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Unforced variations: Mar 2011

Filed under: — group @ 1 March 2011

This month’s open thread for climate science discussions.

206 Responses to “Unforced variations: Mar 2011”

  1. 151
    jyyh says:

    #147 that Google search hasn’t turned up anything is of no wonder since it’s wild speculation anyway (though some scientists have done it also), there was some studies of the relation of the ice melt and earthquakes of Greenland. If there’s an effect that would be IMHO the frequency as the water is distributed evenly… there, resorted to wild speculation myself.

  2. 152
    Marco says:

    SRJ @143:
    Simple suggestion, often works well, kindly ask Ljungqvist himself for help.

  3. 153
    Joe Cushley says:

    Nuclear power is put on the back burner… (so to speak)

  4. 154
    Anonymous says:

    On earthquakes – I found this in new scientist – Fisher I think is with NASA. I’m not a geologist – seems logical but can’t say any more
    Full text

  5. 155
  6. 156
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Hmm. Well, we will be redistributing mass from the poles to the equator. This will not only result in isostatic adjustment, but will even change the planet’s moment of inertia and therefore its period of rotation (aka length of day). However, these are generally small effects, and we know from post-glacial rebound that the planet tends to respond with many small quakes as opposed one one biggie. It’s not one of the consequences of climate change that is likely to keep me awake at night.

  7. 157
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Check out Rep. Markey’s speech ridiculing the ridiculous:

  8. 158
    One Anonymous Bloke says:

    Ray Ladbury, Anonymous, thanks. I figured it would have some effect.

  9. 159
    GoRight says:

    I have a fundamental question that is bothering me and I am hoping the climate scientists here can provide an authoritative response.

    If one looks at the global temperature record from approximately the 1940s through the 1970s the global temperature was generally decreasing even though the concentration of CO2 was generally increasing (ignoring minor seasonal fluctuations). Some time around the 1970s this global temperature trend reversed and has been generally increasing ever since and again the concentration of CO2 has also increasing during this time (per the Keeling Curve).

    Can you please explain why the global temperatures were decreasing from the 1940s through the 1970s even though CO2 concentrations were increasing during that period? Also, is there an consensus scientific argument as to why the global temperature trend reversed in the 1970s, or so? What are the fundamental factors that came into play to explain this reversal?

    The period from the 1940s through the 1970s would seem to indicate, at least to me as a lay person, that the correlation between CO2 concentrations and global temperature is a weak one at best. What is the consensus scientific view on why this is not the case?

  10. 160
    Anna Haynes says:

    Returning to “seduced by being close to power” – OAB#47 I share your assessment, but I still want to know what one would/could ask or say, that would make this clear to a reader who’s not familiar with how science works. Yes we have Peter Watt’s most excellent “science is rugby” explanatory post and others of that ilk, but how does Joe Reader know to accord credibility to them rather than to those saying the opposite?

    (speaking of Watts, just finished Blindsight and it was mighty fine. eek.)

  11. 161
    flxible says:

    MrRight@159 – With some serious reading this site can clear your confusion. Start here [notice the date]. Beyond that, plug “1940s through the 1970s” into the site search and fill yer boots, it’s been dealt with many times.

  12. 162
    tamino says:

    Re: #159 (GoRight)

    The “weak correlation with CO2” argument is based on the misconception that greenhouse gases are the only factor which influences global temperature. Mainstream climate scientists (like those who run this blog) have never made such a claim.

    Instead of ignoring all the other factors, see this:

  13. 163
    Radge Havers says:

    Anna Haynes @ 144

    “…he says, more or less, that the climatologists have fallen sway(?) to the lure of power*.

    What’s your follow-up question?

    How about, “What’s your proof?”

    Any doofus can and will make baseless accusation after baseless accusation–endlessly, obsessively, arrogantly, belligerently.

    Be prepared, they lie too.

  14. 164
    One Anonymous Bloke says:

    Anna Haynes #160 “how does Joe Reader know to accord credibility to them rather than to those saying the opposite?”

    Stick to the facts. Let the audience make up its own mind.
    I’m not familiar with the “science is rugby” analogy; please post a link.

  15. 165
    Anna Haynes says:

    OAB#164, for Peter Watts on science as rugby reference: at search for “Peter Watts” science rugby
    …and with 1 layer of indirection, get the URL which is:

  16. 166
    Hunt Janin says:

    For my introductory survey on sea level rise, I’m thinking about adding a short chapter on the men and women who – both in the past and today – have pioneered or advanced the study of sea level rise.

    I’m not sure, however, that there’s enough information on the web for me to write this chapter. If you have any comments or suggestions, please share them with me OFF-LIST at


    Hunt Janin

  17. 167
    Radge Havers says:

    Anna Haynes,

    I will just add that, regarding The Climate Science “Debate”, there are limits to how far a lay person can follow the actual science. However, a thoughtful observer will note that more often than not, deniers will soon turn to rhetorical devices and specious arguments whereas qualified scientists will doggedly attempt to explain the science. That’s one clue to help you weight your approach on a subject you don’t understand.

    Another clue is to understand the way science works. It has methods that, while not perfect, are the best that humankind has been able to devise for determining the way things work and are likely to behave. The vast weight of scientific thinking says that AGW is real. You would be hard pressed to find a credible scientific body anywhere in the world that doesn’t agree with this.

    To believably accuse thousands of highly competitive climate scientists of participating in what amounts to a perfidious, self-serving monster conspiracy requires evidence (real evidence, not smears). None has been produced so far. None. On the other hand, note what has been unearthed about deniers, for instance in connection with the tobacco industry just for starters.

    A good journalist is resourceful. It may be one fact that “he said”, and another fact that “she said”, but letting it go at that is just a lazy journalist’s way to avoid dealing with a difficult subject; a subject, I might add, that will be sure to offend certain powerful forces bent on the promotion of ignorance.

    The real question is, as a journalist, what is your job and what are you made of?

  18. 168
    Anna Haynes says:

    Radge #167 (“To believably accuse thousands of highly competitive climate scientists of participating in what amounts to a perfidious, self-serving monster conspiracy requires evidence…”)

    …and the evidence provided was of the unverifiable “the lurkers support me in email” flavor.
    (fyi, haven’t gotten an answer to my followup (emailed) q asking whether the #1 (anon) holdout he recounted was actually a climate scientist.)

    With more hindsight, I think I should have asked “do you think that this “seduction”& cowing of scientists biases what climate change evidence gets published, or that it biases the interpretation of the evidence?” If he said the former, then ask what evidence was being suppressed & where I could find it, e.g. in E&E. If the latter, ask which evidence has an better, alternative interpretation.
    I’ll try asking, in email.
    (and if the response is “they’re afraid to publish it period, even in E&E”, the counter is “well, there’s a historic trajectory, since the preponderance of views has changed; so surely at some point E&E was getting the “becoming unpopular but not yet outre’ ” findings?)

    One meta-observation, re the “the lurkers support me in email” style argument – it is probably a real phenomenon, in that as a position becomes less and less justifiable, those still holding it will want to do so less and less publicly; or to turn that on its causal head, only those who keep their views hidden will have successfully protected them from exposure to counterargument.

  19. 169
    Anna Haynes says:

    The more I think about this, the cleverer it seems – take the “network of trust” concept many of us have been promoting, and turn it 180 degrees.
    The #1 objection though is, you’d expect some of the scientists with tenure would have had the cojones to speak up, if it were for real. (Solution to that objection: work to abolish tenure?)

  20. 170
    Bibasir says:

    The news is reporting that the earthquake in Japan shifted the earth’s axis slightly. Does anyone know if this is a permanent shift, and if so might it affect warming?

  21. 171
    adelady says:

    Bibasir, the report I saw said that yes it is permanent. It will speed earth’s rotation on its axis by a bit more than a millisecond. So we’ll need to reset our clocks by 1 second every few centuries or so.

    It is very slight. I doubt a shift of 25cm will have any measurable impact on albedo or insolation.

  22. 172
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Anna Haynes:

    > What’s your follow-up question?

    Mine would be “do you know any climatologists personally?”

    …and if the answer is “no” (as I’m pretty sure it is), offer to fix that.

    Just like with the silly prejudices of racism, this kind of paranoid illusion doesn’t survive the reality of getting to know one of the accused on a personal basis. It’s so easy to hate a cardboard figure.

  23. 173


    You know, what some of these folks need is a “Great Big Strawman”–something that would be just more fun for them to debate, something that wouldn’t actually put the rest of us at risk. The resistance to logic, the selective blindess, are a sure clue that emotional need is driving a lot of the argumentation.

    (For example, I’m quite sure that a lot of the folks who seize on the “man’s contribution of CO2 is so tiny meme”–currently under discussion at Tamino’s “Open Mind” blog–are quite capable in their private lives of understanding that taking on a debt to the tune of 3% of their annual gross income isn’t a good idea unless they are running a bit of a surplus. But the analogous situation in terms of the carbon cycle ‘budget’ seems utterly incomprehensible to them.)

    But I suppose the Great Big Strawman idea is impractical. It wouldn’t be easy to concoct just the right ‘conspiracy,’ and you’d still have to fight the media headwind from Fox, Imhofe, WUWT and the like.

    Oh, well. Back to sweet reason.

  24. 174

    “. . .are a sure clue?”

    Sorry. My grammar are usually better than that.

  25. 175
    John E. Pearson says:

    I have a question.

    When you look at the denialists in the ranks of actual climate scientists, you’ve got Lindzen, then Spencer running a distant second, and then you hit the bottom of the barrel, hard, with clowns like S.F. Singer. Now as I understand it you climate scientists are just a bunch of grant whores willing to say anything for money. At least that’s what Lindzen, Spencer, and last and least S.F. SInger say.

    So my question is this.

    Who is the purchasing agent for the fossil fuel industry when it wants to purchase some climate scientists?

    The FF industry makes on the order of a billion dollars per day. I’m supposed to believe that out of the enormous abundance of money grubbing grant mongering climate scientists they can’t do any better than Lindzen, Spencer, and ha ha hoohee ha ha S.F. Singer? Someone should tell the FF people that they should probably be taking a very close look at their purchasing agent’s personal bank accounts. I would suggest they look off shore too. I think they’re getting taken.

  26. 176
    One Anonymous Bloke says:

    John #175. They’re not buying scientists, or even science, they’re buying politicians, airtime and column inches.

  27. 177
    SecularAnimist says:

    John E. Pearson asked: “Who is the purchasing agent for the fossil fuel industry when it wants to purchase some climate scientists?”

    Heartland Institute, American Enterprise Institute, CATO, and various other corporate propaganda mills masquerading as “conservative think tanks”.

  28. 178
    spvincent says:

    If anyone wants to try their hand at designing a CO2 fixation enzyme, now’s your chance. See

  29. 179
    J. Bob says:

    in your response comment #142, 11 Mar. @ 4:11 PM, you mentioned ,
    “It is clear that the difference between curve fitting and future predictions are completely lost on you”,
    I though I’d follow up with a little more detail, to perhaps remove some mis-interpretations.

    The first mistake is that the Fourier convolution is curve fitting. Some may look at it that way, but it is a mathematical transformation from the time (or length), to and from, the frequency domain. Somewhat like the Laplace and Z transform, used in continuous and discrete control systems analysis. The only thing the analyst has control over, for this type of filtering, is masking the frequency components, like setting the span of a average.

    From the time to frequency domain Fourier transformation, one obtains the Power Spectra, which can then be used to implement the Wiener-Kolmogorov filter. This filter optimizes linear system noise reduction for the present, and is a prerequsitie for future signal prediction. Being able to predict future states is also of prime importance on control system design, as in many cases, it is necessary to preserve system stability. For more advanced systems, the Kalman filter is often used. Being able to predict a future state, in many real time applications, is the reason why the FFT is incorporated in signal processing IC’s. In this case it continually updates, current and future state of the system.

    The IEEE (Institute of Electrical & Electronic Engineers) has the Signal Processing and Control Systems Societies, which I used to be a member, can provide a number of good publications, with wide ranging applications, on this subject.

  30. 180
    dhogaza says:

    J Bob:

    The first mistake is that the Fourier convolution is curve fitting. Some may look at it that way

    Seeing that this is, in essence, the point … it’s understandable. It, in its essence, boils down to fitting a curve to a signal.

    The IEEE (Institute of Electrical & Electronic Engineers) has the Signal Processing and Control Systems Societies

    Sure, the money quote being “signal processing”.

    You’re trying to use signal processing to disprove the existence of a signal, or rather, to prove that the signal of your choice is correct, proving the statistically-derived signal false.

  31. 181
    dhogaza says:

    J Bob:

    Some may look at it that way, but it is a mathematical transformation from the time (or length), to and from, the frequency domain.

    Here, of course, you’re *assuming* a “frequency domain” exists in climate data.

    Fourier transforms are useful where one can show that there’s some sort of periodical signal in the data.

    Not for “proving” that some sort of periodical signal exists in which you apply such transforms based on assuming the periodical signal exists.

  32. 182
    dhogaza says:

    J Bob:

    The IEEE (Institute of Electrical & Electronic Engineers) has the Signal Processing

    And why do they have the Signal Processing processing society, rather than the Signal Detection society?

    You’re totally misunderstanding the math behind Fourier and related transforms compared to statistical analysis.

    Of course, if you’re right, all of statistical analysis (not only that related to climate science, but the foundational maths based on rigorous proof, etc) must be tossed into the trash, and the proofs underlying Signal Processing must be extended on faith far beyond their mathematical foundations.

  33. 183
    Ray Ladbury says:

    It is NOT that we don’t understand Fourier analysis–it is that we understand it is not applicable in all cases. Consider the following series:

    You would find a periodicity in the series and perhaps predict the next value would be 1 or 2. I would look at the series, realize that the y values are the digits of the base of Napierian logarithms and sah, “Four.”

    Fourier analysis is EXACTLY curve fitting. That does not mean you cannot SOMETIMES derive understanding from it. However, you could use any complete set of functions and do the same thing.

    The problem is not seeing patterns. The human brain is great at spotting patterns whether they are there or not. The trick is distinguishing the patterns that are real. Fourier analysis doesn’t help you do that. It just helps you spot them. To see if they are real, you need rigorous statistical analysis and PHYSICS!

  34. 184
    Anna Haynes says:

    Re my “followup Qs?” advice request in #144 above (link) & the feedback from y’all, the gist of the Q&A – with GMU science literacy advocate James Trefil – went here (link) (which has a reference to the full Q&A transcript). No answers to my followup Qs, but he hadn’t promised any.

  35. 185
    J Bowers says:

    I see Roger Pielke Jr.’s giving a promo to Robert Muller’s presentation on Hide the Decline, calling it the best concise summary so far.

    He’s wrong. Phil Jones gives the best concise summary when explaining it to the President of the Royal Society, Sir Paul Nurse.

    Skip to 21:17


    Phil Jones — The [World Meteorological] organisation wanted a relatively simple diagram for their particular audience. What we started off doing was the three series with the instrumental temperatures on the end, clearly differentiated from the tree ring series, but they thought that was too complicated to explain to their audience. So, so what we did was just to add them on and bring them up to the present. And, as I say, this was a World Meteorological Organisation statement. It had hardly any coverage in the media at the time, and had virtually no coverage for the next ten years, until the release of the emails.

    Paul Nurse — So why do you think so much fuss was made about the emails and this graph, rather than the peer reviewed science?

    Phil Jones — I think it’s that the number of climate change sceptics, or doubters, deniers, whatever you want to call them, just wanted to use these emails for their own purposes to cast doubt on the basic science. The basic science is in the peer reviewed literature, and I wish more people would read that than read the emails.

  36. 186
    walrus says:

    I think nobody does themselves any favours by labelling skeptics as deniers? After all, arent scientists by their very nature supposed to be skeptical? Please refrain from using this term as it does neither side of the debate any good!

    [OT, moved]

  37. 187
    Confused says:

    As my name suggests, I’m confused. Most scientists seem to agree that the climate is warming. Some could argue that it is part of the 800 year cycle and maybe we are making it worse.
    As I understand, we produce CO2 at levels that are about a quarter of the CO2 that cattle create. I’m confused as to why we concentrate on man-made industrial emissions, which are extremely difficult to reduce, when we would have more chance if we focused on reducing the number of cattle.
    A 25% reduction in cattle would eliminate the effect of all of our CO2 production.
    In addition, I understand that cattle produce large quantities of methane, a greenhous gas 200 times worse that CO2 and are also responsible for the deforestation of 70% of the rainforests in South America.
    Would a more sensible route be to either reduce the demand for cattle (import restrictions?) or put a carbon tax on the purchase of cattle products to reduce demand?
    I’m not a scientist, but it seems obvious to me to try and change the biggest thing in order to make a significant effect.
    Am I barking up the wrong tree (forgive the metaphor)?

  38. 188
    Didactylos says:

    Confused: your first problem is that the “fact” you are relying on is mistaken. Have a look at this breakdown by source.

    You are indeed very confused. May I enquire where you have been getting all this confusing (that is to say, plain wrong) information from?

  39. 189
    Didactylos says:

    walrus: the term is used precisely in order to distinguish genuine sceptics from those who claim to be sceptics but believe any nonsense that they hear so long as it corresponds with their prejudices.

    I refuse to apply the term “sceptic” to people so gullible that they believe the unmitigated nonsense spouted by the the usual suspects, while applying a completely different standard to all other science.

    What other term should we use? They are in denial. They deny. It’s what they do. And those who get shirty about the term generally do so only in order to distract from the concrete issues.

    Let me say again: they are not sceptics. Self-labelling is not enough. You have to actually be sceptical.

  40. 190
    SecularAnimist says:

    Confused wrote: “I’m confused as to why we concentrate on man-made industrial emissions … “

    The GHG emissions from factory-farming of animals ARE “industrial emissions”.

    Several studies including one by the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) have found that GHG emissions attributable to animal agriculture are indeed significant — comparable to those from the transport sector.

    Meanwhile, worldwide meat consumption is rising rapidly as developing countries increase meat consumption and adopt western-style industrial farming practices and the GHG emissions that go with them … and the epidemics of “diseases of affluence” that accompany consumption of large amounts of animal foods.
    [OT, moved]

  41. 191
    Dan H. says:

    I think the sceptic and denier terms have been misused frequently. While “deniers” can be said to mistrust science, believe global warming is a ____ (insert your favorite word here), or are just gullible people who believe whatever they want. True sceptics have taken the time to weigh the science, and conclude that we do not have enough data to draw confident climate conclusions. Most of the people that I have found who are truly “sceptics” believe that CO2 is causing warming, just not to the degree some claim.
    Most sceptics are sceptical for two reasons: 1. There is a natural component in addition to the human component, which has been neglected or downplayed by many, and 2. Many of the forecasted effects of global warming have been exaggerated.

    The first reason is largely scientific, and can be resolved with continued research. The second part is much more a PR problem, with too many people making outrageous claims. Many people believe these claims. Are they as gullible as the others?

    [OT, moved]

  42. 192
    Didactylos says:

    Dan H: Well, you would say that, wouldn’t you? After all, you think that you have weighed the evidence*, yet you have managed to cling to your preconceptions and ignore fully half of the evidence. Coincidentally, all the ignoring has been in one direction.

    So, is someone guilty of exactly what we are talking about the person who should be going around saying what a sceptic is or isn’t?

    Clean up your own house first. Start by correcting the errors in your last comment – natural variability has not been ignored, and observed effects of global warming fall largely within forecast values (except for the Arctic ice melting unexpectedly fast).

    (Of course, you will deny this, too. But isn’t that where we came in?)

    * You seem to honestly believe this, despite all the times your errors and omissions have been explained.

  43. 193
  44. 194
    sambo says:

    Completely off topic (I’m not even trying to hide it). I know everyone enjoys using reCaptcha as a punching bag. I just thought I’d share a couple of articles that seemed interesting (possibly could help someone).

    I particularly like the second articles suggestion as a means to improve the quality of commenters.

  45. 195
    Andreas says:

    Latest 2m temperature north of the arctic circle (NCEP reanalysis 2, blue last 31 years, green last 5 years, red 2007, darker colors more recent):


    Hovmöller plot (reanalysis 1, σ.995)


    Large parts of the Kara Sea are already open water:

  46. 196
    Hugh Laue says:

    I hope Stefan can comment at some stage on this paper that contends that tidal gauge data show a deceleration in sea level rise during the 20th century.

    [Response: I’m sure he will. In the meantime, note that this is a discussion paper (not yet peer reviewed), and that, (my mistake) curiously, there is only a a very short period in which you can start such an analysis in order to get the result reported. ~10 years earlier, or ~10 years later, the answer is opposite. More on this soon. – gavin]

  47. 197
    Magnus W says:

    re 196, Gavin am I missing something the paper do not look like a discussion paper to me?

    “DOI: 10.2112/JCOASTRES-D-10-00157.1 received 5 October 2010;
    accepted in revision 26 November 2010.
    Published Pre-print online 23 February 2011.
    ’ Coastal Education & Research Foundation 2011”

    [Response: I was obviously confused! Sorry about that. – gavin]

  48. 198
    Didactylos says:

    Who are Houston and Dean? They both seem to be engineers, one army, one retired. Odd that they should be publishing on climate at all – I suspect “emeritus denier syndrome”.

    I find it strange that their analysis of US-only tide gauge data allows them to make sweeping and nonsensical claims about global trends.

    This is what happens when deniers get papers into journals. Sloppy, incomprehensible work that adds nothing to the science. I look forward to reading a more comprehensive takedown by RC.

    Of course, the fact that deniers can and do regularly get published is another nail in that silly denier argument “the system is biased against us”.

  49. 199
    flxible says:

    Didactylos – It would seem to this layman that Houston and Dean are among those to be associated with the Army Engineering fiasco responsible for protecting New Orleans from inundation, not associated with climate except in the form of mitigation/adaptation. In addition, they are simply applying statistics to existing data, like any number of other “auditors”.

    My question wrt sea level is how does any research or analysis take account of tectonic activity? What effects on ocean volume have all the recent major earthquakes had? Is anyone keeping records of the shape, size, and depths of the oceanic trenches?

  50. 200

    Houston and Dean both are emeritus, according to the affiliations listed.

    That said, I actually thought that their paper showed some evidence of care–though, since they are out of their field, one does wonder what a more expert eye would see.

    For example, although their analysis is primarily based upon 57 US records (including Pacific possessions), they do compare this analysis to global analyses in the published literature.

    My biggest question about the paper would be that they seem pretty dismissive of the satellite data, which most others seem to consider pretty reliable–though of course there are all sorts of technical challenges for doing satellite measurement right.

    Well, that and Gavin’s point. That does tend to suggest cherry-picking.