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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. 751
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Alexander Harvey, Sorry to have given the wrong impression. No, I don’t believe climate sensitivity is an input. However, you can force the sensitivity to unphysical values by forcing other drivers, etc. When you do, the model becomes un-Earthlike.

  2. 752
    Hank Roberts says:

    > sensitivity

    Google search: climate model input various numbers for sensitivity
    Found among much else:

    Estimating Climate Sensitivity: Report of a Workshop (2003)
    Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate (BASC)

    “… workshop participants agreed that they had to work with, at the very least, two different definitions of climate sensitivities ….
    When a speaker refers specifically to one of these definitions, it is noted as Seq or Str…..”

    “… When examining a large number of scenarios, modeling with a full climate model is too costly and time-consuming. Instead they rely on reduced-form climate models in which climate sensitivity is an input assumption ….”


    > unearthly output

    (Just one example I recollected, from the right hand sidebar links)

    Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society
    May 1, 2005

  3. 753
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Thanks, Hank. I think that’s consistent with what I meant to say and with Alexander’s correction of my failure to say it clearly.

  4. 754
    Bob North says:

    wmanny – My dictionary defines laconic as “terse” or “concise”. I think this is the word RichardC was looking for.

  5. 755
    Richard Chandler says:

    This comment, along with others on this thread, is completely off topic, nevertheless I beg the moderators indulgence once more.
    Wmanny, I feel I should come to my fellow RichardC’s defence. Being an English teacher you know that words in English frequently have shades of meaning. Personally, if I am uncertain of the meaning of a word I often use the “define” function in Google. Having done so in this case, I find the definition of the word “laconic” to be very similar to my plea that communications should be clear and concise.
    As a frequent visitor to this site, I have noticed that some contributors are less reticent than others. For one, (and I’m not talking about you), who claims to be some sort of scientific polymath with significant responsibility for educating our next generation, it should be common courtesy and second nature to construct his arguments in clear, unambiguous language. None of us are that important that our thoughts and comments should be offered to the rest of the world without at least some form of rudimentary, self-imposed quality control.

    I get the feeling I’ve just set myself up here.

  6. 756

    #740 Phil. I rather follow long Wave radiation down welling, but North Pole Station is about to hit the sea:

    Even in darkness +250 W/m2…..

  7. 757
    wmanny says:

    Bob and Richards C, the point of my nitpicking was to encourage us to pay attention to what jcbmack had to say rather than to dismiss it on grammatical technicalities. That “laconic” is not the ideal synonym in the pack does not mean I misunderstood what RichardC meant, just as jcbmack’s somewhat discourteous style does not dissuade me from considering his arguments or references. Ray, too, can be somewhat overweening in his presentation from time to time, but that does not mean his ideas are no good. As one lay reader, I have grown to find it a reasonable trade-off to endure RC’s main players’ occasional pomposity in exchange for the opportunity to grapple with the conflict of their ideas.

  8. 758
    jcbmack says:

    Ray Ladbury, Hank Roberts, Tom Dayton, Richard Chandler, Phil Felton, other posters, and all the moderators here at RC thank you for all your comments, objections, questions, criticisms, patience and even lack thereof. Here I type slowly and as succinctly as possible post my points, responses, arguments and what the data seems to indicate as I see it as a scientist and educator, and as a person in response to minor trivialities.

    (1.) CO2 is a green house gas which needs to be reduced by more stringent emission standards and is an important gas of continued studying as all the green house gases are, with varying properties that further lead to forcing and feedback mechanisms which changes climate and has led to an overall net effect of global warming.

    (2.) Water vapor is the most potent green house gas and CO2 exerts a positive change in atmospheric gas content absorption of infrared radiation which leads to trapping in more heat ultimately irrespective of semantics. Water itself, however, in each of its phases behaves as a reflector, absorber, (with high heat capacity) and thermal equilibrator of heat energy from sun light (made of photons) and infrared radiation. Water behaves as a cooling agent, not just a warming agent, or radiation absorber-emitter, (which can raise temperature) but also assists in keeping both local and global temperatures closer to the natural set point that took billions of years to evolve and of course which did vary greatly during Milankovitch cycles, (which influence ice ages, more ice, less heat content absorption by the Earth’s surface) changing trends in bacteria growth and diversity and total amount of such populations, (CH4 and NH4 production, Methane being a major greenhouse gas and ammonia a more minor, but still contributory one) along with plant life and other organisms. (biological diversity and biological mass in conjunction with Earth wobble and tilt and shape of its orbit and changing trends in the carbon cycle among several others)

    3.) Many low altitude clouds form which trap in radiation, as do high altitude clouds which reflect out radiation creating what is referred to as a heat budget or radiation balance. The formations are complex and dynamic and are not accurately modeled or well understood by any Global Circulation Models irrespective of any combination, 300 wiggles, 25 boxes or any summation of boxes of varying sizes. Proxy data provides some very good approximations, but do nothing in helping us predict future climate trends, consequences of warming or to what extent the warming will be with any significant level of confidence. The Global Climate Models do not make accurate predictions and in fact they are better used in hindsight in light of historical climate as opposed to paleo climate proxy inferences, though I support proxy data for a more full idea of, and potential for understanding very long term trends on the number of thousands of years, and not just 100-200 years, though really only the last 150 years carry very highly significant data we may currently apply to understanding the potential ramifications of anthropogenic global warming.

    (4.) The range of climate sensitivity that Ray Ladbury cites are possible. They are not necessarily likely, or more aptly put, more probable than a lower value range or higher one. The weight of evidence is not so clear on this issue as the literature is divided on this and some textbooks are far more liberal on this, while others are more conservative. Depending upon what scenario one assumes based upon past and current trends, various multipliers may be used and different global warming effects may be considered and inputed into computer models and thus graphed. No one really knows or can evidence, make more plausible, or prove what the global climate sensitivity actually is now or will be, since the paleo climate record and the historical one reveals many variables, contradictory results to what the GCM;s predict and to what many climatologists claimed in the 1970’s. 1980’s 1990’s to the here and now.

    (5.) We do not have a good idea of when the future levels of CO2 will actually be double that of the 280 ppm value of the pre industrial age and of course there were periods in global history when it it was far higher than today, not just 65 million years ago or so, though this is a good example, more applicable considerations must be discussed and further research, experiments and calculations must be made to know more relevant information in this regard.

    (6.) Most climatologists disagree with Hanson’s assertions including those moderators (by and large if not unanimous) here at RC, and even those who concur with his line of thought and interpretations urge caution in such views. Alarmists are no better for the science of climatology than denialists or skeptics. We must use the science, math and engineering as tools not doom sayer warnings. We should not be complacent, but we should not rush to get every available alternative energy source up and running (or at least try to, $) since some of them are actually big polluters and harmful to wildlife, and end up as emitters of green house gases directly and the carbon footprint of producing them and implementing them into infrastructure would be enormous to say the least.

    (7.) Since the heat waves of the 1980’s and 1990’s we have reduced overall emissions in this country as has much of Europe. We have also reduced sulfate emissions as well and have seen appropriate consequences of both cooling and warming, but overall the warming trend has slowed down and air pollution is lower globally, although China and other developing countries are burning coal and lots of gas as they exponentially advance their technologies due to some Westernization and resulting industrialization.

    (8.) The electric car was developed quite well in the 1970’s, but by the 1990’s it was being manufactured and partially marketed. (though not properly) The EV were zero emission vehicles, electric stations were easily placed at a fair price and people were even having electric battery chargers for these cars installed in their homes through their power outlet. The batteries and motors were quickly made more efficient, powerful and durable. After an ephemeral time period of batteries only getting 60-110 miles per charge for small vehicles, larger EV were produced and batteries were giving 300 plus miles per one charge. They are superior to the hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles and certainly more environmentally friendly than hybrid vehicles. Some of the EV vehicles were hitting 140 m.p.h. and even higher while some were accelerating from 0-60 m.p.h. in 3.5-5 seconds, and most were very affordable with similar charging costs to what the fuel costs were in the 1990’s. The car companies were afraid of a 6-9 month profit loss and the energy companies were afraid of losing billions in a 5-8 year time span. All because of Henry Ford and cheap oil the once more popular electric car was abandoned in the late 1800’s to the very early 1900’s. Our discussion on energy policies may have some complexities and difficulties economically and politically for car companies and the energy industry, but in the mid to long term it is very profitable due to great marketability and efficiency. We could have made major changes in the 1990’s where money would fuel the domestic economy, create new jobs, hire employees from the old industries, and lower greenhouse gas emissions by such a magnitude we would not now be having such a conversation that global warming is such a high priority in 2008. It is true that vehicles are not the main greenhouse gas emitters, it is the factories, but this paradigm shift would have led to some important changes in industrial manufacturing and maybe those windmills would have been placed a little sooner. (speculative on the last part, but it stands to reason.) Even if not, our emissions would be down by approximately 12-22% now.

    (9.) Hybrid cars get better mileage, but at 19 pounds or so of CO2 produced per gallon of gasoline oxidized, you can easily do the math. (this is general chemistry easily found how we know this) Politics does fight against reform and the science this is 100% certain.

    (10.) Now back again to negative feedbacks: water vapor changes cannot just be assumed to have only a warming effect alone and in fact empirical evidence shows that the GCM’s over state the warming effects of water vapor and neglect the cooling effects. If the positive feedbacks existed exclusively or almost as such, then the globe would have warmed by 3-7 degrees in a short period of time and we would indeed be in real trouble. Positive feedbacks do end up creating net warming, at least we know they have over the last 110 years or so for sure based upon the global mean temperature readings averaged over a period of several decades and looking at the properties of green house gases in the lab and seeing what has actually changed as the warming trend on the incline, especially when concavity up. Additionally spectroscopic data and real world empirical observations strongly support an overall warming trend especially between the beginning of the twentieth century and today. Keep in mind, however, that along that way global warming stopped dead in its tracks 2-3 times, (one of these was actually a cooling trend) global dimming led to a cooling effect. Some of the reasons were CO2 sinks, aerosols, (which began with a localized cooling and as weather patterns changed, winds carried aerosols, and sulfates were being co-emitted in most global regions in high amounts) changing cloud formations that most climatologists did not accurately portray or predict at first, and phenomena like hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanoes, El Nino, and La Nina specifically, but the planet has other natural responses, internal variability, and equilibration processes in the face of external forcing.

    (11.) CO2 does absorb high amounts of radiation at may bands contrary to what some dubious literature google searches turn up, however, there are limits sometimes not considered in papers and definitely the computer models in the light of the open system and dramatic changes in perturbations and so forth.

    In summary, AGW is real, in some ways detrimental, other ways beneficial, in the long run it is not a good thing globally to be certain, but we just cannot know or even strongly evidence that a tipping point will be reached at a given time period or that any catastrophe will occur in the next 50, 100, or 150 years that we cannot both prepare for and adapt to. Getting back to CO2 at 280 ppm in the atmosphere is never going to happen, it is not possible to have industry and do this, so wash that out of your minds. We cannot even stop form getting to 400-450 ppm, but we can stop CO2 level from doubling; scientifically and from an engineering perspective it is actually easy and practical, it is the industry forces and politics that prevents this just like it did in the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s.

    Negative feedbacks have always existed and do now. Paleo-climate data does show that many negative feedbacks existed which were emerging properties just like positive ones were and are, irrespective of whether the changes are naturally derived or artificial or more accurately for modern times, a synergy of the two types of climate influencers. If I were claiming that positive and negative feedbacks were exactly equal, then I could not claim that global warming was a real phenomenon or cause for concern, clearly I am concerned about it. All the greenhouse gases have specific properties that are heightened in their effects as they increase in amounts in the atmosphere and mix. Still, at periods after a lag phase and when CO2 level greatly increased cooling periods did occur and periods where no net warming happened for decades in the twentieth century, though overall since 1850-1900 warming has occurred and that value ranges between 0.4 degrees and about 0.8 degrees, though some estimates claim lower and higher values, both are not supported by empirical data and if they were warming would either not be a concern or more of a detriment right now.

  9. 759
    jcbmack says:

    la·con·ic audio (l-knk) KEY



    Using or marked by the use of few words; terse or concise. See Synonyms at silent.

    I am not an english teacher, but I did take 4 honors english papers and I made my living writing english papers before I received my degrees in addition to tutoring in science and math. I do, however, write disjointed and I certainly am not a professional typist, I am two fingered bandit.
    Oh and by the way ephemeral means temporary. Thorough last time I checked was spelled that way, it is easy to miss the o, a typo and through gets written out incorrectly by mistake.

    I do believe in proper education, but my disconnected posts which the moderators allowed gave me an opportunity to get people’s attention: Gavin;s Ray’s some skeptics, denialists and people I have never seen, or rarely seen here at RC. I anticipated debate, criticisms and even attacks, but here we have an opportunity to speak in scientific terms (as well as some of the political and economic issues along the way) and stop relying on certain premises in place of actual legitimate research and what we really evidence and in some cases know, do not know and can infer and not infer.

  10. 760
    jcbmack says:

    English “classes,” would not want that one word misplacement to obscure everything I said.

  11. 761
    wmanny says:

    Oh, well, since nobody else wants to dig: “laconic” implies brevity to the point of seeming rude, indifferent, or mysterious

    [note to the moderators: if you are so moved, let me know what was out of bounds in my previous post — would have been 757. — not sure what the offense was, but it’s your blog, which I do enjoy reading.]

  12. 762
    jcbmack says:

    I am actually curious about that myself since wmanny did email it to me, and it was not a response with inappropriate language, denialist rhetoric, and so forth. It was a simple request to listen to what I was saying despite typos and grammatical errors on my part. I too love this site and see AGW as a real issue with potential of great detriment and I expected backlash from bloggers, but I know that moderators are well aware of the uncertainties and global warming halts and reductions as is evidenced by their own work and interviews on top of my posts being accepted. The only posts thus far of mine not allowed were a handful of very inappropriate ones and that is completely understandable. Again one last time for my fellow bloggers; I am not an “alarmist,” “denialist,” or “skeptic.”

  13. 763
    Hank Roberts says:

    757 was showing in the thread by the time I read 761 late yesterday, I looked back at the time.

  14. 764
    jcbmack says:

    Thank you for pointing that out Hank my miss:)

  15. 765
    jcbmack says:

    References: key words: Global warming, History of the Automobile, Climate, cloud physics.

    Encylopedia Britannica: 1945 Automobile under A. Henry Ford under H.

    Literally every paper that can be found by Gavin on RC and google period.

    That book I always recommend: Global Climate Systems which has partial availability on Google Scholar

    NYLP public library or their e book feature, and is reasonably priced online. (history channel) key word automobile and internal combustion engine.

    The documentary narrated by Martin Sheen: “Who Killed the Electric Car?” (2006)

    any textbook that introduces atmospheric physics, does not matter here what author or title.

    The IPCC report (2007) the sections focusing on future predictions and some likely trends from history and paleo climate. Though the physics and chemisty are well outlined as well.

    Scientific Anmerican 3.0 the interview with Hansen and Gavin among other experts in plain english for scientists and scientifically literate non climate modelers or climatologists who do not work in the specific areas of paleoclimate and modleing and those people who are in college and need a basic breakdown of what we know do not know and what is likely and why.

    All the peer reviewed literature that I orignally posted which support AGW, but also cast light on unknowns and periods where CO2 is not warming at all and water vapor cools at points in time under discussed circumstances and phase changes of water are clearly explained in Atkins textbook in further detail.

    I have other references,but those are for my research project and the paper I am slowly working on for future review, I will keep you guys posted.

  16. 766
    David B. Benson says:

    Alexander Harvey (736) — Older GCMs did not work properly. See Weart’s history. By 1988 or so aok.

    Climate sensitivity is an emergent, measured property of climate models. Plug in the physics and some necessary approximation and see what you get.

  17. 767
    jcbmack says:

    Climatye sensitivity is an emerging property of the system and the models perform approximations that cannot be exact and the range is still quite wide, what saves them besides box dynamics is new data inputs (from past observations)coupled with more sophistciated computers to process them.The issue is we cannot model all the climate in the real world and in real time for all variables, we need the GCM’s to perform the necessary computations utilizing the physics, math and potential (and present-past) perturbations for various scenarios. conversely if we only had GCM’s or only satellites or only weathre stations we would really have no climate science in the first place. They are all important, but the margin for error does complicate matters and the noise must be teased from the signal, though in spectroscopy we have done a good job and have convincing data as already posted and cited for numerous times showing a warming trend partially due to CO2 and other greenhouse gases since 1850-1900.

  18. 768
    Hank Roberts says:

    From one of the good guys; this may be particularly of interest for those with math skills:

  19. 769
    Ray Ladbury says:

    jcbmack, the day job is demanding a lot of time right now. I will just say that I think your position on sensitivity is not supported by the data. You really can’t get a climate sensitivity less than about 2 degrees per doubling to produce an Earthlike climate, and the probability on the high side (more than 5, say) is always greater than that on the low end (1.5, say). 3 degrees per doubling is favored by most sets of evidence, and there are so many different strands of evidence that reject low sensitivity, that it’s not a real possibility.

  20. 770
    jcbmack says:

    Do the day job Ray, but you are in error here and several other points. It is possible that the sensitivity may end up on the high end or even higher than your high end quote based upon a RC release and some NASA data from a while back, but it is very possible for it to be on the low end as well. We also cannot know when the doubling might occur anyways, it is in flux as is the actual sensitivity. The data supports strongly that emissions throughout the country have lowered overall and that this may mean a different sensitivity. No one knows the exact sensitivity and the range may be as you say as there is data to support it,but that remains the subject of more research and paleo climate research by people like Hansen, Gavin and many others. Low sensitivity is possible.

    We are still in need of lowering emissions more and we need to bring back the electric car of course and lower factory emissions because we should not play with nature either, agreed there and air pollution and water ph changes are a here and now reality, but to show I am wrong about sensitivity in a well evidenced and as objective (as possible) manner you will need to wait until your job is less stressful, you review many data sets and cite them with your explanation why this is the only way, or very probable way it will end up, even modelers and mathematicians have doubts and great concerns.

    Also want to add with no sarcasm whatsoever, I respect you Ray, it is you, Mark and Eli that contribute to the scientific debate so well, and I get a lot of joy in these meeting of the minds and going over the science and mathematics of this behemoth of a subject matter.

  21. 771
    Phil. Felton says:

    #740 Phil. I rather follow long Wave radiation down welling, but North Pole Station is about to hit the sea:

    Yes that was interesting, unfortunately that buoy ‘took the plunge’ somewhere in the Fran Strait between Greenland and Svalbard last month! Hopefully they’ll set up another during the spring, three of the 9 buoys sank this year.

  22. 772
    Richard C says:

    I don’t follow. How can a change in emissions rate affect sensitivity? Isn’t sensitivity, delta temperature per delta concentration of GHG?

  23. 773
    Hank Roberts says:

    This from a few years ago is still good discussion on sensitivity numbers (click the link to EcoEquity in the sidebar for more by these authors)

  24. 774
    Richard C says:

    I phrased that badly, which is ironic given some of my recent posts.
    Isn’t the differential; delta T/delta GHG, a constant not a variable?

  25. 775
    Ray Ladbury says:

    jcbmack, Two of the better works I know of are by Annan and Hargreaves:
    “On the generation and interpretation of probabilistic estimates of climate sensitivity”


    “Using multiple observationally-based constraints to estimate climate sensitivity”

    I know of no recent work, nor of any evidence that favors a sensitivity below 2 degrees per doubling. Do you have any cites?
    I mean other than the recent efforts by Schwartz and Spencer. I think we can agree those have been so thoroughly shot full of holes they could be considered perforated. Lindzen’s outrageously low estimates are just that–outrageous. He’s never produced any evidence or calculations to back them up. Moreover, all of the studies I have seen have much more probability on the high side than the low. Less than 2 degrees is not considered credible by anyone still publishing.

  26. 776
    jcbmack says:

    Ray we agree on Schwartz and Spencer and Lindzen, I will get back to you after I re read your citations and do some further searching before I comment.

  27. 777
    jcbmack says:

    I am going to break my own general rules again becuase this covers both work from over a deacade ago and some work from this year. The general range is about 2.0 to 4.5, but several working experts do have data to support a 1.5-1,6 lower temperature (which is still not good) and a range of 0.9 and 2.9 with 99% confidence, and data to support a clustering around a 3.0 degree average of mosre conservative 2.0, however much recent work (past 2-5 years) has shown varying estimates based upon sound data.

    The problem is when I google climate sensitivity or use phrases like “peer reviewed literature on climate senstivity,” I get mostly non peer reviewed literature and unsubstantiated papers that think CO2 is safe and lowering it is dangerous. I will post citations from the authors at NASA and RC in the future, for this is the only safe way to discuss this without all the garbage on the internet.

  28. 778
    jcbmack says:

    Ray, I will be busy with work myself the rest of the week, but following your references and carefully reading them and doing some analysis of the math and a few quick calculations myself (I will be more thorough next week, right now out of time as well)I see that the recent publications peer reviewed and not, share great uncertainties in how to caluclate the probabilities of climate senstivity being at a certain range of values or being more a particular value. (low or high threshhold) (home page) (interesting discussion)

    The rest of the papers and discussion are all on James’s site. James himself summarizes a lower point as opposed to a higher point.

  29. 779

    JCB, use google scholar for your searches–it limits searches to scholarly sources (needless to say, this is not equal to infallible ones, but should ease a lot of your frustration.) I’m even finding things in my (rather obscure) research area of pitch-class set theory.

  30. 780
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Jacob, I’m surprised you give credence to Shaviv’s estimate. It’s been dealt with lightly here in RC and in the pieces referred to here:

    The other thing to consider: The lines of evidence that provide constraints on how low a sensitivity is reasonable are the same ones that restrict you on the high end. If you preserve the possibility that sensitivity is less than 2, you also preserve about an equal probability of 6 degrees per doubling. The consequences of such a high sensitivity are so serious that even if there is a small probability of such a sensitivity, it will dominate the risk. Annan, among others doesn’t believe this and has shown that even with thick-tailed priors (as opposed to uniform density Priors), you pretty quickly converge to 3 degrees per doubling. The problem is, of course, that you are still dominated by the Prior, and the results depend a lot on the location parameter of the Prior. It’s probably a mistake to say there’s “evidence” for low sensitivity. Rather, sensitivity of 2-2.6 can’t be ruled out with high confidence.

  31. 781
    jcbmack says:

    Ray that seems a reasonable assertion, but we really cannot rule out a lower or higher sensitivity.I actually agree that around 3 degrees C is about right, but it could “run away,” or slow down. At any rate I also need to pay bills, I look forward to continuing this conversation when I am better rested and have spent some time with the family, vacations is coming up, I will get back to you in a more detailed manner.

  32. 782
    Hank Roberts says:

    > we really cannot rule out…
    > it could “run away,”


    “… What has occurred on Venus is an example of what has been called the ‘runaway’ greenhouse effect. … There is no possibility of such runaway greenhouse conditions occurring on the Earth.
    … let us return to Earth!”

  33. 783
    RichardC says:

    Who knew the use of “laconic” could result in such a plethora of verbiage?

    The “seemingly rude or mysterious” was both a jab at jcbmack and a flip reference to my own post – made clear by the error of linking “spelling errors” (plural) to “seems”. It was all intended to emulate Japanese with a hint of hypocrisy. I like to play with words. My first book will be called “Quantum Magic 1004 2008”.

  34. 784
    Barton Paul Levenson says:

    Mark writes:

    But when it is there and traveling at C, it does have mass.

    No, it does not. If it had mass, it couldn’t travel at c.

  35. 785
    Barton Paul Levenson says:

    jcbmack writes:

    as an object approaches the speed of light it reaches infinite mass

    That was an old way to explain it that has unfortunately persisted into popular science writing. It’s probably impossible to eliminate it at this point, but I’m going to keep trying.

    Modern physicists say that it’s momentum that increases relativistically, while mass is invariant. This is because, under the old description, mass is different in different directions — you can even find old textbooks talking about “transverse mass” and “radial mass.” The change was made because mass is a scalar quantity and momentum is a vector. Keeping mass invariant and talking about relativistic momentum keeps things mathematically manageable and is a little more intuitive.

  36. 786
    Barton Paul Levenson says:

    jcbmack writes:

    I respect Ray’s background and most of his posts are impeccable, but he too got into a conversation he could not complete as did Barton with Mark and Mark digressed with Ray.

    I was gone from 12/09 to 12/16 because I was in the hospital having part of my digestive system removed. Now I’m back, spitting and snarling in all directions.

  37. 787
    Barton Paul Levenson says:

    jcbmack writes:

    No one knows the exact sensitivity and the range may be as you say as there is data to support it,but that remains the subject of more research and paleo climate research by people like Hansen, Gavin and many others. Low sensitivity is possible.

    Low sensitivity is possible. It’s just so unlikely in the presence of the masses of the evidence to the contrary that no one should spend any time bothering about it.

  38. 788

    Bonne santé, BPL, et bienvenue encore!

    (Just sounds better in French.)

  39. 789
    Phillip Shaw says:


    Sorry to hear you were in the hospital. Glad you’re back and writing, if only with a semi-colon. :-)


  40. 790
    jcbmack says:

    Barton welcome back, glad you are getting healthy and suffered no complications that have hindered you.My time is limited, but I will get back to you.

  41. 791
    jcbmack says:

    Ray, after a much needed nap and a re reading of this paper:;318/5850/629?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&fulltext=global+climate+sensitivity&searchid=1&F

    I have no argument against a 2 degree minimum or around 4.5 max with “finite probability,” of the temperature increase being greater than 4.5 after a doubling of CO2 above pre industrial levels in the atmosphere. I suspect it will be around 3.5 or a little less, but we shall see. You have been a good sport showing why it really cannot be lower than 2 degrees c. Thank you for your indulgence.

  42. 792
    jcbmack says:

    Barton #784, that is true.

  43. 793
    Tom Dayton says:

    Jacob (jcbmack), your last few comments have been much better insofar as having fewer words and more periods. More comprehensible, more enjoyable to read. More likely to be read.

    You might want to think about attending grad school, to gain some skills and knowledge that you (and anyone!) are unlikely to get from book learnin’.

  44. 794
    jcbmack says:

    I graduated from grad school and I teach, tutor and work as a college faculty member Tom… I have a background in physics and high level math with degrees in biology and chemistry. I get eccentric at times and like to hear other experts talk it out like Ray Ladbury and the moderators. Perhaps you should attend grad school?

  45. 795
    jcbmack says:

    Then again I would not like to assume, perhaps you did go to graduate school Tom, but time will tell. The real point that I make with these posts is to give denialists to get in the discussion which they did.And skeptics emailed me and through the correspondence we had a lateral conversation which also gave me an opportunity to show them how AGW is a real issue, poses future global events that need to be avoided and it also showcased lots of solid data through my conversation with Ray Ladbury. The issues of typographical errors and period placement issues comes from being in a rush 75% of the time. At any rate, I do see most of my posts are read as evidenced by some form of response and several emails.

  46. 796
    Mark says:

    BPL, is that right? But if you have a mass traversing fast in direction X, and you give it a push in the Y direction at right angles, it doesn’t have the result of a velocity change commensurate with the rest mass and force applied but one that is commensurate with the relativistic mass.

    IIRC it is how you can get the transverse lorentz contraction equation (with the square root in it) from that assumption, though it wasn’t the way he gained the result.

    Rest mass is invariant. At sufficient distance from the centre of the particle (one theory is that there is a cloud of virtual particles that constitute part of the mass of any object and one theory is that the Higgs Boson needs to be interacted with, which needs space to exist within, so you get fewer Higgs bosons “making” the mass if you get too close to the centre).

    Since relativistic mass has velocity in it, it becomes a vector. Mass doesn’t have to become a vector to overcome the issue you state.

  47. 797
    Mark says:

    #784. No, if it had REST MASS it couldn’t travel at c.

  48. 798
    Mark says:

    781. It “could” go massively up or down, true.

    Then again, we “could” make contact with an alien civilisation who will give us jump gate technology.

    Getting a sensitivity *this time* of less than 2C per doubling would mean that something unprecedented in the entire 4 billion history of the earth would have to happen.

    And everybody who says “It could be lower” don’t have a piggin clue about what it might be.

    Why would it be unprecedented? Because the mechanics and feedbacks that come in this time, if it were to result in less than a 2C per doubling sensitivity would have to be something that is unique to this period in earth’s history. Any available records show greater than 2C sensitivity. Before there were records, the ability of the earth to reconfigure itself was limited to a purely mechanical change. Biology has the option of optimising the environment to its own benefit (leaf litter decomposes and turns thin soil into more substantial soil that allows better growth of plants, as long as wind or rain don’t get to wash it all away before it can be fixed in place by the new growth.). Geology doensn’t.

  49. 799
    Barton Paul Levenson says:

    Thanks, guys.

  50. 800
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Jacob, I think you now see the point I was trying to make–that the same evidence that largely precludes a sensitivity below 2 degrees per doubling is even more critical for reducing probabilities of sensitivity more than 4.5 degrees per doubling. Thus, from a perspective of risk management, arguing that a low sensitivity can’t be precluded makes things much worse, because the risk winds up being dominated by the additional high-sensitivity probability such an argument entails.
    It’s much the same situation we have with the bete noir of the denialists–the hockey stick. If you argue that current warming is not exceptional, you are in essence suggesting that sensitivity is much higher than we now think.
    And of course, denialists love to argue that the models all suck. However, the models are essential to bounding risk, so if the models go, so do the bounds, and this opens us up to arguments that we must curtail emissions drastically to avoid the risk of catastrophic climate change.

    Moral: Ignorance is never your friend.