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A potentially useful book – Lies, Damn lies & Science

Filed under: — rasmus @ 29 March 2009

Lies, Damned Lies, and ScienceAccording to a recent article in Eos (Doran and Zimmermann, ‘Examining the Scientific consensus on Climate Change‘, Volume 90, Number 3, 2009; p. 22-23 – only available for AGU members - update: a public link to the article is here), about 58% of the general public in the US thinks that human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing the mean global temperature, as opposed to 97% of specialists surveyed. The disproportion between these numbers is a concern, and one possible explanation may be that the science literacy among the general public is low. Perhaps Sherry Seethaler’s new book ‘Lies, Damn Lies, and Science’ can be a useful contribution in raising the science literacy?

The book is about science in general and about how science often is miscommunicated in the media. It addresses a range of issues, such as how statistics often is misused, how scientific progress is made in general, that the ‘scientific method’ is not always as straightforward as one might like to think, the influence of stake-holders, the importance of knowing the context of the research, relationships between science and policy, and ploys designed to bypass logic. Many of the points made in the book are probably well known for the RC readership – albeit used in different situations to the case studies discussed in the book. There is also some discussion about AGW, amongst other subjects.

One little paradox is that the book claims (p. xx) that it will empower people of all ages and educational backgrounds to think critically about science-related issues and make well-balanced decisions about them. To me, that sounds like a big promise, and after having read the book, I started to wonder whether that statement is just the sort of claims it tries to make people become more skeptical about? Or maybe Seethaler really did succeed after all – because I saw how the arguments in her book could be applied to this promise?

The book touches on AGW, and does in general do a good job in my opinion. However, I cannot avoid bringing up some small details to pick at: The description of the greenhouse effect is not quite correct, as the reader gets the impression that it involves reflecting infrared radiation back to space (p. 84). That is not the case, as the energy from the sun lies mainly in the visible spectrum, and the infra red light from the Earth is a product from the absorption of the sunlight and a re-emittance due to Planck’s law.

Another point that I think is that the book discusses the controversy around AGW, but this can be a bit misleading. If you look in the climatological field, you may not see much controversy, but if you search the web, you may see something that looks like one. But I think that this controversy to a large extent is constructed out of thin air, an impression I feel is supported by Doran and Zimmermann’s, Eos article.

I get the impression that ‘Lies, Damn Lies, and Science’ has much in common with the older book ‘Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics’, and that they try to convey similar take-home messages.

‘Lies, Damn Lies, and Science‘ gives a nice collection of anecdotes and general tips. The book has a nice index and overview, so it’s easy to find your way through the book. I think the book is very useful for a lot of people – especially students, scientists, journalists, politicians, bureaucrats, and the voters.


335 Responses to “A potentially useful book – Lies, Damn lies & Science”

  1. 151
    Oliver says:

    Mark #133

    “Since this is all “virtual straw” and not “real straw” the properties of this virtual version does not have to accede to the limitations of the real kind. ”

    That’s a fine example of a strawman but it suggests that, just as you confused straw with hay, you confused ‘virtual’ with ‘figurative’.

  2. 152
    Hank Roberts says:

    Look, if Steve knew any he’d point them out. He’s just copypasting talking points without being able to cite sources. Familiar, eh?

  3. 153
    Mark says:

    “That’s a fine example of a strawman but it suggests that, just as you confused straw with hay, you confused ‘virtual’ with ‘figurative’.”

    Nope, a virtual strawman is still constructed. Just not in reality.

    Think “VR” enironments.

    Figurative straw can’t feed anything, since it’s just figurative. No matter how many times someone says “you’ll eat your words”. That being a figure of speech. Virtual straw can act like whatever the person who wrote the VR world wants it to. Which can include feeding cows etc.

  4. 154
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Steve says, “There are perfectly good scientists on the other side of this argument providing perfectly good objections.”

    Care to name them?

    [crickets chirping]

  5. 155
    Ike Solem says:

    On biased polling and scientific education…

    Did anyone actually read the Gallup poll questions? Commissioned just in time for the Copenhagen conference, too – but when I mention that to people, they accuse me of conspiracy theory… but first, read the actual questions:

    1) Thinking about what is said in the news, in your view is the seriousness of global warming

    a) generally exaggerated
    b) generally correct
    c) generally underestimated

    This is a very strange question – what is “the news”, after all? Are we talking about Fox News and the Examiner, which routinely deny all global warming facts? Are we talking about certain elements of the British press, who vastly over-exaggerated the “shutdown of the conveyor belt to freeze Europe” notion, which is not going to happen? Or are we talking about the weak coverage by large newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post, who still insist on giving “equal time” to organizations like the Heritage Institution and the handful of denialists still willing to repeat dishonest talking points? Are we talking about the “progressive media”, say Alexander Cockburn’s Counterpunch, which claims that global warming is a fraud designed by the nuclear and biofuel industries to overthrow “populist fossil fuels”? Are we talking about journals like Science and Nature, who provide accurate coverage of climate science, but who routinely bias their coverage of energy and pharmaceutical issues in favor of established industrial interests (for example, the generally uncritical support for nonsensical carbon capture schemes – Nature being rather flagrant on the issue). Did you see the big puff piece on Team Pielke in Nature, as well? No industry bias there, I suppose. I imagine most of you don’t know that Science had a similar issue with pharmaceutical and medical research in the 1990s – it took a lot of canceled subscriptions for them to rethink their pro-pharma industry biases, which they eventually did.

    2) I’m going to read you a list of environmental problems. As I read each one, please tell me if you personally worry about this problem: Global warming.

    a) a great deal
    b) a fair amount
    c) only a little
    d) not at all

    Now, it wasn’t just global warming – that was the last in a string of issues:

    1 Pollution of drinking water.
    2 Water pollution.
    3 Toxic contamination of soil/water.
    4 Supply of fresh water for households.
    5 Air pollution.
    6 Loss of rain forests.
    7 Extinction of plants and animals.
    8 Global warming.

    These questions are asked sequentially, and there is an interesting pattern of responses, in percentages:

    March 2008: 81 84 80 79 78 69 68 66
    March 2009: 84 83 80 80 76 68 65 60

    Notice the declining trend? That’s a standard pattern of responses. Hit the worry button once, you get a response – but keep on hitting it, and people get tired of it – and there is nothing to make people’s eyes glaze over like rattling off a long string of environmental problems – and then you just put species extinction and global warming at the end.

    Take a look at the first four questions, as well. Water pollution features prominently, doesn’t it? This is characteristic of push polling strategies, which involves the repetition of a specific question in different guises – in other words, anyone who wanted to raise awareness of water pollution would ask multiple questions on it.

    Global warming only gets one question.

    It really is as simple as that – reverse the order and give global warming four questions, and I think you would get a very different result, and many social studies bear that out.

    For example, here are the questions I would ask:

    1) Do you agree with predictions of a roughly 3C rise in surface temperature, due to fossil fuel combustion and deforestation?

    2) Do you agree with predictions of widespread drought across the subtropical regions as global warming progresses?

    3) Do you think that the observed melting of mountain glaciers, the collapse of Antarctic ice shelves, and the reduction in summer Arctic ice are evidence of current global warming?

    4) Do you believe that the basic science behind global warming is very well understood, moderately understood, poorly understood, or a complete mystery?

    That’s not an area of science that climate people know much about – but for the inside scoop, just read the outstanding desmogblog.com:

    http://www.desmogblog.com/

    It’s really disturbing to see otherwise intelligent people treating these poll results as an accurate reflection of American public opinion, in any case – but that’s life for you. People think that being an expert in one field makes them an expert in others, but if you haven’t done the hard work – reading the primary literature and the reviews, or getting hands-on experience – then you really don’t know any more about it than your average 19-year old college undergraduate does. Look up cognitive science on Google Scholar. Anyway, next question:

    3) Which of the following statements reflects your view of when the effects of global warming will begin to happen?

    a) they have already begun to happen
    b) they will start to happen within a few years
    c) they will start happening within your lifetime
    d) they will not happen within your lifetime, but they will affect future generations
    e) they will never happen

    4) Do you think that global warming will pose a serious threat to you or your way of life in your lifetime?

    a) yes
    b) no

    These two questions have a very limited spectrum of responses and are very vague – what exactly are the effects of global warming? I can list many effects that are current (ice shelves, glaciers, surface temps, ocean temps) and many that may not happen at all or that may happen later (superhurricanes, ocean anoxia, permafrost CO2 feedbacks, shallow methane hydrate CO2 feedbacks). Which one are you talking about? Second, what is a “serious threat”?

    Personally, I think that nuclear and biological warfare remain greater “serious threats” to human civilization than does global warming. This is because we have the technological capacity to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy and also to adapt to the inevitable 50-100 years warming that we face – and we can even preserve biological diversity as we go along, if we make it a priority. On the other hand, there is no technological defense against large-scale nuclear and biowarfare attacks, regardless of what government contractors in the missile defense and bioshield programs would like you to believe.

    Anyone who takes that poll seriously is not thinking clearly.

  6. 156
    steve says:

    [Response: “Perfectly good scientists” with “perfectly good objections”? Really? – gavin]

    Yes I think so. Do you mean to tell me that not one single scientist has one single objection to what you have concluded thus far that isn’t making you think things through one more time? Not even one?

    [Response: What “things”? That CO2 is greenhouse gas? That it is increasing due to human activity? that climate sensitivity is large enough for that to be problem? No, there have been no credible objections to those things. But if you want to include the impacts of aerosols on clouds, or the importance of ocean eddies in deep ocean mixing, or the difficulty in modelling tropical convection, I’m all ears. The former things are why this is a problem, the latter why we don’t know exactly what is going to happen. Our ignorance is not comforting. – gavin]

    #136 This seems like a basic violation of science to attach one form of measurement to another and make conclusions from it without first calibrating the two. Has the rate of sea level increases as measured by tide gauges also increased and if not you should be considering that you are in all actuality measuring two different things.

    #145 If you change the albedo of the earth you are changing the energy budget. When you change weather patterns you change the earth’s albedo. Ocean currents change weather patterns thus they change the albedo thus they change the energy budget. I have been trying to find a study that would indicate how much this would amount to but haven’t had much luck with that so far.

  7. 157
    Alastair says:

    I’ll start out by saying that I am a climate change denier. Although I am not a climate scientist I am well educated with a post graduate degree in chemical engineering and have published papers in scientific journals. I’m not claiming myself to be an expert in the field of climate, however as a scientific person, it is my job to be critical because science is all about being critical. The whole basis of climate change science I find to be highly over presumptuous and uncritical with too much trust placed in so-called “experts” or anyone who claims to be a “scientist”. As scientists, we must ask ourselves the question, “what would it take for the consensus on climate science to be prooved wrong”, if the answer to this question is “nothing”, then it’s not science but religion. I have done extensive reading in this area and have become a skeptic, my main arguments are as follows.

    1. The ice core data shown in Al Gores film shows that CO2 lagged behind temperature by about 800 years. This fact is agreed by scientists on both sides. Therefore CO2 must not have been the cause but the effect of the temperature changes. The counter claim to this by “consensus” scientists is that CO2 and temperature are shown to rise together with the CO2 having an amplifying effect on the temperature. While this may be a theoretically possible, there is no “proof” from the ice core data that CO2 has a significant amplifying effect on temperature, the amplifying effect may well be totally insignificant. You just can’t tell from the ice core data alone. Yet most “consensus” scientists present this “amplifying effect” as fact without robust scientific evidence to back it up.

    [Response: As always, correlation does not imply causation. Who said it did? However, if you at glacial climate and you try and work out why it was as cold as it was, our knowledge that CO2 and CH4 and N2O are greenhouse gases (derived from a hundred years of laboratory and field measurements) indicates that their decrease causes about 40% of the cooling during an ice age. They are therefore positive feedbacks to the cooling caused by Milankovitch forcing on the ice sheets. Gore was absolutely correct on this: it is more complicated than simple correlation, but without the (known) impact of the GHG changes you cannot explain the ice age cycles. – gavin]

    2. Mis-placed trust of unvalidated computer models. I say unvalidated because proper validation of any scientific model requires experimentation with the system that is being modelled. The problem with modelling the climate is that for obvious reasons, the climate cannot be experimented with. Eg, you cannot instantaneously release a trillion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere and see what happens. In scientific terms it’s called having a control. Ie, to know for sure what effect CO2 has on the climate would require two identical earths, on one earth you would release a large amount of CO2 and see what happens while on the other earth (the control) there would be no change in CO2. By comparing the two results you could determine scientifically whether CO2 is going to overheat the earth. This is the kind of due diligence that is required in science but for obvious reasons you cannot experiment with the climate in this way. This kind of due diligence and proper scientific method is required even for modelling very simple systems. As an engineer, I can tell you that without such due diligence, no scientific paper would get past the peer review stage and most certainly wouldn’t get published in any respectable journal. The fact that these papers are being published without the proper due diligence, makes a mockery of the quality control and peer review process in the climate science community. Just remember that the climate is probably the most complex system known to science with literally thousands of variables, without being able to do any experiments on the system that is being modelled, confidence in those models is pretty much zero. I should also mention that the “peer review” process is worthless without proper scientific method. Another reason not to trust the models is that they all predict there to be substantual warming in the atmosphere several kilometers above the earth’s surface. Since this warming has not been observed, this adds weight to those that say the climate models are worthless.

    [Response: You are out to lunch on this one. There are many sciences whose object of study does not fit in a laboratory. Cosmologists, astronomers, solar physicists etc. are these all non-sciences too? Of course not. The techniques to evaluate theories are however different. You need to find analogs either in space or in time – such as looking at other sunlike stars, or making predictions about data that hasn’t yet been gathered (even if the event happened billions of years ago). The same is true for climate science. There are plenty of instances of climate change in the past, and many aspects of climate that have not yet been measured. Theories of climate change should be able to predict and explain what will be found in these out of sample cases. And indeed they do. ]

    3. Data that shows “global warming” comes largely from ground based thermometers spread unevenly across the globe. We all know of the effects of the urban heat island effect. It is claimed that this effect has been accounted and corrected for but I am skeptical. The more you try to “correct” bad data the more uncertainty there is. You can’t correct for thousands of miscalibrated thermometers. You can’t correct for data contaminated because the thermometer was located near a heater. You can’t correct for the thermometer that was reading 5 degrees too high or 2 degrees too low. You can’t correct for that naughty man that made up six months of data because he was too lazy to take any readings. There are just too many unknowns to have any confidence in these ground based readings.

    [Response: Then ignore them and look at the satellite data instead, or the accounting of glacial retreat, or the ocean temperature records, or the changes in phenology. No data are perfect, but when all the data from independent sources and methods agree that the planet is warming, that’s a tough one to deny. – gavin]

    4. Satellite data has shown there to be no significant temperature rise in the last decade. See link:
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/05/02/a_tale_of_two_thermometers/.

    [Response: You are a scientist and you condone this kind of cherry picking? Oh please. – gavin]

    5. There is significant bias when it comes to extreme whether events. Europe has just had it’s coldest winter in many years but this is dismissed as an anomoly to the general warming trend. However, those same scientists will use the bushfires in Australia as “proof” of global warming. Even though the real reason for the fires was arson.

    [Response: Sigh, see here for a much more sensible discussion of the fires in Australia. – gavin]

    I expect that my opinions will generate a lot of abuse directed at me. But please try to have an open mind and accept that criticism is essential in science. Any scientific theory must stand up to criticism, climate change is no different.

  8. 158

    Thanks, Jeff–I suppose your response counts basically as a “no, you are not wildly off base,” even if your main thrust is that the question is irrelevant-to-absurd in the larger scheme.

    Unfortunately, the guy proposing the “ocean current cycle” idea seemed unwilling to accept the GHG physics as anything more than “a minor driver” of climate.

  9. 159
    Jim Prall says:

    On the question of open access scientific publications, I’ll recommend _Nature Reports: Climate Change_ hosted by the august journal _Nature_. This is a web-based publication, including climate-related news headlines, science reporting, and highlighted scientific results:

    http://www.nature.com/climate

    When I went back to get caught up there just now, I saw one headline story that will be of particular interest to RC readers:

    http://www.nature.com/climate/2009/0904/full/climate.2009.25.html

    Quote:
    With a mission of updating the existing knowledge on climate change, the world’s top climate experts will come together at the International Scientific Congress on Climate Change held 10 to 12 March in Copenhagen. Marine scientist Katherine Richardson, from the University of Copenhagen, is chairing the congress.
    End quote

    I see this took place a few weeks ago – I’ve been away so maybe I missed if there was some discussion of this event already. The session was intended to produce an up-to-the-minute review of the most recent science, even if pre-publication, and to package that up for the information of the Copenhagen round. That sounds like a very timely effort.

    – Jim

  10. 160
    steve says:

    Gavin: “that climate sensitivity is large enough for that to be problem?”

    yes, this would be the one I would be a little suprised to find you had no doubts on

    [Response: Sorry no. I have seen not one single paper that has convincingly argued for a climate sensitivity below about 2 deg C for a doubling, and plenty that do have convincing arguments for more. Explain the ice ages away with a low sensitivity and I’ll look again, but no ‘perfectly good’ scientists have. – gavin]

    I saw the title of your next post. Sorry to see you guys go since I often rely on you to see what the current argument is all about, even if I don’t always think you have the more compelling argument. haha, I assume it is a joke post :)

  11. 161
    steve says:

    #152 Hank Roberts Says:
    1 April 2009 at 11:15 AM
    Look, if Steve knew any he’d point them out

    ok Hank, then perhaps you can tell me why Pielke isn’t a good scientist and the fundamental flaw in his complaint that the ocean is not showing the heat retention required by a dangerous level of AGW? But you are correct in your assumption that I don’t know him although I doubt this is was you meant literally.

    [Response: Pielke has denied none of the things I stated. And the long term trends in ocean heat content are all up. – gavin]

  12. 162

    Returning to an old topic, albeit one somewhat compatible with the current one, a while back I suggested a bibliographic FAQ somewhere on RC.

    It appears that something of the sort already exists:

    http://wiki.nsdl.org/index.php/PALE:ClassicArticles

    You can access Tyndall, Arrhenius–I sampled a bit of Plass just now–and on to Santer et al., 1995. Very cool–Check it out.

    Gavin, maybe this could go into the links sidebar?

  13. 163

    Oops.

    I was so excited, I gave the link one level too high (although, who knows? Some of you guys might be into magnetoresistance, too.)

    Correct one:

    http://wiki.nsdl.org/index.php/PALE:ClassicArticles/GlobalWarming

    (Captcha says, “is fixed.”)

  14. 164
    J. Bob says:

    Walter
    To recap, this exercise was to do a “cold start” look at GW, in a unbiased manner, and one a person like my neighbor (a ham who talks to people in Australia on fires) with minimal tech background could understand. A check on available data resulted in using the 350 year old English data. This was downloaded from http://hadobs.metoffice.com/hadcet/, or climate4you,com, and put it in a spread sheet, EXCEL. The data includes monthly and averaged yearly data. I used a short cut with the yearly average, but checked to verify the numbers. Add another column for estimated based on a linear. T_est = b + m(year – 1659). Unfortunately the least squares function LINEST choked up, probably on the number of data points. So I went to manual starting with an initial values 9 deg. and slope of zero. Generating an error column, and plotting the error, allows a person to manually adjust b & m. Summing up the error also helped in the convergence on b & m. I came up with b=8.85 and a slope of 0.002 ( 0.2 deg./century), with summed error of 5.33 deg.

    This looked pretty good, and allowed a closer look at the error and how it deviates from the trend. With a little experience a person can read a lot out of, what looks like noise to some, (i.e. a neurologist and a EEG). A “hook shape” or bow would indicate a linear trend line would not be the best. However this error pretty much followed the trend line, at least in my humble estimation. Since I gave away my analysis programs, like MATLAB, some time ago, I have to resurrect some of my old analysis programs in BASIC (slow but readable) and EXCEL has VB embedded in. I did add a simple recursive 1st order filter, with a 8 month (8 sample periods) time constant [Test_n = Test_n-1 + 0.125*( Er_n) ]. That smoothed the data for a little more info. Didn’t see anything much different, since late 1980’s, from other “bumps” before the 1980’s. But that may be in the eye of the beholder.

    So my observations, to date, based on this relatively simple analysis are:
    1- I would not bet the farm on Carbon warming
    2- My neighbor will be madder then ever on possible increased taxes
    3- I have more work to do in evaluating this and other temp and polar ice data

    Right now my grandson and two black kitties are demanding time. Hope this will be of help.

    I’ll be back ( heavy on the Austrian accent) God willing and the creek doesn’t rise, again.

  15. 165
    walter crain says:

    jim bob,
    thanks so much for the reply. sorry, i still don’t understand this part:

    “Generating an error column, and plotting the error, allows a person to manually adjust b & m. Summing up the error also helped in the convergence on b & m. I came up with b=8.85 and a slope of 0.002 ( 0.2 deg./century)”

    i’m not quite sure how the error “level” is figured. can you possibly send/post a picture of the graph you get? i saw the tamino version of it, i’d like to see yours. i’m imagining you’re describing a straight line, sloping up to the right at a slope of .02. then i think you “influenced” that line into some kind of curve using the error range? pardon if my jargon is wrong.

  16. 166
    Alastair says:

    Quote: “As always, correlation does not imply causation. Who said it did?”

    Actually Al Gore said it did in the movie. Remember the quote “did they ever fit together”. Al Gore said nothing about cause and effect we were just asked to assume that the perfect fit meant that CO2 was the cause and temperature was the effect. As an engineer myself, I wasn’t convinced. Yet thousands of non-scientists watching the movie were mislead yet Gore received little criticism from “consensus” scientists.

    [Response: The transcript is here. He said: ” Did they ever fit together? ….But they did of course. The relationship is very complicated. But there is one relationship that is more powerful than all the others and it is this. When there is more carbon dioxide, the temperature gets warmer, because it traps more heat from the sun inside.”. There is nothing incorrect in that statement. They fit together like cycles of chickens and eggs fit together. Changes in T and climate lead to changes in CO2 which leads to changes in T and climate. Without both parts of that cycle, you would not see such large swings. CO2 is *both* cause and effect. Just like chickens. – gavin]

    Quote: “You are out to lunch on this one. There are many sciences whose object of study does not fit in a laboratory. Cosmologists, astronomers, solar physicists etc. are these all non-sciences too? Of course not.”

    Just because there are other sciences where the study does not fit in the laboratory does not make my argument any less relevent. The planet is effectively a laboratory that cannot be experimented, any real scientist would agree that rigorous science requires experimentation with the system being modelled and the use of a control. Interesting that you used cosmology as an example, just the other day I was reading an article which brought doubt on the current understanding on how stars work. One star has been observed exploding into a supernova millions of years earlier than it should according to current scientific understanding.

    Quote: “You are a scientist and you condone this kind of cherry picking? Oh please.”

    Actually the data you have here agrees with mine in that in the last 10 years (since 1998) there has been no significant warming. You data shows an overall warming trend over 30 years, however 20 years of warming followed by 10 years of cooling is nothing to get excited about. To be fair, perhaps the warming trend may continue in the years to come. But the answer is simply we don’t know, 30 years of satellite data is simply too short a time to draw any kind of conclusion from.

    Quote: “or the accounting of glacial retreat, or the ocean temperature records”

    Since the climate is always changing, there is a 50% chance that at any time in the earths history we will be in a warming period and a 50% chance of a cooling period. In a warming period we can expect glacial retreat and in a cooling period, glacial advance. Therefore the glacial retreat is nothing to get excited about. Equally, if the glaciers were advancing, should we be worried about runaway global cooling? In a nutshell, to take a short term trend (in earth terms 100 years is a short time) and extrapolate this forever into the future is normally a bad idea.

    Regarding ocean temperature records, what about time delay. The oceans are so huge and water is such a large specific heat capacity that it takes literally centuries to heat up and cool down. If the ocean temperatures are increasing today it’s unlikely to be due to anything that’s happened in the recent past, but far more likely due to changes that have occured over many centuries or even millenia.

    Please understand that I realise that there is “evidence” of climate change. Just like I’m sure that there’s plenty of “evidence” that god created the earth 6000 years ago. I’m not religious, but my point is that rigorous science must stand up to criticism to be taken seriously (it must take the good with the bad). I believe that I have raised very valid points that bring serious doubt on the “consencus” view.

    [Response: The rest of this stuff is standard-issue nonsense. Shame, I thought you were going to be interesting. – gavin]

  17. 167
    Mark says:

    Have you thought, JBob, that

    1) your analysis is TOO simple?
    2) maybe someone would have spotted it before you if it was so simple and shown their working out to success
    3) you still haven’t said what your qualifications are, so we don’t know you from Bob The Builder.

  18. 168
    Hank Roberts says:

    Some obvious errors made by others using that data are worth reviewing, e.g.:

    http://tamino.wordpress.com/2008/04/28/central-england-temperature/
    http://tamino.wordpress.com/2008/04/16/perjury/

  19. 169
    dhogaza says:

    Since the climate is always changing, there is a 50% chance that at any time in the earths history we will be in a warming period and a 50% chance of a cooling period.

    Are we sure it ain’t another April Fool’s Day post?

  20. 170
    Alastair says:

    Quote: “There is nothing incorrect in that statement. They fit together like cycles of chickens and eggs fit together. Changes in T and climate lead to changes in CO2 which leads to changes in T and climate. Without both parts of that cycle, you would not see such large swings. CO2 is *both* cause and effect. Just like chickens.”

    The implication from the movie was clearly that CO2 was the cause and temperature the effect. I don’t remember the exact words, but I remember Gore also saying something to the effect of:

    “If this is New York with a mile of ice over your head (pointing to the low point of temperature and CO2), and this is today (pointing to today), imagine what this will be (pointing to a point in the future with double or triple the CO2 of today)”. Anyway, the meaning was load and clear that for any non-scientist watching, that he mentally extrapolate the CO2 and temperature into the future, meaning a very hot world with CO2 as the cause and temperature the effect. He then showed a shot of G.W. Bush showing his non-reaction to this dire prediction. This was then accompanied by laughs from the audience. Anyway it is very clear that we were supposed to assume that this trend would continue without regard to cause and effect.

    [Response: Possibly these two thoughts can’t co-exist in your mind, but in the real world CO2 and T are both cause and effect. If you observe the number of chickens following the number of eggs over many cycles, and then you throw in a lot more chickens, don’t you think it sensible to expect a lot more eggs in the future? – gavin]

    [edit – stay constructive or don’t bother]

  21. 171
    steve says:

    “Ray Ladbury Says:
    1 April 2009 at 11:46 AM
    Steve says, “There are perfectly good scientists on the other side of this argument providing perfectly good objections.”

    Care to name them?”

    Ray let’s start out by determining if anyone that disagrees with you is a good scientist. Are there any?

    Response: Pielke has denied none of the things I stated. And the long term trends in ocean heat content are all up. – gavin]

    I don’t know Gavin perhaps he doesn’t disagree with you and I am reading too much into what he says on his website referencing both ocean temperatures and the recent letter from CATO to the president. I can only read and interpret to the best of my ability.

    Anyway, let me apologize to everyone for even starting this conversation. I now understand it was just horrible of me to even suggest that there may be intelligent life forms on the other side of the argument.

    [Response: Not horrible, just over-optimistic. Quite frankly, I’d love it if there was more intelligent discussion ‘over there’. Endlessly debunking the same cherry-picks, misrepresentations, red-herrings and strawman arguments gets a little boring. Lindzen for instance is a smart cookie, so why he wastes his time defaming his colleagues at the National Academy and drawing trivially debunkable conclusions from imperfect and already corrected data is beyond me. – gavin]

  22. 172
    David B. Benson says:

    Well, I learned something today: CO2 is just like chickens. :-)

    Chris Colose — Could you provide a link to your recent thread regarding Lintzen?

    [reCAPTHCA entones “Grand ethical”.]

  23. 173
    sidd says:

    “Regarding ocean temperature records, what about time delay. The oceans are so huge and water is such a large specific heat capacity that it takes literally centuries to heat up and cool down.”

    Oddly enough, didn’t we begin pumping fossil carbon into the atmosphere oh…say…150-200 years ago…

    Naa…that couldn’t be it.

  24. 174
    Alastair says:

    Quote: “Oddly enough, didn’t we begin pumping fossil carbon into the atmosphere oh…say…150-200 years ago…

    Naa…that couldn’t be it.”

    By far the majority of CO2 emissions have ocurred in the last 60 years. This is not enough time to effect ocean temperatures, they are far too vast.

    [Response: And so the warming that is to come based on that time lag doesn’t bother you in the slightest? – gavin]

    Gavin. You admitted yourself that correlation doesn’t imply causation. I think you’ve just answered your own question regarding the chickens and eggs.

    [Response: It isn’t ‘just’ correlation if you know that chickens produce eggs, and you’ve been measuring the exact process for a hundred years in the lab. – gavin]

  25. 175
    Alastair says:

    Quote: “And so the warming that is to come based on that time lag doesn’t bother you in the slightest?”

    I think that the future is very important. But we only need to be concerned if AGW is real. If the warming of the oceans is not caused by CO2 but other natural causes, why do we need to be concerned.

    Quote: “It isn’t ‘just’ correlation if you know that chickens produce eggs, and you’ve been measuring the exact process for a hundred years in the lab”

    There is no doubt that CO2 absorbs infra red radiation and should in theory cause global warming. Even Lindzen and other skeptics agree with that. But the climate is far too complex a system to assume that more CO2 will cause dangerous global warming. There are many means by which the planet can cancel out the extra heat that the CO2 “wants” to add. For example, as the planet heats up we might expect more water to evaporate from the oceans, this would result in more clouds. There is some debate about whether clouds are a negative or positive feedback on temperature but personally I think that more clouds would block out more sunlight and thereby cancel out the CO2 warming. That is just one example, I’m sure there are many other mechanisms that would act as a temperature thermostat. The poles also act as a temperature buffer, especially land ice such as Antarctica. There is no danger of Antarctica melting because it’s far too cold. Even if Antarctica were to heat up 10 or 20 degress celcius, it would still not melt because unless the temperature increases to 0 degrees celcius (melting point of water) it will never melt.

    Unstable systems are rarely encountered in nature and the planet is no different. If the planet were as unstable as we are led to believe there is no way that we (or any life for that matter) could have survived.

    [Response: ??? The incoherence in your arguments is breathtaking. You started off discussing the ice age cycle – roughly 5 deg C amplitude changes in the global mean temperature, 120 meters difference in sea level rise, and now you claim that global climate sensitivity to CO2 can’t be anything like 3 deg C (the mainstream value) because that would imply the planet was too unstable to exist. Huh? Additionally, you seem to think that ice is impervious to warmth – yet even within the ice age cycles we started with, the last time it was as warm as we anticipate for the end of this century, sea level was 4 to 6 meters higher than today. Where do you think that water came from if ‘ice can’t melt’? And if ice can’t melt how do we get the ice age cycles in the first place? Oh dear. – gavin]

  26. 176
    chris colose says:

    David Benson, it is
    http://chriscolose.wordpress.com/2009/03/31/lindzen-on-climate-feedback/

    The earlier data that Lindzen used at WUWT had a correction for changing satellite altitude in the code, but a flag to turn this correction on/off was found to inadvertently leave the correction off. This is all explained in the updated paper from Wong et al. and ERBE summary provided in my post.

  27. 177
    Alastair says:

    Quote: “Where do you think that water came from if ‘ice can’t melt’? And if ice can’t melt how do we get the ice age cycles in the first place? Oh dear.”

    I am talking about antarctica in the southern hemisphere. The “ice age” you speak of is only in the northern hemisphere. The southern hemisphere (ie antarctica) is in permanent ice age, it will never melt unless the temperature rises above zero, which it won’t. Tell me Gavin, how can ice melt if the temperature is below freezing?

    The northern hemisphere is different. The ice builds up in NON POLAR regions during the ice age. Since much of this ice is in non polar regions, it’s much easier for the temperature to rise above melting point. That is why this ice melts. Only the polar (arctic) ice remains cold enough to sustain ice cover.

    [Response: Wrong, wrong, wrong. We know that more ice can melt than has melted so far (4-6 meters worth at the Eemian, maybe 20 meters worth at the Pliocene) and we know that can’t have all come from Greenland (since there was still ice at GRIP and NGRIP and maybe Dye3 at the Eemian). That leaves… Antarctica. Bits of it are undoubtedly very stable (having existed since the Oligocene), but some bits aren’t – and they’re the ones we might be more concerned with. – gavin]

  28. 178
  29. 179
    Alastair says:

    Quote: “Wrong, wrong, wrong. We know that more ice can melt than has melted so far (4-6 meters worth at the Eemian, maybe 20 meters worth at the Pliocene) and we know that can’t have all come from Greenland (since there was still ice at GRIP and NGRIP and maybe Dye3 at the Eemian). That leaves… Antarctica. Bits of it are undoubtedly very stable (having existed since the Oligocene), but some bits aren’t – and they’re the ones we might be more concerned with”

    Ice can only melt if the temperature rises above freezing. There may be small amounts of antarctica that can but the vast mass of the continent stays permanently sub zero. You cannot defy the laws of physics, therefore anything that is 20 or 10 degrees below freezing can’t melt unless there is substantial global warming. I can’t see that ever happening because we all know that ice reflects sunlight and keeps the world cool. It’s kind of a catch 22 situation, you need substantial global warming to melt antarctica, but since antarctica can’t melt you don’t get the warming because the ice reflects the sunlight.

    [Response: But to get sea level rise you don’t need to melt it from the top. All you need to is make it fall into the sea faster. Take Larsen-B – when that collapsed the glaciers feeding it, sped up 400 to 500%. Look at the GRACE data, WAIS is likely losing net mass with no surface melting at all. You might think that your reasoning is all obvious, but the real world is changing regardless of whether you think it should be or not. Don’t theorize, learn. – gavin]

  30. 180
    David B. Benson says:

    chris colose (176) — Thank you!

  31. 181
    dhogaza says:

    There is some debate about whether clouds are a negative or positive feedback on temperature but personally I think that more clouds would block out more sunlight and thereby cancel out the CO2 warming.

    Alastair, something that’s always puzzled me, maybe you can help me out …

    Why do temperatures in arid, cloudless deserts plummet at night while cloudy portland oregon tends to only cool a few degrees at night if the only effect of clouds is to block out sunlight, thereby canceling out the CO2 warming?

  32. 182
    Timothy Chase says:

    Alastair wrote in 174:

    Gavin. You admitted yourself that correlation doesn’t imply causation. I think you’ve just answered your own question regarding the chickens and eggs.

    Lead vs. lag — in a system subject to positive feedback, the central questions are: “What is the forcing?” and “What is the feedback?” Orbital forcing causes increased solar insulation (absorption of solar radiation), gradually raising the temperature of the ocean, resulting in a reduction in its capacity to retain gases — including carbon dioxide. This raises the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, making the atmosphere more opaque to thermal radiation.

    There are infrared images of it doing exactly this over western and eastern seaboards of the US due to higher population density, traffic and carbon dioxide emissions. In fact you can see it in this image:

    Aqua/AIRS Global Carbon Dioxide
    http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/a000000/a003400/a003440/index.html

    The dark orange off the east and west coasts of the United States? That is carbon dioxide at 8 km altitude — infrared at 15 μm in wavelength has been absorbed and emitted at lower levels of the atmosphere, but this is where it gets emitted for the last time before escaping to space — and as such the brightness temperature at that wavelength reflects the cooler temperature at that altitude.

    *

    More carbon dioxide reduces the rate with which radiation will carries energy out of the climate system. Given that energy continues to enter the system at the same rate but escapes the atmosphere at a reduced rate, the temperature of the climate system must rise until the temperature to the power of four (thermal emission of radiation in accordance with Planck’s law) rises enough to compensate for the increased opacity of the atmosphere to infrared radiation, and the rate at which energy leaves the system is equal to the rate at which energy enters the system. This basically follows from the conservation of energy. So in this case — what we predominantly see in the paleoclimate record — the increased solar insulation is the forcing, carbon dioxide the feedback — and we would not be able to explain the extent to which the temperature rose simply by means of the increased solar insulation alone.

    Alastair wrote in 175:

    There is no doubt that CO2 absorbs infra red radiation and should in theory cause global warming. Even Lindzen and other skeptics agree with that. But the climate is far too complex a system to assume that more CO2 will cause dangerous global warming. There are many means by which the planet can cancel out the extra heat that the CO2 “wants” to add.

    There are other points in the paleoclimate record where carbon dioxide or methane rose first, before temperature, and temperature followed carbon dioxide — and it wasn’t harmless. Good case in point: the Permian/Triassic extinction. A supervolcano in Siberia erupted for over a million years, with lava releasing methane from shallow water methane hydrate deposits. The opacity of the atmosphere climbed first, then temperature. So it is false to say that carbon dioxide (or methane) always follows temperature. We see both. Temperatures may increase first or greenhouse gases may increase first. For the most part the climate system doesn’t really care where the forcing comes from — whatever the forcing that initially results in an imbalance in radiation going out vs. radiation coming in, the results will largely be the same.

    But not entirely the same… Initially, increases in solar insolation will tend to raise the temperature of both the troposphere and stratosphere as visible light gets absorbed at the surface and ultraviolet by ozone in the stratosphere. In contrast, increased opacity of the atmosphere due to greenhouse gases will lower the amount of thermal radiation that is able to reach the stratosphere, cooling the stratosphere while the troposphere warms due to the reduction in the rate at which thermal radiation is able to escape it. Thus you have a signature of global warming due to greenhouse gases. It has been observed. There are others. For example, increased solar insulation would tend warm days more than nights, but an increase in the opacity of the atmosphere due to greenhouse gases would tend to warm nights more than days. This has also been observed.

  33. 183
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Alastair says: “Although I am not a climate scientist I am well educated with a post graduate degree in chemical engineering and have published papers in scientific journals.”

    Great, if you have come here to learn, the above credentials entitle you to the title of “student”. If you have come here to pontificate on things where you aren’t an expert, ignoramus will suffice as a description. Ray Ladbury, PhD physicist and student of climate science.

  34. 184
    J. Bob says:

    Ok Walter here goes, hope this all comes through. Graphs do not seem to, nor numbers.

    A B C D E G G

    b 8.85
    m 0.002 0.25 0.125
    5.33
    YEAR Yearly Linear Error Filtered
    Average Fit Err
    1659 0 8.83 8.85 -0.02 -0.02
    1660 1 9.08 8.85 0.23 0.05
    1661 2 9.75 8.85 0.90 0.15
    1662 3 9.5 8.86 0.64 0.21
    1663 4 8.58 8.86 -0.28 0.15

    1996 337 9.2 9.52 -0.32 0.24
    1997 338 10.53 9.53 1.00 0.34
    1998 339 10.34 9.53 0.81 0.39
    1999 340 10.63 9.53 1.10 0.48
    2000 341 10.3 9.53 0.77 0.52
    2001 342 9.93 9.53 0.40 0.50
    2002 343 10.6 9.54 1.06 0.57
    2003 344 10.5 9.54 0.96 0.62
    2004 345 10.48 9.54 0.94 0.66
    2005 346 10.44 9.54 0.90 0.69
    2006 347 10.82 9.54 1.28 0.76
    2007 348 10.48 9.55 0.93 0.79
    2008 349 9.96 9.55 0.41 0.74

    A, B & C data from Hadcet

    D col – T_est = b + m(T_act – T_est) = $D$3 + $D$4*(A8 – 1659)
    F col – Er F8 = C8 – D8
    G col Filtered error G9= G8 + $G$4*(F9 – G8) – Zero hold 1st order filter
    Initial seed G8 was = to F8
    These were all replicated to the end of the data
    Error sum = E 5= Sum(F8:F357)
    The F & G col. Were plotted against col A

    I started with a b= D3 = 9 & m =D4= 0 and adjusted b & m observing the
    Plot and summed err E5, in this case 5.33 deg. Not the best, but pretty close.

    I don’t know how this will turn out, but will give it a shot.

    #167 A comment made by a fellow band member of my math instructor, goes something like “Things should be as simple as possible, but not simpler”

  35. 185
    sidd says:

    “I think that more clouds would block out more sunlight and thereby cancel out the CO2 warming.”

    This is Lindzen’s argument ? I believe this has been refuted.

    “There is no danger of Antarctica melting because it’s far too cold.”

    Tell that to West Antarctica, which is losing mass despite your opinions. Ice moves. All the ice loss in West Antarctica is due to ice export to the ocean, accelerating as the ice shelves dissolve in warmer seas.

  36. 186
    Timothy Chase says:

    Alastair wrote in 176:

    I am talking about antarctica in the southern hemisphere. The “ice age” you speak of is only in the northern hemisphere. The southern hemisphere (ie antarctica) is in permanent ice age, it will never melt unless the temperature rises above zero, which it won’t. Tell me Gavin, how can ice melt if the temperature is below freezing?

    Too cold to melt?

    It’s not entirely true that we haven’t observed melting in Antarctica. As a matter of fact, we have observed it within 310 miles of the South Pole.

    Please see:

    The observed melting occurred in multiple distinct regions, including far inland, at high latitudes and at high elevations, where melt had been considered unlikely. Evidence of melting was found up to 900 kilometers (560 miles) inland from the open ocean, farther than 85 degrees south (about 500 kilometers, or 310 miles, from the South Pole) and higher than 2,000 meters (6,600 feet) above sea level. Maximum air temperatures at the time of the melting were unusually high, reaching more than five degrees Celsius (41 degrees Fahrenheit) in one of the affected areas. They remained above melting for approximately a week.

    NASA Finds Vast Regions of West Antarctica Melted in Recent Past
    05.15.07
    http://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/lookingatearth/arctic-20070515.html

    However, nearly all the glacier loss in Antarctica is due to slippage.

    Please see:

    “In Greenland, we estimate that two-thirds of the cause of the glaciers’ disappearance is accelerated ice slide, while the remaining third of the cause is ice melting. In the Antarctic, the cause is 100 percent ice slide, and the speed-up there is exponential.”

    Researchers: Sea Levels May Rise Faster Than Expected
    By JEAN-MARIE MACABREY, ClimateWire
    Published: March 11, 2009
    http://www.nytimes.com/cwire/2009/03/11/11climatewire-researchers-warn-that-sea-levels-will-rise-m-10080.html

    This article goes into an analysis of glacier loss along the West Antarctic Peninsula:

    Analysis of the data reveals that 87% of glaciers have retreated (click on the image for a more detailed figure) and that the change from advance to retreat has occurred progressively with latitude. In 1950s only the most northerly glaciers appeared to be retreating, but a transition from advance to retreat appeared to move down the Antarctic Peninsula over a period of about 10 to 20 years, broadly in line with what we would expect if this was a consequence of the warming that has been measured in this area. However, there are features of the pattern of change that we find difficult to explain by atmospheric warming alone. In particular, there was a period in the late-1980s and early-1990s when retreat slowed down along most of the coast, and we don’t see any cause for this in the temperature records – so there may be some other factors at work, perhaps ocean temperature.

    22 April 2005
    Retreating Glacier Fronts on the Antarctic Peninsula over the Past Half-Century
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=146

    Much of this is occurring south of the Antarctic circle.

    Here you can see that nearly the whole ocean down there is heating up…

    Climate of Antarctica
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_of_Antarctica
    Image:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Antarctic_temps.AVH1982-2004.jpg

    How might the ocean be affecting the ice glaciers? Well, we know that winds are picking up at the surface. This is causing an upwelling of water from below which is balanced by warmer water from above circulating to greater depths. We also know that there are rivers that run underneath much of the ice of the West Antarctic Peninsula. So warmer water may be “attacking” them from underneath. And it doesn’t even have to melt them — structurally weakening them is more than enough.

    There are also the ice shelves. These act like corks which bottle up the glaciers behind them. Nearly the whole George VI Ice Shelf is south of 70 degrees – and its shrinking:

    George VI Ice Shelf: past history, present behaviour and potential
    mechanisms for future collapse
    JAMES A. SMITH, et al.
    Antarctic Science 19 (1), 131–142 (2007)
    http://journals.cambridge.org/production/action/cjoGetFulltext?fulltextid=743656

    But some of the ice shelves are even collapsing. When they do the glaciers behind them accelerate towards the ocean.

    Larsen B collapsed in 2002. It looks like the Wilkins Ice Shelf will go this year or possibly next.

    Here is an essay that goes into some detail on that:

    12 June 2008
    Ice Shelf Instability
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2008/06/ice-shelf-instability

    The Wilkins Ice Shelf is 5 ° latitude south of the Larsen B. 5 ° south of the Wilkins Ice Shelf is ice sheet of mainland West Antarctica.

    *

    Overall we know that Antarctica is losing mass:

    NASA Mission Detects Significant Antarctic Ice Mass Loss
    March 2, 2006
    http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2006/mar/HQ_06085_arctic_ice.html

    We also know that it has sped up and is now roughly equal to that of Greenland:

    Antarctic Ice Loss Speeds Up, Nearly Matches Greenland Loss
    ScienceDaily (Jan. 24, 2008)
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080123181952.htm

  37. 187
    Oliver says:

    Mark:
    Virtual straw can act like whatever the person who wrote the VR world wants it to. Which can include feeding cows etc.

    I’m sure that virtual cows could thrive on virtual straw, but you’re claiming that you can feed cows on virtual straw. That is further evidence that your view on reality is quite blurred.

  38. 188
    John Philip says:

    One of the claims made by Anthony Watts and his followers, is that he tolerates opinions contrary to his own, while other sites such as RealClimate delete inconvenient truths. Here’s an exchange from the thread…

    ME: Either Prof Lindzen is unaware of the correction, which I find impossibly unlikely, or he has knowingly circulated incorrect information to support his case, an act that one might normally expect would attract severe opprobrium from the posters of an objective science blog such as this. Neither possibility does much for the pursuasiveness of his argument, in my view. Certainly if the Professor were to submit this article for publication, it would be rejected on these grounds alone.

    REPLY: There is a third option, perhapss he doesn’t trust the “correction”. I know that many of us here don’t trust “corrections” applied to data.

    ME: The correction was largely the result of step in the computer code that caters for satellite altitude being effectively ‘switched off’. Details were published in the Journal of Climate and also by the Data Product provider. All other researchers who use this dataset use the revised version. The onus is therefore on anyone citing the 2002 version to at least mention that the originators of the dataset have revised it and explain why they prefer the ‘uncorrected’ dataset, especially if the corrected version removes a central plank of their argument. From Prof Lindzen, not even a footnote. Does this qualify as the good and transparent science quite rightly promoted by WUWT?

    REPLY: John I have deleted your response, and I resent the smear you made against me for publishing this informal essay from Dr. Lindzen. You get a 24 hour timeout. If you wish to continue, lose the ad homs. Otherwise off to the troll bin permanently for you. – Anthony

    Draw your own conclusions.

  39. 189
    Mark says:

    If there’s a ball at the top of a hill and I kick the ball gently so it rolls over the edge down the slope, it will accelerate downhill.

    Does that mean that the acceleration the ball takes is because of my foot (since my foot kicking the ball made it accelerate to begin with)?

    NO.

    So why is the past temperature record, which is “kicked off” by Milankovich cycles and THEN accelerated by GG/albedo/… feedback proving that GG doesn’t increase temperature, just because the increase in solar radiation is needed to start things rolling???

    (PS Gavin, as well as chicken and eggs, how about foxes and rabits: everyone has done that at shcool, so which one starts the whole process off when you look part way through the cycle? Foxes or Rabbits?)

  40. 190
    Alastair says:

    Quote: “Why do temperatures in arid, cloudless deserts plummet at night while cloudy portland oregon tends to only cool a few degrees at night if the only effect of clouds is to block out sunlight, thereby canceling out the CO2 warming?”

    Clouds keep the heat in at night and keep the heat out during the day, the question is which one is the more important. The net overall effect of more cloud is probably negative because they reflect the sunlight back into space in the first place.

    Quote: “But to get sea level rise you don’t need to melt it from the top. All you need to is make it fall into the sea faster.”

    True. But we are talking about the effects of “global warming” on Antarctica. How much falls into the sea depends on how much snow fall there has been, this has nothing to do with temperature. If the temperature increases to -5C or -1C or -0.1C the ice cannot melt. Only when the temperature rises to 0C will any ice melt.

    Quote: “Take Larsen-B – when that collapsed the glaciers feeding it, sped up 400 to 500%. Look at the GRACE data, WAIS is likely losing net mass with no surface melting at all. You might think that your reasoning is all obvious, but the real world is changing regardless of whether you think it should be or not. Don’t theorize, learn”

    This may be all true, but “global warming” can only be the “cause” of this if the reason is that ice is melting. Therefore changes to Larson-B cannot be related to CO2 emmissions.

    [Response: I think that you will find that all of the ice that was in Larsen-B has, in fact, melted. Think about where that happened. – gavin]

    Quote: “Great, if you have come here to learn, the above credentials entitle you to the title of “student”. If you have come here to pontificate on things where you aren’t an expert, ignoramus will suffice as a description. Ray Ladbury, PhD physicist and student of climate science.”

    It’s the ideas that matter not the person. If you are an expert, as you claim please tell me this:

    The climate is a very complex system and climate models contain hundreds or thousands of assumptions. How can you expect to have any confidence in climate models when you cannot do experiments with the climate? Normal scientific practice and due diligence requires that proper scientific method is followed, even for simple processes. Without this, your credentials as a climate scientist, the peer review process, prestigeous academic institutions and journals mean nothing, these models are were doomed to fail before they even started. This is a fact that applies across all science, the fact that “I’m not a qualified climate scientist” doesn’t make my point any less relevent.

  41. 191
    Bocco says:

    re #141

    Sorry BPL, you will have to give me another example, icarus is not an electronic only journal according to elsevier who publish it. Volume 200, issue 2 was dispatched on 25th of March 2009, only 2 weeks ago.

    It simply not true that information is harder to get at than 20 years ago, exactly the opposite is true. This does not mean that that I think access to information is good enough, access to disinformation has increased even more.

    #re 108

    Bill yes google scholar is a good place to start as is ScienceDirect. Of course full access to the type of information on ScienceDirect, Scopus, CurrentContents etc cost the type of money university libraries have. If you review an article for an Elsevier journal, you get access to Scopus for a month, which is a pretty sweet deal. However, abstracts of almost all journals are available online for free, some journals even give the first page of an article. To get more, deeping digging is required, and most authors will send a copy of their work to you if you request it.

  42. 192

    Alastair,

    CO2 follows temperature in a natural deglaciation because the slight increase in temperature decreases the solubility of CO2 in salt water, and CO2 bubbles out of the oceans. The CO2 in turn raises the temperature more.

    That is not what is happening now. The new CO2 is not coming from the oceans, it is coming primarily from fossil fuel burning. We know from the radioisotope signature. CO2 from the biosphere (e.g. the ocean) would have a normal content of 14C, but CO2 from fossil fuels would have no 14C–and the new CO2 doesn’t. There are also clues from the 13C/12C ratio.

  43. 193
    Dan says:

    There are a few more books on how science works (and sometimes doesn’t):
    “The Golem: What you should know about science” by Harry Collins and Trevor Pinch
    “The Undergrowth of Science” by Walter Gratzer
    “Voodoo Science” by Robert Park

    I’ve read and enjoyed all three. Despite the failings of the scientific method, its still the best way of understanding the world because it explicitly recognizes the weaknesses of the human intellect and tries to overcome them.

    [Response: Don’t forget Sagan’s “The Demon Haunted World”. – gavin]

  44. 194
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Alistair asks: “How can you expect to have any confidence in climate models when you cannot do experiments with the climate?”

    Here’s a news bulletin, Alastair, Science works even for complicated systems. We can’t do experiments with supernovae or the geomagnetic field of main-sequence stars, and yet we have a pretty good idea how they work. We can’t do controlled, repeatable experiments in ecology, and yet we gather data and formulate theories about very complicated systems. You really need to get beyond the 18th century and see how science works now.

    In the case of climate science, we can indeed do laboratory experiments to look at the detailed radiative properties of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses, among other things. We can make measurements of temperature, humidity, pressure, etc. in the environment. We can model the atmosphere, ocean, biosphere, etc. and look at the interactions between them, and validate the models with our observations. This has been done, and that is why we have more than 90% confidence in the proposition that we are changing Earth’s climate.

    You will note that I said I am a “student of climate science”. I do not publish in the field, and so am not an expert. I am simply one of the thousands of scientists in related fields who have bothered to learn the science and found it to be quite cogent. Your background suggests that you could do the same. Or you can remain ignorant. Your choice.

  45. 195
    Mark says:

    “Clouds keep the heat in at night and keep the heat out during the day, the question is which one is the more important. The net overall effect of more cloud is probably negative because they reflect the sunlight back into space in the first place.”

    Hmm. So in 12 hours of daylight the sun will have its energy reflected. In 12 hours of night, the earth will have its energy reflected.

    Since the earth has to remove ALL the energy that comes in from the sun and cannot do so until the sun has put the energy in FIRST, would this not indicate to you that the warm retention at night would be the same as the warm reflection during the day?

    Or is that impossible because you KNOW through some unguessable channel that clouds will reduce GW this time (when it never managed it before)?

  46. 196
    walter crain says:

    jim bob,
    thanks so much for your efforts in responding to me. it’s a shame there’s no place for you to post that darn graph. i’m a very “visual” person, so that would have helped immensely. i guess the upshot is your graph showed less warming and more gradual warming than tamino’s graph. maybe it shows temps going from 8.83 in 1659 up to around 10 today? thanks again for your efforts.

  47. 197
    walter crain says:

    very interesting comversation with alister, guys. his criticisms all seem to be covered in john cook’s list of 53 standard skeptic arguments at “skeptical science”.

    john phillip,
    that exchange you had with anthony (#188) is SO classic. the idea that he doesn’t “trust” the correction resonates with deniers. viewed through the denier’s prism: alarmists found some data that didn’t fit expectations so alarmists “fixed” the data. that’s all anthony’s congregation needs to hear. they don’t need to hear the perfectly rational “reasons” why the data was wrong. they see the corrections as further proof of the scientific conspiracy designed to fool right-minded regular people…

  48. 198
    truth says:

    Turbobloke [136]
    In that first link you gave me, the authors mention those sea level rises you noted, but they also say, speaking of the observations:
    ‘Along the coast of the Netherlands, such an acceleration has not
    been observed over the last decades. There, sea level rose at a steady
    rate of about 2.5 ± 0.6 mm/yr (data by RWS National Institute for
    Coastal and Marine Management, the Netherlands). This observed lo-
    cal rate of sea level rise is applied in the climate scenarios, yielding a
    contribution of 4 ± 1 cm for the period 1990-2005 (Table IV).’
    Their projections to 2050 and 2100 are based on the IPCC modeling, so once again are dependent on that being absolutely correct—and it’s admitted that there are many unknowns and uncertainties in important fields of climate science—so given all that, why would you discount the comment that was put out by KNMI and Hazeleger last December?
    In other KNMI scenarios, the authors specifically state:
    ‘Climate models show large differences among themselves with regard to the sensitivity of sea level rise to increased air temperatures.’

  49. 199
    sidd says:

    “How much falls into the sea depends on how much snow fall there has been”

    Not entirely. The largest short term (year scale and shorter) control on the speed of glaciers in West Antarctica seems to be the buttressing effect of ice shelves at their mouths. Ice velocities tens and hundreds of kilometers upstream correlate very well with the events at the grounding line. Collapses of ice shelves can and do trigger acceleration of ice streams far inland. Some glaciers exhibit daily variations of velocity as the tides lift and loosen the ice shelf.

    There has been some beautiful work by the British Antarctic Survey and a host of others relating to the West Antarctic ice streams and shelves. My thanks to all those who created that research.

  50. 200

    Re Alastair’s 190

    Gavin wrote inline to 179:

    But to get sea level rise you don’t need to melt it from the top. All you need to is make it fall into the sea faster.

    Alastair wrote in 190:

    True. But we are talking about the effects of “global warming” on Antarctica. How much falls into the sea depends on how much snow fall there has been, this has nothing to do with temperature. If the temperature increases to -5C or -1C or -0.1C the ice cannot melt. Only when the temperature rises to 0C will any ice melt.

    I’m sorry, but at this point I do not know how to put this politely: Do you actually read before responding? Are you familiar with what are called hyperlinks?

    I stated in my very first paragraph that melting has in fact taken place 310 miles from the South Pole.

    Antarctica is losing ice — and it is now losing ice at roughly the same rate as Greenland.

    Now of course much of that ice loss is taking place due to slippage. However, do you know what happens to ice when you apply pressure?

    If you apply enough pressure it melts. Even when the ice is below freezing. Pressure lowers the temperature at which ice melts — and it does so for the same reason that ice floats — because ice takes up a larger volume than water. If pressure sufficiently compresses ice, the ice will turn to water even if the ice is below freezing.

    So you do not need to raise the temperature of ice to 0 °C for it to melt if it is under sufficient pressure. At the bottom of a glacier there is a great deal of pressure. Raising the temperature just a little may be more than enough for it to melt even if it is only a thin layer. Then it can slip, slippage produces friction, friction creates additional heat like in ice skating, there is more melt and the glacier moves further.

    In the case of ice shelves, temperature does not have to be raised even so far as the melting point of ice under pressure. All it needs to do is be raised sufficiently in order to weaken the ice. Weaken the ice and you structurally weaken an ice shelf. Then ocean waves may very well do the rest. Moreover, with climate change there is a shifting of storm tracks which results in more wind at the surface of the ocean, resulting in upwelling of water from below. But water from below has to be replaced since nature abhors a vacuum. Water from above which tends to be warmer than water from below circulates to greater depths.

    As I said above in 185:

    How might the ocean be affecting the ice glaciers? Well, we know that winds are picking up at the surface. This is causing an upwelling of water from below which is balanced by warmer water from above circulating to greater depths. We also know that there are rivers that run underneath much of the ice of the West Antarctic Peninsula. So warmer water may be “attacking” them from underneath. And it doesn’t even have to melt them — structurally weakening them is more than enough.

    Now what is the ocean if not liquid water? Raising the temperature of the ocean will raise the temperature of the ice that it comes into contact with, and this may either melt the ice from below or structurally weaken it.

    Now it is true that the ocean is salt water and that salt water has a lower freezing point than ice, but during the Arctic summers the ocean will be largely ice free at the surface of the ocean — without the pressure, forces and loads that ice is subject to at the bottom of glaciers or in ice shelves. And as I stated above in 186, ice shelves act as corks in the bottle for the glaciers behind them. Remove the corks and what is behind them tends to move. In fact the glaciers accelerate by as much 500%. I believe Gavin mentioned this inline to 179.

    Now think about this: if the ice of Antarctica prior to the Industrial Revolution was roughly in equilibrium with its environment, the reason is that it was gaining ice at roughly the same rate as it was losing ice. However, raising the temperature of ice will shift that balance. What was marginal ice will become submarginal and either melt in place (due to the combination of pressure and temperature), weakens and breaks, or slips into the ocean.
    *
    Alastair wrote in 190:

    How much falls into the sea depends on how much snow fall there has been, this has nothing to do with temperature.

    Wrong!

    Snow would be falling inland as well as at the coasts — and inland has a great deal more surface area than the coastline. More snow would result in Antarctica gaining mass. But as I pointed out above, both in this post and in 186, Antarctica is losing mass, and in fact it is now losing mass at roughly the same rate as Greenland. We know this both from satellite measurements (mentioned in the links) and laser altimetry.

    This is not a game. You should not treat it as if it were a game. Roughly a tenth of humanity lives in coastal areas less than ten meters above the ocean, and much of that land is oddly enough in low-lying areas. Moreover, to force them to move, you do not have to put their land under water. You need only make them more vulnerable to storms by raising the water level, contaminate the aquifers with sea water or algae which often produces a toxin, flood subways or sewage systems. Then the have to abandon whatever infrastructure they are unable to move, and they may become refugees.

    Now think about this: the bottom ice sheet of mainland West Antarctica is actually below sea level. Once due to melting this becomes vulnerable to the ocean there will be more melting. And as I have pointed out above in 186, the warming which results in the destruction of ice shelves has moved from where it destroyed the Larsen B in 2002 to where it is now currently destroying the Wilkins Ice Shelf. That is five degrees of latitude. South. Another five degrees and you are at the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

    And at this point we are still just talking about sea level. We haven’t gotten into the droughts or loss of glaciers that currently provide much of humanity with a reliable source of water for drinking and for agriculture. Nor are we talking about what happens politically when resource become scarce or when refugees aren’t wanted by neighboring countries. We haven’t talked about the shallow water methane hydrates which may become vulnerable to warmer oceans or the permafrost which is currently releasing more methane into the atmosphere.

    Moreover, what we do now, even if we were to stop using all fossil fuels today, this will not have any appreciable effect upon the climate system until after 2040. There will be a lag between our actions and the results of those actions. And prior to our current economic crisis the rate at which we put carbon dioxide into the atmosphere actually increased.

    Now if you do not have the time to read people’s responses or the material that they link to, then stop wasting our time.


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