RealClimate logo

So how did that global cooling bet work out?

Filed under: — group @ 22 November 2010

Two and a half years ago, a paper was published in Nature purporting to be a real prediction of how global temperatures would develop, based on a method for initialising the ocean state using temperature observations (Keenlyside et al, 2008) (K08). In the subsequent period, this paper has been highly cited, very often in a misleading way by contrarians (for instance, Lindzen misrepresents it on a regular basis). But what of the paper’s actual claims, how are they holding up?

At the time K08 was published, we wrote two posts on the topic pointing out that a) the methodology was not very mature (and in our opinion, not likely to work), and b) that the temperature predictions being made (for the 10 year overlapping periods Nov 2000-Oct 2010, Nov 2005-Oct 2015 etc.), were very unlikely to come true. These critiques were framed as a bet to see whether the authors were serious about their predictions, similar in conception to other bets that have been offered on climate related matters. This offer was studiously ignored by the scientists involved, who may have thought the whole exercise was beneath them. Oh well.

However, with the publication of the October 2010 temperatures from HadCRUT, the first prediction period has now ended, and so the predictions can be assessed. Looking first at the global mean temperatures…

we can see clearly that while K08 projected 0.06ºC cooling, the temperature record from HadCRUT (which was the basis of the bet) shows 0.07ºC warming (using GISTEMP, it is 0.11ºC). As in K08 this refers to T(Nov 2000:Oct 2010) as compared to T(Nov 1994:Oct 2004). For reference, the IPCC AR4 ensemble gives 0.129±0.075ºC (1\sigma) (and a range of -0.07 to 0.30ºC related to internal variability in the simulations) (using full annual means).

More interestingly, we can look at the regional pattern. The K08 supplemental data showed their predicted anomaly along with anomalies from a free-running version of their model the standard IPCC results for the 2005-2015 period (which is half over), rather than the 2000-2010 period, but the patterns might be expected to be similar:

The anomalies are with respect to the average of all the decadal periods they looked at, which is roughly (though not exactly equal to) a 1955-2004 baseline. The actual temperature changes for 2000-2010, using GISTEMP for convenience, look like this:

It is striking to what extent they resemble the spatial pattern seen in the AR4 ensemble free-running version rather than the initiallised forecast, though there are also some correlations there too (for instance, west of the Antarctic peninsula, related to the ozone-hole and GHG related increase in the Southern Annular Mode).

It is worth emphasising that the RC bet offer was not frivolously made, but reflected some very clear indications in the paper that the predictions would not come true (as explained in our second post). Specifically, their ‘free’ model run, without data assimilation, performed better in hindcasts when compared to observed data, i.e. the new assimilation technique degraded the model performance. Both previous hindcasts showing cooling of the model were wrong. Since global warming took off in the 1970s, the observed data have never shown a cooling in their chosen metric (ten-year means spaced 5 years apart). Other climate models run for standard global warming scenarios only rarely show this level of cooling. On the other hand, there is a simple explanation for such a temporary cooling in a model: an artifact known as ‘coupling shock’ (e.g. Rahmstorf 1995), which arises when the ocean is switched over from a forced to a coupled mode of operation, something that has no counterpart in the real world.

The basic issue is that nudging surface temperatures in the North Atlantic closer to observed data would probably nudge the Atlantic overturning circulation in the wrong direction since changing the temperature without changing the salinity will give the opposite buoyancy forcing to what would be needed. The model indeed shows negative skill in the critical regions of the North Atlantic which are most affected by the overturning circulation. All this can be seen from the paper. Last but not least, by the time the paper was published three quarters of the 2000-2010 forecast period were over with no sign of the predicted cooling – barring an unprecedented massive temperature drop, the prediction was always very unlikely.

Was this then an “improved climate prediction“? The answer is clearly no.

So what can we conclude? First off, the basic idea of short term predictions using initialised ocean data is a priori a good one. Many groups around the world are exploring to what extent this is possible, and what techniques will be the most successful. However, before claiming that a new methodology is an improvement on other efforts and that it predicts a very counter-intuitive result, a lot of effort is required to demonstrate that even theoretically or in ideal circumstances that it will work. This can involve ‘perfect model’ experiments (where you test to see whether you can predict the evolution of a model simulation given only what we know about the real world), or hindcasts (as used by K08), and only where there is demonstrated skill is there any point in making a prediction for the real world. It is nonetheless important to try new methods, and even when they fail, lessons can be learned about how to improve things going forward.

It is perhaps inevitable that novel prediction methods that appear to ‘go against the mainstream’ are going to be higher profile than they warrant in retrospect – such is the way of the world. But scientists need to appreciate that these high profile statements will be taken and spread far more widely than they possibly anticipate. Thus it behoves them to be scrupulous in explaining the context, giving the caveats and making clear the experimental nature of any new result. This is undoubtedly hard, especially where there are people ready to twist anything to fit an anti-AGW agenda, but we should at least try.

Note, we asked Noel Keenlyside if he wanted to comment on our assessment of their prediction, and he declined to do so. We would be still be happy to post any of his or his co-authors comments in response though.

Update Dec 2: The Stuttgarter Zeitung newspaper (in German) followed up on this and got the following comments from the authors:


“The forecast for global mean temperature which we published highlights the ability of natural variability to cause climate fluctuations on decadal scale, even on a global scale. I am still completely convinced that this is correct.”


“I do not want to comment on this.”

Then an indirect quote: the fact that warming for 2000-2010 was greater than predicted in their study does in itself not speak against their study, and then

“You have to look at this long-term. I would not weigh a few years earlier or later too much.” But if the forecast turns out to be wrong by 2015, “I will be the last one to deny it”.

252 Responses to “So how did that global cooling bet work out?”

  1. 151
    dhogaza says:

    And, they only make any kind of sense for the limited number of folks who have to commute 20-30 miles every day in heavy stop and go traffic. The hybrid benefits disappear when heavy, slow traffic is not involved.

    No, they still get about 10% better mileage than a non-hybrid equivalent.

    The rest of your post is equally well-informed.

  2. 152
    Susan Anderson says:

    Yeah, just imagine what the temps in Qatar will be then. Anyone want to hazard an educated guess? 130? 140? Drought? Waste disposal?

  3. 153
    David Miller says:

    George is not well informed in post 149. My 2010 prius gets 50+ mpg during my wife’s daily commute. Her commute is about 36 miles of mostly winding country road with a few miles in 25 MPH zones.

    The hybrid gets better mileage than even my TDI up to the 70-75 MPH range. At that speed the efficiency of the diesel and the extra BTU/gallon overcome the prius’s more efficient use of fuel.

    To say that a Camry could do as well if not in stop-and-go traffic is simply wrong.

  4. 154
    ScepticMatthew says:

    4, Andy: Again this is great. K08 can make bold claims about how the Earth works, just like the solar spectral stumper or Keppler’s plants and ch4 paper from 2006. The data accumulate and science progresses. This is EXACTLY how the whole thing is supposed to work. Kudos to all.

    All of the modelers should make predictions like this (not necessarily 10 year means at 5 year intervals, but true predictions) on regular schedules, such as every two years. As time goes by, their cumulative errors, and cumulative model improvements and improved predictions, can all be accumulated in public and the scientists can review, and compare, and contrast them in public forums (fora, if you insist) like this and in peer-reviewed journals. Comparisons like this would be very informative for policy makers after AR6, AR7, et seq.

    How does the squared prediction error (or CUSUM if available) of the Keenleyside prediction compare to the errors of other predictions of other models made contemporaneously?

  5. 155
    ScepticMatthew says:

    122, Bob (Sphaerica): I think that I more or less agree with you, except that I haven’t seen the tiniest bit of action taken on climate change in the U.S., so it’s hard to worry much about people “demonizing CO2″ or “ANY of the efforts made by politicians” because there is nothing to see. I have not seen a single “feel good” policy “supporting pie-in-the sky ‘new, green’ technology.” I haven’t seen anything done, period.

    I do not understand your nihilism on this point. The U.S. Navy and Air Force have tested jet fuel from biofuels in their aircraft; the U.S. Army supports research and manufacture of solar devices for deployment to combat areas; the US generates about 4% of its electricity from non-hydro renewables and the large states (CA, TX, NY, all the way down to Iowa) subsidize renewable generation; oddly, New Jersey is second in solar electricity; Arizona and CA subisidize solar manufacture (CA has the problem that most projects are held up in courts due to lawsuits filed by environmental groups, but the state is moving forward.)

    You’d like more and faster: that I can understand. But to say you have seen nothing is mystifying.

  6. 156
    Thomas says:

    George @150:
    “We(taxpayers) will be paying some $8-13000 per vehicle for the current crop(Volt, Leaf, Prius, etc).”
    That might be true for the Volt, tax break plus government help to GM. I doubt the figure is nearly that high for the Volt. The Prius (or rather the manufacturer Toyota) ran out of its tax break in 2007, so to my knowledge there is no longer a federal subsidy for it.

  7. 157
    Dappledwater says:

    Hank @132 – Thanks for the link to Willis 2010, however the authors focusing only on the effects of temperature in the past seems a bit simplistic. Some thoughts:

    -Yes, the Early Eocene seems to have been the period of the greatest extent of tropical rainforest, however the distribution of the continental masses and global orography was much different then, which lead to a wetter tropical climate than that envisaged for this century. For instance modelling studies show that the lowering of the global orography, as it existed at the time of the Paleocene – Eocene, would have substantially altered hydrological circulations on the planet – in sum the tropics become wetter.

    – A wetter climate implies increased cloud cover & evapotranspiration, which helps to reduce leaf canopy temperatures. Photosynthesis declines in rainforest trees when leaf temperatures reach over 30 degrees C, and plummet when exceeding 37 degrees. Field observations show the current rainforest seems to exist near a high temperature threshold.

    – Climate models (some) project higher temperatures and decreased rainfall in the tropics, the Amazon in particular. The last 12 years seems to be giving credence to those projections. 2010 looks like it could be a record drought for Amazonia – we’ll have to wait for the scientific analysis. Not that this yet constitutes a trend of course, but the relationship between warming Pacific/Atlantic sea surface temperatures & Amazonian drought is apparent.

    – The Equator-to-pole temperature gradient (Paleocene-Eocene) was much reduced compared to today, therefore the frost-free zone (a limiting factor for the rainforest) existed at higher latitudes than today. Simply put, the extent was greater because the frost-free zone was larger. Today’s equator-pole gradient is expected to remain large for this century (the frost-free zone will barely move) , and expansion is limited by human activities. A bit of an impediment to rainforest expansion.

    – As for temperatures rises coming out of the last Glacial Maximum. I’m not well informed enough to comment too much on the temperate regions, however given the large tolerances evident in modern day vegetation (where annual variations in temperate regions are much larger than 4 degrees C) I don’t doubt that a global increase of 4 degrees may have been within tolerance ranges for temperate vegetation. Temperature changes in the tropics appear to have been smaller, however the increased aridity did lead to a modest reduction in the tropical rainforest extent, but a rapid turnover in species composition.

    From the authors:

    “So why is there this discrepancy between what the fossil and historical records are telling us about extinctions driven by climate change and those predicted through models?”

    Now this seems odd. What discrepancy?. The authors of the study are comparing historic events with a completely novel suite of threats, none of which are even mentioned in the study.

    Based on these studies, and many others using fossil and historical records, we argue that evidence for the widely cited view that future climate change poses an equal or greater threat to global biodiversity than anthropogenic land-use change and habitat loss (Thomas et al., 2004) is equivocal

    That’s certainly one opinion. But, apart from “skeptics”, who seriously argues that anyway?. Also, isn’t habitat loss a consequence of global warming for many species too?.

    I’ll be interested to see the peer-review response to the study. It doesn’t appear to provide much insight, but definitely plenty of fodder for the inactivists of this world.

  8. 158

    150 (George),

    Simple economics Bob.


    Of course. That’s the point. If “simple economics” were applied to public education, most people would be illiterate. If it were applied to social security, most of the elderly would be destitute. If it were applied to the armed forces, the nation would be defenseless until after it had already been conquered. If it were applied to pollution, you’d be breathing sludge.

    There are some things which do not have an immediate, tangible, and obviously related return on investment, or an obvious and immediate negative financial impact on the participants. For these items simple economics (meaning capitalism) do not work. Government intervention (meaning organized social action) of some sort is required.

    Not everything in the world needs to be measured only in dollars, or your own personal tax burden.

    But your post mostly dodges my point by focusing on (and distorting and misrepresenting) one detail. My point is that climate change is a clear issue danger, but the people who rail against ineffective feel-good public policies have nothing to actually complain about, because nothing tangible is even being attempted.

    I would point out that those tax credits which you so greatly despise probably amount to less than 5 billion U.S. dollars to date, and at most 10 billion. This amounts to at most $33 dollars per person in the U.S. Spread over the ten year period in which hybrids have been available, that amounts to $3.30 per year.

    That is what you are complaining about.

  9. 159
    Ric Merritt says:

    #150 George [ why do non-full names correlate so highly with nonsense?! ] buries some wisps of valid points under a deluge of misinformation.

    The Prius subsidy, now gone, and not as large as George cited in the first place, varied wildly in importance to individual purchase decisions. Many middle-class folks collected only a fraction of the theoretical maximum because of the tax treatment.

    The mileage beats most of the competition in virtually all driving conditions. As choice in vehicles increases, one hopes to see more strenuous competition.

  10. 160
    Maya says:

    [ why do non-full names correlate so highly with nonsense?! ]

    The same way full names correlate with sweeping generalizations aimed at people who don’t choose to use their full names? :>

    Dappledwater – I keep coming back to this paragraph in that paper:

    “Based on these studies, and many others using fossil and historical records, we argue that evidence for the widely cited view that future climate change poses an equal or greater threat to global biodiversity than anthropogenic land-use change and habitat loss (Thomas et al., 2004) is equivocal: extinctions driven by the latter processes of habitat loss pose a far greater threat to global biodiversity. It is also questionable, however, whether it is even possible to now separate the two processes, given that over 80% of the Earth’s terrestrial biomes now have evidence of an anthropogenic impact upon them (Ellis & Ramankutty, 2008). What we probably need to be considering is the synergistic effect of these two factors on biodiversity (Travis, 2003).”

    I keep thinking back to, for instance, the post we had on the bark beetles, and how they wouldn’t be nearly so much of an issue if the trees weren’t already stressed. It’s interesting and all that there weren’t mass extinctions due to climate change in the past, but I’m not sure it really matters. The world is very different now, already stressed because of the impact of its bipedal inhabitants. Just as the initial conditions of a formula or model can change the outcome dramatically, I think it likely that the initial conditions of this climate change are sufficiently different than what exists in the fossil record that the outcome will be quite different.

  11. 161
    Mark Arnest says:

    Just to continue piling on George @ 150: I’ve owned a Prius for nearly six years now, have no stop-and-go commute, and have averaged 51 mpg over 58,000 miles. The idea that there’s no hybrid benefit beyond stop-and-go driving was nonsense five years ago, but it’s amazing that some people still parrot this garbage. George, are you aware of the freeway benefits of the Prius’ Miller-cycle engine?

    Regarding the role of tax credits in jump-starting the hybrid market, the Prius was a huge hit before the federal tax credit, and with very few state credits.

    And as for the “hybrid premium,” it all depends what you’re after. My brother bought a Prius a few years ago because he’s a gadget freak, and the Prius was the CHEAPEST car he could find with such advanced electronic features.

  12. 162

    155 (Sceptic Matthew),

    You’d like more and faster: that I can understand. But to say you have seen nothing is mystifying.

    Nothing of real consequence, no.

    Using this as s source from the DOE, it shows that renewable energy sources in 2004 accounted for 6.2% of U.S. energy consumption. In 2008 that number was %7.4, with a some of that percentage “growth” actually resulting from a drop in total consumption.

    I can’t find earlier or later numbers, but to me, a 1.2% increase over four years (0.3% per year) is far, far slower than is needed or possible. To me, that’s virtually nothing.

    There are 1.9 million hybrid vehicles on the roads, out of 254 million total. That’s a mere 0.75%. In 2006, 7.7 million vehicles were sold. In 2009, 288,661 hybrids were sold, or (assuming roughly regular annual vehicle sales) 3.76% of all new vehicles annually. Again, virtually nothing.

    People complain about the economics, but everyone knows that volume brings prices way down. A $50 billion/year manufacturing or sales subsidy on hybrids would bring the net cost of 2.5 million hybrid vehicles from $40,000 to $20,000. The advantage of manufacturing 2.5 million vehicles (versus 300,000) would drive the cost down even further, putting hybrids at or below the cost of a FF driven vehicle. The total cost to the country would be 0.35% of GDP, or $150 per person. But that “cost” would also be offset by the benefits of the new technology, and job creation.

    Renewable energy and hybrid vehicles don’t need to appear overnight, but the levels of current efforts are laughable. Or, more importantly, they hardly qualify for the fear and trembling exhibited by “non-alarmist” climate change deniers.

    United States Renewable Energy Sector Is Falling Behind The Rest Of The World
    U.S. Renewable Energy Industries Say Long-Term Growth Reliant on Government Action

  13. 163

    Just a note on subsidizing hybrid production into reasonable, mass market numbers: once a viable number of hybrid vehicles are available to the general public, the hybrid subsidy could also be offset by a carbon tax on non-qualifying (i.e. purely fossil fuel) vehicle sales. The clear message: buy a hybrid, and if you insist you want a fossil fuel vehicle, then pay for the collateral damage it’s doing to your neighbors.

  14. 164
    William says:

    As most are aware solar cycle 24 is an anomalous cycle.

    The sun was at its highest activity in the last 10,000 years for the last period of the 20th century.

    If the planet cools due to the change in the solar heliosphere, solar wind speed, and a third solar parameter, is AGW no longer a concern?

    The sun is hypothesized to modulate planetary cloud cover by the heliosphere’s modulation of the GCR and by the solar wind bursts remove of cloud forming ions via the process electroscavenging. The third parameter also changes ions and is the reason there was a a 12 year delay in cooling for the Maunder minimum.

  15. 165
    Didactylos says:

    “If the planet cools due to the change in the solar heliosphere, solar wind speed, and a third solar parameter, is AGW no longer a concern?”

    No, it is still a major concern.

    Even if we do postulate a cooler sun, then this will correspond to a change in solar forcing. But that will be a single change to the total forcing, while the contribution from man-made CO2 continues to rise and rise.

    Additionally, we would simply be storing up worse problems for the future. If we experienced an extended period of low solar activity, then yes – it may reduce the effects of global warming for a while. But when solar activity returns to normal, we would have that added warmth plus the warming from all the CO2 that has been accumulating. We would be toast.

    So, it’s not a gamble that anyone can win.

  16. 166
    ScepticMatthew says:

    162, Bob (Sphaerica): renewable energy sources in 2004 accounted for 6.2% of U.S. energy consumption. In 2008 that number was %7.4, with a some of that percentage “growth” actually resulting from a drop in total consumption.

    (7.4-6.2)/6.2 = 19% increase. divide by 2 to account for declining demand is 10% increase. 10% per year (if continued) works out to a 150% increase after 10 years, and 550% increase after 20 years.

    That’s not the right way to do the arithmetic, of course. What has to be exponentiated is the rate of growth of the amount of renewables (not their percentage of the total), which has fluctuated between 50% and 200% per year over the last years, differently for each class. At these rates of growth, lots of American electricity and fuel will be coming from renewables in the next 10-20 years. In other threads I have expressed my expectation that solar, wind, and biofuels will increase by 5 doublings in the next 5-10 years, if present trends are maintained. Do you have a quantitative expectation?

    In the decade 2020-2030 developments can’t be forecast, but all alternatives to coal and oil will be cheaper than they are now, and more widespread.

    You are correct (at least, I agree with you) that (subsidized) mass production is the key to long-term cost reductions. We have seen it already in two key areas: (1) reductions in the cost of sugar ethanol in Brazil over the period 1985-2005; (2) reductions in the cost of PV cells, which now come off the line at $0.85 per watt for the cells, and $3.50 per watt for an installed roof top system (that is the best price I have seen, not the average.) The PV cost now compares quite well to peak power by other standby systems (e.g. gas turbines), and the costs continue to decline.

    I wouldn’t say you are unreasonable, but I do think that you are too pessimistic.

    It’s somewhat related that hostility to coal is increasing. More and more people object more and more intensely to paying the pollution price. The piles of slag and ash are growing, and they routinely cause pollution after rain, killing fish and livestock and ruining cropland downstream. If taxes and fines proportional to the costs could be imposed, coal would lose some of its competitive advantages, and would be replaced more rapidly by natural gas and then solar and wind. I think that support for those taxes and fines is growing.

  17. 167

    164 (William),

    The sun was at its highest activity in the last 10,000 years for the last period of the 20th century.

    Do you have a citation for this claim? This graph suggests otherwise. In fact, it implies that activity for the past 2000 years has been unusually low, and have only now recovered to around the average for that 10,000 year period. More importantly, past trends imply that such an event (a sudden drop back to LIA levels, after a recent emergence from those levels) hasn’t happened once in the last 10,000 years, so there’s no reason to think it would suddenly happen now.

    So I think the chances of the sun suddenly cooling are pretty slim.

    [Caveat: The proxy is merely for sunspot counts, and presumes a correlation between sunspot activity and solar output.]

    Beyond this, I believe that past climate history shows that such solar variations are considerably less important than orbital forcings and greenhouse gas levels. Greenhouse gases would almost certainly still overwhelm any possible reduction in TSI.

    To support this hypothesis, you will note that the sun’s activity for the past decade was below previous decades, and that the past few years have been at the low end of the 11 year cycle… and yet this year is shaping up to be the second warmest on record, despite the presence of a strong La Nina during most of it.

  18. 168
    Rod B says:

    Sphaerica (Bob) (162-3), while I probably wouldn’t agree with it, your basic idea deserves consideration IMO. I have a couple of detail points/questions: It’s not obvious why a 2.5 million manufacturing number would drive the price down much further, even if the cost gets slightly reduced, given the buying market already would see a $20,000 price reduction — which should pretty much reach your goals it would seem.

    Which “deniers” fear and tremble at the thought of renewable energy and/or hybrids???.

    The $30 billion ($150 per capita) subsidy would, on average, about double the federal income taxes paid by the lower 50% of wage earner filers. This seems quite regressive, and I doubt they would be impressed with the “only 0.35% of GDP.”

    So I, as a FF vehicle owner, have to pay for half of my neighbor’s new hybrid AND further subsidize his driving by paying a bunch more than he for gasoline — is this correct?

  19. 169
    Maya says:

    “The sun was at its highest activity in the last 10,000 years for the last period of the 20th century.”

    You don’t seriously expect this to be a revelation, do you? It’s one of the oldest and tiredest of the denialist memes. “Regardless of any discussion about solar irradiance in past centuries, the sunspot record and neutron monitor data (which can be compared with radionuclide records) show that solar activity has not increased since the 1950s and is therefore unlikely to be able to explain the recent warming.” What we see is how science often works – increases in knowledge by increments and independent studies re-affirming previous findings, namely that changes in the sun play a minor role in climate change on decadal to centennial scales. After all, 2009 was the second-warmest year on record, and by far the warmest in the southern hemisphere, despite the record solar minimum. The solar signal for the past 25 years is not just small but negative (i.e. cooling), but this has not noticeably slowed down global warming.

  20. 170
    CM says:

    Bob #165,
    The Wikipedia version of the Solanki et al. graph seems to be missing the overlaid data from direct observation. Solanki et al. say: “According to our reconstruction, the level of solar activity during the past 70 years is exceptional, and the previous period of equally high activity occurred more than 8,000 years ago.” See here:

    Otherwise, William #164 is just incoherent.

    [Response: And note that the abstract linked says “Although the rarity of the current episode of high average sunspot numbers may indicate that the Sun has contributed to the unusual climate change during the twentieth century, we point out that solar variability is unlikely to have been the dominant cause of the strong warming during the past three decades. ” The operational term there being past three decades –raypierre]

  21. 171

    170 (CM),

    I don’t have access to the paper. Do you know what the time resolution is on the dendrochronologically dated radiocarbon concentrations? That is to say, a thousand years from now, would the method detect the current peak if it ended soon (that is to say, is it possible that similar peaks happen all the time, and could have happened many times in the past, without showing up in the reconstruction)?

    Also, does the reconstruction represent the average sunspot count in a cycle, or the peak count (as represented, for example, here)?

  22. 172

    168 (Rod B),

    Which “deniers” fear and tremble at the thought of renewable energy and/or hybrids???

    They tremble at the thought of having their own incomes or lives impacted as a result of any actual action taken (beyond just letting the chips fall where they may). This is well evidenced by your next comment:

    So I, as a FF vehicle owner, have to pay for half of my neighbor’s new hybrid AND further subsidize his driving by paying a bunch more than he for gasoline — is this correct?

    Well, your other option is to buy a hybrid yourself. Gee, what a concept!

  23. 173
    Rod B says:

    ScepticMatthew (166), If I read their tables correctly, the EIA says the electricity’s annual growth of non-hydro renewables was 9% in 2007, 20% in 2008, 12% in 2009, and 2010 on track for about 13%. (2006 had a 27% increase over 1996 — 10 years.) This isn’t anywhere near 50-200%, though nothing to sneeze at, relative to electric power’s total expansion. Your five doublings over 5-10 years is still dream world.

  24. 174

    wm 164: If the planet cools due to the change in the solar heliosphere, solar wind speed, and a third solar parameter, is AGW no longer a concern?

    BPL: Sure. Just like it’s no longer a concern if the Cooling Fairy leaves a temperature reduction under your pillow.

  25. 175
    ScepticMatthew says:

    173, Rod B.,

    Here’s from their Nov 23, 2010 report on existing capacity as of end-of-year 2009:

    Wind 620 34,683 34,296 34,350
    Solar Thermal and Photovoltaic 110 640 619 537

    Where the second number in each row is megawatts of installed power generating capacity. I don’t see a relevant history broken down by type any where on the EIA web page. We shall have to redo these calculations (% increase) year by year. Other sources (I suppose I shall have to relocate these) have reported that solar generation in the US doubled from end of 2009 to end of 2010 (projected), as did manufacturing capacity; that’s a one-time yearly growth rate of 100%.

    Since we are debating about the future, we can update our knowledge, and hence our forecasts for 2015-2010, annually, or more frequently, in the years up to 2015.

    With factories under construction, the US will double its capacity to manufacture wind turbines in about the next 18 months. That’s in addition to the turbines that we import.

    Your 27% increase from 1996-2006 is deficient. Since the G.W. Bush first energy bill passed, US non-hydro renewables grew by about a factor of 8, 3 doublings in about 5 years.

    You’ll have read that SecularAnimist and I have disagreed on some details, especially the actual (distinct from proposed) rate of change in California. Nevertheless, he (or she?) has supplied good references. There is a great amount of construction underway.

  26. 176
    Walter Pearce says:

    #168 Perhaps as a good free marketeer and progressive, Rod B. would endorse a steadily increasing carbon tax combined with commensurate decreases in payroll taxes. Y’know — capture those externalities, which he continues to duck. That way, he wouldn’t have to subsidize those darned Prius owners.

  27. 177
    William says:

    In reply to 167 (Sphaerica, Bob)

    From Solanki, Usokin, Kromer, Shussler, Beer’s, 2004 paper “Unusual activity of the Sun during recent decades compared to the previous 11,000 years”

    “According to our reconstruction, the level of solar activity during the last 70 years is exceptional, and the previous period of equally high activity occurred more than 8000 years ago. We find during the past 11,400 years the Sun spent only of the order of 10% of the time at a similar high level of magnetic activity and almost all of the earlier high-activity periods were shorter than the present episode.”

    Cyclic climate change with a periodicity of 1470 years tracks cosmogenic isotope changes.

    The number of sunspots is a proxy for the solar cycle change. It is necessary to understand both what is happening to the sun and how the solar changes affect the climate. The changes are not just TSI.

    As I said the Maunder minimum cooling occurred roughly 12 years after the interruption to the solar cycle. There is a physical reason for the delay.

    The magnetic field strength of newly produced sunspots is linearly decreasing. There is a specific solar reason why that is so.

  28. 178
    William says:

    In reply to comment 174 (Barton Paul Levenson)


    The cooling will be caused by the solar change not by tooth fairies. I say that with some confidence as this specific solar change has happened before. I understand both the solar change and how/why the solar change affects planetary temperature.

    The following is a link to Bond’s paper “Persistent Solar influence on the North Atlantic Climate during the Holocene” Bond track 22 cycles through the Holocene interglacial and into the Wisconsin glacial period.

    The magnitude of the affect is depend on specific terrestrial parameters.

    Excerpt from the above linked paper:

    “A solar influence on climate of the magnitude and consistency implied by our evidence could not have been confined to the North Atlantic. Indeed, pervious studies have tied increases in the C14 in tree rings, and hence reduced solar irradiance, to Holocene glacial advances in Scandinavia, expansions of the Holocene Polar Atmosphere circulation in Greenland; and abrupt cooling in the Netherlands about 2700 years ago…Well dated, high resolution measurements of O18 in stalagmite from Oman document five periods of reduced rainfall centered at times of strong solar minima at 6300, 7400, 8300, 9000, and 9500 years ago.”

  29. 179
    Hank Roberts says:

    William–re Solanki et al., that paper says:

    “we point out that solar variability is unlikely to have been the dominant cause of the strong warming during the past three decades”


    “… even under the extreme assumption that the Sun was responsible for all the global warming prior to 1970, at the most 30% of the strong warming since then can be of solar origin.”

    Is your assumption more extreme than Solanki et al. talk about? If so, some cites to sources you consider reliable for what you believe would be helpful.

  30. 180

    Meanwhile, in the Middle East:


    Five years of drought now, and near-total failure of November rains. A Jordanian cabinet minister musing worriedly about “desertification.”

    Not pretty, this. . .

  31. 181
    Rod B says:

    Sphaerica (Bob) (172), you say, “…Well, your other option is to buy a hybrid yourself. Gee, what a concept!”

    So the answer to my question in 168 is ‘yes’? just checking.

  32. 182
    Rod B says:

    ScepticMatthew (175), I can’t verify or refute your numbers, but where we differ is your citing installed capacity (nameplate I assume) and I’m citing actual production.

  33. 183
    Rod B says:

    ScepticMatthew (175), PS, it’s probably obvious but there are different units: capacity in megawatts and production in megawatt-hours.

  34. 184
    Rod B says:

    Walter Pearce (176), would the carbon tax revenues be dedicated to Social Security and Medicare, as opposed to say subsidizing hybrid purchases?

  35. 185

    William 177: The number of sunspots is a proxy for the solar cycle change. It is necessary to understand both what is happening to the sun and how the solar changes affect the climate. The changes are not just TSI.

    BPL: When I regress NASA GISS global dT against ln CO2 and sunspot number for 1880-2007 (N = 128), Carbon dioxide accounts for 75% of the variance and sunspot number accounts for 2.5%. Divide A by B. Discuss.

  36. 186
    CM says:

    re: sunspots: Solanki et al. 2004,

    raypierre (inline to my #170),

    Thanks, I should have included that.

    Bob #171,

    Don’t take it from me, read the free version (, but AFAICT: The C-14 sampling is (mostly) decadal, and the reconstruction represents a 10-year average sunspot number. I’d guess any period like the post-1940 one — twice as long as the average high-activity (SN>50) period, and 2.5 standard deviations over the long-term average — would be pretty hard to miss.

    William #177, 178,

    > I understand both the solar change and how/why the solar change affects
    > planetary temperature.

    Well, good for you! You will let us know when your pathbreaking paper on the subject is published with peer review, won’t you? Until then, toodle-oo.

  37. 187
    CM says:

    Typo at 7:08am, pardon: “2.5 standard deviations” > “2.85 standard deviations”.

  38. 188
    Walter Pearce says:

    #184. “would the carbon tax revenues be dedicated to Social Security and Medicare…”

    Attempt to comprehend a simple phrase: #176, “a steadily increasing carbon tax combined with commensurate decreases in payroll taxes.”

    Purpose: Capture carbon externalities. Revenue neutral.

  39. 189
    JCH says:

    We’ve never subsidized the purchases of gas guzzlers. No, back in the 1980s an associate of mine did not buy “His and Her” Rolls Royces, take a whopper tax credit on both, and depreciate the balances in three years. I dreamed seeing that. Or the number of children, some in diapers, who set up leasing companies and leased luxury cars to mom and dad.

  40. 190
    JiminMpls says:


    EIA Historical Net Capacity is here:

    The web page shows 1997-2008. If you download the xls worksheet, it includes 2009.

    For historical net GENERATION ( more imporant) see:

  41. 191
    Hank Roberts says:

    > attempt to comprehend
    For values of “comprehend” in the range “obfuscate” to “confuse”

  42. 192
    ScepticMatthew says:

    183, Rod B:ScepticMatthew (175), PS, it’s probably obvious but there are different units: capacity in megawatts and production in megawatt-hours.

    I am glad you wrote that. Sometimes I have written of installed capacity, and sometimes of total production. Over periods of at least months, production is usually proportional to capacity. The CAISO web page that I linked a while ago reports both. That applies only to California (and excludes the cities of Los Angeles and Sacramento); I am going to look for comparable displays for other states or regions.

  43. 193
    William says:

    In reply to BPL 185 & CM 186


    Why are you dividing the number of sunspots? Looking the correlation of Ak and planetary temperature. What causes the changes to Ak and how does what changes Ak cause changes to Ak.

    There are three process that affecting planetary cloud cover. Changes to the strength of the heliosphere which modulates GCR, solar wind bursts which remove cloud forming ions, and a third mechanism.

    Solar wind bursts remove cloud forming ions via the process electroscavenging. The solar wind burst are created by equatorial coronal holes that appeared late in the solar cycles for cycles 21 and 22.

    “Once again about global warming and solar activity K. Georgieva, C. Bianchi, and B. Kirov

    We show that the index commonly used for quantifying long-term changes in solar activity, the sunspot number, accounts for only one part of solar activity and using this index leads to the underestimation of the role of solar activity in the global warming in the recent decades. A more suitable index is the geomagnetic activity which reflects all solar activity, and it is highly correlated to global temperature variations in the whole period for which we have data.

    In Figure 6 the long-term variations in global temperature are compared to the long-term variations in geomagnetic activity as expressed by the ak-index (Nevanlinna and Kataja 2003). The correlation between the two quantities is 0.85 with p<0.01 for the whole period studied.It could therefore be concluded that both the decreasing correlation between sunspot number and geomagnetic activity, and the deviation of the global temperature long-term trend from solar activity as expressed by sunspot index are due to the increased number of high-speed streams of
    solar wind on the declining phase and in the minimum of sunspot cycle in the last decades."

    CM 186,

    When I say I know how and why the sun changes and how the solar changes affect climate, that is to say I know that because I have read the papers and studied that subject. It appears you have not. If you have a specific question ask it and I will answer it.

    See section 5a) Modulation of the global circuit in this review paper, by solar wind burst and the process electroscavenging where by increases in the global electric circuit remove cloud forming ions.

    The same review paper summarizes the data that does show correlation between low level clouds and GCR.

    CM check the link above to Bond's paper.

  44. 194
    Rod B says:

    Walter Pearce (188), so is the answer to my question ‘yes’?

  45. 195
    Rod B says:

    ScepticMatthew, JiminMpls’ references in 190 are appropriate, though they report non-hydro renewables as a single entity.

  46. 196
    Hank Roberts says:

    William, you’re on a hobbyhorse here; this is going further off topic.

    Since you’re not citing sources for your beliefs, here are some sources you ought to factor in to what you believe — before writing.
    “Compared in (a) are observed monthly mean global temperatures (black) and an empirical model (orange) that combines four different influences. In (b) the individual contributions of these influences are shown, namely ENSO (purple), volcanic aerosols (blue), solar irradiance (green) and anthropogenic effects (red). Together the four influences explain 76% (r2) of the variance in the global temperature observations.”
    Cycles and trends in solar irradiance and climate
    Focus Article
    Judith L. Lean
    Published Online: Dec 22 2009 12:00 AM
    DOI: 10.1002/wcc.18

  47. 197
    Walter Pearce says:

    #194 “answer to my question…” What part of “revenue neutral” do you not understand? Where do your taxes currently go?

    See Hank Roberts’ #191.

    Surprise us all: Say something intelligent on the subject of how to incorporate carbon’s externalities into a free market system.

  48. 198
  49. 199

    William 193,

    What part of “the correlation between sunspot number and temperatures the last 128 years is tiny” did you not understand?

  50. 200
    Wayne Justice says:

    In reply to #1, greenhouse gases absorb selective bands of radiation in the atmosphere and re-radiate them in all directions as longer wave infrared. If there are clouds, then more will appear at the surface due to reflection but usually does not raise the air temperature. i.e. On cloudy days, the air feels cooler. In the Antarctic, the increased white albedo at the surface causes the air temperature to increase on cloudy days. CO2 is less of a GHG than water vapor, which it replaces. Therefore, more CO2 should cool the planet. We won’t ever see much of this due to the over abundance of water vapor. However, on Mars, with 95% CO2 and not much water vapor, its atmosphere drops to -67 degrees F. There is no proof that increasing GHGs, in the presence of so much water vapor, without a corresponding increase in the sun’s energy in these adsorptive wavebands for these gases,
    will actually increase warming to any significant degree, i.e. more than a couple of degrees. The basic fact being ignored is that with a nearly constant solar output , the GHGs are now about as warm as they will get.
    Of course, adding different GHGs with different absorptive bands will cause more warming as the adsorptive energy of these different bands come into play.