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Climate scientist bashing

Filed under: — stefan @ 7 April 2010

A new popular sport in some media these days is “climate scientist bashing”. Instead of dealing soberly with the climate problem they prefer to attack climate scientists, i.e. the bearers of bad news. The German magazine DER SPIEGEL has played this game last week under the suggestive heading “Die Wolkenschieber” – which literally translated can mean both “the cloud movers” and “the cloud traffickers” (available in English here ). The article continues on this level, alleging “sloppy work, falsifications and exaggerations”. By doing so DER SPIEGEL digs deeply into the old relic box of “climate skeptics” and freely helps itself on their websites instead of critically researching the issues at hand.

As a scientist I do not have the time to dedicate a whole day to one article and to do much research on it, which is why I here discuss only a few of the most obvious flaws and distortions of facts in this story.

Temperature data

Cynically and inhumanely the article sets off with remarks on our British colleague Phil Jones. The authors extensively revel in sentences like this:

He feels a constant tightness in his chest. He takes beta-blockers to help him get through the day. He is gaunt and his skin is pallid.
Jones is finished: emotionally, physically and professionally. He has contemplated suicide several times recently.

And this is the result of a media campaign consisting of precisely such poorly researched and fact-twisting articles as this one, for which Marco Evers, Olaf Stampf and Gerald Traufetter are responsible.

What is first greatly hyped is then gleefully destroyed. According to DER SPIEGEL “the entire profession” of climate science “based much of its work on his [Jones'] research” and “almost every internal debate among the climate popes passed through his computer”. Now it happens that I, most likely not an untypical example, have never worked with Jones’ data and have only exchanged a handful of emails (out of tens of thousands every year) with him, although I do probably count as part of the “profession”. There is a whole set of other data of global temperature, e.g. the data from NASA which is based on weather stations (and which I prefer for various reasons) or data from NOAA or the satellite data from RSS or the UAH. As is always scientifically useful, important conclusions are based not on one single set of data but on the fact that a whole range of competing scientific groups find consistent results, using different methods (see Figure).

Global mean temperature (annual means) according to the 5 most often used data sets. The graph shows the deviation from the mean of the last 30 years, as well as the linear trend over the last 30 years. The data from the Hadley Center, NASA and NOAA use measurements from surface weather stations, each with its specific method of quality control (e.g. correction for heat island effects) and interpolation and spatial integration. Independently, the satellite data from RSS and UAH (available from 1979 onwards) provide two different analyses based on the same microwave raw data. These measure the temperature of the middle troposphere, the variations of which can differ from those of the surface temperatures on short time scales. The record El Niño year of 1998 is an example. It has caused a greater temperature anomaly in the troposphere, presumably as warm air rising in the tropics spread in middle altitudes. The climatic trends, however, do not differ significantly since on longer time scales the surface and tropospheric temperatures are closely coupled due to turbulent mixing processes.

The quality of raw data from worldwide weather stations and vessels is indeed often unsatisfactory, especially if one goes further back in time – after all they were gathered to help forecast the weather and not to determine long-term climate trends. However, the error margin has been carefully analyzed – as is standard in science – and is shown in the temperature graphs on the Hadley Center´s website as well as in the IPCC report, and to date there is no reason to assume that the actual temperature evolution lies outside these error margins – the more so as the satellite data correspond well with the ground data. Whether the global warming trend was 0,15 or 0,17°C per decade in the past decades is of no relevance to any practical concerns.

IPCC-Figure of global mean temperature 1850-2005 (Fig. TS6).

According to DER SPIEGEL Jones has erased raw data and is “an activist or missionary who views ‘his’ data as his personal shrine” who “is intent on protecting it from the critical eyes of his detractors”. However, Jones is neither the producer and owner nor the archivist of these data – it is simply data from the national weather agencies, who also are responsible for its archiving or for the question to whom and under what circumstances they may be passed on. The majority of these data is freely accessible online. However, some weather services do not allow their data to be passed on because they sell such data. Other scientists have compared the CRU-data with freely available raw data from weather stations. And at NASA one can find the computer algorithms which are used to calculate the global mean temperature, publicly available for everybody. There is hardly any other scientific field in which more data and computer codes are freely accessible than in climate science (e.g. also codes and data of my current papers on sea level rise in Science 2007 and PNAS 2009). Do for example economists, on whose advice many political decisions depend, disclose their raw data and the computer codes of their models?

The British House of Commons has just published the report by the committee which has been appointed to examine the accusations made against Phil Jones. The report concludes:

The focus on Professor Jones and CRU has been largely misplaced. [...] The scientific reputation of Professor Jones and CRU remains intact.

The fact that Jones has been rehabilitated will be welcomed by all those who know this decent, always helpful and universally well-liked scientist. For the general public the conclusions on his scientific findings will be even more important:

Even if the data that CRU used were not publicly available-which they mostly are-or the methods not published-which they have been-its published results would still be credible: the results from CRU agree with those drawn from other international data sets; in other words, the analyses have been repeated and the conclusions have been verified.

The ever-popular “hockey stick” discussion

DER SPIEGEL resurrects one of the oldest shelf-warmers of the “climate skeptics”: the hockey stick debate and a series of flawed accusations with it. The so-called “hockey stick” is a temperature construction for the Northern Hemisphere for the last millennium published by Michael Mann, Ray Bradley and Malcolm Hughes in 1999, of which DER SPIEGEL writes that the Canadian Steve McIntyre unmasked it as “a sham”. (And this is the only clue within the whole article pointing to the alleged “falsifications”). This is not true. Even a committee of the National Academy of Sciences looked in 2006 at the accusations made by McIntyre and has cleared the authors of all suspicions.

Raw data and computer codes of the “hockey stick” are online and publicly available, and independent scientists have recalculated everything years ago using their own codes (also available). The current IPCC report from 2007 shows in Fig. 6.10 these reconstructions together with a dozen more which have meanwhile been added; the Copenhagen Diagnosis published in 2009 shows some even more recent ones in Fig. 19 (page 43). All show consistent results, not in detail but in their fundamental aspects. This is why the conclusions drawn in the IPCC report of 2007 were stronger than back in 2001, when the “hockey stick” had been shown for the first time. The IPCC report 2007 concludes:

Palaeoclimatic information supports the interpretation that the warmth of the last half century is unusual in at least the previous 1,300 years. [Summary for Policy Makers, S. 9]

In the third report from 2001 such a statement had been made only for he last 1000 years.

All reconstructions – with or without using tree-ring data – agree that the temperature in the Northern Hemisphere (for the Southern Hemisphere insufficient data existed until recently) is higher today than in medieval times. DER SPIEGEL simply claims the opposite:

There are many indications that in medieval times, between 900 and 1,300 A.D., when the Vikings raised livestock in Greenland and grape vines were cultivated in Scotland, it was in fact warmer than it is today.

No scientific evidence in support of this claim is mentioned. Locally – in the North Atlantic region – climate reconstructions do indeed show higher temperatures than today (see Fig.); hence there is no contradiction to the anecdotal evidence about Greenland and Scotland.

Temperature difference between the middle ages (years 950 to 1250) and the modern period (years 1961 to 1990) according to a reconstruction by Mann et al. 2009. The grey shadinghatching shows regions with statistically significant results.

Incidentally, looking at the forcings, it would be surprising if it had been warmer in medieval times than now. Forcings are the factors which affect the global radiation budget of the Earth, such as variation of solar activity, volcanic eruptions or changes of the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. If we compute the temperature evolution from the known forcings over the last thousand years, the result is consistent with the temperature reconstructions mentioned above. Merely one (in the meantime corrected) model simulation by Zorita and von Storch is an exception. These model calculations (18 in total) are compiled and compared with data in the IPCC report in figures 6.13 and 6.14 .

Only by looking at the forcings can one draw conclusions about the causes of global warming – the fact that currently it is unusually warm does not by itself tell us anything about the causes. If only natural and no anthropogenic forcing existed it would be much colder now than in medieval times.

The hockey stick debate exemplifies how the „climate skeptics“-lobby has tried to discredit an inconvenient scientific finding over the course of many years, without success. The scientific conclusions have proven to be robust.

Tropical storms

Under the subheading “The Myth of the Monster Storm” the SPIEGEL article reports on a “hurricane war” amongst US climate scientists:

The alarmists, using the rhetoric of fiery sermons, warned that Katrina was only the beginning, and that we would soon see the advent of superstorms of unprecedented fury. Members of the more levelheaded camp were vehemently opposed to such predictions and insisted that there was no justification for such fears.

Sadly, no example for the “rhetoric of fiery sermons” is quoted. “Levelheaded” is the well-worn SPIEGEL-parlance for describing anyone who downplays climate change, regardless of whether their claims are scientifically well-founded.

Then a recent study from Nature Geoscience is cited which allegedly announces “the all-clear signal on the hurricane front” and which signifies “another setback for the IPCC”. This is because “the IPCC report warned that there would be more hurricanes in a greenhouse climate”. Let us simply quote from the abstract of the new study:

Future projections based on theory and high-resolution dynamical models consistently indicate that greenhouse warming will cause the globally averaged intensity of tropical cyclones to shift towards stronger storms, with intensity increases of 2-11% by 2100. Existing modelling studies also consistently project decreases in the globally averaged frequency of tropical cyclones, by 6-34%. Balanced against this, higher resolution modelling studies typically project substantial increases in the frequency of the most intense cyclones, and increases of the order of 20% in the precipitation rate within 100 km of the storm centre.

Long story short, fewer but heavier tropical storms can be expected. By the way, the potential destructiveness of storms increases more steeply than the wind velocities; a 2-11% higher speed means a 6-37% higher destructiveness. (Emanuel 2005).

And what did the IPCC report have to say on this topic?

Based on a range of models, it is likely that future tropical cyclones (typhoons and hurricanes) will become more intense, with larger peak wind speeds and more heavy precipitation associated with ongoing increases of tropical sea surface temperatures. There is less confidence in projections of a global decrease in numbers of tropical cyclones. [Summary for Policy Makers, page 15.]

Long story short, fewer but heavier tropical storms can be expected, even if there was still less confidence about the first aspect at the time. The WMO, whose expert group has published this study, consequently describes the result as follows:

Substantial scientific progress has led the Expert Team to raise their confidence levels on several aspects of how tropical cyclone activity may change under projected climate scenarios.

This means: there is no reason for speaking of a “setback” in a “war”; rather the early findings of the IPCC report have been given a higher confidence level. The SPIEGEL story on this issue falls into a category of false allegations against IPCC mentioned by us already in February, namely those which can be falsified by simply reading the report (in this case even a quick look at the Summary for Policy Makers would have sufficed).

IPCC mistakes

According to DER SPIEGEL “more and more mistakes, evidence of sloppy work and exaggerations in the current IPCC report are appearing”. We already investigated this and came to the conclusion that of the mistakes discussed excitedly in the media, nothing much remains except for the Himalaya mistake. The SPIEGEL does not have anything else to offer either – it counts “Jones’ disputed temperature curve” as one of them; apart from that “the supposed increase in natural disasters” – wrongly so as we have already showed (in German) reacting to an article published in Die Welt which claimed the same.

DER SPIEGEL elaborates on the story of the alleged “phantom graph” by Robert Muir-Wood which we have explained there as well. According to DER SPIEGEL, Roger Pielke “tried to find out where the graph had come from” and “traced it” to Robert Muir-Wood. This must have been hard indeed, given that Muir-Wood, who provided the graph, is named by the IPCC in the figure caption. The only difficult thing is to find this graph (which incidentally is correct but not very informative) at all: other than DER SPIEGEL claims, it is not in the IPCC report itself but only provided as “supplementary material” on its website, where the IPCC publishes such background material. Although on the 3,000 pages of the report there was no space for it, the graph now seems to be important to SPIEGEL readers for reasons unknown.

What is it all about?

SPIEGEL defames some of the best scientists worldwide, who not least for this reason have become prime targets for the “climate skeptics”. If you look at publications in the three scientific top journals (Nature, Science, PNAS), the just 44-year-old Mike Mann has already published 9 studies there, Phil Jones 24 (comments, letters and book reviews not included). In contrast, DER SPIEGEL always calls upon the same witness, the mathematician Hans von Storch, who has published only a single article in the prime journals mentioned (and that was faulty). But he says the politically wanted thing, even if without any supporting evidence from the scientific literature: in his view we can easily adapt to climate change. He also publicly accuses the vast majority of his colleagues who disagree with him of alarmism, calls them “prophets of doom” or “eco-activists” who indoctrinate the public. He also insinuates political or financial motives for disseminating horror scenarios. In this article he says things like “unfortunately, some of my colleagues behave like pastors, who present their results in precisely such a way that they’ll fit to their sermons”. This quote matches the article´s inflationary usage of the words “guru” “popes” “fiery sermons” “missionaries” and so forth. And he goes on: “It’s certainly no coincidence that all the mistakes that became public always tended in the direction of exaggeration and alarmism.” The following statement would have probably been more correct: it is certainly no coincidence that all the alleged errors scandalized in the media always tended in the direction of exaggeration and alarmism.

It is obvious that DER SPIEGEL does not care about science. This really is about politics. This year will decide about the future of the German climate policy: in the fall the government will announce its new energy strategy. This will decide whether the energy transformation towards a sustainable electricity supply, increasingly based on renewables, will be pushed forward or thwarted. In a global context the issue is whether global warming can be limited to a maximum of 2 ºC, as the Copenhagen Accord calls for, or whether this opportunity will be lost. The power struggle on this issue is in full gear. The energy transformation can best be prevented by creating doubts about its urgency. The fact that scandal stories about climate science have to be invented to this end just proves one thing: good, honest arguments against a forceful climate policy apparently do not exist.

p.s. (26 April): It’s just a curiosity, but telling: DER SPIEGEL calls Pachauri’s novel “Return to Almora” an “erotic novel”. The novel follows the life story of Sanjay Nath, from a childhood in the 1950s in the Himalayas through decades spent in the US building up a chain of meditation centers, until his final return to the Himalayas at age 60. The 400-page book contains a handful of love scenes, only gently hinted at in a few sentences. Calling this an “erotic novel” is devious; it can only serve the purpose of letting Pachauri appear in a dubious light.

Correction: As Roger Pielke has pointed out to us, the Supplementary Material to the IPCC reports is not only available on the IPCC website, but also on a CD-ROM distributed with the printed books.

[This piece is a translation of an article that originally appeared in German on the KlimaLounge weblog.]

References

Emanuel, K., 2005: Increasing destructiveness of tropical cyclones over the past 30 years. Nature, 436, 686-688.

Knutson, T. R., J. L. McBride, J. Chan, K. Emanuel, G. Holland, C. Landsea, I. Held, J. P. Kossin, A. K. Srivastava, and M. Sugi, 2010: Tropical cyclones and climate change. Nature Geoscience, 3, 157-163.

Mann, M. E., R. S. Bradley, and M. K. Hughes, 1999: Northern hemisphere temperatures during the past millennium: inferences, uncertainties and limitations. Geophysical Research Letters, 26, 759-762.

Mann, M. E., Z. Zhang, S. Rutherford, R. S. Bradley, M. Hughes, D. Shindell, C. Ammann, G. Faluvegi, and F. Ni, 2009: Global Signatures and Dynamical Origins of the Little Ice Age and Medieval Climate Anomaly. Science, 326, 1256-1260.


517 Responses to “Climate scientist bashing”

  1. 51
    Matthew L says:

    #43 dhogaza,
    I have noticed a very subtle change in Spencer’s blog over time. The frequency of his posts is reducing and the tone is less stridently sceptical.

    He has taken to reporting every monthly temperature change – something he started to do in the early noughties when temperatures were not rising as fast as they appear to be now. But of course he has created a rod for his own back! It will become very difficult as time goes on for him to continue to report a rising temperature trend while also blogging his sceptical views.

  2. 52
    jo abbess says:

    @BartonPaulLevenson (#37)

    >
    > jo abbess (5),
    >
    > May you never be in a position where people
    > all over the world are suddenly accusing you
    > of crimes just for doing your job.
    >

    You got me wrong. I’m on-side. I seriously believe that Phil Jones is a hero, and that The Guardian (and the rest) should praise him instead of tear him down.

    And I have been in that “position where people all over the world are suddenly accusing you of crimes just for doing” my thing. Just Google my name…It’s not pretty, it feels horrible, and that’s why I have an warmed-up ocean of sympathy for what Phil Jones is going through.

    As I keep trying to remind people, Science will win, and Scientists should be treated with the highest of respect.

  3. 53
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “The UK Treasury model is available to outside bodies and is used by one or two of the major “think-tanks” to run parallel studies of the UK economy with whatever inputs they deem appropriate. I think it is an example of good practice that could be copied in climate science.”

    So two points from this:

    1) This behaviour isn’t widespread

    2) Other climate areas do exactly this

    Also note: the FOI requests were for far, FAR more than the UK treasury gives out that you posit as a good practice to be copied in climate science (whilst forgetting that this is already practice in climate science).

  4. 54
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Not just because of the issues with climate change but the general public no longer take the words of the scientist community for granted”

    They have absolutely no problem taking Hannity’s word for granted.

    Or any bloke on a blog.

    Why is that?

    It isn’t skepticism, because they would not be taking their word for granted either.

  5. 55

    #42: “A chicken to pick”–English idiom would be “bone to pick.” Same basic metaphor, I think. I always appreciate the variance between languages in such idioms.

    Another hen/bone/nit-pick–Spencer’s UHI theory is relative only to the US–not global–temps. Probably helps a bit with the “compartmentalization” mentioned in #43, as it renders the mismatch with what UAH data are showing merely noncongruent, as opposed to flatly contradictory.

  6. 56
    Ron Taylor says:

    Thanks you Stefan. What utter trash this article is. The worst of it are the character attacks on climate scientists, especially Phil Jones. Does anyone know what is behind this article? Who is being paid off to produce such garbage?

    The truth, of course, will eventually be known. But I have no doubt that the same creeps behind this kind of thing will find a way to blame the scientists for not warning them.

  7. 57
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    If Spencer is correct, why on earth would trees be budding out sooner in the spring or glaciers be melting? Why would the Jet Stream be moving northward? Why are the seas expanding? We keep seeing phenomena that makes sense if they are associated with warming. If they’re just happening randomly then we live in very strange world.

  8. 58
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Neil #44: the error bars are decadal (as it says in the legend), the dots annual.

    Sorry for rubbing it in :-)

  9. 59
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Simon Abingdon says, “And VS has been bashing Tamino.”

    Simon, be sure to give VS our love–and hey ask him how he’s enjoying that brand new and fully functional orifice Tamino ripped him!

  10. 60
    Neil says:

    Neil #44 / Martin 58#

    Excellent and valid point!

    ;-)

  11. 61
    Matthew L says:

    #53 CFU
    Hey man, chill, peace… I’m on your side.

    1) This behaviour isn’t widespread
    I have no idea whether it is or isn’t, just stating what I know about the UK.

    2) Other climate areas do exactly this
    Thanks for letting me know. I know that NASA / GISS does it, no idea about anybody else.

    I feel like a child having its ankle chewed by the family’s pet Rottweiler!

  12. 62
    David Miller says:

    Wilt, #37 talks about weather and climate.

    Wilt, what you say is true. However, the UAH satellite chart shows a very clear warming trend. Perhaps I wasn’t sufficiently verbose? I simply pointed to an article whose theme was “wow, it’s really warm” and expected people to look at the article if they wanted to disagree.

    There WAS a significant error in my post, and that’s that he’s only looking into UHI correlations for the US while the satellite record is for the world. Matthew L pointed this out before I had a chance to correct it myself. As has been pointed out numerous times, the contiguous US is 1.5% of the world and so really doesn’t matter much where global temps are concerned.

    So that leaves me with a couple of thoughts. The first is that the whole study is much ado about naught – even if there were no actual warming in the US it would say virtually (98.5%) nothing about global warming as a whole. “why bother” comes to mind.

    The other thought, as Matthew pointed out, is that Spencer (presumably) could just look at satellite temperatures for the US and confirm or destroy his whole UHI argument. If the satellite record shows that the US ISN’T warming we have a whole lot of other questions to ask, like why ice-out dates are earlier, record highs beat record lows, and glaciers are vanishing in Glacier National Park.

    Question for those who know: do satellite data have high enough resolution to analyze temperatures by (large) country?

  13. 63
    wilt says:

    In the part about Tropical storms, the recent article in Nature Geoscience is discussed (http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v3/n3/pdf/ngeo779.pdf), and Real Climate was so kind to quote some relevant lines from the abstract. Unfortunately, one crucial sentence from the abstract was omitted: “Therefore, it remains uncertain whether past changes in tropical cyclone activity have exceeded the variability expected from natural causes.” It seems to me that this conclusion is different from what the IPCC-report was saying: “It is more likely than not (>50%) that there has been some human contribution to the increases in hurricane intensity”.

  14. 64
    Green Marauder says:

    The real underlying issue here is that for journalists, freedom of information (as exemplified by FOI laws) is inviolate.

    Hence they turn against anybody whom they perceive as having shown possible non-compliance with FOI law. In this case, they’ve turned against climate scientists, and having taken a position against the scientists, they must find evidence to support it – in this case the “evidence” is coming from the denialist blogs.

    This was of course entirely predictable, and it’s possible that some denialists even sent out with their FOI requests with the hope of triggering the type of sequence of events that have indeed subsequently occurred.

    In the short-term, obviously a damage limitation exercise is necessary in order to counteract the denialist talking points.

    However in the longer term, I think the same thing will eventually happen again, unless plans are put in place to stop this happening again.

    Perhaps it is possible to find different ways of working, or alternatively to push for legislative reform, so that climate scientists can be exempted from FOI laws. They are simply too busy, and the issues of climate change are too important, to waste scientists’ time in dealing with FOI requests or releasing their data sets to denialists.

  15. 65
    Brian Dodge says:

    “I am not saying that dr. Spencer is right or wrong, but his remarks about the period 1973-2010 are certainly not disproven by an isolated temperature measurement in March 2010.” wilt — 8 April 2010 @ 3:25 AM

    True, we need 30 years of measurements to show his belief that “Most U.S. Warming Since 1973 Could Be Spurious” is not supported by the facts.

    “Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.”
    John Kenneth Galbraith

    It seems to me that skeptics cognitive dissonance is their belief that there can be an anthropogenic UHI effect, but they can’t understand that this must cause AGW – even if you only heat one side of a pot of soup, eventually the whole pot gets warm.
    Maybe they believe that Arctic sea ice melt and accelerating glacier loss are God’s “fair and balanced” use of “natural fluctuations” which counter UHI and prevent AGW.

  16. 66
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Green Marauder says: 8 April 2010 at 11:20 AM

    If journalists really care about their FOI and FOIA tools, they’ll come down like a ton of bricks on folks such as McIntyre and CEI’s Chris Horner. These guys remind me of the time I discovered somebody using my best Klein pliers to squash a penny, pounding a framing hammer on the jaws of the pliers to help the process along.

    I took my pliers and hammer away from the offending party. Similarly, FOI/FOIA tools will be revisited and maybe locked up if they’re consistently abused.

  17. 67
    wilt says:

    David Miller (#62), what you are saying now makes sense. And yes, I realize that the US is only about 1,5% of the planet’s surface. But if the UHI efect does matter for US temperatures, it will probably be at least as important for countries like Russia and China. Those countries are (much) larger, so the total percentage “at risk” would be considerably than 1.5% (more like about 6%). Still, it would not have a dramatic effect on the final global outcome, so I think there are more important topics to focus on.

  18. 68
    Bob says:

    Question… the Der Spiegel article starts out by painting a picture of Dr. Jones as a frail and destroyed shell of what he once was, and several commenters on this site have posted their support as if this sad Dorian Gray caricature of his current state is accurate.

    Given the sorry lack of truth in the rest of the article… is this in fact the case? I mean, I’m sure the guy is greatly hurt and stressed by events. He’d be superhuman not to be. But is the whole thing (for him) as bleak as Der Spiegel describes, or is he holding up just fine and doing his job (albeit under cruel and unnecessary stress)?

    For any suffering whatsoever, my sincere sympathies, well wishes, and hope that “justice will prevail.”

    For any implied suffering that doesn’t actually exist… it’s one more reason to despise modern journalism as realized through outlets like Der Spiegel.

    I only hope that when the time comes, all three culprits in this have their toes held to the global fire; the arrogantly outspoken deniers themselves, the elements of the fossil fuel industry that support and promote them, and the journalists that are utterly and completely failing in their responsibility to the readership which represents their democratic populations, and so influences the course of human events.

  19. 69
    wilt says:

    Brian Dodge (#64), all I did is make a correction with respect to a remark from David Miller, and from his response (#62: Wilt, what you say is true) I conclude that he agrees with me on that point. So I don’t think that your remarks about ‘cognitive dissonance’, and about what I would or would not believe about topics like Arctic sea ice fit in here.
    As for dr. Spencer, I think he aims (as we all should) at a temperature record that is as precise and reliable as possible. If measured land temperatures are not completely accurate because of an UHI effect they should be corrected. Personally I don’t think any such correction (if needed) will have much effect on the global data.

  20. 70
    t_p_hamilton says:

    wilt, the two statements are consistent. IPCC says more likely than not, > 50% which still has a truckload of uncertainty. The threshold of uncertainty is < 5%, not < 50%.

  21. 71
    GW Shaughnessy says:

    The timing on your discussion about global warming versus tropical cyclones coincides nicely with CSU’s spring hurricane forecast update by Gray & Klotzbach: http://typhoon.atmos.colostate.edu/forecasts/2010/april2010/apr2010.pdf. The authors address CO2 and SST increases with respect to tropical cyclone activity starting on page 25. I understand the frustration and annoyance of countering deniers who know nothing about science; but, the CSU guys are real scientists who have made significant contributions to meteorology. I sense Gray has an axe to grind with atmospheric modelers, but his arguments against global warming impacting tropical cyclone strength or number are compelling. Thanks and keep up the fight!

  22. 72
    Walter Manny says:

    Granted that RC itself should not be held to strict journalistic standards, it is still ironic to read such hyperbole as:

    “Cynically and inhumanely the article sets off with remarks on our British colleague Phil Jones. The authors extensively revel in sentences like this:

    ‘He feels a constant tightness in his chest. He takes beta-blockers to help him get through the day. He is gaunt and his skin is pallid.
    Jones is finished: emotionally, physically and professionally. He has contemplated suicide several times recently.’”

    But what actually is the extent of “sentences like this”? Sure, we learn that McIntyre has “thinning gray hair” at one point, but the tight-chest sentence stands alone, and I don’t know where “revel” comes in.

    DS reports that Jones has contemplated suicide. Well, the Sunday Times reported the same thing, and their source was their interview with Jones. From the Times Online: “The incident has taken a severe toll on his health. He has lost more than a stone in weight and disclosed he is on beta-blockers and using sleeping pills. He said the support of his family, and especially the love of his five-year-old granddaughter, had helped him to shake off suicidal thoughts: ‘I wanted to see her grow up.’”

    It’s impossible not to be sympathetic to Jones’ plight, but let’s not forget who said to Parliament, “I’ve obviously written some really awful e-mails”. And let’s also not forget that the DS article states that “global warming can no longer be stopped,” hardly a skeptical view as far as AGW is concerned, even if one could quibble over its assessment of mitigation prospects.

    It strikes me as shooting the messenger to accuse DS of other than reporting the bad news of Climategate’s fallout. Those exposed e-mails certainly did not help the cause, did they?

  23. 73
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Walter Manny,
    When the messener is lying, the perhaps do not deserve to be shot, but certainly a bit of “correction” is in order.

  24. 74
    Bill says:

    re#57; a stable long surface temp record like CET shows a March temp in 2010 identical to that from 1732,so without cherry picking I wouldn’t panic…
    Also after a long cold winter ,the coldest for either 50 or > 100yrs, depending on where you live…
    Also, the spring buds are the late…
    Lets keep an unbiased perspective.

  25. 75

    Bill (#75), it’s very nice that CET is the same as 1732.

    But what do you think the global value in 1732 would have been, could we have derived UAH-style data back then? But UAH is at record or near-record levels.

    It’s rather foolish to obsess over US data wrt to global temps, as the US is about 1.6% of the global surface. How much larger is that than the coverage area of CET?

    If I’m charitable, I’d say you are being naive.

  26. 76
    Walter Manny says:

    Ray, which lie is the worst? Presumably, it’s not: “Scientists already estimate that average temperatures will rise by another half a degree Celsius by 2030.” If this article truly is a lack of pies (apologies to Spooner), which ones are you talking about? I see the thing as reporting the post-EAU bad news for climate mitigation advocacy and the less-than-favorable perception of scientists more generally. Whether or not it is fair — much of the fallout seems unfair to me — I don’t see why Spiegal gets it in the neck for reporting the way things have gone in the last few months. Have they gone well, do you think?

  27. 77
    flxible says:

    Bill@74 “Also after a long cold winter, the coldest for either 50 or 100yrs, depending on where you live…
    Also, the spring buds are the late…”

    Or also after the warmest winter in 50 or 100 years, depending on where you live – ie: in the PNW, where the spring buds are as much as a month early, indeed you should keep an unbiased perspective :)

  28. 78
    Bill says:

    re #75. Maybe its good to be called naive, its a cheap shot anyway. I think your response exactly outlines why our message is not being understood by the policy makers or indeed the public at large.

  29. 79
  30. 80
    Mike Donald says:

    I did read that article with dismay and thought just how much effort would be required to untangle their snide mess. Thank you RC for taking on this media sounding board wilderness of mirrors echo chamber.

    I’ve downgraded Der Spiegel to the German equivalent of the Daily Mail.

  31. 81
    Bill says:

    re#77. So, as I’ve said before, its regional, not global , by definition !

  32. 82
    Martin says:

    #44 @Russ H
    No. It was the Stern who published the forged Hitler diaries.
    I’d keep your criticism to their climate publishing policy.

  33. 83
    Walter Manny says:

    Hank, read it already. From #28:

    “Which is to say, the Der Spiegel article lied by omission when it cherry-picked the frequency quote but omitted the immediately-following severity quote.”

    From the DS article:

    “The study concludes with the assessment that ‘tropical cyclone frequency is likely to either decrease or remain essentially the same.’ Top wind speeds could increase somewhat, says Landsea, but the changes would “not be truly substantial.”

    So it turns out #28 is the omitter, not DS. Is he/she a liar? Of course not. Would I be a killjoy to suggest that perhaps we could tone down the use of “lie” and “liar”? We could save it maybe for when people actually lie, as opposed to when they disagree with us, overstate their case or interpret events differently than we do.

  34. 84
    SecularAnimist says:

    Bill wrote in #78: “I think your response exactly outlines why our message is not being understood by the policy makers or indeed the public at large.”

    Who is this “our” that you speak of?

  35. 85
    Bill says:

    re#84, AGW !

  36. 86
    MapleLeaf says:

    No Walter @83, DS misrepresented Knutson et al’s findings. Why do we not simply follow the link provided @28?

    And I quote from Knutson et al. (2010). I should not have to repeat this here b/c had you read the article by Eric, you would have seen this:
    However, future projections based on theory and high-resolution dynamical models consistently indicate that greenhouse warming will cause the globally averaged intensity of tropical cyclones to shift towards stronger storms, with intensity increases of 2–11% by 2100. Existing modelling studies also consistently project decreases in the globally averaged frequency of tropical cyclones, by 6–34% . Balanced against this, higher resolution modelling studies typically project substantial increases in the frequency of the most intense cyclones, and increases of the order of 20% in the precipitation rate within 100 km of the storm centre.

    DS, chose to focus on the decrease. They also do not note that the increases might sound small but Emanuel’s power dissipation index is proportional to the velocity cubed, not to mention the increased storm surge form lower central pressure, and increased flooding from increased precip. The DS article was very careful to understate the impacts of AGW, and this was exemplified by their discussion of tropical storms.

    And their opening line about “Last month Landsea, together with top US hurricane researchers, published a study that finally disproves the supposed link between hurricanes and global warming”

    is a gross misrepresentation and distortion of Knutson et al’s findings; some might even feel justified in calling that statement a lie.

    Knutson et al. state that:

    “Therefore, it remains uncertain whether past changes in tropical cyclone activity have exceeded the variability expected from natural causes.”

    That does not equate to ” finally disproves the supposed link between hurricanes and global warming”.

    Yet you seem to be defending them and even partaking in the distortion. And I would argue that their widespread distortion of the facts and events is not entirely innocent. One or two mistakes perhaps yes, but DS misrepresented the science and scientists throughout their series. That is unprofessional and smacks of bias and agenda on their part. Please, let us not be naive or worse, pretend to be naive.

  37. 87
    Publicola says:

    @Walter Manny, re- your comment #83

    Again the assertion that Landsea’s study “finally disproves” the link between hurricanes and global warming is an outright lie, pure and simple.

    And with respect to how “substantial” the increase in storm severity is projected to be, the quote that the top wind speed increase would “not be truly substantial” is not found in that study. What IS found in that study, however, is the following (from the study’s abstract):

    “Higher resolution modelling studies typically project substantial increases
    in the frequency of the most intense cyclones, and increases of the order of
    20% in the precipitation rate within 100 km of the storm centre.”

    Again the assertion that that study “finally disproves the supposed link between hurricanes and global warming” is a brazen, outright lie – there is no way that the authors of that Der Spiegel article could have missed that study’s clear and unambiguous support for the connection between hurricanes and global warming.

  38. 88
    Publicola says:

    This too is from the study’s abstract:

    “Future projections based on theory and high-resolution dynamical
    models consistently indicate that greenhouse warming will cause the
    globally averaged intensity of tropical cyclones to shift towards
    stronger storms, with intensity increases of 2–11% by 2100.”

    http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/Landsea/knutson-et-al-nat-geo.pdf

    Again there is no way that the authors of that Der Spiegel article could have missed that study’s clear and unambiguous support for the connection between hurricanes and global warming.

    They lied, pure and simple.

  39. 89
    Jim Steele says:

    Is Climate Science Bashing ok when it is against someone who disagrees?

    dhogaza “Creationists such as Roy Spencer who do science are, of necessity, capable of highly compartmentalizing their lives.”

    J. Davis asks “If Spencer is correct, why on earth would trees be budding out sooner in the spring or glaciers be melting?” That argument is not much better than growing grapes for the MWP.

    I have done research on bird populations in the Sierra Nevada for over 20 years and have no evidence earlier budding on trees or shrubs.

    And glacial melt is not just affected by global temperatures but precipitation as well as changes in shortwave radiation that can be due to change of cloud cover. If you look at the Swiss Alps, the percentage of advancing glaciers have 2 peaks in 1920′s and 1980′s each followed by an increase in retreating glaciers like we see now. Those changes correlate very well with the PDO and no correlation with rising CO2. A recent paper has suggested glaciers retreating in the 40′s was due to shortwave radiation.

    A recent paper by , Huss, M., M. Funk, and A. Ohmura (2009), Strong Alpine glacier melt in the 1940s due to enhanced solar radiation, Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2009/2009GL040789.shtml,
    states “Snow and ice melt was stronger in the 1940s than in recent years, in spite of significantly higher air temperatures in the present decade. An inner Alpine radiation record shows that in the 1940s global shortwave radiation over the summer months was 8% above the long-term average and significantly higher than today, favoring rapid glacier mass loss.

    Likewise for the retreat of Kilmanjaro a 2004 Internationa Journal of Cimatology paper by Kaser et al (http://www.geo.umass.edu/faculty/bradley/kaser2004.pdf ) argued that, like the Swiss Alp glaciers, the evidence suggested once again that short wave radiation, not long wave radiation was melting the glaciers of Kilamanjaro”

    “Today, as in the past, Kilimanjaro’s glaciers are markedly characterized by features such as penitentes, cliffs, and sharp edges, all resulting from strong differential ablation. These features illustrate the absolute predominance of incoming shortwave radiation and turbulent latent heat flux in providing the energy for ablation (Kraus, 1972). A considerably positive heat flux from either longwave radiation or sensible heat flux, if available, would round-off and destroy the observed features within a very short time, ranging from hours to days. On the other hand, if destroyed, the features could only
    be sculptured again under very particular circumstances and over a long time. Thus, the existence of these features indicates that the present summit glaciers are not experiencing ablation due to sensible heat (i.e. from positive air temperature). Additional support for this is provided by the Northern Icefield air temperature recorded from February 2000 to July 2002, which never exceeded −1.6 °C,”

    Shouldn’t we be discussing the merit of his methods instead of denigrating via pseudo psychologic analysis ?

    My first take is his analysis “while the Jones dataset is based upon daily maximum and minimum temperatures, I am computing an average of the 4 temperature measurements at the standard synoptic reporting times of 06, 12, 18, and 00 UTC” had merit and would minimize need for TOB adjustments. I am curious what others know about how adjustments have been made by Jones’ and others to help explain his statement “since I have made no adjustments for increasing urban heat island (UHI) effects over time, which likely are causing a spurious warming effect, and yet the Jones dataset which IS (I believe) adjusted for UHI effects actually has somewhat greater warming than the ISH data.”

    So maybe Spencer’s analysis is based on scientific merit. As other have noted he reports the satellite data whether or not it supports his skepticism. From what I can tell those warming months or driven by warmer sea surface temperatures. And like the arguments against the MWP the recent warming has been regional not global. Even the arctic sea ice as returned to normal http://arctic-roos.org/observations/satellite-data/sea-ice/observation_images/ssmi1_ice_ext.png

  40. 90
    Walter Manny says:

    #86 Dear Sir/Madam:

    I think we’re quibbling, and you don’t need to worry about my doing the reading in this instance, though I appreciate the rhetorical barb. I actually suggested on a different thread that RC pursue the Spiegal article, though that correlation does not confirm causation.

    Spiegal (not a science journal) substituted Landsea’s quotation, “Top wind speeds could increase somewhat, etc.” for the more substantive, “a future increase in the globally averaged frequency of the strongest tropical cyclones is more likely than not,” or it appears it did, and the authors do overstate the case by saying “finally disproves”. Is that as bad as Gore’s overstatement in the other direction and the popular press’s endorsement of it? I would say yes, but again I don’t see the need to say that either Spiegal or Gore are “liars”.

  41. 91
    GlenFergus says:

    Apologies for a nit-pick in such a context, but is the Figure 1 caption right: “RSS and UAH … provide two different analyses based on the same microwave raw data. These measure the temperature of the middle troposphere.” The links and plotted data are lower troposphere anomalies, no? Or do I misunderstand something (again) … like what the microwavers mean by “lower” not being very low?

  42. 92
    Publicola says:

    @ Walter Manny:

    How, in your mind, could the following quote from the Landsea study’s abstract in any honest way translate to meaning that the link between global warming and hurricanes has been “finally disproven”?

    “Future projections based on theory and high-resolution dynamical
    models consistently indicate that greenhouse warming will cause the
    globally averaged intensity of tropical cyclones to shift towards
    stronger storms, with intensity increases of 2–11% by 2100.”

    This isn’t a rhetorical question – please answer, thanks.

  43. 93
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Jim Steele says: 8 April 2010 at 5:50 PM

    “Even the arctic sea ice has returned to normal…”

    If by normal you mean some 1 million square kilometers less than it was 30 years ago, sure. Your post was intriguingly original, right up until you ruined it by blurting out a ridiculous talking point of the very shallowest variety. Surely you can do better?

  44. 94
    Jim Steele says:

    Doug Bostrom 93. I don’t understand your criticism. I am just reporting what the Arctic Roos website has shown, that the ice has reached the average for this time of year. Go to their site and tell them they are ridiculous. But I think NSDC also show the same increase in ice extent. I mention it because it speaks to natural variation again not increased CO2. And change in sea ice like glaciers is not due only to global average temperature but wind patterns that can collect or disperse the ice. See http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/mar/22/wind-sea-ice-loss-arctic

  45. 95
    Fran Barlow says:

    I find it telling that the deniers made such a song and dance about an email expressing indifference to the death of some denier, but now seem to be taking pleasure in the ill-health of Jones driven, in part by their agenda-driven bullying

  46. 96
    Jim Steele says:

    The Landsea arguments using various snippets are curious. But Landsea’s resignation letter from the IPCC show unequivocally that he believed the IPCC overstated the hurricane connections

    “I found it a bit perplexing that the participants in the Harvard press
    conference had come to the conclusion that global warming was impacting
    hurricane activity today. To my knowledge, none of the participants in that
    press conference had performed any research on hurricane variability, nor
    were they reporting on any new work in the field. All previous and current
    research in the area of hurricane variability has shown no reliable,
    long-term trend up in the frequency or intensity of tropical cyclones,
    either in the Atlantic or any other basin. The IPCC assessments in 1995 and
    2001 also concluded that there was no global warming signal found in the
    hurricane record.”

    http://premium.fileden.com/premium/2009/6/11/2474018/Landsea.pdf

    [Response: You're timing is very confused. The IPCC report had barely begun to be drafted when Landsea loudly resigned. His concerns over the IPCC language was completely misplaced given the eventual text - which was very close to the WMO consensus statement and the recent Knutson et al review. - gavin]

  47. 97
    Hank Roberts says:

    Jim Steele: http://mustelid.blogspot.com/2005/01/landsea-contrasts.html
    Who are you relying on for the notion the letter could “show unequivocally” his opinion of something that hadn’t yet occurred? Some other blog?

    Searching here will find you contemporary info, like the link above.

    Searching either Google _or_ Scholar, on this topic, finds an astonishing load of stuff — World Climate Report and SEPP are both near top of Scholar’s first page of hits!
    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=landsea+resignation+letter+context

  48. 98
    Publicola says:

    In #90 Walter Manny declared:

    “Spiegal (not a science journal) substituted Landsea’s quotation, ‘Top wind speeds could increase somewhat, etc.’ for the more substantive, ‘a future increase in the globally averaged frequency of the strongest tropical cyclones is more likely than not,’”

    Again, that “Top wind speeds could increase somewhat” quote attributed to Landsea is NOT in the study – which not incidentally the Der Spiegel article does not make clear and the lay reader could thus easily be mislead into thinking that quote is in the study.

    What is in the study are several statements clearly supporting a positive link between global warming and hurricanes, including the following:

    * “Future projections based on theory and high-resolution dynamical
    models consistently indicate that greenhouse warming will cause the
    globally averaged intensity of tropical cyclones to shift towards
    stronger storms, with intensity increases of 2-11% by 2100.”

    * “Higher resolution modelling studies typically project substantial increases
    in the frequency of the most intense cyclones, and increases of the order of
    20% in the precipitation rate within 100 km of the storm centre.”

    - and –

    * “We project that a future
    increase in the globally averaged frequency of the strongest tropical
    cyclones is more likely than not — a higher confidence level than
    possible at our previous assessment.”

    So I ask you again, Walter Manny: How, in your mind, could one in any honest way interpret that set of statements – which again unlike the quote attribute to Landsea are actually IN the study – to mean that the link between global warming and hurricanes has been “finally disproven”?

    Again please answer, thanks.

  49. 99
    Andreas says:

    GISTEMP 12-month running mean is at record high (+0.6345 K) now (Apr 2009 – Mar 2010). Previous maxima were +0.6211 K (Jan 2005 – Dec 2005) and +0.6199 K (Aug 2006 – Jul 2007). Most likely, the 12-month running mean will increase for at least 2 more months because Apr/May 2009 were still rather cold and El Niño (peaked in Dec 2009) will reach its maximum influence on global temperature. The calendar year 2010 may be colder than 2005 because a La Niña may be developing soon.

  50. 100
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Jim Steele says: I have done research on bird populations in the Sierra Nevada for over 20 years and have no evidence of earlier budding on trees or shrubs.

    If you have any doubts about climate-driven changes in biological cycles, check out my collection of phenology stories.


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