RealClimate logo


First published response to Lindzen and Choi

Filed under: — gavin @ 8 January 2010

The first published response to Lindzen and Choi (2009) (LC09) has just appeared “in press” (subscription) at GRL. LC09 purported to determine climate sensitivity by examining the response of radiative fluxes at the Top-of-the-Atmosphere (TOA) to ocean temperature changes in the tropics. Their conclusion was that sensitivity was very small, in obvious contradiction to the models.

In their commentary, Trenberth, Fasullo, O’Dell and Wong examine some of the assumptions that were used in LC09’s analysis. In their guest commentary, they go over some of the technical details, and conclude, somewhat forcefully, that the LC09 results were not robust and do not provide any insight into the magnitudes of climate feedbacks.

Coincidentally, there is a related paper (Chung, Yeomans and Soden) also in press (sub. req.) at GRL which also compares the feedbacks in the models to the satellite radiative flux measurements and also comes to the conclusion that the models aren’t doing that badly. They conclude that

In spite of well-known biases of tropospheric temperature and humidity in climate models, comparisons indicate that the intermodel range in the rate of clear-sky radiative damping are small despite large intermodel variability in the mean clear-sky OLR. Moreover, the model-simulated rates of radiative damping are consistent with those obtained from satellite observations and are indicative of a strong positive correlation between temperature and water vapor variations over a broad range of spatiotemporal scales.

It will take a little time to assess the issues that have been raised (and these papers are unlikely to be the last word), but it is worth making a couple of points about the process. First off, LC09 was not a nonsense paper – that is, it didn’t have completely obvious flaws that should have been caught by peer review (unlike say, McLean et al, 2009 or Douglass et al, 2008). Even if it now turns out that the analysis was not robust, it was not that the analysis was not worth trying, and the work being done to re-examine these questions is a useful contributions to the literature – even if the conclusion is that this approach to the analysis is flawed.

More generally, this episode underlines the danger in reading too much into single papers. For papers that appear to go against the mainstream (in either direction), the likelihood is that the conclusions will not stand up for long, but sometimes it takes a while for this to be clear. Research at the cutting edge – where you are pushing the limits of the data or the theory – is like that. If the answers were obvious, we wouldn’t need to do research.

Update: More commentary at DotEarth including a response from Lindzen.


141 Responses to “First published response to Lindzen and Choi”

  1. 1
    Chris ODell says:

    re: 16, 22, 23, 34 regarding Lindzen & Choi 2009. This paper simply has some important mistakes and some serious problems in the robustness of its methodology. I’m happy to say that I’m a co-author on a paper that examines this technique and its robustness in some detail (though not as much detail as I would like, but of course GRL has stringent length requirements) – just accepted in GRL. When it comes out I’ll provide a link.

    [Response: Want to write a guest post on the issues? – gavin]

  2. 2
  3. 3
    Bobo says:

    Chris O’Dells Paper is now in press. On Lindzen and Choi they state:
    http://www.agu.org/journals/pip/gl/2009GL042314-pip.pdf

    “Another recent attempt to estimate sensitivity and λ [Lindzen and Choi, 2009] (LC09) notes that there are many pitfalls to be avoided in assessing climate feedbacks in models using observations of radiation at TOA. While they adopt a procedure to avoid one of these pitfalls, they fail to recognize and account for several others, they do not account for external forcings,
    and their use of a limited tropical domain is especially problematic. Moreover their results do not stand up to independent testing.”

  4. 4
    Bobo says:

    Oh sorry I have forgot to post Trenberths et al conclusion on Lindzen and Choi 2009: “As shown here, the approach taken by LC09 is flawed, and its results are seriously in error. The LC09 choice of dates has distorted their results and underscores the defective nature of their analysis.”

  5. 5
    gavin says:

    I moved some relevant comments from the Plass thread over.

  6. 6
    dhogaza says:

    Since you’ve seeded commentary here, maybe the guest thread comments should be closed, so there’s a single, linear discussion?

    [Response: Let’s keep this thread for the meta-issues, and that thread for the specifics of the L&C study and the response. – gavin]

  7. 7
  8. 8
    thingsbreak says:

    I could have saved myself a bit of trouble if I’d known the guest post was coming. ;)

  9. 9
    Francis says:

    Gavin —

    You just seem to continue as if the roof had not fallen in.

    Why is there computer code in the Climategate files that artificially adjusts earlier temperatures lower and later higher? Somebody needs to come forward and say: That code was never used in any of our published work, including IPCC reports. I’ve been looking everywhere and I can’t find any team member saying that. Have I missed it? You are a prominent correspondent with Jones, Mann, et al. Can’t you demand that they make this simple affirmation? If nobody will make this statement, how can a member of the public do anything other than conclude that all of your and their work is scientific fraud? Help!!!!

    [Response: We covered this at the time. The fudge factor was based on a PC analysis of the divergence between the MXD reconstruction and the actual temperatures and was used to examine whether the calibration statistics would be significantly affected in the event that the divergence was anthropogenic. It was used (very explicitly) in an Osborn et al submission in 2004 but never published (which was in google cache for a while but no longer) and has not been used anywhere else. It has nothing to do with any temperature record, has not been used in any published reconstruction and is not the source of the hockey stick blade anywhere. – gavin]

  10. 10
    Dan Ives says:

    Hi Gavin,

    I’m not familiar with the details of the peer-review process. What happens when a paper such as LC09 is published, but is later shown to have major flaws that render its conclusions irrelevant? I’m aware that comments can be submitted and challenging papers can be submitted and published (as is the case here). However, if enough evidence is built to demonstrate the flaws of such a paper, is it ever removed and “un-published?”

    Thanks for clarifying,

    -Dan

    [Response: Only very rarely. It is not a crime to be wrong or come to an erroneous conclusion, or make a mistake. So most rebutted papers stay in the literature. I’m only aware of papers being wtihdrawn in the case of proven fraud (Schon, the Korean stem-cell debacle etc.). For the more common kinds of mistakes/errors, people usually correct them next time around. – gavin]

  11. 11
    Frank Giger says:

    “If the answers were obvious, we wouldn’t need to do research.”

    Whoops.

    You’d still need to confirm it. We all thought Newton had it dead on for a very long time, as it was obvious and worked.

    ;)

    I’m quite encouraged by this. Real old school paper that rebuts another paper being rebutted in a third.

    “Guys, I think you have it wrong.”
    “Oooh, check your math and data framing; you’ve got statistical weirdness in it, and you left out a major factor that will impact your results.”
    “Darn it – I know I’m on to something…gonna refine it and go again.”
    “Bring it on! I gots lots of red sharpies ready to mark you up.”
    “We’ll see about that!”
    “Oh, btw, can I get that data set and code? It was an interesting take that gives me another I might use in my own research.”
    “Certainly. Do I get a mention in the paper?”
    “Footnote only; but I’ll forward you it before publication for review.”

    Or, alternately, the phone is hung up with a FU at the request.

  12. 12
    Dan Ives says:

    Gavin, thank you for taking a moment to answer my questions.

    I agree, making honest mistakes and being wrong is certainly forgivable, especially when trying to answer difficult scientific questions. I followed your link to DotEarth where Lindzen states that he plans to submit a new version, so it will be interesting to see how he addresses the critiques.

    I enjoy reading the posts on this site, and your effort to educate people about climate science and debunk the myths and misinformation is a noble undertaking. Thank you.

    Cheers,

    -Dan

  13. 13
    Tom Wigley says:

    You say “LC09 was not a nonsense paper – that is, it didn’t have completely obvious flaws that should have been caught by peer review “. I beg to differ.
    It is a priori obvious that one cannot determine the climate sensitivity from an incomplete energy balance over the tropics. LC09 ignores the fluxes of heat into and/or out of the region via the atmosphere, and the flux of heat into the ocean. As Trenberth et al. point out, these are large terms, and they simply cannot be ignored. This is a glaringly obvious error that any competent reviewer should have picked up. It undermines the whole analysis and makes it worthless. In my view, the other issues raised by Trenberth et al. are important, but secondary to this fundamental problem.

  14. 14
    Michael Sweet says:

    >In a telephone interview today, Dr. Trenberth told me that the flaws in the Lindzen-Choi paper “have all the appearance of the authors having contrived to get the answer they got.”
    Gavin, following up on Dans question about papers being withdrawn. If it finally appears that the data was deliberately contrived to get this conclusion how will that affect Lindzen and Choi’s ability to get future papers published? The deniers will continue to push this paper even after it has been countered by scientists.

    thank you personally for your dedicated work on the recent climate gate ho hah hah. It takes a lot of your time but I learned enough to discuss it with some of my students at school.

  15. 15
    Jim Prall says:

    It’s nice to see the distinction in the intro that LC09 was “not a nonsense paper” even while disputing its conclusion. I’m trying to get people to see that peer review does not guarantee that everything published is *correct* but rather that it must at minimum be arguable, plausible, worth considering – on the page. The great frustration with recent breakdowns in peer review is stuff having gotten into journals that were indeed nonsense, and a waste of everyone’s time. This was evident to anyone familiar with the subject, but of course contrarians still latch on to the nonsense titles and run with them…

    One frivolous question: all these subscription-required journal sites offer single-article purchase, but at what seem astronomical prices – $15 to $30 for a single article of a few pages. (I have the good fortune to work at a university that subscribes to most of the best journals)
    My silly question: does anybody ever actually pay those steep single-aritcle prices? Who – journalists? It’s not like these works have commercial applications to warrant paying from a corporate expense account. Couldn’t the journals get more revenue with lower prices?

  16. 16
    Joshua says:

    Can someone help me here?

    I’m currently engaged in an argument with someone about global warming and while I know this exists, despite a large amount of google searching, I can’t find a peer-reviewed paper that (quoting other party here, excuse the obvious baiting):

    1. Demonstrate causation, not just correlation of CO2 levels relative to global temperature.
    2. Use real-world emperical evidence, not flawed computer models.
    3. Show emperical evidence for temperature rises following CO2 level increases, not before.
    4. Demonstrate that CO2 is the sole major forcing in global temperature changes, not a minor player in a much larger game, involving clouds, solar flux and CRF.
    5. Show that CO2 levels and greenhouse effect is not already saturated.

    Help! Can someone point me to any links / papers that I can refute his claims? I’m just unable to find them but I know you guys will have the answers!

    -Josh

    [Response: Here is a good place to start. – gavin]

  17. 17
    tharanga says:

    Joshua, 16:

    Your friend doesn’t like models?

    Ask him/her why he thinks atmospheric absorption is saturated, if he didn’t use some sort of model to describe that absorption. While he tries to figure that out, surprise him with some empirical evidence from satellites. I think John Harries has some relevant papers. Plenty of material on here as well, as to why the saturation argument is flawed.

    If he thinks CO2 is a minor forcing compared to solar, ask him how he knows that without using some sort of model. He’ll show you some dubious correlations. Then you can ask him to meet his own challenge of showing causation, not correlation, without using a model.

    Try it. I’m curious what happens.

  18. 18
    Deech56 says:

    (corrected)

    RE Joshua

    I’m currently engaged in an argument with someone about global warming and while I know this exists, despite a large amount of google searching, I can’t find a peer-reviewed paper that (quoting other party here, excuse the obvious baiting):

    There are several posts on Skeptical Science (also check the “argument” page and recent archives), with links to published papers, as well. They may not be exactly what you’re looking for, but they are close and are informative to read.

    1. Here and here.

    2. Here

    3. Here. You might also want to look into the Permian-Triassic extinction event.

    4. “Sole” is a bit of a strawman – there are several factors, but CO2 is primarily for the recent temperature trends.

    5. #54

    The search function of RC is also essential. For example, using the term “saturate” yields this post.

    Good luck.

  19. 19
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Michael Sweet asks “If it finally appears that the data was deliberately contrived to get this conclusion how will that affect Lindzen and Choi’s ability to get future papers published? The deniers will continue to push this paper even after it has been countered by scientists.”

    OK, now why should this affect their future work? They were wrong. They were not as diligent as one might have hoped. I hardly think this casts aspersions in general on their ability or honesty. Hell, I’m just happy when the denialists actually publish something. Get the wreckage off the road and everybody learn from it and move on. I’m sure none of us have any interest in playing the character assassination games. After all, we have evidence.

  20. 20
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    OT (or maybe not), cartoon for those feeling beleaguered by the CRU hacking incident –
    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_2fgn3xZDtkI/SziXnfjHy1I/AAAAAAAACxE/cjWviqrQGzM/s1600-h/TrickSTRIP(MINI).jpg

  21. 21
    Jim Bouldin says:

    It seems to me that GRL needs to tighten up the ship, possibly considerably. I believe their high volume “letters” orientation is causing review problems.

  22. 22

    The fact that Lindzen is able to get an obviously flawed paper published is a warning that peer review isn’t perfect, but also an indication that far from the contrarian case being suppressed, it gets published even if it’s rubbish. And it’s not the first time.

    So much for the grand conspiracy theory.

  23. 23
    Hank Roberts says:

    Joshua, don’t let people fool you by making things up and then challenging you to prove their imaginative exaggerations–you can’t (they can’t either). If they say it’s true, ask them what source they’re relying on.

  24. 24
    Eli Rabett says:

    Jim Prall, given the cost of subscriptions and the pressure of deadlines, Eli has now and again paid for a paper. If you think about university costs, it even makes sense to have a small sum set aside for this as long as no one abuses it. And yes, the journals could get more if they dropped the individual article cost, OTOH their goal is to maximize revenue which mostly comes from library subscriptions.

    On the other topic, it would be impossible to prove that mopery was afoot with LC09, and given that it’s not worth trying

  25. 25
    tharanga says:

    Jim Prall:

    Like Eli, I’ve also paid for a paper a couple times. No library has a subscription to every last thing, and sometimes you just don’t want to wait a couple days for them to get you a copy.

    So it’s not unheard of.

  26. 26
    Garrett says:

    I’d love the denailosphere to explain the steasy decrease of C13 in the atmosphere:

    http://www.barrettbellamyclimate.com/page33.htm
    http://www.barrettbellamyclimate.com/page34.htm

    Extrapolate that line back to 0 and you get 1655 AD :)

    I look forward to see how the “denialosphere” explains this.

  27. 27
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Francis #9, Gavin, the Osborn et al. article is here in cache:

    http://74.125.155.132/scholar?q=cache:Njnn1fHjn0QJ:scholar.google.com

    Unfortunately html. Go to Section 4.3 for the goods.

  28. 28
    Chris Colose says:

    Just as a precautionary note, my blog artile (linked in comment #2 by Ray Ladbury, and also the topic of the RC article entitled “Advocacy vs. science”) was a response to a blog posting by Lindzen, not the peer-reviewed published article. The counter-arguments I presented do not apply to the article in the literature, and this has generated some confusion on my blog posting.

  29. 29
    Bill says:

    This seems like another example of a failed and flawed process that needs fixing with a stronger and truely independent review systen. Last time I posted with this view, I was told that it was absolutely fine and worked well. The ‘conflict of interest’ aspect needs to be taken out …………

  30. 30
    pete best says:

    Thats the one thing about peer review that seems a little odd to the public at large perhaps. If its findings turn out to be wrong then how come it got published in the first place? I would have thought that peer review itself then is not really peer review but more inferior peer review if other scientists find it to be flawed. Why was it not picked up.

    Some would say some scientists are wrecking science due to the fact their review was not sufficient and found it worthy of publication. Something seems to be odd here.

  31. 31

    Josh: 1. Demonstrate causation, not just correlation of CO2 levels relative to global temperature.

    BPL:

    Fourier, J.-B. J. 1824. “Memoire sur les Temperatures du Globe Terrestre et des Espaces Planetaires.” Annales de Chemie et de Physique 2d Ser. 27, 136-167.

    Tyndall, J. 1859. “Note on the Transmission of Radiant Heat through Gaseous Bodies.” Proceed. Roy. Soc. London 10, 37-39.

    Arrhenius, S.A. 1896. “On the Influence of Carbonic Acid in the Air upon the Temperature of the Ground.” Phil. Mag. 41, 237-275.

    Royer, D.L. 2006. “CO2-forced climate thresholds during the Phanerozoic” Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 70, 5665-5675.

    Came R.E., J.M. Eiler, J. Veizer, K. Azmy, U. Brand, and C.R. Weidman 2007. “Coupling of surface temperatures and atmospheric CO2 concentrations during the Palaeozoic era.” Nature 449, 198-201.

    Doney, S.C. et al. 2007. “Carbon and climate system coupling on timescales from the Precambrian to the Anthropocene” Ann. Rev. Environ. Resources 32, 31-66.

    Horton, D.E. et al. 2007. “Orbital and CO2 forcing of late Paleozoic continental ice sheets” Geophys. Res. Lett. L19708.

    Fletcher, B.J. et al. 2008. “Atmospheric carbon dioxide linked with Mesozoic and early Cenozoic climate change” Nature Geoscience 1, 43-48.

    W. M. Kurschner et al. 2008. “The impact of Miocene atmospheric carbon dioxide fluctuations on climate and the evolution of the terrestrial ecosystem”Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 105, 499-453.

    Lean, J.L. and D.H. Rind 2008. “How natural and anthropogenic influences alter global and regional surface temperatures: 1889 to 2006.” Geophys. Res. Lett. 35, L18701.

    Royer, D.L. 2008. “Linkages between CO2, climate, and evolution in deep time” Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 105, 407-408.

    Zachos, J.C. 2008. “An early Cenozoic perspective on greenhouse warming and carbon-cycle dynamics” Nature 451, 279-283.

    2. Use real-world emperical evidence, not flawed computer models.

    See above. For carbon dioxide rising, see

    Keeling, C.D. 1958. “The Concentration and Isotopic Abundances of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide in Rural Areas.” Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 13, 322-334.

    Keeling, C.D. 1960. “The Concentration and Isotopic Abundances of Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere.” Tellus 12, 200-203.

    For the new carbon dioxide being anthropogenic in origin, see

    Suess, H.E. 1955. “Radiocarbon Concentration in Modern Wood.” Sci. 122, 415-417.

    Revelle, R. and H.E. Suess 1957. “Carbon Dioxide Exchange between Atmosphere and Ocean and the Question of an Increase of Atmospheric CO2 During the Past Decades.” Tellus 9, 18-27.

    3. Show emperical evidence for temperature rises following CO2 level increases, not before.

    Google “PETM,” or check here, where a tight correlation is shown between temperature anomalies and CO2 level in the same year:

    http://BartonPaulLevenson.com/Correlation.html

    In a natural deglaciation, temperature rise does indeed precede carbon dioxide increase, because warmer water holds less CO2 and it bubbles out of the ocean. The additional CO2 then raises the temperature further in a feedback. But that is NOT what is happening now. We know the new CO2 is coming from fossil fuels and deforestation, not the ocean, through its radioisotope signature.

    4. Demonstrate that CO2 is the sole major forcing in global temperature changes, not a minor player in a much larger game, involving clouds, solar flux and CRF.

    This is a straw-man argument. Nobody competent ever said CO2 was “the sole major forcing in global temperature changes.” It happens to be the major (not the only) cause of the present global warming, but at other epochs other causes have been more important. See the Lean paper referenced above for an example of how they sort out change attribution.

    5. Show that CO2 levels and greenhouse effect is not already saturated.

    At the lowest levels of the atmosphere, it is mostly saturated–and it doesn’t matter. The atmosphere as a whole is *never* entirely saturated, and can’t be, and every level contributes to the surface temperature. Please read:

    http://BartonPaulLevenson.com/Saturation.html

  32. 32
    cumfy says:

    Re #13
    Spot on Tom.

    I voiced very similar here back in August.

    Many people are delving into the subsequent analysis and ignoring that the framework and assumptions are flawed.

    Peer review: Why was no one from Trenberth/Fasullo team asked to review ?
    Did *anyone* review the paper (really) and what were their comments ?

    Originally http://www.realclimate.org/?comments_popup=930 #127
    ————————————————————————–
    Re Some thoughts on Lindzen’s paper http://www.leif.org/EOS/2009GL039628-pip.pdf

    Lindzen attempts to show that there is a relationship between LW radiative flux anomaly and SST anomaly 20N-20S
    over a 15 year period. Sensitivity (K/(W/m2)) is estimated as the ratio of these properties.

    He also discusses the failure of some AMIP based models to replicate the ERBE observations, which I do not specifically comment on here.

    4 principal criticisms

    1. The analysis is constrained to tropical oceans.
    2. The heat budget for the 20N-20S area is not closed either in i)area or ii)total heat budget (particularly latent heat)

    3. Simply eyeballing the SST and OLR anomaly graphs together does not give a confident impression of a statistically significant relationship between LW flux and temperature anomolies

    4.Analysis is constrained to delta T of >0.2K, which for instance excludes The Pinatubo event which is clearly captured in OLR, ASR with little SST response.

    My main concern is with (2).
    The 20n-20s area of analysis:
    1 Is arbitrarily constrained
    2 Has boundaries across which there are significant oceanic and atmospheric meridional heat flux.http://www.cgd.ucar.edu/cas/Trenberth/trenberth.papers/i1520-0442-21-10-2313.pdf
    These flux vary seasonally 2-8PW (equivalent 4-16Wm-2 globally or about 16-64Wm-2 over 20N20S oceans) at both 20N and 20S
    A 10% interannual variation would be equivalent to about 6-7 Wm-2 over the 20N20S area
    3 Has an unbounded heat budget, particularly in latent heat, which whilst having a relatively uniform mean in the tropics:
    http://ds.data.jma.go.jp/gmd/jra/atlas/surface-1/lheatsfc_ANN.png
    has considerable year to year variability:
    http://ds.data.jma.go.jp/gmd/jra/atlas/surface-1/lheatsfc_sd.png
    which is typically 5-15 Wm-2, much larger than the OLR variation http://ds.data.jma.go.jp/gmd/jra/atlas/surface-1/dlrsfc_sd.png
    and larger than the 7Wm-2 peak-to-peak OLR anomaly in Lindzen’s paper

    Consequently whilst the temperature variations may be correlated to a greater or lesser extent with radiative flux anomalies (<7Wm-2),they could be wholly or partially caused/explained by interannual variations in

    1 Meridional heat export across 20N and 20S (ocean or atmosphere)(?~6-7 Wm-2)
    2 Latent heat (5-15 Wm-2)

    which, if true, unfortunately renders any subsequent analysis of sensitivity (however well-founded in theory) redundant as the heat budget is not closed.

  33. 33
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Jim Prall,
    I know how much work went into your climate citation index. I just want to tell you that no matter how much it was, it was worth it. I know of no stronger evidence of consensus. I cite it to denialists at least 3 times a week!

  34. 34
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Jim Bouldin says, “It seems to me that GRL needs to tighten up the ship, possibly considerably. I believe their high volume “letters” orientation is causing review problems.”

    I disagree. There needs to be a place where ideas can be vetted even before a toothpick comes out clean. They are still a good publication. Every now and again, you find an acorn.

    Remember, the purpose of peer review is not to ensure that everything that is published is correct, but to make sure it is sufficiently correct and sufficiently novel to be of interest to one’s peers. At the very least, I think the community learned something from poking at this work. And hey, if it really had been correct, it would have been highly significant.

  35. 35
    HCG says:

    Nonstationarity of error terms is a serious problem in time-series analysis, but I don’t have a good sense of how well this issue has been treated in climate analysis.

    Could someone on this site comment on commenter #32 on Revkin’s blog, at http://community.nytimes.com/comments/dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/08/a-rebuttal-to-a-cool-climate-paper/?sort=oldest&offset=2 ?

    Is this a warranted criticism in the light of the references he cites?

    [Response: A criticism of what? Non-stationarity in historical time series is affected by a lot of things – homogeneity problems, forcings as well as the internal dynamics of the climate system. Climate models show very similar kinds of phenomenology, but it doesn’t impact the interpretation of their climate sensitivity, or projections. Vyushin et al (2009) is quite relevant – gavin]

  36. 36
    John E. Pearson says:

    30: Pete Best wrote ” … Some would say some scientists are wrecking science due to the fact their review was not sufficient and found it worthy of publication. …”

    Read the comments on this thread. No one has ever claimed that peer review is perfect. Arrhenhus’ 1896 paper on GW predicted a climate sensitivity of something like 6C. Angstrom in I forget when, about 1901, showed that the climate was saturated with respect to CO2. It was over a half century before Plass showed the error in Angstrom’s results. Plass found a no-feedback value of about 3C for climate sensitivity. I’m not quite sure when the accepted value of the no feedback sensitivity settled to whatever it is, but I know that by the late 70’s the Charney report quoted a feed-back sensitivity of about 3C. This value has held for the past 30 years with narrowing error bars. This is the normal way that science proceeds. One might argue that Einstein corrected Newton’s “errors”. If nothing was ever published until it was absolutely free of all error I think it’s pretty safe to claim that no scientific paper on any subject would ever have been or ever will be published.

  37. 37
    Spaceman Spiff says:

    Re: #29,30

    Individual scientists doing honest research resulting in a submitted journal article cannot know all that there is to know related to the data, its analysis and interpretation (or modeling). That, and occasionally, you get referees who for whatever reason (hey, they are human) decide to give the review a half-hearted effort. So even if 1 or 2 referees did not catch missteps A or B, the community of “referees” in the same research field who read the published paper (or hear a presentation at a conference) will “catch” the errors and eventually publish their own work of refutation, whether pointing out flaws in methodology or presenting new data or both. And often it doesn’t stop there, with counter-claims made against counter-claims, based on evidence, until useful knowledge emerges. And even this useful knowledge will be challenged as new data arise. And so on; in science no knowledge is sacred. The mistakes of individual researchers are eventually weeded out by the collective works of many and useful understanding emerges.

    What you’ve seen is one of the many powerful engines of science at work to advance our knowledge of the world. All published papers in science are wrong at some level, some more so than others, and the evidence-based sifting out of wrongness is the means to deeper understanding.

    Contrast this to the “we know absolutely that we are right” model of ideology. Nothing is learned – ever.

  38. 38
    Hank Roberts says:

    Lynn, re the weather question:

    http://global-warming.accuweather.com/

    … December 2009 temperature results from UAH…….
    “The anomaly for the North Polar region was +1.96C, which is warm, but look at the North polar ocean anomaly….+3.16 C …. relative extreme warmth up in the Arctic Ocean for December. …. The December 2009 anomaly for the lower 48 of the U.S……-1.46 C, which is the coldest month compared to normal since October of 2002. (based on UAH only).”

  39. 39
    David says:

    I know this comment doesn’t belong here – so – In addition to apologising – I’m hoping that, as well as the inevitable flames, someone might be able to point me in the right direction.

    Given that there is no such thing as a free lunch (first law of thermodynamics), and given that we puny humans are, despite our punyness in comparison to the massive Earth-Sun system, now producing enough greenhouse gases to seriously adversely affect our climate in the medium term, what is the likely climatological effect of all the wind- and wave-power systems which will be coming onstream in the medium term round the globe? Has anyone even begun to consider modeling and calculating this?

  40. 40
    dhogaza says:

    I know this comment doesn’t belong here – so – In addition to apologising – I’m hoping that, as well as the inevitable flames

    Has anyone even begun to consider modeling and calculating this?

    Don’t know why there’d be flames … it’s a reasonable question, unless to ask “why didn’t you spend 30 seconds in google, like I just did:

    Here’s a paper on the possible effects of large-scale wind farms.

    Didn’t google for the wave power part of your question, I’ll leave that for you, if you don’t mind. If you find something interesting, post it here!

  41. 41
    Jim Eager says:

    Re David @20, seeing as the direct thermal contribution of global annual fossil fuel combustion has repeatedly been shown here to be miniscule compared to the increase in greenhouse forcing, (most recently here: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/10/an-open-letter-to-steve-levitt/ ) is there any reason to think that capturing a small portion of total wind and wave kinetic energy would a more significant effect?

  42. 42
    GFW says:

    David,
    My gut reaction is that wind/wave/tide/solar farms are too puny to have direct climatological effects. Some local weather effects maybe. My argument is as follows – the reason fossil fuels are affecting the climate is the greenhouse gas after-effects. The direct heating effects of burning fuels is at *least* a couple of orders of magnitude less. The effects of wind/wave/tide/solar farms, whatever those effects might be, are going to be on the order of their power generation, like the direct heating effects of burning fuel. These “green” technologies don’t produce some accumulative waste product that is the real problem with fossil fuels.

  43. 43
    Spaceman Spiff says:

    Continuing my post #37, from the referee’s perspective.

    Again, no single referee (or reviewer) can find all the mistakes in a paper because he/she has incomplete knowledge (and oh yeah, we’re human). Hopefully, the worst problems are caught, explanations are tightened, error analysis is improved, etc. Two referees are better than one, and three are better still, but with diminishing returns given that the primary role of the reviewer is to ascertain that the paper meets established minimum scientific standards and is of interest to the community. One of the jobs of the science editor is to ascertain that the referee is doing his/her job appropriately.

    What I said just above and in post #37 provide good reasons that science does not rely on the findings of a single refereed journal paper. With time and the work of many other investigators and new data, shoddy analyses of data and less useful hypotheses lose to those that which lead to explanations that encompass best the data and lead to better predictions of the behavior of nature. Science is not a democracy of ideas. Instead, it is a ruthless process of scrutinizing explanatory ideas against the real world. If it isn’t useful in predicting the behavior of nature, it doesn’t survive long.

    So again, as far as I can tell this looks to be an example of good science in action.

  44. 44
    Hank Roberts says:

    > is there any reason to think …?

    Locally, sure.

    http://enperublog.com/2009/10/20/limas-fog-nets-catching-water-for-the-citys-poor-featured/

    http://www.google.com/search?q=redwood+capture+water+mist+fog

    Coming across a climate question, I’ll usually Google first, before thinking (or deciding not to think), because “It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards”; almost invariably, since I last updated my own memory, something new has been learned, and often Google finds it.

  45. 45
    Arthur Smith says:

    I have to agree with Tom Wigley (#13) – there were a number of obviously questionable things about this paper (not the results, the procedure) from the first time I saw it, and I’m no expert. A competent referee should have at least asked what their procedure was for selecting the time intervals for analysis (no objective criterion given??) and what effect different choices would have (where are the error bars?). They should have asked for more justification for the tropical restriction and why they thought extra-tropical energy flows were not an issue. And they perhaps should have noticed something odd about the feedback analysis. Maybe these questions were asked, and Lindzen somehow got around them with some argument or other. Or maybe the review criteria for GRL need some examination if they don’t encourage that sort of level of reviewer attention.

    Peer review in other fields is much stricter than this – for example, in mathematics reviewers sometimes spend weeks going over an article’s argument with a fine-toothed comb. Maybe that level isn’t necessary for geophysics – but it sure looks like there’s a need for a bit more effort here.

  46. 46
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Arthur Smith@45, I think the referees may have felt some pressure to allow publication, since Lindzen is a prominent skeptic (or at least pseudo-skeptic), and the implications were significant if he was right. Personally, I think it’s probably better to have this one published and demolished rather than floating around the blogosphere (in various incarnations) as another zombie. In a GRL, even if a letter is wrong, it can sometimes have a useful technique or two–not in this case, but sometimes.

    All a rejection would have accomplished is giving Lindzen a chance to play martyr on all the denialist blogs.

  47. 47

    Barton Paul wrote: “5. Show that CO2 levels and greenhouse effect is not already saturated.” Nice job digging up all those peer review studies!…

    Real Climate has also extensively covered this with at least four posts on this issue as well:

    Wow, I thought this saturation issue had been resolved for quite a while now…especially since mainframes started finally being able to do calculations for multiple layers of the atmosphere starting in the 1960s and 1970s. Amazing that the contrarians are still bringing this up.

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/06/a-saturated-gassy-argument/

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/06/a-saturated-gassy-argument/

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/06/a-saturated-gassy-argument-part-ii/

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2005/11/busy-week-for-water-vapor/

    http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/hitran//

  48. 48
    Josh says:

    Thanks, guys – a large amount of information there! :)

  49. 49
    pete best says:

    Re #36 The issue is the media and the fact that they jump on this type of paper for in anything that creates an argument there is a story. The media thinks that a peer reviewed published is gospel and it happens all of the time. If this paper is quite poor according to RC then the reviewers were not very good at reviewing surely.

    It could have been refuted by the reviewers as part of the process of peer review.

  50. 50
    Jim Eager says:

    For sure locally, Hank, just as thermal power plants (and even hydro electric plant impoundments, for that matter) and built-up urban areas also have a significant climate effect on a local scale, but I took David’s question to refer to the climate system as a whole.


Switch to our mobile site