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More bubkes

Filed under: — group @ 1 July 2009 - (Chinese (simplified))

Roger Pielke Sr. has raised very strong allegations against RealClimate in a recent blog post. Since they come from a scientific colleague, we consider it worthwhile responding directly.

The statement Pielke considers “misinformation” is a single sentence from a recent posting:

Some aspects of climate change are progressing faster than was expected a few years ago – such as rising sea levels, the increase of heat stored in the ocean and the shrinking Arctic sea ice.

First of all, we are surprised that Pielke levelled such strong allegations against RealClimate, since the statement above merely summarises some key findings of the Synthesis Report of the Copenhagen Climate Congress, which we discussed last month. This is a peer-reviewed document authored by 12 leading scientists and “based on the 16 plenary talks given at the Congress as well as input of over 80 chairs and co-chairs of the 58 parallel sessions held at the Congress.” If Pielke disagrees with the findings of these scientists, you’d have thought he’d take it up with them rather than aiming shrill accusations at us. But in any case let us look at the three items of alleged misinformation:

1. Sea level. The Synthesis Report shows the graph below and concludes:

Since 2007, reports comparing the IPCC projections of 1990 with observations show that some climate indicators are changing near the upper end of the range indicated by the projections or, as in the case of sea level rise (Figure 1), at even greater rates than indicated by IPCC projections.

sea level graph

This graph is an update of Rahmstorf et al., Science 2007, with data through to the end of 2008. (Note the comparison is with IPCC TAR projections, but since AR4 projections are within 10% of the TAR models this makes little difference.)

Pielke claims this is “NOT TRUE” (capitals and bold font are his), stating “sea level has actually flattened since 2006” and pointing to this graph. This graph shows a sea level trend over the full satellite period (starting 1993) of 3.2 +/- 0.4 mm/year and is very similar to an independent French analysis of those very same satellite data shown in the Synthesis Report (blue lines above). The best estimate of the IPCC models for the same time period is 1.9 mm/year (coloured dashed lines in the middle of the grey uncertainty range). Hence the conclusion of the Synthesis Report is entirely correct.

The “flattening of sea level since 2006” that Pielke refers to is beside the point and deceptive for several reasons (note too that Anthony Watts has extended this even further to declare that sea level from 2006 to present is actually “flat”!). First of all, trends over such a short sub-interval of a few years vary greatly due to short-term natural variations, and one could get any result one likes by cherry-picking a suitable interval (as Pielke and Lomborg both have). The absurdity of this approach is see by picking an even more recent trend, say starting in June 2007, which gives 5.3+/-2.2 mm/yr! Secondly, this short-term trend (1.6 +/- 0.9 mm/yr) is not even robust across data sets – the French analysis shown above has a trend since the beginning of 2006 of 2.9 mm/year, very similar to the long-term trend. Third, the image Pielke links to shows the data without the inverted barometer correction – the brief marked peak in late 2005, which makes the visual trend (always a poor choice of statistical methodology) almost flat since then, disappears when this effect is accounted for. This means the 2005 peak was simply due to air pressure fluctuations and has nothing to do with climatic ocean volume changes. The trend from 2006 in the data with the inverse barometer adjustment is 2.1 +/- 0.8 mm/yr.

2. Ocean heat content. The Synthesis Report states:

Current estimates indicate that ocean warming is about 50% greater than had been previously reported by the IPCC.

This is a conclusion of a revised analysis of ocean heat content data by Domingues et al., Nature 2008, and it applies to the period 1961-2003 also analysed in the IPCC report. Pielke claims this is “NOT TRUE” and counters with the claim: “There has been no statistically significant warming of the upper ocean since 2003.” But again this is not relevant to the point the Synthesis Report actually makes and again, Pielke is referring to a 5-year period which is too short to obtain statistically robust trends in the presence of short-term variability and data accuracy problems (the interannual variability for instance differs greatly between different ocean heat content data sets):

Levitus et al comparison of Ocean heat content data

For good reasons, the Synthesis Report discusses a time span that is sufficiently long to allow meaningful comparisons. But in any case, the trend in from 2003 to 2008 in the Levitus data (the Domingues et al data does not extend past 2003), is still positive but with an uncertainty (both in the trend calculation and systematically) that makes it impossible to state whether there has been a significant change.

3. Arctic Sea Ice. The Synthesis Report states:

One of the most dramatic developments since the last IPCC Report is the rapid reduction in the area of Arctic sea ice in summer. In 2007, the minimum area covered decreased by about 2 million square kilometres as compared to previous years. In 2008, the decrease was almost as dramatic.

This decline is clearly faster than expected by models, as the following graph indicates.

sea ice extent time series

Pielke’s claim that this is “NOT TRUE” is merely based on the statement that “since 2008, the anomalies have actually decreased.”

Yes, same thing again: Pielke’s argument is beside the point, since the Synthesis Report is explicitly talking about the summer sea ice minimum reached each September in the Arctic, and we don’t even know yet what its value will be for 2009. And Pielke is again referring to a time span (“since 2008”!) that is far too short to have much to do with climatic trends.

We thus have to conclude that there are no grounds whatsoever for Pielke’s wild allegations against us and implicitly the Synthesis Report authors. The final sentence of his post ironically speaks for itself:

Media and policymakers who blindly accept these claims are either naive or are deliberately slanting the science to promote their particular advocacy position.


345 Responses to “More bubkes”

  1. 151
    Henry Molvar says:

    Reply to 66 “The forcing by Pinatubo…”

    After 9/11 there were no jet aircraft flights for a few days. Did the lack of contrails during that time provide any insight to the effect of clouds on surface temperature?

  2. 152
    L. David Cooke says:

    RE: 138

    Hey Sidd,

    Sorry, I inadvertently picked up the exponent from the earlier post you corrected, my error. This time I am off by a factor of 100 my apologies.

    Dave Cooke

  3. 153
    SecularAnimist says:

    Gary Herstein wrote: “… can you name a single Zen master who has made a substantive contribution to science?”

    Actually, research in monitoring the brain waves of highly-trained Zen meditators has made substantive contributions to neuroscience.

    Kevin McKinney wrote: “… do you really mean that ego is as necessary as eating?”

    Generating an “ego” is a natural activity of the human brain — for most people, prolonged fasting would be easier than to stop “egoing” even for a short time! And a healthy ego is an important social adaptation, without which we would have difficulty functioning in human society.

    What “Zen masters” understand is that just as your fist is not a thing but an action, the “ego” is also an ephemeral phenomenon — indeed, an ephemeral aggregation of interacting phenomena — and identifying with it and grasping at it as though it were a real, permanent “self” only leads to suffering.

    With regard to the discussion of scientific “ego”, it seems the key point is to avoid identifying with and clinging to one’s ideas as though they were part of a “self” that must be defended.

  4. 154
    EL says:

    Mark – “NOTE: being superior in education to the less educated isn’t a delusion. Nor is it a particularly dangerous scenario.”

    Ramanujan had little education, and he contributed much to mathematics. Evariste Galois died at 20 in a dual, and he barely got to study as an undergraduate. He produced some of the most amazing mathematical works in all of history.

    Education certainly does have its advantages, but it does not make a person superior over a less educated person. To quote Albert Einstein, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Either way, it is beside the point. When people allow their egos to develop to the point that they have closed their minds, then they are blinded by their own egos.

    Mark Says: “And having to eat interferes with finding the truth, over and over.”

    I don’t think you understand the meaning of the point. If you believe so strongly that your view of the world is superior to everyone else, you will fail to see reason and truth. For example, you may declare that the world is flat. If someone presents evidence that the world is round, you would respond that they are stupid. As such, you are blinded by your own ego.

  5. 155
    Mark says:

    “Mark – “NOTE: being superior in education to the less educated isn’t a delusion. Nor is it a particularly dangerous scenario.”

    Ramanujan had little education…”

    Which doesn’t prove that being superior in education to the less educated is a delusion, nor that it is a particularly dangerous scenario.

  6. 156
    Mark says:

    “Did the lack of contrails during that time provide any insight to the effect of clouds on surface temperature?”

    Contrails != Clouds.

    One comes from the jet engine and one doesn’t.

    It’s quite an important point…

  7. 157
    Ray Ladbury says:

    EL quotes ol’ Al Einstein, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

    Fine, but given that the denialists have shown neither… This is not a matter of belief. It is a matter of hard evidence. On one side you have a theory that can explain a tremendous amount about how Earth’s climate behaves. It has an unfortunate implication that we are screwing up the climate. On the other side you have no theories, no evidence, no consistent positions–just the same old, bulllet-riddled corpeses of arguments. Zombie arguments. I see nothing worthy of respect in a position that demands that one deny evidence.

  8. 158
    Mark says:

    “with and clinging to one’s ideas as though they were part of a “self” that must be defended.”

    And this is what EL never proved had happened.

    Just wibbled on how I had an Ego (I thought we ALL had an ego, along with the Id and super-ego…)

  9. 159
    Ron Crouch says:

    Roger says: “sea level has actually flattened since 2006”.

    Has it? Depends upon one’s “perspective”.

    Roger says: “There has been no statistically significant warming of the upper ocean since 2003.”

    So what? Misleading. The overall trend even since 2003 is still upwards, but then again it all boils down to one’s “perspective”.

    Roger says: “since 2008, the anomalies have actually decreased.”

    Again so what? Meaningless and misleading. It is “faster” than model projections. Something about — “perspective”.

  10. 160
    G. Karst says:

    Ron Broberg 3 July 2009 at 11:50 AM :

    Thanks for your suggestions concerning how I should spend my time. The graphs you are requesting have been done by many other organizations and people. If the NSIDC data has no significance, why did you feel it required criticism and your expert advice. Seems like it was important to you.

    In regards to your comment on moisture levels with warming, there has only been one study based on absolute humidity and precipitation observations during a known warming period.

    [Response: You are mistaken. There have been dozens of such studies. See IPCC AR4 Chapter 3 for an overview. – gavin]

    “And as the air, earth and sea warms with climate change the atmospheric water vapor load increases by as much as 6.5 percent per degree Celsius, according to satellite data from the past 20 years. As the water vapor increases, so, too, will rainfall, argues physicist Frank Wentz, director of Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) in Santa Rosa, Calif., a provider of climate data records contracted by NASA. ”

    No one can yet say where this increase in rainfall will fall. I am sure your opinion that it will only fall where it is already falling counts with some. However, I prefer observational data to models.

  11. 161
    David Wilson says:

    I know it may not be quite your area but … there are reports that burning in the Amazon are waaay down, based on some NASA photographs … the equipment is called “Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI)” and I thought you might know how ozone relates to forest burning, and also any insight on how confident we could be based on this reporting? it is posted at

    [Response: Seems valid – and is clearly good news. There is a partial temperature/drought connection to forest fires (wetter and cooler are associated unsurprisingly with reduced wildfires), but the story seems to suggest this is a minor point in the Amazon. – gavin]

  12. 162
    Ron Broberg says:

    @Kühn:62 re sea level

    Long term trends in sea level rise cluster around 1.8mm/year. Very roughly half of what current rate of sea level rise with a 15 year trend at 3.2mm/year.

    Is the recent 15 year trend just noise in the longer signal or the start of a new trend?

  13. 163
    Doug Bostrom says:

    #151 Henry Molvar, #156 Mark:

    As it turns out, contrails do seem to be initiators for larger clouds. A nice little discussion here:

    Henry, see this:

    Travis’ estimates have been challenged but there does appear to be at least a little “there, there”.

    When looking for contrail info, beware of “chemtrails”, a whole species on its own of conspiracy theory.

  14. 164
    Ron Broberg says:


    “If the NSIDC data has no significance, why did you feel it required criticism and your expert advice. Seems like it was important to you.”

    Not so much important as an opportunity for play. I enjoy a good game of whack-a-troll as much anyone. ;-)

    “No one can yet say where this increase in rainfall will fall.”

    With 100% certainity – of course not. But in this study, modeled circulation changes completely dominated simple increases in humidity.

    To understand the cause of the precipitation anomalies that develop within the super-ensemble we also compute the terms in the vertically integrated model moisture budget separately for each ensemble member using data on the model’s hybrid-sigma vertical grid. The moisture budget terms were separated into a contribution from the change in circulation operating on the climatological humidity and a contribution from the climatological circulation operating on the change in humidity as well as the nonlinear cross term. It was found that the circulation change term was overwhelmingly dominant over the term involving the humidity change.

    Mexican drought, climate variability and climate change
    Seager, 2009

  15. 165
    Mark says:

    “As it turns out, contrails do seem to be initiators for larger clouds. A nice little discussion here:”

    Uhm, as far as I can read it, it’s that places where clouds would like to form also help the formation of contrails.

    However, contrails still aren’t clouds. Therefore expecting too much from them is optimistic at best.

    All you can really say is that clouds at the height of contrails and as thick as contrails have probably the same effect as contrails.

    But there’s far more to clouds than wispy cirrocumulus.

  16. 166
    Hank Roberts says:
    (Cited by 53 papers, q.v.)

    Isn’t science wonderful? It gives us the opportunity to be wrong and learn something new, every day:

    contrails -> clouds!

  17. 167
    Hank Roberts says:

    PS–to answer one possible argument in advance, one could argue that something may look like a cloud and act like a cloud, but if it’s anthropogenic it’s not a real cloud.

    Let’s not.

    It will save time if we can work with the IPCC definitions:

    “… The positive trend in cirrus in areas of high aircraft traffic seems to have contrasted a general negative trend in cirrus. Extrapolation in time to cover the entire period of aircraft operations and in space to cover the global scale yields a best estimate of 0.05 Wm?2 for the radiative forcing due to aircraft. This is close to the value given by IPCC (1999) as an upper limit.”

  18. 168

    Katz says

    … Some people were by our county looking at caves for sequestering CO2. Instead of storing it in caves, which seems like a bit of a waste. Why don’t they release it in the rainforests, or orchards? Trees and plants are nature’s recyclers, they could use that CO2 and produce more O. Instead of redistibuting income, you are redistributing CO2 from the places that don’t need it to the places that do. You get stronger, healthier plants, less CO2 and more O. Why are we storing CO2 in caves.

    If you look up the Keeling curve, you will find that every year it has an up part and a down part. The down part is where the northern hemisphere’s trees and plants are taking advantage of northern hemisphere summer and doing their level best to take out CO2.

    They get it almost back down to where it was the year before, and then winter comes and they die, or drop their leaves, and they or the leaves decompose, and all the CO2 they had grabbed in the summer, they let slip back into the atmosphere. (Northern hemisphere winter is southern hemisphere summer, but there isn’t so much land there, and so not so many trees.). Meanwhile, our fires have been putting CO2 into the atmosphere in winter, and putting CO2 into the atmosphere in summer. Trees can’t keep up.

    No-one is putting more than a pound or two of CO2 in caves, but thousands of tonnes are being captured above-ground, permanently, as a side effect of certain mining operations. If serious concern about excess atmospheric CO2 arises, this will be done on purpose, with peridotite or dunite or some other alkaline earth silicate rock type.

    (How fire can be domesticated)

  19. 169
    isotopious says:


    So the short-term is not important in this context? I would have thought (isotopious opines) the short-term phenomena contains ALL the relevant data. After all, the long-term trend is simply a string of short-term events.

  20. 170
    Katz says:

    Thank you for taking the time to answer my question.

  21. 171
    Howard Hawhee says:

    re gavin’s inline response to #22 above (“all politicians have political reasons for what they do”):
    …and it bears reminding ourselves that just because a politician says something for political reasons, that fact does not invalidate whatever the politician said. Just because many of the professional deniers are backed by the oil/gas/automotive industries does not in and of itself invalidate what the deniers are saying. Just because Al Gore probably had political reasons for An Inconvenient Truth does not invalidate his point either.

  22. 172

    Both sides of te debate tend to charry pick. One of the problems with the climate debate is that relevant scientifically acceptable measurements only go back for a couple of centuries and satellite measurements for a few decades. What records there are tends to suggest that recent rates of change are not exceptional. For Sea Levels see:
    For tropical cyclones see:
    For the rate of change of temperature see:
    Which also shows that models underestimated the natural warming at the start of the last century and failed to model the mid-century cooling.

  23. 173
    Brian Dodge says:

    I downloaded the last 13 days of Arctic Ice extent from the IJIS website and compared it to the same period in 2008. The average difference is +0.678 percent, with a standard deviation of 0.212. the difference between 2008/07/02 and 2009/07/02 is 0.646 percent. The average daily decline from 2009/06/20 to 2009/07/02 is 0.687 percent, stdev 0.189. The current sea ice extent is ~ 10% below the 1979-2000 average It would have been more accurate for him to say “Since 2008, the anomalies have actually decreased by 0.646 percent, or about a days worth of melt, compared to about 10 percent less than the 1979-2000 average.”

  24. 174
    Doug Bostrom says:

    #165 Mark:

    “However, contrails still aren’t clouds. Therefore expecting too much from them is optimistic at best.”

    Expecting what, pray tell?

    You have very low opacity, very low and flat refractive index.

  25. 175
    Ike Solem says:

    L.D.Cooke, find some references to support your claims or, failing, that, admit that they are nonsensical.

    Considering the number of times my detailed comments on the AMO and PDO have been blocked by site administrators, I’m not commenting on that anymore, as requested – except to repeat that the evidence is about as slim as that for a similar phenomenon, the shut down of the “Atlantic Conveyor Belt” – didn’t the models predict that as well?

    The point here is that sometimes scientists are wrong. For another example, about ten years ago, as I recall, I was listening to a bunch of very cocksure glaciologists loudly ridiculing claims of rapid ice melt, the breakup of Antarctic shelves, etc. They thought that ice sheets behaved like bigger versions of ice cubes… “It’ll take a thousand years”, they sneered. Seriously, that was the attitude at the time – and I’m not exaggerating the sneers, either.

    The relevant quote here is “I wouldn’t want to fly in a modeled airplane – I’d worry to much about what was left out” – which doesn’t mean that models aren’t useful. These ‘quibbles’ only affect the rate of change of climate, not the overall conclusions on the effects of doubling CO2. Regardless, sensitive dependence on initial conditions is quite real and does affect the oceans as well as the atmosphere – I’ll leave it at that.

    And no, you cannot capture and bury the carbon from the world’s coal-fired power plants and bury it in the ground – that’s just bogus propaganda put out by the fossil fuel lobby with the assistance of Team Lysenko – and there’s no doubt that Lysenkoism is alive and well in the U.S. academic system, just with a slightly different emphasis.

    Irritation seems to be winning out over politeness, I’m afraid.

    What you can do to address this particular problem (atmospheric CO2 accumulation) is build up solar and wind and fossil fuel free agriculture, using targeted government programs that provide a leveling playing field for renewable entrepreneurs – but to do that, you’d have to strip away the subsidies from fossil fuel interests, and that process is controlled by politicians who get their campaign warchests from those who benefit the most from a fossil fuel-addicted economy. Obama is little different from Bush in that respect – one was backed by big finance and the oil lobby, the other by big finance and the coal lobby – that’s Texas and Illinois for you.

    For example, in world war II the U.S. was able to increase production of aviation fuel 15-fold in four years by building dozens of 100-octane plants at record speed – you could easily do the same with wind, solar and fossil fuel-free biofuels – but for that to happen, we’d apparently have to have the Nazis breathing down our necks.

    What we have instead is a farce of a climate bill (still worth passing), bad media coverage, idiotic ‘solutions’ like clean coal backed by economists untrained in basic thermodynamics, and a whole host of fellow travelers in academia who’ve learned not to state the obvious facts in order to protect their career prospects. Yes, it really is that bad.

    Truly ridiculous – even recaptcha agrees: “smarted laughter”

  26. 176

    Anne T. Cyclone (get it? Get it?) writes:

    One of the problems with the climate debate is that relevant scientifically acceptable measurements only go back for a couple of centuries and satellite measurements for a few decades.

    I think the ice cores go back 800,000 years, Anne. And of course there are many measurements before that for assorted individual episodes.

    What records there are tends to suggest that recent rates of change are not exceptional.

    This is completely wrong. Where did you get that idea?

  27. 177
    Mark says:

    “You have very low opacity, very low and flat refractive index.”

    And you have a weird brain if you think that means anything.

    I’m not a cloud either.

  28. 178
    Mark says:

    “Just because many of the professional deniers are backed by the oil/gas/automotive industries does not in and of itself invalidate what the deniers are saying”

    But spouting the same old tired rubbish or stuff that is untrue DOES invalidate what the deniers say.

    E.g. “It’s been a cooling TREND since 1998”. Wrong. It’s colder now than it was in 1998, but that doesn’t mean the trend is cooling. Some leave off the trend and have it implied. This is weasel wording.

    This sort of thing does invalidate what the deniers say.

  29. 179
    Mark says:

    “I would have thought (isotopious opines) the short-term phenomena contains ALL the relevant data”

    And it is your opinion. It just happens to be wrong.

    If you shorten your sample for averaging, you increase your error. Therefore if the error margin for 95% confidence still includes the old figure for the average trend, there’s no statistically significant change in the trend.

    Just because the dice rolled a 6 doesn’t mean it must be loaded now.

  30. 180
    Mark says:

    “contrails -> clouds!”

    And there’s a cloud of smoke coming from the car exhaust.

    So is that a meteorological cloud?

    There’s a cloud of dust when I beat the welcome mat to remove the dirt.

    Is that a meteorological cloud?

  31. 181

    Re Brian’s current #173–Yes, and it’s interesting that 2007 and 2008 both ran higher that 2005 or 2006 at this point in the season, and by considerably higher margins than the differences Brian sets forth. Yet both years had huge declines later in the season, setting those shocking minima. We’ll see if that pattern holds this year.

  32. 182
  33. 183
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Isotopious says “Ray,
    So the short-term is not important in this context? I would have thought (isotopious opines) the short-term phenomena contains ALL the relevant data. After all, the long-term trend is simply a string of short-term events.”

    Right, so based on the trend over the last 5 hours (from 3 AM to 8 AM), which shows a temperature rise of about 3 degrees C, are you going to posit that a cup of water left outside will boil in 3 days?

    In looking at climate trends, you are of necessity looking at effects that are important more than 30 years in the future. By definition, that excludes short-term trends, and since short-term trends can swamp long-term trends in the SHORT TERM, it doesn’t make sense to look at short trends. Do you decide what to do with your stock portfolio based on 3 month performance?

  34. 184

    Actually, reviewing today’s update, I find I misspoke slightly: it was just about this point in the season that 2007’s extent really started to crash–July 3 was the first day for which 2007 set the lowest extent for a particular date. It’s also the first day that this year has tracked below 2005, for what that’s worth.

    Since I’m obviously going to get sucked into the spectator sport of ice-melt watching again this year, I took 40 minutes or so to download the IJIS data into Excel and format it into a table facilitating quick year-to-year comparisons. I’ll share with anyone who wants to save the 40 minutes–just e-mail me a request, though you’ll probably have to wait ’til next week for a response as I’m about to head out to the lake.

  35. 185
    rokko says:

    #165 Mark:

    contrails have a liitle cooling effekt during daytime and e little warming during nights. netto they will have a very small warming effekt.
    after 9.11 some people think that because of missing contrails it was getting warmer. the us t became in some areas warmer, but only in reason of chanching weather conditions, like we find it almost every week in an region like the us.

  36. 186
    Henry Molvar says:

    Doug #163, 174. Mark #165. Hank #166 & 167

    Thanks for responding.

  37. 187
    Sekerob says:

    Brian Dodge said or about a days worth of melt,

    2008 was a leap year :D

    ReCaptcha: journalist’s screamed

  38. 188
    Alex Harvey says:

    Hi Stephan,

    In response to my post at #109 3 July 2009 at 2:51 AM you wrote:

    To me as a scientist the worst kind of ad-hominem attack is if someone accuses me in public of spreading “misinformation”, since this insinuates a deliberate deception and by suggesting sinister motives aims to undermine my personal credibility, which is the most cherished thing for any scientist. Had Pielke said “I disagree with your conclusions”, that would have been entirely different.

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but you seem to be confusing the word “misinformation” — which implies only error — with “disinformation” — which implies a deliberate attempt to mislead. Quoting Wikipedia: “Misinformation is false or inaccurate information that is spread unintentionally. It is distinguished from disinformation by motive in that misinformation is simply erroneous, while disinformation, in contrast, is intended to mislead.” I guess it’s true that people often say ‘misinformation’ when they really mean ‘disinformation’ but you’d have to be fair and admit that Pielke probably knew the sense of the word he chose.

    So to reiterate, people like me can easily understand the points Pielke makes. Or at least it’s easy for us to think we do. Anyone can have a look at the various publicly available temperature charts to see for ourselves that temperatures really haven’t gone up since 1998. We can see the same about ocean heat content. And so on. There may be a finer argument about the underlying trends and statistical significance and so forth, but who amongst us knows what a “trend” is anyway?

    But — but — but — when we come here and find hundreds of commenters attacking Pielke’s character, calling him names, and mocking him and we still have those arguments that he made in our minds that we did understand — can you not see the effect this has on the average skeptic? These ad-homs might make the commenters feel good, but they also make the skeptics feel right.

    Myself, I would like to see Pielke debated, not insulted; and not ridiculed. I would like to see his actual arguments refuted because I want certainty on the issue of climate change.

    The few genuine attempts in this thread of responding to his arguments without any name calling have been entirely drowned out in the noise of battle cries “Denier!” “Down with Pielke!” Thus, in the eyes of this viewer, Pielke has won the exchange.

    Kind regards,

  39. 189

    Barton Paul Levenson questions my comment “that scientifically acceptable measurements only go back for a couple of centuries “. As he probably realised I should have specified “instrumental measurements of climate parameters.” Sediments and other proxies, do of course, go back for millions of years.
    Barton also questions the source of data I cited from . All sources are given on the site. The data showing that the 10 year rate of sea level of rise is similar to that in the past is cited as: “The data for two independently calculated sea level series based on tide gauges were downloaded from: (References: Jevrejeva, S., A. Grinsted, J. C. Moore, and S. Holgate (2006), “Nonlinear trends and multiyear cycles in sea level records”, J. Geophys. Res., 111 and Church, J. A., and N. J. White (2006), A 20th century acceleration in global sea-level rise”, Geophys. Res. Lett., 33)”
    The data showing no trend in hurricanes is based on the file tracks_atl downloaded from The data on the files derives from NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division.
    The graph showing that the rate of rise of temperature is similar now to that in the 1920s and 30s is based on the HadCRUTv3 data set. The line on the same graph showing that GCMs did not represent that rate of temperature rise or the subsequent cooling is based on the sub-set of models tabulated by the IPCC “General Guidelines on the Use of Scenario Data for Climate Impact and Adaptation Assessment”, Version 2, June 2007.
    The site seems to me to be genuine attempt to present facts in as neutral a way as possible. It is well known that many of the public remain sceptical in spite of the evidence and I believe one of the reasons is that they feel, with some justification, that the facts have been oversold.

  40. 190
    Hank Roberts says:

    Mark, I suggested the IPCC definitions be used to save you this effort.
    Words are always arguable.
    Definitions resolve arguments about words for specific purposes.
    The IPCC definition of clouds does not include the dust you raise.
    The IPCC definition of clouds includes cirrus associated with aircraft.
    No problem.

    Of course if you _want_ a problem, we can argue about it. Not here, please. Start a blog?

  41. 191
    MarkB says:

    One discussion theme in comments here: Can someone be a good scientist if he/she has an ego? As pointed out earlier, some of the greatest and most brilliant scientists have had large egos. On the other hand, the following provocative comment is evidence of ego and arrogance, but is not backed by a cogent argument…

    “Media and policymakers who blindly accept these claims are either naive or are deliberately slanting the science to promote their particular advocacy position.”

    …or in other words, if you don’t agree with this person’s arguments, you’re stupid or dishonest. This comment wouldn’t be so ridiculous if the person making it was able to back it up with clear irrefutable evidence. Such a comment wouldn’t be so out of place if some individual had stated something like “global temperatures are roughly where they were in the mid-20th century.” (Alan Carlin) Even then, the comments would be unnecessary.

    What’s many times more important than ego is the quality of an argument. If we remove Pielke’s comment above or “misinformation” from his post and simply compare arguments, most objective observers would reward all debate points to RealClimate, as the argument Pielke is making is very weak (and not indicative of the quality of work he’s done over the years).

    Another issue is with how perceived ego or arrogance has on the casual observer, or general public. Alex Harvey (#109) implies that shrillness or ad hominens (such as comments by Pielke) could be a turn-off to individuals who don’t necessarily fully understand the arguments being presented. If this was true, sites like WattsUpWithThat wouldn’t be very popular, as many posts are filled with shrill ad hominens (both by the presenter and those commenting) and charges that the entire climate science community is perpetuating a hoax. Surely that should be a turn-off that would cause casual observers to be more skeptical of such a website. ClimateAudit routinely contains charges of bias and fraud, but continues to get plenty of web traffic. Using an analogous example, U.S. political talk show host Rush Limbaugh would not be so popular if he toned down the rhetoric and certainly many of his spurious charges are accepted by a very large portion of the population.

    While arrogance can be a turn-off to some, it’s also viewed as confidence by others. Someone who can state falsities forcefully is often more convincing than someone who tells the truth humbly. Even more convincing to some is a variety of people stating and repeating the same falsities forcefully. How many individuals are going around echoing Pielke’s recent argument? How many of them would be doing this if Pielke didn’t include the terms “misinformation” and the provocative line “Media and policymakers who blindly accept these claims are either naive or are deliberately slanting the science to promote their particular advocacy position.”?

  42. 192
    MarkB says:

    EL writes:

    “For example, you may declare that the world is flat. If someone presents evidence that the world is round, you would respond that they are stupid. As such, you are blinded by your own ego.”

    In this case, Pielke appears to be on the “flat-Earth” side – making a very poor argument and declaring those who don’t agree with him naive or dishonest.

    Of course, this swings both ways. Someone might argue that the Earth is flat and calmly present some information that might look like good evidence to someone with no knowledge of science. Someone might refute this argument then say those making such an argument are naive. While that might be indicative of ego, it does not imply ego is always blinding. The quality of argument is always vastly more important.

  43. 193
    rokko says:

    why are politicans not interrested in easy solutions?

    one very usefull way to reduce karbon emissions ist to put very high taxes on electric energie,

    and at the same time we reduce taxes on work.

    for the citizen it should be egual, if they dont waste energie like today, but easy in handling and for the industrie you create much more employment, the energie costs go up, but the costs for emploies go down. if you find the right relation, you can create big business and prosperity.

    but, are the goverments realy interrestet in growing prosperity for us?

  44. 194
    Hank Roberts says:

    > shutdown … didn’t the models predict that ….?

    Some, remembering prediction in science is probability not certainty:


    “… To evaluate the risk of such events it is not enough to compute a few ‘best guess’ projections of future climate change.”

    2007: Wally Was Right: Predictive Ability of the North Atlantic “Conveyor Belt” Hypothesis for Abrupt Climate Change
    Richard B. Alley, Climate Change: State of the Art (2001-2007)

    “… Linked, abrupt changes of North Atlantic deep water formation, North Atlantic sea ice extent, and widespread climate occurred repeatedly during the last ice age cycle and beyond in response to changing freshwater fluxes and perhaps other causes. This paradigm, developed and championed especially by W.S. Broecker, has repeatedly proven to be successfully predictive as well as explanatory with high confidence. Much work remains to fully understand what happened and to assess possible implications for the future, but the foundations for this work are remarkably solid.”

  45. 195
    Doug Bostrom says:

    #180 Mark:

    The point you’d get if you took a look at the literature is, contrails or that is to say the –contents– of contrails appear to nucleate clouds that can become far larger than the original contrail.

    I imagine if you had a flying car and operated it at the correct altitude you might make little contrails of your own. They might become larger than intuitively seems possible. If you had a magic carpet and beat it out at that altitude, maybe the same? Though beating the magic carpet you’re riding at high altitude seems unwise.

    I’m sorry I called you transparent, you’re not.

  46. 196
    Hank Roberts says:

    Alex, putting words in quotes means someone said them–besides you.
    Who told you someone here said those things?
    Why do you trust your source so much you don’t check what they say?

    Please do better. This may help:

    The quotation mark has only a couple simple rules, but many still manage to misuse it (see The Gallery of “Misused” Quotation Marks….

  47. 197
    Doug Bostrom says:

    #193 Rokko:

    “one very usefull way to reduce karbon emissions ist to put very high taxes on electric energie, and at the same time we reduce taxes on work.”

    I believe that horrible devil Al Gore has proposed exactly that. Eminently sensible, but it would change the vector of cash flow so instead of discussing his suggestion we instead are treated to idiotic remarks about how fat he is.

  48. 198
    tamino says:

    Re: #188 (Alex Harvey)

    You’re quite right that the arguments put forth by Pielke make sense to most lay readers. The arguments which refute him depend on the proper statistical treatment of data — and there are few faster and surer ways to make lay readers roll their eyes and stop paying attention, than to start talking about statistical subtleties. We expect that the lay public, simply looking at a graph, might draw the same conclusions, and that Pielke’s statements will “ring true” with such readers.

    The reason we’re outraged at Pielke is that he has been a working scientist; as such he’s supposed to know better. In fact I presume he does know better. This means that he’s deliberately taking advantage of you; he relies on your statistical naivete, because without it you’d see right through his claims.

    He has so little respect for your intellect that he expects you not to know better and he relies on you not to bother to investigate. As poorly as he’s treated Gavin with his latest posts, he’s shown even more disrespect to you (and your fellow lay public). I hope you come to realize this — in which case, you just might be even more outraged than any of us.

  49. 199
    Ron Broberg says:

    @Anne:189 re sea levels

    Thank you for supplying the sources; I enjoyed reading them:

    Jevrejeva 2006 says However, we show that over the last 100 years the rate of 2.5 ± 1.0 mm/yr occurred between 1920 and 1945, is likely to be as large as the 1990s, and resulted in a mean sea level rise of 48 mm.
    Nonlinear trends and multiyear cycles in sea level records

    And Church 2006 says Between 1930 and 1960, GMSL rises faster than the quadratic curve at a rate of about 2.5 mm/yr (Figure 2c), following (with about a 20 year lag) the 1910 to 1940 period of more rapid global temperature rise [Folland et al., 2001]. Variability in GMSL trends prior to 1930 are not significant. After 1960, there are minima in the rates of rise in the 1960s and 1980s, each followed by more rapid rates of rise peaking at over 3 mm/yr), consistent with Holgate and Woodworth [2004]. From 1993, the rates of rise estimated from tide gauge and altimeter data (after correction for GIA effects [Douglas and Peltier, 2002]) are about 3 mm/yr [Leuliette et al., 2004; Church et al., 2004], faster than the quadratic (about 2.3 mm/yr) at this time. …

    So is the current 1980-2009 sea level rate of +3.2mm/year anomalous when compared to earlier 20th Century peak trends maxing out around 2.5mm/year? Hard to say yet. The error both authors give for tidal series is about +/- 1mm/year. But its pushing up against that envelope, isn’t it?

  50. 200
    Ron Crouch says:

    Talk about cherry picking. Roger chose the only graph (one of four) that might even look close to a flattening in sea level rise (seasonal signals removed, inverse barometer not applied).

    Look here for yourself.University of Colorado at Boulder Sea level change.

    Meanwhile the graph (inverse barometer applied, seasonal signals removed) appears to me to tell a different story altogether (that perspective thing again). Even the two graphs (seasonal signals included, inverse barometer not applied, and, seasonal signals included, inverse barometer applied) appear to tell a different story. The claim does not appear to be supported in whole by me. Very misleading.

    From the Earth Observatory NASA.
    “The same flaws in the XBT data that affected Willis’ ocean heat maps showed up in the long-term historical trend (light blue). After applying a correction, the historical record shows a relatively steady increase in line with what’s shown by climate models. The remaining short-term variability is as likely to be natural variation, such as El Niño, as noise in the data.”

    So while Roger’s contention that there has been no statistically supported increase in Ocean Heat Content since 2003 may in part be true for the short term, it is misleading from two perspectives. One being that establishing some sort of trend for Ocean Heat Content from a five year period is absurd, and, failure to take natural variation, “noise”, such as El Nino into account (El Nino being something that the models don’t reproduce well). The long term trend thus reflects a continuing upward movement.