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Why the continued interest?

Filed under: — rasmus @ 9 October 2009

I believe the idea that galactic cosmic rays (GCR) play a role for the present global warming is unlikely to fade soon, despite a growing number of scientific arguments that normally would falsify a hypothesis and lay it dead (see links here and here). Despite all the arguments against the role of GCR, there was a solicited talk about ‘cosmoclimatology’ at the European Meteorological Society’s (EMS) annual meeting in Toulouse. Henrik Svensmark is further invited by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters (NASL) to provide an introduction to their seminar on climate. So why is the GCR-hypothesis still perceived as an interesting explanation?

My impression from the solicited talk, is that the confidence in the GCR hypothesis now rests on two points that were made explicit in the presentation, and that we have not adequately addressed here. So, here they are:

Point I: When I asked Svensmark why he presented a curve describing low cloud-cover from the ISCCP – used for correlation study with GCR (link) – that differed from the curves presented at the ISCCP web site (link), he informed me that he used a corrected version that has been published. Nevertheless, the ‘correction’ of the curve is controversial, and the ISCCP team is clearly not convinced, despite the likelihood of instrumental degradation.

Good practice would then be to present all the curves that cannot be ruled out because of errors. When asked why he didn’t present the other cures too, he said that he only wanted to show the one curve. Not a very convincing answer, and not very reassuring.

Point II involves a ‘remarkable’ correlation, meant to demonstrate a link between high GCR flux and cold conditions. This analysis is based on a comparison between band-pass filtered ice-rafted debris from iceberg drifts (Bond, 2001) and Carbon-14 (a cosmogenic isotope) over the last 12,000 years (e.g. after the most recent ice age).

The relationship between temperature and drifting icebergs, however, is complicated and not so straight forward. Icebergs are formed when chunks of ice break off glaciers and icesheets – a process known as ‘calving’.

On the one hand, icesheets and glaciers grow when the accumulation of precipitation at below freezing temperatures (snow) exceeds the summertime melting. Very low temperatures, tend to be associated with low precipitation, however. One the other hand, iceberg calving does not require very low temperatures (as long as the ice is present), but is favoured by reduced friction at the base of ice caps, resulting in a faster flow towards the sea. Melt water can lubricate the ice sheets and hence affect the ice flow.

Once the icesheets have calved and produced icebergs, they will drift according to the winds and ocean currents. The most influential ocean currents for iceberg drift in the North Atlantic include the East Greenland Current EGC), which follows the east coast of Greenland and flows from northeast to southwest, the West Greenland current (WGC) into the Labrador Sea, and the Labrador current (LC), a coastal current following along the perimeter of the Labrador sea basin in an anti-clockwise fashion.

North Atlantic ocean current systems Many of the cores used to study the ice-rafted debris were from locations away from these currents. It is not clear whether anomalous cold conditions produced more southerly winds and ocean currents. However, many of the core locations are associated with a surface flow from the south in the present climate, so it is possible that the icebergs transported by the EGC, WGC, and LC end up in the North Atlantic current. One explanation is that the icebergs got caught in the warm currents from the south, and melted on their way north, but that does not necessary imply cold conditions in that region, as these warm ocean currents provide a heat transport and the melting of icebergs suggest higher temperatures.

Cold conditions favour the formation of sea-ice, which have very different characteristics to icebergs. Sea-ice forms when the sea surface freezes, and can affect the ocean circulation through their effect on salinity. However, sea-ice does not create debris of rocks and minerals, as the icebergs do when the bottom of the sliding icesheets scrape the rocks.

It is plausible that very cold conditions can produce thick sea-ice that will lock icebergs in place near their sources in the Labrador sea and along the east coast of Greenland, but seasonal variations in the sea-ice may also imply open water in the summer. Nevertheless, very cold conditions may not necessarily favour the production of icebergs, as freezing temperatures will prevent the formation of melt water acting as lubrication and the accumulation of ice is expected to be less due to lower precipitation.

In summary, the ‘remarkable’ correlation does not seem to support the hypothesis that high flux of GCR produces a very cold climate. The question is rather whether the ocean and atmospheric circulation were influenced by the level of solar activity and associated changes in the total solar irradiation (TSI) – without involving GCR. After all, GCR is affected by the level of solar activity through its influence of the inter-planetary magnetic field, and anti-correlated with the sunspots.

When taken in the context of the global warming, there are other problematic issues such as the lack of trend in GCR (here and here), stronger warming during nighttime than daytime, large unknowns regarding the physical mechanisms involved in the growth of ultra-small molecule clusters to much larger cloud condensation nuclei (here and here), and questionable data handling and statistical analysis (here). In addition, it is difficult to statistically distinguish between the apparent response to solar forcing in the observations and GCM which do not take GCRs into account (link to a recent paper by Gavin and myself), implying that GCRs are not needed to explain past global temperature trends.

So what makes the GCR-hypothesis so convincing that warrants a solicited talk at the EMS annual meeting and an invited presentation at the NASL? Is the support based on the attention in media, or does it have a scientific basis?

I want a response from the community still supporting the GCR hypothesis, explaining why they find it convincing after all these misgivings. The spirit of science is about discussing different ideas and challenge unconvincing points of view. So far, I feel that many of these issues have gone unheeded outside the climate research community. Perhaps an improved dialogue between various research communities can help resolving these issues – the counter-arguments and GCR hypothesis represent a paradox that should be sorted out if the science is to progress. Either the supporters of the GCR hypothesis should convincingly explain why these misgivings are unfounded or irrelevant, or the GCR hypothesis should be buried. However, I feel that there is a lack of dialogue and willingness to listen, so I think that progress is not likely to happen regarding a commonly accepted solution on the GCR hypothesis.

Update: According to a recent (October 16) news relsease from the International Ice Charting Working Group (IICWG), over 1,200 icebergs drifted into the trans-Atlantic shipping lanes in 2009, making the iceberg season in the North Atlantic the eleventh most severe since the tragic loss of the RMS Titanic in 1912.

P.S. So far in 2009, three articles have been published in the arXhive on GCR and clouds (here, here, here). It is possible that such articles are more accessible to communities other than climate research, and hence enhances the awareness about the controversy surrounding the GCR-hypothesis.

506 Responses to “Why the continued interest?”

  1. 451
    Naindj says:

    Oops…please read “balance” instead of “bilan”…now you know I’m French ;-)

  2. 452
    sidd says:

    Mr Naindj writes:
    “To my understanding, saturation means 100% of the radiation (for the wavelengths where CO2 is active) is blocked and re-radiated down.”

    This seems to be a misunderstanding. a CO2 molecule that absorbs IR energy will very quickly equilibriate through collision with other molecules or reradiation. The latter will occur randomly in all directions, not just downward. I do not have handy the lifetimes of CO2 excited states against collision and reradiation; perhaps someone would care to post th numbers?

  3. 453
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re Naindj –

    Different types of saturation:

    1. near 100 % absorption. But as Mark already pointed out, greenhouse (LW radiative) forcing is not just about blocking the direct radiation of the surface to space. It is about altering the destinations of atmospheric emissions. Even if nearly 100 % of surface radiation is absorbed by the atmosphere, there can still be room to reduce the net LW flux out of the tropopause, because the temperature generally decreases with height (as shaped by convective processes) so farther increases in opacity could still decrease the net upward LW flux at the tropopause level by making the troposphere look even colder from above (increasing the opacity of the uppermost layers of troposphere) and by increasing downward LW radiation from the stratosphere. (Vertical variations heating from the changes in radiative heating or cooling below the tropopause level tend to be smoothed out by convective processes so that the troposphere and surface generally tend to warm up or cool down together, with regional, seasonal, and diurnal variations in that tendency.)

    2. Tropopause level saturation – this occurs when the atmosphere is so opaque that photon paths are limited over distances too short for much of a temperature gradient to be visible at the tropopause level. The net LW flux at the tropopause level will simply approach zero as this occurs. Even when this happens, though, the temperature variations over smaller optical thickness-weighted distances allow for changing radiative forcings above the tropopause.

    It is also important to note that tropopause level saturation can occur at some wavelengths while the greenhouse effect remains unsaturated at other wavelengths (as is the case now for adding more CO2).

  4. 454
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 452 – in most of the mass of the atmosphere, collisions are frequent enough to thermalize the changes in energy caused by absorption and emission of photons. keep optically-‘active’ (emitting and absorbing) gases at about the same temperature as the air as a whole over a given unit volume of air. If a lot of molecules were absorbing and emitting photons without collisions occuring in between, this would not be the case.

  5. 455
    Patrick 027 says:

    …by absorption and emission of photons, keepING optically-’active’ …

  6. 456
    Mark says:

    Mr Naindj is right except he’s missing out a couple of REALLY important points. Deliberately?

    1) saturation means practically 100% is absorbed (for the wavelengths where IT IS SATURATED)

    *** capitals are the wrong bit from Mr Naindj’s undestanding corrected ***

    2) This doesn’t mean much in a thermally inhomogeneous transport medium that itself is engaged in the radiation picture.

    That is, in visible wavelengths at earth atmospheric temperatures, the inhomogeneity doesn’t matter because the temperatures do not contribute to the visible wavelengths. At stellar atmospheric temperatures, it does and again you get breaking of the beer’s law generated saturated gas argument.

    Sidd, from previous posts, the time taken to collide with something else is of the order of 1000 times shorter than the relaxation time of the CO2 excitation. I.e. 99.9% or so do not reradiate directly.

    “The extra heat induced by the re-radiation down (100% minus the heating of the layer itself) is ALREADY taken into account.”

    What makes you say this? Already taken into account by what?

    It isn’t taken into account by those who propound the saturated gas argument of the denialosphere. It IS taken into account by AGW science all the way back to Arrhenius and computationally (MATHS ONLY) proved by Gilbert Plass when computers became powerful enough to do the sums in 1956.

    And Arrhenius had a doubling of CO2 causing ~6C warming from his data and Plass got something around 4C per doubling.

    (I don’t have the link here, but I’ve posted it on RC before a few times.)

    Including the downward reradiation isn’t included already in the 0.1C per doubling that Spencer (or McIntyre?) used as (GI) input to the radiative transfer model one of the owners of the site wrote (getting GO, but proclaiming that even their model “proved” the IPCC warming level wrong. Funny how they’re always going on about computer models suffering from GIGO…).

  7. 457
    Mark says:

    BPL, post #446, thanks.

    (we have had some terrible arguments, which makes the appreciation more welcome. Ta.)

  8. 458
    Patrick 027 says:

    manacker – besides Gavin’s responses, I’ll add:

    1. Single studies of cloud feedback have to be taken as contributions to the whole body of knowledge.

    2. Sometimes a study’s results are later shown to be erroneous.

    3. Cloud feedback in the tropics, whatever it may be, is not necessarily the same as cloud feebacks in the subtropics, midlatitudes, and elsewhere.


    Total cloud radiative effect (which is a significant cooling, which is a larger albedo cooling effect minus a greenhouse effect) is not the same as the change in cloud radiative effect that may occur, such as a feedback to forced climate change or as part of the feedback loops in internal variability – the later not tending to propel the climate too far in one direction or another.

    That was Gavin’s point about ‘apples to oranges’.

  9. 459
    Patrick 027 says:

    “besides Gavin’s responses”

    Well maybe I’m just being too nitpicky with myself, but “besides” is really not the best word choice. Better to say “in addition to”.

  10. 460
    Rod B says:

    Hank (450), within the scope of the theory, doesn’t the radiation upward decrease geometrically/asymtopically to, for all rational purposes, to zero?

  11. 461
    Hank Roberts says:

    Rod, do you imagine the molecule knows which way is up, to emit only down?

  12. 462
    Patrick 027 says:

    Rod B – the great majority of the mass of the atmosphere is within 50 km of the surface, and this is also true of the atmosphere’s opacity. Of course, SW and LW fluxes are of greatest importance to the temperature of the mesosphere and thermosphere, etc, but those can generally be neglected without much error when calculating tropopause-level radiative forcing, especially for non-UV forcing, etc.

    Because of the thinness of the atmosphere relative to the Earth’s radius, a the consequences of spherical geometry can be neglected without much error for at least some purposes. Which is to say, for example, if the LW flux per unit area emitted from the surface were x W/m2 and y of that were absorbed up to height z, the flux per unit area directly from the surface that reaches height z could be approximated as x*(1-y) W/m2, so long as z is much smaller than a, the radius of the Earth. A more exact value would be x*(1-y) * (a/(z+a))^2 W/m2.

    Both the increasing area with height (divergence of vertical lines) and the curvature of horizontal surfaces (causing the angle from vertical or horizontal along a straight line to vary over the length of the line) can be neglected for at least some purposes.

    Also, the macroscopic scale refraction (as opposed to refraction on the scale of aerosols/cloud particles, which, along with reflection and diffraction, is manifested on a macroscopic scale as scattering) can generally be ignored without much error. The same is true of gravitational lensing and red-shift, and the red-shifting/blue-shifting of solar radiation reaching the Earth at different times of day, etc.

  13. 463
    Patrick 027 says:

    “Of course, SW and LW fluxes are of greatest importance to the temperature of the mesosphere and thermosphere, etc, but those can generally be neglected”

    Meaning radiation is important in determining temperature in the mesosphere and thermosphere, but the radiative flux convergence and divergence (absorption and emission of fluxes) within those layers is a very small fraction of what it is in the stratosphere, troposphere, and surface, at least at most wavelengths outside of the shorter wavelength UV, and over the whole spectrum, the radiant power absorbed and emitted by the mesosphere and thermosphere is a very small fraction of that absorbed and emitted by lower layers.

  14. 464
    Hank Roberts says:

    Simple words:

    Rod, the guy was claiming infrared couldn’t radiate _down_ from the atmosphere to the Earth. I asked him how a molecule could know which way was up, to avoid emitting infrared toward the ground.

    You asked something that on second thought probably was unrelated to the discussion above — more along the lines of repeating the same question you’ve asked for years, how infrared can possibly go from Earth to space since it runs into things.

    Same answer to both — it goes, hits something, gets absorbed, the molecule that picked up the energy rattles and wiggles and bounces and almost always transfers the energy to oxygen or nitrogen. Meanwhile the oxygen and nitrogen are bouncing around and sometimes wind up a greenhouse gas molecule with enough extra energy that it emits an infrared photon.

    The photon going out can go in any direction, with no preference.

    Visualize a crowd. If you can pitch a baseball all the way across it, you can pitch it out of the field in just one throw. Everyone in the crowd just stands around looking cool.

    If you can’t throw it that far and it falls into the crowd, each person who catches it throws it again, in a random direction. Eventually it also goes out of the field, but it takes longer. Some of the time someone throws it back at you. While it’s in play, everyone stays warm from the exertion of throwing it back and forth.

  15. 465
    Patrick 027 says:

    Rod B –

    About refraction, increasing area with height, curvature, and relativistic effects:

    and for feedbacks:
    (it’s in there somewhere)
    (IF you see my discussion of “emission distribution” (which I should have refered to as “weighting function”) – see clarification here: )

  16. 466
    Mark says:

    “The photon going out can go in any direction, with no preference.”

    And when it gets to open space, it doesn’t change direction any more. So it won’t from there get bounced back to the earth. This gives a preferential diffusion of the photons in the atmosphere to “out to space”.

  17. 467
    Mike Donald says:

    I want to get rid of my copy of “The Chilling Stars” so if anyone wants it just pen a PO Box number or whatever.

  18. 468


    Is there any useful data in it? Tables, equations, anything that might help someone interested in the actual science? I’ll read a crummy book if it has some useful stuff in it, even though I think the thesis here is crackpot stuff.

  19. 469
    Mike Donald says:

    Hi Barton,

    I can’t see hard data or equations but there’s two pages of references of Svensmarks’ papers. So maybe the science is there. Anyrate it’s yours if you want it. Btw – Chapter 9 “carbon dioxide is feeble” is guaranteed to annoy you.

  20. 470
    Naindj says:

    Re Hank 450.
    Re Mark
    Re Robert 027

    Of course you are all right and I am wrong!
    It is a pity I always need one stupid intervention to understand. I will definitely stop posting here and just read what more clever people have to say (both here and the literature)
    This is how I now understand the situation. And if I got it all wrong again, consider it is my last post.
    The Earth is emitting 390 W/m2 of radiation, roughly between 4um and 100 um, peaking at 10 um.
    At 10um, practically no gas will absorb it; that leads to 90 W/m2 going straight to space.
    The other 300 W/m2 will be absorbed (mainly by H20 and then by CO2) and re-emitted 50% UP and 50% down…
    What I said about “no radiation up” was (in my mind) about a particular wavelength of– let’s say -16 um. I simply did not consider that the re-emission is in the same range of wavelength because the CO2 particles are in the same range of temperature…stupid!

    Thank you to all and apologies again.
    Just a last adding: I came to this site after beeing intrigued by a conference of mister Courtillot. So I was really interested in what was going on. This site has kept me away from becoming a so-called “skeptic”. (because Courtillot is very convincing, and it is in French!)
    Keep the good (and necessary) job!

  21. 471
    Mark says:

    “I simply did not consider that the re-emission is in the same range of wavelength because the CO2 particles are in the same range of temperature…stupid!”

    I wouldn’t worry too much. You’ve been fed this line by others who SHOULD know better.

    They’re shoving garbage in, you’re posting garbage out. Because GI==GO.

    I don’t know whether those numbers are accurate, but it’s one major way in which the “saturated gas” argument is bull. Be a little more skeptical of those who deny AGW to AT LEAST the level you’ve played on the IPCC (which seems to have been “not read it at all”: try reading the IPCC reports, at least you’ll know what you’re told you should be skeptical of).

    And having noted that you’ve been fed a plausible lie, ask them next time to prove their point.

    You’ll either get ignored, get so much garbage it becomes OBVIOUS that it’s garbage or slagged off for being “on the gravy train”.

    Not stupid: misled.

  22. 472
    Ray Ladbury says:

    naindj, at least you are making the effort to understand–and admit your mistake when you find it. With such a person, science is possible. The reason so many physicists are bald and have sloped foreheads is all the dope slaps we’ve given ourselves when we finally saw how simple the problem we were working on was.

  23. 473
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re Naindj – a couple clarifications.

    At wavelengths where the opacity of the atmosphere is low, the atmosphere doesn’t block much radiation from the surface to space, and it doesn’t emit much itself. But what it does emit mostly reaches the surface or space equally, because the atmosphere is too transparent for individual sublayers at different temperatures to block each other’s radiation. In such conditions, you’d see emissions from different parts of the atmosphere almost equally (from above or below), so the atmosphere would have the same effective ‘brightness temperature’ as seen from below and from above.

    When the air is more opaque, however, the layers of the atmosphere, which are at different temperatures, can hide each other more. Thus, the atmosphere can radiate more to the surface than upward to space, because over most of the optical thickness of the atmosphere, there is a general tendency for temperature to decrease with height. This is true within the troposphere in particular (which is the majority of the mass of the atmosphere).

    I think the radiation that reaches space directly from the surface may be closer to 40 W/m2. Clouds are opaque (to varying degrees) at wavelengths that gases are not. Sufficiently high water vapor concentration can make the lowest part of the troposphere almost completely opaque to LW radiation.

  24. 474


    Thanks, I appreciate it! Email me at and I’ll send my USPS address.

  25. 475
    Peter Taylor says:

    Excuse my delayed response – the filter system turned against me over the weekend. I’ll respond to Richard, Patrick, Sidd and John Reissman once I am sure I am getting through – its frustrating to write a long response and then find my email rejected.

    [edit – ‘ just quoting’ someone who makes unfounded and unjustified accusations is not a way to duck responsibility for spreading nonsense. If you want to engage with scientists (which why I presume you are posting here), don’t start off by accusing them of corruption. You want a dialogue? Then start by treating the people you want to talk to with a modicum of respect. If you want to rant, do it elsewhere – gavin]

    As an analyst seeking to understand how mistakes can be made from ‘groupthink’ processes, such an opinion is an important indication that all is not well with the way IPCC formulates its conclusions. I can readily list five key areas where there was a lack of consensus within the IPCC’s 4th report but this did not surface in the Summary for Policy Makers. I can readily understand how summarisers seek to create simple messages for simple policy conclusions – but it then gets treated as if there is a consensus on the science when that is not entirely the case.

  26. 476
    Mark says:

    “As an analyst seeking to understand how mistakes can be made from ‘groupthink’ processes”

    Two problems, Peter.

    1) That idea is itself a groupthink

    2) It presupposes that groupthink is the explanation

    “I can readily list five key areas where there was a lack of consensus within the IPCC’s 4th report but this did not surface in the Summary for Policy Makers.”

    Please cite.

    NOTE: please also check that the summary doesn’t also state the uncertainty or doesn’t state the thing that you are going to quote as an example of groupthink: there’s no need to place the uncertainty in the summary of an element you don’t mention in the summary. It IS, after all, a summary. Not a BBC repeat.

  27. 477
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Peter Taylor,
    OK. Don’t like the IPCC? How about the National Academy of Science? The American Geophysical Union? The American Physical Society? And on and on. In fact, there is not a single professional or honorific scientific society that dissents from the consensus. Or you can look at the peer-reviewed scientific literature. Guess what, virtually no publications in significant dissent–and those few that do lead nowhere, as evidenced by the lack of citations.

    Sorry, Peter, the denialists just don’t produce anything that increases our understanding. And science… well, it works.

  28. 478
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re Peter Taylor –

    and also, consider that if humans are vulnerable to group think and also corrupting influences of money, power, and ideology, consider that many scientists and the IPCC may be less vulnerable than Exxon’s hired shills, and more innocently, people who haven’t studied the matter.

    When you here of people pointing out the corrupting/biasing influences among ‘skeptics/contrarians/deniers’, note that it may not (depending on where the criticism comes from) be the source of of suspicion of error, but that the errors themselves are already evident and the roles of money, power, connections, and ideology are only sought as explanations for error and/or to find blame for the error.

  29. 479
    Peter Taylor says:

    Ray Ladbury477:

    The IPCC reminds me of the UN’s Group of Independent Experts on Scientific Aspects of Marine Pollution – which also suffered from a severe case of group-think and defended its models of dispersal of toxic metals, organic pollutants and radioactivity – all of which were wrong. Or the UN panel on ionising radiation that prevaricated on the X-raying of pregnant women, arguing that the models showed no effects (the data showed otherwise but was not collected by UN agencies, rather by hospital doctors). And as for the US National Academy of Sciences – it changed its stance rather late on, as did the Russian Academy, with both former President of NAS and the Russian Vice President of IPCC stating their view that the GHG hypothesis was not confirmed and there was a lot of unjustified alarmism. I think it was 2004 before all the Academies got into line. I have not gone through line for line just what they found consensus on – but I don’t think it is much more than IPCC.

    [Response: References for these claims? Forgive us if we don’t just take your word for it. Given that your claim that the NAS changed it’s mind on GHGs is completely false, I’m sceptical. The NAS has published over 25 reports on climate change issues and each one has been more definitive than the previous – the musings of a senile ex-president notwithstanding. – gavin]


    I am not party to the view that IPCC scientists are influenced by finance, bribes, or whatever. Some good friends of mine have worked for the Climate Convention – my book, for example, is endorsed by the marine biologist Jackson Davis, who was given the task of drafting the Kyoto Protocol itself and who represented the Pacific Island states on the Convention.

    The way that finance influences the work of the IPCC is through the disproportionate emphasis throughout climatology upon computer models and a virtual reality of planetary systems. This branch of science competes for funding by emphasising its successes and downplaying its failures (as did the marine modelling before it – on which I have published a critique of the UN system in the peer-reviewed literature). Doubtless those who for their own vested interest seek to downplay global warming – whether oil interests or whatever, also seek to fund analyses in areas that would benefit their argument. In any area of science there are dissenters from and critics of the orthodox view. The real question at stake here is how is the dissent managed – by exclusion or by inclusion, by admission of the uncertainties and their implications, or by covering them over in order to simplify the message.

  30. 480
    Patrick 027 says:

    “by exclusion or by inclusion, by admission of the uncertainties and their implications, or by covering them over in order to simplify the message.”

    The IPCC does admit uncertainties, as do others.

    ‘skeptics/deniers/contrarians’ sometimes make statements with a degree of certainty that might not be justified. And sometimes they make statements that are factually incorrect, sometimes in the extreme (Fred Singer, Richard Lindzen, Pat Michaels – see how they allocate the greenhouse effect to various gases, and look at Fred Singer’s take on the carbon cycle – it could be the work of a crazy person). And sometimes they do both at the same time. And when they consider the uncertainty, they often distort it, seeming to have unjustified certainty that the sign of the error will tilt their way (that climate change will be less severe, the costs will be less, and the costs of alternatives will be larger). Sometimes they cherry pick, present misleading half-truths, and generally obfuscate if they know what they’re talking about.

    “The way that finance influences the work of the IPCC is through the disproportionate emphasis throughout climatology upon computer models and a virtual reality of planetary systems.”

    What in your opinion needs greater emphasis? Physics is very very important. But there are paleoclimatic studies and observations, too, and they don’t really disagree much.

    What errors have actually been made by the IPCC?

  31. 481
    Hank Roberts says:

    Sure, the UN’s a political assembly, and national self-interest has always led to pressure to minimize the danger of all sorts of things.

    Low level radiation? Sure, no problem — remember ‘hormesis’? It’s still an argument in use today.,2,3;journal,4,18;linkingpublicationresults,1:119866,1
    It’s highly politicized and the worry about studying the health issues affects climate discussions to this day.
    Compare the links in this comment:
    to this post:
    You can be all in favor of something and still want ongoing dispassionate careful scientific study of the outcomes — but not on _this_ planet the way _we_ think and do our politics.

    Sure, the UN can be shown to have made political decisions in the past.
    Were they overcautious? Nope.

    Toxic waste disposal? Dunno, citation welcome.

    But can you come up with an example of the UN being _over_cautious about that? Or about something where its constituent nations and their industries wanted freedom to pollute or do other risky things to externalize their costs?

    The UN has been a least common denominator about climate change. Still is.
    Like it has been about every other issue you’ve raised.

    Clearly, the UN is by far the worst form of planetary management ever invented, except for all the others we can speculate may have existed anywhere, c.f. Fermi Paradox. Nice planet you’ve got here. Shame to lose it.

    Andrew Dessler — who knows whereof he speaks, look up his work — made this point far more clearly some time ago:
    Why you should believe the IPCC, part 134,992,653
    The ideological tensions inside the IPCC gives its reports alarming credibility (Posted 8 months ago)

  32. 482
    Mark says:

    “What errors have actually been made by the IPCC?”

    I think what he considers the error, Patrick, is that the IPCC have said AGW is happening.

    He KNOWS this is incorrect, so there must be a pony in there somewhere.

  33. 483
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Peter Taylor, You seem to want to make this a UN issus. It isn’t. Most climate scientists are not on the IPCC. Most of the scientific organizations that have statements supporting the consensus position have no connection the the UN or to any US or other government organization. Nonetheless, there is not one well respected scientific professional or honorific scientific organization that is in dissent. Zero, Nada, Rien de tout, Nichts. Ferchrissake, event the frigging petroleum geologists could not maintain a credible dissent in the face of the data! This and the woeful publication record from the tiny fraction of scientists who do dissent suggests that maybe you might want to contact the mother ship for further instructions. The fight in the scientific realm is long lost. The only question now is whether our policy will be based on science or on anti-science.

  34. 484
    Peter Taylor says:

    2. The issue of upper ocean heat content

    IPCC based its 2007 conclusions largely upon the analysis of Levitus in 2005, as did Barratt reporting in Science that the models had done an accurate job of replicating the build up of heat since 1950. (In relation to the earlier comments by Sidd399 about the deep ocean warming – I will read Schuckmann as suggested about deeper ocean warming but I would still expect the bulk of the signal to be confined to the top 200m. I make reference in my own review to three papers by Warren White and his colleagues at Scripps between 1997-2003 which concluded that the global warming signal was essentially locked in the upper 200m. This makes sense oceanographically because there is little interchange of surface waters with deeper water other than in areas of downwelling and upwelling and these movements are very slow. When Lyman reviewed the data in 2006 and thought he had found a massive heat loss he thought it would have gone to space from surface waters rather than to deeper areas – but as we know, that signal was false, there was no massive loss, rather a steady flatline since 2003. The current use of 700m as upper ocean heat content might disguise the pattern down to 200m – I hope to get time to look at this.

    With regard to IPCC – they reference some of these issues in the working group – but not the later 2x revision of ocean heat content by various authorities since Levitus in 2005 (e.g. Gouretski & Koltermann in 2006)and do not flag the developing lack of consensus – which has increased between 2007 and 2009 – with work by Domingues and Smith , and Palmer at Hadley confirming Gouretski, but Levitus recently pulling back a few percentage points. It still looks as if upper ocean heat content was rather grossly over estimated (50-100%).

    This has major implications for the models. Again, it was a plank of the validation argument that they replicated the early curve. Now that curve is under serious question – as is the size of ‘warming in the pipeline’ upon which future projections have been made. Clearly, the models falsely replicated the signal.

    [Response: Not true at all. The matches to the models to the latest NOAA OHC numbers over the last 30 years are very good and this was shown in Domingues et al as well. I’ll show a graph of this in a couple of posts’ time. – gavin]

  35. 485
    Peter Taylor says:

    3. Cloud thinning between 1983 and 2001

    IPCC deal with this issue at length in the technical reports. There is a mass of satellite-derived data – from radiation surveys at all levels of the atmosphere as well as ground surfaces, and from reflected light or ‘earthshine’ (Big Bear Solar Observatory) that is consistent and shows that a) global cloud cover fell by 4% over this period; b) low level cloud cover was probably the main factor; c) short-wave radiation to the surface, especially of the oceans, increased. The extra radiative effect was 4-5 times that of the computed Radiative Forcing of carbon dioxide over that same period.

    At the same time, ship-borne synoptic measurements did not show such a trend. IPCC therefore regarded the discrepancy as unresolved and the whole issue was downplayed and did not figure prominently in the summary.

    A phase change in cloud patterns occurred between 2000-2001 (2% up maintained since that time) – followed by the flatlining of ocean heat content and the flatline also in surface temperatures.

    Now – this could be justified by saying that the models deal with all of this as ‘feedback’ – and there is no reason to question them or the attribution studies – but everywhere I look in the literature pertaining to those models I read that dealing with clouds is their main weakness (Bart P Levinson, 404, in reply: I started to read the model literature three years ago – The latest review I read was Koutsoyiannis’s team funded to evaluate how well the models performed in comparison to those of the hydrological cycle, where start-points were more clearly factored in to cycles; or the review by Compo and Sardeshmukh on transfer of heat from ocean to land (they found no obvious carbon dioxide signal, only that land warming was due to heat transfer from the ocean). Thus, how the oceans warmed between 1980-2000 is rather crucial.

    [Response: Wrong again. The ‘earthshine’ data are not consistent with independent measures from satellites and have a much larger uncertainty than you realise. – gavin

  36. 486
    Peter Taylor says:

    4. Attribution studies

    The IPCC still holds to the attribution studies – little changed in their conclusions – entirely based upon the models – revised of course – but still (by 2007) not replicating the PDO/AMO/ENSO patterns – nor any models that might factor in the correlations of solar magnetic cycles/ocean temperatures even though the mechanisms are not elucidated (I am not greatly impressed by the GCR correlation, more so with the UV variability). The potential for an alternative model based on alternative assumptions about the balance of the driving force is not explored – it is a perfectly legitimate scientific exercise – even if ultimately proved to be wrong – but not one the IPCC would regard as legitimate when faced with providing a simple message to policy makers. That is groupthink driven by the need to relate the report to a political process.

    [Response: More nonsense. How do you propose to make any kind of attribution study of a singular event without recourse to models of some sort? Think about trying to do it for the Pinatubo eruption (which carries far less political baggage) and demonstrate how to convincingly link the subsequent cooling to the stratispheric aerosol injection without using models. This is not groupthink, this is just ‘think’. – gavin]

  37. 487
    Peter Taylor says:

    My thanks for the space to express these views. Please do read the book. I will take on board any feedback and incorporate it into any future work. Although I am here presenting the case for one side – in my book and in my work I am careful to present opposing views so that policy makers can see my own views in context – naturally, as you might expect, at this present time, there are very few beating a path to my door! I have not been wrong on any issue thus far (which is why I have been listened to before) and I am well aware of how far out I have stuck my neck – but then, there are very high stakes on things I care about – the Scottish Highlands, palm-oil in Borneo, the Amazon, the Congo rainforests, the Tana River Wilderness, the Iceland wild rivers, the Severn Estuary, China buying up millions of acres of productive land in Madagascar (not sure if they expect cooling and compromised food supplies – as they are better informed on solar cycle links to famine, or just looking for biofuels and carbon credits). And yes, I do appreciate that if I am wrong, these areas would be affected by global warming. And I know that oil is running out. My point in the book is that the answers in each case are different in emphasis and timing.

  38. 488
    Hank Roberts says:

    Peter Taylor, I am puzzled to see your book published by Clairview Books, a source of notoriously inaccurate information. What’s the connection? Don’t they help do any fact checking? The kinds of errors already noted above are truly worrisome.

    And you have such a smooth, polished, enticingly green website.

    But — Clairview?!

    One Small Step? by Gerhard Wisnewski, Clairview Books, 2008,

    And of course
    CHILL. “Do you believe the earth is warming? Think again,” says Peter Taylor, a committed environmental analyst with the unusual gift of following scientific evidence ruthlessly wherever it may lead. ….

    More following seems appropriate. I’d hope you’ll put your fact claims on a website, add the corrections made above, and show how you plan to gather information for the next book. It seems like the process needs some improvement.

  39. 489
    dhogaza says:

    I’d hope you’ll put your fact claims on a website, add the corrections made above,

    Hank, I think you missed this:

    I have not been wrong on any issue thus far (which is why I have been listened to before)

    This is not an attitude amenable to self-education.

  40. 490
    Brian Dodge says:

    I plugged the phrase “Group of Independent Experts on Scientific Aspects of Marine Pollution” into google, and got one hit – this page on RC. I shortened the phrase to “Scientific Aspects of Marine Pollution”, and the first hit was
    “IMCO does, however, take part in the work of, and provide the administrative centre for, the Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Pollution,…”, so they are not really independent.

    Googling for “intergovernmental marine consultative organization” led to
    “Originally founded in 1949 as the Intergovernmental Marine Consultative Organization, IMO was really just a “shipowners’ club”, ensuring only the barest level of
    international regulation… “, and eventually to
    “As on previous occasions, there was some resistance on the part of the oil industry to double hulls being made mandatory…”
    “In 1991 a major study into the comparative performances of the double-hull and mid-height deck tanker designs was carried out by IMO, with funding from the oil and tanker industry.”
    which led to “…existing tankers must comply with the requirements of 13F not later than 30 years after their date of delivery.” IMHO, allowing thirty years to achieve compliance doesn’t reflect a “severe case of group-think”, but of industry meddling.

    Isn’t it ironic that a group that Peter Taylor mischaracterizes as independent is in fact neither independent nor free from influence of the oil industry?

  41. 491
    sidd says:

    Mr. Taylor: Re: Ocean Heat Content

    I agree with Gavin. I am right now looking at Levitus 2005 (GRL v32, L02604, 2005), Levitus 2009 (GRL v36, L07698, 2009) and Domingues(Nature, v453, 1090, 2008). Levitus 2009 adds data and corrects for instrumental errors and has a comparison with Domingues 08. I see substantial agreement in trends of increasing ocean heat content (OHC) Levitus has 0.32+/-0.05, Domingues has 0.41+/-0.06 in units of 1e22 J/yr for the period 1969-2003. Year to year variability is different, but the trends agree to within the error, against differential processing algorithms, and different data sets.

    As Gavin points out and Domingues shows clearly, once volcanic forcings are included, the models do agree with the measurements.

    Please do read the Schuckman paper (JGR, v114, C09007, 2009)
    You will see the signature of deep warming, Southern freshening, and an OHC trend estimate (over 2003-2008) which is much larger than the Levitus estimate (which spans the last 5 decades)

    Lastly: Please use complete citations, or include a complete list of references at the end of your posts.

    “three papers by Warren White and his colleagues at Scripps between 1997-2003” is not a citation.

    “Gouretski & Koltermann in 2006” is very slightly better, but I note the publication date is actually 2007. The actual reference is GRL v34, L01610, 2007.

    “work by Domingues and Smith, and Palmer” is completely horrible.

    I am familiar with some of these papers. It will take me unnecessary work to track down the rest. I hope and anticipate that you will show me and the rest of the readers here more courtesy in future.

  42. 492
    Brian Dodge says:

    re “On the possible links between tree growth and galactic cosmic rays” Markku Kulmala, Pertti Hari, Ilona Riipinen, and Veli-Matti Kerminen

    Their Figure 1 shows a positive correlation between cosmic rays and tree growth. The argument from Svensmark et al is that more GCRs make more clouds, higher albedo, and cooler weather. Cooler weather and less sunlight reaching the trees should result in less, not more, tree growth. At least hormesis directly linked to increased GC radiation would have the correct sign, (as opposed to “…it is possible that the observed correlation of cosmic radiation flux with tree growth might be related to cosmic ray-induced changes in cloud properties.” by a mechanism which “remains to be elucidated.” I’m tempted to say something snarky involving a quote from Lewis Carroll, but I’ll leave that to others.)

  43. 493
    Hank Roberts says:

    Chuckle. Brian, one suggestion is that diffuse light gets scattered enough to light up the bottom as well as the top of leaves, while not overheating the plant to the point it shuts its stomata to avoid dehiscence.

    I dunno if anyone’s shown that actually happens. Could be done with some experimental use of fogs machines, I suppose.

    I do know I’ve been in a nighttime forest in a thin mountaintop cloud — on a full moon night — and we couldn’t see the moon even as a brighter spot aboveus, but there were absolutely no shadows anywhere at all under the trees — everything was alight, evenly glowing pearly air everywhere, each droplet reflecting and refracting the light from all the others.

    “Haven’t felt anything quite like that since” as Holly Near said about something else entirely.

    So I can imagine a tree having the same experience in a misty sunlit environment.

  44. 494
    manacker says:

    Re 492/493

    The graph showing the cosmic ray / tree ring correlation (New Phytologist Vol. 184, 3 Pages: 511-513) shows a lot of noise, but it is very hard to see any correlation there (let alone an indication of causation).


  45. 495
    M_B says:

    Why the Climate/Sun/GRC link has not been buried?

    I think the observational evidence for a link between reconstructions of past climate change and solar activity/GRC’s is far too strong to ignore.

    There are lots of observations which show that the sun seems to be affecting climate, but the physical mechanism remains unknown.

    The CLOUD-09 experiment at CERN which has only just started should give us some answers over the next 2-3 years, proving or disproving whether cosmic rays can affect clouds and climate.

  46. 496
    manacker says:

    I fully agree with M_B that the CLOUD experiment at CERN will tell us a lot more, and it it still way too early to write off the “idea that galactic cosmic rays (GCR) play a role for the present global warming”, simply because number of scientific arguments have been made “that normally would falsify a hypothesis and lay it dead”.

    There is still, as M_B points out, the observed evidence of a link between past climate change and solar activity, for which we still do not know the physical mechanism, and CLOUD could provide this.


  47. 497
    manacker says:

    Further to the post by M_B

    “Why the continued interest” in the “idea that galactic cosmic rays (GCR) play a role in our climate”?

    New scientific knowledge is ALWAYS a good thing. We should not be afraid to learn that our current knowledge is incomplete or even partially wrong.


  48. 498
    Mark says:

    “New scientific knowledge is ALWAYS a good thing”


    Now please explain where the new scientific knowledge is.

    Because apparently you love new scientific knowledge but ignore it if it says “you know that Cosmic Ray thing? Well, it doesn’t explain the warming you’ve been getting”.

    Since that is the new scientific knowledge that prompted Rasmus to ask “why the continued interest?”

    Is it only new knowledge if it says CO2 isn’t the cause? Because current scientific knowledge says that Svenmarks’ idea doesn’t work.

  49. 499
    Mark says:

    “There are lots of observations which show that the sun seems to be affecting climate, but the physical mechanism remains unknown.”

    Well, duh.

    Yes, the sun is very heavily involved in the climate. But now that it is a tremendously unusual quiet period, why is the temperature record still breaking records?

  50. 500
    Peter Taylor says:

    Brian Dodge (490)

    In the late 1980s and early 1990’s the IMO building in London provided the venue for the London Dumping Convention – an intergovernmental body under the auspices of the UN that controlled the disposal of toxic wastes at sea (from ships). The IMO’s own work on maritime safety was a separate issue – and if you are going to have regulations on double hulls you do not phase them in immediately because that would cripple the oil fleet and bring the world economy to a halt – as I am sure you appreciate this would be counterproductive to getting an intergovernmental aggreement – rather, by setting a deadline, you make sure that all new-build meets the regulation at minimal cost and disruption. But I hold no brief for the oil industry.

    Under Manfred Nauke at IMO, the side of the organisation that I advised was making great strides toward cleaning up the world’s oceans. As a group of us spearheaded new legislation to prevent the dumping of toxic waste, I felt it incumbent to use the expertise we had gained to find a better way forward for the industries that produced the waste (at which point I departed from my usual alliances with environmental campaign groups and worked directly with IMO). I found funding to send a post-doctoral assistant on a mission to assemble best practices throughout key industries. In the years that followed he pioneered ‘Clean Production Strategies’ and now sits on the UK Sustainable Development Commission and holds a professorship in sustainable development. A UN Office of Clean Production also emerged from these initiatives.

    It would be wrong to characterise the IMO as a patsy of the oil industry or to suggest I had any such links. Their very good offices contributed to making the oceans safer and cleaner.

    As for GESAMP – my last meeting with them was not at IMO but at the IAEA offices in Vienna in 1992 – when rather than quietly sit down and find a way out of the ‘dilute and disperse’ paradigm that had gone so badly wrong, they stonewalled and challenged me to public my critique in the peer-reviewed literature. It took a year and cost about $40,000, of which half came from a somewhat begrudging Greenpeace who did not at first see the merit sof helping the UN solve its own problems. You can read this critique:

    Taylor P. (1993) ‘The state of the marine environment: a critique of the work and role of the Joint Group of Experts on Scientific aspects of Marine Pollution (GESAMP)’ Marine Pollution Bulletin, 26 (3) 120-127

    and I would also suggest

    Stairs K and Taylor P (1992) ‘Non-governmental organisations and the legal protection of the oceans’ in International Politics and the Environment ed. Hurrell & Kingsbury, Clarendon Press, Oxford.

    which will give you insights as to the interplay of commercial, environmental and governmental forces in legislative initiatives.

    If you want to go further then ‘Clean Production Stratgeies’ ed Tim Jackson, Stockholm Environment Institute (1993)

    also relates to that work, and has a chapter which I contributed on the role of the Precautionary Principle.

    I go into some detail on this historical precedent in ‘Chill’ because I perceive the IPCC as making similar errors to those of GESAMP – largely arising because of a strong prior-commitment and the way in which technical reports from real scientists are edited into summary documents by the ‘committed’ secretariat – and I could find a many examples in key areas of science where no consensus existed in the technical areas, but somehow manifested in the summary document.