One of the most common mistakes that we have observed in discussions of climate and atmospheric change is confusion between the rather separate concepts of ozone depletion and global warming. This isn’t necessarily surprising given the scant information that most people pick up from the media. However, for many years meteorologists have been fighting a rearguard action to persuade people that the globe isn’t warming because there is more sun coming through the ozone hole. There are however important connections between the two issues that complicate potential actions that we might take to alleviate the different problems. This week, for instance, a new IPCC report was released that looked at the greenhouse warming potential of many of the replacement chemicals (HFCs and HCFCs) that were used to replace CFCs in aerosol cans and refrigeration units under the Montreal Protocol (and subsequent amendments).
Whenever three or more contrarians are gathered together, one will inevitably claim that water vapour is being unjustly neglected by ‘IPCC’ scientists. “Why isn’t water vapour acknowledged as a greenhouse gas?”, “Why does anyone even care about the other greenhouse gases since water vapour is 98% of the effect?”, “Why isn’t water vapour included in climate models?”, “Why isn’t included on the forcings bar charts?” etc. Any mainstream scientist present will trot out the standard response that water vapour is indeed an important greenhouse gas, it is included in all climate models, but it is a feedback and not a forcing. From personal experience, I am aware that these distinctions are not clear to many, and so here is a more in-depth response (see also this other attempt).
This is the first of two pieces on the recent IPCC workshop in Hawaii, This brought together independent researchers from all over the world to analyse computer model simulations of the last 150 years and to assess whether they are actually any good.
Guest commentary from Natassa Romanou (Columbia University)
During the first 3 days of March 2005, balmy downtown Honolulu in Hawaii was buzzing with agile scientists conversing, chatting, announcing, briefing and informing about IPCC assessment reports, climate models, model evaluations, climate sensitivities and feedbacks. These were the participants of the Climate Model Evaluation Project workshop (CMEP) and came here from most (if not all) the major, most prestigious climate research laboratories of the world, including; The US labs National Center for Atmospheric Research, the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory and the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the British Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction, the German Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis, the French Centre National de Recherches Meteorologiques and the IPSL/LMD/LSCE, the Australian CSIRO Atmospheric Research, the Chinese Institute of Atmospheric Physics, the Russian Institute for Numerical Mathematics and the Japanese Meteorological Research Institute. This meeting was sponsored by the benevolent NSF, NOAA, NASA and DOE.
Guest Commentary by Drew Shindell (NASA GISS)
The current winter and early spring have been extremely cold in the Arctic stratosphere, leading to the potential for substantial ozone depletion there. This has been alluded to recently in the press (Sitnews, Seattle Post Intelligencer), but what’s the likely outcome, and why is it happening?
A lot of press and commentary came out this week concerning a presentation and press release from Tim Barnett and Scripps colleagues presenting at the AAAS meeting (The Independent, John Fleck ,(and again) David Appell…etc). Why did this get so much attention given that there is no actual paper yet?
by Gavin Schmidt and Caspar Amman
Due to popular demand, we have put together a ‘dummies guide’ which tries to describe what the actual issues are in the latest controversy, in language even our parents might understand. A pdf version is also available. More technical descriptions of the issues can be seen here and here.
This guide is in two parts, the first deals with the background to the technical issues raised by McIntyre and McKitrick (2005) (MM05), while the second part discusses the application of this to the original Mann, Bradley and Hughes (1998) (MBH98) reconstruction. The wider climate science context is discussed here, and the relationship to other recent reconstructions (the ‘Hockey Team’) can be seen here.
NB. All the data that were used in MBH98 are freely available for download at ftp://holocene.evsc.virginia.edu/pub/sdr/temp/nature/MANNETAL98/ (and also as supplementary data at Nature) along with a thorough description of the algorithm.
This is just to note some personnel changes at RealClimate. Amy Clement is unfortunately too overcommitted to be able to participate as much as she would like, and so is dropping out of the team. She states: “I fully support what the contributors of RealClimate are doing. It is a real service to both the community of climate scientists and to the general public”. To balance that, we welcome aboard paleoceanographer Thibault de Garidel (Rutgers) , who some francophiles may have noticed has been helping organise the French translations of some of the posts. And of course, if there are any other scientists out there who’d like to contribute, we would love to hear from you.
Here’s a curious observation. Some commentators who for years have been vocally decrying the IPCC consensus are lining up to support the ‘Ruddiman’ hypothesis. A respected paleoceanographer, Bill Ruddiman has recently argued that humans have been altering the level of important greenhouse gases since the dawn of agriculture (5 to 8000 years ago), and in so doing have prevented a new ice age from establishing itself. This intriguing idea is laid out in a couple of recent papers (Ruddiman, 2003; Ruddiman et al, 2005) and has received a fair degree of media attention (e.g. here, and here).
by Gavin Schmidt and Stefan Rahmstorf
Two stories this week, a paper in Nature (Stainforth et al, 2005) describing preliminary results of the climateprediction.net experiments, and the Meeting the Climate Challenge report from a high level political group have lead to dramatic headlines. On the Nature paper, BBC online reported that “temperatures around the world could rise by as much as 11ºC “; on the latter report it headlined: “Climate crisis near ‘in 10 years’”. Does this mean there is new evidence that climate change is more serious than previously thought? We think not.
It just so happens that most of the posts on this site have tried to counteract arguments from those who would sow fake “uncertainty” in the climate debate. But lest our readers feel that we are unjustifiably certain about our knowledge, let us look at a recent example of the opposite tendency: too much certainty.
A recent BBC Horizon documentary (transcript) raised the issue of ‘global dimming’ and argued that this ‘killer’ phenomena’s newly-recognised existence would lead to huge re-assessments of future global warming. As part of the hyperbole, the process of global dimming was linked very clearly to the famines in Ethiopia in the 1980s and the implication was left that worse was to come. Media reports with headlines like “Fossil Fuel Curbs May Speed Global Warming” swiftly followed. So what’s the real story?