Two items of interest this week. First, there is an atrocious paper that has just been published in JGR by McLean, de Freitas and Carter that is doing the rounds of the denialosphere. These authors make the completely unsurprising point that that there is a correlation between ENSO indices and global mean temperature – something that has been well known for decades – and then go on to claim that that all trends are explained by this correlation as well. This is somewhat surprising since their method of analysis (which involves taking the first derivative of any changes) eliminates the influence of any trends in the correlation. Tamino has an excellent demonstration of the fatuity of the statements in their hyped press-release and Michael Tobis deconstructs the details. For reference, we showed last year that the long term trends are still basically the same after you account for ENSO. Nevermore let it be said that you can’t get any old rubbish published in a peer-reviewed journal!
Second (and much more interestingly) there is an open call for anyone interested to contribute to setting the agenda for Earth System Science for the next couple of decades at the Visioning Earth Science website of the International Council for Science (ICS). This is one of the umbrella organisations that runs a network of committees and programs that prioritise research directions and international programs and they are looking for ideas. Let them know what your priorities are.
533 Responses to "Friday round-up"
Ben Austin says
Friday round-ups are a good idea – hope there’s more to come.
Keep up the good work,
Chris Colose says
Also an interesting paper in Science about potential low-level clouds providing positive feedback
Lindzen looks like he’s going to be publishing a paper soon in GRL showing why the models are inconsistent with ERBE data and that there’s a negative feedback. Get ready!
Steven T. Corneliussen says
When I saw the headline, I wondered if this posting would engage those 50 contrarian physicists’ appeal to the American Physical Society, given that this week they published a letter in Nature criticizing what they call climate alarmism. RC wrote some weeks ago that “recently there has been more of a sense that the issues being discussed … have a bit of a groundhog day quality to them. The same nonsense, the same logical fallacies, the same confusions – all seem to be endlessly repeated.” Forgive me if the 50 have already been dealt with in an earlier RC posting that I’m just too dense to spot, but if indeed RC is ignoring the 50, is it maybe on those groundhog grounds? I’m asking because my own sense, FWIW, is that these 50 are being perceived outside the scientific community as speaking pretty authoritatively. Thanks.
Perhaps this was a shot, not at climate change but rather, at the reliability of peer-reviewed papers. By destroying this paper as being “rubbish”, doubt is also cast on all the peer-reviewed papers supporting human induced climate change.
For the general public, this may make peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed papers of equal weight (both being unreliable).
[Response: We have always said that peer-review is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a study or idea to be valid. There have been many, many papers in the ‘proper’ literature that were very poor and have been wildly criticised in subsequent comments and other papers. However, peer-review does tend to reduce the number of ‘rubbish’ papers that the community needs to deal with. It will always be thus. – gavin]
Chris Dudley says
A round-up is an OK place to have a look at a paper by Nordell and Gervet called “Global energy accumulation and net heat emission” which appeared in a new journal called the International Journal of Climate Change. http://www.inderscience.com/storage/f611227114109835.pdf
It had come up in comments on a NYT editorial recently as well as on this list https://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/07/science-at-the-bleeding-edge/#comment-131078
It’s premise is that we must ignore incoming solar energy as the energy source that allows global warming and look instead to the heat we generate from burning fossil fuels, rather blithely saying “solar energy input does not cause any
warming over the year as long as the planet is in thermal balance.” They then notice a coincidence between the total energy produced by using fossil fuels and the heat stored in the air, water and earth as a result of warming and say that this then is the explanation of warming, not greenhouse gases.
We see immediately that the authors have difficulty with physical concepts if we simply look at their conclusions. They state that the heat accumulated as a result of the finite heat capacity of the air, water and earth is underestimated in their study and so to is the heat produced by human activity so that the difference (their so-called missing heat) must be overestimated. However, this is obviously wrong since more heat stored would increase the “missing heat” just the opposite of what they conclude.
This theme is present also in the meat of their argument. They consider it to be a common notion that the energy we produce is ultimately radiated to space but argue that this happens only rarely when a source is hot (street lighting?) but otherwise is mixed to the surrounding temperature and retained. They do not seem to understand is that it is heat at the surrounding (better word blocked by spam filter) temperature that is lost to space, rapidly, and that it is radiation from the Sun which replenishes that loss. Thus, contrary to their statement, one does want to compare heat we generate from fossil energy use with incoming solar energy. Upon comparison, it is seen that our energy use in negligible.
Their core confusion seems to be in the idea of “retaining” heat. They go to some (sloppy) effort to calculate the extra heat in the earth system owing to warming using the heat capacity of the ground, oceans and air and treating ice melting as an effective heat capacity. But this holding of heat, the existence of a heat capacity, is not what is warming the surface. The surface is warming because heat can’t escape as readily owning to the chemical change in the atmosphere from introducing more greenhouse gases. Heat is being retained in the way a blanket retains heat, not in the way a thermal bath holds heat. It is being impeded in its flow. The manner of storage, while having an effect on how quickly we reach a new equilibrium temperature, is not important to the fact that the temperature is changing.
Since they have misunderstood the problem, the numerical coincidence that they find between total fossil energy use, and heat capacity filled so far is merely that. Our energy use cannot account for the increase in surface temperature and thus can’t drive the storage of heat. There is no causation without the chemical effect on the atmosphere.
One has to wonder about JGR’s peer review process. I personally think that having such lax standards hurts the reputation of peer review in general. If several studies like these can be published, one might question if there’s a signficant difference between peer-reviewed science and blog material?
Reputable scientific journals should not simply be a place where any clearly poor arguments are printed. The review process should be able to catch the obvious mistakes. What happened here?
Doug Bostrom says
All these trends are just so pesky. After all the shouting, the data just keeps on heading in the wrong direction for us all, regardless of whether we’ve got feet anchored to the ground or dancing on moonbeams. That’s why we see a multitude of painfully contorted attempts to undermine trends, each and every one.
“They’re -all- wrong! It’s a coincidental failure of multiple disciplines!”
Ike Solem says
From the paper:
“The sequence of the lagged relationship indicates that ENSO is driving temperature rather than the reverse.”
Atmospheric temperature driving El Nino? That’s a straw man argument, since people generally think of ocean temps, SSTs and thermocline depths, as being more important issues in ENSO.
To review, normal tropical Pacific conditions mean that warm water has been pushed east by tropical trades winds and strong upwelling exists off the Peruvian coast, driving oceanic productivity. This is also the physical source of the SOI index, since the east-west SST gradient also produces a pressure gradient, and hence, winds, i.e. the Walker Circulation.
The first signals of a developing El Nino are dropping trade winds and warming eastern Pacific surface waters. However, the ocean-atmosphere interaction is where the energy exchange occurs, and that exchange of oceanic thermal energy is what affects global climate outside of the immediate tropical Pacific Basin region during El Ninos and La Ninas:
The interplay between SST, the Walker Circulation, and thermocline depth is responsible for the development of the two ENSO extremes. This interplay constitutes a positive feedback, the Bjerknes feedback, which underlies the rapid growth of initial perturbations.
Latif & Keenlyside 2008 “El Niño/Southern Oscillation response to global warming”
Thus, the researchers would have had to have looked at comprehensive records of ocean temperatures, not just tropospheric temperature.
For more on ENSO, see
ENSO as an Integrating Concept in Earth Science, McPhaden et al. 2006
With respect to global temperature trends, the increase in ocean temperatures is a global phenomenon, as noted in the same review:
Decadal warming trends in tropical ocean temperatures, possibly related to global warming, contributed to this bleaching by elevating background temperatures on which El Niño SST anomalies were superimposed.
Speaking of which:
“Warmest seas on record
Ben Cubby Environment Reporter
July 25, 2009, SMH
as well as:
Pretty hard to blame that entirely on ‘natural ENSO fluctuations’ – what you really have is a gradually increasing temperature trend plus natural variability.
Gavin (no not that one) says
I seem to recall that Roy Spencer did something vaguely similar by looking at a regresison analysis between detrended Mauna Loa CO2 data and detrended temperature data to suggest that the long term increase in CO2 is due to ocean degassing
“Could the long-term increase in El Nino conditions observed in recent decades (and whatever change in the carbon budget of the ocean that entails) be more responsible for increasing CO2 concentrations than mankind? At this point, I think that question is a valid one.”
similarly in Svensmark and Friis-Christensen’s reply to Lockwood and Fröhlich–The persistent role of the Sun in climate forcing, the note the impressive negative correllation between cosmic ray flux and trophospheric air temperatures AFTER removal od confusions due to El Nino volcanoes and ALSO A LINEAR TREND.
It seems to me that in both cases if a correllation is only visible after detrending the data it is a good indication the mechanism isn’t responsible for the long term trend, but is a good indication that it is a minor modulating factor. But perhaps I am missing something subtle?
Jim Bouldin says
The peer review process is stressed. There is an enormous number of manuscripts sent in to each of an enormous number of journals each year. There are only so many reviewers, and at 2 or 3 per paper, it cannot possibly be a perfect system. Some crap will make it through. Peer review doesn’t end when something gets published–it continues in subsequent comments and articles. The public really needs to understand this.
I don’t know who “the 50” are but the correspondence (not Letter, that’s what research articles are called) to which you refer is absolutely nothing new. Fred Singer is the first signatory. That should tell you everything.
Doug Bostrom says
Greg 24 Jul 2009 at 12:15 pm
And Gavin’s remark.
I don’t think the general public has a clear notion of peer review, not enough that this paper is going to have any impact on their estimation of the reliability of the process. That’s not a slam on the general public, by the way; there’s no reason they’d be exposed to the subject sufficiently to understand its benefits.
The peer review process produces YAT, or Yet Another Trend, pointing in the direction of greater confidence in the utility of stacking more findings on earlier results. That’s a strong signal, too. The chances of building a faulty brick into the structure of a discipline thus wasting subsequent efforts (and careers) are much reduced by peer review.
I think it’s also easy to overlook how the workings of peer review forces continuous reexamination of earlier work. By scrutinizing recent work in light of older findings, earlier specious results become easier to identify and at the same time new avenues of improvement to old work are illuminated.
The net result of peer review is undeniably better self-consistency in our state of awareness.
Michael Tobis says
I’m pleased to see the quick response on RC, and pleased to have been able to contribute to it. (You misspelled ‘Michael’, by the way.)
[Response: Fixed. sorry about that. – gavin]
On the other hand I’m very disappointed to see this nonsense pass review at JGR. I’d like to ask the editors and readers how appropriate feedback might reach the editors of JGR.
This paper should be withdrawn.
John (Burgy) Burgeson says
George Will has published yet another in his series of mis-information today in the Houston Chronicle.
I called him a “liar” in an email to a friend and was chastized for doing so. So I changed my claim to “writing incorrect information that he should have checked out.”
Was I too hasty in so recanting? I really want to give George Will the benefit of the doubt!
You might find this helpful.
Hank Roberts says
Burgy, you wouldn’t be intending to claim that ‘Realclimate” says someone is a liar, would you? What you get here is opinions of guys on blogs, mostly. Please don’t assume that what you read in comments is endorsed by the people who run the site. Most of us are just readers here.
And you can find out opinions to answer your question by using Google. Try:
Jim Bouldin says
Write a Comment to JGR Atmospheres. It’s a good way to help improve peer review and not enough people are doing it:
Policy on Comments and Replies
AGU journals will consider for publication Comments on papers that have previously appeared in the journal. The Editor of the journal determines whether a Comment meets the standards for publication and may elect to decline a Comment without further consideration or require revisions before further consideration. If the Editor decides to go forward with consideration of a Comment, a Reply by the author of the paper commented upon will also be considered for publication. Both Comments and Replies will be refereed to ensure that
1. the Comment addresses significant aspects of the original paper without becoming essentially a new paper;
2. the Reply responds directly to the Comment without becoming evasive; and
3. the tone of each is appropriate for a scientific journal.
Jeffrey Park says
Interesting. The coherence between CO2 variations and global temperature was described nearly 20 years ago, and the connection to ENSO was made in subsequent papers. I notice that McLean et al 2009 dont reference either of these two papers:
C. Kuo, C. Lindberg, and D. J. Thomson, “Coherence established
between atmospheric carbon dioxide and global temperature,”
Nature, vol. 343, pp. 709–714, 1990,
Dettinger, M.D., and Ghil, M., 1998, Seasonal and interannual variations of atmospheric CO 2 concentrations and climate: Tellus 50B, 1-24.
And yes, the temperatures lead CO2 variations. This doesnt mean that a secular increase in CO2 isnt responsible for the secular warming. It means that, if ENSO warms the surface ocean at the peak of the cycle, dissolved CO2 will come out of it, or CO-uptake will occur less quickly, depending on where you are.
Kevin McKinney says
Burgy, (#13, 7/24/09) I vote for “writing incorrect information that he should have checked out.” It’s attention-getting, in a charmingly clumsy sort of way. And accurate on the face of it.
donald moore says
re:chris colose 24/7 “low level cloud feedback”.As per israel desalination systems where warm saline water meets cold nonsaline water cloud is produced which condenses into the cold water i.e.positive low level cloud feedback.But this is in closed system pacific is not closed system and has three separate wind systems .Cloud will be produced where cold meets warm and will condense in n orth pacific wind system[positive feed back]but some cloud will go into the mid pacific wind system where it will not condense but build up[negative low level cloud feedback]has any work been done on this?
“Peer review doesn’t end when something gets published–it continues in subsequent comments and articles. The public really needs to understand this.”
And such was the case with Schwartz and Chylek et al lower estimates on climate sensitivity.
The comment on Schwartz lead to a substantial upward adjustment to his estimate on his part. The errors with Chylek & Lohmann are pretty clear.
Looking at the abstract on the McLean paper, I’m wondering what’s so contentious. It seems worded a bit cleverly as to seem reasonable (ENSO is correlated with temperature variability – yeah we knew that). The recent statements by one or more of the authors are what seem really nutty.
Re: No. 5 – Chris Dudley
Eric Chaisson did some calculations that showed a worldwide massive expansion of geo thermal energy and nuclear energy would cause about 3 degrees warming.
However Chaisson clearly shows the difference between the massive input from the Sun compared with our tiny energy input. The problem he sees is the massive increase of energy use continuing (increasing 10 fold by the end of the century).
Rick Brown says
Burgy (# 13): As Joe Romm says, “If George Will quotes a lie, it’s still a lie”
John Mashey says
re: #16 Jim
So, to take a constructive action, will one or more, but not too many people (preferably AGU members), post their intent here to write such? *Somebody* should do this, to address it at the source once and for all. It’s already been blog-refuted quite adequately.
B*****t gets occasionally published in the respectable scientific journals. Tough luck. That is also the way science makes progress.
Magnus Westerstrand says
Re #5 Chris,
For more information about The Nordell paper look here:
Now are new journals always desperate for attention?
So I guess my classes will be about this… again… just when I thought I could just ignore it!
Martin Vermeer says
> have been wildly criticised
That’s just… wild… thanks for the unintentional humour ;-)
Martin Vermeer says
Chris Dudley #5:
Great minds think alike… I too noticed this paper after a denialist troll at deltoid linked to a petroleum rag mentioning it in a positive light.
My judgment on it after reading it was the same as yours. This one is even worse than the McLean et al. thingy, but then the journal is a new startup as yet without any reputation to lose.
On Tamino’s blog there is some discussion on it in the latest Open Thread. Einstein was right: the supply of human stupidity is infinite.
Martin Vermeer says
Magnus, poor you… I commiserate.
Doug Bostrom says
Magnus Westerstrand 24 Jul 2009 at 7:44 pm
“International Journal of Private Law”
“Why We Must Reach the Front Door Before the Next Car Passes the Yard”
“The Sugar Goes on the Cereal After the Milk”
(which stimulated a protracted and increasingly bitter stream of published correspondence between the author and a dissenter, ending in the launch of another publication, “The International Journal of In What Order to Assemble Bowls of Cereal”)
Makes you wonder who the reviewers were and what the backlog for the editors was.
I also another of the “cosmic rays are the cause” one in Sciencedaily. I was sure it was one of bogus denialsphere journals, and didn’t want to needlessly raise my blood pressure. But the abstract claims lightning was the mechanism.
And over at ClimateProgress Joe Romm has taken the results of the Science paper and run with it. As I don’t have access to the Science paper (I’ve only read the sciencedaily version), I didn’t want to jump in ( I like to correct misinformation -or simply reading too much into tentative data, whatever way the claim points). In any case his claim is that the article claims the only GCM which agrees with there observations has a Charney sensitivity of 4.4C. The way he says it gives the distinct impression that this new higher value is validated -and I strongly suspect the results are preliminary and tentative. Perhaps someone a bit better informed than I about the science than I should jump over there and prevent this from getting out of hand.
Steve Reynolds says
15.Hank Roberts: “Please don’t assume that what you read in comments is endorsed by the people who run the site.”
I think you can assume however that a large number of polite, on-topic, and rational comments submitted here that are disliked by the people who run the site will not appear.
Chris Dudley says
Thanks for the link. That senario has been part of SiFi plots for a while now. I seem to remember planets with radiator fins or some such. I find three problems with the paper. First, assuming albedo won’t change if we are consuming 4% of solar input is probably wrong. At that huge scale of consumption, there will be effects. Second, the US is beginning to sabilize energy consumption so it is hard to see, if there is a per capita limit to energy use somewhere around our current use, how growth in consumption would be maintained at 2% for several centuries. Third, there is a lot of worry about inefficiency in power use and production, but it is not important to the discussion since all of the power use, except for street lights and TV and FM broadcasts, gets turned into heat on the surface of the Earth. Only a little bit escapes to space in the optical or radio. So, efficient or inefficienct, it all turns to heat.
Additionally, I would not consider solar driven tides to be solar energy.
But, this paper does not seem to have the very deep conceptual flaws that the other paper has.
Philip Machanick says
It wasn’t that long back that Gavin quoted Richard Feynman on the risks of using the last data point. No doubt there will be a rebuttal of the JGR paper but you can bet Carter et al. will continue to quote it as the last word.
Barton Paul Levenson says
Gavin (the other one) says:
We know the new CO2 is coming primarily from fossil fuel burning by its radioisotope signature. We also know that the oceans are presently a net sink for CO2, not a net source. Spencer simply has the direction of causality reversed.
You have to teach a course with this guy? I think we need to give you a nice group hug …
robert davies says
Re: (4), (6) and other comments on peer-review:
In discussions with nonscience audiences, I frequently refer to peer-review as a relatively low bar, where colleagues check for obvious errors. Viewing it as a high bar, passing forward only perfect measurements and analyses, is a mistake which completely misunderstands the process, implying that scrutiny then stops. But of course, just the opposite is true: Once published, work is then exposed to the broader scientific community for more intense and probing scrutiny.
robert davies says
The text and signatories of Singer’s latest offering, petitioning the American Physical Society for a revised statement on climate change, is here:
Quoting in part:
“…measured or reconstructed temperature records indicate that 20th-21st century changes are neither exceptional nor persistent, and the historical and geological records show many periods warmer than today.”
Having reviewed most of those records personally, and having reviewed the analyses of so many sincere and talented scientists, I’m simply at a loss to understand this statement. It’s simply laughable — or would be, were it not so bizarre.
Chris Dudley says
Thanks for the link to your blog. I could not read the second link and I think that my link to the paper is not working as well. A link in this form seems to work: http://www.inderscience.com/filter.php?aid=27100 but I don’t know how to get to the same form for your link.
You’ll see that the paper is newer than the one you criticized and avoids radiative transfer arguments. I think it would be worth a new blog entry or an update. I’ve only hit the gross errors. There are likely to be more.
When you see him again, I hope you’ll mention that thermal pollution is already affecting the reliability of power generation and would be worth studying for that reason.
Chris Colose says
Thomas (#32), I have left this comment at ClimateProgress concerning the recent Science paper on low-level cloud feedback, which I already think is being over-hyped. You also cannot get a top-down estimate of climate sensitivity from this study. Also, more on Lindzen.
“I would take great care in not overselling the results of this paper. The paper provides reasonable evidence that low-level cloud feedback is positive in the Northeast Pacific (only about 115° to 145°W, 15° to 25°N) on decadal timescales. Evaluating long-term information about trends in cloud cover is very dicey right now (see Amato Evan, Heidinger, and Vimont 2007 on ISCCP data for instance), and the paper only applies to a relatively small area of the globe. What’s more, many arguments for cloud feedback (either negative or positive) focus on high clouds which influence the OLR, while this paper focuses on low clouds which influence the albedo more than other kinds.
So while independent lines of evidence may favor a positive cloud feedback (and certainly a sensitivity within the IPCC 2007 limits), this particular paper is not really a suitable reference for net positive cloud feedback on global and long-term timescales in a climate change situation, but rather is a good building block upon which further research needs to be conducted. Evaluating this cloud feedback from one model that is an outlier in this regard is not ideal either.
As far as Lindzen, I’d prefer if general comments on that paper were reserved until it’s actually published. The comments made by Lindzen at Watts Up With That uses outdated data which I discuss in detail at my website (linked above by MarkB), however the pre-print of his new GRL article to be submitted uses the more up-to-date non scanner Edition 3 data, yet the results still do not match with the comparison done by Wong et al 2006, who analyze both net radiation and ocean heat storage between models and observations. I do not believe that Lindzen applied the rev1 corrections which reduce the OLR relative to Edition3 (see Table 1 in Wong et al.) and thus may bring Lindzen’s figure 1 closer to models time series. It doesn’t effect the net however. I’ll probably look at this in more detail and correspond with authors of ERBE data in the near future, but I do not believe his analysis is going to get far in demonstrating a negative feedback.
John (Burgy) Burgeson says
In #33, one Steve Reynolds writes: “I think you can assume however that a large number of polite, on-topic, and rational comments submitted here that are disliked by the people who run the site will not appear.”
I guess I don’t assume that, Steve. I think your statement is rudely dismissive of the site owners. It tells more about you than anything else.
When I began posting on RealClimate.org, I did so as a skeptic, politely. Never was a post of mine erased. A friend of mime then posted, also a skeptic, posted very impolitely. His posts are also still in place to gaze upon.
I am still a skeptic — I think the AGW case has been proven only to the 95% level — IOW there is still a 5% chance the IPCC is getting it — or most of it — wrong. BTW, that’s just about what the IPCC says, too!
And thanks to several who answered my query on George Will’s abusmal columnn. I did check out the recommended links; there were others. George should stick to baseball!
John (Burgy) Burgeson says
I tink I just coined a new word — “abusmal.” Sure do miss the “preview function.
Hank Roberts says
Chris, thanks for the link, it’s good to see the full text.
It seems to fall apart right at the beginning:
“… Another common idea is that the net heat emissions would be emitted to space. This is partly true only in some rare cases when net heat is emitted at a high temperature.”
Uh. Citation needed. Is he assuming the planet doesn’t radiate in the infrared except from point sources hotter than the surroundings?
Martin Vermeer says
I know for a fact that you are way too pessimistic there (and your interpretation of the IPCC position not quite correct)… but even if you were right, if historically we had ignored threats proven real to less than 100%, we’d likely be having this discussion in Russian :-)
Newsflash to Burgy, he ain’t that good on baseball, either :)
Steve Reynolds says
42.John (Burgy) Burgeson: “I guess I don’t assume that, Steve. I think your statement is rudely dismissive of the site owners. It tells more about you than anything else.”
Since it does not match your personal experience and you seem unaware of the experience of many others, I guess you cannot assume that. You might be well served to check the facts before casting aspersions on me though. I have personally had many comments ‘moderated’ away (maybe some for good reason, but most not, IMO).
And compared to 4Kelvin, 200+Kelvin is pretty darn hot…
robert #39: there may be several reasons for that statement
1) (My first option) is that it is written to be dismissed. Then they can play the Gallileo card. “We’re being suppressed”. After all, it still shows “there’s questions about whether AGW is real”
2) (Less likely) it is written to delay. That’s all. Get several senators of the right mind putting pressure and they may HAVE to go through the information. And failing that could still give option #1 a go…
3) (Least likely) They do not care. Think of all the stupid lawsuits and especially the “unique” interpretation of law by SCO solicitors. The solicitors must have KNOWN they were dumb as dishwater ideas, but they were getting paid enough not to care. Even if their professional reputation was shot, they would be able to find plenty of customers for their brand of work.
Pet peeve I suppose: In the Friday round up OP, let’s not misattribute work of McLean to McClean. Honor where honor is due, complete and unadulterated ;>)