Of Papers and Meetings …
"In climate research and modeling, we should recognize that we are dealing with a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore that long- term prediction of future climate states is not possible"
The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Third Assessment Report (2001), section 18.104.22.168, p. 774
The above sentence went missing from subsequent IPCC reports. Apparently it was once part of the 'consensus' though. Even though it has disappeared, it nevertheless inadvertently blurted out the truth. A famous 'Climate-gate' e-mail dialog follows below:
Dr. Phil Jones – CRU emails – 5th July, 2005:
“The scientific community would come down on me in no uncertain terms if I said the world had cooled from 1998. OK it has, but it is only 7 years of data and it isn’t statistically significant….”
Dr. Phil Jones – CRU emails – 7th May, 2009:
“Bottom line: the ‘no upward trend’ has to continue for a total of 15 years before we get worried.”
Dr Kevin Trenberth – CRU emails – 2009:
“The fact is we can’t account for the lack of global warming at the moment and it is a travesty we can’t.”
Well, it has been more than 15 years of 'no warming' now. Time to get worried? You betcha. A new paper by the above mentioned Dr. Trenberth acknowledges the importance of the so-called Pacific Decadal Oscillation in determining relatively short term warming and cooling cycles ('short term' meaning decades in this case). But the so-called 'skeptics' have pointed to this for a very long time. More about the paper can be found here.
A recent article in 'Nature' discusses the 'case of the missing heat' and what progress is being made in explaining away the fact that none of the models predicting global warming by CO2 forcing can account for the observed reality. As a reminder, here is the difference between the model predictions and what has actually happened:
However, instead of simply admitting that the models may be wrong, the heat is held to be 'hiding out' in the oceans. It is apparently widely hoped that it will return in time to save careers and grants. From Nature:
“Now, as the global-warming hiatus enters its sixteenth year, scientists are at last making headway in the case of the missing heat. Some have pointed to the Sun, volcanoes and even pollution from China as potential culprits, but recent studies suggest that the oceans are key to explaining the anomaly. The latest suspect is the El Niño of 1997–98, which pumped prodigious quantities of heat out of the oceans and into the atmosphere — perhaps enough to tip the equatorial Pacific into a prolonged cold state that has suppressed global temperatures ever since.
“The 1997 to ’98 El Niño event was a trigger for the changes in the Pacific, and I think that’s very probably the beginning of the hiatus,” says Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado. According to this theory, the tropical Pacific should snap out of its prolonged cold spell in the coming years.“Eventually,” Trenberth says, “it will switch back in the other direction.”
Translation: 'please dear Lord, let it switch back as soon as possible' or: the warming check is in the mail. That is however perhaps less likely than thought (see further below why). If one looks at the chart of the PDO above, a common sense question immediately springs to mind: why was the warming trend prior to 1940 almost identical to that between 1976 and 1998, when obviously, CO2 emissions at the time cannot have been a major factor? This is not explained anywhere. Could it be that natural climate variability is actually the major factor in driving both warming and cooling phases and that CO2 emissions by humans are in fact a negligible input?
Interesting is also the following comment by another climate researcher cited in the Nature article:
…none of the climate simulations carried out for the IPCC produced this particular hiatus at this particular time. That has led sceptics — and some scientists — to the controversial conclusion that the models might be overestimating the effect of greenhouse gases, and that future warming might not be as strong as is feared. Others say that this conclusion goes against the long-term temperature trends, as well as palaeoclimate data that are used to extend the temperature record far into the past. And many researchers caution against evaluating models on the basis of a relatively short-term blip in the climate. “If you are interested in global climate change, your main focus ought to be on timescales of 50 to 100 years,” says Susan Solomon, a climate scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.”
Does that mean that if there is no warming for another century, their vaunted 'models' will still not be proved wrong? If that is so, then the science is guaranteed to only 'advance one funeral at a time' as the saying goes. By the way, the differentiation between 'skeptics' and 'scientists' is an insult to the many skeptics who are in fact scientists (and whose ranks are set to swell in our opinion).
Regarding the long term paleo-climate record, here is an instructive chart putting the 'catastrophic' global warming of the 20th century into proper perspective (source of the chart is this extremely interesting article on the chance that warming will actually turn into cooling).
Several 'skeptics' are naturally pointing out that their work is suddenly 'integrated' into the 'consensus' with not a word being mentioned of the ridicule and opposition they had to endure for so long. For instance, here are Dr. Sebastian Lüning and Prof. Fritz Vahrenholt:
“It took a while, but ocean cycles have finally been adopted by the IPCC as an important climate factor. With John Fasullo, Kevin Trenberth has written in a new paper appearing in the journal Earth’s Future that the warming pause taking place since 1998 indeed may have something to do with the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). Also even Trenberth’s pal Stefan Rahmstorf suddenly thinks it’s a good possibility […]
In 2012 when we brought up the PDO as one of the triggers for the 1976-1998 warming in our “Die kalte Sonne” book and proposed ocean cycles as a sort of pulse generator for temperature cycles on a decadal scale, we were met with fierce resistance from the German climate science establishment. Now less than 2 years later, “Die kalte Sonne” finds itself as mainstream science.”
They also mention an interesting comment made by Julia Slingo of the Met Office at a Royal Society meeting last year. She was playing 'devil's advocate' (the 'devil' being all those who say the climate models are crap, i.e., the 'deniers') and asked a well known alarmist a question he ultimately couldn't answer:
“At a Royal Society meeting in 2013, Julia Slingo of the Met office played devil’s advocate and posed the following question to Prof. Jochen Marotzke of the German Max Planck Institute of Meteorology, see the 42:46 markroyalsociety.org/marotzke.mp3:
“…it’s a great presentation about 15 years being irrelevant, but I think, some of us might say if you look at the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and it’s timescale that it appears to work, it could be 30 years, and therefore I think, you know, we are still not out of the woods yet on this one. … If you do think it’s internal variability, and you say we do think the Pacific Decadal Oscillation is a key component of this, and it’s now in it’s particular phase, but was previously in the opposite phase, could you not therefore explain the accelerated warming of the 80s and 90s as being driven by the other phase of natural variability?”
Simplifying Slingo’s incoherence: “If the current cooling is due to the negative PDO phase, then wouldn’t the warming of the 80s and 90s be a result of the positive PDO phase back then?”
Marotzke answers after much incoherence of his own:
“Um…I guess I’m not sure.”
These people make no sense at all. They are sure it’s the oceans’ cold phase gobbling up heat when temperatures fail to rise. But when temperatures increase, they just can’t be sure that the oceans are involved at all, and insist they would not bet much money on it. Of course it just can’t work only one way. Marotzke is delivering only what would call unadulterated absurd science.”
(emphasis added to Ms. Slingo's query)
What does 'we're not out of the woods' really mean? That they are scared they have exaggerated and are, as one commentator at Anthony Watts' site remarked 'in need of an exit strategy'?
The Problem of Modeling the Future of a Complex System
The big problem is that the climate models that are at the root of the 'catastrophic anthropogenic global warming' forecasts are trying to do something that is literally impossible. Below is a video of a presentation by Christopher Essex, Professor and Associate Chair in the Department of Applied Mathematics at the University of Western Ontario and former director of its Theoretical Physics program. Now, one thing we can expect Professor Essex to know a thing or two about are the mathematics behind the modeling, and this is what the presentation focuses on. It is done in a way that makes it possible even for a layperson to easily discern what the problems of these models are, and that in fact, these problems are insurmountable, at least at present.
As an aside, Professor Essex is of course both a 'skeptic' and a scientist, and he is far from alone. For instance, we would like to point readers to a 2009 paper he co-authored with eight other scholars (and which has been reviewed by 50 others) entitled ''. The introduction tells us a little bit about the so-called 'consensus':
“The issue of global warming is the subject of two parallel debates: one scientific, focused on the analyses of complex and conflicting data; the other political, addressing what is the proper response of government to a hypothetical risk. Proponents of an immediate and sweeping regulatory response insist that the scientific debate has long been settled. But a fair reading of the science, as presented in the Fraser Institute's Independent Summary for Policymakers (ISPM), proves otherwise. The supplements to that report go deeper into some of the key topics and provide even more evidence that popularized notions about the causes and consequences of global warming are more fiction than fact.”
When looking at the presentation below, it becomes crystal clear why the science, especially with regard to climate models, simply cannot be regarded as 'settled':
“Believing 6 Impossible Things Before Breakfast and Climate Modeling”, by Christopher Essex
The 'Quiet Sun'
Now a few remarks on why the 'missing heat' may well go on missing for a good while yet. Below is an excerpt from a recent article published by the BCC regarding the activity of the sun, which has declined to its lowest in at least a century. Scientists are baffled by this behavior – something highly unusual is evidently happening:
“I've been a solar physicist for 30 years, and I've never seen anything quite like this," says Richard Harrison, head of space physics at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire. He shows me recent footage captured by spacecraft that have their sights trained on our star. The Sun is revealed in exquisite detail, but its face is strangely featureless. "If you want to go back to see when the Sun was this inactive… you've got to go back about 100 years," he says.
This solar lull is baffling scientists, because right now the Sun should be awash with activity. It has reached its solar maximum, the point in its 11-year cycle where activity is at a peak. This giant ball of plasma should be peppered with sunspots, exploding with flares and spewing out huge clouds of charged particles into space in the form of coronal mass ejections.
But apart from the odd event, like some recent solar flares, it has been very quiet. And this damp squib of a maximum follows a solar minimum – the period when the Sun's activity troughs – that was longer and lower than scientists expected.
"It's completely taken me and many other solar scientists by surprise," says Dr Lucie Green, from University College London's Mullard Space Science Laboratory. The drop off in activity is happening surprisingly quickly, and scientists are now watching closely to see if it will continue to plummet.
"It could mean a very, very inactive star, it would feel like the Sun is asleep… a very dormant ball of gas at the centre of our Solar System," explains Dr Green.
This, though, would certainly not be the first time this has happened. During the latter half of the 17th Century, the Sun went through an extremely quiet phase – a period called the Maunder Minimum. Historical records reveal that sunspots virtually disappeared during this time.
Dr Green says: "There is a very strong hint that the Sun is acting in the same way now as it did in the run-up to the Maunder Minimum." Mike Lockwood, professor of space environment physics, from the University of Reading, thinks there is a significant chance that the Sun could become increasingly quiet.
An analysis of ice-cores, which hold a long-term record of solar activity, suggests the decline in activity is the fastest that has been seen in 10,000 years. "It's an unusually rapid decline," explains Prof Lockwood. "We estimate that within about 40 years or so there is a 10% to 20% – nearer 20% – probability that we'll be back in Maunder Minimum conditions."
The era of solar inactivity in the 17th Century coincided with a period of bitterly cold winters in Europe. Londoners enjoyed frost fairs on the Thames after it froze over, snow cover across the continent increased, the Baltic Sea iced over – the conditions were so harsh, some describe it as a mini-Ice Age.
The article naturally goes on to point out that according to the IPCC, the effect of CO2 emissions tops every other influence on the climate (no wonder, as CO2 emissions can be taxed. Try taxing the sun!), although the odd men out who think the sun is far more important are mentioned in passing. But not to worry! At worst we will miss the 'polar lights' henceforth. Somehow this doesn't feel very reassuring – after all, if the Maunder minimum was irrelevant to the climate, then why was there a 'little ice age'?
Admittedly, it remains an open question how important the sun's activity is to the climate – after all, if a complex system like the earth's climate cannot be successfully modeled, this holds for the past as well as for the future. It is not possible to state apodictically that the Maunder minimum 'produced' the little ice age. Intuitively though, we tend to think that the sun is indeed an important factor. On a geological time scale, the last major ice age happened only a very short time ago, and we know that there have been vast variations in average temperatures over large time scales. In fact, it is only because we live in a warming cycle on these large time scales (an 'inter-glacial period') that human civilization as we know it exists at all. Try to imagine feeding more than 7 billion people with the planet a full 8 to 10 degrees Celsius colder and with a large part of its landmass covered in ice.
Of course that is certainly not an imminent problem, but looking at the regularity with which glacial and inter-glacial periods occur, it seems obvious that it will become a problem one day. We happen to think that even a 'mini ice age' could be quite a nuisance. It would definitely make life a lot more uncomfortable in the Northern hemisphere. Currently there is no certainty what precisely the main cause of ice ages is, but cycles related to the sun (specifically the Milankovitch cycles, which describe changes in earth's orbit around the sun) are undoubtedly playing a role.
Temperatures plus CO2 and dust concentration in the atmosphere over the past 400,000 odd years via the Vostok ice core data (and yes, CO2 tends to follow temperature, it doesn't lead; presumably there are feedback loops at work though, with higher CO2 concentration and temperature reinforcing each other during the up and downswings)- click to enlarge.
What is slightly worrisome about the above chart is that the very cold periods tend to have a much longer duration than the warm periods, which seem to have a tendency to produce short-lived spike highs. In fact, the behavior of the long term temperature chart looks very similar to the price charts of a number of commodities.
The backtracking has begun – as a first step, 'climate skeptics' see their work suddenly integrated into the mainstream. However, we are not yet at the point where the models are rejected or the greenhouse gas-centric AGW theory is truly abandoned. Instead we're now in the 'how can we keep saying we are right while we're obviously wrong' phase. A lot is at stake after all: scientific reputations, but most importantly, a lot of money.
Policymakers don't want to hear that there is no problem, because that would close off a major source of tax revenues as well as what is currently a major avenue for crony capitalism and pork barrel spending through the subsidization of uneconomic 'green energy' schemes. Entire vast bureaucracies depend on AGW as well, and there is no alternative promotion in sight yet that could replace this sheer inexhaustible and vast fount of tax payer funded non-activity. So now the hope is that the heat is 'hiding out' deep in the oceans and ready to return at the drop of a hat (or rather, a turn of the trade winds). That may however not happen. What then?
Charts by Nature, Climatesense-Norpag, Wikipedia
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