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The wisdom of Solomon

Filed under: — gavin @ 29 January 2010

A quick post for commentary on the new Solomon et al paper in Science express. We’ll try and get around to discussing this over the weekend, but in the meantime I’ve moved some comments over. There is some commentary on this at DotEarth, and some media reports on the story – some good, some not so good. It seems like a topic that is ripe for confusion, and so here are a few quick clarifications that are worth making.

First of all, this is a paper about internal variability of the climate system in the last decade, not on additional factors that drive climate. Second, this is a discussion about stratospheric water vapour (10 to 15 km above the surface), not water vapour in general. Stratospheric water vapour comes from two sources – the uplift of tropospheric water through the very cold tropical tropopause (both as vapour and as condensate), and the oxidation of methane in the upper stratosphere (CH4+2O2 –> CO2 + 2H2O NB: this is just a schematic, the actual chemical pathways are more complicated). There isn’t very much of it (between 3 and 6 ppmv), and so small changes (~0.5 ppmv) are noticeable.

The decreases seen in this study are in the lower stratosphere and are likely dominated by a change in the flux of water through the tropopause. A change in stratospheric water vapour because of the increase in methane over the industrial period would be a forcing of the climate (and is one of the indirect effects of methane we discussed last year), but a change in the tropopause flux is a response to other factors in the climate system. These might include El Nino/La Nina events, increases in Asian aerosols, or solar impacts on near-tropopause ozone – but this is not addressed in the paper and will take a little more work to figure out.

Update: This last paragraph was probably not as clear as it should be. If the lower stratospheric water vapour (LSWV) is relaxing back to some norm after the 1997/1998 El Nino, then what we are seeing would be internal variability in the system which might have some implications for feedbacks to increasing GHGs, and my estimate of that would be that this would be an amplifying feedback (warmer SSTs leading to more LSWV). If we are seeing changes to the tropopause temperatures as an indirect impact from increased Asian aerosol emissions or solar-driven ozone changes, then this might be better thought of as impacting the efficacy of those forcings rather than implying some sensitivity change.

The study includes an estimate of the effect of the observed stratospheric water decadal decrease by calculating the radiation flux with and without the change, and comparing this to the increase in CO2 forcing over the same period. This implicitly assumes that the change can be regarded as a forcing. However, whether that is an appropriate calculation or not needs some careful consideration. Finally, no-one has yet looked at whether climate models (which have plenty of decadal variability too) have phenomena that resemble these observations that might provide some insight into the causes.

487 Responses to “The wisdom of Solomon”

  1. 401
    Hank Roberts says:

    > the IPCC pontificates to us using Himalayan glacier ‘data’
    The IPCC is in part the authors of the Asia chapter. Look where they’re from!

  2. 402
    Ike Solem says:

    RC has posted some good background material for understanding the SWV paper:

    For example, concerning the role of water vapor in the upper troposphere:

    They conclude, “Reproduction of the observed radiance record requires a global moistening of the upper troposphere in response to atmospheric warming that is roughly equivalent in magnitude to that predicted under the assumption of constant relative humidity.”

    This is probably the most direct evidence to date that there is nothing terribly wrong about the way general circulation models handle water vapor feedback. This is quite remarkable, given the potential role of small scale cloud processes in moistening the atmosphere…

    So, does the lower stratosphere also maintain RH, as Geoff Wexler discusses? Or do things like methane import and oxidation have large effects as well?

    For a good discussion of the current SWV paper, seen this Australian ABC interview with Dr. Steven Sherwood, UNSW

    Key point:

    STEVEN SHERWOOD: Well I think why it’s interesting is you had people looking at the temperature record over the last few decades and saying, well the warming has stopped, which is not true. If you just look at it, you know, that claim is based on a bogus way of looking at the data. [someone tell this to the U.S. press]

    But it is true that the warming has been slower in the last decade. But what this paper is showing is that yes there are reasons why the warming rate isn’t the same every decade and this is something that helps to explain that variation.

  3. 403
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Rod B says: 5 February 2010 at 12:26 PM

    Yeah, the number’s way smaller once it’s refined but even so, monstrous, ~40TW by your workup. 10TW here, 10TW there, pretty soon you’re talking about real energy, heh.

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have 40TW of engineered solar capture to play with.

    Maybe I’ll go down that path a little further. I have no feel for the actual amount of extra heat added to the system during the course of a year and how that stacks against the water mass. All the same I do wonder what effect so much heat added to the Arctic ocean will have on the rest of the circulation system. The present behavior does after all seem dependent on water sinking up north. Hmmm.

  4. 404
    Jerry Steffens says:

    354 — Steven Jörsäter

    The question is, how can Hansen say that “global warming is continuing unabated” despite the “quite flat” temperatures of the last decade. The answer is that natural fluctuations exist. Without the underlying rising trend caused by increasing greenhouse gas concentrations, the ups and downs associated with natural fluctuations would cancel each other out; thus, the big gains of the 80s and 90s would soon be wiped out by losses. In other words, we should now be seeing a distinct and statistically significant cooling trend. The reason we are not is that the underlying warming trend is still operating. The work of Solomon, et al., in no way invalidates this conclusion; it merely provides a possible explanation for the latest of these “natural fluctuations.”

  5. 405
    Hank Roberts says:

    > “However, the trend in global surface temperatures has been
    > nearly flat since the late 1990s

    Online, Google finds that only at World Climate Report, at
    (that’s an apostrophe in “what’s” if the software mangles it)

    Would someone with access to the full text of the paper at the publisher check that quote and its context?

    I’d guess a distinction being fuzzed over there is the difference between “annual global trend” (with one data point per annum) and “global surface temperatures” — which might be referring to measures taken more than once per year or at more sites; if so, a shorter period is needed to determine whether a trend can be detected statistically.

  6. 406
    Septic Matthew says:

    Hank Roberts, here’s a peer-reviewed article on sea surface rise:

    It’s a little more technical, and notes that sea surface rise is very near what would be predicted from thermal expansion alone. It also notes that the data support different rates over different intervals and for different locations, which was better illustrated by the non-peer-reviewed site that you disparaged earlier. Depending on which interval one likes best, the current rate of sea level rise is something like 2.5-3.1 mm/yr.

  7. 407
    Stephen Pruett says:

    Completely fed up,
    Thanks for pointing out the quote in Dr. Solomon’s paper, “However, the trend in global surface temperatures has been nearly flat since the late 1990s…” So, if understand the surface temperature during the thermometer era correctly, there has been a rapid increase beginning about 1970, but little change since the late 1990s. Thus, we have a trend established by data from a little less than 30 years followed by data which do not follow the trend for more than 10 years. In every field of research of which I am aware, a data set in which the last 1/4 of the data are not consistent with the rest would not be regarded as a sufficient basis for any firm conclusions or predictions. Why is climate science so different, or is it? Are there measures other than surface temperature that unequivocally demonstrate continued warming during the last 10 years? If so, does anyone have a reasonable explanation as to why this warming isn’t reflected in surface temperature as it has been in the previous 30 yr?

  8. 408
    Neil says:

    Gavin, I think an I(ndia)PCC is a great idea and I think scientific consensus is boring. However The location(s) where the work is being placed (Dehra Dun) suggest it will be highly politicized and the key stakeholders will be political appointees.
    Imagine, if you will, the Oklahoma Panel on Climate Change with funding controlled by Senator Infhofe. It would certainly have local stakeholder input, but I think you might be skeptical of its autonomy.

  9. 409

    Not to beat this into the ground, however here is the official Penn State report exonerating Michael Mann of three counts (since RC tries to list original sources).

  10. 410
    gary thompson says:

    #376 – Molnar responded to my request

    “has this already been done?”


    Comment by Molnar — 5 February 2010 @ 9:59 AM

    thanks Molnar for that link. this is good stuff and gave me plenty to study tonight.

    the link cited in this article requires a membership but i found a pdf copy of the article here:

    i must say i’m at a loss how skepticalscience arrived at the graph they posted on this page – it doesn’t appear in the actual paper. and in fact (in fig. 1 of the paper) the delta brightness temperature increases for the 700 waves/centimeter point (where CO2 absorbs IR) which means emission of this IR frequency increased in 1997 as compared to 1970. i agree that CH4 has less in 1997 than 1970 but the majority of the spectrum
    analyzed showed an INCREASE in emission in 1997 as compared to 1970.

    in that figure 1 of the paper, they show lines of average measurements and then upper and lower error lines. it is true that the lower error line dips to 0 and slightly below for the 700/cm so maybe skepticalscience just reported the lower error graph but that isn’t true either since they show no increase in any of the frequencies scanned but the actual paper shows an increase in all frequencies except those that are absorbed by CH4. and i will agree that this wavenumber (for CO2 absorption) was lower than the rest but they were still above zero which shows an increase in emission in 1997 vs 1970.

    in figures 3 and 4 of the paper the authors make adjustments to the raw data (which was compared in figure 1) to account for atmospheric temperature and water vapor differences between 1970 and 1997. this might be the graph used by skepticalscience but these graphs are simulations based on models and not the actual measured data. if these have more validity than the real data then i need help understanding that. there is probably a very good explanation of that but i couldn’t grasp that from the paper. my ignorance here i’m sure because i thought the paper was well written and i commend the authors.

    the authors even state in the conclusion that we shouldn’t infer too much from these simulated graphs. here is their quote:

    “Although these strongly affect the OLR the
    atmospheric temperature and humidity response cannot
    be unequivocally determined owing to the snapshot
    nature of the observations.”

    So at first reading of the skepticalscience article i thought i had found a “smoking gun” that would turn a skeptic into a AGW proponent but after reading the real paper i’m surprised that more skeptics haven’t latched on to this paper.

    This experiment still doesn’t exactly address my original attenuation question though. in this paper, we don’t know how much of that IR radiation was attenuated in the atmosphere (we don’t know what the intensity of the source at the ground was in 1970 and 1997). it could be that since 1997 was hotter than 1970 that the intensity of that IR radiation was more so there was a bias in magnitude which caused most of these measurements to be higher than earlier measurements. For my understanding, i’d like to see that experiment performed over time to see how much
    IR radiation is attenuated by the GHG in the atmosphere.

  11. 411
    Richard Steckis says:

    Eli Rabett says:
    5 February 2010 at 11:39 AM

    “The fracas between Richard Steckis and Gavin earlier in this thread has inspired Eli to pontificate about the atmospheric methane oxidation mechanism in some detail, and in an understandable and friendly manner.

    [Response: Thanks. Much better! - gavin]”

    Good analysis. Your posting displays much of how the debate should work, i.e. without critism of the individual but a clear and concise explanation of the whole process.

  12. 412
    pete best says:

    Can someone answer my question please if they can?

    If we take 2% as the average global increase in fossil fuels then by 2050 we would have released another 1.8 trillion tonnes of Co2 into the atmosphere. If sinks take up 50% of that then 800 billion tonnes remain in the atmosphere. Can anyone tell me how many ppm of CO2 that would mean above the 385 ppmv we are presently at please?

  13. 413
    Dale Power says:

    I think that the denial crowd is winning the “argument” here. Why? Because the science has to show, well, data, good procedure, good models and professionalism while denial only has to make accusations and cast doubt.

    I have seen the argument turn from “There is nothing happening” to “All the scientific data is fake!” over the last six months or so.

    We can’t continue on in this vein and survive as a species int he long term. It is time for the scientists to stand up and start defending themselves.

    Slander is illegal, libel is illegal and making repeated claims of “Fakery” certainly qualifies!

    I know that most have not wanted to seem gauche on the science side of things, but if something does not start a movement towards calling these denialists to account, we aren’t going to be able to do anything at all to even slow this problem.

  14. 414
    Paul L says:

    To: gary thompson, #410. The graph on skeptical science *is* attached to the linked paper, Harries et al. It’s the bottom of three graphs in Figure 1. The graphs are available even if you don’t have access to a Nature subscription.

  15. 415
    dhogaza says:

    Good analysis. Your posting displays much of how the debate should work, i.e. without critism of the individual but a clear and concise explanation of the whole process.

    There would’ve been no debate if you’d done your homework before posting, Steckis. And I don’t recollect your postings containing the words “I don’t know”. Rather, you claimed that Gavin was wrong, despite having no real knowledge of the various reactions involving methane in the atmosphere.

    Seems to be one of your trademark traits …

  16. 416
  17. 417
    Jim D says:

    It works out to about 100 ppmv by my reckoning

  18. 418
    John E. Pearson says:

    413 Dale wrote: “if something does not start a movement towards calling these denialists to account, we aren’t going to be able to do anything at all to even slow this problem.”

    I’m not sure it matters how much the nutters blather. In the US the DOE is certainly convinced of the problem and has been for some time. On the bright side the US installed 10GW (peak) of wind power (WP) in 2009 with 4 of those GWs installed in the 4th quarter. It isn’t clear to me what the future growth rate will be because it goes up and down with tax credits but DOE plans that wind will account for 20% of US electricity by 2030 and it looks like we’re on track for that. I’m guessing that by the next presidential election we might have 80GW of installed WP. That is enough to make people understand that it isn’t moonshine. We’ll probably start building nukes again too. If we do, it seems possible to me that by 2050 we might not be burning any coal at all.

  19. 419
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Stephen Pruett,

    There is nothing unusual in the last 10 years. Solomon is looking at fluctuations on a trend, not at the trend itself. The research is interesting if somewhat tentative, but it has no bearing on whether we are warming the planet. We are.

  20. 420
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Anand Rajan: The US government has the United States Global Change Research Program. Why shouldn’t the world’s largest democracy have a similar body to advise on local implications? Note that the I in IPCC stands for “Intergovernmental”. It is not intended to serve any particular national government.

    Won’t it be interesting when all this orgy of adolescent tantrums subsides and people find they still confront the same mountain of evidence they did before?

  21. 421
    John E. Pearson says:

    412: Pete, shooting from the hip I’d say that you can approximate CO2 in ppm by noting that it’s weight in the atmosphere is 3 trillion tons at 385 ppm. Since CO2 is a trace constituent of the atmosphere ppm should be linear in the weight:
    weight/3trillion tons * 385 . The weight you suggested is 3.8 trillion tons so we get 3.8/3 * 385 ~ 500 ppm .

  22. 422
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Norman Page@384 says “To various commentators on my post 315 re the AR4 8.6 climate sensitivity section I would be perfectly happy to amend my statement to say future temperatures cannot be predicted …..with anything approaching the certainty required to justify massive changes in the global economy to reduce CO2.”

    Ah, but even if this were true (it isn’t), the changes are coming in any case due to Peak Oil, Peak Coal… The question is whether we make the jump to a modern, efficient, clean and sustainable energy economy or whether we keep polluting, digging ourselves deeper into a climate hole and have to make the change anyway in 50 years when the coal runs out. All climate change does is tip the balance even more in favor of sustainability. I know that’s a dirty word to petroleum geologists, Norman, but it is unavoidable if human civilization is to persist into the next century. Deal with it.

  23. 423

    “I think that the denial crowd is winning the “argument” here. Why? Because the science has to show, well, data, good procedure, good models and professionalism while denial only has to make accusations and cast doubt.”

    Unfortuantely, I think a good example is when Gavin et al. took on Richard Lindzen et al. in New York City in a debate on climate change.

    Gavin et al. were limited by established, published proven peer review science and Lindzen et. al were only limited by their imagination to the extent they could produce undocumented facts and falsehoods on the fly.

    Some posters here at Realclimate had had actual previous professional experience publicly debating with climate change contrarians and their disregard for provable facts and ingeniousness for thinking up falsehoods on the fly to counter scientific proved peer reviewed evidence that had stood the test of time.

    Before the New York debate, Gavin bravely, scientifically and openly, ignoring his ego, asked for input from his posters before the debate. Many of us with previous professional experience debating with the contrarians turned white and bravely offered hopeful hints but also advice that contrarians would not follow science and would simply lie knowing that the audience was too naive to tell the difference (even though the true results could literally kill their grandchildren and their country if done wrong).

    I personally had heard a blatent contrarian, who I know, blatently lie to college students during a college class and trash the long-established peer reviewed evidence and put up his own non-peer reviewed graphs (as the “truth”) on an overhead showing that glaciers were advancing around the world! That is child abuse and brain washing. Many of these people are mentally sick in my opinion.

    I literally got nauseous and had to leave the room.

    I have personally, many times over 11 years, seen some climate change contrarians at a place I used to be, get children in front of public, established peer reviewed climate change exhibits and have the kids repeat the phrase “humans are not causing global warming” several times out loud at the prompting of the contrarians.

    All this is a witch craft, laced cool-aid drinking, medieval throwback to the Spanish inquisition in my opinion, blatent child abuse, and attempts at nationcide…forget being non scientific…and many Americans endorse this anti-science irrational behavior. God help us.

    I found the best way to beat these anti-science people (and indeed most contrarians are in my opinion) was to start at the atomic and wave level of molecular chemisty and physics and work my way up to current documented climate change changes.

    They certainly could not counter that and most were totally ignorant of even the basic physics and chemistry of carbon dioxide, greenhouse gases the Earth’s energy budget and how they work.

    Their only comeback was to say that “it is not important” (and this is basic science) to the “debate” and then they launched into their memorized talking points that have long been proven wrong by mainstream peer review.

    However, if I kept them at my game (indeed science’s game) of working up from the basic physics and chemisty and advancing up level by level, they were helpless because it is irrefutable.

    These ignorant people, in my opinion do not realize that they are dealing with fire that can eventually destroy almost everything around their kids and grandkids.

  24. 424
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Gary Thompson, Well done. Keep learning. It’s what true skeptics do.

    The sorts of satellite IR measurements you are asking for are made all the time with existing instruments. Even weather satellites use IR sensors. The thing is that every measurement is a snapshot–like a single global temperature measurement. What is needed is a long-term data series to establish a long-term energy imbalance and shifts due to heating. That could be done, but it would likely take a network of climate satellites circling the globe. At a minimum, you could do it with 2 satellites at Geostationary orbit 180 degrees apart, or even better–one satellite at L1 and another at L2. However, this would not be ideal as it would give limited resolution. A large fleet of Low Earth Orbit satellites would be preferable, although this too would pose challenges.

    I’d love to be part of such a project!

  25. 425
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Steven Jörsäter says, “And a comment from Gavin whether he still thinks that the understanding of the physics underlying the modelling of climate change is quite as solid as he claimed a week ago. Who are really the denialists here?”

    The fact that you can even ask this shows that you have not bothered to understand either Solomon et al. or the physics. Dude, Solomon’s result is rooted in the physics. It is predicated on the consensus model! It always astounds me when denialists are so certain in their opposition to the science when it is clear that they have zero understanding of the science they are opposing! Mssr.’s Dunning and Kruger, this is Steven Jörsäter. I think you could learn a lot from each other.

  26. 426
    Neil says:

    Dear Ike,
    I have cooked over dung and I start a diesel generator with crappy fuel mixes on a very regular basis. I am writing this from an office running off a 5 kva photovoltaic array in India. So I am problably familiar with both technologies.

    I think perhaps you should back up your claims on local forest management prior to your claims. You might read this peer reviewed piece. PNAS is a shoddy rag, but the paper isn’t too bad.

    That you send a youtube video with Brit accent in the background suggesting that local people are too stupid to have adopted a $20.00 solar box cookers either shows ignorance or elitism. I apologize for assuming it was elitism.

    Cheap and expensive solar box cookers have been being pushed in India for at least 20 years. Even TERI has been pushing solar cookers for years. The best ones are used on the houses of the wealthy for cooking dog food.

    I highly recommend you make a rice and chicken dinner with local chicken for just one month with your beloved solar box cooker. You will, of course, be dead from salmonella.

    You may understand climate but your knowledge of weather could use a little upgrade.

    Bihar has a couple of very cloudy wet seasons called “monsoons”. these are pretty bad times to leave a a pot of food in the yard cooking in the sun (actually leave a pot of food in an unfenced yard in an area full of stray dogs is a pretty bad idea any time of year). Even in winter when it is drier, solar cooking is not such a good bet. Check out the available cooking days in Bihar at this station:

    Pick any other one you like. What does the woman do when it is a little cloudier than expected an the food for the day is ruined. I am afraid dominoes does not deliver out here.

    The masons working on our farm are out in the dark cooking there dinner over fuelwood as I type. I imagine you think they should change their lifestyle or work only half time so they can eat half cooked food from a solar cooker.

    Since neither breakfast nor dinner can be cooked with solar due to the lack of the sun at those times, you must be thinking women should stay home from work to at least cook lunch with a Solar Box Cooker.


  27. 427
    Rod B says:

    Richard Ordway (385), I think you are being a little misleading (though you may not have meant to) in the comments on the Q Defense Report. The Defense Dept is not expressing a concurring protagonist view on the science of global warming. They are accepting its possibilities and recognizing the need to have strategic or contingency plans in its eventuality. To be caught flat-footed with no thought given to any planning would be an egregious dereliction of their duty. Somewhat like they have some plans (with various levels of detail to be sure) for the invasion of every state and country in the world. Given its massive worst case possibilities the planning and thought given to climate change is certainly magnitudes greater than its invasion plans for Luxembourg. But they’re still simply doing their job, and not joining the AGW advocacy per se.

  28. 428
    David B. Benson says:

    steven dobbs (399) — ABC is already affecting climate, but global precipitation remains nearly constant.

  29. 429
    David B. Benson says:

    Stephen Pruett (407) — Tamino’s Open Mind blog, linked on the sidebar, has several recent threads demonstrating how to correctly assess the global temparature record of the past 35 years or so.

    pete best (412) — That is approximately the same as the amount added since the beginning of the industrial revolution when CO2 concentrations were around 275 ppm. Being linearly simple about it, we have so then added 110+ ppm, so add another 110+ ppm to the current figure.

    However, it is actually rather more complex than that; maybe start with David Archer’s “The Long Thaw”?

  30. 430
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Gary Thompson

    You are confused. You say you can’t find the chart found at Skepticalscience.

    Then you say you found the paper elsewhere and it’s not in the paper.

    The paper you point to is not the same paper described in Skepticalscience — it has a title that is somewhat similar, the authors overlap with the one Skepticalscience describes, and it’s from almost the same year.

    You found the wrong paper, and told readers here incorrectly that it was the same one.

    Here’s how to find the chart you couldn’t find:

    Follow the Skepticalscience link for the paper;
    read the Abstract available to the public there;
    on that page, click on the link for the figures, also available to the public:

  31. 431

    Re 427 Rod B wrote:

    “I think you are being a little misleading (though you may not have meant to) in the comments on the Q Defense Report… But they’re still simply doing their job, and not joining the AGW advocacy per se.”

    Good point Rod. That’s why I gave the direct link to the actual Feb 2010 Department of Defense paper including the human caused climate change threat so that people can read it for themselves. -G-

    I do encourage people to please read the official paper. It is part of your lives now.

  32. 432

    The Emperor is Naked but few here seem to see it

    I must say that it has been a truly fascinating time just over a fortnight* here at Real Climate. Although I have followed this prestigious blog from time to time I did only recently decide to intervene in the debates. (*for Americans fortnight=14 days).

    The discussion on Hansen’s article woke me up. Hansen didn’t see the recent flatness of the global temperature record. Instead, Hansen and coworkers spent some effort disproving statements about a stalled global warming appearing in the debate. In a sister publication ( he makes the by now famous statement: “But when we average temperature over five or ten years to minimize that variability, we find that global warming is continuing unabated.”

    This puzzled me. Anyone looking at the data sees immediately that the trend looks flatter in the last decade. This is more clear if you don’t insist on plotting the entire trend since 1880, as Hansen did, leaving only microscopic space for the last decade.

    I pointed this out in a comment to Hansen’s article here at RC and I also wondered why he didn’t compare the data to the satellite record – a data set where the flatness is even more pronounced.

    The response baffled me. I was told that ten years is far too short to say anything about the climate, that I didn’t understand anything about statistics and the current article was about Hansen’s own data set (implying that it didn’t need be compared to anything else). Wow! What about discussing what we are actually seeing instead and try to understand the key point why Hansen did not mention the flat trend even if he didn’t think it was significant? I was wondering whether this was part of the consensus thinking in climate science – anything that may contradict your dogmas you try to avoid seeing? Very unscientific in that case.

    Then the Solomon paper came. Susan Solomon and coworkers did not only see the recent flatness – they made interesting and important science out of it! Great, by luck I had a Big Shot on my side that couldn’t easily be dismissed. I could not have thought about a better demonstration on how you may risk missing important scientific discoveries by not having an open mind on the task at hand.

    When pointing this out I get new scornful comments instead of the obvious one – good point! None of them seems to carry any scientific value [Come on - if the significance of a new trend is questionable then certainly the difference between e.g. "quite flat" and "nearly flat" is nonsense.]
    What is going on really? And what is consensus? This is science, not politics or activism, isn’t it? If a hard scientific fact appears tomorrow stating that AGW was an illusion, we will all accept it, wouldn’t we? To me, consensus is the very contradiction to science. Consensus is something politicians and activists practise. In true science everything is questioned perpetually – there is not anything settled beyond doubt except possibly the scientific method. If someone presents a case against Newton’s laws he must be given a serious chance to do that. He may be met by more scepticism and be required to qualify his case more than he likes to assure he is not a crackpot but that is quite natural since Newton’s laws have been around for three hundred years. In the new science of climate change new important facts may come any day such as Solomon’s paper and any scientifically based criticism should be taken seriously.

    I would very much welcome comments about why you think the ceiling seems so low in this forum instead of the expected and enviable academic freedom?

    Finally, I must thank Gavin – this blog is nevertheless great since it allows us to discuss these questions.

  33. 433

    Rod B. wrote (re 427) “I think you are being a little misleading (though you may not have meant to) in the comments on the Q Defense Report. The Defense Dept is not expressing a concurring protagonist view on the science of global warming.”

    Rod, that is a good point and thanks for bringing it up…I agree…I think they are not advocating anything and are reporting on their activities concerning climate change and why they think it is a threat to US national security. That is why I linked the article directly to a link, so readers can read it for themselves.

    The following are quotes from their document for more reference. They are in effect taking action on their own and spending tax payers’ money to “manage” the effects of climate change. In their words.

    “Climate change will contribute to food and water scarcity, will increase the spread of disease, and may spur or exacerbate mass migration.” p. 84

    (Please note the Department of Defense uses the words climate change “will” not “might” or “could” in some cases). They, however, on the other hand do indeed sometimes in reference to climate change use the words “may” and “could” in relation to other aspects of climate change. P. 84

    “Assessments conducted by the intelligence community indicate that climate change could have significant geopolitical impacts around the world, contributing to poverty, environmental degradation, and the further weakening of fragile governments.” P. 84

    “Although the United States has significant capacity to adapt to climate change, it will pose challenges for civil society and DoD alike, particularly in light of the nation’s extensive coastal infrastructure.” p. 85

    “In 2008, the National Intelligence Council judged that more than 30 U.S. military installations were already facing elevated levels of risk from rising sea levels.” p. 85

    “Climate change … will play significant roles in the future security environment.” P. xv

    “The Department is developing policies and plans to manage the effects of climate change on its operating environment, missions, and facilities.” P. XV

    “The QDR focused on four specific issues where reform is imperative:
    … climate change.” P. 7

    “Climate change will affect DoD in two broad ways. First, climate change will shape the operating environment, roles, and missions that we undertake. “ p. 84

    “The U.S. Global Change Research Program, composed of 13 federal agencies, reported in 2009 that climate-related changes are already being observed in every region of the world, including the United States and its coastal waters.” p. 84

    “Among these physical changes are increases in heavy downpours, rising temperature and sea level, rapidly retreating glaciers, thawing permafrost, lengthening growing seasons, lengthening ice-free seasons in the oceans and on lakes and rivers, earlier snowmelt, and alterations in river flows.” P. 84

    “The opening of the Arctic waters in the decades ahead which will permit seasonal commerce and transit presents a unique opportunity to work collaboratively in multilateral forums to promote a balanced approach to improving human and environmental security
    in the region.” p. 86 (Again note the DOD uses the word “will” here instead of “could.”)

    “The Department is increasing its use of renewable energy supplies and reducing energy demand to …reduce greenhouse gas emissions…” p. 87

  34. 434
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Neil says to Ike: “I highly recommend you make a rice and chicken dinner with local chicken for just one month with your beloved solar box cooker. You will, of course, be dead from salmonella.”

    Neil, I think you are being a bit disingenuous to imply that Ike was advocating everyday use of a solar cooker–even when it rains. I also think that you are underestimating their potential utility. I used one in Africa, and on a sunny day, it worked just fine–no risk whatever of salmonella or any other disease.

    We already know that alternative technologies can be deployed in a stupid manner. To reject them on that basis is also stupid. The goal it to deploy the technology intelligently.

  35. 435
    Hank Roberts says:

    Gavin, I hope you’ll encourage Neil to post more. First hand reports are rare.

    As to whatever disappered with the edit, I can guess. It’s hard to nail the complacent without irritating the passionately involved– everyone reads the same text and it’s not aimed at everyone who may read it. Which, of course, is one reason that editing is helpful.

  36. 436
    Richard Steckis says:

    “dhogaza says:
    6 February 2010 at 10:25 AM

    Good analysis. Your posting displays much of how the debate should work, i.e. without critism of the individual but a clear and concise explanation of the whole process.

    There would’ve been no debate if you’d done your homework before posting, Steckis. And I don’t recollect your postings containing the words “I don’t know”. Rather, you claimed that Gavin was wrong, despite having no real knowledge of the various reactions involving methane in the atmosphere.”"

    I do far more homework and research than you do sport. You just criticise people. I try to learn. I stand by my statements re Gavins representation of methane oxidation. However, I am willing to be corrected by science rather than vitriol.

  37. 437
    Ike Solem says:

    Come on Neil – the World Bank and similar aid institutions have a record of pouring billions into oil pipelines in Africa (Chad-Cameroon) which create ecological and social disasters for the local populations – many of whom rely on firewood for cooking and who also have to carry water by hand to their homes, often very dirty water. There’s been a decades-long campaign to get them to change this practice – elitism or populism has nothing to do with it.

    Due to all this effort, there has been something of a change:

    Those are still mega-scale projects, not village development – but isn’t it interesting that North Africa might end up with more solar capacity than North America, if such trends continue? Each 100 MW solar project will produce as much energy as a million-ton-per year coal stack – with zero emissions, and thousands of jobs as well as long-term economic benefits.

    So, what’s the real problem here, the reason for the endless fossil fuel-sponsored denialist media campaign? Could it be that they’re simply freaked out over lost profits?

    Sept. 14 2009 (Bloomberg) — “Coal-heavy power plants will see profit drop by 20 percent if cap-and-trade carbon-reduction legislation is implemented, Standard & Poor’s analysts said.”

    Here is a table you should consider:

    Number of Power Plants in the U.S., by Energy Source. (EIA)

    coal – 599
    petroleum – 1,205
    natural gas – 1,653
    nuclear – 66

    Average Power Plant Operating Expenses for Major U.S. Investor-Owned Electric Utilities

    Look at the comparison for fuel costs (mills per kwH)

    diesel generator – 64.23
    fossil steam turbine – 28.43
    nuclear – 5.29
    hydroelectric – 0
    solar – 0
    wind – 0

    That’s the heart of the issue with the utilities – if they only rely on nuclear and hydroelectric and solar and wind as their primary energy sources, then their fuel costs shrink quite a bit, don’t they? This should, at first glance, please the utility – if not the fuel suppliers.

    However, many utility investors are also co-investors in coal mines and railroads and gas suppliers. If a bank has $6 billion invested in coal mines and oil corporations, and $600 million invested in the utility that sells the resulting electricity to the customer – well, if the utility goes to renewables than the coal and gas companies don’t make their sales. In other words, you have extensive cartelization in the U.S. energy industry that works to lock out renewable competition.

    Now, a carbon tax coupled to a renewable portfolio standard would have the effect of encouraging investors to drop coal and move into renewables – which is what we want, since the goal is to replace all 600 coal-fired power plants with gigawatt-scale wind and solar farms, coupled to advanced energy storage and distribution systems – and yes, this is technologically plausible.

  38. 438
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Gilles^WNiell: “Since neither breakfast nor dinner can be cooked with solar due to the lack of the sun at those times, ”

    Uh, no, I don’t cook by the sun.

    I don’t think anyone does. Even jerked beef is not dried in the sun any more.

    How wild are you going to be to make up things to “prove” that fossil fuels are the be-all-end-all one-and-only product?

    PS do you cook on crude oil? Petroleum?

  39. 439
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Pruett: “So, if understand the surface temperature during the thermometer era correctly,”

    You don’t. Or maybe you do and are deliberately misprepresenting it

    ” there has been a rapid increase beginning about 1970, but little change since the late 1990s. Thus, we have a trend established by data from a little less than 30 years”

    Nope, no trend comes only from the 30 years.

    And neither does the Solomon quote (now rephrased yet again by a ditto) contain an assertion on the temperature TREND.

    Merely the differences between two years.

    But I see you still haven’t done the skeptical thing and checked to see what would happen without 1998.

    Jim Carey in “Liar, liar” has something to describe why you haven’t: “It’s damaging to my case!”.

  40. 440
    David B. Benson says:

    Steven Jörsäter (432) — Here is a link which shows NOAA’s latest global tempeerature graphic.
    Do note the trend, hmmm?

  41. 441
    Neil says:

    The potlatch consumption of energy –damn the costs full speed ahead–is madhouse economics, has dismal development record, and is a cancer to the world geo-political situation. My objection,Ike, was that the road from here to there in terms of fixing particulates does not have any easy solar box cooker solutions. Unfortunately there are many suggestion in the “All we have to do is______________”. Even if solar box cookers could make jerkey and cook chicken, the cost of distribution in north India would be 200 billion+ over the next decade. And again that would only be useful for a late lunch 50% of the time. Somewhere the is an “improved chulla” (local stove) evangelist suggesting that they have the fix.

    Ike the fuel cost of our photovoltaic array is zero, but the land cost beneath it is on the order of 10,000 USD. The array was about 15,000. That exceeds the value of the entire housing stock of the nearest village.

    I live in Tamil Nadu which has wind, solar, and nuclear. I have to finish this post however to go have a shower before 8 am to “whenever they turn it back on” power cut ensues. (We save the solar to keep the office running.) So I ma pretty sure that your analysis needs a little more work.
    If you cannot do it for your house without a massive subsidy, then neither can anyone else–especially 500 million people living on less than $2 per day.

  42. 442
    Hank Roberts says:

    Belatedly, a reply to S. Matthew who posted a link about sea level rise due to thermal expansion of the oceans.

    Er, so? No surprise — that’s Cabanes et al., Science 26 October 2001:
    Vol. 294. no. 5543, pp. 840 – 842; DOI: 10.1126/science.1063556. It’s been cited at least 115 times. See the citing papers for more recent information:

  43. 443

    432 re Steven Jörsäter says:

    “The Emperor is Naked but few here seem to see it.” “Hansen didn’t see the recent flatness of the global temperature record.” “Then the Solomon paper came. Susan Solomon and coworkers did not only see the recent flatness…” “This puzzled me”…

    Whats the big woop?, this does not break the long term global average temp trend and you know it.(It is not 30 years and some years can actually be colder and not break the average 30 year temp record…you do know the math term “averages” right?). The year 2009, was still breaking high global average temp records in spite of the Sun being at a near record low and the recent global average temp trend being “flat”.

    This does not mean the long-term 30 year trend is gone (even a high school algebra grad would know this). We are still breaking all time high global average temp trends for 2009 and some years might even be colder and not break the definition of averages, averages, averages, averages, averages, averages.

    Hi Steve, some points I think..and I don’t think they are being contradictory. You are not a publishing climate scientist whose work holds up over time. This is literally rocket science and you are telling the general public that the publishing rocket climate scientists whose work holds up over time that their rocket science work is wrong… to me this seems the height of arrogance and mental instability.

    Do you know what 240 Watts/Meter2 means and why that is important? Do you know why 600-700 wave cycles per cm is important to CO2, the atmospheric window and methane? Do you know what O16/O18 ratios are or CO12/CO13 or BE12 ratios are or why they are important? You need to know this before you say the “emperor has no clothes.”

    Asking questions is great…but making broad statements not as a publishing climate scientist whose work holds up over time is how civilizations fall…because then our decisions are made by baseless opinions. This is scary. I don’t want my kid’s and grand kids’ futures or our country’s future run by insanity like this. The Salem witch trials came by reasoning like this.

    1) As you see, real science is allowed to question itself no matter how embarrassing it may seem to the uneducated (and indeed it is welcome). The contrarians don’t do this. For them, everything is “not happening and is not human caused” and everything against it is ignored. This is not science.

    2) You need to examine what the big picture is. The definition of human-caused climate change has always been 30 or more years of trends with natural variability built in so that even some years might be colder. If trends less than this pop up, they are examined anyway. It still does not change the orignal defintion of 30 years of trends. Scientists would be wanton to not examine everything, even small year changes to investigate them…this is literally what you pay them for out of your tax money. However, it still does not change the orignal defintion of 30 year trends.

    3) Temperature world wide average trends may now be “flat” compared to past years…but no publishing climate scientist whose work holds up over time disputes (including Solomon) that we are still breaking high record global averaged temperatures even for this year (that is part of a 30 year trend (even though the Sun is at a near all time record low) or that the long term global average trends are still continuing. You know this. I don’t see any contradictions here.

    True, this may all seem confusing to an uneducated neophyte, however this is rocket science and is why uneducated people should stay out of whether global warming is happening or not or whether humans are causing it or not. You would not tell an open-heart surgeon how to operate on your child…although asking questions is great.

    No rules are being broken here. They are talking about it from the perspectives of small temp trends which don’t break the original scientific defintion which still holds today and the large picture which has not changed over 30 years. Small trends within 30 years have natural variation in it…always have and always will (and are in the original definition)…that is why you want 30 years of trends. Some years in the 30 year average might actually be colder due to natural variabiltiy…but it does not break the long term warming trend which is being driven by larger forces than weather such as the Earth’s radiation inbalance. Investigating short term natural variability is necessary and welcome, but does not change the big picture.

    WMO global 2009 temperature analysis:
    WMO global 2009 temperature analysis:

    Visbeck, 2001

  44. 444
    Completely Fed Up says:

    RS: “I do far more homework and research than you do sport. You just criticise people. ”

    Uhm, you do a shedload of criticising and no apparent homework or valid research.

    “However, I am willing to be corrected by science rather than vitriol.”

    You’ve never done that without plentiful heaps of continued correction, and then you come back again with it later, so no real evidence that you’re willing to be corrected by science either.

  45. 445
    gary thompson says:

    The main thesis of AGW is that an increase of GHG such as CO2 will lead to a reduction of Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR). And if the solar absorption remains the same, then there will be a net heating of the plant. I have been reviewing several papers that have compared the OLR of 1997 and 2006 as compared to 1970 and the links are listed below.

    The graphs showing the raw data comparison of OLR emissions from the atmosphere (as measured in brightness temperature (K)) show that there was no reduction in the OLR at wavelengths that CO2 absorb (15um or 700 waves/cm). Later in all these papers they produced simulated graphs that appear to have ‘corrected’ for surface temperature and water vapor and claim that when you look at the contribution by trace gases only then there is a reduction.

    Help me understand why the simulated graphs have more value than the actual measured data. The atmosphere is more complex than can be modeled and the actual measurements of OLR that leave the atmosphere should have more value than the models – in my opinion. If the models predict more absorption than we are seeing then shouldn’t we find out what is wrong with the models?

    [Response: The models in this case aren't 'corrected' because they were wrong but because the actual change was complex - made up of changes in wv, temp as well as ghgs. The 'correction' is to subtract the wv&temp effects to get just the ghg change. - gavin]

  46. 446
    jerjohn says:

    True, this may all seem confusing to an uneducated neophyte, however this is rocket science and is why uneducated people should stay out of whether global warming is happening or not or whether humans are causing it or not. You would not tell an open-heart surgeon how to operate on your child…although asking questions is great.

  47. 447
    MR SH says:

    #432: You are looking at the decade after 2000 and compare their average with the previous decadal mean. You observe that “the slope of the trend is decreasing” because you look only two decades. If you look into longer temperature record, you can easily find the “flat decades” and “rising decades” in the past, and also the long term rising trend. It is too myopic to compare only the recent two decades.

  48. 448
    Rod B says:

    Ike (437), a correction?? Your stats from EIA are either in error or misleading. Petroleum, per the same EIA, is responsible for about 1% of electric generation ( ) compared to 48%-coal, 21%-nat. gas, 20%-nuclear.

  49. 449
    Leo G says:

    CFU – found that quote about Venus finaly. Sorry, it is only a snippett, as this was from when I first started educating myself, and didn’t keep the references (which I now know to do!).

    Anyway, here is what I had;

    {Take Venus, for example. Venus has a layer of thick cloud about 50-80 km above the surface, and a surface pressure of 92 (Earth) atmospheres. Can you tell me now, why do you think its surface is so hot? The cloud tops are at a roughly Earth-like temperature. (And an Earth-like pressure. A point that has some interesting possibilities for colonisation. Balloons, anyone?) It’s 50 km down to the surface at about 8 C/km. And there’s plenty of convection to keep things mixed up. It’s simple physics. No need for a ‘runaway’ anything.}

    Any veracity in this?

  50. 450

    #445 gary thompson

    I was thinking of an analogy that might help on understanding a ‘correction’ in this context. Say you are standing in a crowded room and trying to listen to one person. Everyone is talking… So you focus on the voice you want to hear.

    You are correcting to extract the relevant signal from the noise.

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