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Mountains and molehills

Filed under: — gavin @ 11 November 2008 - (Español)

As many people will have read there was a glitch in the surface temperature record reporting for October. For many Russian stations (and some others), September temperatures were apparently copied over into October, giving an erroneous positive anomaly. The error appears to have been made somewhere between the reporting by the National Weather Services and NOAA’s collation of the GHCN database. GISS, which produces one of the more visible analyses of this raw data, processed the input data as normal and ended up with an October anomaly that was too high. That analysis has now been pulled (in under 24 hours) while they await a correction of input data from NOAA (Update: now (partially) completed).

There were 90 stations for which October numbers equalled September numbers in the corrupted GHCN file for 2008 (out of 908). This compares with an average of about 16 stations each year in the last decade (some earlier years have bigger counts, but none as big as this month, and are much less as a percentage of stations). These other cases seem to be mostly legitimate tropical stations where there isn’t much of a seasonal cycle. That makes it a little tricky to automatically scan for this problem, but putting in a check for the total number or percentage is probably sensible going forward.

It’s clearly true that the more eyes there are looking, the faster errors get noticed and fixed. The cottage industry that has sprung up to examine the daily sea ice numbers or the monthly analyses of surface and satellite temperatures, has certainly increased the number of eyes and that is generally for the good. Whether it’s a discovery of an odd shift in the annual cycle in the UAH MSU-LT data, or this flub in the GHCN data, or the USHCN/GHCN merge issue last year, the extra attention has led to improvements in many products. Nothing of any consequence has changed in terms of our understanding of climate change, but a few more i’s have been dotted and t’s crossed.

But unlike in other fields of citizen-science (astronomy or phenology spring to mind), the motivation for the temperature observers is heavily weighted towards wanting to find something wrong. As we discussed last year, there is a strong yearning among some to want to wake up tomorrow and find that the globe hasn’t been warming, that the sea ice hasn’t melted, that the glaciers have not receded and that indeed, CO2 is not a greenhouse gas. Thus when mistakes occur (and with science being a human endeavour, they always will) the exuberance of the response can be breathtaking – and quite telling.

A few examples from the comments at Watt’s blog will suffice to give you a flavour of the conspiratorial thinking: “I believe they had two sets of data: One would be released if Republicans won, and another if Democrats won.”, “could this be a sneaky way to set up the BO presidency with an urgent need to regulate CO2?”, “There are a great many of us who will under no circumstance allow the oppression of government rule to pervade over our freedom—-PERIOD!!!!!!” (exclamation marks reduced enormously), “these people are blinded by their own bias”, “this sort of scientific fraud”, “Climate science on the warmer side has degenerated to competitive lying”, etc… (To be fair, there were people who made sensible comments as well).

The amount of simply made up stuff is also impressive – the GISS press release declaring the October the ‘warmest ever’? Imaginary (GISS only puts out press releases on the temperature analysis at the end of the year). The headlines trumpeting this result? Non-existent. One clearly sees the relief that finally the grand conspiracy has been rumbled, that the mainstream media will get it’s comeuppance, and that surely now, the powers that be will listen to those voices that had been crying in the wilderness.

Alas! none of this will come to pass. In this case, someone’s programming error will be fixed and nothing will change except for the reporting of a single month’s anomaly. No heads will roll, no congressional investigations will be launched, no politicians (with one possible exception) will take note. This will undoubtedly be disappointing to many, but they should comfort themselves with the thought that the chances of this error happening again has now been diminished. Which is good, right?

In contrast to this molehill, there is an excellent story about how the scientific community really deals with serious mismatches between theory, models and data. That piece concerns the ‘ocean cooling’ story that was all the rage a year or two ago. An initial analysis of a new data source (the Argo float network) had revealed a dramatic short term cooling of the oceans over only 3 years. The problem was that this didn’t match the sea level data, nor theoretical expectations. Nonetheless, the paper was published (somewhat undermining claims that the peer-review system is irretrievably biased) to great acclaim in sections of the blogosphere, and to more muted puzzlement elsewhere. With the community’s attention focused on this issue, it wasn’t however long before problems turned up in the Argo floats themselves, but also in some of the other measurement devices – particularly XBTs. It took a couple of years for these things to fully work themselves out, but the most recent analyses show far fewer of the artifacts that had plagued the ocean heat content analyses in the past. A classic example in fact, of science moving forward on the back of apparent mismatches. Unfortunately, the resolution ended up favoring the models over the initial data reports, and so the whole story is horribly disappointing to some.

Which brings me to my last point, the role of models. It is clear that many of the temperature watchers are doing so in order to show that the IPCC-class models are wrong in their projections. However, the direct approach of downloading those models, running them and looking for flaws is clearly either too onerous or too boring. Even downloading the output (from here or here) is eschewed in favour of firing off Freedom of Information Act requests for data already publicly available – very odd. For another example, despite a few comments about the lack of sufficient comments in the GISS ModelE code (a complaint I also often make), I am unaware of anyone actually independently finding any errors in the publicly available Feb 2004 version (and I know there are a few). Instead, the anti-model crowd focuses on the minor issues that crop up every now and again in real-time data processing hoping that, by proxy, they’ll find a problem with the models.

I say good luck to them. They’ll need it.

815 Responses to “Mountains and molehills”

  1. 651
    jcbmack says:

    Mark and Ray, mass and energy commute. If we were able to slow a photon down enough we would get mass, but we cannot. We have done some interesting research where we may assume a mass on this side of the fence, but we cannot be completely sure. Ray, out of interest, what subject matter did you do your PHD in regarding particle physics specifically? I would like to know about your insights and perhaps take a read. I find particle physics interesting, though I did no PHD work in it, I can certainly understand it. Mark what do you specifically work in and what was your thesis and/or dissertation in? You both present reasonable arguments, but in the end we need more data through a method to slow a photon. Now light through a medium is related to snell’s law, but it is still quantum mechanical tunneling effects the slows the emission of light slightly outside a vacuum, but at any rate, we can continue this discussion as far as you would like, but us chemists make that blue laser that gives us those discs:) I think it is more practical to use what we know into applications.
    And this debate does not end up in better applications. There are arguments on both sides that are valid and from reputable sources, but this conversation takes me out of boredom, so if you want to get more technical and mathematical, I am ready to participate, as this is an interesting area that involves some of my own professional experience.

    My library is also quite extensive if either one of you need recommendations, this has been alot of fun, even if absolutely fruitless. After a while in science letters after a name are just letters after a name, it does not know your name and I have met some people with the most letters get a simple concept like hammond’s postulate wrong and make a drug that killed a bunch of people, no company names, read between the lines. The same goes for climate change, what can we do, how, why, how do we know? Photons get absorbed, emitted, destroyed, blah, blah, blah, but we know much about their effects and in some ways how to harness them, where do we go from here? I often think about these things, I have a handful of engineering classes under my belt, the rest comes from, talking to engineers, and reading their publications: what can we do, what can’t we do, this matters. Competition can breed excellence, but as I said to Mark in one of my first posts, we need more data. Without general relativity and Einstein’s equations, we would not have GPS and other applications, it was far more “special,” than special relativity as: Hendrik Lorentz, Henri Poincare’ had developed transformations before him, Joseph Larmor had done some work, Hermann Mikowski came up with idea to combine space and time and so forth. Point is even Einstein did not have a full handle on the implications of his theories and even as he developed them, others assisted prior to and in conjunction with him, we too must work together and create avenues for change based upon the realities and what we can actually know. None of you mentioned the uncertainty principle, we cannot know exactly the nature of a photon anymore than we can know the exact location and velocity of an electron… For a conversation like this Google is virtually useless, Britannica or wikipedia are minor players, the works of the greats themselves, the unabridged textbooks, the graduate work and real class notes and professor handouts are where it is at now. My physics teachers added a lot to the textbooks, they always thought they were too vague and incomplete and so it is with my students, Atkins is a great author, but my professor was greatly disappointed with his treatment of refrigerators and machines, and so forth. Einstein had severe problems with quantum physics which is actually connected in modern quantum physics to Einstein’s theories, and no, Mark nothing legitimately refutes General Relativity, though we may get a handle of quantum gravity and so forth one day. Even in chemistry we rely upon Einstein equations in numerous applications and we also understand that a photon acts like a wave and a particle under different observing or experimental conditions, that is really it Ray, duality is well, duality, and we can work with that and use that blue laser or utilize CO2 lasers, do biophotonic analysis of sick people and so forth.

    I remember a textbook question in undergrad Pchem where, we used Atkins and the question was this succinct: show how l and M commute. So, here is a simple one, show how mass and energy of photons commute, that is all we can really know.

  2. 652
    jcbmack says:

    After a double bachelors or serious masters work anyone should be able to pick up any book they want and learn it, scientists know something because they want to, my first biology professor had a PHD in the study of bacteria in yellowstone, but she was an expert on her own in H5N1 avian flu simply because she wanted to know. I truly love this blog site, but let us not forget that anything can be understood to the limits of the laws and the tools used when we really want to. And if that is not true then we would doubt the GCM’S a lot more then we do, since the laws of physics are known, but the predictive quality we have is still wanting. Mark, you do not contradict yourself, but you come close, most of science and math are made up techniques and many symbols are arbitrary representations or for those non scientists, metaphors of reality, based upon our own constructs and math is not like Plato’s chairdom literally in forms, but some math is inherently true, regardless of the symbol denoted. The models are very sophisticated at this point and I have spent considerable time looking at everything that is available and yes they all have flaws, they all have self contained limits dependent upon the methods used, assumptions made based upon the laws and current theories and modeling practices, and these models, you strongly defend, and I tend to agree as their importance potential in the future and that the science itself is relatively new in modern terms, much room for improvement may breed future excellence from skilled teams that currently exist, and Gavin’s, Mike’s, Rasmus’s, David’s and all others work from here and elsewhere are critical, informative and progressive, but no model will ever make 100% predictions or perfect accurate modeling of all global and atmospheric events, here I agree with you that models are supplementary and representations of truth and a lot of math has been created to get to closer approximations of truth. Having said this, well, keep in mind how strongly you defend uncertain models, and believe me many aspects of them are uncertain and even wrong, but we do not give them up or throw out the baby with the bath water, do we? Physics, pure physics just like pure math can make one mad, I know, this is why I mention the marriage of physics and chemistry, because it keeps one grounded and takes calc I, II,III, Iv, linear algebra, statistics, and all the laws of physics, thermodynamics, and quantum postulates together in a very unique and elegant blend. Many physicists believe that relativity is solid, but the quantum world needs a lot of refining, we shall see, but we see it as just fine, related, statistical mechanics shows this a lot and the quanta of light is agreeable and we kill cancer based upon this and we understand vision processing as well relating to this knowledge.

  3. 653
    jcbmack says:

    In a very real way the basic physics and chemistry is done, it is now what we do with it.

  4. 654
    jcbmack says:

    And here I will correct myself on one point I really should be more accurate: momentum and position:)

  5. 655
    jcbmack says:

    Actually this one site is not bad and covers what Ray and Mark covered with aspects of Hamilton and answers Alexanders questions, it is basic, but it covers these topics thoroughly enough and has plenty of links which answer questions and considers the standard model and invariant mass as well. Plenty of particle physics fundamentals and gauge boson material covered etc… Then maybe we can go elsewhere and have a real discussion through the physics, chemistry and math in detail, this is not difficult. Again this website is a good primer for those who do not know, those who need review and for those who can add their expertise.

  6. 656
    Mark says:

    Brian 650. Think again about where that is correct: when the diffuse body expands or shrinks to fit within the entire sphere contained by your distance from a single point.

    A point like an electron.

    Which may be a possibility cloud rather than a classically extended object, but in any case, do you know what the density of an electron is? No? Then it’s no lower than the mass of an electron divided by the volume you still haven’t found it within yet.

    Or, how about a black hole? Gravitational force becomes infinity because density becomes infinity.


  7. 657
    Mark says:

    Ray, 649, I think my lack is in the mathematics to tease out the meaning from the equation, not the meaning. I was always pretty hot at that and I have kept up on it.

    Similarly, if anyone knows how to tease the mathematics, maybe someone can help me answer a query (Waaaaay OT): Since photons are effected by mass, they must exchange gravitons in the quantum explanation of gravity.

    So do photons self-gravitate.

    If you have two photons side by side, exactly parallel and nothing else in the universe, will they pull each other in?

    My level of maths gets tied up on the lorentz contraction of time: if there’s no time time to swap gravitons from the photon’s POV, how can it happen? But I’m not sure I’m applying the right mathematics.

  8. 658
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Mark, Empirically, of course, any deviation of the photons from a straight line would be 1)too small to measure and 2)would probably not be measurable anyway. After all, that would you use to determine a straight line path if not a ray of light? Over all, I think it is most useful to think in terms of general relativity–the particle curves because spacetime is curved. Quantum gravity tells us that the reason spacetime is curved is because of gravitons. However, we’re still not sure what quantum gravity will look like. The same is true when you start looking at the point-like nature of the electron–we’re not really sure if it’s point-like. String theory solves the problems by giving the electron extent in the hidden dimensions of spacetime. Renormalization theory avoids the problems by replacing the divergent terms with the what we know to be the correct value (physics in the limit of small infinity, a friend of mine called it)–and gets results that agree with experiment to more than 30 decimal places. As with climate there are things that we don’t quite understand in physics. So the physics marches on around them and they become islands of ignorance and over time the seas of knowledge rise and the islands get smaller. The contrarians would have us stop whenever we reach a point where we get stuck, but that’s not how science–and indeed human curiosity–works. By learning and explaining as much as we can when we can, we isolate what we don’t know and over time erode it away.

    BTW, keep pushing on the math. It’s only in the math that a lot of this stuff can be expressed unambiguously. Trying to express it in words is like trying to do surgery with a hammer.

  9. 659
    Ray Ladbury says:

    jcbmack, My dissertation was written on production of charmed baryons by 800 GeV neutrons. It is now sinking into the obscurity it so richly deserves.

  10. 660
    Alexander Harvey says:

    Dear Mark,

    You wrote:

    “Special: Light speed is constant for any observer
    General: You can’t tell the difference between gravitational acceleration and lateral acceleration”

    I think you will find that only:

    Special: Light speed is constant for all inertial (non-accelerating) observers.

    Special Relativity also deals with accelerating observers but only in a flat space-time. For instance in an linearly accelerating frame there is always an event horizon created at a surface positioned at (-c^2/a [if I remember correctly]).

    General: You can tell the difference between gravity and acceleration owing to the presence of tidal forces. There is a real difference between flat and curved space-times.


    I think a lot of confusion can be generated by Special Relativity owing to a tendency to try to use 3-velocities in equations when only the 4-velocities will do.

    If you want to know the 4-momentum you simply multiple the 4-velocity by the mass (a scalar). In order to calculate momentum using 3-velocities you multiply the velocity by the “relativistic mass” which may be convenient but not necessary. There is an amount of history tied up in this. Equations of the form m=aE/c^2 (a being a constant) arrived before Special Relativity. (It was reported that Heaviside used m=E/c^2). The use of an “effective” mass was very convenient as it allowed Newtonian mechanics to be extended to areas were it does not strictly belong (Development of particle accelerators).

    Relativistic mass can be transformed away to leave (rest) mass by a change of co-ordinate systems. A relativistic particle does not gain mass in any absolute way it is just the same old particle looked at differently.

    The term mass might be better constrained to just “rest” mass or invariant mass, the mass that stays the same. Only using the term mass without any flavour might make things a lot easier.

    Best Wishes

    Alexander Harvey

  11. 661
    Arch Stanton says:

    > please stop.

    With all due respect; I know it is hard (we all do it sometimes), but those of us that are here for climate are trying to be as patient as Gavin, and some of us are not.

    Perhaps taking it over to Tamino’s Open Thread, or get a hotel room?

    Mountains and molehills indeed. ;)

  12. 662
    Mark says:

    661 and “please stop”.

    Uh, this is Climate SCIENCE.

    Although the detail of the conversation has been about non-climate science, there has been a lot of talk about how you DO science. What models mean, what formula mean and what you can and can’t get away with them. It’s included discussion about how to argue science, how to ask about science and how science can be discussed.

    Now if you want to yibber on about how this isn’t pertinent, can I ask that Fred stop yacking on about how he doesn’t know what the science means. That RodB stops asking “well, can you prove it isn’t something else? What else? I dunno, you’re the climatologists, you think it out”, and all the nutters coming on here with their “it’s a natural variation” or “It’s cooling” or “In the 70’s you said we would be freezing” and “It’s cold outside!! Where’s my warming!!!!” and all the other tripe that, like the bubble of air under the vinyl wallpaper will NOT stay down.

    Can I ask for that AND get it?

    The patience Gavin has shown to me and the respondents is the same as he shows to even the dumbest poster with the tired old excuses.

    Gavin doesn’t care if it winds me up.

    Why should he care if something winds you up?

  13. 663
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Mark, “Mea Culpa” will suffice. Most people come here to learn about climate. What they’re saying is we’ve been boring them to tears. Not everyone is interested in particle physics, and there are places those that are (like you and me) can go to discuss it.

    So, Arch, beg pardon. However, I’m sure it (digression) will happen again.

  14. 664
    Arch Stanton says:

    -sigh- (but no yibbering)

  15. 665
    jcbmack says:

    LOL, Ray, I enjoy old papers…I have a collection of Britannica so old, the articles are actually written by Bohr, Eisntein and so forth. I like seeing Mark wound up, it gets interesting actually and this is an older thread where we are not disturbing others, at any rate, Ray I am interested in what titles you have in your library, perhaps I missed one or two good ones:)

  16. 666
    jcbmack says:

    Absolutely, let me know if you guys wan tot continue elsehwere.

  17. 667
    jcbmack says:

    Light has been slown down and stopped:

    Still cannot tell us whether we can find mass, utilizing two lasers.

  18. 668
    Hank Roberts says:

    The first method:

    “in effect, was imprint the information carried by photons into spin patterns in clouds of atomic gases … and then reconstitute the pulses as desired”

    The other methods vary the medium–the photons are moving at the speed of light in that medium.

    A similar method — photons still moving at the speed of light _in_the_medium_:

    “Bose-Einstein condensates have optical densities such that the speed of light passing through the mass is extremely low – walking speed as opposed to its usual 186,000 miles per second.”

    and he cites a classic everyone should know:

    The solar sail experiments so far haven’t deployed properly, so we’re still waiting to see this work:

    Just saying, whatever the mass is, it’s less than a molehill per photon.

    ReCaptcha: “glasses duplex”

  19. 669
    Hank Roberts says:

    Throwing slabs of raw meat, I mean math, into the physics den:

    A Tutorial on the Basic Physics of Climate Change

    The following article has not undergone any scientific peer review, since that is not normal procedure for American Physical Society newsletters. 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.”

    By David Hafemeister & Peter Schwartz

    Abstract: In this paper, we have used several basic atmospheric–physics models to show that additional carbon dioxide will warm the surface of Earth. We also show that observed solar variations cannot account for observed global temperature increase….

  20. 670
    Mark says:

    Ray, 663. I stopped the conversation when you and Hank asked. Moved off into different areas. Then Arch comes along and says “I’m bored, can you do this somewhere else”.

    I figured that the rant I had had two purposes:

    1) An sidewise thank you to the patience of the owners of the site
    2) A swipe at the continued retreading over old ground that some even long-term respondents in this site mange to think worthy of repeating

    So I got to thank the nice people and slate the bad.

    Job well done, I thought.

    Mea culpa doesn’t apply. I’d stopped (though others wanted carried on) and people who don’t want to read it can, as I do with some people’s words, just, y’know, skip over.

    Saying “stop” fourteen times (exaggerated for effect)only adds thirteen messages that are redundant. A little ironic given the reason for saying “stop” is to remove redundant content from further posting.

  21. 671
    jcbmack says:

    Hank, yes you are right in this regard, a mass would be infinetesminal. Mark, enjoyed your posts, Ray let me know on those books and if you want to continue the conversation elsewhere.

  22. 672
    Hank Roberts says:

    Seriously, physics guys, have a go at the APS page:

    It’s not been peer reviewed (it’s a newsletter); it’s chock full’o’equations. It deserves a good going through by those of you who can really follow what they’re presenting and give the rest of us a review of it.

  23. 673
    jcbmack says:

    but, hey, world renowned climatologist Rush Limbaugh says global wamring is impossible, so we should all just relax (wink)

  24. 674
    Hank Roberts says:

    What? That’s _old_. I thought he went extinct?

  25. 675
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Hank, the piece by Hafemeister is sure a big improvement over that by the good Viscount. It’s pretty straightforward radiative physics, but it reads as if it’s a bit rushed–kind of like one of my old Mechanics prof’s lectures. It’s basically saying what I and others have said before: if you accept that CO2 is a greenhouse gas up to 280 ppmv, how do you get it to stop being a greenhouse gas above 280 ppmv. And if you reject CO2 as a ghg, how do you explain Earth being so far above its blackbody temperature. Still, it’s a little hard to cram a semester of planetary atmospheres into a 2 page essay.

  26. 676

    “but, hey, world renowned climatologist Rush Limbaugh says global wamring is impossible. . .”

    So is Rush, yet he still exists. . .

  27. 677
    jcbmack says:

    LOL Kevin. Hank, basically, that is the issue with many of these conversations, as Ray discussed briefly, if we throw up a few pages, there are a lot of questions asked that cannot possibly be covered and if we just throw up all the math and symbols, then few people get it. There are some interesting answers of how CO2 might stop or slow down as a green house gas above 280 ppm, however, that are even more compelling than this particular paper you referenced, but there are also far more thorough papers out there that tear apart any argument that CO2 stops or slows down as a ghg after that value, so it is still good to go to the textbooks for raw calculations and then more thorough papers from there.

  28. 678
    Hank Roberts says:

    > There

    Where? Are you saying you see this in the AIP doc I cited above?

    > are some interesting answers of
    > how CO2 might stop or slow down
    > as a green house gas
    > above 280 ppm

    Well, that’s the exact claim I’d like to see someone back up.
    Do you have some notion how that could happen from your own work?
    Can someone point to a published paper arguing this point?

    It’s not a trivial claim. It would change everything if it were
    to be true. We could all relax and go on to worrying about ocean acidification instead of global warming.

    But I keep seeing armwaving and nobody points to a published paper.

    Where does this story come from?

    ReCaptcha: “Turns attractive”

  29. 679
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Hank, I didn’t see anything that suggested CO2 would depart from assumed behavior. It is mainly saying CO2 can account for observed warming with a known mechanism, while solar variability cannot, despite suggestive correlations with sunspot number. We already know that there are also suggestive correlations with number of Republicans in Congress–which, given the La Nina and the election results, probably still hold.

  30. 680
    jcbmack says:

    Hank, I was not suggesting a departure from CO2 as a greenhouse gas above 280 ppmv or that the paper does, what I said and was referring to actually: is that there are some papers by climatologists that state it slows down or that negative feedbacks come into play with more potency than emphasized, but that the calculations from the textbooks alongside more thorough papers overwhelmingly evidence CO2 as a ghg, but then again a volcano could reverse the warming for awhile, that is well well documented and easily found in peer review. I am not a denialist or skeptic, I just follow data and calculations.

  31. 681
    jcbmack says:

    You see, if one who is an absolute lay person or first two year science major, takes a good general chemistry book (like Linus Pauling’s General Chemistry)and a decent one year Physics or applied physics texbook and read a few submissions from the moderators here at RC, they will have such a profound understanding beyond the average citizen or even most other climate bloggers. The reactions you asked about on the sites you posted Hank are utilizing first semester general chemistry and basic physics. The physics was covered in the first year of chemistry, so by the time an undergraduate student has one year of physics and organic chmeistry these principles are elementary and the reactions have been looked at and wriiten out hundreds if not thousands of times. A decent global climate systems book would also correlate well the rising CO2 warming based upon chemical reactions and basic phyics as well often in the same chapter. Some gen chem books give excellent real world reactions of several GHG’s after explaining their radiation trapping properties, hence why I stated, start with the quality, reputable textbooks, do problems from each chapter and read the related concepts then these sites become very comprehensible.

    Then if one takes upper division undergraduate courses towards a bachelors in the right school (does not need to be ivy league or expensive, this is a myth) with the right teachers, the porfessors use textbooks from Oxford used in graduate school and teach the undergraduate like graduate anyways, but the students pick these teachers because they are among the best. After that, masters work is a breeze, after the cast of characters who teach you, all these reactions are very very simple.

    In my own work, Hank there have been times where I Believed global warming to perhaps be an over emphasized issue, and in some cases it is, especially when the media gets involved, either it is a catstrophic end we will meet in just a few years or it is nothing to worry about at all, rather we need to take things in proper context. AGW is real, is serious and we need to promote change, but the global reality does not allow to to occur smoothly at all, but we DO still have time even with the long life of CO2 in the atmosphere and the lag phase, etc…

    That is why it is dangerous to consider one on a side, though those who work in the study of and know that there is warming also need funding and by default have political enemies, this is the nature of being human… the science must continue to unfold. I personally walked away from research for a long time because I was disgusted and burnt out from the politics and constant funding issues and interns-assistants boching up experiments, oh and Hank just a reminder it is VERY competitive and cut throat in both industr and academic research. Mount Sinai and Stonybrook do not like new undergrad reserachers who know more and can do more than the “seasoned post doctoral trained heads of the given research.” The little chat with Mark, ray and myself was nothing, sometimes people will sabotage your work to stop you from getting results and try and hide key manuals for a given procedure and so forth… I like teaching, but I am working on a project again, we will see how time and funding go.

  32. 682
    Hank Roberts says:

    Thanks, Ray, that helps.

    > there are some papers by climatologists that state it
    > slows down or that negative feedbacks come

    JC, cites to those papers you know about would be welcome. I haven’t found any such.

  33. 683
    jcbmack says:

    Hank, you seem to have a knack for finding references, but I will help you get your start: on there are those who interpret satellite data to no indicate global warming increases due to GHG. On scholar there a few references to research that indicates GHG may have an upper limit and the natural system offsets most of not all affects, and things like El Nino and La Nina will act has valves in a sense. What this really means in reference to most of the data, especially from peer review and even respected non peer review research is that there is a global warming trend due to AGW, but it is slow and gradual process, not the sudden fast process some people assume. I also think Hansen’s coefficients, tipping point predictions are drastic, but this does nothing to say that AGW is not a serious issue, it is and that is what I tell all my students and why I come here to RC, but it is never as cut and dry as people assume. The research on natural cooling events is all over the internet and in thousands of books literally, so if we get hit the right volcanic eruption or some other natural disaster, AGW will be less serious of an issue ephemerally or in a more serious event, not a concern at all, that is a fact. We have to reduce fossil fuel emissions but we also face the threats of HIV, malaria, obesity and wars.

  34. 684
    Hank Roberts says:

    No, JC, I’m asking YOU for YOUR references.

    You claim the papers exist. Where, please?

    Don’t ask me to find references to support your statements. I don’t do “pony here somewhere” searches.

    I do homework help, but only with a letter from teacher explaining the need. Then, gladly.

    If you’ve forgotten but you’re sure you remember they exist, try the reference librarian at the college.

  35. 685
    Hank Roberts says:

    And, seriously, I’m not trying to hassle you. Your statement was specific — I thought you’d seen a paper about a change at 270ppm, so I asked for your source.

    If you’re stating your own conclusion, you’re entitled to your own opinion. No worries, either way. It’s useful to the reader to know the basis for the claim.

  36. 686
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Jcbmack, can you cite specifics? I know of no research by NASA, NOAA or any other US government agency (or anyone else, for that matter) that indicates any change in forcing due to ghg. I do know of recent research that indicates increased outgassing from peat bogs in the permafrost (or former permafrost) of Siberia–a possible indication of one of Hansen’s tipping points.

    The only experiment that would definitively answer the energy balance question was scuttled by the current administration–aparently nonenquiring minds do not want to know. Until we have a specific cite, we can’t comment on whatever you are referring to.

  37. 687
    jcbmack says:

    I know you are not trying to hassle me, here is the point, you are inquisitive, but you need more of background, only then can you interpret for yourself, it is like when Jim picks up a Pchem book, but does know physics or chemistry, if anything I am trying to help you obtain the education you seem to want. There exists some good literature, mostly poor, I am not of the opinion that AGW is not serious or that above 280 ppm that CO2 is not a GHG, but there is some data showing that it is not as serious as others state. The rest YOU must calculate it is not hard to do.

  38. 688
    Tom Dayton says:

    jcbmack wrote: “on there are those who interpret satellite data to no indicate global warming increases due to GHG.”

    “”? Really? That’s a specific as you can be? You might as well have said instead “on the internets tubes.”

    I can be more specific, easily. How about the Earth section on You can get there by clicking on the picture of the round thing labeled “Earth” on the right side of the home page.

    There you can find only stories supporting the role of GHGs, such as the one about water vapor:

    “’This new data set shows that as surface temperature increases, so does atmospheric humidity,’ Dessler said. ‘Dumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere makes the atmosphere more humid. And since water vapor is itself a greenhouse gas, the increase in humidity amplifies the warming from carbon dioxide.'”

    “Specifically, the team found that if Earth warms 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, the associated increase in water vapor will trap an extra 2 Watts of energy per square meter (about 11 square feet).”

  39. 689
    jcbmack says:

    I will get you some citations later in the week, I do not want to be taken out of context, I have not jumped ship on the AGW issue, I also would like to see bloggers acquire basic chemistry, physics and math skills so they can interpret the charts, calculations, and reactions themselves, but I will get those citations up based upon satellite data, observations, and climate mechanisms, but yes these books, journals and research projects do exist in virtually every scientific agency and organization to some degree.

  40. 690
    jcbmack says:

    LOL, this is is going to get interesting and fun I see… First read every word in this article and pay close attention to the flat increases in the 1970’s despite higher CO2 levels, also look at the uncertainties of the duration of CO2 sinks, rising aerosols even currently and cooling affects of black carbon while CO2 goes up and other GHG forcings create mixed results in global mean temperature readings as CO2 gets higher, cloud formations change and dimming processes are considered briefly and other climate processes and uncertainties are alluded to:

    Now again read every word and look at all charts which show several scenarios, uncertainties and make: assumptions about reductions of CO2, aerosols and GHG in general (different take and presentation than the first reference, but look at the assumptions made and uncertainties not known to make such assumptions along with pre suppositions, a good set of possibilities, but may still be over confident in some assumptions)

    Now read this which though is not from NOAA, I found directly through the NOAA site, and they support the posting of this opposing account of many climate scientists, whether they agree as an agency remains to be seen, but this is not from wikipedia or a blog etc:

    Beyond this any climatologist knows that any serious natural offset by nature could provide a positive or negative feedback to CO2 and/or other GHG and forcings could greatly change short term conditions or even become the progenitors of a different climate trend. I do not doubt the Earth is warming overall for the last 30 years and that we must reduce all fossil fuel emissions, and that ill health effects of such gases and the chemistry and physics of GHG points in the direction of severe warming (net effect) a few decades from now,however, we must never allow ideologies replace the science and inquiring about what we do not know and to find more accurate and when we cam, precise answers, both qualitatively and quantitatively.

    But many claim that even lowering emissions now, we will see warming into 2100:

    I cannot find the specific satellite data now I was referring to, but I will soon.

    Again, we must follow science and discuss openly uncertainties and even entertain others claims to get through the myths, lies, inaccuracies, opposing data sets and show with the weight of evidence based and repeated data why we are very confident these trends are real, not just pat each other on the back and say “we are right,” and live in gloom, “we are doomed!”

  41. 691
    jcbmack says:

    Tom, you need to read my other posts, I think you are taking me out of context.

  42. 692
    jcbmack says:

    Interesting side note:

    Reconstructed 60 Million Year Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Concentration Data
    Entry ID: NOAA_NCDC_PALEO_2003-069

    [ View Full Record ] [ Get Data ] [ Update this Record ]
    Knowledge of the evolution of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations throughout the Earth’s history is important for a reconstruction of the links
    between climate and radiative forcing of the Earth’s surface temperatures.
    Although atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations in the early Cenozoic era
    (about 60Myr ago) are widely believed to have been higher than at present,
    there is disagreement regarding the exact carbon dioxide levels, the timing of
    the decline and the mechanisms that are most important for the control of CO2 concentrations over geological timescales. Here we use the boron-isotope ratios of ancient planktonic foraminifer shells to estimate the pH of surface-layer sea water throughout the past 60 million years, which can be used to reconstruct atmospheric CO2 concentrations. We estimate CO2 concentrations of more than 2,000 p.p.m. for the late Palaeocene and earliest Eocene periods (from about 60 to 52 Myr ago), and find an erratic decline between 55 and 40 Myr ago that may have been caused by reduced CO2 outgassing from ocean ridges, volcanoes and metamorphic belts and increased carbon burial. Since the early Miocene (about 24Myr ago), atmospheric CO2 concentrations appear to have remained below 500 p.p.m. and were more stable than before, although transient intervals of CO2 reduction may have occurred during periods of rapid cooling approximately 15 and 3 Myr ago.


    Abstract. The radiative balance of the Earth is influenced
    strongly by radiative cooling associated with emission of
    radiation by water vapor at far-infrared (far-IR) wavelengths
    greater than 15 μm and extending out beyond 60 μm. The
    distribution of water vapor and cirrus clouds and associated
    far-IR radiative forcings and feedbacks are well-recognized as
    major uncertainties in understanding and predicting future
    climate. Despite this fundamental importance, far-IR emission
    (spectra or band-integrated) has rarely been directly
    measured from space, airborne, or ground-based platforms.
    Current and planned operational and research satellites
    typically observe the mid-infrared only to about 15.4 μm. The
    Far-Infrared Spectroscopy of the Troposphere (FIRST)
    project is an investment by NASA through the Instrument
    Incubator Program (IIP) to develop a space-based capability
    to measure the infrared spectrum to 100 μm.


    Direct aerosol forcing is considered as the radiative
    flux including the effects scattering, absorption, and
    emission by aerosols, minus the flux without aerosols. The
    magnitude of direct aerosol forcing – and especially its
    anthropogenic component – is uncertain (IPCC, 2001).
    Like trace gases, aerosols affect the planetary radiation
    balance at TOA. Absorption of SW by aerosols a yields a
    larger forcing at the surface; this can also potentially spin
    down the hydrological cycle (i.e., Liepert et al., 2004) and
    have impacts quite different from those of increased CO2.
    A climate model simulates the response to a given forcing.
    In part because we do not know the correct aerosol forcing
    (natural and anthropogenic) of recent decades, it has not
    been possible to rigorously validate any model simulation
    of global mean tropospheric temperature spanning the same

    General Discussion:

    Now I read every word and looked at every chart in these citations, I am not saying they disprove warming by anthropogenic means, but look at what they highlight as unknown, uncertain, attempted to find, changes in natural systems and forcing perturbations and uncertainties about future CO2 forcings based, not only on aerosols, (black carbon being one cooling agent)but also on CO2 sinks in the past, present changes and future variables.

    There are thousands of articles indicating warming of high caliber, however, there are candid admissions in many of them and as you will see some literature that clearly indicates changes in GHG forcings over time even as levels go up beyond the knowns (e.g; lags, energy distributions, sinks, weather systems, negative feedbacks) (and there are also uncertainties in the aforementioned e.g.)and in what we already discussed in the model uncertainties.

    Again, not a skeptic or denialist, but I do look carefully at what is said, looked at, known, unknown and well attributed.

  43. 693
    jcbmack says:

    Finally, and I will shut up so others may comment extensively: we have so much we need to know about paleoclimate itself and concerns about our own activities which have never existed before on this planet so we do not know exactly what to expect despite tremendous and well carried research from many organizations of impeccable reputations.

  44. 694
    Cugel says:

    jcbmack : The link provided by the NOAA to the the Senate Minority Report is in no way an endorsement. As a government institution they are more-or-less obliged to provide it. The Report is, in fact, nonsense.

    For an ongoing discussion of the latest version of it see

  45. 695
    Ray Ladbury says:

    OK, maybe I’m being dense here, but I do not see any sort of dissent from the consensus position. If anything, I see strong support of it–even in the Senate minority report, since I can’t think of anything Inhofe has ever been right about.
    Yes, there are uncertainties in our understanding of climate. No, they will not save our tuckuses from our own stupidity by offsetting our changing greenhouse forcing.
    It seems that you acknowledge climate change as a credible threat. Once a credible threat is identified, it is simply irresponsible to look upon uncertainty as doing anything but exacerbating the threat. So let’s look at some of the potential threats posed by climate change, their credibility and the uncertainties associated with them:

    Sea-level rise–credible–magnitude somewhat uncertain

    Ocean acidification–credible–some uncertainty over when effects become dangerous

    Increased severe storm activity–credible–significant uncertainty remains over how severe things could get

    Feedbacks–credible–most known feedbacks contribute positively and will exacerbate climate change; some uncertainty when they kick in

    Spread of tropical diseases and pests–credible–significant uncertainty

    More severe heatwaves–credible–significant uncertainty

    decreased agricultural yield–credible–significant uncertainty

    and so on. Wherever you see significant uncertainty, from a risk perspective, that means things could be worse than we thought. It means you cannot bound risk. It means that immediate action is required to better understand the threat AND in parallel to mitigate its potential consequences. While I know you don’t deny the reality of climate change, I think it is important to avoid the impression that uncertainty gives us any cause to be sanguine.

  46. 696
    Phillip Shaw says:


    In comment #677 you made a clear and unambiguous claim: “There are some interesting answers of how CO2 might stop or slow down as a green house gas above 280 ppm”. That is not a claim that CO2 levels may change under various scenarios, or that other climate forcings may offset or exacerbate the effects of CO2. That is a claim that above 280 ppm CO2 does not behave as climate scientists, physicists, and chemists have determined it to behave. That’s a pretty bold claim.

    You were asked very politely to provide cites to support your claim and all you have done is waffle. The cites you provided don’t support your claim in any I’m able to see. And, yes, I’ve read every word as you instructed. And using a patronizing tone with Hank, Ray, and others doesn’t impress me, either. They have complete credibility with me and, I believe, many other RC readersbased on their track record.

    So all you’ve accomplished with your claim and subsequent comments is to diminish you own credibility. To paraphrase the old saying about reputations, credibility can take years to build and only moments to destroy. My suggestion is to quit waffling and admit your claim was unfounded and wrong.

  47. 697
    Hank Roberts says:

    Giving sources is the difficult, routine, habit basic to writing for publication in journals. Most academics know they should and know how. Those who haven’t published, often, are hung up about doing it.

    Remember — it’s us ordinary readers who need to do this. People who want cites from the scientists blogging here about their fields can look for them in their published work! They _have_ the established credibility — their sources _are_ published with their work. Or if not, they’re going outside their fields, and need to make the effort.

    It’s not the scientists blogging about their own fields who need this kind of nitpickery in blog posts. It’s the rest of us amateurs.

    It’s not easy — and it’s rarely even encouraged. Robert Grumbine does a great blog encouraging posts with cites.

    Doing this is hard. It takes time to build your own list of what you read that was memorable. Once you do, you can post about it credibly. Start early, do it regularly.

    Careful readers who try to rise to the level any published scientist attains as a matter of course find it’s a high bar. It’s worth it.

    For others just starting to read in science, there’s a routine (dull boring routine) you can develop that helps. The key is to develop your reference list over time, every day. Might as well start now, and figure in a year you’ll be up to speed for this kind of thing.

    Noting sources (whenever reading, all the time). Carry notepad and pen.

    Checking them (not just remembering something and paraphrasing)

    Citing (whenever writing)– to the journal editor’s standard, so anyone reading can find them.

    Think of the help you get when you read.

    Think of the most helpful sources — who give accurate quotes, that don’t skew meaning by elision, quote with context, cite accurately and to both primary publications and, if those are paywalled, to copies freely available.

    Think of the help you get from a reference librarian. Emulate that.

    This is not easy even when writing for journal publication. Those who have published _have_ made it very easy for the readers — we can look up their publications, read their websites where they often make copies freely available of work the journals have paywalled.

    This is why the real scientists blogging about their own areas don’t need to cite every little statement here. They have credibility in their publications.

    Why bother?

    Look up “Fast Company” magazine, July-August 2008, the article on Vinod Khosla. He’s working on an article he hopes will be accepted by a peer-reviewed journal.

  48. 698
    jcbmack says:

    LOL, Ray, Hank, and Cugel, I understand the importance of citations, what I am saying is if you read each published paper not only do you find questions about magnitude in the past, present and future predictions, but you see uncertainties in natural system responses to man made forcings and other natural vraibilities as well, it is clearly stated. You have to READ them in their entitirety, but even the abstraccts reveal much. As CO2 goes up and interacts as a forcing to water vapor, some water vapor also acts as a cooling agent, as the CO2 goes up so too do aerosols, even presently if at a lower rate than the seventies, as CH4 goes up we several unknowns we are still trying to work out as well. I see several examples from my citations that not only allude to uncertainties about future consequences of CO2 as a foricng agent that will bring about catastrophic global warming, but I also see mentions and data showing that the system may smooth out most of the perturbations, (though this could bring about and has already brought about, droughts, more rain in less rainy demographics, changed even some microclimates, the overall trend may actually go back to a net cooling phase and CO2 may not end up being a long term radiative trapping agent for long periods of time as has clearly already happened in part from sinks, which coudl once again reverse much of the GHG’s for a considerable amount of time, since we already know it has recently)through chaotic weather repsonses and the long term climate may actually reduce in warming trend or even go flat once again has it already has.

    The natural physical chemical properties of CO2 is to abosorb IFR and for it to re emit it back to a great degree, but as all of the papers I Cited do state, the system does respond in ways that reduce this, espcecially as CO2 goes up (as many of these papers show) there are strong potentialities and historical record and strong correlations made attributed to reduced warming trends, even if temporary that are related to CO2 and natural responses and to co emuissions of other GHG’s and aerosols right along with it, Now predictions have made by all the literature and AGW is attributed and strongly evidenced ot be real, but not any less than real than less and zero net warming over decades in both modern and paleoclimate proxy data. We simply do not know many things as all the peer reviewed data reveals, as Gavin and others stated in their interview etc…

    Hank, here you are out of your depth plain and simple. Cugel, never spoke with you so I suspend all judgements, and Ray, clearly you are someone who has knowledge and experince, but I know based upon your responses that you did not read these papers carefully (whether you were tired, working, out of time etc…) because if you did, and as an honest and objective scientist you would see everything I mentioned in these articles. There are others even more direct, but let us see if we can talk our way through these first (there are many articles published in Nature, and I still need to find that 1997 report I believe on contradictory satellite data.)

    I believe based upon the data that the net effect of warming based upon the trends is real and we rose by about 0.6 C since 1850, (some say as high as 1.1 C in the field, others claim as low 0.3 or so in the field) and what supports this in general is the satellite data, models in hindsight, empirical observations, but we really still have a lot of controversy as to the magnitude as Ray pointed out, based upon what localized data sets are emphasized, what coeeficients are used, what multiplier, how are the major flaws in the models going to be dealt with, how are the agreements along the central theorom holding up after major randomization ensembles and studies.

    I am not joking when I say I have read thousands of peer reviewed papers in climate science in their entirety, and have read 3 dozen books and I own all the science books and math books to make and check most calculations, but some major gray areas are not answered, and then this us and them memtality, it has done nothing to solve the issues at hand or to narrow the margins of error still so critical.

    I realize that modern climatology is in its infancy and it provides work for thousands of people and that with the state of physics as it is the and need for solid physicists in the field anyways it makes good economic sense, common sense and scientific sense, but there is much work to still be done.

    Hank, I could cite all day for you, but what you really need is two years of physics, chemistry and mathematics to understand the citations, and Hank I know you have a good background so let us have a discussion not a cherry picking event, I do not care if we disagree,but read the papers and look at how magnitude differences and natural system response (besides internal variability) may copunteract and has counteracted the net forcings of CO2 as it became higher, it is all in the citations.

    Admittedly I do not make a living in climate science, but betwwen three universities, my tutoring business and my coursework I understand it and I want a serious discussion, at the other side lies more warming trends of net impact and dourghts, there is the long term answer, but we also blog for the skeptic and denialist who, even where a minority of them have the proper education have not received a thorough answer.

    I am not just saying the well known adage from epdemiology:
    “correlation does not equal causation,” though the argument if thought completely through could be made quite well, (though I have met no contrarian do so successfully as of yet, it seems though who know can do this best)I am saying look at actual real world occurrence over and over again when CO2 gets higher and higher after lag periods we still get some interesting results, and these lag periods are not exactly quantified either.

    What I am proposing is an honest appraisal and circumscription, the case against and for AGW as a major catastrophic agent in the reasonable future (50-100 years tops)and its actual affects now.

    The coral reefs are dying CO2 is changing ph, yes I know, but other life forms are thriving, (not just poison ivy)those pink flamingos are still eating plankton out of waters posionous to most living orgamisms and new life forms have popped up (many antibacterial microorganisms) in extremely filthy and polluted waters which offset the affects of anitbiotic resistant bacteria.

  49. 699
    jcbmack says:

    More direct references not from NASA or NOAA: (yes sponsored by industry)

    But this counters these claims:

    But here is a legitimate paper from physical scientists:

    Legitimate Book not sponsored by coal and energy industry or NASA: many sink doubts depsite strong belief based upon evidence:

    The Terrestrial Biosphere and Global Change By Brian Harrison Walker, Will Steffen, Josep Canadell, John Ingram

    CO2/H2O and orbitally driven climate variability over central Asia through the Holocene

    References and further reading may be available for this article. To view references and further reading you must purchase this article.

    Andrew B.G. Bush,

    Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, 126 Earth Sciences Building, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, T6G 2E3
    CO2/H2O and orbitally driven climate variability over central Asia through the Holocene

    References and further reading may be available for this article. To view references and further reading you must purchase this article.

    Andrew B.G. Bush,

    Available online 19 January 2005.

    Small variations in Earth’s orbit have a direct impact on global climate with the greatest changes occurring over large land masses such as Asia. Orbitally driven climate signals are therefore likely to be identifiable in climate proxy records derived from sediment sections in the continental interior. Proxy records derived from temperature-dependent variables are also likely to display a signal due to temporal variability of atmospheric CO2 and related climatic parameters such as water vapour content. To determine the magnitude of climate anomalies associated with shortwave and longwave radiative forcing over Asia, a suite of numerical atmospheric simulations is performed that spans most of the Holocene (from 10,000 to 2500 years BP) at 500-year intervals.

    Over central Asia, the amplitude of the summer–winter seasonal cycle is greater than today in all simulations but exhibits two distinct maxima at 9000 and 6000 BP. Simulated precipitation and snow accumulation over central Asia are markedly higher during the early mid Holocene and are oscillatory, exhibiting peaks at 8000–7500 and 4500 BP (the Atlantic and Subboreal times, respectively). CO2/H2O forcing and orbital forcing combine to drive temperature oscillations over central Asia which, in turn, regulate relative humidity and changes in surface hydrology. Correlation between simulated results and proxy records from across Asia suggest that CO2/H2O and orbital forcing are dominant factors driving fluctuations of large-scale, central Asian climate through the Holocene.

    I am looking for a discussion, you asked for references, so first I gave the peer reviewed (excpet perhaps the senate one:)) and now I give you papers outside the mainsteam, since you did not read them, maybe you will read the more suspect ones and atleast a dialogue can begin.

    Another great book to read: Frontiers of Climate Modeling By Jeffrey T. Kiehl, Veerabhadran Ramanathan

  50. 700
    Hank Roberts says:

    Good luck. Bye.