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Close Encounters of the Absurd Kind

Filed under: — group @ 24 February 2010

Guest commentary from Ben Santer

Part 2 of a series discussing the recent Guardian articles

A recent story by Fred Pearce in the February 9th online edition of the Guardian (“Victory for openness as IPCC climate scientist opens up lab doors”) covers some of the more publicized aspects of the last 14 years of my scientific career. I am glad that Mr. Pearce’s account illuminates some of the non-scientific difficulties I have faced. However, his account also repeats unfounded allegations that I engaged in dubious professional conduct. In a number of instances, Mr Pearce provides links to these allegations, but does not provide a balanced account of the rebuttals to them. Nor does he give links to locations where these rebuttals can be found. I am taking this opportunity to correct Mr. Pearce’s omissions, to reply to the key allegations, and to supply links to more detailed responses.

Another concern relates to Mr. Pearce’s discussion of the “openness” issue mentioned in the title and sub-title of his story. A naïve reader of Mr. Pearce’s article might infer from the sub-title (“Ben Santer had a change of heart about data transparency…”) that my scientific research was not conducted in an open and transparent manner until I experienced “a change of heart”.

This inference would be completely incorrect. As I discuss below, my research into the nature and causes of climate change has always been performed in an open, transparent, and collegial manner. Virtually all of the scientific papers I have published over the course of my career involve multi-institutional teams of scientists with expertise in climate modeling, the development of observational datasets, and climate model evaluation. The model and observational data used in my research is not proprietary – it is freely available to researchers anywhere in the world.

The 1995 IPCC Report: The “scientific cleansing” allegation

Mr. Pearce begins by repeating some of the allegations of misconduct that arose after publication (in 1996) of the Second Assessment Report (SAR) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). These allegations targeted Chapter 8 of the SAR, which dealt with the “Detection of Climate Change, and Attribution of Causes”. The IPCC SAR reached the historic finding that “The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate”. Information presented in Chapter 8 provided substantial support for this finding.

I served as the Convening Lead Author (CLA) of Chapter 8. There were three principal criticisms of my conduct as CLA. All three allegations are baseless. They have been refuted on many occasions, and in many different fora. All three allegations make an appearance in Mr. Pearce’s story, but there are no links to the detailed responses to these claims.

The first allegation was that I had engaged in “scientific cleansing”. This allegation originated with the Global Climate Coalition (GCC) – a group of businesses “opposing immediate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions”.

In May 1996, a document entitled “The IPCC: Institutionalized ‘Scientific Cleansing’?” was widely circulated to the press and politicians. In this document, the Global Climate Coalition claimed that after a key Plenary Meeting of the IPCC in Madrid in November 1995, all scientific uncertainties had been purged from Chapter 8. The GCC’s “scientific cleansing” allegation was soon repeated in an article in Energy Daily (May 22, 1996) and in an editorial in the Washington Times (May 24, 1996). It was also prominently featured in the World Climate Report, a publication edited by Professor Patrick J. Michaels (June 10, 1996).

This “scientific cleansing” claim is categorically untrue. There was no “scientific cleansing”. Roughly 20% of the published version of Chapter 8 specifically addressed uncertainties in scientific studies of the causes of climate change. In discussing the “scientific cleansing” issue, Mr. Pearce claims that many of the caveats in Chapter 8 “did not make it to the summary for policy-makers”. This is incorrect.

The Summary for Policymakers (SPM) of the IPCC SAR is four-and-a-half pages long. Roughly one page of the SPM discusses results from Chapter 8. The final paragraph of that page deals specifically with uncertainties, and notes that:

“Our ability to quantify the human influence on global climate is currently limited because the expected signal is still emerging from the noise of natural variability, and because there are uncertainties in key factors. These include the magnitude and patterns of long term natural variability and the time-evolving pattern of forcing by, and response to, changes in concentrations of greenhouse gases and aerosols, and land surface changes”.

Contrary to Mr. Pearce’s assertion, important caveats did “make it to the summary for policy-makers”. And the “discernible human influence” conclusion of both Chapter 8 and the Summary for Policymakers has been substantiated by many subsequent national and international assessments of climate science.

There were several reasons why Chapter 8 was a target for unfounded “scientific cleansing” allegations. First, the Global Climate Coalitions’s “scientific cleansing” charges were released to the media in May 1996. At that time, Cambridge University Press had not yet published the IPCC Second Assessment Report in the United States. Because of this delay in the Report’s U.S. publication, many U.S. commentators on the “scientific cleansing” claims had not even read Chapter 8 – they only had access to the GCC’s skewed account of the changes made to Chapter 8. Had the Second Assessment Report been readily available in the U.S. in May 1996, it would have been easy for interested parties to verify that Chapter 8 incorporated a fair and balanced discussion of scientific uncertainties.

Second, the “pre-Madrid” version of Chapter 8 was the only chapter in the IPCC Working Group I Second Assessment Report to have both an “Executive Summary” and a “Concluding Summary”. As discussed in the next section, this anomaly was partly due to the fact that the Lead Author team for Chapter 8 was not finalized until April 1994 – months after all other chapters had started work. Because of this delay in getting out of the starting blocks, the Chapter 8 Lead Author team was more concerned with completing the initial drafts of our chapter than with the question of whether all chapters in the Working Group I Report had exactly the same structure.

The reply of the Chapter 8 Lead Authors to the Energy Daily story of May 22, 1996 pointed out this ‘two summary’ redundancy, and noted that:

“After receiving much criticism of this redundancy in October and November 1995, the Convening Lead Author of Chapter 8 decided to remove the concluding summary. About half of the information in the concluding summary was integrated with material in Section 8.6. It did not disappear completely, as the Global Climate Coalition has implied. The lengthy Executive Summary of Chapter 8 addresses the issue of uncertainties in great detail – as does the underlying Chapter itself.”

The removal of the concluding summary made it simple for the Global Climate Coalition to advance their unjustified “scientific cleansing” allegations. They could claim ‘This statement has been deleted’, without mentioning that the scientific issue addressed in the deleted statement was covered elsewhere in the chapter.

This was my first close encounter of the absurd kind.

The 1995 IPCC Report: The “political tampering/corruption of peer-review” allegation

The second allegation is that I was responsible for “political tampering”. I like to call this “the tail wags the dog” allegation. The “tail” here is the summary of the Chapter 8 results in the IPCC Summary for Policymakers, and the “dog” is the detailed underlying text of Chapter 8.

In November 1995, 177 government delegates from 96 countries spent three days in Madrid. Their job was to “approve” each word of the four-and-a-half page Summary for Policymakers of the IPCC’s Working Group I Report. This was the report that dealt with the physical science of climate change. The delegates also had the task of “accepting” the 11 underlying science chapters on which the Summary for Policymakers was based. “Acceptance” of the 11 chapters did not require government approval of each word in each chapter.

This was not a meeting of politicians only. A number of the government delegates were climate scientists. Twenty-eight of the Lead Authors of the IPCC Working Group I Report – myself included – were also prominent participants in Madrid. We were there to ensure that the politics did not get ahead of the science, and that the tail did not wag the dog.

Non-governmental organizations – such as the Global Climate Coalition – were also active participants in the Madrid meeting. NGOs had no say in the formal process of approving the Summary for Policymakers. They were, however, allowed to make comments on the SPM and the underlying 11 science chapters during the first day of the Plenary Meeting (November 27, 1996). The Global Climate Coalition dominated the initial plenary discussions.

Most of the plenary discussions at Madrid focused on the portrayal of Chapter 8’s findings in the Summary for Policymakers. Discussions were often difficult and contentious. We wrestled with the exact wording of the “balance of evidence” statement mentioned above. The delegations from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait argued for a very weak statement, or for no statement at all. Delegates from many other countries countered that there was strong scientific evidence of pronounced a human effect on climate, and that the bottom-line statement from Chapter 8 should reflect this.

Given the intense interest in Chapter 8, Sir John Houghton (one of the two Co-Chairs of IPCC Working Group I) established an ad hoc group on November 27, 1996. I was a member of this group. Our charge was to review those parts of the draft Summary for Policymakers that dealt with climate change detection and attribution issues. The group was placed under the Chairmanship of Dr. Martin Manning of New Zealand, and included delegates from the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Kenya, the Netherlands, and New Zealand. Sir John Houghton also invited delegates from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to participate in this ad hoc group. Unfortunately, they did not accept this invitation.

The ad hoc group considered more than just the portions of the Summary for Policymakers that were relevant to Chapter 8. The Dutch delegation asked for a detailed discussion of Chapter 8 itself, and of the full scientific evidence contained in it. This discussion took place on November 28, 1996.

On November 29, 1996, I reported back to the Plenary on the deliberations of the ad hoc group. The Saudi Arabian and Kuwaiti delegations – who had not attended any of the discussions of the ad hoc group, and had no first-hand knowledge of what had been discussed by the group – continued to express serious reservations about the scientific basis for the detection and attribution statements in the Summary for Policymakers.

On the final evening of the Madrid Plenary Meeting, debate focused on finding the right word to describe the human effect on global climate. There was broad agreement among the government delegates that – based on the scientific evidence presented in Chapter 8 – some form of qualifying word was necessary. Was the human influence “measurable”? Could it be best described as “appreciable”, “detectable”, or “substantial”? Each of these suggested words had proponents and opponents. How would each word translate into different languages? Would the meaning be the same as in English?

After hours of often rancorous debate, Bert Bolin (who was then the Chairman of the IPCC) finally found the elusive solution. Professor Bolin suggested that the human effect on climate should be described as “discernible”.

Mr. Pearce – who was not present at the Madrid Plenary Meeting – argues that the discussion of human effects on climate in the IPCC Summary for Policymakers “went beyond what was said in the chapter from which the summary was supposedly drawn”. In other words, he suggests that the tail wagged the dog. This is not true. The “pre-Madrid” bottom-line statement from Chapter 8 was “Taken together, these results point towards a human influence on climate”. As I’ve noted above, the final statement agreed upon in Madrid was “The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate”.

Is “suggests” stronger than “points towards”? I doubt it. Is “The balance of evidence” a more confident phrase than “Taken together”? I don’t think so.

The primary difference between the pre- and post-Madrid statements is that the latter includes the word “discernible”. In my American Heritage College Dictionary, “discernible” is defined as “perceptible, as by vision or the intellect”. In Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary, one of the three meanings of the verb “discern” is “to recognize or identify as separate and distinct”. Was the use of “discernible” justified?

The answer is clearly “yes”. Chapter 8 of the IPCC’s Second Assessment Report relied heavily on the evidence from a number of different “fingerprint” studies. This type of research uses rigorous statistical methods to compare observed patterns of climate change with results from climate model simulations. The basic concept of fingerprinting is that each different influence on climate – such as purely natural changes in the Sun’s energy output, or human-caused changes in atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases – has a unique signature in climate records. This uniqueness becomes more apparent if one looks beyond changes averaged over the entire globe, and instead exploits the much greater information content available in complex, time-varying patterns of climate change.

Fingerprinting has proved to be an invaluable tool for untangling the complex cause-and-effect relationships in the climate system. The IPCC’s Second Assessment Report in 1995 was able to draw on fingerprint studies from a half-dozen different research groups. Each of these groups had independently shown that they could indeed perceive a fingerprint of human influence in observed temperature records. The signal was beginning to rise out of the noise, and was (using Merriam-Webster’s definition of “discern”) “separate and distinct” from purely natural variations in climate.

Based on these fingerprint results, and based on the other scientific evidence available to us in November 1995, use of the word “discernible” was entirely justified. Its use is certainly justified based on the scientific information available to us in 2010. The “discernible human influence” phrase was approved by all of the 177 delegates from 96 countries present at the Plenary Meeting – even by the Saudi and Kuwaiti delegations. None of the 28 IPCC Lead Authors in attendance at Madrid balked at this phrase, or questioned our finding that “the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate”. The latter statement was cautious and responsible, and entirely consistent with the state of the science. The much more difficult job of trying to quantify the size of human influences on climate would be left to subsequent IPCC assessments.

Mr. Pearce’s remarks suggest that there is some substance to the “political tampering” allegation – that I was somehow coerced to change Chapter 8 in order to “reflect the wording of the political summary”. This is untrue. There was no political distortion of the science. If Mr. Pearce had been present at the Madrid Plenary Meeting, he would have seen how vigorously (and successfully) scientists resisted efforts on the part of a small number of delegates to skew and spin some of the information in the Summary for Policymakers.

The key point here is that the SPM was not a “political summary” – it was an accurate reflection of the science. Had it been otherwise, I would not have agreed to put my name on the Report.

A reader of Mr. Pearce’s article might also gain the mistaken impression that the changes to Chapter 8 were only made in response to comments made by government delegates during the Madrid Plenary Meeting. That is not true. As I’ve mentioned above, changes were also made to address government comments made during the meeting of the ad hoc group formed to discuss Chapter 8.

Furthermore, when I first arrived in Madrid on November 26, 1995, I was handed a stack of government and NGO comments on Chapter 8 that I had not seen previously. I had the responsibility of responding to these comments.

One reason for the delay in receiving comments was that the IPCC had encountered difficulties in finding a Convening Lead Author (CLA) for Chapter 8. To my knowledge, the CLA job had been turned down by at least two other scientists before I received the job offer. The unfortunate consequence of this delay was that, at the time of the Madrid Plenary Meeting, Chapter 8 was less mature and polished than other chapters of the IPCC Working Group I Report. Hence the belated review comments.

The bottom line in this story is that the post-Madrid revisions to Chapter 8 were made for scientific, not political reasons. They were made by me, not by IPCC officials. The changes were in full accord with IPCC rules and procedures (pdf). Mr. Pearce repeats accusations by Fred Seitz that the changes to Chapter 8 were illegal and unauthorized, and that I was guilty of “corruption of the peer-review process”. These allegations are false, as the IPCC has clearly pointed out.

The 1995 IPCC Report: The “research irregularities” allegation

The third major front in the attack on Chapter 8 focused on my personal research. It was a two-pronged attack. First, Professor S. Fred Singer claimed that the IPCC’s “discernible human influence” conclusion was entirely based on two of my own (multi-authored) research papers. Next, Professor Patrick Michaels argued that one of these two papers was seriously flawed, and that irregularities had occurred in the paper’s publication process. Both charges were untrue.

On July 25, 1996, I addressed the first of these allegations in an email to the Lead Authors of the 1995 IPCC Report:

“Chapter 8 references more than 130 scientific papers – not just two. Its bottom-line conclusion that “the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate” is not solely based on the two Santer et al. papers that Singer alludes to. This conclusion derives from many other published studies on the comparison of modelled and observed patterns of temperature change – for example, papers by Karoly et al. (1994), Mitchell et al. (1995), Hegerl et al. (1995), Karl et al. (1995), Hasselmann et al. (1995), Hansen et al. (1995) and Ramaswamy et al. (1996). It is supported by many studies of global-mean temperature changes, by our physical understanding of the climate system, by our knowledge of human-induced changes in the chemical composition of the atmosphere, by information from paleoclimatic studies, and by a wide range of supporting information (sea-level rise, retreat of glaciers, etc.). To allege, as Singer does, that “Chapter 8 is mainly based on two research papers” is just plain wrong”.

In the second prong of the attack, Professor Michaels claimed that a paper my colleagues and I had published in Nature in 1996 had been selective in its use of observational data, and that our finding of a human fingerprint in atmospheric temperature data was not valid if a longer observational record was used. Further, he argued that Nature had been “toyed with” (presumably by me), and coerced into publishing the 1996 Santer et al. Nature paper one week prior to a key United Nations meeting in Geneva.

My colleagues and I immediately addressed the scientific criticism of our Nature paper by Michaels and his colleague Chip Knappenberger. We demonstrated that this criticism was simply wrong. Use of a longer record of atmospheric temperature change strengthened rather than weakened the evidence for a human fingerprint. We published this work in Nature in December 1996. Unfortunately, Mr. Pearce does not provide a link to this publication.

Since 1996, studies by a number of scientists around the world have substantiated the findings of our 1996 Nature paper. Such work has consistently shown clear evidence of a human fingerprint in atmospheric temperature records.

Disappointingly, Professor Michaels persists in repeating his criticism of our paper, without mentioning our published rebuttal or the large body of subsequently published evidence refuting his claims. Michaels’ charge that Nature had been “toyed with” was complete nonsense. As described below, however, this was not the last time I would be falsely accused of having the extraordinary power to force scientific journals to do my bidding.

A Climatology Conspiracy? More “peer-review abuse” accusations

Mr. Pearce also investigates a more recent issue. He implies that I abused the normal peer-review system, and exerted pressure on the editor of the International Journal of Climatology to delay publication of the print version of a paper by Professor David Douglass and colleagues. This is not true.

The Douglass et al. paper was published in December 2007 in the online edition of the International Journal of Climatology. The “et al.” included the same Professor S. Fred Singer who had previously accused me of “scientific cleansing”. It also included Professor John Christy, the primary developer of a satellite-based temperature record which suggests that there has been minimal warming of Earth’s lower atmosphere since 1979. Three alternate versions of the satellite temperature record, produced by different teams of researchers using the same raw satellite measurements, all indicate substantially more warming of the Earth’s atmosphere.

The focus of the Douglass et al. paper was on post-1979 temperature changes in the tropics. The authors devised what they called a “robust statistical test” to compare computer model results with observations. The test was seriously flawed (see Appendix A in Open Letter to the Climate Science Community: Response to A “Climatology Conspiracy?”). When it was applied to the model and observational temperature datasets, the test showed (quite incorrectly) that the model results were significantly different from observations.

As I have noted elsewhere, the Douglass et al. paper immediately attracted considerable media and political attention. One of the paper’s authors claimed that it represented an “inconvenient truth”, and proved that “Nature, not humans, rules the climate”. These statements were absurd. No single study can overturn the very large body of scientific evidence supporting “discernible human influence” findings. Nor does any individual study provide the sole underpinning for the conclusion that human activities are influencing global climate.

Given the extraordinary claims that were being made on the basis of this incorrect paper, my colleagues and I decided that a response was necessary. Although the errors in Douglass et al. were easy to identify, it required a substantial amount of new and original work to repeat the statistical analysis properly.

Our work went far beyond what Douglass et al. had done. We looked at the sensitivity of model-versus-data comparisons to the choice of statistical test, to the test assumptions, to the number of years of record used in the tests, and to errors in the computer model estimates of year-to-year temperature variability. We also examined how the statistical test devised by Douglass et al. performed under controlled conditions, using random data with known statistical properties. From their paper, there is no evidence that Douglass et al. considered any of these important issues before making their highly-publicized claims.

Our analysis clearly showed that tropical temperature changes in observations and climate model simulations were not fundamentally inconsistent – contrary to the claim of Douglass and colleagues. Our research was published on October 10, 2008, in the online edition of the International Journal of Climatology. On November 15, 2008, the Douglass et al. and Santer et al. papers appeared in the same print version of the International Journal of Climatology.

In December 2009, shortly after the public release of the stolen emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit, Professors David Douglass and John Christy accused me of leading a conspiracy to delay publication of the print version of the Douglass et al. paper. This accusation was based on a selective analysis of the stolen emails. It is false.

In Mr. Pearce’s account of this issue, he states that “There is no doubt the (sic) Santer and his colleagues sought to use the power they held to the utmost…” So what are the facts of this matter? What is the “power” Fred Pearce is referring to?

  • Fact 1: The only “power” that I had was the power to choose which scientific journal to submit our paper to. I chose the International Journal of Climatology. I did this because the International Journal of Climatology had published (in their online edition) the seriously flawed Douglass et al. paper. I wanted to give the journal the opportunity to set the scientific record straight.
  • Fact 2: I had never previously submitted a paper to the International Journal of Climatology. I had never met the editor of the journal (Professor Glenn McGregor). I did not have any correspondence or professional interaction with the editor prior to 2008.
  • Fact 3: Prior to submitting our paper, I wrote an email to Dr. Tim Osborn on January 10, 2008. Tim Osborn was on the editorial board of the International Journal of Climatology. I told Dr. Osborn that, before deciding whether we would submit our paper to the International Journal of Climatology, I wanted to have some assurance that our paper would “be regarded as an independent contribution, not as a comment on Douglass et al.” This request was entirely reasonable in view of the substantial amount of new work that we had done. I have described this new work above.
  • Fact 4: I did not want to submit our paper to the International Journal of Climatology if there was a possibility that our submission would be regarded as a mere “comment” on Douglass et al. Under this scenario, Douglass et al. would have received the last word. Given the extraordinary claims they had made, I thought it unlikely that their “last word” would have acknowledged the serious statistical error in their original paper. As subsequent events showed, I was right to be concerned – they have not admitted any error in their work.
  • Fact 5: As I clearly stated in my email of January 10 to Dr. Tim Osborn, if the International Journal of Climatology agreed to classify our paper as an independent contribution, “Douglass et al. should have the opportunity to respond to our contribution, and we should be given the chance to reply. Any response and reply should be published side-by-side…”
  • Fact 6: The decision to hold back the print version of the Douglass et al. paper was not mine. It was the editor’s decision. I had no “power” over the publishing decisions of the International Journal of Climatology.

This whole episode should be filed under the category “No good deed goes unpunished”. My colleagues and I were simply trying to set the scientific record straight. There was no conspiracy to subvert the peer-review process. Unfortunately, conspiracy theories are easy to disseminate. Many are willing to accept these theories at face value. The distribution of facts on complex scientific issues is a slower, more difficult process.

Climate Auditing – Close Encounters with Mr. Steven McIntyre

Ten days after the online publication of our International Journal of Climatology paper, Mr. Steven McIntyre, who runs the “ClimateAudit” blog, requested all of the climate model data we had used in our research. I replied that Mr. McIntyre was welcome to “audit” our calculations, and that all of the primary model data we had employed were archived at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and freely available to any researcher. Over 3,400 scientists around the world currently analyze climate model output from this open database.

My response was insufficient for Mr. McIntyre. He submitted two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for climate model data – not for the freely available raw data, but for the results from intermediate calculations I had performed with the raw data. One FOIA request also asked for two years of my email correspondence related to these climate model data sets.

I had performed these intermediate calculations in order derive weighted-average temperature changes for different layers of the atmosphere. This is standard practice. It is necessary since model temperature data are available at specific heights in the atmosphere, whereas satellite temperature measurements represent an average over a deep layer of the atmosphere. The weighted averages calculated from the climate model data can be directly compared with actual satellite data. The method used for making such intermediate calculations is not a secret. It is published in several different scientific journals.

Unlike Mr. McIntyre, David Douglass and his colleagues (in their International Journal of Climatology paper) had used the freely available raw model data. With these raw datasets, Douglass et al. made intermediate calculations similar to the calculations we had performed. The results of their intermediate calculations were similar to our own intermediate results. The differences between what Douglass and colleagues had done and what my colleagues and I had done was not in the intermediate calculations – it was in the statistical tests each group had used to compare climate models with observations.

The punch-line of this story is that Mr. McIntyre’s Freedom of Information Act requests were completely unnecessary. In my opinion, they were frivolous. Mr. McIntyre already had access to all of the information necessary to check our calculations and our findings.

When I invited Mr. McIntyre to “audit” our entire study, including the intermediate calculations, and told him that all the data necessary to perform such an “audit” were freely available, he expressed moral outrage on his blog. I began to receive threatening emails. Complaints about my “stonewalling” behavior were sent to my superiors at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and at the U.S. Department of Energy.

A little over a month after receiving Mr. McIntyre’s Freedom of Information Act requests, I decided to release all of the intermediate calculations I had performed for our International Journal of Climatology paper. I made these datasets available to the entire scientific community. I did this because I wanted to continue with my scientific research. I did not want to spend all of my available time and energy responding to harassment incited by Mr. McIntyre’s blog.

Mr. Pearce does not mention that Mr. McIntyre had no need to file Freedom of Information Act requests, since Mr. McIntyre already had access to all of the raw climate model data we had used in our study (and to the methods we had used for performing intermediate calculations). Nor does Mr. Pearce mention the curious asymmetry in Mr. McIntyre’s “auditing”. To my knowledge, Mr. McIntyre – who purports to have considerable statistical expertise – has failed to “audit” the Douglass et al. paper, which contained serious statistical errors.

As the “Climategate” emails clearly show, there is a pattern of behavior here. My encounter with Mr. McIntyre’s use of FOIA requests for “audit” purposes is not an isolated event. In my opinion, Mr. McIntyre’s FOIA requests serve the purpose of initiating fishing expeditions, and are not being used for true scientific discovery.

Mr. McIntyre’s own words do not present a picture of a man engaged in purely dispassionate and objective scientific inquiry:

“But if Santer wants to try this kind of stunt, as I’ve said above, I’ve submitted FOI requests and we’ll see what they turn up. We’ll see what the journal policies require. I’ll also see what DOE and PCDMI administrators have to say. We’ll see if any of Santer’s buddies are obligated to produce the data. We’ll see if Santer ever sent any of the data to his buddies”

(Steven McIntyre; posting on his ClimateAudit blog; Nov. 21, 2008).

My research is subject to rigorous scrutiny. Mr. McIntyre’s blogging is not. He can issue FOIA requests at will. He is the master of his domain – the supreme, unchallenged ruler of the “ClimateAudit” universe. He is not a climate scientist, but he has the power to single-handedly destroy the reputations of exceptional men and women who have devoted their entire careers to the pursuit of climate science. Mr. McIntyre’s unchecked, extraordinary power is the real story of “Climategate”. I hope that someone has the courage to tell this story.

Benjamin D. Santer

John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellow
San Ramon, California
February 22, 2010*

*These remarks reflect the personal opinions of Benjamin D. Santer. They do not reflect the official views of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory or the U.S. Department of Energy. In preparing this document, I would like to acknowledge the assistance of Tom Wigley, Myles Allen, Kristin Aydt, Graham Cogley, Peter Gleckler, Leo Haimberger, Gabi Hegerl, John Lanzante, Mike MacCracken, Gavin Schmidt, Steve Sherwood, Susan Solomon, Karl Taylor, Simon Tett, and Peter Thorne.

1,047 Responses to “Close Encounters of the Absurd Kind”

  1. 801
    Mike says:

    #682 Completely Fed Up — 2 March

    I should perhaps have elaborated… there are physical limitations arising from the size of a wind turbine, but obviously the larger it is the more efficient it is… just because its area increases exponentially to radius…this basic rule applies to all expanders(and compressors). But there is a limit to size because of the greater stress’s involved on the transmission, bearings and turbine arms themselves(vibration is not your friend in harnessing energy mechanically, and centrifugal force can do surprising things to material bonding)… so at the moment the biggest turbines are 7mw… the bigger hydro generators are 700mw… so yah need 100 wind turbines, per single hydro generator(and thats generator, not entire hydro station) Thats 100 more transmissions, bearings, turbines with associated maintenace costs to generate the same power.

    Im not saying they dont have their place, but they are not competitive for primary power production. Just because you cant damn and concentrate the wind.

    As to the rest…im sorry moderators, i wasnt aware this was a no go topic, i only brought it up because that particular technology over comes ALL o the inherent weakness’s associated with it.

    CFU says> “Is it still a strawman argument when you take a problem some other thing has and just state that that problem exists with the thing you don’t like?”

    What can i say…lol oh the irony!

    CFU says>Or is that plain old weaselling?

    Think what yer want, its no skin of my teeth, i do enjoy mechanical engineering, its good fun. Thats why im interested in this discussion, that is all… Oh moderators, sorry bout OT, understand if yer drop the post.

  2. 802
    John Peter says:

    BevA 791

    Not a troll, not really grumpy, just a generalist.
    A generalist knows less and less about more and more, until s/he knows nothing about everything.

  3. 803
    Adam says:

    Someone sent me this trying to disprove AGW theory. Can anyone comment?

    Greenhouse Gas Effect and Carbon Dioxide

    This is a revised and extended version of my initial post.

    When in energy balance, the Earth radiates from the top of the atmosphere at 235 Watts per square meter (1).

    Radiation from the greenhouse gases goes in all directions, and so, effectively, half is radiated out into space, and half is returned to the Earth’s surface and so helps to increase the surface temperature up to a value for which the radiated emission is twice that from the greenhouse gases to outer space, having made allowance for the energy which escapes directly through the ghg layers to space. Thus, the Earth’s surface radiates at 390 W.m^-2

    Carbon dioxide has an important absorption peak for infrared photons of almost 15 micrometres, but very little of significance at other wavelengths.

    In order to ensure 100% absorption of photons of this wavelength, the surface must be “covered” by sufficient molecules of CO2. Now, the absorption cross section of a CO2 molecule for a 15 micron photon is about 5×10^-22 m^2 per molecule (2), and so the number of molecules required to cover an area of 1 m^2 is 1.0 / (5×10^-22), ie. 2×10^21 molecules per square metre.

    Now consider a vertical column of the Earth’s atmosphere based on a square of area 1 m^2.
    This air column has a mass of 1.01×10^4 Kg.m^-2.

    The mass of the neutron (& proton) is approximately 1.67×10^-27 Kg.
    So the mass of the nitrogen molecule is 4.68×10^-26 Kg.
    Therefore, the number of N2 molecules in the column is approximately 2.15×10^29.

    Now, carbon dioxide is currently present at the level of about 380 ppm by volume, and so the number of CO2 molecules in our 1 m^2 column is about 8×10^25.

    Therefore, the 100% cover for the 15 micron photons can be provided 8×10^25 / 2×10^21 times over, ie. 4×10^4 times. Moreover, 100% absorption cover can be provided down to absorption cross sections of about 1.0 / (8×10^25) m^2, ie. 1.25×10^-26 m^2. This is about 1000 times smaller than the smallest spectral lines shown for the 15 micron wavelength region in the HITRAN data to be found at The smallest spectral lines shown in this region are at about the 10^-23 m^2 level, and occur within ± 1 micron of the major line, ie between 14 and 16 microns. (Note that the HITRAN ordinate axis is in cms^2.) It follows that the absorption peak in this region must have a flat top, corresponding to 100% absorption of photons, from at least 14 microns to 16 microns wavelength. If still smaller spectral lines occur, too small to be shown in the HITRAN data but greater than 1.25×10^-26 m^2, then the flat top will be wider still.

    However, if there are appropriately small spectral lines, there must be a wavelength at which the absorption cross section is sufficiently small for some photons to manage to escape through the carbon dioxide to outer space. At this point, the height of the absorption peak begins to fall from the 100% level, and this proceeds further as the wavelengths are reduced below 14 microns, and increased above 16 microns. This forms the sides of the peak, sometimes referred to as the “shoulders”.

    Low level infrared absorption cross sections of carbon dioxide

    The diagrams may be enlarged by using CONTROL+SCROLL.
    Alternatively, the Windows Magnifier may be used.

    In the diagram, ABCD represents a simplified infrared absorption peak of CO2 at 15 microns. The ordinate axis is the power per square meter (W.m^-2) of the Earth’s surface per micron element of wavelength. The horizontal axis is the photon wavelength in microns.

    If there are no smaller spectral lines outside the 14 to 16 micron range, as discussed above, this would give vertical sides to the absorption peak in the diagram, and we would get EFCD, which means that extra CO2 could not produce an enhanced GHG effect.

    To be realistic, however, we should allow for the possibility that smaller lines do exist on either side, but are too small to be shown (or are too small to be measured). The exact values do not really matter, but together they would produce sloping sides to the peak, simplified as straight lines, AD and BC, in the adjacent 1 micron sections. Still smaller peaks removed yet again by another micron would give an effect too small to be really significant.

    The effect of doubling CO2 concentration in the atmosphere

    Original peak, at pre-industrial CO2 concentration
    The wavelength axis has been considered to comprise 0.1 micron elements, giving 10 steps per one micron element. The power absorbed by the peak ABCD is given by the area under the peak and so, for arbitrary units with 10 units of height corresponding to the 100% absorption level, the flat top, the original area is 300 area units. (A simple, approximate measure can be obtained by adding the ordinate values for each 0.1 micron step.)

    Final peak, after doubling CO2 concentration
    Suppose that the CO2 concentration is now doubled from pre-industrial levels. The flat top cannot go any higher because it is already at the 100% absorption level. However, the first 0.1 micron element can double from 1 height unit to 2 height units, an increase of 1 height unit, and similarly for the next elements up to and including the fifth one. The increases are shown by the short vertical lines at the left. But the last set of 5 elements cannot double because of the 100% limit. Their increases are shown above the vertical lines. This results in an increase of 25 area units each side, ie a total increase of 50 area units, with the final peak absorbing a power of 350 area units.

    Now, from a Planck distribution of the Earth’s radiation spectrum, with the Earth in radiative balance at a surface temperature of 288.0 degK and emitting 390 W.m^-2, we find that the power from a wavelength element of 1 micron, at 15 microns, is 7.43 Wm^-2. This is equivalent to 100 area units in the diagram. So a power increase of 50 area units in real terms is 3.72 Wm^-2.

    Therefore, (final power) / (initial power) = 393.72 / 390.0 = 1.009538
    Hence, the Absolute temperature of Earth’s surface increases by a factor which is the fourth root of this, (1.009538)^0.25, ie 1.002376, by the Stefan-Boltzmann Law.

    So the Earth’s surface temperature becomes 288.68 degK, ie an increase of, say, 0.7 degC.

    If conditions were such that the original peak sides sloped linearly over two microns instead of only one, then it can be shown that the temperature increase would be 1.4 degC, but this would seem to be very unlikely in view of the way the amplitudes of the small spectral lines fall off with displacement from the major peak within the closest 1 micron elements. From the HITRAN spectra, this fall-off seems to be at least a factor of 10 per micron.

    This simple model using only 10 points each side has been verified by calculating the results for 1000 points each side. Moreover, the simple model has been extended to include 5 one micron sections of assumed small lines on either side, with a fall-off of a factor 10 in each section. The results are shown below.

    CO2 Factor Increase_____Surface Temp Rise degC

    1.36 present day_________________0.42

    For comparison, an absorption peak with sinusoidal sides has also been considered, as shown below.

    CO2 Factor Increase_____Surface Temp Rise degC

    1.36 present day_________________0.27

    It is not known whether any small spectral lines exist in the 15 micron region, outside the range 14 to 16 microns, because of limitations in available data. If there are no such lines, then it is difficult to see how additional carbon dioxide can have an enhanced greenhouse effect.

    If such small lines do indeed exist, then this could cause an enhanced GHG effect, and for a doubling of CO2 would produce an increase in Earth’s surface temperature of no more than about one degree Celsius.



  4. 804
    David says:

    There is a great deal that I have read in the above posts, especially into the ideology of growiing more monoculturews to try to answer the energy crisis. But before I get on to that I want to ask this esteemed audience on their views for the weather to come for Europe of the the coming year, decade and half century.
    If the science of AGW is solid, then it should provide predictive sureties that can be relied upon. If it cannot, there is no way that anyone should concede to more interventions from government.

    [Response: Never assume that science “should” fulfill some criterion or other, without understanding its basis. Predictions and assessments of climate change are time and space dependent and are targeted at relatively large space and time scales. Predictions at smaller scales is part of the development of the science, and it takes time and effort–Jim]

  5. 805
    Andrew Adams says:

    GeoffWexler #790

    Thanks for the clarification – for someone like me who is essentially a layman with only elementary qualifications in maths and chemistry it’s good to get a basic explanation which I can understand but also a number of sources for further reading if I want a more in depth and technical description, and it is really good to be able to ask this kind of question and get answers from people who really know their stuff. I was just about able to grasp your explanation @ #741 – it certainly wasn’t too elementary for me ;)

  6. 806
    Tim Jones says:

    Re:766 oakwood says: 3 March 2010 at 2:49 AM
    Re Tim Jones (708)

    “This posting is headed “Close Encounters of the Absurd Kind”. Ironic that you shuold be requesting photos to support a propaganda of climate change scare stories.”

    Your comments are absurd, oakwood. The photos I’m asking for are to illustrate the potential point that one of the effects of climate change will be that a warming climate and warming seas will engender more severe weather than we already see. No one is claiming that what we already see can be ascribed to a warming climate. After all, the average surface temperature rise is only ~ .7º C. This is not to say we may not be seeing effects. But it would be hard to tease out the warming signal for specific events at this time.

    There IS more energy in the system. This will inevitably lead to increased energy in weather related phenomena. Thus severe weather may be MORE severe. For you not to perceive such a basic aspect of a warming climate is pitiable. It’s exactly why people need to be shown examples of what will happen.

    O: “You list a random collection of problems and disasters with a veiw with linking all of them to climate change.”

    Excuse me. You’re mistaken. I haven’t asked for a random collection of photographs. I’m asking for pictures of the sort of events that rising temperatures may aggravate.

    O: “An example: “Pictures of the aftermath of violent weather would be instructive. Floods and snowfall potentially derived by way of evaporation of warming seas.”

    Yes. Increased snowfall and increased flooding are predicted to be the consequences of climate change.

    O “But (i) ‘violent weather’ has always ocurred, and always will.”

    So what? The point here is that greater extremes of violent weather are expected.

    O: “You can’t just assume its always due to climate change.”

    Who’s trying to?

    O: “(ii)and you suggest that any “flood” or “snowfall” can potentially be linked to warming seas. That’s pure speculation. And just comical.”

    I’m afraid not.. If you studied the science instead of just blabbing off your brain washing you’d see it. An elementary understanding of physics would have you understanding such a basic aspect.

    O: “If you want pictures and film to support your campaign, I’m sure Al Gore can help.”

    Your implication is offensive. But it’s a good suggestion. I’ll ask him.

    O: “This behaviour simply demonstrates the typical approach of so many AGW-faithful. ‘We can use any evidence we can get hold of in any way we want – however misleading – to support the case for AGW’. This behaviour just gives your side a very bad name.”

    Classic Straw Man. You defeat something that doesn’t exist.

    Your rant is baloney. You don’t know the science. You have no idea of the language to be used on the website, your whole screed is a knee jerk reaction full of benighted assumptions. There is nothing misleading in predicting more violent weather in coming years as a result of global warming. If fact, what you write is mendacious propaganda. You would have us be complacent about a warming climate. You do real harm.

    [Edit–no name calling please.]

  7. 807
    Alexandre says:

    Gilles #799

    Brazil has something around 25 million cars.

    Only part of these are flex-fuel. Some are ethanol only, and the gas-only vehicles run on a 25%-ethanol mixture, as I stated above. There is no gasoline-only fuel available in gas stations.

    Work is tough and money is minimal, but I would not call this seasonal job “quasi-slave”.

    There are laws to phase out labor-intensive harvest in a few years, as they demand leaves to be burned beforehand. It will have to be mechanically harvested then, and I don´t think it will have much of a negative impact in its competitiveness.

  8. 808
    Alexandre says:


    instead of “they demand”

    please read

    “it demands” (the process demands)

  9. 809
    BobFJ says:

    Unprecedented current 12-year drought in Australia!
    Further to my 768 & 757, (both on p16), here is another quickie picture showing that this claim is probably wrong, per the BOM‘s own data:
    Chart 1) Total rainfall for Australia has steadily risen substantially since 1900
    Chart 2) Total rainfall in the Murray Darling Basin, which is of key importance for agriculture, Adelaide, and the lower lakes, has always been volatile annually, but the lowest 11-year average rainfall was centred on 1940. After the highs between ~1950 & ~1990, The current 11-year centred average rainfall has returned to about the same mean level as between 1905 & 1940, and should not be treated as unprecedented, according to the data.

  10. 810
    ghost says:

    RE: 804 Either you are a clever joker or have been living under a rock for two decades. Weather is not climate; climate is not weather. What would it prove to you if an extrapolation from the composite climate models happened to forecast the year’s weather approximately correctly? Are you saying that it would lead you to concede to Kyoto-scale CO2 reductions? The climate models generally don’t have the degree of resolution you apparently demand. Maybe you could try the converse–if the weather forecasters cannot predict the state of global climate in 2025 accurately, then you cannot rely on a hurricane track prediction made 24 hours in advance? Truly, if you’re serious, then spend a week reading the archives here. If you are not serious, then thanks for the waste of time.

    RE: Phil in 798: there probably is no need to add that as oil production declines, coal production most likely will increase, leaving little net change in CO2 production (along with a punch of mercury). Maybe natural gas substitutes some to help that budget a little. Little comfort to me, though.

  11. 811
    Alexandre says:

    Adam #803

    I did not follow all his equations (and I´m not sure I could, if I tried). But 0.7ºC is about how much climate sensitivity you get from the Modtran model – if you neglect the water vapor feedback. When you include this, you get almost 1.5ºC, which is about the lower end of the uncertainty range of the consensus sensitivity.

    There´s a lot of literature about the quantification of this sensitivity. Actually, generations of scientists worked at it already, and it´s a more complex quantitification process than a blog post could handle.

    If your a layman like me (I assume you are), this text can be a good starting point for further information:

  12. 812
    David B. Benson says:

    Adam (803) — Somebody went off on the wrong track. The Arrhenius formula for the forcing due to increased CO2 is well accepted as a decent approximation (and after several decades of digging the quantum mechanical details). So I used it in a conceptual model which accounts for all but 4% of the variance in decadally averaged GISTEMP; it is posted in comments on the Whatevergate thread.

    I just finished revising the conceptual model to use the AMO as an index of internal variablity and with this addition account for all bu 0.9% of the variance in decadally averaged GISTEMP. Either way, CO2 is indeed a climate driver, as is known and seen in IPCC AR4.

  13. 813
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Adam@803, Well, they utterly neglected pressure broadening, collisional broadening, etc. See the post:

    Raypierre’s climat book has a more detailed treatment. Essentially CO2 forcing remains logarithmic well above 1000 ppmv. So, no, your correspondent did not disprove physics.

  14. 814
    Phil Scadden says:

    Gillies. On what basis would anyone say that recession is less survivable than rapid climate change? The only reason I can think of would be denying that there will be rapid climate change. I can find no evidence of economic downturns in mortality data but I could be wrong. On the other hand, the likely effects of hydrological cycle disruption, rapid loss of fertile deltas, and climate-driven migration seem likely to be quite deadly. Me, I would rather not take the risk – give me recession any day. That said I doubt we will lose 20% production capacity in 10 years, but since I work in oil exploration (among other things), I may be deluded.

  15. 815
    Hank Roberts says:

    Adam: Who sent you that — someone you know? If not, why do you consider that person a reliable source?

    You can look at the pictures. Search with Google Image Search. Here’s one of many examples of satellite infrared photography, day and night.
    (Notice the big lakes that look black in the daytime image (cooler than surrounding area) and look white in the nighttime image (warmer than the surrounding area.

    If all the infrared photons coming from the surface were being absorbed and re-emitted in random directions, you couldn’t see the ground. Same as when there’s enough fog in the air to completely intercept all the visual light and none of the photons reaching your eye came directly from the world on the other side of the fog, eh?

    Try another thought experiment: go outside at sunset.
    Hold your hand up in the sunlight as the sun is above the horizon.
    Hold it there til the sun sets. Feel any change? That’s infrared from the sun coming through the atmosphere. (It’s a small part of the total energy, but enough you can feel it). Compare how it feels at noon, when it’s coming through the atmosphere the narrow way instead of the long sideways way. Is having more air between you and the sun changing the warmth you feel?

    Try another experiment: get an infrared thermometer.
    Carbon dioxide is well mixed in the atmosphere.
    If it were completely absorbing the infrared from the planet, the clear sky would always be about the same temperature from zenith to horizon. Check and see what you find.

    Look it up.

    Read Spencer Weart’s book again.

  16. 816
    Tim Jones says:

    Re: 803 Adam says: 3 March 2010 at 5:12 PM
    “Someone sent me this trying to disprove AGW theory. Can anyone comment? ”

    This is the rebuttal, following on the same physforum page.

    “You’re using a single-slab atmospheric model, the same mistake early-century physicists made.

    “Let’s go over details through a thought experiment: Right now we have some atmosphere which has a temperature profile T(p) which decreases with altitude (with the dry or moist adiabat). Ps is the surface pressure, and Ts = T(Ps) because of heat transfer the surface must be near temperature of overlying air. Now the outgoing longwave radiation (OLR) looks like ??Ts^4 (from Stefan-Boltzmann law). Now put a gas in the atmosphere up higher at lower pressures (Ps > Px) where the gas is transparent to solar radiation, but interacts with infrared as to turn each portion of the atmosphere it is mixed with into a blackbody (a greenhouse gas). Since anything else other than these greenhouse gases (ex. nitrogen, oxygen, argon) are transparent to infrared you can’t measure the importance to be begin with as a function of quantity or mass in the atmosphere alone.

    “Now suppose you slice up the atmosphere into so many pieces as to make each slice isothermal. Each layer with a pressure greater than Px radiates like a blackbody at its temperature (with the energy flux emitted across all wavelengths proportional to the fourth power of the temperature). However, it is only the top layer which determines the radiation loss to space, and hence the heat balance of the planet. This is one reason why water vapor doesn’t overwhelm CO2 as discussed at because it gets drier as you go up to lower pressures in the colder part of the atmosphere. The radiation from all the other ones is absorbed before it reaches the topmost layer, so the OLR is ?T(Px)^4. As we put in more greenhouse gases, we increase the altitude of the effective radiating level, but clearly we can’t make the upper layers a blackbody (understand also that the tropopause has increased in height {e.g. Santer et al 2003} consistent with the warming atmosphere). This happens when the lower layers become opaque to infrared (which is where you are only looking at one layer, but even still, we aren’t near that point). If you go to the right place on the wings, quite a lot of the additional absorption is happening low down. The IR heating change is pretty uniformly distributed. Moreover, the whole troposphere is well mixed in heat, and is more or less constrained by convection to stay near the moist adiabat. In that sense, the vertical structure is largely fixed by convection, and the heating only sets the intercept (e.g.the lower trop temperature.)

    “So when you see a simplified version of the greenhouse effect on the internet (looking like solar radiation in, infrared out, gases absorb some infrared and re-radiate some downward) you should add to it: absorbed solar radiation determines the blackbody radiating temperature Tx. This is not the surface temperature, but the temperature at altitude Px, and Px is determined by the greenhouse gas concentration (where more greenhouse gases decreases Px). As you put in more greenhouse gases, it is more like a pinball effect where re-radiation goes downwards, upwards, collides with other molecules, etc but as you warm you increase the altitude of release to space increases, so even if you get saturated down below you will continue to warm (hence the non single slab atmospheric model).

    “In fact, if you look at the graphs on part 2 you’ll realize there is still extra areas to absorb at thousands of times pre-industrial CO2 levels, past the 22 µm or 11 µm wavelengths. In fact, you’d have to go beyond what is in the HITRAN database, but even a place like Venus is not truly saturated, and we will continue to warm (especially down at the 1 bar pressure where we’re at and at earth-like gravity) as we put in more greenhouse gases. Also, don’t forget that the Earth’s temperature has not yet risen enough to restore the energy balance as you have a lag time required to warm up the oceans and melt ice to equilibriate with conditions aloft (you can almost say we’re in 1980 in terms of what the oceans are doing) so even if everything stops today we will continue to warm and glaciers continue to melt as we equilibriate to new conditions which will take some decades. Obviously if we don’t stop, this keeps continuing. We know there is about 1 W/m^2 of imbalance with more solar radiation being absorbed and heat going in the ocean (inconsistent with interal variability but greenhouse gases) (see Hansen et al 2005) so we still have at least 0.6 degrees C “in the wings” if everything stopped today, and we’ll get about 3 C per 2x CO2 which is significant. — Chris”

  17. 817
    BobFJ says:

    Ray Ladbury 579, you wrote in full:

    Yeah, BobFJ, we know: Oz is dry. And it’s getting drier–that’s what you get from statistics that you don’t get from poetry or photos. Try it sometime.

    Now perhaps you could try sometime reading my 809, including the opening of the data link therein. If not convinced and if you have time, also try sometime; 768, & 757, including the links and the earlier posts referenced therein.
    All the evidence I’ve seen suggests that your claim is false.
    Were you assuming in your“And it’s getting drier–that’s what you get from statistics“ that such statistics actually exist? If they do, can you cite them please…. I mean data, not opinion or vague statements!

  18. 818
    Adam says:

    Thanks, much to follow up on

  19. 819
    Sou says:

    @809 – BobFJ – as you point out, looking at very large areas is not helpful to determine local climate change. The areas that have suffered the extended drought are a much smaller area lying within the areas that you’ve looked at. Australia is a big country and the Murray Darling covers the two longest rivers in the country – which is a huge area.

    Some parts may have had rain, but if I look at the bottom chart, even within the entire Murray Darling catchment, it looks as if there has not been such a long period in the past during which the lower than average annual rain was not ‘broken’ by one or more years of higher than average rain.

    The ‘unprecedented’ refers to the fact that there wasn’t an intervening year to break the long dry period in parts of south eastern Australia (which is not the area that the charts reference). It doesn’t necessarily refer to the average rain over the whole period.

    Also, farmers need rain at a particular time of the year to grow crops and pastures. So you need to look at when it rains, what sort of rainfall and for how long (ie torrential rain in a short period that runs off vs more prolonged rain at the right time of the year).

    I’m still not quite sure of what your point is except maybe to show that over decades, average decadel rain over the whole of Australia looks like it’s rising and there is no clear trend for the whole of the Murray Darling in terms of rainfall. The Murray Darling basin extends way up north, including areas way beyond south eastern Australia.

    The climate has obviously changed in many parts of Australia, as shown by the rising temperatures and recent rainfall patterns. It’s likely that much of southern Australia will be hotter and drier, and parts of northern Australia will be wetter in the future.

  20. 820
    Tim Jones says:

    Regarding “a Saturated Gassy Argument,”

    “What happens to infrared radiation emitted by the Earth’s surface? As it moves up layer by layer through the atmosphere, some is stopped in each layer. To be specific: a molecule of carbon dioxide, water vapor or some other greenhouse gas absorbs a bit of energy from the radiation. The molecule may radiate the energy back out again in a random direction. Or it may transfer the energy into velocity in collisions with other air molecules, so that the layer of air where it sits gets warmer. The layer of air radiates some of the energy it has absorbed back toward the ground, and some upwards to higher layers. As you go higher, the atmosphere gets thinner and colder. Eventually the energy reaches a layer so thin that radiation can escape into space.”

    Would someone please explain the nature of a “layer” as it’s used here? How thick or thin are they? What would define an edge of air?

  21. 821
    Eli Rabett says:

    Dear Adam 803,

    Radiation from the ghg is not absorbed a single time, but multiple times. The result is that radiation from the atmosphere in the regions where the ghgs absorb can only be emitted to space from colder, upper levels the troposphere. Since these llevels are colder the ghgs there emit more slowly than at the ground

    Thus more radiation has to come at wavelengths where the ghgs don’t absorb in order to maintain radiative balance. To do this the surface and the lower layers of the atmosphere have to warm.

    The first paragraph in 803 is true, everything else leaves out something important. To get an idea of the most important thing that is left out, at the surface the atmospheric density is ~2 10^25 molecules/m3, (look up Loschmidt’s number) or at 380 ppm CO2 7.6 10^21 molecules of CO2/m. For a cross-section of 5 10^-22 m2/molecule, the distance that a photon will go before being absorbed will be

    7.6 10^21 molecules/m3 x 5 10^-22 m2/molecule ~ 1/3.5 per meter

    (technically this is the distance 67% of the photons in the 15 micron band would go before being absorbed),

    After about a meter ~95% of the light will be absorbed (the cross-section looks a bit big to me, probably is the sum over the band and not for individual lines, but what the heck). As the radiation is sequentially absorbed and emitted many times some of it moves up in the atmosphere where the temperature is lower.

    When the mixing ratio of CO2 or other ghgs increase, the level at which the they emit to space moves up to an even colder level, where the emission rate slows down even more.

    Effectively, no light in the ghg bands can escape to space until you get up to about 10 km, where the density is low enough above you that a photon emitted from CO2 will escape.** However the 10 km temperature is ~220 K. The rate at which an excited CO2 molecule can emit a photon depends strongly on the temperature. Up high, the rate is much slower than down low.

    **The general idea holds, but you have to consider pressure broadening and other effects to get an accurate calculation.

  22. 822
    Septic Matthew says:

    781, Barton Paul Levenson: US: 42% of new electrical generating capacity last year was wind, after 35% in 2008.

    With your permission, I would like to copy that to the “societal inertia” thread. Or you could, if you think it is relevant. I think there is lots of information to the effect that, at least on the alternative energy production side, societal inertia is being overcome.

    It’s just that wind energy is expensive, due in part to its intermittency, so benefits will be in future decades after production prices and backup storage have been significantly improved.

  23. 823
    BobFJ says:

    Sou, Reur 819;
    Thankyou for your thoughtful and interesting comments.
    As a quick response, I take it that you are more interested in what has been happening in so-called SE Oz rather than the total “big basin“. I’m inclined to agree because of the annual volatility in “the basin”, primarily in the Darling system, although the BOM 11-year smoothing (black line) is of some importance in determining significant decadel trends.
    I’m planning to do a compilation of the annual (regional) mapping of data per BOM, but have hesitated as to whether to do it for “the whole basin” or just the SE. (there is a lot of editing such as resizing and assembly). I prefer the latter choice, much in line with your thoughts.
    Here for reference is SE Oz for the past 12 months:
    Here is the Murray Darling Basin over the same period, which, as you say; is a huge area:

  24. 824
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Creationists discover that anthropogenic global warming can be used to catalyze teaching of religion in schools:

  25. 825
    Sou says:

    @817 BobFJ, you asked for statistics. Here are some for Victoria in south eastern Australia, which is what I was referring to. It’s abundantly clear that since 1900, there has never been a longer period of below average rainfall as this past decade, if you look at the rainfall anomaly for Victoria.

    And since 1900 there has never been a period of such high temperatures as this past decade as shown by the maximum temperature anomaly for Victoria.

    Remember that if you look at the whole of Australia you are including the wet tropical north right down to what used to be cold Tasmania (where I believe that sales of air conditioners are on the rise). The Murray Darling catchment extends from Queensland in the north, through NSW to Victoria and South Australia in the south.

    I’ve read that people are starting to look at how climate change will affect extremes of temperature – not just the ‘average’. It’s the extremes that are the most difficult to adapt to.

  26. 826
    Gilles says:

    Phil 804 :” On what basis would anyone say that recession is less survivable than rapid climate change? ”
    Obviously this question doesn’t make sense if you don’t precise how much warming and which recession. -50% recession is much probably worse than +0.1°C, and – 1% recession is better than +10 °C. So the question is more : what the “effective cost” of warming compared to a recession, what is the “value” of 1°C warming for instance ? or may be is there a non linear relationship with a runaway threshold , but which one and where is the threshold ?
    I think one of the main problem of GW is that the answer is mainly unknown. There are (very few) estimates, like Stern’s one, but there are far from being validated. So basically we’re told that the warming is dangerous, but we don’t know exactly when, and that the climate sensitivity is still uncertain, so we know even less how much fossil fuel we should burn and when we should stop using them. But obviously fossil fuels ARE unescapable to sustain a modern society , so stopping using them would cause a complete collapse : something like a – 90 % recession. And even limiting access to fossil fuels means preventing potentially poor people to become a little bit richer. So how can you expect that people stop willingly using something that is obviously needed to sustain their life , to face an uncertain danger than nobody can quantify properly ?

    “I can find no evidence of economic downturns in mortality data but I could be wrong. ”

    look at Russia

    “On the other hand, the likely effects of hydrological cycle disruption, rapid loss of fertile deltas, and climate-driven migration seem likely to be quite deadly. Me, I would rather not take the risk – give me recession any day. ”

    there is a very simple way to participate both to recession and reduction of CO2 : just don’t use a fair part of your income and put it on a blocked bank account …

    That said I doubt we will lose 20% production capacity in 10 years, but since I work in oil exploration (among other things), I may be deluded.

    I said in 20 years ;-).
    So interesting that you work in oil exploration. Do you think we will let under the ground the oil you’re discovering ? the fact that we still look for new resources is the best evidence that what I’m saying is true, isn’t it ?

  27. 827
    John Peter says:

    Tim Jones 820

    I believe that “layer” is just used a pedagogical technique to emphasize that temperature and pressure change as one moves up in the atmosphere, it’s not a uniform slab. It’s the same idea as “levels” used in the next post (821)

    Put your paragraph in “a Saturated Gassy Argument” back in context by including the previous paragraph:

    “…Nobody was interested in thinking about the matter deeply enough to notice the flaw in the argument. The scientists were looking at warming from ground level, so to speak, asking about the radiation that reaches and leaves the surface of the Earth. Like Ångström, they tended to treat the atmosphere overhead as a unit, as if it were a single sheet of glass. (Thus the “greenhouse” analogy.) But this is not how global warming actually works.

    What happens to infrared radiation emitted by the Earth’s surface? As it moves up layer by layer through the atmosphere, some is stopped in each layer. To be specific: a molecule of carbon dioxide,…”

    Five layers of the atmosphere are defined( ) with different general properties but I don’t believe “gassy” is trying to be that specific.

  28. 828
    Completely Fed Up says:

    tim: “Would someone please explain the nature of a “layer” as it’s used here? How thick or thin are they?”

    It’s the same meaning as an interval in a newton-raphson numerical solution.

  29. 829
    Completely Fed Up says:

    dt: “Biomass is essentially just coal gasificiaton (ala Lurgi at SASOL), but with the additonal cost of feedstock gathering ”

    And the additional benefit of not being fossilised CO2.

  30. 830
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Cur back on the histrionics, Bev A.


  31. 831

    Further to the stuff on fractured hot rocks, the rocks are not necessarily dry. Some of the sites in Australia have high-pressure water embedded in them. I know the chief scientist at Geodynamics, and this stuff is not only for real, but has many decades of hard science and engineering behind it. He delivered the dinner speech at the 2009 Qld IEEE AGM and I’ve never seen an audience of engineers get so involved in a talk. They peppered him with questions as he spoke, and were pretty impressed with his mastery of the detail. Geodynamics have a capacity to drill to 6km, and considerable experience of the practicalities of getting into full-scale production. This stuff is hard, but not impossible. Once they have the technical problems sorted, they will produce largely pollution-free electricity, with mostly maintenance costs, punctuated by the occasional need to drill again as temperatures under ground drop.

    Their last attempt at setting up a pilot well came unstuck because they tried to use too high a grade of steel that suffered from hydrogen embrittlement arising from dissolved gases in he water.

    This is impressive stuff and a tour of the Geodynamics web site is well worth a visit (and no, no one pays me to promote them).

    It’s ironic that Australia is a world leader in one of the more promising alternatives to fossil fueled electricity as well as one of the world leaders in promoting coal. And it’s great this once to be able to report Australia is not only a haven of denialists.

  32. 832

    Thomas (794),

    1. Earth has an orbital velocity of almost 30 kilometers per second. You have to kill that to “fall into the sun.” I advise reviewing your Newtonian mechanics.

    2. The 25% figure is for the GASOLINE-powered cars in Brazil, NOT the ETHANOL-powered cars. Read carefully.

  33. 833

    Gilles (799): Relative to the grid, it [electric power from wind in Denmark] will never exceed 20 %

    BPL: Says who? You?

  34. 834

    Adam (803): CO2 has many absorption lines throughout the spectrum, not just at 15 microns. For example, there are major peaks at 2.75 and 4.3 microns.

  35. 835

    Adam (803),

    In addition, there is another problem with the guy’s model. The carbon dioxide molecules are not hovering, they are in motion. The root-mean-square velocity for CO2 at 250 K is 376 meters per second. If we consider the atmosphere a uniform slab 8 km thick, it takes a photon 2.67 x 10^-5 seconds to traverse that distance (if going straight up, if at an angle, it takes longer). In that time a CO2 molecule has moved 0.01 meter — which is about 793 million times its absorption cross-section. Your photon is not passing by points, but by streaks.

  36. 836

    Sorry, 793 million times the RADIUS of the absorption cross-section. My bad.

  37. 837

    SM–sure, go ahead. Here are all the figures I could get from DOE:

    2004 4%
    2005 12%
    2006 19%
    2007 35%
    2008 42%

    I don’t know what the figure for 2009 was, so when I said “last year” I was thinking it was still 2009…

  38. 838
    Donna says:

    in post 707 I linked to an article in Reason and the study that the article referred to
    Article title “Everyone Who Knows What They’re Talking About Agrees with Me –
    And everyone who doesn’t wears a tin foil hat”

    The opening of the article is this:
    “Is man-made global warming happening? Can nuclear waste be stored safely? Do concealed handguns reduce violence? Think about those questions for a minute. Then think about your thinking: Why do you hold those particular views on these controversial issues? And do scientific experts agree with you?

    The Yale Cultural Cognition Project has been probing the question of cultural polarization over scientific risk issues for a number of years. The project’s latest working paper, “Cultural Cognition of Scientific Consensus,” analyzes the question: “Why do members of the public disagree—sharply and persistently—about facts on which expert scientists largely agree?” As examples of strong expert scientific consensus, researchers led by Yale University law professor Daniel Kahan selected three recent National Academy of Sciences (NAS) reports dealing with climate change, nuclear waste, and gun possession.”

    Its a very good thought exercise – what do you think about the 3 issues mentioned and why do you think it?
    It challenged me and also reminded me why some arguments (the consensus of scientists is that X …..) cannot convince people of certain facts depending on their world viewpoints. It is not that they are irrational, lying, etc etc. Assuming that those are the reasons sends you down the wrong path to try and get them to review, rewind and rethink.
    So what can a web site like Real Climate do to get past the mind blocks that make people unable to see the proof that their opinion is wrong.
    Much of what it is doing – putting out basic facts, hosting a forum for the discussion of the science, questions, issues.

    Maybe it could also add some discussion topics aimed at the types of groups that the Yale study identified –

    “Hierarchicalists prefer a social order where people have clearly defined roles based on stable characteristics such as class, race, or gender. Egalitarians want to reduce racial, gender, and income inequalities. Individualists expect people to succeed or fail on their own, while Communitarians believe that society is obligated to take care of everyone. Generally speaking, Individualists tend to dismiss claims of environmental risks because they fear such claims will be used to fetter markets and other arenas of individual achievement. Hierarchicalists tend to see claims of environmental risk as a subversive tactic aiming to undermine a stable social order. In contrast, Egalitarians and Communitarians dislike markets and industry for creating disparities in wealth and power. In fact, they readily believe that such disparities generate environmental risks that must be regulated.”

    A lot of skeptics come across as being “Individualists” who doubt the science not because its unproven or whatever the latest claim is – but because they fear the actions that might result so much that they are incapable of accepting the science. (Until something really paradigm shattering happens). I’m not sure how you break the tie in their minds that accepting AGW is real means somehow that free markets will be damaged. They take that as a given but is it? How can that belief be challenged. Break the link and they may rethink and help move forward versus being the anchor that holds everyone back.

  39. 839
    Nick Gotts says:

    But obviously fossil fuels ARE unescapable to sustain a modern society – Gilles

    No. You have repeatedly asserted this, but you have not shown it to be true.

    the fact that we still look for new resources is the best evidence that what I’m saying is true, isn’t it ?

    Well, since it isn’t evidence that what you’re saying is true at all (it’s simply evidence that the companies concerned expect to make a profit), that suggests that we can be absolutely confident that what you are saying is false. I’m not quite that sanguine.

  40. 840
    Adam says:

    #815, No, this is no one that I know. I found this information while researching a denailist claim and I wanted more clarification. I knew I could get to the bottom of it here, thanks for taking the time.

    Also, this may be entertaining, (on Realclimate’s moderation vs. Watts):

    “Climate “scientists” Gavin Schmidt and Michael Mann set up the RealClimate website with the help of Communications.

    ‘Nuff said.”

    You should take it up at his blog site RealClimate, they welcome all opinions unlike Watts.

    “Oh, that is just rich. That is the perfect converse of reality. RealClimate is the reason I discovered Anthony Watt’s blog in the first place. I got tired of getting into debates with people on RealClimate, and then having everything after my first one or two posts “moderated”, i.e. deleted, repeatedly. And then I started wondering why Gavin was always posting these long diatribes about something posted on a blog called (Watts).

    So, I should probably thank Gavin. If not for the way every question asked, and every discussion attempted, was so obnoxiously dismissed, I might not ever have taken a peek at what was behind the CAGW curtain.”

    I certainly have had the opposite experience, Watts wont post my questions that challenge his nonsense. Has anyone else had the same experieince?

  41. 841
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    This makes me mad — — an editorial in a medical journal, no less, equating the whole of climate science with the “vaccine causes autism” single article that was retracted.

    Don’t those medical guys get it? They are the ones who are so conservative — part of the rich class — that they are the ones tempted to deny serious problems, unless there’s a buck in it for them. I’m thinking of the editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine against Sandra Steingraber’s book, LIVING DOWN STREAM: AN ECOLOGISTS LOOKS AT CANCER AND THE ENVIRONMENT — the editor worked for W.R. Grace, the company that polluted the water in Woburn, MA.

    If a large body of scientists tell us something that really doesn’t benefit anyone and is very dangerous, we’d better believe it. If one scientist tells us something that harmful to us people, but benefits some frankencorportation for which he/she works, we’d better be very skeptical, very skeptical…

  42. 842
    Brian Dodge says:

    “I’m not sure how you break the tie in their minds that accepting AGW is real means somehow that free markets will be damaged.” What free market? The Government sets the money supply, not the market. The Government sets intentionally inequitable tax policies (e.g. Oil Depletion Allowance) to further political/social policy. The Government provides insurance to select market sectors (Wall Street bailout, legal caps on Nuclear Industry liability). If there’s not enough money to supply the trillions needed to bail out Wall Street, pay Blackwater and Halliburton to fight wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and keep the Social Security checks flowing, Government just cranks up the printing presses, and the “free market” price of a loaf of bread goes from $2.79 to $3.48, even though my demand and the grocery store supply haven’t changed.

  43. 843
    Ray Ladbury says:

    I’ve enjoyed your posts and found value in the references you’ve provided. I’d be interested in your take on something. I have repeatedly tried to engage those who reject the science by pointing out that by concentrating on rejecting the science, they are merely abdicating their place at the negotiating table when it comes to how to mitigate climate change.

    I’ve also pointed out that the longer we wait to address this crisis, the more we will require draconian action to mitigate the risk, and the more individual liberty will be compromised.

    I am afraid that these arguments fall on deaf ears. The irony is that they would prefer to attack the science–which they don’t understand–than try to develop mitigation strategies consistent with their world views.

    It really makes me wonder how much confidence they have in free markets and democracy if they think they cannot cope with these challenges.

  44. 844
    Peter Backes says:

    We’ve got even more interesting problems now:

    Darwin Foes Add Warming to Targets
    Published: March 3, 2010
    Critics of evolution are gaining ground by linking the issue to climate change, arguing that dissenting views on both should be taught in public schools.

  45. 845
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Donna says: 4 March 2010 at 8:41 AM

    I’m not sure how you break the tie in their minds that accepting AGW is real means somehow that free markets will be damaged. They take that as a given but is it? How can that belief be challenged. Break the link and they may rethink and help move forward versus being the anchor that holds everyone back.

    I keep on resorting to analogy on this, usually relying on disgusting example of sewage, an example we can all understand.

    In bygone days in New York City, households depended on cesspits and honeywagons to dispose of household sewage. Cesspits were almost completely “free” both in that they were negligibly expensive and they were unregulated except by local olfactory tolerance.

    As the population pressure in New York City increased, this system proved inadequate and thus these freedoms were eroded and eventually entirely erased. Vast sums of money were spent to deal with the collective effluent stream of millions of people and by common consent individual choice in this matter was stripped away.

    Yet New York City remains arguably the center of gravity of the free market world. It turns out that compartmentalization is possible; regulation of particular human activities and their impacts does not result in the erasure of the free market.

    Sometimes we need to come together and agree there’s a grownup in the house to tell us what to do. The grownup is us.

  46. 846
    Steve Fish says:

    RE- Comment by Hank Roberts — 3 March 2010 @ 8:42 PM:

    I am a little confused by your explanation:

    “Try another thought experiment: go outside at sunset. Hold your hand up in the sunlight as the sun is above the horizon. Hold it there til the sun sets. Feel any change? That’s infrared from the sun coming through the atmosphere.”

    I thought that it was mostly visible light that penetrates the atmosphere and heats the surface and your hand. You seem to be saying that electromagnetic radiation in IR frequencies is more effective than visible frequencies for heating the earth. Please clarify.


  47. 847
    Eli Rabett says:

    Eli has worked REALLY hard to come up with an explanation of the greenhouse effect your (and his) mom would understand. It sweeps away a lot of cobwebs, IEHO, of course:)

  48. 848
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “I thought that it was mostly visible light that penetrates the atmosphere and heats the surface and your hand.”

    Fish, read the rest of it. You quoted but didn’t read.


    “That’s infrared from the sun coming through the atmosphere. (It’s a small part of the total energy, but enough you can feel it).”

  49. 849
    Eli Rabett says:

    The IR from the sun, is colloquially (among spectroscopists, but WTH) called NIR or near IR and is pretty much gone at 3 microns. The so called fingerprint region, which is what most people mean by IR when they talk about molecules, goes from 2-20 microns roughly. OTOH people who do video call the NIR or anything longer that ~0.8 microns the IR.

    Can’t tell the IR without a scorecard. BTW, this is also a goodie from Eli’s favorite drink, G&T

  50. 850
    Phil Scadden says:

    Gillies – if you stopped using fossil fuel tomorrow, then I think your dire predictions would indeed be true. I suspect that if we stopped finding any oil tomorrow just to maintain production, then the results would also be catastrophic. The Kyoto request however was not to stop fossil fuel consumption but to reduce CO2 emissions to 1990 levels. I think this level is too risky to but a great start. This is also a very long way from “stopping using fossil fuels altogether”. Oil and coal are fantastically useful substances – I think we will use them, but using them for energy is a mistake. Sooner or later we have to find an alternative so lets do it now. Kill all subsidies on fossil fuel for starters – how does that kill your economy? Kill all new fossil fuel generation. That will sure hurt some parts of the economy and stimulate others but I have great faith in the capitalist system to create workable alternatives. The energy is there.