As a prelude to a new book, Nigel Calder (who was the editor of New Scientist for four years in the 1960s) has written an op-ed for the Times (UK) basically recapitulating the hype over the Svensmark cosmic ray/climate experiments we reported on a couple of month ago (see Taking Cosmic Rays for a spin). At the time we pointed out that while the experiments were potentially of interest, they are a long way from actually demonstrating an influence of cosmic rays on the real world climate, and in no way justify the hyperbole that Svensmark and colleagues put into their press releases and more ‘popular’ pieces. Even if the evidence for solar forcing were legitimate, any bizarre calculus that takes evidence for solar forcing of climate as evidence against greenhouse gases for current climate change is simply wrong. Whether cosmic rays are correlated with climate or not, they have been regularly measured by the neutron monitor at Climax Station (Colorado) since 1953 and show no long term trend. No trend = no explanation for current changes.
WSJ Editorial Board: Head Still Buried in the Sand
While the rest of the world has basically accepted the conclusion of the latest IPCC report, one small village still holds out against the tide – the Wall Street Journal editorial board. This contrasts sharply with the news section of the paper which is actually pretty good. They had a front-page piece on business responses to global warming issues which not only pointed out that business was taking an interest in carbon reduction, but the article more or less took as a given that the problem was real. However, as we have pointed out before, the editorial pages operate in a universe all their own.
This would not be of much concern if the WSJ wasn’t such an influential paper in the US. However, the extent of its isolation on this issue is evident from the amusing reliance on the error-prone Christopher Monckton. They quote him saying that the sea level rise predictions were much smaller than in IPCC TAR (no they weren’t), that the human contribution to recent changes has been ‘cut by a third’ (no it hasn’t), and that the Summary for Policy Makers (SPM) was written by politicians (no it wasn’t – the clue is in the name).
Even more wrong is the claim that “the upcoming report is also missing any reference to the infamous ‘hockey stick’ “. Not only are the three original “hockey stick” reconstructions from the IPCC (2001) report shown in the (draft) paleoclimate chapter of the new report, but they are now joined by 9 others. Which is why the SPM comes to the even stronger conclusion that recent large-scale warmth is likely to be anomalous in the context of at least the past 1300 years, and not just the past 1000 years.
Thus on any index of wrongness, this WSJ editorial scores pretty high. What puzzles us is why their readership, who presumably want to know about issues that might affect their bottom line, tolerate this rather feeble denialism. While we enjoy pointing out their obvious absurdities, their readers would probably be better off if the WSJ accepted Jeffery Sachs’ challenge. For if they can’t be trusted to get even the basic checkable facts right on this issue, why should any of their opinions be taken seriously?
Quick pre-SPM round-up
Tomorrow is the big day for all IPCC-watchers (and we’ll comment then) but in the meantime here are a few interesting tidbits floating around today.
First off, there are some curious patterns in the whitehouse.gov search engine. It turns out that it has been blocked from returning most results if the search phrase includes “global warming” – even if it’s from the President himself. For instance, searching for “issue of global” gives as top result the President’s Rose Garden speech in June 2001 on Global Climate Change, but searching for “issue of global warming” (which of course is the full phrase used) returns nothing. Hmmm…..
Secondly, Bill Nye (‘the underprepared science guy’) had a rather rough time of it up against Richard Lindzen on Larry King last night – an episode notable only for the regression back to the ‘false balance’ notion that most of the media has been moving away from (sigh…). However, tucked away at the end was a rather confused section, where it appears that Lindzen bet Nye that ice cores don’t have a resolution better than 2000 years. Now this is an odd claim, and an odder thing to bet on, since Greenland cores (GRIP, GISP2) and Antarctic cores (EPICA DML) have sub-annual resolution in many cases for the isotope (temperature) records, and at least decadal resolution (Law Dome, Siple Dome) for the greenhouse gases (CO2, CH4). It’s true that the very longest records (Vostok and Dome-C) have coarser resolution, but surely Lindzen doesn’t think they are the only ones that exist? So, to make up for Nye’s performance, he should at least get a quality bottle of scotch. Bill, let us know if Lindzen pays up!
Finally, there is an excellent article on the sausage making going on in Paris… more on that tomorrow.
House and Senate committee hearings
There are two hearings today from the new congress that are of relevance for RealClimate readers:
The House Oversight Committee is having hearings on the possible suppression of climate change science by the administration (streaming from here). Witnesses include Drew Shindell (NASA GISS), Roger Pielke Jr. and R. Piltz. Update: Full hearing video available at C-SPAN.
The Senate EPW Committee is having an open forum for senators to discuss climate change legislation (streaming from here).
The Human Hand in Climate Change
Kerry Emanuel (whose influential scientific work we’ve discussed here previously) has written a particularly lucid and poignant popular article on climate change for the literary forum “Boston Review”. The article is entitled Phaeton’s Reins: The human hand in climate change. We thought it worth passing along.
Consensus as the New Heresy
Gavin Schmidt, Michael Mann, David Archer, Stefan Rahmstorf, William Connolley, and Raymond Bradley
Andy Revkin, who’s one of the best journalists on the climate beat, wrote a curious piece in the NY Times discussing the ‘middle stance’ of the climate debate. It’s nice to see news pieces on climate that aren’t breathless accounts of a new breakthough and that take the time to point out that the vast majority of relevant scientists take climate change extremely seriously. To that extent, the message of this piece was a welcome one. The curious part, however, was the thread running through the piece that this middle ground is only now emerging, and even curiouser, that this middle ground can be characterized as representing some sort of ‘heresy’.
Heresy, is commonly defined as ‘an opinion or doctrine at variance with the official or orthodox position’. So where does this idea come from, and why is it now ’emerging’?
[Read more…] about Consensus as the New Heresy
The Physics of Climate Modelling
This is just a pointer to a ‘Quick Study’ guide on The physics of climate modelling that appears in Physics Today this month, and to welcome anyone following through from that magazine. Feel free to post comments or questions about the article here and I’ll try and answer as many as I can.
2006 Year in review
A lighthearted look at the climate science goings-on over the last year:
Best highlight of the gap between the ‘two cultures’:
Justice Scalia: ‘Troposphere, whatever. I told you before I’m not a scientist. That’s why I don’t want to have to deal with global warming’ .
Least effective muzzling of government climate scientist by a junior public affairs political appointee:
George Deutsch met his match in Jim Hansen.
Most puzzling finding that has yet to be replicated:
Methane from plants
Worst reported story and least effectual follow-up press release:
Methane from plants
Best (err… only) climate science documentary on public release:
An Inconvenient Truth.
Most worn out contrarian cliche:
Medieval English vineyards.
Previously prominent contrarian cliche curiously not being used any more:
“The satellites show cooling”
Most bizarre new contrarian claim:
“Global warming stopped in 1998”.
By the same logic, it also stopped in 1973, 1983, and 1990 (only it didn’t).
Most ironic complaint about ‘un-balanced’ climate coverage on CNN:
Pat Michaels (the most interviewed commentator by a factor of two) complaining that he doesn’t get enough exposure.
Most dizzying turn-around of a climate skeptic:
Fred Singer “global warming is not happening” (1998,2000, 2002, 2005) to global warming is “unstoppable” (2006)
Best popular book on the climate change:
Elizabeth Kolbert’s “Field Notes from a Catastrophe”
Least unexpected observations:
(Joint winners) 2006 near-record minima in Arctic sea ice extent, near-record maxima in Northern Hemisphere temperatures, resumed increase in ocean heat content, record increases in CO2 emissions
Best resource for future climate model analyses:
PCMDI database of IPCC AR4 simulations. The gift that will keep on giving.
Best actual good news:
Methane concentrations appear to have stabilised. Maybe they can even be coaxed downward….
Biggest increase in uncertainty as a function of more research:
Anything to do with aerosols.
Least apologetic excuse for getting a climate story wrong:
Newsweek explains its 1975 ‘The Cooling World’ story.
Most promising newcomer on the contrarian comedy circuit:
Viscount Monckton of Brenchley
Least accurate attempted insinuation about RealClimate by a congressional staffer:
‘There’s so much money’: Marc Morano (Senate EPW outgoing majority committee staff, 5:30 into the mp3 file)
Boldest impractical policy idea:
Boldest practical policy idea:
Creation of a National Climate Service, which could more effecitvely provide useful climate information to policymakers.
Most revealing insight into the disinformation industry (fiction):
Thank you for smoking
Most revealing insight into the disinformation industry (non-fiction) and year’s best self-parody:
‘CO2 is life’
Feel free to suggest your own categories and winners…
It turns out that there were almost 14,000 attendees at AGU last week, which apparently makes it the largest Earth Science meeting ever held. To be sure, not all of that is climate related – there was lots of seismology, planetary and more theoretical/small-scale stuff, but a lot of it was. At most times there were at least half a dozen sessions that I would have been interested to attend – and they were often discussing overlapping themes.
It used to be that one could go to a meeting like this and get a wide overview of the work being done much more efficiently (and speedily) than reading the journals. However, that is clearly no longer true. And of course, we can’t keep up with all the relevant journal articies in the wider field either, and so how do scientists manage?
[Read more…] about AGU Hangover
Not just ice albedo
A recent paper by Francis & Hunter provides an interesting discussion about reasons for the recent decline in the Arctic sea-ice extent, based on new satellite observations. One common proposition about sea ice is that it involves a positive feed-back because the ice affects the planetary albedo (how the planet reflects the sunlight back to space before the energy enters the ‘climate system’). Yet, there is more to the story, as the ice acts more-or-less like an insulating lid on top of the sea. There are subtle effects such as the planet losing more heat from the open sea than from ice-covered region (some of this heat is absorbed by the atmosphere, but climates over ice-covered regions are of more continental winter character: dry and cold). The oceanic heat loss depends of course on the sea surface temperature (SST). Open water also is a source of humidity, as opposed to sea-ice (because its cold, not because its dry), but the atmospheric humidity is also influenced by the moisture transport associated with the wind (moisture advection). Francis & Hunter found a positive correlation between lack of ice and the downward long-wave radiation, something they attributed primarily to cloudiness. Hence, clouds play a role, both in terms of influencing the albedo as well as trapping out-going heat. Francis & Hunter suggest that the changes in the long-wave radiation is stronger than the clouds’ modulation of the direct sunlight.
[Read more…] about Not just ice albedo