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One year later

Filed under: — gavin @ 20 November 2010

I woke up on Tuesday, 17 Nov 2009 completely unaware of what was about to unfold. I tried to log in to RealClimate, but for some reason my login did not work. Neither did the admin login. I logged in to the back-end via ssh, only to be inexplicably logged out again. I did it again. No dice. I then called the hosting company and told them to take us offline until I could see what was going on. When I did get control back from the hacker (and hacker it was), there was a large uploaded file on our server, and a draft post ready to go announcing the theft of the CRU emails. And so it began.

From that Friday, and for about 3 weeks afterward, we were drafted into the biggest context setting exercise we’d ever been involved in. What was the story with Soon and Baliunas? What is the difference between tree ring density and tree ring width? What papers were being discussed in email X? What was Trenberth talking about? Or Wigley? Or Briffa or Jones? Who were any of this people anyway? The very specificity of the emails meant that it was hard for the broader scientific community to add informed comment, and so the burden on the people directly involved was high.

The posts we put up initially are still valid today – and the 1000’s of comment stand as testimony to the contemporary fervour of the conversation:

I think we did pretty well considering – no other site, nor set of scientists (not even at UEA) provided so much of the background to counter the inevitable misinterpretations that starting immediately spreading. While some commentators were predicting resignations, retractions and criminal charges, we noted that there had not been any scientific misconduct, and predicted that this is what the inquiries would find and that the science would not be affected. (Note, the most thorough inquiry, and one that will have to withstand judicial review, is the one by EPA which, strangely enough, has barely been discussed in the blogosphere).

Overall, reactions have seemed to follow predictable lines. The Yale Forum has some interesting discussions from scientists, and there are a couple of good overviews available. Inevitably perhaps, the emails have been used to support and reinforce all sorts of existing narratives – right across the spectrum (from ‘GW hoaxers’ to Mike Hulme to UCS to open source advocates).

Things have clearly calmed down over the last year (despite a bit of a media meltdown in February), but as we predicted, no inquiries found anyone guilty of misconduct, no science was changed and no papers retracted. In the meantime we’ve had one of the hottest years on record, scientists continue to do science, and politicians…. well, they continue to do what politicians do.

442 Responses to “One year later”

  1. 351
    Steve Metzler says:

    For Ken Coffman #220:

    I know other readers have already responded to your what-happens-in-the-stratosphere-doesn’t-matter statement, but here’s the relevant article on RC (and I’m pretty sure no one else has mentioned it, because I couldn’t find the word ‘saturate’ in any of the comments so far):

    A Saturated Gassy Argument

    The takeaway bit:

    What happens if we add more carbon dioxide? In the layers so high and thin that much of the heat radiation from lower down slips through, adding more greenhouse gas molecules means the layer will absorb more of the rays. So the place from which most of the heat energy finally leaves the Earth will shift to higher layers. Those are colder layers, so they do not radiate heat as well. The planet as a whole is now taking in more energy than it radiates (which is in fact our current situation). As the higher levels radiate some of the excess downwards, all the lower levels down to the surface warm up. The imbalance must continue until the high levels get hot enough to radiate as much energy back out as the planet is receiving.

    Any saturation at lower levels would not change this, since it is the layers from which radiation does escape that determine the planet’s heat balance.

    Words worth remembering.

  2. 352
    SecularAnimist says:

    manacker wrote: “It assumes, in my opinion erroneously, that we know all there is to know about what makes our planet’s climate behave as it does.”

    gavin replied: “But it isn’t as if we don’t know that CO2 has a radiative effect.”

    Indeed, manacker’s “opinion” is not, in fact, that it is erroneous to “assume” that “we know all there is to know” about climate. (And of course, no one in the world would argue that “we know all there is to know” about climate, so it’s not clear who it is that manacker claims is making this “error”.)

    No, the real “opinion” manacker has stated ad nauseum in his comments here, is that we “don’t know” things that we actually do know.

    And that is not really an “opinion” — it is a plain falsehood.

  3. 353
    Sir says:

    Alan Millar 346

    “We know for certain that the Earth has received a significant increase in radiative forcing in the last few hundred million years and yet the Earth has actually cooled over that time.
    It is a fact therefore that the Earth has shown a net negative feedback over that period. Must have or we would be warmer “

    This is an extremely general statement and may or may not be correct depending on your starting point of “500 million years ago.” Read The Long Thaw by David Archer. He goes through the sun/earth cycles including precession, obliquity, and eccentricity showing that the solar input to the earth can vary significantly over long periods of time. He also discusses the carbon cycle and how natural systems both take up and give off CO2. Feedbacks have been both positive and negative. The earth is believed to have had at least one period where it was almost completely covered in ice. The age of the dinosaurs, 250 mya, was warmer than now, but we have had several ice ages since then. So, how do you decide whether we have warmed rather than cooled. Looking at any two points in time that far apart does not tell you much about the long term trend nor the current climate trend.

  4. 354
    Hank Roberts says:

    Shorter Manacker: ignoramus ignorabimus
    _________
    ‘Shorter’ concept created by Daniel Davies and perfected by Elton Beard. We are aware of all Internet traditions.

  5. 355
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Max: “but this is an “argument from ignorance”, i.e. “our models cannot explain past climate changes unless we introduce ‘a significant sensitivity for added CO2’”.”

    No, Max, it is an argument from success. How likely do yu think it is that the models would be as remarkably successful at explaining behavior over a broad range of conditions and over millions of years if they were drastically wrong? And for CO2 to have a small sensitivity, they would have to be drastically wrong.

    Max, the fingerprints of a long-lived, well mixed greenhouse gas are all over the paleoclimate. The fingerprints of positive feedback are undeniable if you look at the evidence.

    You want us to prove there’s nothing we could have missed. That’s not how science works. Rather we construct the best model we can and then see how it stacks up against the evidence and against it’s own predictions. By this criterion–the only one that matters in science–the consensus model of Earth’s climate is astoundingly successful.

  6. 356

    Alan Millar, #346–

    “We know for certain that the Earth has received a significant increase in radiative forcing in the last few hundred million years and yet the Earth has actually cooled over that time.”

    No, we don’t. “Insolation” and “radiative forcing” aren’t the same thing.

  7. 357
    Alan Millar says:

    356 Kevin McKinney

    “No, we don’t. “Insolation” and “radiative forcing” aren’t the same thing.”

    I think you need to consider that statement more carefully.

    There is only one source of radiative forcing on the Earth and that is the Sun and its output. Unless, that is, you know of another source.

    The greenhouse effect is not a radiative forcing effect in itself it only magnifies the sole source of radiative forcing ie the Sun’s output.

    I don’t know of any challenge to the fact that the Sun has and will contiue to increase its output and therefore the radiative forcing effect on the Earth.

    Significant long term increase in radiative forcing combined with a significant positive feedback response to such forcing should not lead to cooler temperatures should it?

    Of course people put forward various ideas why it has cooled and of course it has to be for a reason or multiple reasons the question is what are they exactly?

    If you cannot define this exactly then how can you have any certainty that the Earth’s generic response to an increase in radiative forcing is a positive one?

    [Response: With respect to the climate sensitivity that we are all talking about, changes in volcanic activity (which change CO2 and sulphates etc), the evolution of land plants, the variation of continental position and the creation/erosion of mountain ranges all lead to radiative forcings over this time period. The question is what the “net” forcing is. – gavin]

    Alan Millar

  8. 358

    Alan Millar 346,

    The carbonate-silicate cycle is indeed a long-term stabilizing feedback. But it is not the only feedback in the system, and it takes hundreds of millions of years to work. Given an increase in greenhouse gases–which we’ve got–water vapor feedback is positive, no question. Ice-albedo feedback is positive. Cloud feedback we don’t know but is probably positive according to the most recent research. Time scales, man, pay attention to the time scales.

  9. 359
    Rod B says:

    Sir (353), sure sounds like a bit of actual uncertainty to me, which is the debated point

  10. 360
    Isotopious says:

    On the issue of uncertainty, the thing that bothers me the most is the AR4 result. For example:

    “The simultaneous increase in energy
    content of all the major components of the climate system as
    well as the magnitude and pattern of warming within and across
    the different components supports the conclusion that the cause
    of the warming is extremely unlikely (<5%) to be the result of
    internal processes."

    "It is extremely unlikely (<5%) that recent global warming is due
    to internal variability alone such as might arise from El Niño."

    "…together with evidence that the second half of the 20th century was
    likely the warmest in 1.3 kyr (Chapter 6) indicate that the
    cause of the warming is extremely unlikely to be the result
    of internal processes alone."

    Source: Chapter 9 Understanding and Attributing Climate Change

    Yet Wikipedia states:

    "the mode of variability with the greatest effect on climates worldwide is the seasonal cycle, followed by El Niño-Southern Oscillation…" and "Mechanisms that cause the oscillation remain under study"

    I don't understand. How can it be "extremely unlikely"?

    [Response: Because we know what impact El nino has on global temperature, and we know what El nino has done over the last century, and we find that the using ENSO to predict the temperature *trend* is completely unable to explain it. – gavin]

  11. 361
    Isotopious says:

    So what your saying is that even though the cause is under investigation, we have a good idea of its effects on temperature.

    Reminds me of the gravity analogy: The cause remains under study, but we can predict its outcome.

    Arrg but you can’t predict El Niño in the same way we do gravity! Well enough for a complex system? Who’s to say? Sounds extremely uncertain.

    [Response: This has nothing to do with prediction. We already know what ENSO has done, and we know that it can’t explain the temperature trend. Not uncertain at all. – gavin]

  12. 362
    Alan Millar says:

    358 Barton Paul Levenson

    Don’t get me wrong Barton, I agree that the Earth’s immediate response to an increase in radiative forcing is very unlikely to be negative.

    However, the fact is, history shows us that the long term response and feedback has been negative and in the absence of any evidence that there has been a change, I assume that will continue.

    It is the uncertainty of how long it takes for the negative effect to kick in that concerns me. In the meantime yes there could be a positive feedback response but what is the strength and how long does this effect last?

    Again what bothers me is the uncertainty factor about this, at the current stage of our knowledge of the Earth’s climate systems which is a long long way from being complete.

    The short term sensitivity question has been conclusively settled by models, (most of which use different assumptions eg about aerosols etc) which are adjusted to match just one 30 year period, according to some people.

    Well I don’t buy it at this stage Barton. These models can’t match the 1940-1975 period or the 1910-1940 periods without explanations and assumptions based on unproven hypothesis.

    I don’t like how some scientists throw comments around about these periods which they know have huge uncertainties surrounding them.

    Eg

    The 1910-1940 period is often explained by low aerosols and rising solar activity. When in fact aerosols rose dramatically in that time and though solar activity stopped rising and levelled off in the 1950s it levelled at a higher overall average than the 1910-1940 period.

    Some of these scientists know (as shown in the ‘Climategate’ e-mails) that these explanations are not satisfactory but publically maintain an air of utter confidence in the models and the sensitivity question.

    I do not have the same confidence. I don’t know of any single climate model that has shown much skill in its forecasting rather than its backcasting. My mum always said that two wrongs don’t make a right and tend to agrre with philosophy.

    Alan Millar

  13. 363
    Isotopious says:

    It has everything to do with prediction, that’s what science IS. Why do you do a good job of predicting the seasons? Or gravity? Are you suggesting that if the seasons were random, they would be unable to cause a trend? You are unable to do a good job of internal variability, you don’t know whether it deterministic or not, but in either case, it been rule out!

    I still don’t understand.

    [Response: Huh? This makes no sense at all. I thought we were discussing the attribution problem. This is not an issue for what is to come in the future, but rather explaining what has happened in the past. The issues you are now mentioning have nothing to do with the question you originally raised. Go back to the beginning and try and see if you can phrase your question more clearly since I have not succeeded in answering you in the slightest. – gavin]

  14. 364
    Sir says:

    Alan Millar 357

    “I don’t know of any challenge to the fact that the Sun has and will continue to increase its output and therefore the radiative forcing effect on the Earth.”

    The output of the sun and the radiation impacting the earth are two different things. Based on the milankovitch cycles , the earth has been receiving less radiation for the last 9000 years not more. These cycles are thought to have triggered the switch between glacial and non glacial periods.

    http://deschutes.gso.uri.edu/~rutherfo/milankovitch.html

    “The influence of these cycles on insolation (INcident SOLar radiATION) at different latitudes has been calculated by Berger (1991), and Laskar (1993). Below is Berger’s solution for 65 degrees north latitude from the present to 1 million years ago. In the Northern Hemisphere, peak summer insolation occurred about 9,000 years ago when the last of the large ice sheets melted. Since that time Northern Hemisphere summers have seen less solar radiation.”

    Where do you get the idea that the sun’s influence has been steadily increasing its radiative forcing effect on the Earth?

  15. 365
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Alan Millar: “However, the fact is, history shows us that the long term response and feedback has been negative and in the absence of any evidence that there has been a change, I assume that will continue.”

    I’m sure that will be a great comfort to the descendents of todays cockroaches and other species that survive the current wave of mass extinctions. As Keynes said, “In the long run, we are all dead.”

    What matters for our species is the response of the climate on decadal to centennial timescales–and that is warming out as far as can be projected.

  16. 366
    Isotopious says:

    I’m just attacking the “extremely unlikely” bit of the attribution problem I noted above. My question:

    Are you suggesting that if the seasons were random, they would be unable to cause a trend?

    No trend? Yes? You wanna go and pull a Tamino? The anomalies add to zero! NO trend!

    And no brains either.

    [Response: There I was thinking we were actually having a conversation. Oh well. – gavin]

  17. 367
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Isotopious,
    What matters is the net effect on the energy of the system and the timescale during which this effect takes place. El Nino adds a significant amount of energy to the system on a very short timescale. It is followed by a La Nina or neutral conditions, and the extra energy radiates away into the inky blackness of space. In effect, the ENSO doesn’t add energy because of that ‘O’–it’s oscillatory. Go back and crack a differential equations text–an oscillatory term produces oscillatory behavior, not monotonically rising behavior.

    Adding CO2 is different. Energy is continually absorbed into the system until the temperature rises enough to shift the Planck curve high enough that energy radiated out is equal to energy in.

    You have to consider the sorts of effects a driver can produce in the system. That is how you see the fingerprints of CO2.

  18. 368
    NoPreview NoName says:

    Sir: “Where do you get the idea that the sun’s influence has been steadily increasing its radiative forcing effect on the Earth?”

    That is well established, but the rate is far too slow to affect current climate change. You need tens of millions of years to get anything notable.

  19. 369
    Paul Tremblay says:

    Max “Your 344 is beginning to become repetitive:”

    Really? I think most posters here would see it the other way around. You quote an article that that states “Curry asserts that the scientists haven’t adequately dealt with the uncertainty in their calculations…” No one has ever denied that Curry believes this. Certainly I didn’t. What I strongly disputed is your bizarre claim that “‘my version” of this (with Gavin’s comment) and ‘Curry’s own words’ all agree – namely that IPCC has not adequately dealt with ‘uncertainty’ on some very key points.”

    Gavin and most climatologists agree on the uncertainties that Curry names. In fact, they have openly quantified these results. That is a huge difference from not dealing with them adequately. To support your argument, you made a huge leap from the fact that scientists acknowledge the uncertainties on the one hand, to the accusation that they don’t deal with them adequately on the other. Nothing that Gavin said supported your conclusion.

    These posts wouldn’t be so repetitive if you hadn’t already made Curry into some kind of Galileo and decided to defend her at any cost, ignoring the science and the facts to do so.

    So how about you stop playing games, Max, and state a specific area of uncertainty that climatologists have not dealt with adequately, rather than endlessly repeating Curry’s vague and wrong assertions from one article. That means not just pointing out uncertainty, but showing how the science has “understated” (your word) it, or not dealt with it adequately?

  20. 370
    Hank Roberts says:

    > [to Alan Millar] Where do you get the idea that
    > the sun’s influence has been steadily increasing

    He already told us.
    He took two data points
    millions of years apart,
    and drew a line between them.
    A straight line.

    He’s pulling our legs here.

  21. 371
    Isotopious says:

    Thanks for the advice Ray.

  22. 372
    manacker says:

    @Ray Ladbury

    We are going around in circles here, Ray.

    Models are only as good as the input, as I am sure you and Gavin will both agree.

    And there is always “uncertainty”, especially in a field, like climate science, that is still in its relative infancy.

    My point is simply: If we are uncertain whether there is an (as yet unknown) natural forcing of our climate, which has been at least partly responsible for the observed recent and past short and longer cycle time oscillations of our climate, then we might have to revise our notions on 2xCO2 climate sensitivity.

    [Response: No, because constraints on sensitivity don’t come from the 20th centuary record. – gavin]

    The logic “our models can only explain this if we include an anthropogenic forcing” is, by definition, an “argument from ignorance”, because it assumes that we know all there is to know about all natural forcing factors.

    [Response: No again. If we were simply saying that there is a trend in temperature and a trend in factor X, therefore they must be connected, that would be an argument from ignorance. But what we actually have is a change in a physical property that has been known for 100 years to impact climate, for which accurate predictions were made of the magnitude of the effect 50 years ago, and whose changes since in fact mire than adequately explain much of what has happened. In your misplaced zeal to find ‘uncertainty’ you pervert a triumph of scientific reasoning into a argument for ignorance. Indeed, you wouldn’t even contemplate this with any other science – the observation that people who eat more get fat would apparently mean we are ignorant if the calorific value of food, or the fact that we can land a rover on mars means we don’t understand gravity. This is mendacious nonsense, and just because you are parroting lindzen does not give you a free pass. – gavin]

    If you are certain that this is the case, then you can argue that the logic is valid; if not, you cannot make this argument.

    So it’s really all about “uncertainty”.

    But I truly believe we have beaten this dog to death, Ray, and will not resolve our difference here.

    But it has been interesting blogging with you (as always).

    And thanks to Gavin for his commentary, as well.

    Max

  23. 373

    I just returned from a week in Budapest which kept me in development mode full time on some system upgrades and did not have time to keep up with the thread, but unfortunately now, I’m back :)

    #258 Ray Ladbury

    Re. Alan Millar

    He has seems to be influenced by the dark side.

    #346 Alan Millar

    You state in response to Ray’s #343:

    “Apart from the Earth itself apparently.”

    1. Can you show me the paper that the earth submitted for peer review?

    2. You state: “Is there some sort of cognitive dissonance going on here?” Please understand that pretty much everyone knows you are juggling red herrings in the thread.

    3. Re. your consideration of “significant positive feedback” Define ‘significant’ with parameters first. Since you have stated “We know for certain that the Earth has received a significant increase in radiative forcing in the last few hundred million years”, thereby indicating you know with significant confidence that you are making a correct statement, please share with us just how much the radiative forcing has increased, and point us to the peer reviewed papers so we might take a look at them and what the peer response was?

    Did you read the links I pointed you too? Do you now recognize that just because you don’t know why the first person hit you in the face, does not mean that you can’t know why the second person hit you in the face?

    Economics: Balancing Economies
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  24. 374
    Snapple says:

    This Wikleaks scandal reminds me a lot of Climategate. I googled Wikileaks and Climategate and saw a video of that Wikileaks guy talking about Climategate. This is not a real recent video; it predates this current scandal.

    He was being prompted by another man when he talked about Climategate. What is going on here? The Wikileaks guy seems to be admitting he released Climategate e-mails, then he complains indignantly that he is being accused of being a conduit for the FSB.

    Do you think this is a real video or manipulated? I never really knew about this Wikileaks last year, and I don’t remember them being involved in Climategate. What is going on here?

    http://vodpod.com/watch/3986650-wikileaks-comment-on-climategate-fight-with-the-truth

  25. 375

    AM 362: The short term sensitivity question has been conclusively settled by models

    BPL: Empirical paleoclimate analysis comes up with similar numbers.

    AM: …which are adjusted to match just one 30 year period, according to some people.

    BPL: Unfortunately, those people are liars. GCMs are not adjusted to match ANY climate period. They are not statistical models, they are physical models. They start with the world as it was in, say, 1850, and use physics alone to advance them to the present time and beyond. They achieve superb matches with the actual temperature records anyway.

    AM: Well I don’t buy it at this stage Barton.

    BPL: Or don’t understand it. Your incredulity is not a useful argument.

    AM: These models can’t match the 1940-1975 period or the 1910-1940 periods without explanations and assumptions based on unproven hypothesis.

    BPL: Nothing unproven about them.

    AM: I don’t like how some scientists throw comments around about these periods which they know have huge uncertainties surrounding them.

    BPL: Because they can quantify those uncertainties.

    AM: The 1910-1940 period is often explained by low aerosols and rising solar activity. When in fact aerosols rose dramatically in that time

    BPL: Which aerosols? What’s your source? Volcanoes were unusually quiescent during that period.

    AM: and though solar activity stopped rising and levelled off in the 1950s it levelled at a higher overall average than the 1910-1940 period.

    BPL: So what? You can’t take a high, steady input and get a flat output followed by a steeply rising curve. If the increase in sunlight had been significant, you’d get the biggest effect right away, and it would level off as it approached a plateau. That’s not what we see.

    AM: Some of these scientists know (as shown in the ‘Climategate’ e-mails) that these explanations are not satisfactory but publically maintain an air of utter confidence in the models and the sensitivity question.

    BPL: The “Climategate” emails were part of a disinformation operation (literally; the Russians helped), and were presented to condemn CRU. Three investigations have totally cleared them of any wrongdoing.

    AM: I do not have the same confidence.

    BPL: You’re not a climate scientist.

    AM: I don’t know of any single climate model that has shown much skill in its forecasting rather than its backcasting.

    BPL: Look again:

    http://BartonPaulLevenson.com/ModelsReliable.html

    AM: My mum always said that two wrongs don’t make a right and [I] tend to agr[e]e with [that] philosophy.

    BPL: So do I. How does that apply to climate science? I don’t see the connection.

  26. 376
    Snapple says:

    That first video evidently came from here.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W17dW_aJEwU&feature=youtube_gdata

    There are new comments on here from some informed people, but the video seems to have been posted during the summer.

    I don’t know when this was filmed.

    I hope the owners of Real Climate will look at this because I never knew anything about this supposed Wikileaks angle. I really hate all this kompromat, because the dirt always sticks even if later a fuller picture emerges. Most people just believe what they hear first.

    Powerful business, political, and media interests went after these scientists and tried to make them look bad.

    These “leaks” are crimes. They are stealing. If the government did these crimes without probable cause and a warrant it would be a crime, and the papers would attack them for exceeding their authority; yet, the media use these stolen documents in a really hyped-up way.

    [edit – no personal attacks please]

  27. 377
    Bill says:

    re #368. Not sure about that, remember we were told by Al Gore all about ‘tipping points’!! ( No, dont delete it, a little humour is required on here from time to time…)

  28. 378

    #372 Max Anacker

    – If you have the gun involved in a crime

    – and you have done the ballistics test,

    – and it matches the gun found at the scene of the crime,

    – and the gun is registered to a person,

    – and there was gun shot residue found on the persons hand the day of the shooting,

    – and there was a motive for the person with the gunshot residue on their hand to commit the crime,

    – and witnesses on the scene have identified the person as the shooter,

    – saying that it is an argument from ignorance that he is ‘very likely’ guilty is illogical.

    In this case it is very hard to establish reasonable doubt. You can claim that 31,000 people and a even a few scientists disagree with the evidence of the crime, but that does not change the reality of the chain of evidence and the conclusions drawn from that.

    This fact does remain, you, nor the jury was at the scene of the crime so you can never know for sure if he actually did it, right?

    Or are you saying we should open all the prison doors and let everyone free because courts can never really be certain of anything because there is always uncertainty?

    Your argument is simply illogical and in the context of the evidence quite absurd, though I prefer ‘ludicrous’, and a few others.

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  29. 379
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Max says, “We are going around in circles here, Ray.”

    I’ve noticed you say that a lot after having your rhetorical ass handed to you in a bag.

    Max: “Models are only as good as the input, as I am sure you and Gavin will both agree.”

    No, Max, the models are only as good as their predictions. And climate models have an impressive record of success.

    http://bartonpaullevenson.com/ModelsReliable.html

    It is the successful predictions that justify the input, not the reverse. This is where you fail to understand scientific modeling. The goal is to include the fewest influences you can that you know to be extant and to constrain them as well as data allow. There are effectively no free parameters to twiddle. Given the limited freedom in the models, it is microscopically unlikely that the models will make successful predictions if the underlying physics is wrong–or if there is an important missing factor. What is more, a well-mixed, long-lived greenhouse gas gives a unique signature in the paleodata and in the current climate (e.g. stratospheric cooling concurrent with tropospheric warming). Sorry, Max, there are simply no responsible scientists who contend seriously that sensitivity is significantly below 2 degrees per doubling (even Schwartz admitted as much in his revision).

    Come back any time you’d like to continue your education.

  30. 380

    #357–

    Gavin really answered this inline already, but Alan Millar, you wrote:

    “No, we don’t. “Insolation” and “radiative forcing” aren’t the same thing.”

    I think you need to consider that statement more carefully.

    There is only one source of radiative forcing on the Earth and that is the Sun and its output. Unless, that is, you know of another source.

    No. The Earth also radiates. (Hemingway reference intentional.)

    The particulars of that process also constitute “radiative forcing.” You’ve only been looking at one half of the picture.

  31. 381

    Damn, the blockquote endtag got busted, somehow. Reposted:

    #357–

    Gavin really answered this inline already, but Alan Millar, you wrote:

    “No, we don’t. “Insolation” and “radiative forcing” aren’t the same thing.”

    I think you need to consider that statement more carefully.

    There is only one source of radiative forcing on the Earth and that is the Sun and its output. Unless, that is, you know of another source.

    No. The Earth also radiates. (Hemingway reference intentional.)

    The particulars of that process also constitute “radiative forcing.” You’ve only been looking at one half of the picture.

  32. 382
    Rod B says:

    Gavin (372), you say “…constraints on sensitivity don’t come from the 20th century record.” I’m confused because I though it did in fact come (mostly) from past records.

    [Response: Are you saying that you think the past only consists of the 20th Century? I’ve heard of young earth creationists, but that is extreme even compared to them. – gavin]

    Or am I mixing up sensitivity with forcing? Later on you say, “… we actually have… a change in a physical property that has been known for 100 years to impact climate, for which accurate predictions were made of the magnitude of the effect 50 years ago, and whose changes since in fact more than adequately explain…. ” That sounds like a factor that has been adjusted based on the records of the past 50-plus years. Or did I misread this?

    Disclaimer: I think there is much physical uncertainty in the non-feedback forcing equation in that it is mostly based on physical historical observations in a highly constrained and relatively short term environment, and minimally based on known analytical physics.

  33. 383
    Rod B says:

    BPL says in 375, “….GCMs are not adjusted to match ANY climate period. They are not statistical models, they are physical models. They start with the world as it was in, say, 1850, and use physics alone to advance them to the present time and beyond. ”

    Hogwash! (Well maybe not totally but very near…) Much of the physics that goes into the models is a result of either statistical historical observations or simplified analytical physics because we don’t know the gory specifics of the underlying actual physics. Your literal words are accurate but what you are trying to imply from them is not.

    [Response: BPL is right. Just because measurements have been taken historically that inform climate model parameterisations, does not mean that climate models are tuned to the historical record. To be clear, measurements of the relationship between clouds and vertical updrafts have been taken over many years, and that has been used in cloud modelling, but the exact sequence of clouds and vertical updrafts is not used to constrain model trends. – gavin]

  34. 384
    Hank Roberts says:

    “… radiative forcing is a direct measure of the amount that the Earth’s energy budget is out of balance.”
    http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2010/explained-radforce-0309.html

    Not the same as insolation.

  35. 385
    Alan Millar says:

    381 Kevin McKinney

    “No. The Earth also radiates. (Hemingway reference intentional.)

    The particulars of that process also constitute “radiative forcing.” You’ve only been looking at one half of the picture.”

    One half of the picture???

    Are you talking about the solar energy the Earth receives and re-radiates?

    You surely cannot be talking about the energy the Earth supplies itself to its energy budget ie about 0.03%. Hardly “one half of the picture” is it! All the other energy and radiative forcing the Earth has it receives from the Sun.

    Alan Millar

  36. 386
    Alan Millar says:

    375 Barton Paul Levenson

    Regarding the 1910-1940 problem and the assumptions and meme that certain scientists have been content to become established whilst privately knowing that they are not the answer and huge uncertainties remain. You said :-

    “Nothing unproven about them.”

    “Because they can quantify those uncertainties”

    “Which aerosols? What’s your source? Volcanoes were unusually quiescent during that period.”

    About rising solar output you said :-

    “You can’t take a high, steady input and get a flat output followed by a steeply rising curve. If the increase in sunlight had been significant, you’d get the biggest effect right away, and it would level off as it approached a plateau. That’s not what we see.”

    Well as far as aerosols go yes vulcanism may have been fairly low but sulfate aerosols, notwithstanding, rose very sharply from 1900 as established by the Greenland ice cores. Not surprising really as the industrialisation of the NH was proceeding at a frantic rate during this period.

    The ‘Climategate’ e-mails made clear the real unresolved uncertainties that this period creates.

    From: Tom Wigley
    To: Phil Jones
    Subject: 1940s
    Date: Sun, 27 Sep 2009 23:25:38 -0600
    Cc: Ben Santer

    “It would be good to remove at least part of the 1940s blip,
    but we are still left with “why the blip”.

    Let me go further. If you look at NH vs SH and the aerosol
    effect (qualitatively or with MAGICC) then with a reduced
    ocean blip we get continuous warming in the SH, and a cooling
    in the NH — just as one would expect with mainly NH aerosols.

    The other interesting thing is (as Foukal et al. note — from
    MAGICC) that the 1910-40 warming cannot be solar. The Sun can
    get at most 10% of this with Wang et al solar, less with Foukal
    solar. So this may well be NADW, as Sarah and I noted in 1987
    (and also Schlesinger later). A reduced SST blip in the 1940s
    makes the 1910-40 warming larger than the SH (which it
    currently is not) — but not really enough.

    So … why was the SH so cold around 1910? Another SST problem?
    (SH/NH data also attached.)”

    Alan Millar

  37. 387
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Rod B.: “Hogwash! (Well maybe not totally but very near…) Much of the physics that goes into the models is a result of either statistical historical observations or simplified analytical physics because we don’t know the gory specifics of the underlying actual physics. Your literal words are accurate but what you are trying to imply from them is not.”

    And the value of the electric charge is determined by statistical analysis of thousands of observations of oil drops, plastic spheres…. So shall we throw out all of microelectronics since it is also based on models?

    Rod, a statistical models is parameterized such that the values of the parameters are optimized to give the best agreement with the data being modeled. In a dynamical physical model, the constraints come from data other than that being modeled. LEARN THE DIFFERENCE!!!

  38. 388
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Alan Millar, OK, look at it this way–what we are getting from the Sun is not so much Energy (joules) as power (Joules/s). If Earth does not shed power as rapidly as it receives it, it must heat up, no?

    If there were no ghgs, the blackbody spectrum radiated by Earth would ensure equilibrium. Now greenhouse gasses take a big chunk out of that spectrum. Exercise to the reader: How must the system respond?

  39. 389
    Hank Roberts says:

    Alan Millar, “forcing” is the imbalance.
    Insolation is the amount coming in.

    If you choose your own meanings, the words can mean anything you want (to you). That results in impenetrability.
    If you use defined terms, other people will understand you.

    Sit in your bathtub.
    Turn on the tap, plug the drain. Incoming but no outgoing — forcing.
    When the water is at the level you want, remove the plug and put your hand over the drain partway, til the water level is not going up or going down.
    Incoming matches outgoing, in balance — no forcing.

    http://forio.com/simulation/climate-development/index.htm

    This isn’t simple, isn’t obvious, isn’t intuitive.

    See http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.168.3725&rep=rep1&type=pdf

    “… a stock can rise even if the inflow is falling (obviously, when the inflow, though falling, remains above the outflow). A nation’s debt grows even as it reduces its deficits. Of course, you may say. Yet many people find such behavior highly counterintuitive. When asked, for example, about global climate change, most people don’t understand that atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, already higher than at any time in the past 400,000 years, would continue to rise even if emissions fell to the rates called for in the Kyoto protocol—because current emission rates are roughly double the rate at which greenhouse gases are removed from the atmosphere by natural processes, while Kyoto calls for much smaller cuts. Most people believe that stabilizing emissions near current rates will stabilize the climate, when in fact stable emissions would guarantee continued increases in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations and a further increase in net radiative forcing, leading to still more warming. These errors are widespread even when people are explicitly told that current emissions are roughly double the natural uptake rate (Sterman and Booth Sweeney 2002).”

    — from “All models are wrong: reflections on becoming a systems scientist”
    John D. Sterman, Jay Wright Forrester Prize Lecture, 2002

  40. 390
    Steve Metzler says:

    Hank Roberts (#389):

    That quote by Sterman and Sweeney is full of win (unfortunately). It so simply explains the dire situation we find ourselves in in just a few sentences. So simple, and backed up with so much empirical evidence. And yet, the contrarians write massive volumes of utter drivel in an effort to convince the jaded and largely uninterested public how it cannot possibly be true.

  41. 391
    Rod B says:

    Gavin, I agree with your in-line comment in 383. I was critical of BPL’s hyperbole because he was trying to get us to infer that all we put into models are measured initial conditions of 1850 or so and a raft of very long, exact, and complex physical equations taken right out of the finest textbooks and then we all sit back in awe at the evidently God-given answers.

  42. 392
    Rod B says:

    Ray (387), I never thought, said, or implied that we’re talking about statistical models. We’re talking of physical models. My assertion is that the physical models require inputs that are more than just pristine complex equations.

  43. 393

    #346 Alan Millar

    You state in response to Ray’s #343:

    “Apart from the Earth itself apparently.”

    1. Can you show me the paper that the earth submitted for peer review?

    2. Re. your consideration of “significant positive feedback” Define ‘significant’ with parameters first.

    3. You state: “We know for certain that the Earth has received a significant increase in radiative forcing in the last few hundred million years”, thereby indicating you know with certainty. Please show how you achieved ‘certainty’ as to just how much the net radiative forcing has increased (in W/m2), and provide links to the peer reviewed papers and responses so I and others might be able to ascertain the validity of your statements?

    4. Show how that explains or properly models natural cycle and recent changes without human influence, or with if you can.

    Or are you just making up stuff to appear as if you know what you are talking about?

    In your post #357 you state:

    “If you cannot define this exactly then how can you have any certainty that the Earth’s generic response to an increase in radiative forcing is a positive one?”

    This statement combined with your statement in #346 (point 3. above) implies that you would not make statements unless you know exactly how everything works. Please do share with the scientific community your scientific findings through the peer review process so we may all be enlightened by your certainty.

    Or are you just making stuff up to make so as to appear as if you know what you are talking about?

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  44. 394
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Rod,
    My point is that climate models are no different than any other physical model in this regard. The fact is that the forcings and feedbacks are constrained INDEPENDENTLY, making fortuitous agreement extremely unlikely and accurate prediction even moreso. The fact that the models have a strong track record of success suggests very strongly that they are not entirely wrong–and if the planet did not feature 1)positive feedback and 2)a significant sensitivity for CO2, the models would have to be entirely wrong.

  45. 395
    Snapple says:

    Can someone who runs this blog look at that video of the Wikileaks guy I posted above? He seems to be taking credit for Climategate, but I never saw that before.

    Does anyone know what this is about? Did anyone see this reported in a major media source?

    Do you think this tape is authentic?

  46. 396
    Anonymous Coward says:

    John Reisman and the others piling on Allan Millar,
    The question was legitimate, no matter how dishonest or clueless the questioner. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faint_young_Sun_paradox which is more about the early Earth than 500 million years ago but it should be enough to show Allan Millar is not making stuff up (well, not always) and is quite right to say that there is evidently an overwhelming negative feedback. But it doesn’t look like this negative feedback matters much for our purposes since it’s not been acting fast enough to prevent the PETM for instance.
    Rather than Allan Millar making stuff up, the problem comes from the fairly widespread notion (even among regular RC commenters who should know better) according to which sensitivity is some kind of physical constant, “the Earth’s generic response”. It’s not. If sensitivity was used to describe the actual system as opposed to partial models, its value would vary depending on the initial conditions and the timeframe.

  47. 397
    Ray Ladbury says:

    AC@396, Certainly the faint young sun paradox is a legitimate field of inquiry. Looking at Earth’s temperature then and now and trying to determine anything about feedback in the present epoch is either disingenuous or astoundingly dumb.

  48. 398
    Hank Roberts says:

    AC, I think you’re making that up. I’ve don’t recall any commenter here appearing to believe that ‘climate sensitivity’ is a physical constant.

    It’s always described as a range of probability derived from the assumptions used — some theoretical, some paleo study — for the time described.

    It’s not something like gravity that could be determined precisely for all time. If you see anyone appearing to think that, jump on them with all four feet to show them the error. I would.

    As Sterman’s piece cited above points out, one that’s intuitively very difficult for most people.

  49. 399
    CM says:

    Snapple,
    Assange is talking nonsense. The stolen emails were hacked into this site’s server first, and were downloadable from Tomsk for the first days of the affair. Had Wikileaks sprung them, Wikileaks would have published them on their own site first. I’m not sure which is the most distasteful, fencing stolen private correspondence to the world, or falsely claiming credit for it so you can frame yourself as the victim of a British secret service disinformation plot. But I’m pretty sure which is the most ridiculous.

  50. 400

    en addendum,

    The only constant in the universe is change.