dollars and has not brought the efficiency we need to even talk of transitions, and with the 7-10 billion dollars car makers are requesting in addition to 20-75 billion for the current production lines to be maintained (and to stop the big three from filing chapter 11) and the regular gas powered vehicles to continue in the mainstay, it is not likely the government will have the money (or credit?) to seriously fund and thus impact wind and voltaic cell energy sources.

    I see that Pickens has run into trouble and right now oil is dirt cheap (let us see how long that lasts) but now that we are officially in recession (two consecutive quarters down) and the oil and gas companies boast record profits and the oil, natural gas, and coal resources will all last longer than 25 years by most projections (coal about a hundred years give or take a decade?) and they can afford to so drastically lower their prices, we have yet to see these alternative energy sources become economically, politically and culturally viable.

  47. 397
    jcbmack says:

    ind needs to be carefully implemented, otherwise the “planning,””transport,” and widespread implementation will be far too expensive. I was reading today’s Wall Street Journal and USA Today, and the amount of money GM,Chrysler, and Ford are asking for while flying to the senate meeting in private jets is astounding. Also, the utility and oil companies are and will interfere with progress that hurts their bottom line; economics has a place to be sure, but just old fashioned greed hinders progress…still, there are hard working people who support families and citizens who do cannot afford any upgrades or changes, the building of the wind infrastructure is already past a billion dollars and has not brought the efficiency we need to even talk of transitions, and with the 7-10 billion dollars car makers are requesting in addition to 20-75 billion for the current production lines to be maintained (and to stop the big three from filing chapter 11) and the regular gas powered vehicles to continue in the mainstay, it is not likely the government will have the money (or credit?) to seriously fund and thus impact wind and voltaic cell energy sources.

    I see that mr. Boone, has run into trouble and right now oil is dirt cheap (let us see how long that lasts) but now that we are officially in recession (two consecutive quarters down) and the oil and gas companies boast record profits and the oil, natural gas, and coal resources will all last longer than 25 years by most projections (coal about a hundred years give or take a decade?) and they can afford to so drastically lower their prices, we have yet to see these alternative energy sources become economically, politically and culturally viable.

    The stocks are down considerably in most “alternative,” sourcing and supply companies, businesses are hurting, and the the government is torn between several economic paradigms, as Afghanistan becomes a primary target again, but Pakista and Africa are harboring both terrorists and pirates, along with natural resources that industry is still in love with.

  48. 398
    Rod B says:

    The market did, can and will make those corrections. However, nobody claims that some market corrections don’t come with pain (sometimes a lot of it; every now and then, lethal). Sometimes a litttle judicious help to the market will alleviate some of the pain.

  49. 399
    jcbmack says:

    Help for the market may be needed but this deviates from unrestrained free market ideology and unregulated exports certainly hurt us, matter of fact the lowered value of the US dollar encouraged more exports and less imports, especially when dealing with China, but the amount of government money needed makes this free market experiment, in light of natural disasters as well seriously flawed, so of course in some ways beneficial.

  50. 400


    The problem T. Boone Pickens is encountering has to do with transmission congestion and environmentalist AND anti-environmentalist opposition to the construction of new transmission capacity between West Texas and the markets in the eastern half of the state.

    The amount of capacity Pickens wants to add is greater than any of the existing 345KV transmission lines, and certainly more (d’oh) than the amount of spare transmission capacity in those lines. Right now (as in at this exact moment in time) 6% of Texas electricity is produced by known wind capacity. Pickens’ plan would increase that to 20%, as I understand his plan.

    The City of Austin (where I live) electric utility is currently over-subscribed for their “green” power program. Their plan is building out solar capacity and they are actively promoting it. Green Mountain, which is a wind power producer here in Texas, has had supply limitations against robust demand.

    That’s the present reality — it’s not speculation or long-winded diatribes about credit or wars in distant lands.

    Funny story — I’m involved in litigation at the moment and one question I had to answer was my average monthly electric bill on a financial statement. When I filled out the form my lawyer’s legal assistant called because she thought I’d made a mistake — my electric bill couldn’t possibly be as low as I wrote. Well, it is and I didn’t go broke or need a government bailout to get there.

    (Captcha sez: “Forum touch-down”.)