Week in review 10/15/11

by Judith Curry

Here are a few things that caught my eye this past week.

Steve Jobs.  Among the many tributes to the late GREAT Steve Jobs, I spotted this article: Where would the US be if Steve Jobs had applied his talents to energy and climate change?  Well worth a read.

Pentland at Forbes.  William Pentland has another provocative post at Forbes:  The Post Normal Seduction of Climate Science.  The article is actually about the special issue in Climatic Change on uncertainty guidance for the IPCC.  My paper “Reasoning about Climate Uncertainty” gets a plug.

Planet 3.0.  Michael Tobis et al. have a new blog called Planet 3.0.  The new blog and its rather unusual format are discussed at Collide-a-Scape.  They are trying something different that is potentially interesting.  So far I like it, and have added it to my blogroll.  Check out this article on global food security.

Donna LaFramboise’s new book.  Donna has a new book out on the IPCC [link].  The book is titled “The delinquent teenager that was mistaken for the world’s top climate expert: IPCC expose.”  Richard Tol says: “…shines a hard light on the rotten heart of the IPCC.”  Ross McKitrick says: “…you need to read this book. Its implications are far-reaching and the need to begin acting on them is urgent.”  I’ll be ordering my kindle version today.

Mike Mann’s forthcoming book.  Bishop Hill reports that Mike Mann has a forthcoming book entitled “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Line.”  This should be fun.  An excerpt from the blurb:   The Hockey Stick became a central icon in the “climate wars,” and well-funded science deniers immediately attacked the chart and the scientists responsible for it. Yet the controversy has had little to do with the depicted temperature rise and much more with the perceived threat the graph posed to those who oppose governmental regulation and other restraints to protect our environment and planet. 

Goldacre on science.  Another gem from Bishop Hill this week is this TED lecture by Ben Goldacre on exposing bad pharma science.  It is very good.

Columbus blamed for the Little Ice Age.  Mike Smith sent me this article, which has been picked up by numerous skeptics blogs.  “The European conquest of the Americas decimated the people living there, leaving large areas of cleared land untended.   Trees that filled in this area pulled tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, diminishing the heat trapping  capacity of the atmosphere and cooling climate.”   Well, its nice to see people acknowledge that land use change can influence climate.  However, the magnitude of the change is way overestimated; seems difficult for many to appreciate that climate can change owing to causes that have little to nothing to do with humans.

A classic case of an overconfident deterministic forecast.  The University of Maryland went on full emergency alert, expecting a tornado strike within 13 minutes based upon an Accuweather forecast [link].  The National Weather Service had posted a tornado watch (not warning).  Accuweather is an example of 20th century meteorological forecasts; fortunately some 21st century weather risk forecast and management companies are spinning up (more on that in a future post).

Bacteria making group decisions about the Earth’s climate.  I spotted this interesting news release, an excerpt: In the ocean, bacteria coalesce on tiny particles of carbon-rich detritus sinking through the depths. WHOI marine biogeochemists found that these bacteria send out chemical signals to discern if other bacteria are in the neighborhood.  If enough of their cohorts are nearby, then bacteria en masse commence secreting enzymes that break up the carbon-containing molecules within the particles into more digestible bits. It has been suggested that coordinated expression of enzymes is very advantageous for bacteria on sinking particles, and Hmelo and her colleagues have uncovered the first proof of this in the ocean.

Dust and clouds.  My colleagues at Georgia Tech, Irina Sokolik and Thanos Nenes, have a new paper out that is getting some publicity.   The paper addresses the role of insoluble dust in nucleating cloud drops.  Yet another source of uncertainty to add to the list associated with aerosol indirect radiative forcing.

44 responses to “Week in review 10/15/11

  1. Great list! This will take a while to absorb.

    • WRT Donna LaFramboise’s new book, The money quote in the preview is Freeman Dysan’s…
      My take is;
      The rate of change relative to the rates of change is relativitistic physics, Not a typical topic around the water cooler. :)

    • Me and Oliver? It sucks bein me :)

  2. And in conclusion, a few old white males meeting at the Bilderberg may be generating the solar models, climate models, economic models, etc that are at the base of society’s probnlems today.

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel

  3. Will Mann’s publisher be asking Steve McIntyre for a promotional review?

  4. At

    Al Gore opines

    “We’re still acting as if it’s perfectly OK to use this thin-shelled atmosphere as an open sewer. It’s not OK,” Gore said. “We need to listen to the scientists. We need to use the tried and true method of using the best evidence, debating and discussing it, but not pretending that facts are not facts.”

    If l Gore is really serious about entering into a dialogue with some of us skeptics, I would suggest that a perfect way for him to start is to have a guest post on Climate Etc. Why dont you make him an offer, Judith?

  5. The Post-Normal Seduction of Climate Science

    “. . . the conclusions of organizing bodies, especially the IPCC, cannot be said to reflect scientific “consensus” in any meaningful sense of that word. Instead, they reflect a political movement that has commandeered science to the service of its agenda. This is “post-normal science”: the long-dreaded arrival of deconstructionism to the natural sciences, according to which scientific quality is determined not by its fidelity to truth, but by its fidelity to the political agenda.

    The evidence for the above statement are as follows.

    1) THE POLITICAL AGENDA=> IPCC predictions that does not match with observation:
    For the next two decades, a WARMING of about 0.2°C per decade is projected for a range of SRES emission scenarios.

    2) THE TRUTH=>Predictions that match the observation:

    a) Our results suggest that global surface temperature may not increase over the next decade


    b) The PDO cool mode has replaced the warm mode in the Pacific Ocean, virtually assuring us of about 30 years of global cooling


    c) Several independent studies find evidence for just two full PDO cycles in the past century: “cool” PDO regimes prevailed from 1890–1924 and again from 1947–1976, while “warm” PDO regimes dominated from 1925–1946 and from 1977 through (at least) the mid-1990′s.

    d) A signature of persistent natural thermohaline circulation cycles in
    observed climate


    a) Global COOLING of 0.1 deg C per decade.

    b) PDO cycles

  6. Steve Jobs would have outsourced all the green jobs building solar panels and windmills to China all the while keeping secret the horrible conditions the workers were slaving away in.

    No difference.

  7. re: Planet 3.0, Neven’s ode to Malthus that appeared this week was pretty much what I was expecting from this site.

    • Ditto. Although I didn’t realise that what we were facing wasn’t just numerous crises, but in fact a ‘Crisis Cocktail’. I guess I should be alarmed.

      They compare quite well with what Grant Petty says over on the other thread about the Dragon Slayers. Will they wake up one day and say “Oops, it never happened – Malthus must have got it wrong” or continue to predict imminent catastrophe forever. I suppose the latter is quite quaint in a way, but I hope no-one minds if I get on with my life.

  8. “Post normal science” is an attempt to cloak the normative arguments of policy in the protective covering of science. In the end, they are still normative arguments of policy. This means your opinion (JC), my opinion, and Mann’s opinion are all equally important………..or unimportant.

  9. Dr Curry
    1. From your second link: ‘The IPCC was an overly optimistic experiment in international governance designed for a world that never materialized.’. Although Prof. Dr. Edenhofer (i.a.) has already baldly admitted something similar, does this not horrify you as it horrifies me?
    2. Regarding Mann, I think the choice of the ‘two Macs’ (McIntyre & McKitrick) as an example of well-funded science deniers’ is risible.

    • I would love to see a comparison of Mann’s government funding compared to McIntyre’s funding from any source.

      This was a list of some of Mann’s funding as of December, 2009:


      A total of $5,982,700, from apparently 1996 to the date the article was written. (Which included $541,184 from Obama’s “stimulus” slush funds.)


      One wonders how ever the poor Mann can even hope to compete with the funding juggernaut that is the Climate Audit tip jar?


    • Evil Denier

      Erm.. and McKitrick’s funding, as a senior fellow of the Fraser Institute and frequent consultant to the archly pro-fossil Canadian government?

      As Steve McIntyre is a private individual retired from work as a mining industry executive, it would be unfair to ask for or compare detailed accounting of himself and others, in no small part as — if I understand correctly — Mr. McIntyre’s job involved accounting in the mining industry, a singularly convoluted enterprise.

      However, this whole gambit appears strawmanish.

      Perhaps the several published lists of connections between funders and the well-funded have been missed by you in your readings. I believe John Mashey has done a talk on the topic (http://www.pics.uvic.ca/webstream.php#mashey), if you have 86 minutes; though he’s a controversial enough figure I’m sure you could look up his views as easily as I did on Google.

  10. The most important climate/energy news for the last week was the test of the energy-cat using the new hydrogen-nickel LENR reactor. This will change everthing! On october 28 a test of a 1MegaWatt device will be made which will lay to rest any remaining doubts.

    • Let us know when it is detached from its electricity source and continues to generate electricity greatly in excess of what has been input. This messing abut with steam and water and calorimeters looks to me like an inventive way to hide the fact that the devices can’t do any actual work. These distractions are a lot different from the measures made at the first atomic pile, where the energy output was obvious and indisputable.

  11. @Prof. Curry…

    Well, its nice to see people acknowledge that land use change can influence climate. However, the magnitude of the change is way overestimated; seems difficult for many to appreciate that climate can change owing to causes that have little to nothing to do with humans.

    I normally rely on your authority as a climate scientist, but I’m wondering how far you’ve dug into this issue. From the Science News Story

    “We have a massive reforestation event that’s sequestering carbon … coincident with the European arrival,” says Nevle, who described the consequences of this change October 11 at the Geological Society of America annual meeting.

    I haven’t been able to find a copy of his presentation, but I did find a paper from a few months ago where he’s the lead author: Neotropical human–landscape interactions, fire, and atmospheric CO2 during European conquest by R.J. Nevle, D.K. Bird, W.F. Ruddiman, and R.A. Dull The Holocene August 2011 21: 853-864, first published on June 13, 2011 doi:10.1177/0959683611404578.

    I haven’t had a chance to review his numbers, I’m wondering if you have; whether a critical look at those numbers contributed to your dismissal of his hypothesis?

    (While the paper requires a subscription, which I don’t have, I was able to register for free access to this paper and all (AFAIK) SAGE products during October at http://www.sagepublications.com/promos/bannerad.htm. Quite a few interesting papers there, I feel like a pig in the cornfield until Halloween.)

    • They calculate a CO2 perturbation of 6-10 ppm. We are talking about a 20th century CO2 increase of 100 ppm. So if 10 ppm caused the LIA, then the earth’s climate is ENORMOUSLY sensitive to changes in CO2. 10 ppm is the order of the annual signal in CO2.

      • Thanks Prof. Curry. I guess that shows the difference between an expert in the field and an amateur like me… You could go straight to the key number, while I’d have had to churn around in his paper reinventing the wheel.

      • Dr. Curry,
        That would assume that it was CO2 driving the LIA, which is not well established at all.
        If the climate system is so sensitive that, as you point out, that a change in the range of the annual dynamic can cause a significant climate excursion, then why are we not experiencing this many more times than the historical record suggests?
        How can papers that make these sorts of claims get published when they do not even pass the most basic level of review?
        I would submit that this is the sort of stuff that inevitably raises questions about Dr. Perry’s and Dr. Lacis’ broad brush attacks on skeptics.

      • Hunter, I would like to make a distinction here. Petty does not do a broad brush attack on all skeptics, but only this group of dragonslayers that attempts to refute the basic physics of infrared radiative transfer with erroneous arguments and a poor understanding of physics. The existence of the noisy dragonslayers provides easy fodder for Lacis and others to make a broad brush attack on skeptics, including the useful and legitimate and justified skepticism (such as those skeptical of the hockey stick, the IPCC’s attribution argument, etc).

      • Dr. Curry: Unfortunately it’s now behind a paywall, but I remember this SciAm article from 2005:

        How Did Humans First Alter Global Climate?
        A bold new hypothesis suggests that our ancestors’ farming practices kicked off global warming thousands of years before we started burning coal and driving cars

        By William F. Ruddiman | February 21, 2005

        The scientific consensus that human actions first began to have a warming effect on the earth’s climate within the past century has become part of the public perception as well. With the advent of coal-burning factories and power plants, industrial societies began releasing carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases into the air. Later, motor vehicles added to such emissions. In this scenario, those of us who have lived during the industrial era are responsible not only for the gas buildup in the atmosphere but also for at least part of the accompanying global warming trend. Now, though, it seems our ancient agrarian ancestors may have begun adding these gases to the atmosphere many millennia ago, thereby altering the earth’s climate long before anyone thought.

        New evidence suggests that concentrations of CO2 started rising about 8,000 years ago, even though natural trends indicate they should have been dropping. Some 3,000 years later the same thing happened to methane, another heat-trapping gas. The consequences of these surprising rises have been profound. Without them, current temperatures in northern parts of North America and Europe would be cooler by three to four degrees Celsius–enough to make agriculture difficult. In addition, an incipient ice age–marked by the appearance of small ice caps–would probably have begun several thousand years ago in parts of northeastern Canada. Instead the earth’s climate has remained relatively warm and stable in recent millennia.

      • Even the most cursory thought will show that Ruddiman is stating ‘facts’ not in evidence. Since the maximum of the last glaciation period, 20k years ago, the earth has been warming (except for the 1kyr Younger Dryas interval), raising sea levels with their ensuing increased out-gassing.

        I’d want to see hard evidence that stone-age agriculture and animal husbandry had any non-trivial effect on any but local climates, compared to existing grasslands and wild herds.

      • Gary T: It’s been years since I read the article, but I believe his argument partly turned, as indicated above, on the oddly long stability of the current interglacial.

        I”d like to see more hard evidence myself. At the time the article struck me as part of the ongoing promotional campaign for global warming.

      • And it implies that the sensitivity to a decrease in CO2 is far greater than the sensitivity to an increase (given the evidence of the 20th Century).

  12. Michael Mann has become academia’s AL GORE

  13. I agree Steve Jobs would have approached the global warming issue quite differently than Al Gore. However he never would have accepted the assignment as long as he was associated with Apple. Reason: The resulting political blowback from the insiders and their activist organizations would have sabotaged his efforts before his vision would have been manifested. Corporations don’t like protestors camping outside their corporate headquarters. Steve would never have put Apple in such a position.

    • Not to mention that he would have had to apply/ask/beg/lobby/grovel/cajole for or otherwise demand government subsidies to make it work. Something that he didn’t need for being visionary enough to produce a product the public actually wanted to buy.

    • Apple Resigns From Chamber Over Climate

      Apple has become the latest company to resign from the United States Chamber of Commerce over climate policy.

      “We strongly object to the chamber’s recent comments opposing the E.P.A.’s effort to limit greenhouse gases,” wrote Catherine A. Novelli, the vice president of worldwide government affairs at Apple, in a letter dated today and addressed to Thomas J. Donohue, president and chief executive of the chamber.

      • However, Apple does build all of its devices in China (using slave labor) which is burning vast quantities of coal and now burns 4x as much coal as the USA.

        Apple loves slave labor and cheap dirty electricity.

  14. Pentland has a rather jaundiced view of the American public, believing that they agree on very few issues. How out of touch! Americans make many important and sometimes complex decisions, without government or academia holding their hands. I have confidence that if the American people are presented an issue like global warming with full disclosure, all consequences described in plain language by people they trust, they will do the right thing.

    • Dude you are wrong. There is no difference at all between Greeks and all of the citizens of dead and dying old Europe and blue cities across America and all of the citizens of WW2 era Germany who I have refused to acknowledge the evil of liberal fascism and political correctness.

      • Hank Zentgraf

        Yes, you are correct that those citizens who have substituted ideology for independent thinking do not fit my statement.

  15. Judith -

    I see that you’re quoting Ross McKitrick’s opinion. I’m a little surprised, since in the past, after McKitrick said the following:

    But all that means is that [Wagner] is even more of a grovelling, terrified coward than he already has made himself out to be.

    your only response seemed to indicated that you didn’t think McKitrick’s opinions to be particularly important to the climate debate.

    Has something in the past couple of weeks changed your perspective on the importance of McKitrick’s opinions?

    • I never said that McKitrick’s opinions aren’t important in the climate debate; they are. The importance of a single intemperate comment on a blog is not of particular importance in the climate debate.

  16. Maybe not – except to the extent they could be considered evidence of tribalism? Are intemperate comments in private emails less evidence of tribalism in the climate debate than intemperate comments on a public forum? What about Schmidt’s intemperate remarks at Real Climate?

    I believe that Willis has a paper or two published in peer review journals, but as far as I can recall, you didn’t comment on his personal attacks against the science and integrity of Muller – posted at this very site.

    It seems to me that Willis and McKitrick both have a standing of note in the “skeptical” community. Is there some theoretical point at which evidence of tribalism among notable skeptics could be considered important?

    Or perhaps, I should ask you what is the criteria on which we can distinguish between unimportant intemperate remarks and important remarks? You believe that analyses posted in the blogosphere make an important contribution to the scientific debate – why wouldn’t personal attacks written (by “skeptics” of note) in the blogosphere be considered unimportant?

    I know that you’ve said in the past that the IPCC and IPCC-related scientists have disproportionate power – and thus I would imagine that your argument is that their intemperateness is also disproportionately significant, but how does that square with your opinion that the contributions of “skeptics” in the blogosphere make important scientific contributions? And further, while Willis’ sphere of influence might be limited in the same way that you’ve downplayed the relative influence of someone like Watts – McKitrick’s work was pivotal to the request of Congress to set up an investigation of Mann’s work by the National Research Council.

  17. Re: Jobs. If he were that special, he’d still be alive. Sorry, there aren’t any “special” people out there who can make Moore’s law apply to energy.

  18. Where would the US be if Steve Jobs had done Vipassana? India Today interviewed Jobs’ old friend and first employee, Danile Kottke. The pair travelled to India on a spiritual search in the early 70s. Kottke notes that in 1974 “Steve’s return date was several weeks before mine so I went up to Dalhousie and took back-to-back 10-day Vipassana retreats with Goenka, which was a great experience and has served me well throughout my life.”

    I did the registration for and sat those Dalhousie courses, and met my wife there, and am still friendly with many who sat those courses. My first course (1972) changed my life, Kottke’s obviously had a lasting effect on him. He says that on his return to the US, Jobs was drawn mainly to Zen meditation.

  19. Considering “climate change”, its important to keep in mind the ever present threats of global cooling.
    Large and Dangerous Volcano Awakes in Iceland Oct. 15, 2011

    eruptions at Eyjafjallajokull have historically been shortly followed by eruptions at Katla. The magma chamber inside Katla may be ten times as big as Eyjafjallajokull and in addition to spewing tons of gritty ash, it sits beneath the Myrdalsjökull ice sheet which has caused devastating flooding in previous eruptions. Earthquakes under Katla have been growing in strength, with a magnitude 4 quake recorded last week.. . .
    An eruption of Laki in 1783 released plumes of toxic smog which rode the jet stream and killed thousands in the British Isles. Ash blocked sunlight causing temperatures to drop by 2 degrees Celsius or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit across Europe. North America shivered under one of the coldest winters on record in 1784, with reports of the Mississippi River freezing in New Orleans.

  20. Was there any discussion of this paper:
    around here?


    ► We identified persistent cyclic variations in records from Svalbard and Greenland.
    ► Some identified cycles correspond to variations in the Moons’ orbit around Earth.
    ► Some identified cycles correspond to solar variations.
    ► Warming since 1850 is mainly the result of natural climatic variations.
    ► Persistence of cycles makes climate forecasting feasible for limited time ranges.