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Introducing RC forum

Filed under: — group @ 18 July 2006

It’s clear that there is a need to have some posts and discussions that specifically deal with up-to-the-minute articles and issues that we don’t necessarily want to cover in our usual detail. This might be related to a recent op-ed which just repeats the same talking-points as usual, or pointers to good discussions on other sites. To that end, we are introducing a separate category of post, called “RC forum”, where we will post these more minor items. Hopefully, this will help make interesting comment threads, which now sometimes occur under completely unrelated posts, easier to find and reference. The big pieces will still appear on the front page and in the RSS and Google feeds but the RC forum pieces will not. Right now, a notification email is sent out for every post, but we could restrict this to main page items if needed. There is now a link on the top bar to the RC Forum page and recent comments on Forum pieces will appear on the sidebar. Please let us know if you think this is a good idea or if you have ideas to improve it.

112 Responses to “Introducing RC forum”

  1. 1
    pat neuman says:

    I think doing RC will help. There are a few recent items in the news that are making people nervous.

    1) In the US, the avg temperature for the first six months of 2006 has been the warmest of record (1895-current) according to NOAA.

    2) The early season fires in California

    and in the BWCA of northeast MN.

    3) Britain Set For Record Temperatures As Heatwave Builds Over Europe

  2. 2
    pat neuman says:

    I should have said “RC forum” … not just RC.

  3. 3
    Steven T. Corneliussen says:

    Please tell me if I’m missing something here (and maybe I am).

    Today you posted an interesting discussion called “Itâ??s different in Europe,” which calls to mind — among other things — what I see as a particularly important posting from 18 Nov 2005, “The False Objectivity of ‘Balance'” ( and also postings like “Heat Rising at the Washington Post,” 4 April 2006 (

    In looking back at those discussions with an eye toward maybe trying to contribute to the new posting “It’s different in Europe,” I seem to find that you are segregating and de-emphasizing an entire category of threads which you will now call “RC Forum” — but which I gather will be less visible to, and less findable by, the very nonscientists who most need your site.

    And here I thought the new posting about climate-science news coverage in Europe was a very big deal.

    Now, I do get it that the interview in the new posting goes over things that have been discussed in principle before. I gather that that’s closely related to what you mean with the sentence above that refers to “recent op-ed[s] which just [repeat] the same talking-points as usual… .” Fair enough; I admit that repetition of the same old thing can be a problem.

    But I also assert that ultimately RC’s task in the world is a political one, not a scientific one, and that it’s unrealistic to think you can contribute in the political realm without ever having to go back over old ground, finding new ways in slightly changing circs to persuade new visitors or to help other visitors persuade people.

    So is this that same old thing where some scientists don’t really think that the political world should operate in the way it actually does, and in the way that it is going to do regardless of scientists’ own regard (which I share) for the higher rationality of scientific discourse?

    Maybe I misunderstand something here, but if I don’t, then my answer to the question “Please let us know if you think this is a good idea” — and speaking as one of your original fans and participants, who just today was recommending RC to the op-ed-page editor of a regional daily who had just written a climate-science column — is that this looks to me like a bad bifurcation, an unfortunate segregation, and a loss to the civic discourse in which I’ve often said RC was a breakthrough.

    I hope that if I truly do get what is happening here — and maybe I don’t — that you’ll reconsider.

  4. 4
    Leonard Evens says:

    I think the forum is a great idea.

  5. 5
    Mark Hadfield says:

    I am sceptical about the new forum. It is my opinion, from long experience of discussion groups and forums of various sorts, that lumping is better than splitting.

    If an RC contributor wants to write a short article and initiate some discussions, perhaps he/she should try the Google globalchange forum?

    But I’m not going to die in a ditch on this. It’s your site, you can do whatever you like with it, and I will continue to follow it avidly.

    By the way, I *still* don’t like the way the comments disappear when you print them. I’ve managed to work around it by adding to my Adblock list.

  6. 6

    #1 Pat, right and this follows 2005, only thing which cooled things down was Russian cold winter, now leaving no trace, vanished into heat wave… Forum is much needed because real time news needs to be divulged, explained or criticized.

  7. 7
    Eric says:

    I agree with Steven (#3) but not his conclusion. As an amateur weatherman and skeptic, I would like a place to ask specific questions that aren’t addressed (or inadequately addressed) in previous threads. Just one small example: “Mars warming”. I’ve read it and don’t need to rehash Mars, however I would like to rehash Pluto. I believe Pluto warming was dismissed prematurely on that thread from a purely astronomic argument (“it’s headed into winter so it is cooling”) without discussing why measurements show it warming (how they might be local like Mars or not). Anyway, a small thread with a few good contributors would satisfy my needs.

  8. 8
    Sacha says:

    You may be interested in the following opinion piece in The Australian… it may be useful to publish a response to it…,20876,19835476-31478,00.html

  9. 9
    cwmagee says:

    Re: Pluto.

    If you want to know about the climate on pluto, your best bet is probably to ask an astronomer.

    Unlike Earth or Mars, Pluto has no satellites or ground stations, so the types of data that are used by normal weather and climate people (air pressure, temperature, atmospheric composition, etc.) are not available for Pluto.

    The only thing that Pluto and Earth have in common climatically is the sun that both planets orbit. Satellite measurements show that the solar output has been constant over the time period during which measurements of Pluto have been possible. And Pluto is now moving farther away from the Sun. Therefore, it is reasonable to deduct that whatever is happening on Pluto is independent of what is happening on Earth.

  10. 10
    Angela says:

    I think this is a great idea!!!! I always read every article discussed here, in an attempt to understand climate change better. Thank you!

  11. 11
    George A. Gonzalez says:

    According to NOAA: “The June (2006) statewide average temperature for Alaska was near average, and January-June was 0.55 degrees F (0.30 degrees C) cooler than the 1971-2000 average.” How can this be accounted for?

    Link to the NOAA article:

  12. 12
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    Re: #8

    That Australian piece is “interesting” because it aggregates so many stale talking points. If the man who wrote that believes what he’s saying, I would be surprised. His points have been rebutted so often that repeating them qualifies as lying or nasty negligence.

  13. 13
    Dan says:

    Re: It is worth noting the context that Alaska was the *only* state not to record above climatic “normal” average temperatures during the January-June period.

  14. 14
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    Good idea. It allows you to keep your main page more scientificially “pristine” — covering new ground or scientifically (r/t politically) more important topics about GW — while allowing on RC FORUM increased coverage of things in the political air re GW (new articles, books, talk-of-the-town, maybe statements by religious leaders as they pertain to the science), and a looser, perhaps more political, fleshed out discussion with less censorship (tho please do keep censoring ad hominem attacks on both fora).

  15. 15
    George A. Gonzalez says:

    re: #13

    I think this makes the Alaska data all the more significant. It is such an outlier that I believe it requires explanation.

  16. 16
    Hank Roberts says:

    George, are you familiar with the normal distribution curve in statistics, and the 5% level of confidence?

  17. 17

    #15, It was close to Russia ….. Which had a cold temperature anomaly…

  18. 18
    George A. Gonzalez says:

    re: #16

    This does not get at the fundamental question: how can one region of the hemisphere be so anomalously cold (for such a sustained period), while the rest of the northern hemisphere is anomalously hot?

  19. 19
    Dan says:

    re 15, 16: It is not an “outlier”. Long wave patterns (even over six months) are such that when there is a warm ridge over the continental US, there is a cool anomaly in Alaska and the Bering Straits. There were papers in Monthly Weather Review years ago on this. Alas, I do not have the specific references.

  20. 20
    Dan says:

    Post-script: I forgot to add that the opposite can also be true: A warm anomaly in Alaska accompanied by a cool anomaly over the continental US. Which explains the occasional news stories (especially in winter and spring) when it gets it sometimes warmer in Fairbanks than it is in Washington, DC.

  21. 21
    Brian Gordon says:

    May I suggest that when suggesting articles for people to read, that the odds of others reading the article are greatly increased if you include a description of or snippet from the article? For example:

    “You may be interested in the following opinion piece in The Australian… it may be useful to publish a response to it…”

    I’ve seen (and done) this lots, and found that giving a reason beyond simply a personal recommendation greatly increases interest.

    In addition, why does Alaska’s temperature need an explanation? I agree it would be nice to have one, but I don’t see a cool Alaska as somehow indicating that global warming is not happening, if that’s your concern, George? There seems to be a fair bit of evidence that climate change will not be entirely uniform – or predictable.

  22. 22
    Steve Sadlov says:

    RE: #21 – Perhaps the La Nina signature is still in force. We’ve got a cut off low trying to form just off the coast of California right now. Quite unusual this time of year and indicative of continued La Nina mode.

  23. 23
    George A. Gonzalez says:

    re: #19

    Thanks for the info.!

  24. 24

    #18, I have learned that winter is more complicated than summer in the northern hemisphere, where as the sun balances things out quite well everywhere in summer, during winter the lack of sun may create huge pools of cold air, despite a warm fall, strictly depending on weather, especially cloud distribution. The correct time to demonstrate consistent Global Warming on a world wide scale would be summer for the NH, while winter may show some extreme variations , then again due to Global Warming, all be it less convincing to the lay observer.

  25. 25
    pat neuman says:

    Annual temperatures at climate stations in AK can be quite large. For example, 1993 temperatures were 4-8 degrees warmer than in 1996. 1996 was a cold year for AK and the Upper Midwest, but temperatures shot back up after 1996.

  26. 26
    Sacha says:

    I put the link in comment 8 because this is an example of the sort of articles that sometimes appear in the centre-right media in Australia, and they’re given credence by some people. If a response isn’t made to it, it may well be given more credence than otherwise…

    Here is the start of the opinion piece…

    Debate on climate change far from over
    The UN panel from which governments get their information is deeply flawed, writes Economics editor Alan Wood

    July 19, 2006
    AT lunchtime on Monday, John Howard and Victoria’s Steve Bracks were on their feet talking about energy, climate change and the environment. While their approaches were notably different, there is one thing on which they both agree: the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the font of all scientific wisdom on global warming.
    In fact it has become quite fashionable of late to assert the global warming debate is over and an overwhelming scientific consensus prevails. This is simply untrue.

    As acknowledged in an Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics report on climate change scenarios, also released on Monday, there are still considerable scientific uncertainties surrounding the nature and extent of future climate change.

    A report released in the US on Friday has torn apart one of the main props used by the IPCC to illustrate the need for urgent action on climate change. The report raises serious questions about the IPCC process and the findings on which world governments rely in forming their climate change policies. First, some background….

  27. 27
    pat neuman says:

    re 25. In trying to be more clear, I meant … Variation in annual temperatures at climate stations in Alaska can be quite large. I mean large variation from year to year for all the stations (not variation by station across the area for a single year).

  28. 28

    Re #26. Sacha, I made a submission to the Australian regarding that article, however, there was no reply. Alan Wood is the “Economics Editor”, as such, he must be deemed to be a “high Priest” by the management of “The Australian”, and therefore cannot be contradicted by anyone who is outside of the Priesthood of Establishment wisdom.

  29. 29
    Brian Allen says:

    The Website “Friends of Science”, “Proving Insight Into Climate Science” has the following “Myths” listed with brief summaries of “facts” to dispute the “myths” which include the following: 1. Global Temperatures are rising at a rapid, unprcedented rate. 2. The hockey stick graph proves that the earth has experienced a steady, very gradual temperature increase for 1,000 years, then recently began a sudden increase. etc. I would be interested if someone could provide a response to their website “facts” after a review (see I could take this offsite. This website also has what appears to be an impressive list of scientists that ask the Canadian government to renounce the Kyoto agreement.
    Thank you very much for your reply. I know this may seem trite but this is the kind of website information that will be contributing to the “controversy”.


  30. 30

    Re #29: How Orwellian is that!! “Friends of Science”; that is the first lie!

  31. 31
    andres says:

    the person who noted that Alaska temperatures ignored the fact that temperatures are above normal in all other states.
    How convenient eh?

  32. 32
    Steven T. Corneliussen says:

    Comment 14 says this new subtopic segregation within RC’s overall discussion “allows [RC] to keep [its] main page more scientifically ‘pristine.'” But doesn’t RC exist to make civic and political discussion of climate science more rational, in a realm outside science itself?

    With due respect for the need for journalism to be factual and accurate about science — that is, with due respect for the very desideratum that RC exists to pursue — I’d like to reframe in a short comment the same question I was asking in comment 3: How in the world can scientists affect civic and political discussion of climate science if the goal is defined merely as keeping the main page scientifically pristine?

    That’d be great for a blog in which climate scientists, or scientists in general, discuss climate science among themselves, following science’s own admirable rules for discourse. Is that all that RC is? If so, why did Nature bother to endorse you back in December of 04? The world already has plenty of strictly scientific forums.

    Pristine? In a civic realm that includes Senator Inhofe and the editors of the WSJ? I’ve worked with and for scientists for over twenty years, and sometimes I think C. P. Snow was even more right than he knew.

  33. 33
    tom root says:

    I’m interested in theories concerning what was happening in the tropics during the past few ice ages. Can someone give me a link? Thanks!

  34. 34
    Hank Roberts says:

    Tom Root — you posted the same question in 33 here and in the Wegman thread. Try clicking on this, for answers. Note the method I’ve used, I recommend it for other questions. Type your question into the Google search box.

  35. 35
  36. 36
    Hank Roberts says:

    >Friends of Science
    DNS lookup:
    Reverse IP lookup: Commerx Corporation
    owns this range: –
    Commerx boasts of these clients and charities: (read and ponder)
    Commerx also offers: Oil & Gas Materials Management Software
    “By their friends ye shall know them.”

  37. 37
    tom root says:

    Hank Roberts: My apologies for the double posting. And, of course, I googled satisfactory answers immediately after the posts. (Wish they could have been deleted.)

    If there’s a point, it’s that the index and search at RC will not necessarily produce an answer to or discussion about every climatological question, at least yet. This is a tremendous and well needed resource. Thank you.

  38. 38
    Hank Roberts says:

    Pardon me for being grouchy, I’m just another reader, above caught failing to be appropriately helpful.

    I’d encourage our hosts to post a link to “How To Ask Questions The Smart Way” — a Usenet/Internet classic:

    (The programmers haven’t had to deal with how to tell the disinformation from the information, bless their hearts — that section’s being written here day by day.)

  39. 39
    Fernando Magyar says:

    Well I guess that this artitcle from the New York times should be a good topic for this forum.

    Seems like the current administration has managed to somehow convince NASA that our home planet is no longer part of the universe and whaterver life exists here is unworthy of understanding and protection. Maybe it’s just me but it does make me a bit sad.

  40. 40
    Chuck Booth says:

    Please excuse my ignorance, but how does one get to the “It’s different in Europe” thread, aside from clicking on the name someone who recently posted there – if it werent’ for the Recent Comments list, I would never have known the thread existed.

  41. 41
    pat neuman says:

    re 39.

    If not NASA then what agency in the U.S. now has responsibility to understand and protect our atmosphere, waters, land and biosphere?

  42. 42
    Steven T. Corneliussen says:

    I’d like to thank Chuck Booth for comment 40. It was a similar bit of confusion of my own the other day that led me to write comments 3 and 32. I wonder if any RC scientists, or others, consider 40 a reason to respond to those comments and 40, since it seems to me that it illustrates the cost of this new topic segregation policy. Thanks.

  43. 43
    Chuck Booth says:

    RE#40 I now have it figured out – you simply click on the RC FORUM link on the homepage. Amazing….

  44. 44
    Sacha says:

    Re #28 – thanks for that, Lawrence – it’s interesting that there was no reply. Did you also write to Alan Wood? I’d be curious as to his reply if he gave one.

  45. 45
    Lawrence McLean says:

    Re: #44 – Sacha, I submitted a letter to the newspaper, however, I will do as you suggest and send a polite email directly to him and see what happens. I will let you know whatever. Cheers.

  46. 46
    pat neuman says:

    re 41.

    My answer to the question in 41 is: NO agency in the U.S. now has responsibility to understand and protect our home planet.

    To view explanation as to why ‘to understand and protect our home planet’ disappeared from NASA’s mission statement see a July 22, 2006 post at:

    I have a different explanation. In a January 31, 2006 letter which I sent to the DOC Office of Inspector General I wrote:
    … “I learned recently that the mission statement for NASA includes ‘to understand and protect our home planet’. In knowing that, I believe that my concerns about hydrologic climate change in the Upper Midwest and about global warming, which were identified in OSC File No. DI-00-2100, need to be discussed with scientists in NASA in order to gain a full understanding of the state of the science in Dec 2000, Jan 2001; and currently. For that reason, I request that the matters described at the beginning of this letter be pursued further.” Additional information regarding my January 31, 2006 letter is at:

  47. 47

    The Australian Government appears to be in the pocket of the Mining companies.

    In a private meeting with Government ministers, the Mining interests complained that the initiative of a few years ago by the Government to promote renewable energy, had worked to well. Australia had reached the set target years ahead of schedule. The relevant ministers refused to confirm this discussion, however, recently, the minister for agriculture has publicly stated: “The use of renewable energy is completely unjustified and it is improper to prop up the renewable energy sector at the expense of other sectors of the Economy”. He went on to say that “clean” coal is the most appropriate technology.

  48. 48
    pat neuman says:

    It was a day for the record books in parts of California, Arizona, Oregon and Nevada on July 23, 2006 … blog compiled last night by Stu Ostro, Senior Meteorologist at The Weather Channel, from statements issued by local area NWS offices. It seems to me that NWS, or some other federal agency in the US, should be updating the public on a national scale regarding new records set.

    I wonder if anyone is starting to look at how the month of July 2006 is stacking up to other hot July averages in the records at climate stations in the US. If the 7 day max and min temperature forecast verifies at Leech Lake Federal Dam in northern Minnesota, then July 2006 will beat out July 1916 and July 1936 for the number one spot. Another rough summer for the Moose in northern Minnesota.
    Leech Lake Dam July temperature plot (pink) is at:

  49. 49
    Chuck Booth says:

    There is, I think, a tendancy to overlook the fact that there’s a lot of freshwater on the planet (i.e., in liquid form) that is also affected by global warming – interestingly, in this case, some of the predicted effects may be beneficial (I’m posting the entire article because I don’t know how long the link will be active):

    Erie levels predicted to drop
    The Associated Press

    CLEVELAND â?? The newest update to a Lake Erie management plan predicts global warming will lead to a steep drop in water levels over the next 64 years, a change that could cause the lakeâ??s surface area to shrink by up to 15 percent.
    The drop could undo years of shoreline abuse by allowing water to resume the natural coastal circulation that has become blocked by structures, experts said.
    Updated annually, the plan is required by the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between the United States and Canada. It is developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Environment Canada and state and local governments with help from the shipping industry, sports-fishing operators, farm interests, academics and environmental organizations.
    The newest update addresses for the first time, when, where and how the shoreline will be reshaped. It says the water temperature of Lake Erie has increased by one degree since 1988 and predicts the lakeâ??s level could fall about 34 inches. It also says the other Great Lakes will lose water.
    If the projections are accurate, Lake Erie would be reduced by one-sixth by late this century, exposing nearly 2,200 square miles of land and creating marshes, prairies, beaches and forests, researchers said.
    Researchers said new islands are appearing in the western basin, where Lake Erie is at its lowest and some reefs are about 2 feet below surface.
    â??There is now stronger evidence than ever of human-induced climate change,â?? states the report, dated this spring. â??Our climate is expected to continue to become warmer. This will result in significant reductions in lake level, exposing new shorelines and creating tremendous opportunities for large-scale restoration of highly valued habitats.â??
    A predicted drop in water levels also has been addressed by the International Joint Commission, an American-Canadian panel that controls water discharges out of Lake Superior and the St. Lawrence River. The commission told scientists at a workshop in February that research showed water levels should begin decreasing before 2050.
    â??We can try to be positive about climate change, really positive,â?? said Jeff Tyson, a senior fisheries biologist at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, who helped write a portion of the management plan. â??If it continues to be hot, once you lose that meter of water over the top, we get an entirely natural, new shoreline along a lot of the lakefront. If we manage it right, things could look a lot like they did when the first white settlers arrived.â??
    The report was written in an effort to spark thought about what the shoreline could become, said Jan Ciborowski, a professor at the University of Windsor who specializes in aquatic ecology and also helped write the plan.
    â??There is a lot of opinion among scientists who study the Great Lakes that we need to get the public to start thinking: â??What are things going to look like?â?? â?? Ciborowski said.
    The plan monitors issues ranging from pollution to invasive species, said Dan Oâ??Riordan, an EPA manager at the Great Lakes National Program Office in Chicago. He said the agency recognizes the views of experts who predict the lake will shrink.
    â??Theyâ??ve done the math; I would trust the math,â?? he said.
    Story from the Monday, July 24, 2006 Edition of the Chronicle-Telegram (Elyria, Ohio)

    Of course, this article doesn’t mention any of the possible negative effects on the ecology of Lake Erie.

  50. 50