Theories vs theories

by Judith Curry

There is an interesting new article at boingboing entitled “Lowercase theories, uppercase Theories, and the myth of global cooling.” (h/t Keith Kloor).

Some excerpts:

“Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.”

Men In Black’s Agent Kay isn’t exactly a great public philosopher, but I think he does do a good job of summing up the reason why some people don’t like the idea of applying the science of climate change to the realm of political policy. Science changes, after all. Who’s to say that 100 years from now we won’t find the results of 21st century climate modeling as ridiculous as a map of a flat Earth?

This argument isn’t totally off-base. Scientific theories are frequently overturned by new evidence. But, just as often, the new evidence changes one part of a theory, while leaving the big picture intact. That’s because scientists use the same word–“theory”–to describe two very distinct classes of ideas. Gravity is a theory. But so is the existence ofGliese 581g–a wobble in the light given off by a distant star which may, or may not, turn out to be a planet. One of these things is not like the other. Of the two, new evidence is much more likely to disprove the existence of Gliese 581g.

Scientists still study what gravity is and how it works. It’s a living theory, not a cold, unchanging edifice. In fact, there’s a lot of weird, little anomalies that tell us we don’t have this gravity thing totally figured out just yet. But as new evidence comes in, it tends to refine the details, not demolish everything we thought we knew. Einstein revolutionized the theory of gravity, but he didn’t make apples start to fall up.

The article discusses the state of the debate in the 1970’s including global cooling.  It concludes:

The 1975 NAS report on climate science reflects the confusion that surrounded the field at that time. In fact, the introduction flat out says, “…we do not have a good quantitative understanding of our climate machine and what determines its course. Without the fundamental understanding, it does not seem possible to predict climate…” There wasn’t anything close to a scientific consensus on climate in 1975. But that was about to change rapidly. Over the next five years, research methods improved, more papers were published, and all those little theories began to add up to a single big Theory–the Earth was getting hotter.

By 1979, it was already clear that the effect of greenhouse gases had a bigger impact than the effect of dust particles. When the NAS came back to the subject of climate science that year, the state of research had changed enough that their summary was now very different. Instead of uncertainty, the 1979 NAS report emphasized a message that was, basically, the same as what we still hear today: The Earth is warming, and that fact should not be ignored. The popular press liked the story of global cooling. But their interest in that story didn’t reflect what scientists were actually thinking. There was no flip-flop of science here.

Instead, what happened in the 1970s was that science worked the way it’s supposed to work.

Researchers identified an important question. They studied it. They figured out how to study it better. And, slowly, between roughly 1970 and 1980, they came up with a broad, generalized answer. They went from a jumble of lowercase theories to an uppercase Theory.

Since then, the uppercase Theory hasn’t changed. No new evidence has surfaced to challenge it. Instead, researchers have busied themselves with the details—studying the lowercase theories within climate change to try and make that big Theory more specific. What they’ve learned has made them more and more certain that the big Theory is correct. So, in a way, the scientific consensus certainly has changed since 1975. But it changed from, “We don’t know,” to “Climate change is definitely happening.

The article raises some interesting issues, but IMO doesn’t quite sort out Theory vs theory in the climate change debate.  As far as I can tell, a lower case theory is equivalent to an hypothesis

Lets take a closer look at scientific laws, theories, and hypotheses.  Some good definitions are provided by this link:

Scientific Law: This is a statement of fact meant to describe, in concise terms, an action or set of actions. It is generally accepted to be true and universal, and can sometimes be expressed in terms of a single mathematical equation. Scientific laws are similar to mathematical postulates. They don’t really need any complex external proofs; they are accepted at face value based upon the fact that they have always been observed to be true.

Specifically, scientific laws must be simple, true, universal, and absolute. They represent the cornerstone of scientific discovery, because if a law ever did not apply, then all science based upon that law would collapse.

Some scientific laws, or laws of nature, include the law of gravity, Newton’s laws of motion, the laws of thermodynamics, Boyle’s law of gases, the law of conservation of mass and energy, and Hook’s law of elasticity.

Hypothesis: This is an educated guess based upon observation. It is a rational explanation of a single event or phenomenon based upon what is observed, but which has not been proved. Most hypotheses can be supported or refuted by experimentation or continued observation.

Theory: A theory is what one or more hypotheses become once they have been verified and accepted to be true. A theory is an explanation of a set of related observations or events based upon proven hypotheses and verified multiple times by detached groups of researchers. Unfortunately, even some scientists often use the term “theory” in a more colloquial sense, when they really mean to say “hypothesis.” That makes its true meaning in science even more confusing to the general public.

In general, both a scientific theory and a scientific law are accepted to be true by the scientific community as a whole. Both are used to make predictions of events. Both are used to advance technology.

In fact, some laws, such as the law of gravity, can also be theories when taken more generally. The law of gravity is expressed as a single mathematical expression and is presumed to be true all over the universe and all through time. Without such an assumption, we can do no science based on gravity’s effects. But from the law, we derived the theory of gravity which describes how gravity works, what causes it, and how it behaves. We also use that to develop another theory, Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, in which gravity plays a crucial role. The basic law is intact, but the theory expands it to include various and complex situations involving space and time.

The biggest difference between a law and a theory is that a theory is much more complex and dynamic. A law describes a single action, whereas a theory explains an entire group of related phenomena. 

A theory is like the automobile. Components of it can be changed or improved upon, without changing the overall truth of the theory as a whole.

Some scientific theories include the theory of evolution, the theory of relativity, the atomic theory, and the quantum theory. All of these theories are well documented and proved beyond reasonable doubt. Yet scientists continue to tinker with the component hypotheses of each theory in an attempt to make them more elegant and concise, or to make them more all-encompassing. Theories can be tweaked, but they are seldom, if ever, entirely replaced.

Application to climate science

The foundation of climate science rests on fundamental laws such as Newton’s laws of motion, Planck’s Law and the Stefan Boltzmann Law, the first and second laws of thermodynamics, ideal gas laws, gravitation, conservation of mass and energy.  Debates about these laws in the context of the climate debate are pointless (although that doesn’t stop some people).

There are numerous theories of complex processes (collections of hypotheses) that contribute to our understanding of climate science, including the theory of rotating fluids, the theory of boundary layers, the theory of gaseous infrared spectroscopy and radiative transfer.  These theories are widely accepted, although there is much energy expended by the skydragon group in refuting the theory of gaseous infrared radiative transfer (which is completely pointless IMO in any manifestation that I have seen of such arguments).

The theory of greenhouse warming of the climate system is a meta theory that incorporates many hypotheses and theories about how components of the earth system work.  I regard as a hypothesis (or perhaps as a lowercase theory) the specific issue of the magnitude of the climate sensitivity in response to a doubling of CO2.    The various and wide ranging estimates of climate sensitivity indicate how far hypotheses of climate sensitivity are from being established as a theory that is supported with repeated testing.

JC comments:  In making arguments for AGW to the public, scientists explain the Tyndall gas effect and gaseous infrared radiative transfer, which are well established theories.  These well established theories are then  bootstrapped to provide plausibility to quantitative statements about the magnitude of climate sensitivity to greenhouse gas forcing.  This has been enormously misleading IMO.  This is the confusion of the uppercase Theory versus the lowercase theory.  Scientists agree on the uppercase Theory, but disagree on the lowercase theory, with multiple hypotheses about the lowercase theory.

So this takes us back to what we can agree on versus where disagreement is justified, which has been the subject of previous posts [here and here].

476 responses to “Theories vs theories

  1. “In making arguments for AGW to the public, scientists explain the Tyndall gas effect and gaseous infrared radiative transfer, which are well established theories.”

    Can an AGW Advocate point me to a good resource that explains, IN DETAIL, the Tyndall Gas Effect?

    I do not want to be accused of using a non-sanctioned resource.

    While particular gasses absorbing certain wavelengths is well established, an increase in IR absorbing gasses (say CO2) causing a measurable increase in Atmospheric Temperatures HAS NOT been established.

    An increase in temperature has only been established in a NON ELASTIC volume. The Earth’s atmosphere is very elastic as seen in the multiple altitudes of the Tropopause that increase and decrease significantly with average surface temp. The Tropopause is not a sphere equidistance from the Earth’s surface, it is about 6km at the Poles and 16km at the Equator and varies by season. Also it has many bumps and depressions depending upon the moving Convective Currents reaching it.

    Do not discount Earth’s Gravity as the primary engine to Cool the Surface. Without an Atmosphere, Earth’s Gravity would do little to cool the Surface, but with an Atmosphere, 22,819 lbs/m^2, the Earth’s Atmosphere is converted into a giant heat scrubber that is assisted by Evaporation and Radiation.

    I DO NOT discount the Tyndall Gas Effect. What I want to see is it accurately compared to the effects that Gravity has on the Earth’s atmosphere as it drags cooler air beneath air the the surface has just warmed.

    • All of these details can be ignored if you know what answer the program officer wants for the grant funds you receive.

      That, TEiF, is the root of the problem.

      This whole AGW debate is about that.

      With kind regards,
      Oliver K. Manuel
      Former NASA Principal
      Investigator for Apollo

      • Here is a concise, eight-page summary of the history (1945-2011) of consensus science and Climategate that produced the current social and economic upheaval.

        I regret being the bearer of bad news, but the climate scandal is about politics and has absolutely nothing to do with science.

      • “the climate scandal is about politics and has absolutely nothing to do with science”

        unintended irony is unintended

      • in discussions about climate, I’m always confused where the irony ends, unintended or otherwise.
        Anyway, back to the article, second sentence in the first quote is false – 500 years ago most literate people thought the earth was spherical – very sloppy even in the context of rhetoric.

      • That was a quote from the MIB movie – intended as entertainment, not historic or scientific fact.

      • you are correct. This was clear from the following paragraph in the article. I was being, gulp, ironic, BUT, were you?

      • didn’t need to – you had enough for both of us ;-)

      • Paul’s correct. Not only to most literate people think the earth was spherical they had a good idea of the size of the earth. Opposition to Columbus wasn’t that they would fall off the edge of the earth, but if you take away the Americas, it’s much too long a voyage for ships of that day.

      • Oh, they knew bot that the earth was round as well as roughly its size in ancient Greece already – it seems they then forgot.

    • It is a known phenomenon that standard textbooks perpetuate the errors of preceding textbooks and create apparent authority from rather little. Very few book authors go back to original sources.

      I do strongly recommend reading Tyndall’s original works. (The link is available via the John Tyndall wikipedia page. I saw 205 downloads via

      It is rather clear that his experiments measure “failure of IR transmission” and make no attempt to quantify absorption (temperature rise+bond energy) vs scattering in proportion. Tyndall does imprecisely use the word “absorption” for what he measured. (This was pointed out by Tim Casey Here we have the beginnings of a century and a half of scientific misunderstanding.

      I have not been able to find any other published works that quantify this, excepting the radiative transfer data in HITRANS and similar. A SpectralCalc model using precise radiative transfer data suggests CO2 doubling temperature of 0.2degK. This should be rather easy to confirm or refute in the laboratory. I fear we will see only a “computer model war” rather than real scientific attempt to clarify this.

      I also note that Tyndall’s experiments used concentrations of CO2 1-2 orders of magnitude higher than atmospheric and record the effect as a percentage deflection of his galvanometer and not specifically a temperature change with different gases. He also did not detect any backradiation (didn’t attempt to), though did note a transient opposite galvanometer deflection at the start of introducing a gas to his equipment.

      • The calculation based on SpetcralCalc is clear. It has been pointed out on the discussion following the posting that contains the posting. The most obvious error is related to a point mentioned already in this thread. The paper assumes that radiation from atmosphere to the space is equal to the back radiation. That would be true, if the atmosphere would be isothermal, but that means assuming most of the GHG away and that would contradict all measurements that show the temperature to drop with altitude.

        Thus this paper – again – gets its result from an explicit and really big error. The error has been pointed out also in the discussion that followed posting of that work in a blog.

        You cannot use explicitly faulty papers as evidence against main stream theories. Theories of physics have evolved over centuries and they continue to evolve, but the basic theories are rather stable. 50 year old university physics textbooks are mostly still valid. They miss some newer developments, but these are mostly about phenomena that were unknown 50 years ago or about phenomena, whose explanations were known to be deficient at the time.

        The understanding of the general properties of the atmosphere is not very old. The 1966 paper of Manabe and Wetherald is often given as the definitive step combining earlier fragmentary knowledge into a overall understanding of the temperature profile of the atmosphere and also of the greenhouse effect. From that paper on the later research has produced rather refinements to a stable basic understanding than revolutionized again the way the atmosphere is looked at. The later empirical research has confirmed in very many different ways that this basic understanding is valid.

      • I missed some essential words on the first line: It should have been:

        The error in the calculation ..

      • While some may think the SpectralCalc calculation was in error, they may not necessarily be right. I think backradiation having a net effect is fantasy and contravenes the second law.

        There is a big difference between being able to measure something and its ability to do work. If an object sitting on a table exerts force x and the table exerts reaction y, which is measurable, that does not make tables fling objects off them. If we measure eddy currents in electrical wiring, that doesn’t mean electricty is net flowing backwards in a circuit.

        If the so-called backradiation is able to cause warming of the surface, then this should be very easily measurable in a laboratory situation. So let’s discuss the experimental design, get someone to conduct the experiment and find out what is real.

        For those who claim experiments are irrelevant, the whole basis of blackbody radiative physics was demonstrated experimentally in the lab.

      • When there is a large error in a calculation, the calculation is wrong.

        There is no doubt that this calculation gives results that are very strongly contradicted by observations and that the calculation differs from main stream in a way to be expected based on these errors.

        Some papers are just so wrong that their results have no relevance. This is one of those.

      • Pekka,
        Why should anyone trust your opinion when you are still trying to defend MBH98 and the upside down Tiljander series?

      • That’s fully their choice. I’m sure they judge the value they give to my arguments based on the arguments and other comments I have written here.

        Some people value the views of those who consider it most important to condemn individual scientists like Mann. Some others may think like me, and consider that approach appalling.

        I was not defending Mann, I tried to argue against the approach that I do not accept. That was the point that made me write the comments. Understandably the other side was unwilling or unable to understand the point, but that it is.

        This is the same disagreement that we have seen between Judith and those who insist that she should condemn individuals.

      • Willis Eschenbach

        Pekka Pirilä | July 25, 2011 at 2:36 am

        … I was not defending Mann, I tried to argue against the approach that I do not accept. That was the point that made me write the comments. Understandably the other side was unwilling or unable to understand the point, but that it is.

        Pekka, thanks for the clarification. We were not “unilling or unable” to understand your point. If you were not defending Mann, you successfully fooled virtually every reader.

        But let that be as it may, and let’s move forwards. Since you were absolutely not defending Mann, what were you doing? Because it looked like a duck and it walked like a duck and it quacked like a duck, we all figured it was a duck—that is to say, you were defending him.

        Now that we know we were 100% wrong, and that you were not defending Mann in the slightest, what was the point that you were making that all of us missed so completely?


      • Brandon Shollenberger

        Pekka Pirilä, you are consistent with your misinformation:

        Some people value the views of those who consider it most important to condemn individual scientists like Mann. Some others may think like me, and consider that approach appalling.

        I have never seen anyone ask you to condemn Mann. It certainly didn’t happen in the last conversation to which the current comments are a continuation. All anyone asked you in that thread was to stop spreading misinformation. The only person who even mentioned condemning Mann to you was me, and I clearly stated I wasn’t asking you to do it.

        Now then, this paragraph of yours could be accurate in and of itself since it could refer to some other experiences of yours. However, your next paragraph shows that isn’t the case:

        I was not defending Mann, I tried to argue against the approach that I do not accept. That was the point that made me write the comments. Understandably the other side was unwilling or unable to understand the point, but that it is.

        It’s remarkable you would claim to have not been defending Mann seeing as you specifically sought out to rebut criticisms of his paper (which you did, in part, by making things up). Ignoring that for the moment, this paragraph clearly says you were attempting to argue against the idea condemning Mann was important in that thread. This means you weren’t being vague or making a general comment in the previous paragraph, but rather, were specifically claiming the people in that thread felt it was important (for you) to condemn Mann.

        This isn’t true. Nobody asked you to condemn Mann. Nobody expected you to condemn Mann. You say people were “unwilling or unable to understand” your point, but how could they possibly do so? From what you say now, you were arguing against a straw man. It’s cheeky to criticize people for failing to understand your point when your was based entirely upon misrepresenting them.

        Given your frequent and flagrant misrepresentations which you refuse to address, I agree with Ron Cram’s question. Why should anyone trust your opinions?

      • Brandon Shollenberger

        Ron Cram, if you want to press this issue, you should take a look at my response to Willis Eschenbach in that thread. If you do, you’ll find you unfairly criticized Pekka Pirilä due to misunderstanding him (or misunderstanding the the situation with Figure 8).

        This isn’t to say he was correct. He was wrong, but he was wrong on in a more nuanced way than you thought.

      • People are allowed to have differing views. But proper experimental science will easily sort the truth from fantasy.

        Some theories like the “atmospheric greenhouse theory” are so wrong they should be discarded, but when people are wedded to mistaken beliefs, they are stubbornly hard to convince.

      • Yes, and in this case empirical evidence confirms that this is totally wrong.

    • All gasses absorb solar radiation including nitrogen and oxygen, but there are no heat trapping gases. Never existed! And the greenhouse gas effect, or heat trapping assumption, is a myth. There are no practical application that utilizes this effect. Had this effect existed it would have been by now a “green” source of energy that addresses the ongoing energy/environment crisis. Furthermore, mathematics, observations, and experiments prove that the heat trapping effect of gases does not exist and cannot exist.

      • Nabil,

        You’re just not looking at it through rose colored lenses. You see the Atmosphere is a Greenhouse. Not a GreenHouse that has a fixed Volume and prevents cooler more dense air from being dragged under warmer less dense air. No don’t be silly, the Atmospheric Greenhouse is the Greenhouse Effect without the Greenhouse Cause.

        It is that simple, but so complex it takes a load of BS in Climatology to understand and ‘they’ are all working very hard on their PhD’s in Marketing, because it is their Message that stinks, not their very well kept and hidden Methods.

        One of my questions is why the Cause of the Back Radiation does not again cause a Back-Back Radiation, and then a Back-Back-Back Radiation and so on while it is all slowly carried towards space via Convection. Slow as compared to the speed of Radiation.

        It would seem that Back Radiation is an Effect (misnamed GHE) and so the Cause would very likely it seems have a similar if not exact Effect on the Same Radiation it had the Same Effect on in the first place.

        I have little doubt that there is an answer to my question that cannot be tested, but it will be delivered with great confidence. You know persuasion is 9/10 Confidence with a dash of Charm! Remember -MESSAGE not methods.

      • The End is Far,
        It is unlikely to have an answer to your reasonable questions.
        As you probably know, recently, several US schools made ice by pointing solar ovens to the atmosphere away from buildings. This means that forcing is negative at surface during the experiments. So where is this mythical positive forcing (or heat trapping effect) of greenhouse gases? Their concentration has been on the rise!

      • Are you pulling my leg? ;)

      • BlueIce2HotSea

        The solar powered ice-maker works at night.

        Physics Professor Steven Jones explains How to Make and Use The BYU Solar Cooker/Cooler.

        Efficiency improvements: Tests of the Solar Funnel and Bowl Cookers in 2001

      • That is really slick and I hope these cookers take off in central Africa. I have read that it is illegal to make charcoal, though it is done illegally, and people are going to/need to cook. Oddly enough many of the Great Ape poachers (Apes, Chimps) kill them often out of spite because Charcoal production is largely illegal in order to protect Ape Habitats.

        I’m also not surprised to read that the cooking vessels are wrapped in plastic bags to keep convection from cooling the vessels during the day and heating them when in use at night. I was very surprised to read that Ice was formed, although after thinking about for a moment it makes sense if you can minimize the amount of convective currents and radiation since the container will be radiating constantly, albeit at an ever decreasing rate.

        Nabil & BlueIce, thanks for sharing.

      • John Carpenter


        “All gasses absorb solar radiation including nitrogen and oxygen”

        Are you saying N2 and O2 absorb IR?

      • Are you saying that they do not absorb or emit radiation?

      • “Absorption of ultraviolet (UV) in the atmosphere is chiefly due to electronic transitions of the atomic and molecular forms of oxygen and nitrogen. Due to the ultraviolet absorption, some of the oxygen and nitrogen molecules in the upper atmosphere undergo photochemical dissociation and become atomic oxygen and nitrogen. These atoms play an important role in the absorption of solar ultraviolet radiation in the thermosphere. The photochemical dissociation of oxygen is also responsible for the formation of the ozone layer in the stratosphere.”
        “Ozone in the stratosphere absorbs about 99% of the harmful solar UV radiation shorter than 320 nm. Ozone is formed in three-body collisions of atomic oxygen (O) with molecular oxygen (O2) in the presence of a third atom or molecule. The ozone molecules also undergo photochemical dissociation to atomic O and molecular O2. When the formation and dissociation processes are in equilibrium, ozone exists at a relatively constant concentration level. However, existence of certain atoms (such as atomic chlorine) catalyze the dissociation of O3 back to O2 and the ozone concentration will decrease.”

        “Infrared Absorption

        The absorption in the infrared (IR) region is mainly due to rotational and vibrational transitions of gaseous molecules. The main atmospheric constituents responsible for infrared absorption are water vapor (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2) molecules. The water and carbon dioxide molecules have absorption bands centred at the wavelengths from near to long wave infrared (0.7 to 15 µm).

        In the far infrared region, most of the radiation is absorbed by the atmosphere. This absorption yields deep troughs in the spectral radiation curve (Figure ). Most of the absorption takes place at ultraviolet wavelengths and in parts of the infrared (IR). For example, much of the far infrared light above 2 mm is absorbed by water vapor and carbon dioxide. Similarly, most of the ultraviolet light below 0.3 mm is absorbed by ozone.

        The absorption process causes a power reduction dependent on the path length through the atmosphere. When the sun is overhead, the absorption produces a relatively uniform reduction across the visible spectrum, so the incident light appears white. For longer path lengths, higher energy (lower wavelength) light is more effectively absorbed and scattered. Hence in the morning and evening the sun appears much redder and has a lower intensity than in the middle of the day.”

      • Dear John,
        Oxygen and nitrogen are matters and have density, and therefore, absorb and attenuate all radiations. However, gases absorb radiations differently.

  2. In general, both a scientific theory and a scientific law are accepted to be true by the scientific community as a whole. Both are used to make predictions of events.

    AGW has not yet been validated!

    AGW theory will be accepted if most of the observed global mean temperature (GMT) data in the next decade lie above the upper GMT boundary red line shown in the following graph.

    In contrast, AGW theory will be rejected if the GMT moves towards its lower boundary green line like it did in the 1880s and 1940s.

    Any objection to my argument?

    • I agree that AGW has not been validated.

      I would go farther and say that AGW validation has not even been attempted.

      As for the Global Mean Temperature being a litmus test for AGW or not; I am not convinced an Accurate GMT can be measured.

      Temperature is a measurement of Energy Pressure and the Energy Pressures of the Earth is highly variable depending upon location, time of day (time of year, time of Epoc, etc), Specific Heat of matter at the particular location, natural event, etc.

      Temperature in the desert can be as much as a 10C difference over 1 meter and paying too much attention to Averages does not allow you to see specific changes in energy pressure that help establish Cause.

      Also, the last interglacial period lasted about 25,000 years. Our current interglacial is about 12,000 years old. More study on the Interglacials is warranted. If this interglacial is similar to the last, then we are very near the midpoint (aka High Temp Peak) and Sea Levels should be expected to be several meters higher without Mankind’s assistance.

      What is being attributed, loosely, to mankind is highly likely being confused with Natural Global Warming.

      • No, that peak was 10k years ago, and has almost all gone by now, yet sea level and temperature are still rising.

      • The Current Interglacial began ~12,000 years ago. Are you saying it lasted 2,000 years and ended 10,000 years ago?

      • The Milankovitch peak that started it is gone by now. We are coasting.

      • Is gone by now, why?

        The Precession Cycle is about to reach the point where the Northern Hemisphere’s Winter Solstice is at Perihelion. Isn’t is strange that the NH’s Winter is at the Closest Point the Earth gets to the Sun? 13,000 years ago, when the NH’s Winter Solstice was at Aphelion, the NH was incased in Ice.

        Obliquity and Eccentricity also come into play, but if you trace the Precession cycle back to the height of the last interglacial, you will find that the Winter Solstice of 128,000 BC occurred at Perihelion as well.

        Strange Coincidence?

      • Several factors contribute. Yes, even with the solstice being less favorable for NH ice than 12 k years ago the net Milankovitch forcing has declined due to the other factors (eccentricity and tilt).

      • More specific please.

        The Obliquity Cycle will reach its minimum of 22.1 in 8,000 years. That puts its maximum of 24.5 at 12,500 years ago, very close the the Glacial Maximum and the NH’s Summer Solstice at Perihelion.

        Interestingly, if you trace the Obliquity Cycle backwards from its minimum in 10,000 AD to 130,000 BC it is again at its Maximum of 24.5 along with the NH’s Winter Solstice at Perihelion.

        How is Obliquity contributing to a Decline in ‘forcing’?

        I do not have a great understanding of the Eccentricity Cycle. Do you know where we are at in that cycle and how it is contributing to a decline in ‘forcing’?

      • Lower obliquity makes the polar summers a little cooler, and slightly reduces the area of the midnight sun. Eccentricity is quite low now and reduces the effects of precession and obliquity because the orbit is more circular.

      • “Lower obliquity makes the polar summers a little cooler, and slightly reduces the area of the midnight sun.”

        Correct. But don’t forget about Polar Winters. What does lower Obliquity do for Polar Winters? It slightly increases the area of the Noontime Sun so it the Winter’s slightly Warmer.

        So the Lowering Obliquity’s contribution to ‘Forcing’ is a bit more complicated. It reduces the Forcing in the Summer, but Raises it during the Winter.

        If you combine that with Precession and Eccentricity today. Shorter more intense Winters, Longer less intense Summers. Warmer overall years, correct?

        Less time for Ice to form over winter, more time to melt it over the summer.

        Am I missing something?

      • The idea for ice ages, which are of northern hemisphere origin, is that the summer insolation determines them. Yes, global average solar forcing doesn’t change and has nothing to do with this. However, summer temps at the Arctic Circle have a great deal to do with sea-ice extent and whether ice cover can persist over summer and glaciers can form andf extend over northern continents, because cooler conditions permit larger ice extent, which gives a positive albedo effect, which then impacts global average temperature. This is why Milankovitch forcing is expressed in terms of insolation at 67 N only in the summer months.

      • The trend for the last ~10 ky is COOLING. I am not sure about sea levels, but the trend should be negative. It must be negative.

      • I was referring to the last century which is not typical of the last 10000 years for sure.

      • Why it is not typical? I see nothing atypical

      • Your graph shows the uptick very clearly.

      • You think it’s warmer now than ~8.000 years ago (Holocene optimum)?

      • I don’t know, but think about what 3 degrees of warming would look like on that scale, which is the main issue with climate change, not that it has happened already.

      • It seems that you imply that the 20th century warming is unprecedented (in this interglacial). It’s VERY far from that.

      • Interesting. Is there data going back over 30,000 years? I’d like to see what the same set of data would show as temps being during the Glacial Maximum.

      • Point temperatures can’t be compared with global ones.

      • That’s what I’m talking about Edim, thank you.

        It would be great to have this level of detail for the last Interglacial. The Milankovitch Cycles match up so well with our current Interglacial and oddly match in the same fashion to the last.

        But of course point temps can’t be matched to global :)

        Jim D, you are fighting so very hard to ignore the obvious. Hey, what do you think about the effects of an Elastic Atmosphere has on Temps? What about being able to accurately measure Global Mean Temperature?

        Probably should start a new thread, since this one is out of threads.

      • You noticed those Greenland temperatures ended in 1905, didn’t you? Do you suppose Greenland may still be warming? It seems to be.

      • Jim,

        Yes, I noticed that. Here’s a temperature record for Greenland 1873-2001:

      • Some of those would look quite impressive if you spliced them onto your ice core scale.

      • “We provide an analysis of Greenland temperature records to compare the current (1995–2005) warming period with the previous (1920–1930) Greenland warming. We find that the current Greenland warming is not unprecedented in recent Greenland history. Temperature increases in the two warming periods are of a similar magnitude, however, the rate of warming in 1920–1930 was about 50% higher than that in 1995–2005.”…/2006GL026510.shtml


        How strange. Several of the other Interglacials lasted about 25,000 years or more and our lasted only 2,000 years.

        The last interglacial saw sea levels several meters higher than today, was warmer that today as well. Your thoughts?

      • The interglacial will last till the next major Milankovitch negative forcing which is at least 30k-50k years from now. Ice ages need major troughs to trigger them, and we don’t see a trough for a while. I would suggest, however, that the extra CO2 will take us out of the ice age cycles entirely, as we were a before few million years ago.

      • I can’t say how long they last exactly. We have very good evidence for when our current interglacial began, about 12,000 years ago. There was a cold period, Younger Dryas, and then temps rose again and then began a 1 C increase and decrease cycle every 500 years or so up to today.

        If conditions return to cooler temps that were common right before our current interglacial, then the Projected Interglacial should last about 25,000 years like the previous one. Oddly, 5 Precession cycles ago (Precession Cylcle = 26,000 years) exactly was the Height of the last Interglacial 130,000 years ago. The Coldest temps during the previous Glacial Period occurred the 13,000 years before the height of the last interglacial.

        We must acknowledge that we are currently in an Ice Age that has been going on for millions of years, we are just simply in a reoccurring warm period. To not put a significant amount of study into what causes Warm Periods to occur within the Ice Age is dishonest at worst and poor science at best.

        For some odd reason Scientific Consensus states that the Pleistocene Ice Age ended 12,000 years ago when it is obvious that the Current Interglacial is just reoccurring warm period within the Pleistocene.

      • I would agree there is nothing special yet about the Holocene that deserves it to be new epoch, but I suspect it soon will become the epoch that ends the ice ages. It is true that interglacials are short warm intervals with longer cooling trends between, and we could already have been in this gradual cooling which is typically 1 degree per 20k years in glacial development periods.

      • Jim,
        I agree with you that the milankovitch forcing at 65N is such that we may escape the descent into glacial conditions. I’m not so sure about your co2 argument though, becasue according to reconstructions of the ddep past, much higher co2 levels didn’t prevent ice ages starting, or cause them to end sooner. Scotese might be the name to google.

      • If you are referring to the Ordovician ice ages, I think that can be explained by the sun being fainter by only a few percent back then (400 million years ago). Doubling CO2 corresponds to a 1% solar increase in terms of forcing. If the sun was 3% fainter, that is compensated by 8 times more CO2, or 3000 ppm which some estimates claim for that time.

  3. I’m in the middle of an interesting debate with Pekka, Fred Moolten and Bob Tisdale on the dragon slayers Thread about whether back radiation heats the bulk of the ocean or not. No slam dunk winning basket has been scored yet.

    “The foundation of climate science rests on fundamental laws such as Newton’s laws of motion, Planck’s Law and the Stefan Boltzmann Law, the first and second laws of thermodynamics, ideal gas laws, gravitation, conservation of mass and energy. Debates about these laws in the context of the climate debate are pointless (although that doesn’t stop some people).”


    Fail. :)

    • John Whitman


      Thanks for the h/t to your scientific debate at the Dragon Slayers thread. I will wander over.


    • tallbloke,

      you seem to be missing what Judy has said. After the statement you highlight, she says

      ‘There are numerous theories of complex processes (collections of hypotheses) that contribute to our understanding of climate science, including the theory of rotating fluids, the theory of boundary layers, the theory of gaseous infrared spectroscopy and radiative transfer. These theories are widely accepted…’

      which has much more to do with the issues you take have with Fred.

      If I understand what you’ve said on that thread, you think that it’s hard for IR light emitted by the atmosphere to be mixed into the ocean because it’s absorbed by a very thin layer of water on the surface. It fact, your point dealing with the lifetime and emission of the excited water molecules depends explicitly on the correctness of the theories you highlight in the quote above.

      So while I think there is an interesting debate as to how the greenhouse effect affects heat mixing in the ocean, ‘laughing’ at the idea that the theories highlighted by Judy is fairly off-base, if not inappropriate in the context of your own argument.

      • Hi Maxwell,
        I’m not laughing at the theories, just the fondly held belief that they are sufficient to the proof of correctness of the mainstream theory of climate.

      • tallbloke,

        there seems to be some dissonance here.

        How you can simultaneously take the Stefan-Boltzmann law seriously, but not its application to ‘climate science’? Does the meaning of the physics involved change if the application of the theory changes?

        This is really the most interesting facet to me about the climate science debate. Knowing all of the physical laws and theories involved, I have no doubt that they are valid in explaining the climate around us. That is, the quantization of CO2 vibrations should not be ‘wrong’ if applied to understanding the greenhouse effect. Nor should we believe that the emission from a particular layer of the atmosphere will not obey the Stefan-Boltzmann law.

        The problem we’ve run into in interpreting climate physics is that we don’t know where one particular theory ‘wins’ and others do not. That is to say, we don’t know whether the finite lifetime of an excited water molecule in the ocean will win over turbulent flow caused by waves in determining how much radiation absorption and emission or energy transfer to lower layers of the ocean to expect in a given scenario.

        This fact makes prediction very difficult and without prediction we hear the droning chants that greenhouse forced global warming cannot be a theory.

        But, to me at least, there is no reason to throw out the baby with the bathwater here.

    • Just for kicks figure out the amount of energy (joules) that are in a cubic meter of water. Then figure out how much energy it takes to increase a cubic meter of water 1 C. Not sure what is considered SST (how deep SST is), but if you calculate how many cubic meters of ‘Sea Surface’ there is, you will have a good indicator of how much energy it will take to raise the SST 1 C.

      Can ‘Back Radiation’ account for an increase of 1 C? That’s a lot of Joules.

      • Sorry at 15 or 14 C, whatever the average SST is.

      • I W/m2 will heat a 1 mm layer of water by about 1 degree per hour. Doubling CO2 gives about 3 W/m2 in typical conditions.
        1 W/m2 will warm a 1 meter layer of water by 7 degrees per year.

      • .. and the total back radiation is more than 300 W/m2. Heating one cubic meter by 1C takes 4 MJ. Back radiation bings that amount of energy in 4 hours to every square meter. There is really much power in back radiaion and only a small change in that it is needed to have a significant influence on temperature.

      • Total back radiation is more than average insolation (~250 W/m2)?

      • Hmm. That doesn’t seem plausible, but maybe I am missing something. Now I have to look into those atmospheric heat budgets in detail.

      • I understand that this may appear surprising, but there’s nothing mystical in this. The back radiation has been measured in many places and at different times and the results are in agreement with, what I said (no, I cannot give references, but I have seen many times data from such measurements). Calculating the average over the globe and over time is of course difficult again, if a good accuracy is required, but there are certainly not problems at the level of stating that the average is over 300 W/m2.

        Calculations of the radiative energy transfer give similar results.

      • Are we talking averages here?

        Oddly a cubic meter of water at 15C is radiating (aka cooling) at 385 W/m^2 without any aid from convection. Let’s leave that out of the picture for now.

        If the average ‘back radiation’ is 300W/m^2, then 78% of all outgoing radiation is trapped and redirected back to Earth?

        Shouldn’t the limit be 50% since half the photons will be directed towards space? Also, can ‘back radiation’ be described as a reduction in emmisitivity?

        Let’s get this established before moving on to how much energy it takes to raise the temperature of a region of space, the example of a cubic meter of water, that is cooling via radiation alone at 385 W/m^2.

      • The total emission of the lowest atmosphere is larger than that of the surface. The molecules of the surface do also radiate both up and down, but the radiation that goes down gets almost immediately absorbed. Thus the percentage should be calculated comparing radiation from the surface to half of the radiation from the atmospheric gas. The total radiation from the atmospheric gas does exceed the radiation leaving the surface. in addition the radiation gets absorbed and emitted many times at the wavelengths of strongest absorption and emission, e.g. around 15 um.

        (The number over 300 W/m2 is actually rather 330 than 300, but I wanted to sty on the safe side. The back radiation is about 84% of radiation from the surface, but I don’t know, how precise this estimate is, certainly good enough for this discussion.)

      • “The total emission of the lowest atmosphere is larger than that of the surface”

        What does that mean? What is the Lowest Atmosphere?

        “The molecules of the surface do also radiate both up and down, but the radiation that goes down gets almost immediately absorbed.”

        Got it. The Surface is a solid or a liquid so any radiation down immediately equals any radiation up for a net zero gain to either region.

        “Thus the percentage should be calculated comparing radiation from the surface to half of the radiation from the atmospheric gas.”

        What does that mean? (I may have answered this below. Half the radiation coming from a sphere at 1m^3 has surface area of 3.9m^2 for a radiation rate of 1,500W/m^2. Is that what you are saying?)

        The total radiation from the atmospheric gas does exceed the radiation leaving the surface.

        In what regards? A spherical cubic meter of air has a surface area of about 7.8 m^2. Are you saying that since it is radiating at 3,000 W/7.8m^2? A Cubic meter at the surface only has a surface area of 1 m^2 to radiate at totaling 385W/m^2.

        in addition the radiation gets absorbed and emitted many times at the wavelengths of strongest absorption and emission, e.g. around 15 um.

        Not sure what the relevance of that is. Can you be more specific?

        Let’s save the back radiation being 84% of surface radiation till after the above have been clarified.

      • Pekka my math was bad and I misplaced m^2 when it should have been m^3, or Watts/4.8m^2, however you want to look at it. I will correct.

        Surface area of a Spherical cubic meter of air is 4.8m^2, not 7.8. Oddly enough though, the surface area of 4 quarter cubic meters of air is 7.6m^2. If you then again half the volumes again to have 8 .125m^3 spheres, you get a surface area of 9.7m^2. Half again and you get 12m^2 of surface area. How weird is that? It is not weird, but it does help show that this idea that trapping energy is ridiculous.

        Since air radiates in all directions from every point within its volume, we end up with very close to an infinite surface area which means that this volume of air cools and heats at a rate very close to infinity.

        Does this make sense?

      • I cannot follow your reasoning, but here are some hopefully related comments.

        At wavelengths of strong absorption the IR radiation penetrates typically some tens of meters in air. Thus the radiation doesn’t come from the surface of any volume, but from inside and penetrates into the neighboring volume. When the dimensions of the volume are only meters or less, the radiation goes mostly trough it without being absorbed and re-emitted. At other wavelengths an IR photon may pass trough a large part of the atmosphere or even the whole atmosphere without being absorbed.

        Air radiates equally to all directions, but from the above it should be clear that dividing the volumes to very small sub-volumes does not increase the amount of radiation. Adding up radiation passing trough more and more surfaces increases the sum, but only because the same photons get counted multiple times.

        A full and accurate calculation of the radiative heat transfer in atmosphere cannot be done analytically as one must take into account the whole range of distances a photon can travel from being emitted to being absorbed, but it’s still relatively straightforward to do the calculation by computer, if computing time is not a limiting factor. In models that must calculate the radiative heat transfer very many times, some approximative methods are used, but they can be compared with a full detailed calculation to make sure that the approximations are good enough.

        Textbooks like the one of Pierrehumbert present theory for some simplified cases that can be solved analytically. The results tell useful things about the radiative processes, but they are not substitutes for numerical calculations.

      • Is a radiation rate partly determined by the surface area emitting radiation?

        Does every point within a volume of gas emit energy in all directions?

        The Volume and Surface Areas will come into play once the above is established. The each halved volumes will have the SAME Energy Pressure (aka Temperature), the SAME Energy Density (aka Specific Heat Capacity), but different Energy Masses (number of Joules) since the volume is smaller.

      • Nullius in Verba

        “Does every point within a volume of gas emit energy in all directions?”

        Good question!

        If the material filling the volume is transparent enough to transmit light from deeper within, it’s not able to emit with full power, either. Totally transparent material doen’t emit at all. Partially transparent material emits in proportion to its transparency. And the thicker the material, the more chance there is of radiation being re-absorbed before leaving its volume. The extra volume emitting cancels against the reduced emission, giving the same result as if the material was opaque.

        In a sense, any emitting material emits from throughout its entire volume, but for opaque materials, the radiation from inside is obscured by the surface. Partially transparent materials – and all materials are partially transparent if made thin enough – just blur the boundaries.

      • Pekka says:
        Heating one cubic meter by 1C takes 4 MJ. Back radiation bings that amount of energy in 4 hours to every square meter. There is really much power in back radiaion and only a small change in that it is needed to have a significant influence on temperature.

        With the 1.5% reduction in tropical low cloud cover 1980-1998 as well, it’s amazing the sea didn’t boil really. ;)

      • Don’t forget that all objects with a temperature are radiating (aka Cooling) at a rate dictated by their temperature and emmisitivity.

        If an object is Cooling at say 385W/m^2, quite typical for something at 15C, then it will require 385W/m^2 going in (aka Heating) to maintain it’s temperature.

        So to increase the temperature, or energy pressure for that region, you have to put more in that is coming out.

        One other thing to consider in the Ocean Heating Discussion is the Specific Heat Capacity of Water and Air. A cubic meter of water at 15C has about 1.2 billion joules in it and as Pekka provided needs about 4.186 million joules to raise it’s temp 1 C.

        However a Cubic meter of Dry air (where CO2 ‘back-radiation’, love that term comes from :) at 15C has about 355,000 to 378,000 joules depending upon the air pressure and needs about 1250 joules to raise or cool it 1C. About 3,330 hundred Cubic meters of air cooling 1 degree directly at 1 cubic meter of water is required to raise it 1 C. Of course this cannot occur, but for averaging sake it take the energy that comes from 3,300 Cubic meters of air cooling 1C to raise the temp of Cubic meter water 1C. How many square meters of water on the Earth’s surface?

        Energy Density is as important as Energy Pressure when contemplating exchanges of energy between a volume of a dense liquid (1,000,000/m^3) with a very High Specific Heat 4.186 and gas that is ~800 times less dense with a Specific Heat of about 1.007. Of course moist air holds more heat since Water Vapor has a Specific Heat of a little over 2. The direction of the flow of energy is quite obvious when you look at both Energy Pressure and Density.

    • A. C. Osbornr

      Where is the Dragon Slayers thread?

    • A. C. Osbornr

      OK, found it

    • read about tinkering with the details. Adding GHGs makes the atmopshere more opaque to reradiation to space. That changes the effective height at which the planet re radiates. If a planet has a lapse rate ( higher is colder) then re radiating from a higher (colder) altitude, has the effect of delaying the cooling at the surface. That physics doesn’t change. Ray Peirrhumbert has some excellent, easy to read, work on this.

      I’ll suggest it here.

      Not TB this doesnt rule your theory out, but your theory has to live with and comport with known planetary physics

      “The same considerations used in the interpretation of spectra
      also determine the IR cooling rate of a planet and hence its
      surface temperature. An atmospheric greenhouse gas enables
      a planet to radiate at a temperature lower than the ground’s,
      if there is cold air aloft. It therefore causes the surface tem-
      perature in balance with a given amount of absorbed solar
      radiation to be higher than would be the case if the atmos-
      phere were transparent to IR. Adding more greenhouse gas
      to the atmosphere makes higher, more tenuous, formerly
      transparent portions of the atmosphere opaque to IR and thus
      increases the difference between the ground temperature and
      the radiating temperature. The result, once the system comes
      into equilibrium, is surface warming. The effect is particu-
      larly spectacular for Venus, whose ground temperature is
      730 K. If the planet were a blackbody in equilibrium with the
      solar radiation received by the planet, the ground tempera-
      ture would be a mere 231K. ”

      You’ll Note that NOTHING in this depends upon the physical interaction of IR with the surface of the sea. The simple physics of energy balance tells you that a more opaque atmophere means a warmer surface, provided there is cold air aloft. period.

      • “The simple physics of energy balance tells you that a more opaque atmophere means a warmer surface, provided there is cold air aloft. period.”

        Radiative balance. Not energy balance.

        Don’t you think that a more opaque atmosphere can affect other forms of atmospheric heat transher?

      • A more opaque atmosphere means that the radiation can escape to space from higher altitudes on the average. The higher altitudes are colder and radiate therefore less. To get back to balance, the surface temperature must be warmer.

        This is very briefly the main idea, there are a lot of details in a more comprehensive description, but this is the basic idea. I assume that this is, what Steven Mosher was referring to.

      • Can a more opaque atmosphere affect convection or evaporation?

      • It does indirectly. The opaqueness influences the radiative energy transfer. That leads to a change in temperature profile and the temperature profile affects convection and evaporation.

        These effects act to reduce the influence the change in radiative heat transfer would have without these indirect changes in evaporation and convection. All estimates of the resulting warming of the surface take these effects into account. The adiabatic lapse rate is an essential factor in these considerations.

        A good example of the importance of convection is that the surface temperature would be much higher (something like 30 C higher) unless the convection would have reduced the strength of the radiative greenhouse effect.

      • OK. Can a more opaque atmosphere increase the convective heat transfer and cause surface cooling?

      • It does reduce the warming, but because the whole effect is caused indirectly by the warming it cannot turn it to cooling.

      • Pekka,

        I am not convinced that it cannot turn it to cooling. I have to think about it.

      • “It does reduce the warming, but because the whole effect is caused indirectly by the warming it cannot turn it to cooling.”

        The warming of what?

        A more opaque atmosphere means more absorption of Earth’s radiation by the atmosphere (near the surface), which warms the atmosphere. This, as you agree, raises the convective heat loss of the surface. The heat transfer to TOA increases. Consequently, the surface cools and radiates less.

        Isn’t this a potential CO2 cooling effect?

      • More CO2 means that the back radiation is increased even for unmodified temperatures of the surface and the atmosphere. This causes the surface temperature to start to rise. The lower atmosphere warms approximately as much as the surface. The rising temperatures lead to an increase in both the radiation from the surface and the back radiation, but it’s not enough for maintaining the temperature gradient below the adiabatic lapse rate. Therefore the convection and transport of latent heat increase as well, but only to the point, where the adiabatic lapse rate is restored. Because the atmosphere is also warmer, the adiabatic lapse rate is restored at a temperature that is higher than before the increase in CO2.

        As all temperatures listed above are higher than before, it’s certain that the convection would stop before it would lead to a surface that is cooler than before the increase in CO2 (or even the same temperature than before). The increase in convection is in some sense a feedback, but it’s not normally listed among the feedbacks but handled as a part of the no-feedback process. The reason for this practice may be in the fact that practical calculations enforce from beginning the restoration of the adiabatic lapse rate. The calculations get much easier this way than they would be, if the first calculation would be allowed to break the limit of adiabatic lapse rate and the convection would be introduced separately.

      • “More CO2 means that the back radiation is increased even for unmodified temperatures of the surface and the atmosphere. This causes the surface temperature to start to rise.”

        I think “back radiation” is a bit misleading. It’s better to say absorption is increased and therefore atmosphere near the surface is warmed and radiates more in all directions.

        Anyway, you say that this causes surface to warm and this is where I’m not convinced. If the convection is increased, isn’t it possible that “there’s no time” for the surface to warm. The increased convection (thermals) and evaporation overwhelms increased radiation and the surface consequently cools.

      • Nullius in Verba

        “Can a more opaque atmosphere increase the convective heat transfer and cause surface cooling?”

        Think of the same situation in a pond of water (as per my post elsewhere in this thread). If the opacity of water to thermal IR was doubled, would it change the temperature at the bottom of the pond?

      • Nullius is usually correct, but here with his pond analogy he has got things a bit upside-down. Edim is quite correct. If material becomes opaque to radiation, then as Pekka said, the temperature gradient increases, and then convection takes over as the dominant heat transfer mechanism. [In the pond analogy the temperature gradient would be the wrong way round].

        As I have said before, one of the problems with climate science theory is the obsession with the fine details of radiative heat transfer and the lack of consideration of heat flux due to convection.

      • Reading his longer comment below, I think I may have misinterpreted Nullius’s shorter comment here. If so, sorry.

      • Hi Steve,
        Doug Hoyt found no change in the opacity of the atmosphere during a long period of observations using pyrheliometry. Maybe Miskolzci wasn’t far out with that allegedly duff radiosonde data you won’t estimate errors for.

        It is estimated that a doubling in co2 would raise the altitude that radiation to space takes place at by 150m.

        NASA estimates the thermosphere shrunk by 30% after the sun went quiet. What effect did this have on the altitude and temperature of the tropopause?

        Given that the sun heated the atmosphere up directly during the global warming period 1976-2005, how much colder/warmer was it ~75m higher in the atmosphere than it used to be anyway?

        Given the drop in tropical low cloud cover 1980-1998 measured by ISCCP, how much of the additional ocean heat content was down to decreased albedo rather than increased co2?

        How much did the temperature of the theoretical point in the atmosphere 75m higher than it used to be increase due to additional energy radiating from a warmer solar heated ocean below?

        Sorry for all the questions, but we need to know this stuff before we can form judgements.

      • Wrong. tallbloke: You mean this paper by Hoyt?

        “No evidence for an 11- or 22-year cycle is found in the pyrheliometer data and any variation in the solar constant on this time scale seems to be a fraction of a tenth of a percent. The pyrheliometer and pyranometer serve complementary purposes and confirm the reality of changes in the atmospheric dust loading”

        Ha. Anyway

        tallbloke when we talk about opacity you have to understand that we are talking about opacity to IR. you would measure that from above the earth.
        You want to know how much IR can get out. Short wave in. long wave out.
        Shortwave IN ( thats irradiance measured by “A pyrheliometer is an instrument for direct measurement of solar irradiance[1]. Sunlight enters the instrument through a window and is directed onto a thermopile which converts heat to an electrical signal that can be recorded. The signal voltage is converted via a formula to measure watts per square meter[2]. It is used with a solar tracking system to keep the instrument aimed at the sun. ”

        Then that shortwave leaves the earth as longwave or IR.

        You measure the Opacity to IR from the TOP of the atmosphere, not from the ground.

        More c02 means more opaque to IR.. take a look at transmission windows to give yourself a clue. That increased opacity RAISES THE EFFECTIVE RADIATING HEIGHT. that means earth re radiates to space from a colder region that it would otherwise. So, the surface warms.
        Pure and simple, back radiation does not “warm” the planet. The system cools less rapidly.

      • maksimovich

        The pyrheliometer and pyranometer serve complementary purposes and confirm the reality of changes in the atmospheric dust loading”

        Indeed they do the SH problem eg Liley 2009

      • tallbloke has his pet paper. that doesnt even make the counter point he is trying to make

      • Hi Mosh, you’re right, I wasn’t paying enough attention to what you wrote, and I’d been plying the same data to Fred, who was going on (at length) about sulfate aerosols. Got my wires crossed. Mea Culpa.

        However, I’d still love to get some answers to the questions I asked above.

      • Steven Mosher,

        “Pure and simple, back radiation does not “warm” the planet. The system cools less rapidly.”

        Cool, the withcraft brigade moves ahead into a new era. The earth isn’t going to heat up, it is going to cool more slowly!!


        Pardon me if I don’t parse those two statements as having any real difference overall especially since some experts here tell us the end result is the surface is warmer than it otherwise would be. I didn’t believe them either.

        Ya see, if the IR in the backradiation doesn’t know it can’t add energy to something hotter than its source, then the object it adds energy to gains energy and EMITS MORE!! Sheesh, English majors!!

        Of course, if you believed in wave theory you still couldn’t have your cooling because the surface doesn’t KNOW to slow its radiation when there is an opposing flux. It all happens out there in space!! Or does it??

        Anywho, I just have to take this excellent chance to discuss this problem with a higher average radiation height. This higher radiation height implies that the lowest levels where the most radiation comes from is also going to rise and cool. I disagree. Simple physics tells us as a gas heats it expands. The lapse rate tells us that if we raise the temperature of the atmosphere it raises all the way to the tropopause. Unless the sun reduced energy we would either reduce the gradient of the tropopause meaning both sides warm or, the gradient increases over a narrower altitude.The expansion iof the atmosphere itself leaves more room between the particles. This means that the lower levels are NOT going to be shut off from radiating directly to space. This also means that yes, we will have more CO2 at higher altitudes radiating slower due to cooler temps, but, because there is more of it, and we still have the lower levels radiating even faster because they are warmer also, it sounds like a wash to me. You sure your models took the expansion into account?? Of course, maybe I am full of it. Maybe that IR piles up in the upper trop and tropopause exactly like the modelers say it does. So what happens in the strat?? The modelers tell us that the strat, with extra CO2 also, is COOLING!!! Yeah, sounds reasonable, everything else being equal more CO2 will give the area more capability to radiate the heat that is there. Funny thing is everything is NOT equal. There is still a lot of IR coming from below which heats the CO2. CO2 requires collisions to emit much at those low temps, except, if it hits something cooler than it it will transfer some of that energy instead of emitting!!! Y’all got it backwards as usual!!! If the area is not warm enough to cause CO2 to emit the energy it transfers it locally. If the area is hot enough CO2 will emit under collision. Pekka tells me that is what happens in the lower trop so, with the lower temps in the strat, that must be what happens there also. So, nope, don’t believe that stuff. Not until we see it with high quality instrumentation. Oh, and lets not forget about the humidity that is supposed to be the amplifier of all this. Apparently it has been dropping. OOOPS!! No rising humidity, no Hot Spot, no rising tropopause, no cooling stratosphere. Sounds like no warming to me!! Then you wonder why I don’t believe your surface temperature series!!


        By the way, after all the badmouthing of the TOBS adjustment, that was designed for CONUS, that you did on different sites, tell me again how they fixed it?? Oh yeah, it all averages out. So, if everything averages out in the anomaly computations, why not just use the raw data???


      • Issac Newton

        Higher is colder. Really? At what altitude does this re-radiating occur? The US standard atmosphere shows that temperature stays constant from the isothermal altitude (35,089 ft) all the way to about 20 km! The temperature then increases until you get to about 50 km altitude! See for yourself here;

        Also, radiating from a higher, colder altitude does not necessarily mean less energy loss. Since the relationship between altitude and spherical area of the radiating surface is proportional to the square of the radius, the total energy radiated could be higher, since the radiating area is greater. Little things like that. Maybe I need to look into that. I just had time to skim the papers you listed. I didn’t see any mention of increasing size of the radiating sphere. The decrease in temps are linear as you ascend. The area of the sphere is non-linear!

        The Earth’s atmosphere has probably a thousand things that come into play in such an analysis, all of them probably coupled together. Whew, talk about trying to solve a tough problem. Scares me just to think about it.

        Oh, and Venus has such a high temp because its atmosphere is so dense. PV=nRT and all that stuff. Venus surface pressure is 92 times that of Earth!

        Some of you guys crack me up.

    • Willis Eschenbach

      No one has yet answered my question regarding IR and the ocean, tallbloke, so I’d call that a slam dunk.

      The question was this. If the IR is not heating the ocean, then what is it heating?

      It can’t all be causing evaporation, because the downwelling IR is about three times the global combined sensible and latent heat loss.

      So … what is it heating?


      • Hi Willis,
        I don’t recall you framing the question that way in the long discussion we had about this.

        What is the IR heating?


        And stuff on the Earth’s surface which absorbs it deeply enough and holds onto it for long enough for the IR energy to be converted to kinetic energy so it becomes sensible heat.

        At the wavelength’s co2 emits at, it penetrates the ocean surface to a depth of 0.006mm or thereabouts.

        I notice that you replied to Hoyt’s essay:

        What were you referring to when you referred to Hoyt’s “underlying point”?



      • Nullius in Verba

        I’ll offer a similar question. Imagine a horizontal plane cutting through the water somewhere a little way below the surface, and consider the IR radiation passing across it. (Water molecules in the bulk of the water continue to emit radiation.) The water below the plane emits radiation upwards, just as an actual exposed surface would. This gets absorbed by the water immediately above the plane, which in turn radiates back-radiation downwards.

        Does this back-radiation heat the water below the plane? (i.e. is it getting any hotter?) If not, what does it heat?

        We’ll follow the usual greenhouse effect argument, and apply it to liquid water to see how the effect works when pushed to the extreme. Water is a greenhouse gas, all we’ve done is increase the density 100,000-fold.

        Imagine a black-bottomed pond of water in the sun. Sunlight shines through and W units of power are absorbed by the bottom. For equilibrium, W units of IR radiation must be emitted by the uppermost IR-opaque layer (1 unit of optical depth). It likewise emits W units downwards. To supply this, the layer immediately below must be supplying 2W units upwards (there’s no other place the top layer can get it from) and hence 2W units of back-radiation downwards, since radiation is isotropic. This second layer is thus radiating 4W units in total, and only receiving W units in back-radiation from above. It must therefore be getting 3W units from the layer below. And so on.

        Radiated power increases in proportion to optical depth, temperature in proportion to its fourth root, and since water is opaque to thermal IR, each layer is on the order of 10 microns thick. So the obvious question is – how come deep pools of liquid water can exist without boiling?

        The answer, of course, is that surface temperature is not controlled by radiative balance, but by convection. Heat cannot build up at the bottom of the pond, because it would immediately escape by rising. If you doubled or halved the opacity of the water to thermal IR (layers of 5 microns or 20), it would make not the slightest difference to the actual temperature of the water. Convection takes over completely.

        And if even an extreme example of greenhouse absorption has no effect on the temperature, is it not obvious that we’ve got the mechanism wrong?

        (Even without convection, conduction would still dominate over radiation. With conduction alone, it would take about 2 metres of water to reach boiling point. That’s how solar ponds work.)

        The greenhouse effect is real, and back-radiation is real, but the greenhouse effect doesn’t work by means of back-radiation. It works because air is more compressible, and thus has a much higher adiabatic lapse rate than water. The surface temperature is the effective radiative temperature (-20 C for the Earth’s albedo and insolation) plus the average altitude of emission to space (about 5.5 km – this is the bit affected by GHGs) times the lapse rate (6 C/km – ruled by pressure and humidity).

      • If you were to rename the poorly named GreenHouse Effect, what would you name it?

        Also it really has helped me to view Temperature as Energy Pressure. Some substances can hold more energy than others while having the same Energy Pressure or Temp. Viewing it this way allows one to recognize that substances like water require thousands of times as much energy to raise a given volume 1C as others such as Dry Air.

      • @Nullius in Verba – July 24, 2011 at 8:47 am

        “how come deep pools of liquid water can exist without boiling? The answer, of course, is that surface temperature is not controlled by radiative balance, but by convection.”

        or, the bottom of the pool is white. :)

        I think your solar pond thought experiment is great, but I have a question about it. Even though convection (and conduction) completely dominate heat transfer in the pond, because the heat source is at the bottom of the pool I still expect the temperature gradient to be positive with increased depth. So then why do the vast majority of bodies of water have a negative temperature gradient with increased depth?

      • So then why do the vast majority of bodies of water have a negative temperature gradient with increased depth?

        That is a consequence of three contributing factors:
        – density differences that make cold water sink
        – temporal or spatial variability that leads to cooling of surface water in some areas or during some periods (this is the water that will sink)
        – the limited penetration of all radiation in water that prevents effective heating of the deeper layers and allows the two above factors to dominate.

      • Will, although the shorter wavelengths of light penetrate the furthest into water, most of the energy in sunlight is in the wavelengths which are mostly absorbed in the top few metres. Deep enough to be well entrained by turbulant mixing by the vortices beneath wave troughs in the ocean, but shallow enough that pools over a few metres deep will have a negative gradient from top to bottom.

      • Nullius in Verba

        “So then why do the vast majority of bodies of water have a negative temperature gradient with increased depth?”

        Both hot air and hot water rise. Hot air only stops rising because it is compressible, and the rise of hot air causes it to expand, cooling it. Water not being nearly as compressible is not so easily stopped.

        However, if you ignore the sunlit surface layers and measure the temperature gradient in the deep ocean, you find it does indeed get slightly warmer the deeper you get at the adiabatic lapse rate for seawater of about 0.1 C/km.

      • Thanks for the response (and thanks to Pekka and tallbloke as well). I’ve got another question if you don’t mind, related to your statement about hot air:

        “Hot air only stops rising because it is compressible, and the rise of hot air causes it to expand, cooling it.”

        My inclination would be to say this instead: Hot air only stops rising because of gravity, and the rise of hot air causes it to convert its heat energy to potential energy, cooling it.

        Why does the air necessarily have to be compressible to produce a substantial adiabatic lapse rate? Isn’t it enough that it gains potential energy as it rises, regardless of what happens to the pressure?

      • Nullius in Verba

        It’s the conversion of potential energy to internal energy that causes temperature change, and that happens by the pressure of the surroundings doing work on the parcel of the gas (or vice versa). Work done is the integral of P dV. You have to have a change of volume – the force has to act through a distance – for the work to be done.

      • This is what I like; real knowledge succinctly presented in relevant locations. Thank you Nullius.

      • But aren’t you incorrectly conflating two distinct processes? I understand that “Work done is the integral of P dV”. However, work done is also the integral of dPE (PE = Potential Energy due to gravity).

        You say “the force has to act through a distance – for the work to be done.” I agree, but this is about air rising. If the direction is up, the relevant force is the force required to overcome gravity. I am assuming this force is supplied by the heat contained in the air. As the air rises, the heat is used up and the air cools.

        I understand that the air is expanding as it rises but I don’t see this expansion alone as the only work being done. In fact I’m not even sure how much work is being done by this expansion (separate from the upward motion). On the other hand, I do see work being done as air rises against gravity.

      • Willb,

        When the air parcel is rising it’s potential energy increases, but it allows surrounding air to sink to fill the space left open, when it’s rising. That must also be taken into account, when you start to think at the energy in gravitational field. The air that’s filling the space is actually pushing the rising parcel up and providing the energy needed to compensate the increased potential energy. This is very roughly the reason that allows doing the calculation as Nullius in Verba did.

      • Nullius in Verba

        “But aren’t you incorrectly conflating two distinct processes?”

        No. There are two distinct processes. The buoyancy forces contribute to the potential energy of the packet of gas, the compressive or expansive forces contribute to the internal energy of the gas (i.e. the temperature).

        The buoyancy force to raise the air is not from its heat, but the imbalanced inward pressure of the air surrounding it. High pressure on one side and low pressure on the other mean work is done on the air packet by the surroundings on the high-pressure side, and by the air packet on the surrounding air on the low pressure side, and in the case of a packet that doesn’t change in volume as it moves these two energy flows balance.

        The work done by the expansion is easily calculated. It is the force applied to the boundary (the pressure) times the distance the boundary moves, summed over the whole boundary. Multiplying the surface area of the boundary by the distance it moves gives the change in volume. So it’s the integral of P dV.

      • This sounds alot like trying to push Jello uphill. :)

        Your analysis implies that the packet of gas can be somehow maintained as a separate object from the rest of the atmosphere, perhaps by enclosing it in a membrane such as a balloon. But in this example situation there’s only one object, the atmosphere as a whole, which has a non-uniform temperature. There is no boundary for one part of the atmosphere to push against another part, to provide either buoyancy or compression. Without a physical boundary, all I can see happening is diffusion.

      • I am unclear on this concept also. It would appear that the gas loses its energy through collisions with the cooler surrounding gas. The continued interactions with surrounding cooler particles brings the parcel into relative equilibrium with its surrounds eventually. It will have also gained potential energy from its height either from rising on its own or being “pushed up” by the cooler surrounds going under or both.

      • Nullius in Verba

        “Your analysis implies that the packet of gas can be somehow maintained as a separate object from the rest of the atmosphere”

        It’s an approximation. Diffusion is slow compared to the bulk motions of air, so if you draw a surface around a volume of air containing a large number of molecules, and draw another surface around the same set of molecules a little time later, then relatively few new molecules have diffused across the boundary. It’s also based on the idea that the thermodynamic properties of the gas are smoothly and slowly varying, so the molecules that have crossed over are at the same temperature and pressure as the packet itself.

        That’s the real reason that changes are adiabatic – because the air around any given packet is at a very similar temperature, so there’s virtually no gradient to cause heat to flow. It doesn’t matter that the air on either side of such a boundary is not kept separate.

        If you’re still dubious, the prediction that the temperature changes at the adiabatic lapse rate is confirmed by experiment. Take a look at a graph of temperature versus altitude, from a weather balloon for example. Or climb a mountain.

      • Mr. Verba, I’m a big believer in the adiabatic lapse rate. I am simply trying to say is that if you
        – completely remove earth’s atmosphere;
        – get a bucket of ideal gas with temperature of absolute zero and molar mass similar to carbon dioxide;
        – shimmy up a 10 km pole with the bucket;
        – dump the gas out;
        when the gas molecules bounce off the Walmart’s parking lot below they will be travelling at a speed equivalent to a temperature of 30C, and when they finally rebound back to your position 10 km up they will be back to zero velocity and 0 degrees Kelvin.
        That’s my visual of the adiabatic lapse rate.

      • Willb,

        Your example doesn’t provide the correct view of the adiabatic lapse rate. Although the same constants like g = 9.81 m^2 occur in the formulas for the average energy of the molecules, the physical phenomena are not the same. This is not a case, where alternative ways of looking at the same physics are both correct in spite of some mathematical coincidences.

        Extending from your example one gets to the more complete discussion of, how the gravitational acceleration of individual molecules affects the outcome in absence of convection. That leads finally to an isothermal atmosphere, although that conclusion may be difficult to understand, as proven by the discussion on my site.

        The adiabatic lapse rate is not the result of that approach, but it’s firmly dependent on convection and on the validity of the adiabatic assumption for the processes that finally determine the temperature profile. (It requires also a continuous source of energy at the bottom to maintain convection and a mechanism of getting rid of the energy coming from below at the top of troposphere.)

      • “willb commented on Theories vs theories.

        – completely remove earth’s atmosphere;
        – get a bucket of ideal gas with temperature of absolute zero and molar mass similar to carbon dioxide;
        – shimmy up a 10 km pole with the bucket;
        – dump the gas out;
        when the gas molecules bounce off the Walmart’s parking lot below …”
        A fascinating image, at least!
        Quibbles: your ideal gas would be a wee lump of solid(s) at 0K, or even smaller dust particles. What it would do when it hit the asphalt is hard to say! ;)

      • Nullius in Verba

        “they will be travelling at a speed equivalent to a temperature of 30C”

        Did you mean 30 K?

        Drop a bucket of water down a 10 km deep shaft drilled through the ocean. Will it’s velocity match the adiabatic lapse rate of 0.1 C/km times 10 km = 1 C above absolute zero?

      • A 10 km deep shaft drilled through the ocean? What a joke! :) Besides, it’s not fair substituting a liquid into my example. There are much stronger inter-molecular forces in a liquid, as compared to an ideal gas, that will serve to counter the force of gravity and, I’m guessing, greatly reduce its adiabatic lapse rate.

        For temperature, 30C = 303K
        From the kinetic theory of gases:
        molecuar velocity = SQRT(3R*T/(molar mass))
        = SQRT(3*8.3*303/.044)
        = 414 m/s
        Falling from 10 km up with no atmosphere, the gas molecules would reach a velocity of 440 m/s.

      • Nullius in Verba

        “There are much stronger inter-molecular forces in a liquid, as compared to an ideal gas, that will serve to counter the force of gravity and, I’m guessing, greatly reduce its adiabatic lapse rate.”

        The forces between molecules in a gas are stronger, since they are banging into one another harder. The phrase “counter the force of gravity” is unclear – do you mean exert a net force upwards?

        You have said that molecules falling from your perch atop a 10 km pole (and why isn’t that just as funny?) warm from absolute zero (0 K) to 30 C (303 K) as they fall. Is this not a lapse rate of 30.3 K/km? Is that adiabatic?

      • No, the gas is still at 0K 1″ above the pavement. Impact randomizes the motion and translates kinetic energy into heat.

      • @Nullius in Verba – July 29, 2011 at 8:49 am

        I should have said inter-molecular bonds, not forces. With the liquid molecules bonded together, I understand your explanation of adiabatic lapse rate. The bonding creates ‘objects’ and physical boundaries around regions of similar temperature and pressure. Your explanation of July 26, 2011 at 6:52 pm when applied to a liquid makes sense to me. But not when applied to a gas, when all the inter-molecular bonds are broken.

        “Is this not a lapse rate of 30.3 K/km?” – Yes it is, if you can accept that my example does indeed represent a lapse rate.

        “Is that adiabatic?” – Absolutely! The molecules are exchanging P.E. for heat (K.E.) on the way down. The process is reversed on the way back up. I believe that falls under the definition of adiabatic.

        And please forgive my obtuse humor. That was a lame attempt at indirectly poking fun at my own ridiculous scenario.

      • willb,

        The hot air doesn’t rise in empty space, but rising hot air replaces air that was there before. It rises as long as it’s lighter than the surrounding air at that altitude. The rise doesn’t stop by losing energy in gravitational field, but by ending up with the same density with surroundings.

        The effect of gravitation is also important, but not in that way. The gravitation determines the density profile of the atmosphere, but somewhat surprisingly gravitation alone would lead to a isothermal atmosphere. (I have had a lengthy discussion on that theme in an earlier thread and continued that on my own blog under “random topics”.)

        Nullius in Verba told, how the cooling is explained in the classical thermodynamics. On the level of kinetic gas theory one can think that the expanding gas is pushing (an imaginary) wall outwards and every molecule is losing a little energy, when it’s bouncing back of a wall that’s moving outwards. In reality there is no wall between the rising parcel and the surrounding air, but the effect of expansion is the same as with the wall.

      • Pekka,

        why do you think that O2, N2, O3, N, O… do not emit IR under collisional stress?

      • O3 does emit IR and is one of the greenhouse gases (but it differs from other GHGs in the way it’s produced and destroyed, and it’s influence is very different in stratosphere and troposphere). O2 and N2 do not emit at all from their main excited states for symmetry reasons, but they do emit in some more complex ways. Such emission is, however, too weak to be significant in troposphere. Single atoms cannot emit IR as they don’t have suitable excited states. In addition they are very rare in troposphere (except noble gases, mainly Ar).

        All molecules and atoms contribute a little to continuum emission of some short-lived states related to collisions, but that’s again at a level of very little significance in the troposphere.

        The influence of many gases is quite different in upper stratosphere, where far UV is strong enough to break molecules to a significant degree, but those parts of atmosphere are less important for IR due to their very low density.

      • Hi Pekka,
        “It [hot air] rises as long as it’s lighter than the surrounding air at that altitude.”

        I would be interested to know what you mean by “lighter”. As far as I’m aware the mass of the air hasn’t changed with temperature. I would think the reason hot air rises is because it is more energetic and is better able to overcome gravity.

        “The rise doesn’t stop by losing energy in gravitational field, but by ending up with the same density with surroundings.”

        I would have thought that the hot air rises and ends up at an altitude with the same density as the surroundings precisely because it lost energy in the gravitational field. I think it would be difficult to create a negative pressure gradient in a still gas outside of a gravity field.

        “In reality there is no wall between the rising parcel and the surrounding air, but the effect of expansion is the same as with the wall.”

        If there is no wall, I think your logic breaks down somewhat.

      • The density of the air is proportional to p/T (pressure/temperature). Thus the warmer air has a lower density that surrounding cooler air, which has always the same pressure (pressure differences disappear very rapidly by expansion of the higher pressure air).

        When the lower density (= lighter) air rises it moves to a layer of lower pressure and expands. That happens adiabatically, which leads to the cooling. This continues until the temperature is the same as that of the surrounding air, which may mean that the parcel rises quite a lot, because the temperature gradient of the surrounding air is close to the rate of cooling of the rising parcel. Finally the parcel reaches the level, where the temperatures are equal. That happens in the tropopause, if not earlier, because the tropopause is defined as the layer where all convection stops (with some rather rare exceptions).

      • “Thus the warmer air has a lower density that surrounding cooler air.”

        So why doesn’t the warmer air just diffuse into the cooler air to create a uniform temperature and density? After all, there is no physical boundary between them.

      • willb:
        So why doesn’t the warmer air just diffuse into the cooler air to create a uniform temperature and density? After all, there is no physical boundary between them.

        That’s the difference between convection and conduction. Conduction happens through diffusion, but that’s a slow process and an inefficient form of heat transfer. Diffusion leads towards an isothermal state and towards density that is constant laterally, but decreases exponentially or nearly exponentially by altitude.

        Convection is defined as the process where material moves in a collective mode. The dimensions of the moving flow are large enough to keep diffusive mixing very small compared to the collective motion. In addition of normal diffusion, there will also be turbulent mixing, because the flow is seldom fully laminar.

        Considering air parcels with no diffusive or convective mixing is an idealization and never totally accurate, but it’s a very useful approach that is found to give valid results. It gets most accurate, when the dimensions of the uniformly moving “parcels” are large and the velocity differences small. This is true when remaining small imbalances are removed. Thus it describes better the outcome after all large imbalances have first been removed than the actual flows, when the imbalances are large. This means that the argument tells rather well, what is the “normal” average state of the atmosphere in some region, but not as well, what happens, when large lateral temperature differences are present and strong convection is going on.

        Troposphere is by definition that part of the atmosphere, where convection dominates. In stratosphere the temperature profile prevents vertical convection of the type that dominates in the troposphere and other mechanisms of mixing take over.

      • My third paragraph starts:

        Considering air parcels with no diffusive or convective mixing ..

        It should read

        Considering air parcels with no diffusive or turbulent mixing ..

      • Pekka,

        thankyou for the answer. It is reasonable.

        I think I am more in agreement with Will though. Gravity is the force that creates the “wall” that the rising parcel expends work against. Without gravity everything would fly off at its current kinetic energy barring collision.

      • Hi Pekka,

        “… [gravitational acceleration of individual molecules … in absence of convection] leads finally to an isothermal atmosphere, …”
        “It [adiabatic lapse rate] requires also a continuous source of energy at the bottom …”
        “…somewhat surprisingly gravitation alone would lead to a isothermal atmosphere…”

        I’ve seen you make statements like this before, and after thinking about it awhile I’d like to offer the following thoughts:

        1. An isothermal atmosphere would violate the entropic arrow-of-time. Entropy is at a maximum when each gas molecule in the atmosphere has exactly the same energy (K.E. due to heat + P.E. due to gravity). With the atmosphere in this state the higher altitude molecules have a higher P.E. but lower temperature than the low-altitude molecules. A lapse rate therefore exists. If at a later time the atmosphere becomes isothermal, the higher-altitude molecules will gain heat and have more energy than those at lower altitude. Entropy will have decreased, violating the arrow of time.

        2. An isothermal atmosphere cannot be achieved or sustained. The top of the atmosphere would simply boil away until the entire atmosphere was gone, lost to space.

        3. If you have an external heat source, the resulting lapse rate is not adiabatic. “Adiabatic” means no heat entering or leaving the system (atmosphere).

      • Willb,

        1. This point applies to a hypothetical atmosphere that is a thermodynamically isolated closed system (not to a real atmosphere – see below). Entropy is maximal in an isothermal atmosphere, not when every molecule has the same energy (The state, where every molecule has the same energy has actually an extremely low entropy as this is a very unlikely state.) I’m not going more into this, because the issue is gets complicated, when it’s not accepted at the outset that the general statement of thermodynamics that the equilibrium is isothermal applies also to an isolated atmosphere influenced by gravity. This issue has been discussed at

        as a continuation of discussion started on this site.

        2. It’s true that atmospheres lose mass from the top, when molecules escape to open space. That’s true for all atmospheres, but the loss is very slow.

        3. Adiabatic lapse rate does not refer to an adiabatic atmosphere, but to the adiabatic expansion of the rising air parcels and to the rate of cooling that results from this adiabatic expansion.

        The whole atmosphere is not a closed system. It’s not in thermodynamic equilibrium or even close to thermodynamic equilibrium, but it may be essentially stationary in it’s main properties (i.e. not changing with time). Many small subsystems of the atmosphere are close to thermodynamic equilibrium, but not precisely.

  4. Hector Pascal

    ‘Over the next five years, research methods improved, more papers were published, and all those little theories began to add up to a single big Theory–the Earth was getting hotter.

    By 1979, it was already clear that the effect of greenhouse gases had a bigger impact than the effect of dust particles.’

    Case proved. Earth warms therefore it’s greenhouse gasses. Sigh.

    • 1979 was the coldest winter in US history. 10F colder than the warmest winter (2000). 1978 was the 7th coldest winter. 1977 was the 11th coldest.

      CO2 was powerful enough to make the US freeze!

      30 years later, another cold PDO and 2010 was the 15th coldest winter in US history.

  5. To use a business model, a Conglomerate is an amalgamation of diverse companies brought together for some financial or otherwise purpose. Conglomerates usually don’t work as the integration of the multiple companies is problematic. More recent business aquisitions styles usually have an eye on integrating into a whole, the arm and leg function with the body and brain for the purpose of moving (mixed metaphors sorry). Climate science as far as I can see is at the conglomerate stage of development, disperate science , glomped together. People say: ” look, the science is right.”, ahh, at least some of the science is right. What climate science does”n’t have is the ability to predict the future coming up with a strange statement: yes, not now, but in the distant future we can predict the future! Climate science is not fit for purpose. In the business/theatrical sense, climate science doesn’t have “legs.”

    • simon abingdon

      Did you mean disparate or desperate?

      • As I am an atrocious speller and my spell check does not function I was trying to say disparate; however, both fit well, really well as a matter of fact. I accept both. Thank you

  6. Boing Boing is usually a good place for goofy stuff.

  7. In general a agree with the way Judith views these issues. I might frame the role of AGW a little differently (but not in a contradictory way).

    The well known theories of physics tell that CO2 is a GHG and therefore it’s certain that changing the concentration of CO2 does influence the climate. From the point of view of science this question can be studied without any preceding hypothesis. From the point of view of science it’s natural to ask, how strong this effect is, what we can learn about the effect empirically and what based on existing well established theories of physics.

    The possibility that the effect may be sizable makes the scientific question more interesting, and perhaps the answers important for decision makers, but the nature of the scientific question is not affected by these considerations.

    • Changing the concentration of CO2 does NOT influence the climate, as proved by the proper comparison of temperatures in the atmospheres of Venus (96.5% CO2) and Earth (0.04%):

      Venus: No Greenhouse Effect

      The effect of increasing CO2 concentration is to increase the efficiency, hence the speed, of heat transfer within the atmosphere, without changing the equilibrium distribution of heat, which is governed by the hydrostatic temperature lapse rate. When climate scientists start admitting this, I will start to consider them as competent scientists, not before.

      • Wrong. Read ray’s paper linked above.

      • Dr. Strangelove

        There is greenhouse effect on Venus and it’s easy to calculate how much. The surface temp. on Venus is 740 K and emissivity of the surface which is basalt rock is 0.72. Using Stefan-Boltzmann radiation law to calculate the flux J = e o T^4
        J = 12,242 W/m^2

        The solar constant in Venus is 2,636 W/m^2 and e = 0.25 as viewed from space. Spreading the flux across Venus surface area = 2636/4 * 0.25 = 165 W/m^2.

        So the surface is radiating at 12,242 W/m^2 and receiving solar flux at 165 W/m^2. The difference is the greenhouse effect 12242-165 = 12,077 W/m^2 because the surface is in thermal equilibrium with the atmosphere. If not for this greenhouse effect, the surface will be cooling very fast.

        The specific heat of basalt rock is 0.84 kJ/kg-K and density 3,000 kg/m^3. If it’s losing heat at the rate of 12,077 W/m^2, the top 1 m surface of venus would cool to 0 C in less than 6 days.

      • Except the “greenhouse” effect on Venus has little to do with CO2 and much to do with a reflective layer of clouds that actually do what some claim CO2 does, that is, REFLECT IR!!!!!

      • Dr. Strangelove

        Venusian atmosphere is 96% CO2. The clouds are made up of SO2 which is 0.015% of the atmosphere. SO2 reflects incoming sunlight, not surface infrared radiation which causes the greenhouse effect. Btw, CO2 does not reflect IR, rather it absorbs and emits IR. Reflection of waves is a different physical phenomenon from absorption and emission of photons.

      • Um, photon=particle, see particle-wave duality in wikipedia or somewhere, but only after you start with some high school physics. Will work better without your foot in your mouth.

      • Dr. S.,

        Yes, I DID say that SOME claim CO2 reflects IR. Talk to Steven Mosher and convince him about that why don’t you??

        As far as the cloud layer not reflecting IR, why don’t you show me some measurements that shows the huge IR flux above the cloud layer similar to below?? Remember there is minimal water or hydroxyl on Venus in the clouds to ABSORB the IR like on earth, just CO2.

        So, here we have a temperature profile of Venus. We start at 400-500c and have a steady adiabat until PAST the cloud layer. Dang, you sure seem to be correct about the IR going on past and COOLING the planet. I must be wrong. Venus is cooling with a 96% CO2 atmosphere!! Guess that CO2 really doesn’t heat things up!!

      • Dr. Strangelove

        Mark, it’s your foot in your mouth. Of course IR has both wave and particle properties. That’s not my point. Reflection is a wave property not limited to radiations governed by Fresnel equations. Absorption of radiation is both wave and particle properties. As wave, it is governed by Lambert-Beer law. As particle, it is governed by Planck-Einstein equation and the empirically determined ‘cross section’ in particle physics. Different equations describe them because they are different physical phenomena.

        Kuhn, you must be confusing CO2 with SO2. I said SO2 is reflecting incoming sunlight and CO2 is absorbing and emitting IR from the surface. Your graph supports that. More heat is trapped in lower altitudes thus high temp. because 90% of the CO2 is within the 30 km altitude.

        You are wrong, Venus is not cooling bec. of CO2. With 165 W/sqm solar flux on its surface vs. 342 W/sqm on earth, Venus should be cooler than earth despite being nearer to the sun. But Venus surface is hot as hell bec. of greenhouse effect of CO2.

      • Dr. S,

        didn’t your mommy tell you not to speculate??


        I realize you WANT it to be because of this mythical Greenhouse, but, if you check what the Modelers and RC says about Greenhouse it isn’t the heating of the surface due to backradiation, it is the BOTTLENECK on the radiation at the average radiation elevation due to the decreasing average radiation temperature. Interestingly enough, the average radiation temperature on earth is very close to the average radiation temperature on Venus, just a few kilometers different in height though say, about 60? (wag). There goes that idea of the average radiation height causing a cooling of the average radiation temperature. You guys just can’t catch a break can you???

        “Venus is not cooling bec. of CO2.”

        So, you are saying that CO2 isn’t radiating the IR to space from the average radiation elevation?? (snicker) You are right though, Venus is cooling by direct radiation to space from the ground through the window. A minority of the IR is rerouted through the CO2 delay.

      • kuhnkat, 8/10/11, 12:25 am, Theories

        In a radiation model, radiation flows in both directions between objects. In a heat model, radiant heat is the net of the radiation between objects or nodes. Heat only flows from the hotter to the colder. 2d Law. The radiation model, breaking heat into a forward and back radiation, is not a thermodynamic model. The IPCC model is a hybrid.

        Science doesn’t require either model. It only requires that to be a theory, a model must fit all the data in its domain, provide at least one non-trivial prediction, and that that prediction be validated by subsequent observations. IPCC’s model fails those requirements on multiple grounds.

        Meanwhile, the radiation model is non-linear. As a result, the average radiation over multiple paths is not the radiation over some average path. This principle applies to radiation loss from multiple cells across the surface, or from different layering representing the atmosphere. Radiation transfer is quite precise, but it’s accuracy is limited by the accuracy of the atmospheric model. Radiation is a mesoparameter; heat is a macroparameter. In a heat model the atmosphere is a resistance to heat, or as you put it, a bottleneck, but not to radiation. It is a bottleneck to radiant heat. Heat modeling can be linear, making it far more likely to have predictive power.

      • Dr. S,

        Now that i have been completely ridiculous, here is a link you may find interesting.

        “These clouds account for the high reflectivity of Venus, but because they also reflect infrared back to the surface (unlike water clouds, which absorb and emit), they have a warming effect as well, and constitute the second most important factor in the greenhouse effect of Venus after carbon dioxide. ”

        Yup, apparently I was right in the first place. The fact that the clouds reflect the IR means that Venus cools from the IR radiation from its upper atmosphere just like earth.

        You may want to reconsider your figures. You may want to reconsider confusing results with causes. We do not know why Venus is as hot as it is.

      • Mr. Glassman,

        Thank you for the educational post. I will reread the third paragraph a few times and hopefully get a clearer understanding of what you are conveying.

        The good Dr. is like many others. They see a state and start comparing it to what they are familiar with that matches what they believe and ASSume it is the same. They also reject possibilities based on their bias. Venus could be explained by a recent collision with another large body or just being young. These possibilities, of course, tend to threaten their world view so are not allowed.

      • Mr. Glassman,

        While you are here, I hope, have you seen the Model Atmosphere that Joe Postma authored? I am biased to Denial, but, don’t have the math abilities to evaluate his work. The concepts appear reasonable, but, if the math isn’t there… He starts by reiterating the standard Greenhouse one layer model and shows where it is wrong and how to fix it resulting in no conflict between theoretical and actual temps requiring Greenhouse..

        While I am attempting to impose, do you have any links handy at a beginners level covering the heat model you would recommend?

      • kuhnkat, 8/10/11, 12:26 pm, Theories

        Your reference by J. E. Postma computes and compares the average solar energy intercepted by Earth’s disk, 1.747E17 W (Eq. 17) and the total blackbody radiation from the surface of Earth at 288K, 1.99E17 W (Eq. 19). If he had computed the density, dividing by the surface area of a sphere of radius 6371 km, his numbers would have been 390.1 and 342.5 Wm^-2. Within round off tolerances, these are the values from the Kiehl and Trenberth (1997) annual, global, mean energy balance IPCC used to initialize its GCMs. See AR4, FAQ 1.1, Figure 1, p. 96. After Eq. 17, Postma says, which is more energy than is even intercepted before albedo losses.

        This is the kind of confusion that arises from mixing models, or even introducing back radiation. Either a heat model or a radiation model can be made to work, but not half of a radiation model compared to much of anything. For readers who might not want to bother reading Postma, and because the only battle worth having over AGW is with its owner, IPCC, I will answer Postma for you in the IPCC domain. The longwave energy lost to space from the surface is 390 – 324 = 66 Wm^-2. That of course is much less than the solar energy at TOA, and substantially less than the TSI absorbed at the surface, which IPCC puts at 168 Wm^-2.

        That net radiation is defined as radiant heat is not arbitrary. Heat is what is necessary to account for the internal energy lost when a body cools to its surroundings. The internal energy is what we measure as temperature. Without quibbling over emissivity, the radiant fluxes of 390 and 324 Wm^-2, like any other, can be measured with a detector cooled to as close to 0K as possible. Then one needs a simple model to know to subtract one from the other for the net radiation. Conceptually one might measure the net 66 Wm^-2 directly by using a detector in thermal equilibrium with the average atmosphere.

        Postma says,

        In fact, this is where the worst and primary violation of logic occurs in the standard GH model: a ground temperature which is higher than the spherically-averaged Solar insolation is observed, but a then-invented scheme of radiative physics within the atmosphere, dependent upon this already-higher temperature, is used to justify the existence of this higher-than-solar-insolation ground temperature in the first place. In addition to being obviously tautologous, this paradigm has to be a violation of various laws of physics and thermodynamics, with no further qualification even necessary. That main-stream academia, at some of our most prestigious universities, are teaching this model without also teaching the violation of basic physics and logic here as a value-added educational exercise, speaks greatly to the problem of institutional dogmatic inertia.

        The back-radiative GH model is boot-strapped into existence (i.e., pulling oneself out of quick-sand by pulling up on your own bootstraps…a basic violation of mechanics) via paradigmatic illogic, which must obviously be congruent and inherently systemic. Id., p. 14.

        Literally, he is saying 15ºC is higher than 342 Wm^-2 and building on that notion. His appeal to physics and thermodynamics, to the teachings in academia, and to logic are unfounded. No one invented back radiation for the purposes of the greenhouse model. It is fundamental in the development of the concept of radiant heat.

        Gratuitous phrases like obviously tautologous and paradigmatic illogic, which must obviously be congruent and inherently systemic have a name, too: sesquipedalianism. Besides, for lack of any technical support, they are unparsable.

        These criticisms of Postma’s paper are not to taken as any kind of endorsement or validation of the Kiehl & Trenberth budget, or of IPCC’s radiative forcing model for global climate. The K&T budget is interesting for the fact that they could balance radiation simultaneously at the top of the atmosphere, almost in the atmosphere (it’s off by just a fixable 4 Wm^-2), and at the surface. The problem is that K&T’s well-chosen word budget isn’t sufficient warning that their cleverly balanced state is not some kind of preferred state. In fact, the K&T budget isn’t even unique. Similar states exist for every surface temperature, balanced or not. IPCC takes the budget falsely to be a state of equilibrium regulating the natural climate at a preferred temperature.

        The greenhouse effect has been attributed to Guy Callendar’s 1938 paper, and his result has been called the Callendar Effect. His model was to tie global temperature to CO2 emissions, Arrhenius’s conjecture, using measurements for the first time. In his paper, Callendar assumed equilibrium in atmospheric gases and in ocean temperature and chemistry, but not in radiation. While equilibrium does exist in climate models but never in nature, Callendar correctly observed that global temperature was regulated not by equilibrium but by clouds. IPCC threw out the baby and kept the bathwater. The problem for IPCC is its failure to model cloud cover, and then trying to mechanize feedback, which is a flow, without flow variables.

        You asked for a beginner’s level reference for a climate heat model. Engineering curricula generally introduce heat modeling at the start of upper division. It is taught as part of analogous circuits with lumped parameters, represented by second order, linear, ordinary differential equations. These are electrical, translational mechanical, rotational mechanical, hydraulic, and thermal, although the latter is uniquely first order. See for descriptions and comparisons. The circuits comprise nodes, branches, passive elements, potentials, flows, sources, and sinks, and their solution requires application of one or the other of Kirchoff’s complementary circuit laws. These circuits constitute transfer functions that define the relationships between input and output signals.

        In steady state, inductances (which have no analogy in heat) become short circuits, and capacitances become open circuits. At steady state, these circuits simplify to zero order networks, which are understandable and easily solved without knowledge of differential equations. Here’s an example at this level: . Steady state circuits would compare with GCMs, which move incrementally between points of so-called equilibrium.

        You might find this helpful:

        Climatologists show no skill with this kind of modeling, preferring to disparage it with the name “toy models”. You can actually Google productively for “toy models” and “climate”. Such models do not agree with IPCC’s radiation forcing paradigm, so are not suitable for publication in approved, peer-reviewed, AGW-advocating climate journals. If you were to find such a circuit, here’s a checklist for what it would need: (1) a surface temperature node, (2) heat as the flow variable, (3) the Sun as the source, (4) and (5) deep space and deep or deeper ocean as sinks, (6) a surface temperature dependent albedo (feedback), (7) an atmospheric resistance for short wave radiation, (8) a parallel resistance and capacitance as the surface to ocean transfer function, and (9) a single resistance representing the longwave, greenhouse effect.

      • Mr. Glassman,

        many thanks again for the clarification. In simplified layman’s terms his primary mistake isn’t the geometry but the confusion of terms? The point about temp that gets raised to a 4th power being averaged causing an error he was fixing seemed obvious.

        What little I know agrees with the 66w/m2. It is just that when discussing things here and elsewhere that correct use of SB seems to be anathema, so I try to concentrate on areas where I MIGHT get a little traction. Even over at SOD he prattles about 390 ground compared to 240 TOA showing Greenhouse!!

        I will find time to read the links.

      • Dr. Strangelove


        You don’t know why Venus is as hot as it is. It is a mystery to you. But we know why. Its atmosphere is 96% CO2. A greenhouse gas that produces the greenhouse effect. Compare the surface temp. of Venus vs. earth. It’s obvious why. Don’t surface temp. of earth with 60 km altitude of Venus. Of course you will find an altitude where the temp. is similar to earth because of the ideal gas law PV = nRT. Lower pressure gives you lower temp.

        Now people who know a little science (a little knowledge is dangerous)use the gas law to argue that Venus high atmospheric pressure is the cause of its high temp. If that were true, since Venus is radiating heat into space faster than the solar flux, it would cool quickly and the CO2 atmosphere will turn into solid. Too bad, we haven’t found dry ice on Venus.

        This is my last reply. I’m tired of explaining the basics. Just read this introduction to atmospheric physics.

      • Dr. S,

        thank you for the time. I would suggest broadening your sources of information. Like most propagandists, unless you KNOW the subject, you are not likely to notice where SOD twists it or simply uses the accepted WRONG assumptions of CS.

        “You don’t know why Venus is as hot as it is. It is a mystery to you. But we know why.”

        This is the kind of arrogant BS that made me fairly certain that Climate Science was wrong even before I knew much about it. Not that I know that much now. Have you read the papers written by the scientists who evaluated the observations from the Venus probes?? With the statement you made, my guess is that you have not. if you have you filtered what they wrote through your Climate Science glasses.

        I would point out that you initiated this conversation thinking you would educate me with the canned numbers all the BOTS spread around and found out that you don’t even know what your own TEAM is telling people.


    Global Warming
    April 1998
    In the early 1970’s, because temperatures had been decreasing for about 25 to 30 years, people began predicting the approach of an ice age! For the last 15 to 20 years, we have been seeing a fairly steady rise in temperatures, giving some assurance that we are now in a global warming phase.

    1) Global Cooling:
    The New York Times
    24-Feb-1895 was

    2) Global Warming:
    The New York Times

    3) Global Cooling:
    Newsweek on 28-April-1975

    4)Global Warming:
    Time, April 3, 2006

    • Data showing the above reports:

    • Add this one to your collection Girma. I find it particularly entertaining as they were blaming tornadoes on global cooling.,9171,944914,00.html

      • steven

        …when meteorologists take an average of temperatures around the globe they find that the atmosphere has been growing gradually cooler for the past three decades. The trend shows no indication of reversing. Climatological Cassandras are becoming increasingly apprehensive, for the weather aberrations they are studying may be the harbinger of another ice age.

        Steven, just replace “cold” then with “warm” now; otherwise, the scare mongering is identical!

      • Perhaps in 30 years they can switch it back :)

  9. “Climate change is definitely happening.”

    Well the entire premise of that piece falls apart right there. Of course the climate changes!!!

    What needs to be included in this paper is the difference between events and mechanisms. Mechanisms are the causes of the events, the theories.

    Gravity exists: event. Gravity’s mechanism? Unknown.

    Climate change: event. Causes of these changes (the mechanisms)? Unknown, but the default position MUST be that those mechanisms are natural. Just as we do not expect there is a Big Being making gravity happen. It too must have a natural mechanism.

  10. Willis Eschenbach

    A storyline that depends critically on an article by Tom Peterson and William Connelley … how the mighty have fallen. I wouldn’t depend on either of them to tell me if it’s warm outside … yet they are the only basis for the author’s claims.

    Connolley and Peterson? Judith, I thought you were a scientist. A scientist would start by critically investigating the “science” of Connolley and Peterson. But noooo, the author thinks those two are actually scientists, and accepts their ideas as gospel. And you go right along with it, as though the ideas of Connolley and Peterson had actually been verified. That’s as dumb as accepting the claims of Naomi Oreskes without investigating them.

    Judith, have you actually looked at the papers that Connolley and Peterson use to make their claims? Yes/no question.

    And if not, why, why on earth would you take the word of William Connolley for anything?

    Indeed the author starts out here story with a myth, that “Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat.”

    Hogwash. That’s a much bigger myth than anything about global cooling, and the author swallows it without a murmur of protest. And we’re to believe that she is a scientist? SHE CAN’T RECOGNIZE A SCIENTIFIC MYTH, that 500 years ago people thought the world was flat … and she wants to lecture us on how to recognize myths and distinguish them from small and big T theories? Get real. I don’t take instruction from people that dumb.

    And that myth, not facts but a myth about what people believed 500 years ago, is supposed to convince us that … well, that somehow, in the realm of climate science, that “science worked the way it’s supposed to work.”

    Really? That’s why climate science is in such good shape today, I suppose.

    Judith, generally you put up stuff which is at least interesting and debatable. This is neither, and it is a very poor imitation of science as well. All you’ve done by reposting this is to act as Connolley’s fluffer, and that does your reputation no good.


    • Roger Caiazza


      The 500 year quote was a quote from Men In Black. The point being that theories change and not support of a Hollywood writer’s understanding whether folks 500 years thought the earth was flat.

  11. John Whitman

    ‘’’’’JC comments: In making arguments for AGW to the public, scientists explain the Tyndall gas effect and gaseous infrared radiative transfer, which are well established theories. These well established theories are then bootstrapped to provide plausibility to quantitative statements about the magnitude of climate sensitivity to greenhouse gas forcing. This has been enormously misleading IMO. This is the confusion of the uppercase Theory versus the lowercase theory. Scientists agree on the uppercase Theory, but disagree on the lowercase theory, with multiple hypotheses about the lowercase theory.’’’’ [emphasis by John Whitman]



    Your post is essentially a discussion of the hierarchy of human knowledge (HHR), in this case of scientific human knowledge of the climate science variety.

    For climate science HHR we have many pieces of climate science that have extremely narrow scope (ENS). We have many pieces of climate science that compile the ENS pieces of climate science into pieces of science with longer timescales, larger spatial coverage and more phenomena; let’s call them compiled pieces (CS) of climate science. There are other parts of the hierarchy that we could enumerate, but the step that utilizes all the ENS, CS and other pieces is the step that broadly integrates (BI) the bulk of all the previous (lower in the hierarchy) pieces of climate science.

    Your lower case and upper case categorization is I think a step in the direction of understanding hierarchy.

    I think a principle failure (there are several) of the so-called consensus climate science is the lack of objectivity of those organizations and scientists who currently dominate the integration step. Mostly, they are not objective because the integrative process has been usurped by the political nature of the IPCC and large governmental research bodies. As a priority and as a first step I think we need to give integrative science back to nonpolitical and nongovernmental based science organizations; then eventually give the lower hierarchy steps back to science as well.

    I have often recommended a voluntary consortium of private research universities/institutions around the world as the best climate science leadership. I think government universities/institutions could contribute but only under the guidance of private universities/institutes; I advocate that because we need to get government out of the lead role in the integration area of climate science (as a start).


  12. Can an AGW Advocate point me to a good resource that explains, IN DETAIL, the Tyndall Gas Effect?


    I’m in the middle of an interesting debate with Pekka, Fred Moolten and Bob Tisdale on the dragon slayers Thread about whether back radiation heats the bulk of the ocean or not. No slam dunk winning basket has been scored yet.


    In making arguments for AGW to the public, scientists explain the Tyndall gas effect and gaseous infrared radiative transfer, which are well established theories. These well established theories are then bootstrapped to provide plausibility to quantitative statements about the magnitude of climate sensitivity to greenhouse gas forcing.

    You see, Judith – here’s the evidence that your criticism is blinkered. You identify “bootstrapping” on one side of the debate, but not others.

  13. Willis Eschenbach

    Oh, yeah. Big and small “T” theories. One of the huge problems with climate science, unmentioned by the author, is that there is no big “T” Theory of Climate.

    Instead the only (small T) theory says “Global surface air temperature slavishly follows the imposed forcings. If forcings go up or down, average surface air temperatures will follow linearly and mechanically.” Riiiiight … it’s astounding to me that people believe that claim, despite the fact that such linearity of output with forcing is virtually unknown in other complex flow systems, from meandering rivers to blood flow in the human body. There’s a myth that needs investigation, the myth of climate linearity.

    I have a small T theory that climate doesn’t slavishly and linearly follow the forcings, but instead it is governed by a combination of homeostatic mechanisms.

    Now, discussing the difference between those two underlying theories of climate would be interesting. But claiming, as the author of the linked piece claims, that there is a bit T “Theory of Climate” is a sick joke. We’re nowhere near that place with the climate yet.

    However, expecting a person who believes that 500 years ago people thought the world was flat to notice that climate doesn’t have any big T theory is too much of an ask, I guess.


    • It is amusing, Willis, to see you arguing so vociferousness that an accurate view of history shows us that in spite of common misconceptions about the physical properties of the Earth, scientific experts knew long before the belief was shared by non-experts, that the Earth was, indeed, “round.”

      So the conclusion that we should draw from your argument is that, indeed, we should have much greater trust in the “consensus” view of scientific experts?

      • Experts used to know that the MWP existed and was warmer than today.

        Then came along Mann and Connolley and the rest of the hockey team.

        It is Mann and Connolley and the hockey team who deny the existence of the MWP. They are the true denialists. And you worship their denialism.

      • Can you link to a publication of an expert (an expert from the past when they used to know) who makes a case for a global temperature during the MWP that would exceed global temperature today?

      • You could start here.

        My favorite recent paper is about the AD 1300 event where sea level fell 70-80cm as the MWP came to an end in the Pacific.

        Woods Hole:

        “The more interesting and potentially controversial result is that our data indicate surface water temperatures during a part of the Medieval Warm Period that are similar to today’s…”

        “Although there are significant uncertainties with our own reconstruction, our work raises the idea that perhaps even the Northern Hemisphere temperature reconstructions need to be looked at more closely.”

        Mann (2009)

        “The reconstructed MCA pattern is characterised by warmth over a large part of the North Atlantic, Southern Greenland, the Eurasian Arctic and parts of North America, which appears to substantially exceed that of the modern late 20th century (1961 – 1990) baseline and is comparable to or exceeds that of the past one-to-two decades in some regions.

      • JCH:
        I have been looking for a refutation of the evidence in the peer reviewed papers listed by CO2 Science with respect to the worldwide Medieval Warm Period. If you have such a link, I would love to see it! I have gone through all of the papers they reference and have not been able to find the fault in their listings. I need your help here.

        Roy Weiler

      • ve a feeling the Eric the Red was not a scientist.

  14. I disagree that an hypothesis is a guess. This is a common misconception, that should not be reinforced.
    An Hypothesis is an “if…then” statement, that can be tested by observation that measures a theory as an adequate explanation of a body of observation. “If (this theory) is correct… then, we should observe (this).” We go out and look and either do or do not observe the expected result. If we confirm the observation, the theory is strengthened. If we fail to observe the expected result, the theory is weakened.
    This why the null hypothesis is so powerful. Instead of the above, we say, “If (this theory) is correct, we should not expect to observe (this).” This is a much stronger test of the theory, as a negative result of a positive hypothesis my be because we just didn’t look everywhere. With the null hypothesis, if we observe something that is inconsistent with the theory, the null hypothesis is unquestionably proven and the theory is weakened as an adequate explanation of the body of observation.
    Theories are formed and developed through this process hypothesis testing.

    • Yes; this lexicon leaves out the first stage: a speculation. A speculation is also evidence-based, but has not yet been formalized to the point of offering comprehensive extrapolations or any “make/break” tests.
      It may be termed a “guess”, and some guessers (like Feynman and Dyson) are much better at it than others (like Jones and Mann).

    • agreed

  15. In reading background related to the Schneider thread – it was interesting to see how Schneider accepted criticisms of his earlier work to later modify is analyses of the effects of aerosols on climate.

    It was also interesting to see how he, as a leading climate scientist, Schneider was highly critical of early theories that led to “ice age” predictions.

    Why do “skeptics” (actually, the segment of “skeptics” more accurately described as “deniers”), seem uniformly unaware that leading climate scientists such as Schneider are actually open to valid scientific challenges? Further, why do “skeptics” (actually, the segment of “skeptics” more accurately described as “deniers”) remain oddly unaware that leading climate scientists such as Schneider, in balance, rejected the theories behind the “ice age” predictions. Over and over they refer to the Time magazine article (how many, countless times have we read such references) and fraudulently try to claim that predictions of an ice age should be used to justify skepticism about AGW; (1) the majority of “climate scientists” of the time rejected those predictions and, (2) the science of “climate science” has improved exponentially since that time.

    • That would be the same Steve Schneider who characterized climate skeptics like so:

      “There are two kinds of opponents — one is the fossil fuel lobby. So you have a trillion-dollar industry that’s protecting market share, and then you have the ideologues who have a deep hatred of government involvement.”

      There was no apparent room in his world view for an honest debate with skeptics, since they were either bought off or were paranoid extremists.

      He was also one of those scientists who supposedly got “hundreds” of death threats from climate skeptics. Funny how nobody ever got arrested for that.

      • There was no apparent room in his world view for an honest debate with skeptics, since they were either bought off or were paranoid extremists.

        But in response to scientific criticism of his original thesis about the effects of aerosols (and subsequently improved data), he later modified his viewpoint. Apparently, there was room, in his viewpoint, for honest debate with skeptics, but he had a different viewpoint as regards who is a “skeptic” and who is a “denier.”

      • Skeptics are called deniers by morons.

        The real deniers deny the existence of the MWP. They deny that the hockey stick was a con job. And they make vast sums of money from left wing organizations and governments in their goal to destroy the capitalist economies and channel 10s of millions of jobs to China and India. And China and India will burn more coal and produce more CO2 that the capitalist economies would have done if left alone.

      • Thanks, Bruce.

        Without your post, I wouldn’t have realize how left wing organizations intend to destroy capitalist economies and to send 10s of millions of jobs to China and India.

      • Your welcome. You do seem to need a lot of help understanding reality.

      • Joshua –
        but he had a different viewpoint as regards who is a “skeptic” and who is a “denier.”

        Precisely. Several months ago (before you showed up here) an acquaintance of mine put in an appearance. He’s a scientist and he expressed a fine contempt for those who presumed to question the “science” – unless they were scientists. IOW – in his world, only a scientist is qualified to be a sceptic.

        Oh well, he never did like me anyway. :-)

    • Joshua, and how many more times will you read the Times article? Probably a lot because it is just plain funny. As far as it being justification to be skeptical of AGW, being skeptical requires no justification. Perhaps a majority of scientists did disagree with the idea we were cooling. I’m sure they wrote the editor to complain and forced the magazines and newspapers to publish their side of the story both in the letters to the editor section and in full article rebuttals. Happen to have copies of these handy by chance? The science has indeed progressed exponentially since then. We have much more data and more accurate data then ever. People haven’t changed though. They extrapolate away just like they always have, or is that arctic sea ice really going to be gone by 2015? What technologically advanced equipment did we use for that prediction again? Was it a pencil and ruler perhaps? Then we have that little problem of confirmation bias that never really seems to go away. How else could we have gone from – well we really don’t understand the stratosphere- to – the only way the stratosphere could be cooling while the earth warms is from GHGs and this is the smoking gun we need to show we are right- to – well we really don’t understand the stratosphere – in such a short period of time? Perhaps you can explain how the stratosphere can not cool when the argument is natural variation is counteracting the GHG forcing causing a lack of warming when they both cause cooling? I know the answer. They didn’t understand all the variables and jumped to conclusions without enough data. Isn’t that the way you see it? Will you deny the science and say it is actually cooling when it isn’t? You will won’t you. You are a denier!

  16. Cloud feedback
    JC cited Dr. Eric Wolff:

    10. Finally we come to where the real uncertainties between scientists lie, about the strength of the feedbacks on warming induced by CO2, with clouds a particularly prominent issue because they have competing effects that are hard to quantify. . . .
    JC comment: indeed, this is where the biggest uncertainties lie.

    At Update on the CERN CLOUD experiment :

    “Everybody agrees that clouds have a huge effect on the climate. But the understanding of how big that effect is is really very poorly known,” says Kirkby.

    Now why would CERN Director General Rolf-Dieter Heuer order the CLOUD scientists:

    I have asked the colleagues to present the results clearly, but not to interpret them. That would go immediately into the highly political arena of the climate change debate. One has to make clear that cosmic radiation is only one of many parameters.

    cf “Don’t interpret the CLOUD experiment results”
    Calder opines:

    1) The results must be favourable for Svensmark or there would be no such anxiety about them. . . .

    It appears the the uncertainty over the impact of cosmic rays may be reduced in the near future – but the uncertainty of current GCM’s may have to be increased – until the models are modified!

    Ocean climate sensitivity:
    Spencer reports:
    Our Refutation of Dessler (2010) is Accepted for Publication entitled “On the Misdiagnosis of Surface Temperature Feedbacks from Variations in Earth’s Radiant Energy Balance”

    In modeling ocean thermal changes, Spencer observes: Oh, the Insensitivity! More on Ocean Warming 1955-2010 “Now, the important news is that the model fits to the data were accomplished with a climate sensitivity of only 1.1 deg. C for a doubling of CO2 (a feedback parameter of 3.6 W m-2 K-1).>
    After extending that: Modeled Ocean Temperatures from 1880 through 2010

    The important message here is that this simulation was done with a very low climate sensitivity, corresponding to only about 1/3 the warming rate the IPCC projects for the future in response to increasing atmospheric CO2.

    It promises to be an interesting year.

    • David – Clouds and climate sensitivity are each enormous topics in their own right, with each requiring at least one and probably multiple threads for even a superficial analysis. I could state here why I find the many dozen climate sensitivity reports persuasive in arriving at the canonical range of 2 – 4.5/C per CO2 doubling, and I would be equally receptive to evidence in other reports disagreeing with that assessment, but that would require a comprehensive coverage of evidence rather than cherry-picked citations. It’s the latter, even when they come from the peer-reviewed literature, that can distort perceptions about our state of knowledge. I think cherry-picking should be discouraged.

      I’ll add an interesting point about Spencer’s claims in his blog. He claims to have refuted the Dessler paper on positive cloud feedback in a paper accepted for publication, but won’t name the journal or provide a prepublication draft. He also makes claims about climate sensitivity based on a model he developed, but again without details. How seriously should we take his claims?

      Spencer often publishes in good journals (e.g., JGR for his earlier paper), and if you read his published articles, they generally cite what appear to be valid data. What I find striking, however, is that if we compare what he publishes with the preliminary excerpts and conclusions on his blogs, almost all the dramatic claims disappear and are replaced with solid and very modest incremental additions to our knowledge, along with conclusions that are tentative and accompanied by appropriate caveats. I assume that what has been uniformly true in the past will also apply to his latest claims, and I therefore doubt there is much to be gained from what currently appears in his blog. That might change when we see what appears in the journals. At this point, our estimates of climate sensitivity shouldn’t change from what they were a week or a month ago.

      • Fred Moolten

        What I find striking, however, is that if we compare what he [Dr. Roy Spencer] publishes with the preliminary excerpts and conclusions on his blogs, almost all the dramatic claims disappear and are replaced with solid and very modest incremental additions to our knowledge, along with conclusions that are tentative and accompanied by appropriate caveats.

        Check Spencer + Braswell (2006) for a rather dramatic “addition to our knowledge” regarding the observed net negative feedback from clouds with warming (as opposed to model-based estimates of strongly positive feedback cited by IPCC).


      • Max – I’m familiar with that Spencer/Braswell paper and I could describe at length why it is not a major advance and why it does not show a net negative feedback, but discussing individual reports cited to advance a position is exactly the kind of cherry picking that I believe distorts our perspective.

      • Every time I hear you pontificate on a highly technical paper, and dis an author or authors, I can’t help but remember your thoughts on how 1 mm of sea level rise would cause hurricanes to do substantially more damage,
        which is ridiculous. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander as they say. You don’t impress me.

      • Fred
        JC set the tone:

        “So this takes us back to what we can agree on versus where disagreement is justified,”

        These are not “cherry picked”, but rather interesting news I came across that address one of the largest uncertainties involved in deciding whether AGW is a THEORY or an hypothesis! Climate sensitivity estimates appear bimodal, with the AGW range you cite on the high side. The range of observational based estimates runs 0.4 to 1.5 C/doubling. e.g. by Spencer, Lindzen, Idso etc.e.g.
        Sherwood B Idso Vol 10: (1998) 69-82 Climate Research. CO2-induced global warming: a skeptic’s view of potential climate change, which <a href=,15&hl=enhas 40 citations Climate sensitivity is a core IPCC issue.

        When we see at least an order of magnitude variation in the range of climate sensitivities, to me that says Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (aka “climate change”) AGW is a “lower case theory” (aka hypothesis), not a well established quantitative THEORY in the “hard sciences” like gravity, relativity, atomic physics etc. e.g., spectroscopists now measure optical frequency to 16 significant figures! Climate science can’t predict whether this next year, next decade, or next century will be warmer or colder than this year, decade, or century. It must deal with major uncertainties of unknown solar physics impacts on climate compounded by chaotic variations.

        “How seriously should we take his claims?” Since alarmists are asking us to spend $1,900 trillion per degree C to “control climate”, I would take it very seriously. When we are being asked to pour the world’s wealth into a black hole, it is prudent to “get a second opinion”.

        In face of clear, documented efforts to prevent publication of evidence countering the AGW bandwagon, I believe Spencer’s choice ( to not publicize the journal till it is published) is prudent.

        I see nothing unusual from your comparison of blog vs published articles. That is typical of the difference between the freedom to state your opinion in current blog posts for a popular audience vs fitting into conservative journal publications. Some like Steve McIntyre are very circumspect in their statements. Contrast James Hansen who infers the holocaust by categorizing as “death trains” the electrical power that enabled the West to rise out of poverty! By comparison, I find Spencer to be very prudent in his claims.

      • David – I’ll let others judge whether citing individual unpublished blog claims on a topic abundantly represented in the literature, for the purpose of advancing a particular viewpoint, is or isn’t cherry picking. In either case, I think it is likely to contribute more to misinformation than an accurate understanding.

      • Fred – Having done some work on Ocean THermal Energy Conversion (OTEC), I found Spencer’s
        Forcing-Feedback-Diffusion (FFD) model that “explains 90% of the variance in ocean heat content variations” and related ocean temperature curves to be more understandable and believable than Trenberth’s “missing heat”
        I found helpful Spencer’s comments on some of those uncertainties regarding the “missing energy”. (rather than appealing to an argumentum ad ignoratium)

      • I don’t think Spencer has provided nearly enough detail to judge his model. The fact that he hasn’t provided a draft of the paper makes me suspicious that his evidence may be weak, but I’ll wait for the published paper to make a judgment on that.

      • Fred – try examining the graphs Spencer gives of his !evidence. That looks like a very significant difference! I understand that evidence to show that at least shorter term climate feedback is much lower than IPCC’s global climate models – with the difference being much greater than the difference between the 3 most sensitive vs 3 least sensitive models.

      • Fred, just this week you were using Hansen’s unpublished paper to bolster a viewpoint in this very blog. So that is fine but citing Specer isn’t, is it? That’s double stanndards.

      • I read Hansen’s paper in detail. I haven’t read Spencer’s paper since he hasn’t posted it despite announcing its conclusions.

      • Dr.Roy Spencer has given his clear reasons on why he is not giving details of the journal where the study has been accepted. Those are pretty valid reasons, judging from what happened to sceptical papers in the past. In fact William Connelly already was poking around in that thread suggesting a journal name. That’s the kind of response you get from the AGW fanatic clique.

        And as far as details of models has concerned neither Hansen, Jones or Mann or any of the AGW clique have given any details pf their models, codes and calculations even in their published work. I didn’t see you making a song and dance of it. How did you read and verify their papers? On blind faith? And you make a big issue out of Spencer not giving details in a blog post? Why don’t you write to him and ask. He always is courteous, polite and replies properly, unlike the pro-AGW climate scientists.

      • I’ll just wait for the paper to be published.

      • That’s one part of the answer. Can you also clear up the mystery of how you managed to get data, codes, details and methods from reading Hansen’s, Mann’s and Jones’ work? I’m sure the world would like to know as normal mortals did not manage to get these and the journals also did not archive all these. After all, as a perfectionist, you would have wanted to get all these and then only read the papers, isn’t it?

      • I see that there’s no answer as yet. So I guess that we assume that the excuses given for not reading Spencer’s post and commenting were not true. If it is AGW suporting, a blog post of Hansen is good enough to discuss. If it is against AGW, tenous excuses, proven untrue or given to justify not reading a dissenting scientist’s blog. Great logic. But consistent with any blind AGW supporter.

    • The evidence for anthropogenic global warming being a false alarm does not get much more convincing than this, folks.

      …the important news is that the model fits to the data were accomplished with a climate sensitivity of only 1.1 deg. C for a doubling of CO2

      Using an entirely independent method, I arrive at similar conclusions.

      IPCC assume the recent 30-years warming rate of 0.16 deg C per decade to continue and it assumes a climate sensitivity of 3.

      Almost 100% of the last 130 years global mean temperature (GMT) data lie between an upper and lower GMT boundary lines that have a warming trend of only 0.06 deg C per century as shown in the following graph.

      Since almost 100% of the last 13 decades GMT data are enclosed by the upper and lower GMT boundary lines, it is reasonable to assume the next decades observed GMT data would also lie within this boundary.

      If this is the case, the projected global temperature of the IPCC has been exaggerated by a factor of 0.16/0.06 = 2.7. As a result, the true climate sensitivity is =3/2.7=1.1.

      Since almost 100% of the GMT data are enclosed by the upper and lower GMT boundary lines for the last 130 years, it is almost impossible for the observed GMT to exceed the upper boundary in the next decade before another global cooling is completed. As a result, AGW is “a false alarm.”

    • Here’s a little nuance to notice: Heuer didn’t and can’t “order” the experimenters to do or not do anything. He “asked”. They are independent; CERN provided facilities and support, but don’t employ or control the scientists involved.

      I think his announcement was a CYA pre-emptive dissociation of the CERN hierarchy from the upcoming heresy.

    • Pielke Sr. notes Spencer & Brawswell 2011 is now out, observing: “There is a new paper published which raises further questions on the robustness of multi-decadal global climate predictions.”

      Spencer, R.W.; Braswell, W.D. On the Misdiagnosis of Surface Temperature Feedbacks from Variations in Earth’s Radiant Energy Balance. Remote Sens. 2011, 3, 1603-1613.

      Abstract: The sensitivity of the climate system to an imposed radiative imbalance remains the largest source of uncertainty in projections of future anthropogenic climate change. Here we present further evidence that this uncertainty from an observational perspective is largely due to the masking of the radiative feedback signal by internal radiative forcing, probably due to natural cloud variations. That these internal radiative forcings exist and likely corrupt feedback diagnosis is demonstrated with lag regression analysis of satellite and coupled climate model data, interpreted with a simple forcing-feedback model. While the satellite-based metrics for the period 2000–2010 depart substantially in the direction of lower climate sensitivity from those similarly computed from coupled climate models, we find that, with traditional methods, it is not possible to accurately quantify this discrepancy in terms of the feedbacks which determine climate sensitivity. It is concluded that atmospheric feedback diagnosis of the climate system remains an unsolved problem, due primarily to the inability to distinguish between radiative forcing and radiative feedback in satellite radiative budget observations.

  17. A. C. Osbornr

    Greenhouse Gases, Greenhouse effect.

  18. I read in this thread:

    Who’s to say that 100 years from now we won’t find the results of 21st century climate modeling as ridiculous as a map of a flat Earth?

    This is not going to take a 100 years.

    • I already find it as ridiculous as a map of a flat Earth.

    • You are too modest. If I knew the future with certainty, I would just come right out and say it. If you know what the future isn’t going to be, then you must know what the future is going to be. So, don’t just keep it to yourself. Go on record here. Start with your prediction of next month’s global temperature anomaly as reported by UAH.

  19. I do believe Climate Theory and Models have some valid parts. I believe they have left out some of the most important valid parts. I believe they invented Carbon Feedback terms and now, particles in the atmosphere terms to make up for the mistakes that prevented the Models from matching real data.

  20. J Storrs Hall

    It’s not clear that the distinction between law and theory is really a semantic one. We refer to Newton’s Law of gravity and Einstein’s Theory of relativity even though the latter is generally accepted to be proven as much as the former, and indeed to supersede it. So the usage seems to be as much a case of tradition as of any difference in meaning.

    There is, however, a very significant distinction that I didn’t notice anyone here making: whether a theory has been tested in repeatable controlled experiments. This has happened for parts of the assemblage of arguments making up various theories of climate change: CO2’s absorption spectrum; the ability of GCR tertiaries to nucleate cloud droplets. However, none of the overall theories has been so tested. To that extent, they must all share the scientific status of exoplanets, and not of gravitation.

    • Latimer Alder

      Please don’t make such inflammatory remarks about experiments.

      Climatology is a neo-Aristotlean ‘science’. There is no need for experiments – indeed they are positively discouraged as potentially dangerous heresy – because the Great Ones already know the answers.

      The only problem with mass universal acceptance of the Great Theories is that the public are too stupid to understand them. Climatologists and their advocate chums just need to shout louder and more shrilly about imminent disaster and we will all submit to the inevitable.

  21. Keith Kloor’s article is interesting.

    “Upper case and lower case theories” aside, there is no doubt that our planet has warmed by a fraction of a degree C since the modern HadCRUT3 record started in 1850.

    It did so in multi-decadal fits and spurts of ~30 years each, with an underlying warming trend of 0.041°C per decade, or around 0.7°C over the entire 161-year period.

    Assuming there is no spurious upward distortion of the record from UHI, land use changes, problems with earlier SST measurements, etc. we can conclude that our planet is warming slightly.

    We can also hypothesize as to why this is the case.

    AGW is one of many hypotheses, which could explain a portion of the warming, at least most recently since human CO2 emissions have become significant.

    But there are many other just as viable hypotheses out there, which have nothing to do with human CO2 emissions.

    So there is no “scientific law”, which can ascribe a significant portion of observed past warming to human CO2 emissions, although this appears to have become the prevalent “paradigm” in some circles (the “consensus” view promoted by IPCC).

    Kloor writes:

    scientific laws must be simple, true, universal, and absolute. They represent the cornerstone of scientific discovery, because if a law ever did not apply, then all science based upon that law would collapse.

    This is an inherent problem, which the “dangerous AGW” hypothesis faces today.

    Of course, “dangerous AGW” is a long way from being a “scientific law”.

    While “global warming” may be an “upper case theory” today, “dangerous AGW” definitely is not even that.

    There are too many periods in the record during which there is no statistically significant correlation between atmospheric CO2 and global temperature. Attempts to rationalize these away in order to save the paradigm have been weak.

    Most notable is the lack of warming of both the atmosphere and the upper ocean over the current decade, despite IPCC forecasts of significant decadal warming and CO2 increase to record levels.

    The UK Met Office has attributed this to “natural variability”.

    Kevin Trenberth has called it a “travesty”, but has conceded that it might be a result of clouds acting as a “natural thermostat” with the “missing energy” being radiated “out to space”.

    Earthshine studies show that cloud cover has increased since 2000, thereby increasing the overall albedo of our planet and reducing incoming solar radiation.

    Studies are out there blaming it on Chinese aerosol pollution, volcanic SO2 emissions, etc.

    But is this really the beginning of the end of the “dangerous AGW” paradigm?

    As the author remarks, scientific paradigms come and go.

    It is very likely that the current hiatus in global warming will continue for another few years despite continued increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations, thereby directly falsifying this paradigm.

    It will then simply be a “falsified hypothesis” and “failed paradigm”, regardless of whether or not we now regard it as an “upper case” or “lower case theory”.


    • “Assuming there is no spurious upward distortion of the record from UHI, land use changes, problems with earlier SST measurements, etc. ”

      What a huge unwarranted assumption.

    • I don’t see anywhere that either historically or deductively anyone has established the existence of “dangerous” GW, much less AGW. GW has been universally hugely beneficial for life on the planet, at least as measured by biomass and diversity, which the ‘melons so like to tout.

    • Nebuchadnezzar

      “The UK Met Office has attributed this to “natural variability”.”

      Strictly speaking they showed that it was consistent with internal variability. That’s a very different thing from attribution in the formal IPCC sense. They also suggested that a number of other factors could equally be at work.

      The hiatus in warming doesn’t want for little-T theories that are consistent with the global temperature series. What we lack are convincing means of distinguishing between them.

  22. We have a “Theory” of earthquakes, and for pure, uniform blocks of some substances we can predict their breakage under strain. No one, however, can predict when and where an earthquake will occur–the best that can be done is to say it is more likely in some regions than others. This is exactly the same type of problem as climate prediction (actually much simpler)–the theory may be there but the complexity, heterogeneity, and computational difficulties are currently insurmountable. This is where people confuse “understanding” something (like earthquakes, climate) and being able to make predictions. Not the same thing. And having a climate model is not a “Theory” in the predictive sense when its outputs are only vaguely similar (if you take off your glasses and don’t ask questions) to the real world.

    • The thing I find funny about the models is that if you take any four of them, the absolute temperature they get (not ‘anomalies’) for the global average varies by as much as 4C.

      • Nebuchadnezzar

        That’s hilarious.

        What I find funny is that we only know the global average temperature of the real world over 1961-1990 to about a degree and we know that there are natural variations lasting 30 years or more of maybe a degree.

  23. Alexander Harvey

    There is an old book series: Developments in Atmosphereic Sciences; that has a volume: Radiative Processes in Meteorology and Climatology (Paltridge & Platt). The last section of Chapter 1 is titled: “Global Dynamics as a Passive Variable” has the following for the first of six paragraphs:

    “The motions of the atmosphere and ocean obey the basic physical laws such as the conservation mass, energy and momentum, as embodied in the five primitive equations used as the basis of global modelling. It was pointed out earlier that these laws have not proved suffiicient for closure of the problem. It is not yet possible to predict ‘a priori’ either the global mean climate or the global distribution of climate. The modern approach is somewhat analogous to that of predicting the behaviour of a gas by the brute force method of describing the motion of every molecule.”

    Paragraph 3 begins:

    “Recently Paltridge (1975) has proposed that the earth-atmosphere system has adopted a configuration such that the entropy exchange between the planet and space is minimised.”

    The section concludes with the final paragraph:

    “Thus this particular ‘law’ may or may not prove relevant to the climate problem. Nevertheless it seems intuitively possible that something of the sort will emerge as the final practical answer to the problem of ‘a priori’ prediction of global climate.”

    Paltridges ‘law’ is perhaps the “First (and only) Law of Climate”. An attempt to put Climatology onto a theoretic basis.

    The degree to which this ‘law’ holds is I think still undecided, but it is still reached for when problems need to be dealt with in a theoretic way. During the last 35+ years the methodology for handling this ‘law’ has been refined but it has not yet yielded up the sort of ‘killer prediction’ that other ‘laws’ have. By this I mean results of the same strength as the determination of: the “anomalous” precession of the perihelion of Mercury.

    Paltridge’s ‘law’ is a form of imperative, it states something the system must attempt to minimise, it describes a guiding principle. In that sense it is a ‘law’ that sits above the mundane physics and the details of the deterministic and chaotic means by which such a minimisation is achieved.

    The lack of a theoretic approach is a significant hindrance which I think is apparent from the literature which is still in the tentative stage as far as predictive strength goes.

    If there were a prize worth setting it might be to give riches beyond the dreams of avarice to whomsoever could produce, validate and derive useful ‘a priori’ predictions from the ‘Laws of Climate’ without recourse to “the brute force method of describing the motion of every molecule”, e.g AOGCMs.

    By and large, physical and mathematical theorists come cheap: As was described thus: “A mathematician is a device for turning coffee into theorems.”

    That the physical sciences have no theorems distinquishes them from mathematics. But they must aspire to theories. It occurs to me that we have not pursued the theoretic path with much vigour. The theoretic route is hard it yields nothing for years and then suddenly it is as if a light has turned on and much that was arcane, obfuscated and unrelated becomes obvious.

    I do wonder whether the brightest and the best are working on the search for a the ‘laws’ of climate. If they are not, I must wonder how seriously anyone takes this issue.


    • Willis Eschenbach

      Alex, take a look at the constructal law. It is a new law of thermodynamics, first enunciated in the 1990s by Adrian Bejan of Duke University. He talks about the constructal nature of climate here (PDF). There’s a constructal theory website, as well as wikipedia.

      I hold that in accordance with constructal law, the surface temperature is not a linear function of forcing. Instead, it is the result of a host of homeostatic mechanisms.

      People go “wow, the temperature has risen seven tenths of a degree C in a hundred and fifty years”.

      Me, I find it astounding that, in a system ruled by things as ethereal as clouds, a system that can change global temperature by a degree in six months, that the system is so amazingly stable.

      The planetary surface temperature is about 288 Kelvins. That means that the average temperature of this free-flowing system, which can rapidly change up or down and does so annually, has stayed within plus or minus A TENTH OF A PERCENT over the last 150 years.

      During this time we’ve seen volcanic action and industrial pollution and changes in greenhouse gases and still, with all of a that, the temperature only varied plus or minus a tenth of a percent.

      I hold that the operation of homeostatic mechanisms, as detailed by the constructal law, is the only reasonable explanation for such amazing stability. We get floods here and droughts there for a while. Then, for a while it reverses with floods here and droughts there. This part warms for a while, and that part cools.

      Why on earth should such a system be stable? Why wouldn’t droughts take over everywhere, or floods? We take the stability of the planetary temperature and climate so much for granted that we bitch about a half a degree, rather than being slack-jawed that such a system has been able to keep the temperature of the planet within such narrow bounds for a such a long time.

      That is my theory of climate. It is that climate, like all other flow systems far from equilibrium, is not free to take up any state, but has preferential states that it maintains in shifting conditions. In other words, climate is ruled by homeostatic mechanisms.

      Note that this is not just antithetical to the linear “temperature equals forcing times sensitivity” which is the current Climate Theory.

      It is an entirely different conceptual framework, one in which the concept of climate sensitivity is seen to have no meaning.


      • I agree that climate sensitivity has no meaning.

        The constructal law is very interesting.

      • Willis Eschenbach

        The implications of the constructal law are revolutionary. Unfortunately, it was discovered after most folks left school, so it’s never come up on their radar. It is critical for the understanding of flow systems that are far from equilibrium. Climate is one example among a host of fields where constructal theory provides deep insights.


      • Willis Eschenbach, 7/23/11, 22:17 pm, Theories

        WE: The implications of the constructal law are revolutionary. Unfortunately, it was discovered after most folks left school, so it’s never come up on their radar. It is critical for the understanding of flow systems that are far from equilibrium. Climate is one example among a host of fields where constructal theory provides deep insights.

        The implications of the constructal law would indeed be revolution, setting back the principles of science a full four centuries. It was invented in 1996.

        It wasn’t discovered. Like all models, including laws, it is an invention.

        Bejan not only did not make it into high schools, he didn’t make it into IPCC Assessment Reports. He references 26 of his own works in Bejan and Lorente (2009), 20 of which were in time for Climate Change 2007 (AR4).

        The constructual model makes no prediction beyond the evolution in all physics to better states. It is subjective, and proclaiming something unmeasurable, undefined, and quite unverifiable. It couldn’t have measured the distance from equilibrium in any case, because nothing can. Equilibrium is a state, not a measure. Also, the constructual model assesses flow as the path between states and not the flow variable in a process. Each different river basin is a point on the path of constructual flow. It does measure the flow of ordinary parameters like water or heat.

      • I’ve had a brief conversation with Dr. Adrian Bejan of Duke University, one of the authors of Constructal Theory. He’s done a great deal of work on Heat Transfer and Convection and is not a Global Warmist for some odd reason :)

        One of the key features of Constructal Theory (Law?) is that Self Similarity is a common feature of Nature. Wind currents, Cloud formation, etc all adhere to Self Similarity.

        While I missed the Constructal Law in school by decades, we did learn that if a Law applies at a very small level, then it applies at a very large level.

        One of the tests I’d like to see is how fast an object cools with and without an atmosphere present. I can’t do this myself, but it seems that if Universities, like Georgia Tech, were truly interested in finding truth rather than pushing an agenda for funding, then they (like Dr. Judith Curry) would be interested in finding out just how efficient Convection is at the small and localized level.

        Since nature is Self Similar, the cooling properties should be very similar at the Macro Level and when you factor in massive convective currents like the Jet Stream that drag other convective currents around the globe, it appears the Macro is even more efficient than the micro.

        But finding truth does not get funding, pushing the Message that the GreenHouse Effect is the Effect without the GreenHouse Cause gets funding.

      • Alexander Harvey

        Hi Willis,

        I briefly reminded myself of it as I have looked a Bejan’s work before and where it touches climate it is I think a thermodyamic optimisation principle much like Paltridge’s and many others in between.

        In Bejan’s view it is just a bit of his constructal bigger picture but it boils down to a maximal dissipation within constraints as far as climate goes.

        So his work is very much part of the only laws of climate we seem to have. You will find people in the climate community who work on this but you might not often hear about it. I believe that it is thought that the models do or at least should meet an entropy production optimisation criterion.

        Somethings do come more or less straight out of such maximisation approaches, e.g. the meridional fluxes, latitudinal temperature and cloud distributions. After that progress has historically slowed down to a crawl. I know that work has been done on oceanic flows and some other things but although such principles dictate what must happen, the how is intentionally vague as the actual solution is which ever one is optimal, and in a system that has many available pathways it could be any or all of them.

        I believe that a case in question is the north south symmetry of the total meridional heat flows which are the sum of two asymmetric flows, one in the atmosphere the other in the ocean. The imperative to use the equator – polar graident to produce maximal work and dissipate it is the same in both hemispheres but the solutions differ in each. The principle indicates that should the overturning circulation cease for some reason the atmospheric flux would take up the slack and all that would happen is that Europe would cool and Eastern North America would warm. I.E. the gulf stream is optional but the dissipation of work is not.

        I am not sure what type of homeostasis you mean as you use mechanisms in the plural. That is not my understanding which is that the mechanisms are just pathways of opportunity enabling the optimisation, they are not regulatory but subservient to a single regulatory principle. This may be to split hairs as it probably amounts to the same thing.

        These approaches do tend to lead one to some questions if not conclusions e.g. whether the general climate is inevitable yet its mechanisms (weather) happenstantial and unpredictable. That the “amount” of weather is a direct result of the principle and that it is in that sense predictable, for every extra hurricane there is a compensating extra doldrum, at some other time and place, unless the amount of heat entering and leaving the system changes and hence the total amount of weather changes to a new optimum.

        However we do know that there have been long term changes e.g. the growth and retreat of glaciations, and whereas the principle would hold and the shifts would be optimised it is not the case that the system organises itself to prevent them although it would be interesting to know if it tends to ameliorate them. Again the principle would indicate somethings such as the polar amplification should have produced more weather (production and dissipation of work), conversely the net reduction of available heat might have lead to less weather. It would be interesting to know what the weather was like back then, I have often had a sneaking suspicion that it might not be quite what one might think.


      • When a large system consists of a very large number of small components without important larger scale structures, we can expect that some nice principles will apply in the spirit of the law of large numbers, LLN.

        The Earth system doesn’t satisfy the basic requirements of LLN, because the Earth does have very significant large structures like the continents and the oceans. The dominant patterns are also influenced strongly by certain large scale phenomena like adiabatic lapse rate, the Hadley cells and the thermohaline circulation. The Earth system is fundamentally complex in the way that phenomena of extremely different scales from molecular to global are contributing to it to an essential degree, and in ways specific to that particular scale.

        It’s very unlikely that any great additional principle would be of essential help in understanding the Earth system. Unfortunately it’s likely that we must continue to analyze the whole mess, when we wish to learn essentially more. We’ll learn that some phenomena are not important for the whole, but we’ll be left with essentially the same problems after these unimportant details are put aside.

      • I’ve found a great additional principle which will help us understand Earth’s climate system, if I can just get people to put their prejudice on one side and give it a serious assessment.

        What if we found an Earth orientation parameter which correlated with the big reversals in oceanic behaviour. Which also correlated loosely with detrended global temperature. And also with solar activity levels?

        You might set up a blog with a first post like this one:

        And hope that people would get interested and discuss it.

      • Yes, that’s in effect the “Reasonableness Test”. The non-wild-variance of climate over hundreds of of millions of years is The Datum. Even from Hothouse to Icebox, a range of ~12K, with 2 basic stable regimes bounding the range.

        That is a potent homeostatic “Null”.

      • Willis
        Yes Bejan has a very useful perspective.
        The parallel literature is on the maximization of the rate of entropy production (not just maximizing entropy), or “maximum entropy production” (MEP).e.g. See my posts for for further links

        Axel Kleidon Non-equilibrium thermodynamics and maximum entropy production in the Earth system Naturwissenschaften. 2009 Jun;96(6):653-77. Epub 2009 Feb 26.

        From Maximum Entropy to Maximum Entropy Production: A New Approach Nathaniel Virgo Entropy 2010, 12, 107-126; doi:10.3390/e12010107

        MEP and planetary climates: insights from a two-box climate model containing atmospheric dynamics Tim E. Jupp, Peter M. Cox

        A two-box model for equator-to-pole planetary heat transport is extended to include simple atmospheric dynamics.

        Koutsoyiannis, D., Hurst-Kolmogorov dynamics as a result of extremal entropy production, Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, 390 (8), 1424–1432, 2011.

        Koutsoyiannis, D., A hymn to entropy (Invited talk), IUGG 2011, Melbourne, International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics, 2011.

        Nature extremizes certain quantities, such as:
        * Time for the path of light (cf. Hero’s and Fermat’s principles)
        * Action for the motion of simple systems
        * Entropy for complex systems in equilibrium
        * Entropy production for complex systems evolving in time

        Papalexiou, S.M., and D. Koutsoyiannis, A worldwide probabilistic analysis of rainfall at multiple timescales based on entropy maximization, European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2011, Geophysical Research Abstracts, Vol. 13, Vienna, EGU2011-11557, European Geosciences Union, 2011.

        The empirical analysis performed to 11 697 rainfall records worldwide, showed that the Generalized Gamma distribution is an exceptional model for rainfall at all time scales, while the Burr type XII distribution (a special case of the GB2 distribution) is a good model for the daily and annual time scales.

        Happy hunting

      • Willis Eschenbach, 7/23/11, 19:57 pm, Theories

        Modeling by analogy, Bejan creates his universal Constructal model for all physics. His database comprises (1) surface hydraulics, esp. river basins plus a passing mention of ocean currents which he links to climate, (2) biological evolution, and (3) technology. Page 1335 here:

        Bejan, A. and S. Lorente, The constructal law of design and evolution in nature, Phil.Trans.R.Soc. B2010 365, 1335-1347, 5/12/10.

        (1) Surface hydraulics of interest is easily modeled based on the “simplest theoretical grounds” (IPCC terminology for obvious effects it couldn’t model). Ignoring catastrophic changes as in land tilt and landslides, rivers meander, eroding their banks. When the banks fail, the river basin gets a short-cut and the flow accelerates. Faster water causes faster erosion, and so on. A river has an ultimate state, a straight line drop from source to mouth. However, the Constructal model doesn’t predict ultimate states. P. 1335. It predicts “better” states. P. 1336.

        (2) In relative stable climatic eras, biological evolution proceeds in the direction of ever less robust varieties. It reverses course with occasional mass extinctions, at which times the lid is off the pressure cookers of the niches, experimentation flourishes, and new classes of species evolve ultimately to thinned by extinction, and then to again adapt to their niches. What is better about any of this?

        (3) Man changes his technology in search of greater performance at less cost. He exerts his will on technology. Theology gives this a parallel in biology, an invisible guiding hand, but it is forbidden in science. Science abides no supernatural forces or entities. When God can be observed and measured, when He is no longer supernatural, then the situation will change.

        Bejan claims that his Constructal model can predict (Abstract; p. 1337), then denies it. No flow system is destined to end up in a certain configuration at long times. P. 1335. Where Constructal theory is the view that the generation of flow configuration is a universal phenomenon of all physics (p. 1335) and Design is flow, (p. 1336). The constructal law is the statement proclaiming the existence and the time direction of the evolution of configuration. P. 1335.

        This direction is constructal design, and with it we seek not only better flowing configurations but also better (faster, cheaper, direct, reliable) strategies for generating the geometry that is missing from the black-box sketches. P. 1337.

        So the existence of the time vector is in nature by proclamation! It is not by generalization, followed by prediction and validation. Francis Bacon knew better than this in 1620. The time vector not only is proclaimed to exist in nature, but that it is evolution to better configurations. In addition, constructal design informs the scientist not just how to model the natural world, but to do that modeling better (faster, cheaper, direct, reliable). Surely better modeling would be a consequence of a more realistic appreciation of the changes of state in the natural world. The Constructal Law informs us that the design of the natural world is changing to a better state, but it supplies no information about what that better state might be. If a change were evident in our observations, how might we determine whether it is better to validate the Constructal model?

        Rivers seemed destined to evolve into a straight drop from sources to its mouth. Is a straight, rapid river better? For whom or what? Is the river happier? After all, it has the divine purpose of draining the land and not flooding the good people along its shores. The notion that the river is supposed to provide transportation over the largest area and provide good farm lands can’t be right.

        In what sense are species losing robustness during periods of stable climate, making themselves ever more vulnerable to a climate tipping point, better?

        The Constructal concept is not science. It is nonsense except in those fields where inconsistency is valued. It has no predictive power, so could be no more than a hypothesis. Its analogies aren’t analogous, so is at best a conjecture. It doesn’t account for its triple domain of hydrology, biology, and technology, so is even less than a conjecture: it is a failed scientific model. It promotes the subjective criteria of better, so is by definition outside science.

        It is a nice example of why modeling by analogy is not a valid principle of science. It is a silly extension of the Gaia model. It serves as another demonstration of inventors skipping over the naming conventions of science to hyperinflate their notions: e.g., Gaia Hypothesis, String Theory, and Constructal Law. At best, all three are Conjectures, or worse, as the case in point exemplifies, not even scientific models.

  24. I am an Aerospace Engineer. I worked at NASA from 1963 to 2007.

    When Engineers combine parameters to arrive at a final answer, all the uncertainties combine with a final uncertainty that is not smaller than any of the important inputs.
    Climate Scientists combine parameters to arrive at a final answer and their final answer has smaller uncertainties than many of their inputs.

    • I guess they must just be smarter than engineers /sarc

    • Welcome to the whacky world of climate science.

      Where datasets are turned upside down (literally) if they provide a convenient curve.

      Where methodology and intermediate steps are non-replicable in peer reviewed papers.

      Where tiny fluxes are accorded great effects on the flimsiest of scientific underpinnings.

      What else could it be?

    • tempterrain

      Well That doesn’t seem right at all. I’ve done many MTBF (mean time between failure calculations) myself. Not my favourite job I might say. Each component, and work process, of a larger unit, is assigned its own failure rate and also an uncertainty range. You write them all down in a spreadsheet and apply the appropriate formulae, or if you have a program it will do it all for you, and arrive at a answer.

      So is the uncertainty in the final answer always equal or greater than the uncertainty of the individual components? Well no it isn’t – not as a percentage of the overall rate but which is obviously less than the components themselves .

      For instance if there are two independent components with a MTBF of 5 years (+/-2.5 to 90% confidence) then the MTBF of them both, if each is a critical item would be 2.5 years. But not +/-1.25 at 90% confidence. Without going into the statistical mathematics, I think it should be intuitively obvious that it is quite unlikely that both components will be at the same extreme end of their estimated uncertainty range.

  25. Herman
    Now that the shuttle is grounded, is there any way we can persuade NASA to focus its world class Validation & Verification facility on NASA’s climate change models? Reviews of GLOBAL WARMING: FORECASTS BY SCIENTISTS
    suggest current “climate” models leave “a bit” to be desired, relegating them in the hypothesis realm. They definitely have not graduated to THEORY realm of gravity/relativity that NASA has practiced so well.

    • Why, funny that you should ask. Steve Easterbrook who was lead scientist at IV&V has an answer for you

      • Eli:
        Interesting, but he focuses on a apples to oranges comparison. Obviously determining the errors in software related to controlling a spacecraft are different then validating the results of a climate model.
        Thanks for the link, he has some ‘interesting’ perspectives. It is amazing the hubris the we of the ‘West’ have concerning the rest of the world. It is a good thing we know what is best for ‘them’.

        Roy Weiler

      • NASA’s errors that caused our accidents, were not in software related to controlling a spacecraft. We had that part working. This is about the whole process.

      • Those accidents typify the massive systemic and bias uncertainties in climate science, especially as they relate to “controlling clmate”.
        See Pierre Latour on the engineering challenges of controlling climate, summarized below

      • Eli – thanks for the link.
        Since we are being asked to “control climate”, might it not be prudent to ask a control specialist if that is possible? See control chemical engineer Pierre Latour Engineering Earth’s thermostat with CO2? HYDROCARBON PROCESSING Feb. 2010 pp 25, 28

        Review of control system engineering of Earth’s thermostat with anthropogenic CO2 in 1997 proved it will never work because it is an unmeasurable, unobservable and uncontrollable system.

        I know enough chemistry/math to understand his conclusions!
        A climate control IV&V process should start with such a chemical engineering persepctive.
        Yes let’s pursue science and an objective methodology – but not confuse that with activist efforts to “control climate”!

      • No.

        As a chemist it is always amusing to be stuck between the arrogance of physicists and the arrogance of engineers.

      • OK Eli
        Please instruct us on how to control:
        1) a nonlinear multivariable chaotic system; where
        2) the noise is greater than the signal (satellite measurements of radiation and clouds),
        3) where the predictions of current system models are 2 sigma out from the current temperature evidence, and 4) where the official costs projected for doing so exceed the global income of the next generation worldwide.
        5) the primary solar drivers are little understood with some indirect solar physics ignored by the models appears to have larger impacts that the solar variations included; where
        6) the causes of major current and historic variations and causes are still not quantified or included in the current models (e.g. Pacific Decadal Oscillations, and Medieval Warm Period to Little Ice Age); and where
        7) the control effort is likely to cause great hardship and starvation to the poorest three billion on this planet.

        Real evidence (with links/references) of how to control such a system would also be most welcome! – (and would probably would win a Nobel prize). (PS, I have taken a couple of chemistry and control courses sufficient to read the papers.)

        We wait with baited breath.

      • Mother Nature does control the temperature of the earth. According to Ice Core Data, the past ten thousand years has been controlled within plus or minus two degrees all the time and within plus or minus one degree most of the time. Climate Scientists do not acknowledge this extremely stable temperature control system, but the data does. There is a powerful negative feedback control system in place. Every time it gets warm, it then gets cool. Every time it gets cool, it then gets warm. According to the Ice Core Data, this extreme stability in this extreme narrow range was not found in any other interglacial in the past eight hundred thousand years. The ocean level is different and the dynamics of the system is different this time. Look at the data!

      • “Every time it gets warm, it then gets cool. Every time it gets cool, it then gets warm.”

        Yes it does.

      • This control system is actually very simple.

        When it is warm, Arctic Sea Ice melts and we have more Arctic Ocean Effect Snow which increases Albedo and cools the earth. When it is cool, Arctic Sea Water freezes and the Snow stops and ice retreats, Albedo decreases and warms the earth. This system is extremely stable with a set point because the set point is determined by Ice and Water. There is no other temperature set point that could regulate temperature this well. Whatever warms the earth melts more sea ice and it snows more. Whatever cools the earth allows the sea ice to freeze and it snows less and earth warms.

        It really is this simple. There are many feedbacks, but this is the only powerful negative feedback with a set point.

      • Herman
        Very important point on that absolute set point and major negative feedback.

        Anywhere where you or others have documented & quantified this? Makes a lot more sense than trying to “control climate” by changing CO2.

      • The fact that the temperature is stable in a narrow range around a set point is documented in NOAA’s Ice Core Temperature Data.

      • most importantly given the time lag in the system, and given the fact that the probability of seeing “cool” years EVEN WHEN the trend is warming, you have a control nightmare. The feedback from controls will always lag the control input by decades if not longer. And that feedback will always look like you over or under controlled. Can you say PIO? the only control that will work is dictatorial, one which takes no account of the feedback and “trusts” in the predictions. And that wil onlt work if the predictions are accurate

    • There are some of us Retired NASA Engineers and Scientists and some other, non NASA Engineers and Scientists who are working toward that end. The Climate Models and Theory must be validated by a team that is made up of people inside the Climate World and of people from outside the Climate World. Just as we, at NASA were forced to do after our last Accident. NASA’s V&V facility could very well be a part of this effort, but should not be an only part.

      • Best wishes Herman on your efforts, especially in tackling the systemic structural biases, and cause vs effect issues.
        Please keep us posted on your developments.

  26. “There wasn’t anything close to a scientific consensus on climate in 1975. But that was about to change rapidly….

    By 1979, it was already clear that the effect of greenhouse gases had a bigger impact than the effect of dust particles…Instead of uncertainty, the 1979 NAS report emphasized a message that was, basically, the same as what we still hear today….”

    So the “consensus” was formed in a 4 year period, and has never looked back. The consensus was formed before climate models were anywhere near the sophistication they have today (when they still cannot be validated), before the miraculous discovery of the hockey stick, before satellite measurements of temperature, sea ice, and sea level, and before the new found ability to create data from noise with statistics.

    If you look at all of the supposed evidence CAGWers claim as “proof” of the Big T theory of CAGW, almost none of it existed in 1979, the MWP was still considered to have actually existed, and temperatures had not yet begun their late 90s el nino driven spike. Yet the consensus had already formed, and hardened, by that time. Everything done since has miraculously confirmed how right the consensus was in 1979.

    Yet nine years later, in 1988, the only run of Hansen’s famed GCM that accurately forecast future temperatures, was the one based on CO2 having no effect on global average temperature. (His scenario C assumed CO2 had no effect based on a posited reduction of CO2 emissions, but the result is the same if you simply posit that CO2 simply does not have the forcing effect that is central to CAGW economic policy because it is outweighed by other factors.)

    Whatever areas of agreement there are, the areas of disagreement between the CAGW advocates and the rest of the world are huge and, if anything, growing.

    • Again, can you link to an article written by a scientist before 1998 in which a case is made for a global temperature during the MWE that would exceed today’s global temperature?

      Imo, it was considered less than global then, and it is considered less than global now. How is that erasing it?

      • 1996: “and ~1C warmer than today 1000 years ago (the Medieval Warm Period)”

        1993: “A thousand years ago, during the Medieval Warm Period, the climate of Europe was as warm as it is today”.

        1998: “he Last Glacial Maximum, the Climatic Optimum, the Medieval Warmth, the Little Ice Age, and a warm period at 1930 A.D. are resolved from the GRIP reconstruction with the amplitudes –23 kelvin, +2.5 kelvin, +1 kelvin, –1 kelvin, and +0.5 kelvin, respectively. ”

        Wow. Even 1930 was seen as .5C warmer than 1998. MWP was 1C warmer and the Holocene Climate Optimum was seen as 2.5C warmer.

      • Bruce – Keigwin’s paper is about the Sargasso Sea. It appears to me that his conclusion is far less than global.

      • Sargasso Sea is quite big and is affected by all the major North Atlantic currents. You couldn’t ask for a better proxy location.

        Way better than 1 tree in Yamal.

        The Sargasso Sea is 700 statute miles wide and 2,000 statute miles long … it is bounded on the west by the Gulf Stream; on the north, by the North Atlantic Current; on the east, by the Canary Current; and on the south, by the North Atlantic Equatorial Current. This system of currents forms the North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre. All the currents deposit the marine plants and garbage they carry into this sea.

      • You’re taking it someplace he did not go: the globe.

      • Way, way better than 1 tree in Yamal.

        Have you read the other references?

      • “STUDIES from sites around the world 1–5 have provided evidence for anomalous climate conditions persisting for several hundred years before about AD 1300. Early workers emphasized the temperature increase that marked this period in the British Isles, coining the terms ‘Mediaeval Warm Epoch’ and ‘Little Climatic Optimum’, but many sites seem to have experienced equally important hydrological changes. Here I present a study of relict tree stumps rooted in present-day lakes, marshes and streams, which suggests that California’s Sierra Nevada experienced extremely severe drought conditions for more than two centuries before ad 1112 and for more than 140 years before ad 1350.”

      • “Gulf of Mexico sea surface temperatures (SSTs) were as warm or warmer than near-modern conditions between 1000 and 1400 yr B.P.”

      • All of that has been looked at. The conclusion so far is that global temperature evidence from the MWE does not demonstrate global temperature during the MWE exceeds that of today. Now, maybe some scientist can gather additional evidence and in a convincing manner push it over the top. Fantastic, and that result would not surprise me. Call me when it’s done. Just don’t be too disappointed if global temperatures from the coming decade knock it back into 2nd place.

        Nobody is trying to erase the MWE. It’s been a permanent part of climate history for a very long time, and will remain so.

      • JCH –
        Nobody is trying to erase the MWE.

        IIRC, climategate emails confirmed the attempt.

      • “All of that has been looked at.”

        Al of it? Every paper? I spend 15 minutes searching, and despite only occasionally being allowed to see the extract, I can find lots of evidence of warmer temperatures during the MWP.

        There are hundreds (maybe thousands) of papers that show a warm MWP in locations all over the globe that together show a warmer MWP.

        Which papers do you have that prove otherwise?

        AGW cultists ask for evidence and then whine and snivel when you give it to them.

      • JCH –
        How many things has Mann (and others ) taken things someplace beyond reason? The hockey sticks from local inadequate and corrupt proxies; sea level rise from local swamp sites; ….. the list goes on.

        So…it’s OK for your side to do it, but not for the other side? Are we talking “science” here – or a BAD football game with corrupt referees?

      • Uh – hit send too soon.

        BTW – I agree with you. sorta. NEITHER SIDE should do that. It’s not science – it’s poker with a marked and stacked deck. Or dirty politics.

      • except the proxy ends in 1925,and the author has said it should not be generalized to the globe.

        question, do you believe there are enough proxies to chracterize the whole globe? are there enough thermometers to characterize the entire globe? was the average temperature in the mwp higher than today? does average temperature have a physical meaning?

      • Which proxy? There are many referenced.

        “question, do you believe there are enough proxies to chracterize the whole globe?”

        I think there are hundreds of papers with proxies from all over the world that show a MWP.

        “are there enough thermometers to characterize the entire globe?”

        I think SST “thermometers” are a joke

        “was the average temperature in the mwp higher than today?”


        “does average temperature have a physical meaning?”

        Not with UHI and adjustments.

        Do you have any evidence it was colder during the MWP (without using any of the hockey team proxies).

      • To follow up GRIP/Greenland/1930

        “We provide an analysis of Greenland temperature records to compare the current (1995–2005) warming period with the previous (1920–1930) Greenland warming. We find that the current Greenland warming is not unprecedented in recent Greenland history. Temperature increases in the two warming periods are of a similar magnitude, however, the rate of warming in 1920–1930 was about 50% higher than that in 1995–2005.”…/2006GL026510.shtml

      • Not to mention the IPCC’s First Assessment Report, with its figure 7.1, which showed a significantly warmer MWP than then present temperatures. The accompanying text read “…This period of widespread warmth is notable in that there is no increase of greenhouse gases.”

        Now the executive summary of Chapter 7 of the FAR did note that the MWP “may not have been global,” but it also included the following, which I find even more interesting (and supportive of my original point):

        “There is no evidence yet of global scale changes in the frequency of extreme temperatures….
        Uncertainties in these records are mostly too large to allow firm conclusions to be drawn…
        [and my personal favorite]
        A global warming of larger size has almost certainly occurred at least once since the end of the last glaciation without any appreciable increase in greenhouse gases. Because we do not understand the reasons for these past warming events it is not possible to attribute a specific proportion of the recent smaller warming to an increase in greenhouse gases.”

        When I read that last sentence, I had to check the URL because I thought I must have somehow been diverted to a big oil funded denier/skeptic propaganda site. Nope, it was still the IPCC ( Who knew that even the IPCC itself once understood the importance of uncertainty and skepticism in science?

    • Climate crisis — a radical change needed by governments

      When it was cited as an emerging issue at the first global environmental Conference in Stockholm in 1972, the world was not listening.

    • Interesting that 1975 was the end of a cooling trend from about 1940, and so by 1979, the earth had been slightly warming for all of four years. They developed a consensus from four years of slightly warming temperatures?

  27. I would classify CAGW as a feary.

    (I’ll get me coat …)

  28. Manacker

    Could you please check whether my argument below makes sense?

    In the following graph, almost all the global mean temperature (GMT) data from 1880 to 2010, for 130 years, lie below an upper GMT boundary blue line and above a lower GMT boundary pink line that are parallel to the long-term GMT trend green line of 0.06 deg C per decade.

    As nearly 100% of the observed GMT data before 2000s lie below the upper GMT boundary line, it is reasonable to assume the GMT data after 2000s will also lie below the upper GMT boundary.

    However, as the GMT for the 2000s is already at the upper boundary line, like in the 1880s and 1940s, in the next couple of decades, the observed GMT should move away from the upper boundary blue line and reach the lower boundary pink line.

  29. I think the best analogy is evolution. It is currently difficult to establish it is happening because it is too slow. Evolution is in a worse situation in this respect. Both can use paleo evidence, and scientifically explain it with ideas about CO2 molecules in one case, and genetic changes in the other. Within a few more decades, climate predictions based on this theory will be evaluated, and verification will be possible. On the other hand, even with evolution as an accepted theory, it is not making predictions that can be verified. However, these theories combine in rapid-climate-change situations that tend to increase the extinction and evolution rates, so perhaps we will see evolution in action soon.

  30. Judith

    Like Willis I am surprised you should provde a link to such an uncritical article as that piece of nonsense authored by Conneley amongst others. How many times has it been debunked?

    There were a pile of Govt sponsored responses to the cooling trend in the 1970’s. Many of the worlds leading climate organisations have their genesis around that period. Hubert Lamb wrote about the cooling and the CIA wrote top level security reports on the consequences.

    There follows a number of documents about how the global cooling scare was real-not imagined
    It would be useful to read the entire document, but page 28 gives a great deal of information on the widespread belief in global cooling and the actions taken to deal with it.

    The climatic books at the time were again full of similar material.
    This is a document produced by the National Academy of Sciences
    It lists some of the organisations who wrote a variety of plans at the time that fed in to the first National Climatic Research plan (1979) which was itself the genesis for a variety of new agencies now involved in global warming

    This is a document written by NOAA describing the process by which the National Climatic Research plan and the various agencies came into being, complete with graph showing the cooling trend (ironically by Jones and Wigley) Jones-under the tutelage of Hubert Lamb seemed to believe in it at the time.

    Supposedly credible people from supposedly credible organisations were saying the opposite of what they are now saying back in the early seventies.
    Connelley can spin this all he wants but he is rewriting history.


    • Tony – I was reading the scientific literature in the 1970s, as I do today. The contrast is striking. In the 1970s, the literature had little to say about the direction of climate change – some articles projected cooling and some warming, and in the case of cooling, the imminence varied from within a century to millennia. There was rather little interest and even less consensus, which is why it is easy to selectively quote reports going in one direction or the other. Today’s literature, whether you agree with it or not, is very heavily weighted toward a warming consensus, and the magnitude of data reported is far greater than the sparse literature of the 1970s.

      I can’t recall whether there was a “cooling scare” in the popular media, but there was none in the scientific literature. To state that scientific opinion has evolved since that time would be accurate, and reflective of increasing interest and evidence that has developed during the past 40 years. To state that opinion has reversed itself would be false.

      • Fred

        No one is disputing the weight of material confirming AGW today (right or wrong)

        The issue is whether there was a general impression-pre internet- that the world was likely heading towards a cooling, and there was, as exemplified in books from the period by such as by Hubert :Lamb. This was endorsed by such as the CIA looikg at what should be done about it.

        That the consensus has shfted away is not in doubt-that cooling was largely a figment of our imagination and that history is beig re-written is surely the issue.

        Anyway, I dont believe you were reading the literature back in the 70’s-you don’t look old enoiugh. :)

        Perhaps Leo G has the right idea and cooling was geo engineered away-but they went too far….

      • Tony – Thanks for the compliment, but I was reading the literature starting in the 60s, and there was no cooling scare in the scientific literature in the 1970s – in fact, climate received only meager attention then, with some reports focused on cooling and others on warming, so that the impression one got depended on whom you were reading or talking to. The recent attention to this issue from partisans has conflated media reports (which often engage in hyperbole based on a few dramatized examples rather than a comprehensive coverage) with the diversity of views in the literature – mostly speculative. My comment here also relates to Jim Owen’s comment below – as someone familiar with the broad scope of scientific attention in the 1970s, I can say that there has been an evolution of views over the subsequent 40 years but not a reversal.

      • I find the introduction of Hansen’s 1981 Science paper interesting. He says “The major difficulty in accepting the theory has been the absence of observed warming coincident with the historic CO2 increase” because of the 0.5 C cooling between the 40’s and 70’s. So there were doubters, and he understood why. The paper goes on to introduce a one-dimensional model of projected warming and estimates when the warming signal should emerge from the natural variability, and that paper has stood the test of time perhaps even better than some of his later papers.

      • I think that this quote from Schneider is fascinating.

        From Wikipedia:

        In 1977 [Steven] Schneider criticized a popular science book (The Weather Conspiracy: The Coming of the New Ice Age) that predicted an imminent Ice Age, writing in Nature:

        …it insists on maintaining the shock effect of the dramatic…rather than the reality of the discipline: we just don’t know enough to choose definitely at this stage whether we are in for warming or cooling— or when.

      • Joshua –
        From your Wiki quote –
        …it insists on maintaining the shock effect of the dramatic…rather than the reality of the discipline: we just don’t know enough to choose definitely at this stage whether we are in for warming or cooling— or when.

        1) Schneider then proceeded to maintain the shock effect of the dramatic to promote his own agenda.

        2) We still don’t know enough to choose definitely at this stage whether we are in for warming or cooling— or when.

      • 1) Schneider then proceeded to maintain the shock effect of the dramatic to promote his own agenda.

        Which is why I found the quote fascinating.

      • .5C ???

        1979 was the coldest winter in US history. It was 1.24F colder than 1936, the previous record holder.

        1976 35.21F
        1977 30.67
        1978 29.68
        1979 27.29

        An 8F drop in 3 years,

      • 8F is bigger than the 5F drop in winter recently. But 5F is still pretty big.

        2006 36.1F
        2007 33.88
        2008 33.3
        2009 33.65
        2010 31.12

      • He was referring to global temperature. I am not sure of his source for that since it was prior to the GISS or other organized efforts, I think. The US is 2% of the global area, so it is not a good sample.

      • “The Met Office said the chill could be as long and as drawn out as the Winter of Discontent in 1979, one of the coldest on record. Back then a series of strikes paralysed the country, heavy snow repeatedly fell throughout the January and blizzards, black ice and snowdrifts caused chaos into February. It was the coldest winter since the notorious freeze of 1962-1963.”

        “For the land temperature, the coldest winter in Europe since 1978-79”

        “1976-77: Heavy wet snow fell in early December, mid December, and mid January. Mid January also saw some good coverings though, up to 6 inches lying at times.

        1977-78: Mid January, 6 foot drifts! A week later, and 4 inches fell. Mid February saw 4 inches also. Late January, heavy snow in Scotland, drifting, 28 inches falling in parts! Mid February (see above) was very snowy in the North East, East and South West. February 11th had 1 ft in Durham and Edinburgh. Feb. 15-16th South West England, blizzard with huge drifts, sounds like my cup of tea!

        1978-79: The last really severe, snowy winter, for now anyway, and one my parents go on about! Late December falls of 6-7n inches in Southern Scotland and the North East started it off. It was very cold in parts. Mid February saw drifts of 6-7 feet on the East coast of England. Mid March had severe blizzards and drifting, in North Eastern England drifts reached a staggering 15 feet! Very snowy.”

        I think 78/79 was cold in the northern hemisphere.

      • tony –

        “the consensus has shifted away…”

        And that comment rates a 9.1.

        Please show that a “consensus has shifted away.” You can start by providing evidence that contradicts the evidence provided in the links I made below.

      • Hi Joshua

        Sorry, I don’t understand your rating system-did you use to be an ice skating judge?

        The consensus has shifted away from a general (but not total) belief in a cooling in the 70’s (as exemplified by the leading climate scientist of the time -Hubert Lamb of CRU) to a general, but not total, belief in warming.

        The general belief in AGW today is more widespread today if only because there are many more climate scientists and many more papers being produced because of the general increase in interest/concern, aided by the Internet, which has had an enormous impact on disseminating all aspects of communication .

        You asked me to read your links-did you read mine?


      • Tony – There was no consensus in the 70’s but a scattering of different opinions regarding cooling or warming as a climate phenomenon in general – it’s possible to select examples in both directions. A consensus is something that did not emerge until later in concert with intensified efforts to quantify the warming properties of CO2 and other greenhouse gases.

        However, I do vividly recall one exception that was more prominent than these speculations in the literature – the concept of cooling as a consequence of a thermonuclear war (so-called “nuclear winter”) due to the aerosols created by the nuclear conflict. That concept arose earlier than the 70’s but was still conspicuous in science journals at that time.: The same principles involving aerosol cooling are elements of current climate analyses, with the aerosols emanating from industrial emissions and volcanoes, but not, we hope, from nuclear explosions.

        Although there was no “cooling scare” within science in the 70’s regarding climate change in general, I think it would be accurate in terms of the visceral as well as intellectual atmosphere to refer to a “nuclear winter scare”.

      • Actually nuclear winter was discussed widely only in the 1980’s after the 1982 paper of Paul Crutzen and John Birks. Carl Sagan is another well known name, who wrote about nuclear winter.

        In 1986 Stephen Schneider published with Starley Thomson an article in Foreign Affairs, where the risk of nuclear winter was argued to be less severe than proposed by the early papers.

      • Pekka – You’re right that the 1982 paper and Sagan in 1983 popularized the concept and gave rise to the term “nuclear winter”. The principles had been discussed earlier, and several cites reference a 1975 NRC report on the cooling effect of the consequences of nuclear war. I haven’t been able to find a copy of the actual report, however. Because I don’t recall the exact dates of my familiarity with the subject, it would have been more accurate for me to say that the “nuclear winter” scenario of a few decades ago was more of a scare within the scientific literature than the speculations about climate cooling or warming in the 1970’s.

      • tony-

        I haven’t looked at your links yet – haven’t had time, I will hopefully get to them later.

        I know you keep stating your contention that the “consensus” believed in a predicted cooling, but the evidence I provided in the links I provided shows that the “consensus” didn’t shift from a belief in cooling.

        Are you saying that your links speak to the issue of “consensus” of belief re: cooling in the 70s, – or are they only examples of a minority that held such an opinion? And do you have some disproof of the information provided in the links I gave – which speak directly to the question of consensus?

      • Fred –

        I can’t recall whether there was a “cooling scare” in the popular media,

        I was there. There was.

        To state that opinion has reversed itself would be false.

        It did. Although the scientists I was involved with were mostly not overly concerned about cooling.

      • Alexander Harvey

        I have done my best to recall a date and after several attempts I can narrow down when I first heard about the climatic change was probably during the interval 1960-1963 as it was covered briefly as a matter of geography which is hopefully never cutting edge.

        At that level it was the existence of the glacial cycles which was considered so the next big thing was to be the coming ice age but this was not considered imminent but it was I think considered inevitable. In the scheme of things it was not a huge concern as compared to getting nuked.

        There was a popular ice age scare in the mid 1970s coinciding with the Nigel Calder BBC documentary “The Weather Machine” but I am not sure how many would have seen that.

        I am really not sure when I first heard about global warming it sort of snucked in somewhere along the line but I do recall when I first heard of global warming skepticism which was in 1990.

        I think that global warming may also have been covered by general geography in terms of recent glacial retreat and the end of the little ice age as opposed to AGW so that may have been in the 1960s as well. Similarly the greenhouse effect was I think part of the prevalent wisdom but I am not sure when its attachment to increasing CO2 levels entered the wider public realm of knowledge.

        I have failed to see the need for a fuss over who said what and when. For certain global cooling was hyped up for a bit and some people hitched themselves to it in ways they came to regret.

        I do find the counting papers argument rather trivial and silly. If you go back far enough the inevitability of a further glaciation probably had the widest acceptance which changed slowly over decades.

        I think that after the MacDonald and Charney reports it was more or less all going one way, prior to that it seems mixed and prior to WWII it seems that the likelihood of future global warming was a minority taste which is different to saying that the greenhouse effect was not a mainstream opinion.

        I think it is fair to say that there was ice age scaremongering in the 1970s and it has come back to haunt and that can just be taken squarely for what it was. Going out of ones way to diminish its significance or correct a biased recollection of its significance is not likely to improve matters. I am not sure why this was attempted but it does smack of desparation or simply of despair.

        Global warming and the prospect of a future ice age are part of the same theory. The existence of periods with rising temperatures did not imply that the glacial cycle was over nor will periods of falling temperatures imply that GHGs do not tend to warm.

        It is not difficult to hold the concepts of warming and cooling in ones head at the same time nor to hold that the principles work if the current year or decade buck a trend. If you add GHGs and the temperatures rise that is a concern and it is a concern if they don’t rise. Strong AGW theory would indicate that we may have been lucky to spot global warming as early as we did and were it not for the trace and minor GHGs we might not have spotted anything significant at all. Strangely it is the relative dearth of warming that may be the truly alarming aspect of it all.

        Right now we seem to be in a period of frustrated warming where a lot of indicators seem to be at odds with expectations. That is life, it is odd. It does seem to have spawned a trend to try and put the best possible gloss on the indicators. If that turns out to have been a mistake then those concerned are culpable. Every time an action is taken to try and ram home a theory that was quite capable of weathering its own storms, those concerned and the theory itself lose a little credibility. The notion that a decade or so means much in the scheme of things is just nuts. Getting upset about it is not just wasted effort but likely to discredit.

        I ask myself why I am content to think that GHGs tend to make the world a warmer place when it is cold as well as when it is hot. Perhaps I think that it is not the only actor on the stage. I do not lapse into deep mental confusion because the temperature record is not monotonic, I find any tendency to cool or at least not to warm interesting, perhaps a little fortunate but also a little concerning.

        I had the fortune to suspect that last decade would indicate little in the way of warming and to do so during its first half. It was just a hunch or guess. Perhaps that inured me to the outcome. I do recall that I hoped that we might see it out without the confusion of a major volcanic outpouring but beyond that it has caused me little stress. Naturally I wish that others could have been as circumspect at least to the degree that sod’s law sometimes trumps sound judgement.

        I think it is from this disposition that I conclude that all attempts to quash perceived dissent, such as with the ice age saga and the lack of warming, smell of a brittle stance that is not easy in its own skin. When I think I see it, the word that comes to mind is prat. Every time I sense an attempted defense of the indefensible I think fool. Every time a paper comes along that seems to have tried overly hard to see the expected trend in the tea leaves I cringe.

        If AGW theory has fallen into question one should perhaps look to the promoters. It would take a shed load of evidence and a major rewrite of 20th century science to bring the theory down but to bring it into popular discredit is child’s play. Just keep writing cheques that bounce.

        Right now, it is my judgement that only a series of major climate catastrophes could repair the damage done, or a warming trend that would cause eyes to water. It need not have been this way.

        Were it to be left to the populace alone it seems likely that no action at all would be taken and there are people who need to reflect on why that may be the case.


      • I know fairly well when I realised that global temperatures were not rising for a decade or 4. It was July 2003. I was staring at the PDO wondering what on earth could be the connection between multi-decadal Australian rainfall regimes and North American fisheries. Taking a break – I brought up the CRU temperature record. Far more than coincidence would allow – the rise to the mid 40’s, decline to the late 70’s and rise to 1998 – were exactly the same the same periods as Australian rainfall – the cause of which I had been seeking for more than a decade – and North American fisheries.

        I thought about this for 3 days straight – didn’t sleep, barely ate. Oh my God I thought – the planet isn’t warming. I regained my composure. I thought that if I saw it – surely the IPCC would and report in 2007. In 2007 – following AR4 – I published an article in American Thinker on Pacific variability. And got a mention in Inhoffe’s list of climate holocaust deniers most likely to get indicted for crimes against humanity.

        There are good reasons to reduce greenhouse gases – any any number of good ways. But the conflation of science and dismal economic policy – and the overreach of the greens – has driven most people into either not listening or to active resistance. It goes on without a step back. I ask these people what they imagine will happen to the politics if there is no warming – or worse cooling – for 3 decades. It makes no impression at all. It appears to be a selective blindness. It is the everyday madness of the heirs of Marx and Malthus.

        As for AGW – it is utterly undone. ‘The new paradigm of an abruptly changing climatic system has been well established by research over the last decade, but this new thinking is little known and scarcely appreciated in the wider community of natural and social scientists and policy-makers.’ That was the National Academy of Sciences in 2002. – – and things have scarcely improved since. Science remains uncertain – and we are in a policy deadlock.


      • Chief,

        “There are good reasons to reduce greenhouse gases ”

        I would be most appreciative of your telling us those good reasons for reducing GHG’s.

    • So Tony,

      Maybe a secret Geo-engineered project was used to avert this global cooling, and now it has started to run away?


    • tony –

      Is it your contention that the majority of experts in the field were predicting cooling? If so, how do you explain the reports that by a wide margin, the number of published articles predicting cooling were relatively small (compared to those predicting warming/not predicting large-scale change/concluding that not enough was known about climate dynamics to make predictions)

      And what is the true relevance that a relatively small minority of experts were predicting cooling? Given the vast changes in climate science since then, does that minority being wrong give an real insight into the validity of what most climate scientists think today?

      Supposedly credible people from supposedly credible organisations were saying the opposite of what they are now saying back in the early seventies.

      Really? Are they really the same “credible people?”

      I gotta say, tony – that comment rates about a 8.9 on the “Wow scale.”

      • “Is it your contention that the majority of experts in the field were predicting cooling? If so, how do you explain the reports that by a wide margin, the number of published articles predicting cooling were relatively small…”

        The cooling was small and short. That’s why. What do you think would have happened if the cooling continued?

      • The cooling was small and short. That’s why. What do you think would have happened if the cooling continued?

        Let me see if I understand your question.

        You’re asking that if the dynamics of climate had been completely different than they were, what would the majority of scientific experts have concluded?

        My guess is that the majority of scientific experts would have reached different conclusions about the dynamics of climate.

        I hope that answers.

  31. Jim D,

    “The idea for ice ages, which are of northern hemisphere origin, is that the summer insolation determines them.”

    Really? Citation please.

    I think you are confusing Glaciation with Ice Age. Antarctica is and has ben under Ice for about 15 Million Years.

    Would you expect the Ice to grow as far into the sea as it could before calving if Obliquity caused colder winters and Precession was such that the winters were longer. These conditions were present in the SH at about 50,000 BC. Oddly enough we see a slight decline in the Ice Levels in the NH during the same period.

    Give it to me straight, do you understand the Milankovitch Cycles to match up with observed conditions, or are they just some very accurate coincidence?

    • The citation would be several papers by Milankovitch. Have you been paying attention? See Wikipedia if you don’t know what Milankovitch theorized. It holds up, especially with the recent work by Roe that shows the rate of change of ice volume correlates with the Milankovitch forcing better than the ice volume itself which shows that faster growing occurs in colder phases.
      No southern hemisphere ice age effect because there isn’t much high-latitude continent to glaciate beyond Antarctica.

    • maksimovich

      The changes in insolation and energy in the Milankovitch Cycles is minimal 0.1% or around Nicolis 1981,1982 2007 The paleoclimatic observations of around 10k leave us with a significant theoretical gap ie no gcm can get into or out of an iceage.

      Whether some mechanisms such as stochastic resonance can solve the problem is still open eg R. Benzi 2010

      This will still not resolve another issue the cocomitent martian iceages with the Quaternary period on earth,as this suggests a coupled Sagan and Young 1973

      The solar neutrino problem is also a good example of the conflict of theories ie the standard solar model and the standard model of particle physics eg Bachall

      Complex problems are indeed by description complex.

      • At 65 N in the summer the change in insolation in Milankovitch cycles is up to 20% which has an impact on the sea ice extent, and the ice albedo in the summer when it matters for the global budget (as it is dark in the winter). Yes, Milankovitch is just a theory like AGW, and it has its skeptics too, often the same people, but like AGW, there isn’t a credible alternative that fits the facts.

      • Why is it that GCM’s can’t get us into an Ice Age or out of one? Perhaps because we are already in one, just at the height of what has known to be a regular interglacial that lasts about a 4th as long as the Glacial Period.

        Whatever the minor effects of the Milankovitch cycles are, they keep producing conditions that raise and lower the sea level by hundreds of meters and keep producing and erasing millions of cubic MILES of ice every 125,000 years or so.

        If the Cause that is getting all the attention does not appear match the expected Effect, then it is time to look elsewhere. I am not convinced that the Milankovitch Cylces are not the Cause of the Interglacials. Why the Earth is currently in an Ice Age is a good question.

      • I said somewhere else that the Ice Ages begin with a slow temperature drop of about 1 degree per 20000 years. It is interesting that this was the cooling rate since the Holocene Optimum, so we might have already been on the way before CO2 came along.

      • CO2 came along (significantly) ~60 years ago.

      • And we already got back the temperature we lost since the Holocene Optimum, which is just the beginning.

      • No we did not. The temperatures now are lower than during MWP, not to mention Roman and Minoan periods, which were even warmer. Interglacial peak was the warmest.

        Furthermore, we got back more before ~1950 than since that.

        But that’s all we’re gonna get back, probably for a very long time (next interglacial).

      • This is from Climate Audit, and I presume was written by SM:

        Postscript: for the nth time, note that the position of the MM articles and many CA posts is that the multiproxy studies relied upon by IPCC do not prove that the modern warm period is warmer than the MWP. This doesn’t mean that we’ve claimed to have established the opposite or that some future scientist couldn’t prove the point with better proxies.

      • Edim, you are not comparing like with like. Those periods were short-term warmings, possibly solar, while the Holocene Optimum was long-term, and what we have now is also long-term since the CO2 is staying around.

      • JCH,

        I am completely immune to arguments from authorities. Mann or McIntyre or Curry, I don’t care. I respect all and that’s it.

        In science, nothing is ever proven. There’s evidence for and against. So I agree with that statement. However, I think that it’s very likely that the linear trend for the last ~8 ka is COOLING and that MWP was warmer than present. MWP is history, not pre-history – so we know a lot about it from the science of hystory.

      • Jim,

        I disagree strongly. These are all arbitrary terms (holocene, MWP, LIA…). Climate just changes and doesn’t care when it’s the Holocene, when the MWP and when a glacial period.

        We humans put names on these changes, but ultimately it’s all arbitrary. There’s no physical meaning to these names. We just call the warm period after the interglacial peak Holocene Optimum and that’s all. It’s a continuum.

    • The glacial episodes (like the Pleistocene) being part of an Ice Age (a bunch of these episodes) began in earnest when the Isthmus of Panama joined N. & S america 2 Million yrs ago, and are abetted by the fact that Antarctica sits squarely over the S Pole. When neither of these things were true, no ice ages at all. I think perhaps the Alaskan archipeligo which helps to block ocean currents from entering the Arctic Ocean may contribute as well.

      • Greenland glaciated first as a result of declining CO2 in the Pliocene period, then the Ice Ages started not long after.

      • Antarctica’s ice sheet is 40 million years old.

        “Before 2-3 million years ago (Ma), the only large ice sheet in the
        world lay in Antarctica.”

        “The second, Leg 188 to Prydz Bay, dated the earliest stages of ice sheet development to about 35 Ma.”

      • Correct, Antarctica glaciated much earlier being over the pole, and helped global albedo to reduce leading to noticeable cooling at that time. This was not connected to the Ice Ages as directly as Greenland, which was a necessary first stage for that, as I mentioned.

      • I think you are behind the times. Ice Ages occurred simultaneously on both poles.

        “Using a technique to read the changes imposed by cosmic rays—charged, high-energy particles that bombard the Earth from outer space—on atoms found in the mineral quartz, the researchers were able to precisely date a sequence of moraines, ridge-like glacial features composed of an amalgam of rocks, clay, sand and gravel. Their results show that glacial ice in South America reached its apex 22,000 years ago and had begun to disappear by 16,000 years ago.

        “The team has applied an innovative investigative technique to an untapped archive of data on natural climate variability to help reduce uncertainty in our knowledge of how Earth’s climate works,” said David Verardo, director of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) paleoclimate program, which funded the research. NSF is the independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering.

        The work is certain to help researchers of past climates unravel the mysteries of ice ages that periodically gripped the planet, Verardo said, but it also will help those trying to understand current and future climate change by helping to determine the natural causes of changes in the Earth’s climate system on a global scale.

        “We’ve been able to get quite precise ages directly on these glacial deposits,” says team leader Brad Singer, of UW-Madison. “We found that the structure of the last South-American ice age is indistinguishable from the last major glacier formation in the Northern Hemisphere.”

        And, said Kaplan, “During the last two times in Earth’s history when glaciers formed in North America, the Andes also had major glacial periods.”

        The results address a major debate in the scientific community, according to Singer and Kaplan, because they seem to undermine a widely held idea that global redistribution of heat through the oceans is the primary mechanism that drove major climate shifts of the past.

        The implications of the new work, say the study authors, support a different hypothesis: Rapid cooling of the Earth’s atmosphere synchronized climate change around the globe during each of the last two glacial epochs.

        “Because the Earth is oriented in space in such a way that the hemispheres are out of phase in the amount of solar radiation they receive, it is surprising to find that the climate in the Southern Hemisphere cooled off repeatedly during a period when it received its largest dose of solar radiation,” says Singer. “Moreover, this rapid synchronization of atmospheric temperature between the polar hemispheres appears to have occurred during both of the last major ice ages that gripped the Earth.”

  32. Isaac Asimov
    The Future of Energy, Climate, Education, and Humanity
    Nov 08, 1974

    Useful to remind ourselves of some of the thinking of the era. What did he get right vs wrong?

  33. Theories vs theories, 7/23/11

    Maggie Koerth-Baker (Lowercase theories, etc.) is a science writer and journalist. Her writing is not unlike those of her compatriots, e.g., Gary Taubes, Naomi Oreskes, nor those of science philosophers, including the acclaimed and denounced, e.g. Karl Popper, Paul Feyerabend, Imre Lakatos, Thomas Kuhn. They all write about science from the outside looking in, noses pressed against the glass as it were, passing manuscripts back for the waiting world to see what’s going on inside. To them, science is a specimen and a curiosity, and sometimes even a threat, lacking a frame of reference. From the inside looking out, their work is unrecognizable – a great contrast with the earliest writings of Bacon and Descartes to the modern writings of Mach and Wittgenstein, which appear to be part of a continuum, imminently rational with science as it is practiced.

    The following elementary definitions and word usages, which have been successfully tested, frame science.

    • Science is a branch of knowledge.

    • Sciences is the Objective branch of knowledge.

    • Science maps Observations from the Real World, whether natural (Basic Science) or manmade (Technology), its domain, onto future observations of the Real World, its range. Science reduces these Observations to Facts by Measurements compared to standards.

    • Science encapsulates its knowledge of the Real World in Models of several forms, but in which a real world database of Facts feeds into a Cause & Effect relationship to produce predicted Facts.

    • Science models in the languages of natural language, mathematics, and logic.

    • To be a scientific Model, a Model must be consistent with all the Facts in its domain and produce a non-trivial Prediction, complete with error bounds.

    • A Model that is yet to be shown consistent with all the Facts in its database, or that has yet to contain a non-trivial Prediction, is a Conjecture.

    • When a Conjecture does account for all the Facts in its database and does produce a non-trivial Prediction, it is a Hypothesis.

    • When a Hypothesis has been validated by fresh Facts that fit its non-trivial prediction, it is a Theory.

    • When a Theory has been similarly validated for all Predictions implied by the model it is a Law.

    • Science isn’t made of knowledge, it’s made of method. The product of science is made of knowledge, which if done right is true knowledge. Ordinary knowledge, which may or may not be true is cheap; known true knowledge is expensive and elusive, because science is hard.

      Science is nothing but a method, which is often done either wrong, or with a lot of uncertainty. Thus, the base of knowledge that people call “science” is of unknown certainty.

      Here’s a great non-climate example of how science gets turned on its head every so often because the knowledge was never fact to begin with:

      For extra credit, take that article, and replace “salt” with “carbon dioxide”, and read it.

      • PE, 7/24/11, 11:01 am, Theories

        P.E. Science isn’t made of knowledge, it’s made of method. The product of science is made of knowledge, which if done right is true knowledge. Ordinary knowledge, which may or may not be true is cheap; known true knowledge is expensive and elusive, because science is hard.

        You remind me of a dear relative who speaks in pronouns as if the rest of the world were inside her head. My favorite example is this, cried out from another room, “How long has it been like this?”

        What is ordinary knowledge? true knowledge? Does your first usage of made of have the same meaning in its second usage? In the first, isn’t made of seems to deny that science is composed of bits of knowledge, but in the second implies it IS composed of bits of method.

        You assert that science is scientific method, and as such has, as you say, a product. What is that product? Where did that product go in your mind?

        In my usage, science is information, which is data to which a probability might be assigned. Science true knowledge; it has probable. The scientific method is, of course, essential, but it is a method not to be confused with its product: information. Supporting my usage is this:

        Science[:] any system of knowledge [information; branch of knowledge, inclusively] that is concerned [specifically, models & predicts] with the physical world [real world] and its phenomena and that entails unbiased observations [objective] and systematic experimentation [scientific method, in part]. /em> Enc. Brit. Ultimate Reference Suite, 2011.

        Your link to Scientific American was quite good, in fact, a keeper. The analogy of the myths, salt & CO2, is good, too. But you ought to credit the article to its author, Melinda Wenner Moyer, because SA is an uncritical forum for some of the worst of AGW propaganda. E.g.,

        Collins, W., R. Colman, J. Haywood, M. R. Manning, & P. Mote, The Physical Science behind Climate Change: Why are climatologists so highly confident that human activities are dangerously warming Earth? Members of the IPCC, the 2007 peace winner, write on climate change, 10/8/08.

        Appell, D., Behind the Hockey Stick: Seven years ago Michael Mann introduced a graph that became an iconic symbol of humanity’s contribution to global warming. He has been defending his science ever since, 2/21/05.

        These are no more scientific articles than were IPCC Assessment Reports, but instead commentaries by members of the conspiracy, internally “the consensus”, and a science writer. The readers’ comments are worth a quick scan, salving SA’s omission of any balance, much less scientific method.

  34. While scientists lazily substitute theory for hypothesis, some popular writers and speakers for the consensus tend to lazily (or deliberately) substitute the phrase ‘rebut’ (or in Joe Romm’s case, ‘decisively debunk as conclusively shown by the 32 other blog posts I dictated in a frenzied state about this’) for ‘dispute’.

  35. Oceans are heated by visible light to at most 200m. The net movement of heat is from the ocean to the atmosphere. From the top molecules by conduction, from the top microns by IR radiation and through evaporation. If the net loss of heat from the oceans decreases because the atmosphere is relatively warmer – the ocean warms.

    There is empirical proof in the real world that increases in greenhouse gases change the radiative imbalance at the top of atmosphere. Spectral analysis involves taking a snapshot of IR emissions in 1979 and 2011 and comparing the differences. The reduction in emissions in specific frequencies must result in more warming than would otherwise be the case.

    Changes in global energy storage (GES) as both heat and enthalpy can be defined completely by changes in changes in radiative flux at TOA.

    Ein/s – Eout/s = d(GES)/dt –

    Energy is conserved by the 1st law of thermodynamics. As an aside – capitalising theories and laws seems more a matter of usage than convention. Capitalising is not all that widespread – and my preferred usage is not to capitialise. However, language is fluid and living – and too great an insistence on conformity constrains power and relevance.

    Ein/s and Eout/s are the average radiative flux times 1 second (unit energy) in a period of time respectively. And d(GES)/dt is the rate of change of global energy storage. If Eout decreases – the planet is necessarily warmer than it would otherwise be – QED. The warmth may be masked by natural variation but it must still be there.

    The quaternary with its recurring glaciations is a fascinating puzzle. Why did this pattern commence some 2.58 million years ago? Orbital cycles may be involved – but these have been occurring always. Something else must be involved. One idea involves tectonic uplift in the Himalayas. The land is raised enough such that orbital cycles trigger runaway growth of ice fields and a consequent increase in albedo. Another idea is that the moving together of south and north America lead to changes in thermohaline circulation in the Atlantic. Temperatures increase until enough sea ice is lost – the atmosphere over the Arctic Ocean is a little warmer and bottom water formation slows. Less heat is transported north and snow and ice builds up in Europe and North America – again increasing albedo.

    Orbital variation may be a control variable – but feedbacks drive climate. This is the description of a complex and dynamic system in theoretical physics – and these systems have certain properties. Extreme events occur at times of abrupt change – these are known as noisy bifurcation or dragon-kings. The systems settle in a damped oscillation into a new pattern – an increase in autocorrelation or ‘slowing down’. These have been observed in climate in both the paleoclimatic and modern records. Highly significant temperature change can and has occurred in as little as a decade.

    ENSO is an example of complex and dynamic system in the modern climate record – it changes abruptly and has a number of feedbacks. Low level cloud is a feedback and this was used by Dessler (2010) in an attempt to estimate cloud feedback from global warming. It assumes that ENSO causes surface temperature change which in turn results in cloud changes. Spencer argues that change in cloud cover as a result of ENSO is at least partially responsible for the surface temperature change – therefore the direction of causality is reversed.

    It is perhaps easier to see that low level cloud in the Pacific is negatively correlated with sea surface temperature (Clement et al 2009, Burgmann et al 2008) – a purely ENSO effect (there is no suggestion that clouds cause ENSO) and then there are further changes in surface temperature. It would seem that Spencer has a point.

    Zhu et al (2007) found that cloud formation for ENSO and for global warming have different characteristics and are the result of different physical mechanisms. The change in low cloud cover in the 1997-1998 El Niño came mainly as a decrease in optically thick stratocumulus and stratus cloud. The decrease is negatively correlated to local SST anomalies, especially in the eastern tropical Pacific, and is associated with a change in convective activity. ‘During the 1997–1998 El Niño, observations indicate that the SST increase in the eastern tropical Pacific enhances the atmospheric convection, which shifts the upward motion to further south and breaks down low stratiform clouds, leading to a decrease in low cloud amount in this region. Taking into account the obscuring effects of high cloud, it was found that thick low clouds decreased by more than 20% in the eastern tropical Pacific… In contrast, most increase in low cloud amount due to doubled CO2 simulated by the NCAR and GFDL models occurs in the subtropical subsidence regimes associated with a strong atmospheric stability.’

    ENSO varies over years, decades, centuries and millennia. There is a discussion by Anastasios Tsonis and colleagues here on impacts on various scales – but see especially the 11,000 year reconstruction based on ‘red shift’ in sediment in a South American lake in Fig. 5. –

    The decadal changes are very relevant to recent warming – if you look at the graph here – – the bias to La Nina to 1976 and to El Nino from 1977 to 1998 can be discerned. The abrupt turning point in 1976/77 is known as the ‘Great Pacific Climate Shift’ – to be dramatic about it. There are 2 things to be clear about. First, the ‘dragon-kings’ that occurred in 1976/77 and 1998. The surface temperature change at these times is ENSO related and accounts for most (0.47 degrees C) of ‘recent warming’. The other point to note is that cloud changes in the tropics resulted in less SW emissions at TOA of 2.1W/m^2 (ISCP_FD) or 2.4W/m^2 between the 80’s and 90’s – most of the rest of the warming.

    Even so – the control variables in a complex and dynamic system may be so small as to be not measurable – so there is little room for complacency.

    Burgman, R. J., Clement, A. C., Mitas, C. M. , Chen, J. and Esslinger, K. (2008), Evidence for atmospheric variability over the Pacific on decadal timescales GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 35, L01704, doi:10.1029/2007GL031830, 2008

    Clement, A., Burgman, R. and Norris J (2009), Observational and Model Evidence for Positive Low-Level Cloud Feedback Science 325 (5939), 460. [DOI: 10.1126/science.1171255]

    Zhu, P., Hack, J., Keilh, J and Zhu, P, Bretherton, C. 2007, Climate sensitivity of tropical and subtropical marine low cloud amount to ENSO and global warming due to doubled CO2 – JGR, VOL. 112, 2007

    • Chief, what is your impression of Roy Spencer’s latest work challenging IPCC’s estimate of climate sensitivity?

    • Chief, I always really enjoy your expansive, informative and open minded comments. This one is particularly good. Does the increase in altitude of the radiation to space caused by warming act as a negative feedback? Someone on here (Isaac Newton I think) commented that since the surface area of a sphere increases as the fourth power of radius, the extra altitude would result in a proportionally bigger radiating surface area.

      Good point to investigate I thought.

      • Except that you measure the radius from the centre of the earth, so even a few thousand metres extra altitude only increases the radius, and therefore the radiating area, by an extremely tiny amount

      • Not True. The Surface area of a gas must be calculated against its volume. A 1 cubic meter sphere has a surface area of 7.8m^2. The Volume of the atmosphere increases a great deal as altitude increases. Every thousand meters of atmosphere increases the surface area of the atmosphere by trillions of trillions of square meters.

      • Increasing the radius by 1000m will increase the surface area by around 0.03% – hardly what I’d call significant.

      • You are looking at the Surface area of a Solid sphere with a radius of 6,368,000 meters, not a gas with a volume of 275×10^21 m^3 that radiates 360 degrees across an x, y , and z axis from every point within that volume. That is only for the 1st 1000 meters of our atmosphere. The 2nd 1000 meters adds another 318 quintillion cubic meters, the 3rd another 364 and so on.

        The first thousand meters of atmosphere on Earth has a volume of 275 Quintillion cubic meters of air all radiating 360 degrees across three axes. That is a surface area of 1.32 Sextillion square meters combined. My math was bad when I first calculated the Surface Area of a Spherical Cubic meter of air, it is actually 4.8m^2, not 7.8.

        Question, if you half the volume of the Sextillions of cubic meters of air all radiating evenly across all three axes, you end up with a volume of .5 cubic meters and double the amount of spheres. Does the surface of the now 550 Quintillion half cubic meters of air (just within 1st 1000 m) increase , decrease, or stay the same?

        Hint: The surface area of a sphere that has half the volume of another sphere is greater than half the surface area of the larger sphere.

        If you don’t agree that air radiates across all 360 degrees, all 60 minutes, all 60 seconds, all micro seconds and so on and across three axes, please explain why.

      • We’re talking about a spherical shell of air around a spherical planet, not a sphere of air of a certain volume.
        And it’s not the volume that’s changing, but the height of the effective radiating surface.

      • Peter,

        as the VOLUME increases for a fixed mass of air (100ppm change is not significant) surrounding the planet due to warming, the particles are further apart and the lower limit for direct radiation to space will not rise as much as the upper level, if at all. So we end up with a greater volume radiating, with higher temps than before at the bottom and through the tropopause which is the important area!!

        For the warmers to prove their case they need to show that during the 1998 and 2010 El Ninos, with their high temps, the tropopause didn’t rise and didn’t expand the radiative volume of higher temps.

      • Yes we are talking about a Spherical Shell around a spherical Planet. That spherical shell is composed of air that has temperature and is therefore Radiating. The Air is radiating in all 360 degrees on all three planes, as if out of a Sphere, from every single point within the Spherical Shell.

        True or not?

      • The effective radiating altitude, which is what we’re talking about here, is the altitude where the radiation escaping into space is equivalent to that which would occur if there were a flat radiating surface at that altitude in the absence of greenhouse gases.

      • It’s not like this shell is a nice neat uniform object is it? You are not going to prove anything with fatally oversimplistic reductionist conceptions of complex physical phenomena.

      • It’s not me who defined the ERA in the first place.
        And I didn’t even bring it up – that was you ;-)

      • I’d suggest you take a step back and have a good long think about what you’ve just posted

      • Nullius in Verba

        Surface area of a sphere is 4*pi*r^2, a change of radius of size dr changes the surface area by 8*pi*r*dr, or a fraction 2*dr/r. Take the Earth’s radius about 6300 km and raise it by 0.1 km (corresponding to observed 0.6 C warming), and the surface area increases by about 3 parts in 100,000. The temperature changes in proportion to the fourth root of the power/surface area, multiply by the effective radiative temperature (in K) to get about 0.03 C. That’s about 5% of the surface warming, I think.

      • Nullius, thanks for the calc.

      • Issac Newton

        My point was that scientists such as Pierrehumbert need to state at just what altitude this radiating occurs, at least since that is the way they state the issue. Mosher stated that the increase in CO2 raises the height that the atmosphere radiates heat to outer space. And that since it is colder the higher you go, this decreases heat loss, and blah, blah, blah. Well as any scientist should know, you have to state specific numbers.

        This casual statement that it gets colder as altitude increases is not always true! From 35,000 ft to about 20 km, the temp stays the same. From 20 km up to 50 km, the temperature of the atmosphere actually INCREASES! Above that, it decreases again.

        If the altitude of re-radiating is within the range where the temps are constant or are increasing, this explanation as to why CO2 increases warm the atmosphere cannot be correct.

        Plus there is that increasing surface area thingy.

      • Hi Isaac,
        The figures I’ve heard are 5-8km for the region radiating most energy to space. 150m rise for a doubling of co2. 0.003% increase in radiating surface area for ~60m rise so far.
        It’s all mostly down to water vapour at higher altitudes, and the specific humidity near the tropopause is mostly determined by solar activity levels anyway.

      • What seems to be ignored in this calc is that as the atmosphere warms and expands the particles have more room between them and radiation will still be occurring at about the same rate from the original levels. If the average altitude rises it will be additional radiation as higher altitudes are radiating more due to their new higher temps and additional CO2. Most of the radiation comes from the upper trop and that will not change as the tropopause is supposed to rise with AGW!! (see lapse rate)

      • It’s clear from every presentation detailed enough to provide the information explicitly or implicitly that they consider the troposphere. The influence of higher altitudes, most significantly of the stratosphere is discussed separately in many papers, but then it’s always stated that stratosphere is being considered. If nothing is said then it’s troposphere.

        Discussing the increase of the altitude of emitting layers is a description of the results of the analysis, not the starting point for the analysis. The precise changes at tropopause are usually not discussed, and I don’t know, how well the details of the change of the temperature profile of the tropopause are known.

        The influence of additional CO2 doesn’t depend strongly on these details. There isn’t any precise surface where the emission occurs, but the radiation that escapes to the space originates from a wide range of altitudes, actually all altitudes from the surface to the TOA. What is changing is the average altitude of emission of the escaping radiation, and that applies to the whole range of altitudes.

      • Nullius in Verba

        You can find the altitudes from which radiation is occurring in Manabe and Strickler 1964 fig. 8b.

        The “net” effect is virtually zero down to 12km, due to the thinness of the atmosphere. Below this point you can see an irregular dashed line on the left representing the water vapour “greenhouse”, which roughly matches the thick black “net” line. As you move rightwards you come across the CO2 “greenhouse”, ozone (which is virtually on the axis), and then to the right of the axis the shortwave water vapour anti-greenhouse. (Water vapour absorbs some shortwave radiation before it hits the Earth.)

        As you can see, the shortwave water vapour effect more or less balances the longwave CO2 greenhouse, and the net warming is follows the water vapour greenhouse curve closely.

        Radiation occurs from all altitudes from the surface up to about 10 km at the tropopause. The average (and bear in mind it’s not a simple arithmetic mean we’re talking about, but something messier) is about 5.5 km.

        Incidentally, this is the output of a computer model from 1964, so feel free to take with a peck of salt, but that’s what the textbooks say.

      • Issac Newton

        “The “net” effect is virtually zero down to 12km, due to the thinness of the atmosphere.”

        I can certainly agree with that. I guess my main point is simply that the explanation of the warming effect of CO2 using the re-radiation height factor seems flawed to me. If one uses a flawed method to calculate warming, you will of course get a flawed answer. In this case, I think that it results in a warming effect far too high. That of course doesn’t mean that CO2 does not cause some warming.

        I have always preferred this approach; CO2 heats up in the presence of IR radiation. Not much, but a little (some gases such as Methane heat up a lot!). This means that more of the Sun’s radiation is “captured” by the Earth and its atmosphere, as that radiation that would have just missed striking something that could warm up and end up passing through the atmosphere and back out into space. This effect I believe is very small. Much smaller than the 6 deg C or more that you often see bandied about on book titles and such.

      • Nullius in Verba

        The predicted warming being too high isn’t a result of the physics of the greenhouse effect itself, but flawed modelling of the climate feedbacks, which are entirely separate issues. But that’s another topic.

        If you haven’t seen it before, you might find my attempt at an explanation of the greenhouse effect cited on the ‘Best of the greenhouse’ thread useful.

      • Alexander Harvey

        Hi Isaac,

        “If one uses a flawed method to calculate warming, you will of course get a flawed answer. ”

        The effective height business is I hope just for the purposes of explanation. It is not a basis for making proper calcualtions.

        If you have the time and computational power it can be done line by line all the way up through an atmosphere.

        More commonly it is done in discrete bands for wavenumber (700 bands in MODTRAN3) and for height (30+ layers in MODTRAN3). It is done in combination with all the other GHGs and from that final result one could make a calculation of the effective radiation temperature and that corresponds to a radiative height and adding CO2 will lower the effective temperature and raise the effective height. How much depends on a lot of factors notably humidity and cloud type.

        AFAIAA there is no quicker method and no way to deduce the change in effective height without performing the radiative transfer calculations first.


      • Alexander,

        I would point out that the LBL calcs you suggest give a theoretical amount that does not take into account any other physics that may be triggered by warming or happening already. Like the calc that tells us the earth would be -18c without GHG’s it has limited usefulness in trying to figure out what happens under a change in forcing in the real world.

      • BTW TB, The surface area of a sphere increases as the square of the radius, NOT the fourth power

    • Chief,

      “Spectral analysis involves taking a snapshot of IR emissions in 1979 and 2011 and comparing the differences.”

      Well, this sounds awful convincing, except you didn’t mention any measurements of input to the system. In 1979 the sun was ramping up quickly to its cycle peak and was at a higher level of output than it currently is. Maybe you need to go back and do comparisons of incoming against outgoing???? You should also consider the delays in the system as we are just coming out of an exceptionally long low which would have reduced the amount of energy in the system to radiate while in 1979 the interim was much shorter and did not go as low.

  36. Climate is non-linear. A property of a non-linear system is sensitive dependence on small changes to control variables. Small changes drive abrupt change in extreme events (dragon-kings) and then settle into a new pattern in a damped oscillation ( an increase in autocorrelation or ‘slowing down).

    ‘We emphasize the importance of understanding dragon-kings as being often associated with a neighborhood of what can be called equivalently a phase transition, a bifurcation, a catastrophe (in the sense of Rene Thom), or a tipping point. The presence of a phase transition is crucial to learn how to diagnose in advance the symptoms associated with a coming dragon-king.’

    see for instance – – and –

    ‘Researchers first became intrigued by abrupt climate change when they discovered striking evidence of large, abrupt, and widespread changes preserved in paleoclimatic archives. Interpretation of such proxy records of climate—for example, using tree rings to judge occurrence of droughts or gas bubbles in ice cores to study the atmosphere at the time the bubbles were trapped—is a well-established science that has grown much in recent years. This chapter summarizes techniques for studying paleoclimate and highlights research results. The chapter concludes with examples of modern climate change and techniques for observing it. Modern climate records include abrupt changes that are smaller and briefer than in paleoclimate records but show that abrupt climate change is not restricted to the distant past.’

    The very concept of sensitivity as it is used is irrelevant. In the vicinity of a bifurcation – an immeasurably small change in a control variable can and has resulted in extreme change in as little as a decade. Extreme sensitivity. Away from these tipping points – climate is insensitive. I am far from predicting climate chaos any time soon – prediction is impossible but risk is inevitable.

    Is Spencer aware of these issues? He has talked about chaos theory in the past but does he recognise all of the implications?

    • Fortunately we are changing so many systems through elevating CO2 levels that nothing bad can possibly happen.

      • Which systems do you think are changing? You know that the changes are only a few ppm?

      • good point, I forgot that rising CO2 doesn’t help plants grow because it’s only increasing by a few ppm.

    • Chief Hydrologist
      re Lindzen on Tipping point See Lindzen interview 2010

      Corbett: “think a lot of people have heard of the idea of the “tipping point”
      Lindzen: “Well, yeah, even … It took me a long time to realize what in the world people might be speaking of with, “tipping points”. No-one has ever found any in the climate system and so, I had wondered. But there is a characteristic of feedback systems: If you start out with enough positive feedback, and you add a little more, yes, the system can go off the cliff. Virtually no natural systems behave that way. And if you have negative feedbacks, then the whole system is quite secure.”

      • Chief Hydrologist

        Hi David,

        I think Lindzen may be talking about runaway positive feedbacks. This is not the usage of Sornette – where ‘tipping point’ is an alternative term for chaotic bifurcation etc. Chaotic bifurcation is seen in nature – in the language of chaos theory it implies an abrupt shift to a new ‘strange attractor’ or phase space.

        Abrupt change in climate is observed in the paleoclimatic and modern record. The shifts in 1976/77 and 1998/2001 in the Pacific are, for instance, fundamental to understanding modern climate and hydrology.

        A ‘real’ system might involve warming (for whatever reason) and a loss of ice in the Arctic, the winds spinning off the polar front blow over water and not ice and do not cool as much. In the areas of downwelling in the North Atlantic – air moving across the water is warmer and does not cool the water as much. Thermohaline circulation slows and ice and snow buildup in North America and Europe. Albedo increases and rainfall declines in a cooler world. Deserts grow – dust blows – snow and ice increase. If you look at the NAS publication – Abrupt Climate Change: Inevitable Surprises – you can see that temperatures in places have dropped by 10 degrees C in as little as a decade.

        Non-linearity is a different concept to the way ‘tipping points’ is sometimes used – but I didn’t want to edit the quote. It includes noth negative and positives feedbacks. Indeed to use tipping points to imply there are only postive feedbacks is nonsense.


      • Chief,

        your comment on “tipping points” is very good. Unfortunately the press and politicians have decided that tipping point means sudden disaster. Until scientists follow up with these people and clarify what they actually mean, Deniers like me will continue to hold them responsible for alarmist language and distorting the science.

  37. Joe Lalonde


    One fascinating mystery is the salt trail.
    Since scientists have NEVER conceived the possibility that we had vastly more water by the evidence of salt deposits.
    Through the planetary timeline, recreations give a very different story of what this planet was like in the past.

  38. In theory fake science is politically useful.


    Everyone was pinning their hopes on house prices continuing to rise

    The IPCC was pinning their hopes on temperatures continuing to rise in concert with CO2.

    • I still am pinning my hopes on house prices continuing to rise. Why not? House prices have been rising for centuries.


    Everyone was pinning their hopes on house prices continuing to rise

    The IPCC was pinning their hopes on temperatures continuing to rise in concert with CO2

  41. the piece says:-
    “, in a way,the scientific consenus certainly has changed since 1975. But it changed from ‘we don’t know’ to climate change is definitely happening’.

    to much of this type of nonsense here

    geologists and others have known about climate changes for a very long time.

    the bad news is how much money and political energy it’s cost to find ,bit by bit, that CO2 has a minor effect on earths temperature, the sun,oceans and w/v,clouds and orbital factors (in no particular order) are the dominant forcings on earths temp.

    the good news is all those satellites peering down see earth getting greener.

    any theories?

  42. To use term “Climate Change”, which is an always-true statement, to mean “Man Made Global Warming” and to call skeptics “climate change deniers”, meaning someone who denies an always-true statement shows the dishonesty of the AGW campaigners.

    To call CO2 a pollutant shows the dishonesty of the AGW campaigners as CO2 is the foundation of life as it is used by plants to produce their food. It is also the gas we exhale, and is naturally released in forest fires and volcanoes.

    Some one who looks at the global mean temperature data for a second would identify that there has not been any permanant shift (except the 0.6 deg C per century warming) in the data for 130 years as shown in the following graph.

    I am dumbfounded how the world scientific community can support something that is not supported by the data as it shows no relationship between human emission of CO2 and global temperature and there is no shift in the global mean temperature data.

    Just unbelievable.

    • There is a shift. After 1970 temperatures have shifted upwards.

      Everyone who expects humans are causing warming thinks that temperatures wouldn’t have risen since 1970 without human help.

      • Actually it was more like 1975.

        Everyone who expects humans are causing warming thinks that temperatures wouldn’t have risen since 1970 without human help.

        But that’s an ASSUMPTION based on 25 years of data and a theory that fails to explain/support the assumption.

        Those who expect humans are causing warming start from that assumption and therefore find what they consider to be “proof”. This is called pre-conceptual science because the outcome of the science is predetemined. It’s also called “confirmation bias”. It’s an application of Myers’ Law: If the data doesn’t fit the theory, throw out the data.

      • It’s not an assumption. See the GCM runs without greenhouse gas forcing for example. The recent few decades of warming does not happen in those runs.

        That’s why people like me do not expect the warming to have occurred without human help.

        What Girma argues is that human warming should cause a “shift” in the data. Not at all. In fact human warming has prevented the “shift”, which would have been naturally causes. A shift from early 20th century warming to late 20th century flatness did not occur because of human influence on late 20th century temperature.

      • lolwot –
        Dragging unvalidated GCM runs into the conversation just confirms my previous comment. And NONE of the GCM;s are validated.

      • Lolwot

        What Girma argues is that human warming should cause a “shift” in the data. Not at all.

        Here is the Nobel Prize winning IPCC’s prediction:

        For the next two decades, a warming of about 0.2°C per decade is projected for a range of SRES emission scenarios. Even if the concentrations of all greenhouse gases and aerosols had been kept constant at year 2000 levels, a further warming of about 0.1°C per decade would be expected..

        This means that the global warming rate must shift from the long-term value of 0.05 deg C per decade to IPCC’s 0.2 deg C.

        That is impossible because based 120 years of data the upper global temperature boundary cyan line must not be exceeded.

      • Actually it was more like 1975.

        Everyone who expects humans are causing warming thinks that temperatures wouldn’t have risen since 1970 without human help.

        That’s an ASSUMPTION based on 25 years of data and a theory that fails to explain/support the assumption.

        Those who expect humans are causing warming start from that assumption and therefore find what they consider to be “proof”. This is called pre-conceptual science because the outcome of the science is predetemined. It’s also called “confirmation bias”. It’s an application of Myers’ Law: If the data doesn’t fit the theory, throw out the data.

        Real science would have started with “What causes temperature change? Is the planet warming? Why did the planet cool and then start warming again? ” – and several dozen other questions.

        Instead, the IPCC asked “How much warming is caused by humans?” without asking if humans caused any warming at all. And the First Assessment Report concluded that there was no evidence of AGW. The Second Assessment Report reached the same conclusion and was then hijacked by one person who changed/inserted words that claimed evidence of AGW had been found. But it hadn’t. That was a lie and nearly all of the involved scientists repudiated that result and withdrew their names from the document, which was then deemed non-peer reviewed – and published by the IPCC as if it were peer reviewed anyway. The Third Report conclusions were based largely on the hockey stick. And we all know how that turned out – even though you don’t understand the word “dead”.

        So.. today we have AGW – and CAGW – largely because one man lied and others followed his example and his words.

      • “Real science would have started with “What causes temperature change? Is the planet warming? Why did the planet cool and then start warming again? ” – and several dozen other questions.”

        That’s exactly what climate science is doing. Climate science thanks you for the compliment.

        It strikes me that it is mostly skeptics who are not doing this. It’s mainly skeptics who ignore causes of temperature change and instead extrapolate past temperatures by fitting lines or curves to them and assuming 21st century climate will just follow some “cycles”. Doesn’t work for the stock market and it won’t work for climate either.

      • Sorry: circular reasoning. You assume the models are correct (when the IPCC admits up front they do not include cosmic rays, ultraviolet, gravity waves, or understand clouds) and then “find” the CO2 effect by the residual of a kludgy model.

      • I don’t assume they are correct, I consider they are pointing in the right direction after weighing up the uncertainties. I am not aware of anyone who predicted the recent warming ahead of time who didn’t do so based on a greenhouse gas forcing.

        I find it more likely the recent warming is human caused than caused by any of the things you suggest. In fact with regards to cosmic rays I wonder if they haven’t induced a slight cooling effect over the last 20 years.

      • lolwot –
        I am not aware of anyone who predicted the recent warming ahead of time who didn’t do so based on a greenhouse gas forcing.

        Yes – and that’s precisely the problem.

      • lolwot –
        That’s exactly what climate science is doing. Climate science thanks you for the compliment.

        Not sure who fed you that line, but they lied.

        What climate science has been doing is assuming that CO2 is the main driver and not looking at anything else until recently when they’ve been forced to look at GCR’s, solar, clouds, etc by the persistent questions of the sceptics. That CO2 assumption has cost climate science nearly 20 years of “opportunity cost”. What they’ve been doing is pursuing the Anthropogenic connection without regard to any other factor. Which doesn’t answer the questions you THINK they’ve been chasing. Like these –
        “Real science would have started with “What causes temperature change? Is the planet warming? Why did the planet cool and then start warming again? ” – and several dozen other questions.”

        What you know about sceptics could be written in 6-inch block letters, folded, shoved up your nose – and you’d never know it was there. You make assumptions without knowledge. Do you know the term ASS_U_ME?

      • Your view of climate science is tarded somewhat. Climate science has been doing exactly what you claim good science does. It has been looking at various factors that affect the climate for decades, more so than you even list. Yes solar and clouds too and has been doing that for longer than “skeptics” have even existed.

        As for GCRs. Do you reckon GCRs have had a cooling or warming effect since 1970?

      • lolwot –
        Climate science has been doing exactly what you claim good science does

        Don’t be more foolish than you can help. It’s only recently that “climate science” has given more than lip service to solar. For years it was relegated to the “insignificant” category. Same for clouds.

        So it’s your view of climate science that’s tarded greatly.

        As for GCRs. Do you reckon GCRs have had a cooling or warming effect since 1970?

        We may all find out sooner or later. But the research has been delayed by years – again by being relegated to the “insignificant” or even the “looney bin” category by “climate science”. And now scientists are being aske to not evaluate the data from CERN.

        All of which comes down to – is “climate science” actually science? Or is it ALL about activism?

  43. Joshua

    Now read your links but sorry, they rate ‘nul’ points. Did you actually read them before citing them or are you being satirical?

    The first goes to the very same article that Judith is referencing that we are complaing about, by that objective observer William Connelley.

    The second goes to a tabloid report going to exactly the same report and the Third goes to William Connelys second home-Real Climate- which intriguiongly quotes him yet again!

    Virtually the first of the so called debunking links on RC tallks of Hubert Lamb and says the opposite of what he maintained-that we were heading for global cooling.

    The article I cited are contemporary to the 1970’s not created decades afterwards.

    You are rewriting history Joshua. and so is William Connelley-I’m surprised he had the time bearing in mind his virtually full time job editing the climate pages of wiki.


    • The most significant thing William Connelly pointed out was that more published papers in the 70s predicted warming than cooling.

      Is that wrong? If not it surely falsifies the idea of a global cooling consensus in the 70s.

      • Iolwot

        If William Connelley goes looking for warming papers rather than cooling ones that is exactly what he will find.


      • prove him wrong then.

      • Iolwot

        read my previous links.


      • None of your previous links show that there were more cooling papers than warming ones in the 70s.

        I presume that is what you believe, now you should set out to prove it so. Until a list to the contrary is demonstrated, Connolley’s comparison stands to my mind. You can’t both have a global cooling consensus and yet have more papers published predicting warming than cooling.

      • lolwot –
        If numbers of papers are your criteria, then you don’t have much of a case. And it’s not “science”.

        Nearly 100 years ago, Hitler ordered 100 German scientists to prove that Einstein was wrong. They failed. Einstein commented: “It doesn’t take 100 papers to prove me wrong – it would take only one, if it was correct.”
        “Numbers” are an inadequate and anti-scientific criteria.

      • Given the subject is whether there was a global cooling *consensus* in the 1970s I think numbers matter enormously.

        Claims of a cooling consensus in the 1970s are falsified if more papers from that time were predicting warming than cooling.

      • Iolwot

        This is what Connoley says;

        “SURVEY OF THE PEER -REV IEWED LITER ATURE . One way to determine what scientists think is to ask them. This was actually done
        in 1977 following the severe 1976/77 winter in the eastern United States. “Collectively,” the 24 eminent climatologists responding to the survey “tended to anticipate a slight global warming rather than
        a cooling” (National Defense University Research Directorate 1978).”

        This is what the original NDURD document actually says;

        “An attempt to quantify perceptions of global climate change to the year 2000 has been the initial focus of an interdepartmental study at The National Defense University. Subjective probabilities for the occurrence of specified climatic events were elicited by a survey of 24 climatologists from seven countries…The aggregated subjective probabilities were used to construct five possible climate scenarios for the year 2000, each having a ‘probability’ of occurrence… The derived climate scenarios manifest a broad range of perceptions about possible temperature trends to the end of this century, but suggest as most likely a climate resembling the average for the past 30 years. ” This Study was conducted by the Research Directorate of the National Defense University jointly with the U. S. Department of Agriculture, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Institute for the Future.”

        This is what the climate was like in 1978; It had been cooling or static during the previous 30 years and more of the same was expected.

        Do you believe Connolleys analysis to be accurate?

      • Here are the predictions from the NDURD report. As you can see Connolley was right.

      • lolwot –
        Claims of a cooling consensus in the 1970s are falsified if more papers from that time were predicting warming than cooling.

        100 papers said Einstein was wrong. Was Relativity falsified?

        Here are the predictions from the NDURD report. As you can see Connolley was right.

        No – I see a diagram without reference. Where did it come from? Link?

      • During the 70s more papers were published predicting warming than cooling, so evidentially there was no consensus that the world was going to cool.

        The graph is from the same NDURD report that tonyb tried to claim Connolley had summarized incorrectly. Connelley said the experts had leaned more towards slight warming than cooling. The graph of the probability distribution of their predictions shows Connelley’s summary to be correct. Most of the distribution is warmer than the temperatures of the time.

      • lolwot –
        The graph is from the same NDURD report

        So where’s the link I asked for?

      • As could be guessed, the original results from the diagram can equally well be described as Connolley did or as Wikipedia did. The warming side is slightly favored, but so little that it’s certainly statistically insignificant. The formulation of Connolley didn’t overstate the result badly, if at all.

        We have had some discussion with Tony on, what will affect the perception that people get of a commenter. The eagerness in finding errors in, what others have said, when the issue is not really about errors but about stylistic differences and legitimate differences in judgment, is a sure way of losing appreciation among those who are not already strongly on the same side of the dispute.

  44. Girma

    You say it’s “just unbelievable” that there are people who “believe” that human CO2 emissions have been the principal cause of 20th century warming, despite a record, which clearly shows that this cannot be the case.

    Here’s my take on that (and I am talking about people who honestly “believe”.this, rather than those who may simply be using AGW to support ulterior agendas).

    People have “believed” in just as “unbelievable” things in the past: Armageddon, ancient Mayan doomsday prophecy, the prophecies of Nostradamus, etc.

    Sure, the constant barrage of “imminent disaster” predictions by the sensationalist media and political activist groups, such as IPCC, and the enormous amounts of money at stake have played a role, but if one wants very much to “believe” in something, then this becomes an emotionally driven need, which goes far beyond rational thinking.

    In this case the driving emotion is clearly “existential fear” (one of the strongest emotions). This emotion is fueled by constant fear-mongering by advocate lobby groups.

    A secondary emotion tied to the alarmists’ position is that of “guilt” (for having the high “carbon-based” standard of living which we enjoy today).

    This emotion has its roots in the Christian faith and is used effectively by those who are promoting the premise that AGW is a threat to our society and our environment. This also explains why almost all the AGW alarmists are part of the ”rich white man’s society” (and why the AGW religion has not caught on in China, etc., where people have other, real existential concerns).

    Then there are elements of a sort of “Gaia religion” at work. Not only are there rap songs about “Mother Nature’s crying because the planet’s dying…”, but even so-called scientific reports resort to the “crying Mother Nature” tale.

    To be sure, the alarmists cloak their phobia in the mantle of “science” (as have most past “doomsday” prophesies). The oracles and prophets of old have simply been replaced by computer models, but the underlying driving force is not reason, but emotion.

    Rational (or scientific) skepticism has a hard time arguing with irrational emotion.

    These people do not want to hear any arguments that go against their “belief”, as “unbelievable” as that might seem to you and me.


    • Max, I assume you know that the AGW proponents say the same about skeptics, that we are all irrational, stupid or dishonest. They are wrong and so are you and Girma. There are strong arguments on both sides. There is nothing unbelievable in either side. Reasonable people can disagree. This is an honest debate.

      • There is a difference between the scientific debate and those who claim the only habitable land by 2100 will be in the Arctic, or who proclaim that we must destroy the cities and half the world’s population to save nature. There is a complete spectrum of belief, which makes it hard to even have a discussion. There are also “experts” like Hansen (an astrophysicist) making pronouncements about topics he knows nothing about, like species extinctions or economics. Murky thinking and hyperbole are everywhere (I am not accusing you of this, just an observation).

      • David Wojick

        Yes there is an “honest debate” on whether or not AGW is a serious potential threat (this blog site is good evidence of that “honest debate”.This is the rational (or non-emotional) side.

        But there is also an emotional side, based on “fear” (one of the strongest emotions) and “guilt.and there is no question that these emotions have been used with some measure of success by AGW lobby groups in order to motivate the general public.

        As I read girma’s statement, he found it “unbelievable” that anyone could believe that AGW was the primary driver of climate change once having looked at the repeated multi-decadal temperature oscillations and the lack of statistical correlation between CO2 and temperature in the long term record.

        There are all kinds of studies and data out there.

        But, when considering to what extent CO2 is a driver of global temperature, there are none as compelling as the record of global temperature that goes back 161 years (with all its known warts and blemishes) and the record on atmospheric CO2 concentrations (Vostok ice core approximations until 1958, Mauna Loa measurements after 1958).

        IMO the rational approach is to be scientifically skeptical of any hypothesis or premise until it can be validated by empirical data (such as this record).

        As a result, I agree with girma that this also seems “unbelievable” to me, but that some people might not be impressed with data, if these do not support their “belief system”, because this “belief system” is not based on rational skepticism (i.e. demanding empirical evidence before accepting the validity of a premise), but rather on emotions (“fear” of disastrous consequences of runaway warming and collective “guilt” for having sinned by living too well and consuming too much in the process.).

        You may disagree with my analysis on this, and that’s fine. I’m not a psychologist but I am just trying to figure out why some people seem IMO to reject the data before their very eyes when it does not support their belief.


      • David Wojick

        Almost 100% of the global mean temperature (GMT) data from 1880 to 2010 lie below the upper GMT boundary line as shown in the following graph. ( a global warming rate of 0.5 deg per century)

        The GMT reaches this upper boundary line every 60 years [1880s, 1940s & 2000s]

        How could the scientific community believe the GMT will exceed this upper boundary line in the next decades (IPCC’s 0.2 deg C warming per decade)?

        Unless there is a shift in climate, it is almost impossible. Based on the 130 years data, the upper boundary line is a GMT limit, and it cannot be exceeded. According to the last 130-years data, there was no permanent shift in climate, so the GMT must first move from its upper boundary in the 2000s to its lower boundary in the 2030s before global warming restarts.

        Assuming the 130-year GMT pattern continues, the next time the GMT reaches the upper boundary line is in 2060s, not in the next decades of the IPCC. In the 2060, the GMT would be 0.005×60 =0.3 deg C higher than the 2000s value.

    • Iolwot

      I think you are rewriting the rules of the game.

      You have quoted eight northern hemisphere predictions not a global one. Read the words of the summary;
      “…each having a ‘probability’ of occurrence… The derived climate scenarios manifest a broad range of perceptions about possible temperature trends to the end of this century, but suggest as most likely a climate resembling the average for the past 30 years. ”

      Presumably the more extreme climatic changes were discounted leaving the gently cooling trend of the previous 30 years as the most likely.


  45. Max –
    The oracles and prophets of old have simply been replaced by computer models,

    May we hope ( or better – help) those computer models achieve the usual fate of past prophets? :-)

  46. First, I am offended by the idea that ancient people thought the earth was flat. No educated greek or Roman did. They knew by watching ships sail from their numerous harbors that the earth was round. Ancient people were not stupid, they just had to do things the hard way.
    Second, I recall reading Isaac Asimov’s description of a theory as something we believe until proven otherwise. I like that description – it fits real life.
    Third, my big problem with all the theories is that they are developed in isolation and often in a closed environment, whereas in the atmosphere they interact – I believe in unknown and unpredictable ways, especially in great numbers.
    During my fellowship at Lockheed-Martin several years ago, the corporate R&D guys told us about amazing behavior being observed on the part of photons that lead me to believe the universe is probably far more amazing even than we imagine. I feel the same way about climate science. Cool stuff – but keep you hands out of my wallet!

    • One of the ancient greeks, by going to egypt and noting the date when sunlight penetrated to the bottom of a well and comparing the angle of the sun on the same date in Greece and the distance to greece from Egypt got the circumf of the earth pretty close to correct (which is not to say that everyone knew this centuries later). And the story about Columbus is backwards–those opposed to his voyage thought he would starve in the huge ocean between Europe and Asia –and if the Americas had not been in the way, they would have been right.

  47. Tonyb, Fred Moolten, Pekka Pirilä

    (second attempt to post)

    I have followed your exchange on the 1970s “global cooling” scare. It is interesting that anyone would try to negate this scare, which really did exist, although there was much less ballyhoo and financial backing and no overwhelming “scientific consensus”, as there is with AGW today.

    The 1970s “ice age scare” in the popular press as backed by several scientists at the time, is documented here:

    Climate scientists who supported the idea that human emissions could lead us into a period of disastrous cooling included: Cesare Emiliani, S.J. Rasool, Stephen Schneider, Kenneth Hare, R.K. Matthews, George and Helena Kukla, Mikhail Budyko, and several others.

    A Newsweek article (April 28, 1975) warned:

    There are ominous signs that the Earth’s weather patterns have begun to change dramatically and that these changes may portend a drastic decline in food production – with serious political implications for just about every nation on Earth. The drop in food output could begin quite soon, perhaps only 10 years from now. The regions destined to feel its impact are the great wheat-producing lands of Canada and the U.S.S.R. in the North, along with a number of marginally self-sufficient tropical areas – parts of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indochina and Indonesia – where the growing season is dependent upon the rains brought by the monsoon.
    The evidence in support of these predictions has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard-pressed to keep up with it.

    As is the case today with AGW, there were warnings, which tied the global cooling to observed extreme weather events: killer cyclones in Pakistan and Australia, drought in the Soviet Union, northern Europe and North Africa, etc. Climatologists warned that “another degree or two of cooling could remove Canada from the world list of major grain producers” (see note).

    A report by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) on the dangers of global cooling stated:

    A major climatic change would force economic and social adjustments on a worldwide scale, because the global patterns of food production and population that have evolved are implicitly dependent on the climate of the present century.

    Lowell Ponte’s 1976 book “The Cooling” gave us this alarming message:

    This cooling has already killed hundreds of thousands of people. If it continues and no strong action is taken, it will cause world famine, world chaos and world war, and this could all come about before the year 2000

    The Ponte book was prefaced by Dr. Reid A. Bryson, professor of meteorology at the University of Wisconsin, and a pioneer of modern climate science.

    There is certainly no agreement about what the climate will do in the next century, though there is a majority opinion that it will change, more or less, one way or the other. Of that majority, a majority believe that the longer trend will be downward.

    Despite the fact that, according to Bryson, most climate scientists supported the notion of human-induced global cooling at the time, Bryson was as skeptical of this premise then as he was later of dangerous AGW.

    There is no agreement on the causes of climatic change, or even why it should not change amongst those who so maintain.

    A 1971 study by J. Murray Mitchell concluded:

    Suggestions by several previous authors to the effect that the apparent worldwide cooling of climate in recent decades is attributable to large-scale increases of particulate pollution of the atmosphere by human activities are not supported by this analysis.

    And there were also other “dissenters” among scientists of the day, including C.H.B. Priestly who stated:

    Our climate is always changing, and will continue to do so whether man’s activities interfere or not.

    (see note)

    It seems to me that the physical evidence would point to very much the same conclusion today.


    Note: Some quotations are from the article “Do We Face an Ice Age” by Peter Craigmoe in Fluor Magazine, Winter 1976

    • Max – You are wrong for the reasons cited above. A “cooling scare” was a concept popularized in some media and was based on estimates by some scientists, while others (in greater numbers according to some reports) focused more on warming. In each case, most of the predictions were quite speculative (generally of the “what If” rather than “it is certain” type), and few scientific articles could have been described as conjuring up a “scary” scenario – certainly a small minority at most.

      Because there were examples of both a cooling and a warming focus, including a few dramatized scenarios, it is easy to cherry-pick one or the other. That creates a false impression of the reality at the time.

      As Alex Harvey pointed out above, there is no objective reason why this history is particularly important. However, partisanship has exploited the notion of a cooling scare to imply that climate scientists have had a tendency to form as strong consensus around a false principle. The reality reveals both a lack of consensus, and more importantly, conclusions in the published literature regarding either cooling or warming that were mostly quite tentative, as befitted the more meager store of data available then compared with now. Consensus developed gradually over subsequent decades as more and more scientists began to accrue evidence, and an understanding of radiative physics underlying the warming propensities of greenhouse gases continued to grow.

      • Fred

        Do you accept the IPCC position for a global warming of 0.2 deg C decade in the next decades?

        For nearly 100% of the data from 1880 to 2010, for 130 years, the GMT data lie below the upper boundary line shown in the following graph.

        It is very reasonable to assume the GMT data will also lie below this upper boundary line in the next decades. The global warming rate of 0.2 deg C per decade in the next decades by the IPCC means the GMT data will exceed the upper boundary line in the next decades. This is extremely unlikely unless there is a shift in the climate.

        Based on the last 130 years data, the upper boundary line cannot be exceeded by the GMT. As the current GMT values are at the upper boundary, in the following decades it must move towards its lower boundary before any warming trend restarts.

        We don’t need to know why the GMT oscillates between the upper and lower boundary to make the above conclusions.

      • Fred Moolten

        No, Fred. I am not wrong, just because you say so.

        There WAS a “global cooling” scare.

        It was real, although not nearly as heavily hyped and financed as the current “global warming” scare.

        You are right in saying that here was no overwhelming “mainstream consensus view” among scientists (there were hardly any climate scientists around at that time in the first place). There were a few climate scientists (as I pointed out) that did support this premise. Others did not. There were warnings of imminent disaster if the trend continued. And there were a few alarming articles in the popular press.

        There was no IPCC. There was no Internet. There were no blog sites. There was no concerted media rush to spread alarming predictions by scientists. There was no Oscar-winning scare movie. There were no Nobel Peace Prizes. There were no government-sponsored TV scare commercials. There was no support by activist lobby groups. The general public was hardly aware of any purported threat. And there was no Climategate.

        So the differences were great.

        But so were the similarities..


      • I’m old enough to have clear recollections from 1970’s. I can remember that there was discussion about possible cooling. In one seminar that I attended a presentation was given, where the risk was thought to be severe. I cannot tell more precisely the date or the person who took up the issue. Climate was certainly not a special interest for me, but I would definitely remember, if the scare would have been a serious issue among wider public. I lived the first half of 1970’s in Switzerland and U.S. and the second half in Finland. Thus my impressions are from these countries and France as I was following the French television as much as the Swiss Romand.

        The scare of nuclear winter in 1980’s was certainly much stronger and more widely recognized, but the connection with nuclear weapons issue was clear, and most must have thought that the more direct threat of a nuclear war was the main one and this just something on top of that.

        The first time I learned about the idea of AGW was in 1980, when I visited IIASA in Austria to learn about their study “Energy in a Finite Word”. This study gave significant weight on the CO2 emissions, which strengthened the pro-nuclear conclusions of the study. The study referred to several papers from 1970’s.

      • Pekka – My recollections are similar to yours. There were conflicting climate stories in the 1970s, with no scientific consensus in the published literature..

        A sense of the history of both public perceptions and scientific understanding during the 1970s and surrounding intervals can be gathered from Spencer Weart’s American Institute for Physics site. From the Introduction:

        “Calculations made in the late 1960s suggested that average temperatures would rise a few degrees within the next century. But the next century seemed far off, and the models were preliminary. Groups of scientists that reviewed the calculations found them plausible but saw no need for any policy action, aside from putting more effort into research to find out for sure what was happening… In the early 1970s, the rise of environmentalism raised public doubts about the benefits of human activity for the planet. Curiosity about climate turned into anxious concern. Alongside the greenhouse effect, some scientists pointed out that human activity was putting dust and smog particles into the atmosphere, where they could block sunlight and cool the world. Moreover, analysis of Northern Hemisphere weather statistics showed that a cooling trend had begun in the 1940s. The mass media (to the limited extent they covered the issue) were confused, sometimes predicting a balmy globe with coastal areas flooded as the ice caps melted, sometimes warning of the prospect of a catastrophic new ice age. Study panels, first in the U.S. and then elsewhere, began to warn that one or another kind of future climate change might pose a severe threat. The only thing most scientists agreed on was that they scarcely understood the climate system, and much more research was needed.”

        A more detailed Timeline over a longer interval identifies individual scientific advances, including the seminal contributions by Manabe and Wetherald. The timeline also includes Individual links to pages that elaborate on several areas relevant to Weart’s interest in the evolution of our understanding of the greenhouse effect and its implications.

      • Jason Calley

        Fred and Pikka, yes, my memories (and I am a layman but very interested in most aspects of science) of the 70’s and the “Coming Ice Age” agree with yours. It was certainly a common meme, and while there was no certainty of it, the idea was held forth by both popular press and the rare climate specialist as being a distinct probability.

        It is true that the idea of another Ice Age did not inspire a media blitz like the current one for CAGW, but perhaps that is because many scientists of that time still remembered the story of Lysenko.

      • In the 1970’s and a few years into the 80’s the oil crisis and availability of energy was the major issue. I arrived to U.S. in the beginning of 1974, when the oil crisis did really affect the everyday life of almost everybody. Some people spent a lot of time in queues at gas pumps and somebody was even shot in a dispute at a pump.

        Many research programs were started, and research on renewable energy has maintained some of the special status in research since those years.

        Back in Finland in 1980’s the energy resources were still part of the worries, but the acid rain was another major issue. Reducing sulfur dioxide emissions turned out to be surprisingly easy with improved technology, but the climate issue took rapidly over as the largest environmental worry.

        I have been involved with energy related systems analysis since 1980, and all these changes have influenced directly the issues of interest for the clients of that kind of applied research.

      • Actually, the NAS said the possibility of an ice ace in the 100-year period after 1975 had a “finite probability.” As layman, I think that means it had a probability of slightly more than zero, but I’ll leave it to the math hounds to make the final determination as to what a finite probability means.

      • Less than infinity, more than zero.

      • Shoulder to shoulder, you could stand the entire human population of the planet on the Isle of Wight off Englands south coast, a tiny dot on the global map.

      • simon abingdon

        Getting very crowded though. Just over 4 billion square feet for nearly 7 billion people. Cosy.

      • I’m glad I’m tall. :)

      • tall,

        how tall are you?

      • tempterrain

        It sounds like the Earth’s population may finally have outgrown the IOW. Maybe the Channel Islands may be have to be used as an overspill. But even so, there wouldn’t be much fossil fuel to be burned there, so the impact of the population would be much less than it is.

      • tallbloke

        Is that estimate at high tide or low tide?

        And does it include IPCCs estimate of sea level increase (let alone that of Dr. James E. Hansen)?


      • Fred,

        could you provide us with links to the reports of those who thought we were warming before 1975? All I ever heard, or have been able to find, was the possibility of the next Ice Age before then. being in HS up to 1970 it is the type of scientific information that was passed on to us. Everything I ever saw or read seemed to show a consensus of cooling with varying scenarios of slow to fast.

      • Fred,

        where are you links or references to the warming studies and reports from the 60’s and early 70’s please?

    • mannaker said

      “A report by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) on the dangers of global cooling stated:

      A major climatic change would force economic and social adjustments on a worldwide scale, because the global patterns of food production and population that have evolved are implicitly dependent on the climate of the present century.”
      Can you identify the NAS report on the dangers of global cooling ?

  48. Back to the question of Theories and theories: we can look at billiards as an activity completely covered by known physics (conservation of energy, a little friction) and geometry (vectors, specifically). And yet, it is quite difficult unless you play it for a long time. Just because we have a Theory (even perfect) does not mean that our physical system meets the ideal of a vacuum or ideal gas or frictionless surface. It is even worse when we can not do experiments and there are big unknowns (like sulfate aerosols, where the numbers used by IPCC are essentially made up). I have seen several contributors here become impatient because they insist that it is “just physics” such as radiative transfer. If it is so simple then why do the models disagree with one another so much? Why do some of them get similar answers with different forcings and assumptions? It is because a GCM is NOT a “Theory” and is not even a “theory”–it is a computational engine in which spatial resolution is low and many processes are simplified. In some fields we could test this simplified model against experiments, but this is very difficult with the GCMs. Compared to various paleoclimates they do or don’t do well, depending on which paleo period and how you view the output.

    • I agree. The system is very complex. Everything is possible, even cooling effect of CO2, despite its absorbing radiative properties.

    • Craig, what’s your stance on the experimental evidence that the opacity of the atmosphere doesn’t change much? Have you looked at any of Doug Hoyt’s stuff on pyrheliometry?
      “Schwartz claims that aerosols are masking about half the warming which would be 1.4 C in the twentieth century vs the 0.6-0.7 C observed warming. We dispute this claim on several grounds.

      Measurements of aerosols did not begin in the 1970s as some people claim. There were measurements before then, but not so well organized. However, there were a number of pyrheliometric measurements made and it is possible to extract aerosol information from them by the method described in:

      Hoyt, D. V., 1979. The apparent atmospheric transmission using the pyrheliometric ratioing techniques. Appl. Optics, 18, 2530-2531.

      The pyrheliometric ratioing technique is very insensitive to any changes in calibration of the instruments and very sensitive to aerosol changes.

      Here are three papers using the technique:

      Hoyt, D. V. and C. Frohlich, 1983. Atmospheric transmission at Davos, Switzerland, 1909-1979. Climatic Change, 5, 61-72.

      Hoyt, D. V., C. P. Turner, and R. D. Evans, 1980. Trends in atmospheric transmission at three locations in the United States from 1940 to 1977. Mon. Wea. Rev., 108, 1430-1439.

      Hoyt, D. V., 1979. Pyrheliometric and circumsolar sky radiation measurements by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory from 1923 to 1954. Tellus, 31, 217-229.

      In none of these studies were any long-term trends found in aerosols, although volcanic events show up quite clearly. There are other studies from Belgium, Ireland, and Hawaii that reach the same conclusions. It is significant that Davos shows no trend whereas the IPCC models for anthropogenic aerosol increases show it in the area where the greatest changes in aerosols were occurring.

      There are earlier aerosol studies by Hand and Marvin in the Monthly Weather Review going back to the 1880s and these studies also show no trends and all the astronomical observations show no trends.

      A second argument against aerosols being a cooling agent that masks warming is that the claimed aerosol increases occur where the strongest warming is being observed, namely the Northern Hemisphere mid-latitudes and Europe. If anything, aerosols are an additional source of heating through soot which warms the atmosphere or soot on snow that will also warm.

      Finally the Northern Hemisphere where the aerosols presumably are located is warming faster than the Southern Hemisphere where there are fewer aerosols.

      In short there is no experimental evidence that increasing aerosols are masking any greenhouse warming or that they caused the 1940-1975 cooling.”

      • tempterrain


        Just on a point of information: The Southern Hemisphere contains a much higher proportion of water than does the Northern Hemisphere.

        I would suggest that once you correct for that, your argument doesn’t hold, er, water!

      • You can suggest it, but you’d be wrong. The sulfate aerosols blamed for 1940-1970 cooling were allegedly reducing insolation. The sun is very effective at heating ocean mixed layer, thereby raising sst. Therefore, we would expect to see sst rising more where there is less sulfate aerosol content in the air, if the aerosol conjecture was correct.

        I would suggest Doug Hoyt knows more about this stuff than you.

      • tempterrain

        I’m sure that I’ve got mates who know more stuff than your mates :-)

        But, seriously, if you look at a graph of land and ocean separately
        (this one was quite hard to find on the net)

        it looks very similar to one of NH and SH separately:

        So because the SH is largely water it will have warmed less that the NH. So therefore, you can’t use this fact to suggest that aerosols don’t have a cooling effect.

      • The land and ocean graph that you have linked is from the GISS web page. They eliminated that graph a couple of years ago although I have no idea why. I found it quite interesting to watch as the divergence between the oceans and land temperatures continued to increase even as the oceans seemed to show no recent warming.

      • Hi TT. Sorry to rain on your parade but they don’t ‘look similar’ to me. Also, you need to understand why air temperature has risen more globally than sst globally. The ocean has a vastly greater heat capacity than the atmosphere. This means that a small rise in sst will cause a bigger rise in air temperature. To convince yourself of this, you only need to look at a short term event like the 1998 el nino and compare sst rise with lower troposphere rise:

        Now, which of your mates knows more about pyrheliometry and the measurement of atmospheric opacity than Doug Hoyt? ;)

      • tallbloke, 7/25/11, 7:47 am, Theories

        tb: The ocean has a vastly greater heat capacity than the atmosphere. This means that a small rise in sst will cause a bigger rise in air temperature.

        It doesn’t work like that. Heat, energy in transit, flows between objects strictly according to the temperature difference. When a temperature difference exists between the ocean and the atmosphere, the warmer will get cooler and vice versa, with the magnitude of the rate of change of t_atm being much greater than that of SST_skin, inversely proportional to the heat capacities. The ocean cannot cause the atmosphere to get any hotter than SST_skin. In steady state, t_atm = SST_skin. Temperatures at steady state are independent of heat capacities. What you can say is that for a given energy exchange between the atmosphere and the ocean, |Δt_atm| >> |ΔSST_skin|, i.e., the magnitude of the air temperature change will be much greater than the change in sea surface temperature.

      • Jeff, thanks for that. I notice that sst change leads atmospheric temperature changes by several months at the global scale.
        Also that air temp rises by more than sst during El Nino.
        But I take your point about steady state conditions. The link I gave TT to my blog is for an interesting article which shows an apparent ~110 year cycle in the surface air temperature data and the sst data amplitudes. We think this may be linked to periods of lower then higher solar activity in the C20th
        Given that the climate system never is in balance, it seems possible to me that cloudier conditions in the early part of the century keep the nightime surface air temperatures higher relative to the ocean, the situation reversing after 1945.

        That’s my theory with a little ‘t’ anyway. :)

      • if you move dry air over water, evaporation will cool the water, even if the air is warmer than the water.

      • Herman Alexander Pope, 7/25/11, 12:30 pm, Theories

        HAP: if you move dry air over water, evaporation will cool the water, even if the air is warmer than the water.

        What you say is true in theory, all other things being equal. But in your experiment, you have warm air cooling the ocean by evaporation while warming the ocean by heat transfer. Which one wins, and why?

        John Fasullo, U. Colo., Climate Analysis Section, has a blog in which he maintains an untitled discussion of the relative effects of thermodynamics, convection, and radiation on SST.

        Right at a crucial point in this paper, he says,

        In the time evolution of SST from this plot, evaporation and solar flux, it is clear that evaporation is responsible for the cooling of SST yet the scatter plot suggests that it is.

        Is there not a not missing?

        This page is linked to the following paper, where the problematic sentence does not appear:

        Fasullo, J. and P. J. Webster, Warm Pool SST Variability in Relation to the Surface Energy Balance, J.Clim., v. 12, May, 1999, pp. 1292-1305.

        This paper discusses a number of practical situations, but none that matches your experiment. It concludes,

        Variations in surface fluxes suggest an important role for intraseasonal variations in clouds and wind in modifying SST, and evaporative and solar fluxes are together the dominant modifiers of the surface energy balance. … [¶] Finally, the strong correlation between SST variations and large-scale convective anomalies suggest that SST cannot be understood in terms of local interactions between thermodynamics, convection, and radiation. Instead, outbreaks of convection are associated with changes in dynamical systems such as the intraseasonal oscillation and the Asian monsoon. Those studies that suggest a local correspondence between SST and evaporation or shortwave cloud forcing are therefore incomplete. Id., p. 1304.

        My response to tallbloke would have been better had I included convective evaporation, but I couldn’t have said that it was even a second order effect. Thanks for the correction.

      • tempterrain

        Why has air temperature risen more than SST globally? That’s because the sea has a much greater thermal mass and will take longer to warm.

        You can see the same effect in your local swimming pool. In spring, even if the air temperature is warm the water is likely to be cold, Later in the summer the difference is much less.

      • I have my suspicions about the aerosol input data to IPCC which look totally made up (long straight lines, no data as input) so I will read the Hoyt papers (great, another specialty to come up to speed on, thanks a bunch!! )

    • I have been on of those who have referred to well known physics, but I agree on everything in this this comment of Craig Loehle. There is very much in the climate that cannot be understood based on solid physical knowledge.

      While very much is too complicated for physics to give definitive answers, there are also many specific issues, where physics does give definitive answers. Much of the discussion has boon on those specific issues.

      The limitations of GCMs have been mentioned innumerable times, but I cannot remember a single comment that would claim that they are accurate or without problems. This leaves open the question:

      “How much we can learn from the large but incomplete and problematic models that so many scientists have been developing for so long and done their best to make them useful?”

      • To clarify: the models are impressive scientific accomplishments, and I am all for learning from them. They are not able to make precise predictions. Those who advocate for change are mostly taking it on authority that the models are good enough for purpose. The growing literature showing how much they disagree with each other and with data (esp regionally) suggest they are not.

      • Craig, What I think, and hope, you are saying, is something I concluded several years ago. That the climate is so complex and chaotic, that, using the “scientific method” we cannot say what happens as we add more CO2 to the atmosphere, with respect to global temperatures. The conclusion people with names like Houghton,. Watson and Mann should have come to. 30+ years ago, is that we just dont know. Further, as Girma points out, ad nauseum, such little hard data as we have, strongly suggests that adding CO2 to the atmosphere does NOT have a catastrophic effect on temperature. Surely, it is just that simple. When it comes to CAGW, we just dont know.

      • Further, as Girma points out, ad nauseum, such little hard data as we have,

        I will take “ad nauseum” charge at any time in order to counter the global inundation scare. Most school kids believe that now!

        It is physically impossible for the long-term warming trend to suddenly change from 0.05 to 0.2 deg C per decade.

        The upper GMT boundary line that was never exceeded for 130 years can not be exceeded.

        I will bet with anyone that the global warming rate for the next decade (2010 to 2020) will not be more than 0.05 deg C per decade, which is 1/4th of IPCC’s projection, giving actual climate sensitivity of 3/4=0.75 deg C

      • tempterrain

        Even if this statement “When it comes to CAGW, we just dont know.” were to be true, (but which I would dispute) does it follow that there is no need to take any action on CO2 emissions?

        We do know that the atmosphere has been stable for centuries with CO2 levels 40% less than they are currently.

        So , if “we just don’t know” then lets keep CO2 levels as close to 350ppm as we possibly can. Maybe lower in time.

        I don’t know about you but I just don’t overtake on a blind corner. Why? Because I “just don’t know” whether it’s safe.

      • Yes, it DOES mean you do not do anything about CO2. You do NOT know if you are helping or hurting. IF, I say IF we do go into a little ice age we need all the CO2 we can get to reduce the loss of crops. IF we warm we need more co2 to reduce the loss of crops due to possible extreme temps in some areas. In both cases we need our economies running as fast as possible to provide the means to ADAPT!!!

        We know that we can NOT make any substantial change in CO2 anyway even if we shut down our civilization. If you can come up with a way to reduce CO2 to a level where you figures show that it will actually make at least a 1C difference in 100 years I would be interested in hearing it. On the other fin, since we do not KNOW which way it is going to go it would be insane to implement it!!!

  49. OK, I will try.

    For decades, policy makers have tried and failed to get Americans to eat less carbon dioxide.

    In 1904 French doctors reported that six of their subjects who had high blood pressure—a known risk factor for heart disease—were carbon dioxide fiends.

    Is that enough for extra credit?

  50. Dear Bloggers

    The IPCC, the scientific community, world governments believe in the AGW theory that states the global mean temperature (GMT) pattern will shift to a 0.2 deg C per decade warming in the following decades from what it followed for 130 years of 0.05 deg C per decade shown below.

    Is this believable?

    As all the GMT data was below the upper boundary line for the last 130 years, it is almost impossible for it to exceed the upper boundary line in the next decades.

    As the upper boundary line is nature’s upper limit for the GMT, and as the current GMT values are at the upper boundary, cooling trend must follow until the GMT reaches its lower boundary and then only a warming trend restarts.

    Don’t you agree?

  51. In conclusion, the AGW debate is over.

    The great fact is just this, and nothing less:

    The wording of the 1776 USA Declaration of Independence:

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

    Properly reflects the “Great Reality” that surrounds and sustains us.

    The “Evil Empire” that once controlled half of the globe is no match for the Great Reality.

    That is the conclusion of the AGW story.

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel
    Former NASA Principal
    Investigator for Apollo
    NASA NGR 26-003-057

    • Joe Lalonde


      Following statistics of temperatures was definitely a bad theory.
      It distracted a great deal of funding and science that would have bettered our knowledge base.

      When I generate a theory, it is strictly based on a great deal of evidence and a massive amount of questions that have to be asked and answered.

      Speculation and conclusions are not good enough when the evidence says differently. Confining science to individual categories is not what the whole interaction of science has done to understand this planet and Universe.
      Selective theories just confuses science with bad conclusions to be part of the group rather than part of a good knowledge base.
      Discoveries are most part by accident when looking into areas for specific findings. Some surprises occur especially on fresh evidence in areas never contemplated that could be involved.

      My accusation against science is the areas of study NEVER go deep enough. A conclusion is generated then the research is over. This misses many, many questions that could have been answered, unanswered.

    • tempterrain


      Don’t forget the US constitution too. In case the Declaration of independence doesn’t have quite the right clauses in there, maybe you could have a 27th amendment as follows.

      Amendment 27 – United States Temperature and Sea Level Stabilisation.

      1. The right of citizens of the United States, to live in a climate not affected by rising temperatures or rising sea levels, regardless of the level of GH gases or other anthropogenic emissions shall not be denied or abridged.

      2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

      Maybe you could have Amendment 28 which prohibited oil production from ever peaking?

  52. Joe Lalonde


    Time tables is one area science really stinks in.
    No hard questions asked as theories when examined closely degrade over time.
    Where is the evidence past planetary activity 1 billion years ago besides meteors?
    OLDEST salt is only less than a billion years yet covers massive areas of the planet.
    Pressure of massive water can generate a completely different outcome by compressing gases, ashes, etc. This planet could have a very toxic atmosphere by the massive volcanic activity of the past compressed by water pressure.

    A great deal of evidence suggest the conclusion of people in the past were incorrect to the evidence.

  53. Again,

    The “Evil Empire” that once controlled half of the globe is no match for the “Great Reality” that surrounds and protects us.

    All of the politically correct propaganda in the world, including even the Amendment 27 – United States Temperature and Sea Level Stabilisation.

    1. The right of citizens of the United States, to live in a climate not affected by rising temperatures or rising sea levels, regardless of the level of GH gases or other anthropogenic emissions shall not be denied or abridged.

    2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

    Are no match for the “Great Reality.”

    Once you realize that the global warming is long term psych-op, then you are at the point to ask, what other manipulations are out there?, …..

    Was George Orwell’s book, “1984”, mere speculation or rather a story on mind control through manipulation of:

    currency, communications, information education – including science,
    energy, health care, drugs “illegel” and legal, food, military & police & prisons, politics, religion.

  54. I believe that putting the population of Earth onto the Isle of Wight has been tried on numerous occasions, at the pop festivals in my youth.

    I am reminded of another piece of trivia. It is said that if you were to take all of the road vehicles in the UK and line them up tail-to-tail across the English Channel, then…
    …some b#$%^#$d would pull out and try to overtake!

    • “… line them up tail-to-tail …”

      Are their really only two vehicles in the UK? :)

      • Bob,

        that would be a line of tail to tail cars going across the channel with the noses pointing north and south! 8>)

  55. Alexander Harvey

    Throughout the 60s there was one principle scare story, that we were going to blow ourselves up.

    During the 70s it was much the same but we had learned how to cope with it better. The principle environmental scare was arguably acid rain, it was not ice ages or global warming.

    Sometime in the 80s the cold war was over and eventually this became evident. The big issue, the great nightmare, faded from public awareness.

    For five decades the world had other things to worry about and that may be historically significant as may be the burgeoning, millenial strength, fin de siècle.

    The time to start worrying about global warming had come and it came in battalions.

    Going back to the 60s/70s/80s and the direction of climatic change one could ask a different question. What should we have been worried about at that time?

    Even with hindsight of understanding but relying solely on the evidence then available the question is probably moot.

    As of today, the strong AGW conjecture, where an exponential growth in unabated burning of coal and sulphurous fuel oils would cause global cooling on century long scales, informs us that such a scenario should have caused us to worry about cooling. The strong conjecture informs us that were it not for the trace and minor GHGs and other niche warming efects we should have had little or no warming in the latter half of the 20th century.

    The debate over who said what and when, jeopardises many arguments if it concludes that the warming enthusiasts were right all along. It could well be that they were wrong “at that time”. The AGW saga has many twists and turns and we may come to consider that we should have been more concerned with cooling “at that time”. Why people wish to cut away a piece of the floor that they may later wish to stand upon defeats me.

    Similarly, should the post millenial lull turn out to be essential to AGW theory, or the existence of prior climatic optima necessary for its completeness, will we thank those that choose to paint AGW into another corner.

    The post millenial lull, if that is what it is or was, may be very significant, it may be more significant than the preceeding two decades of warming. It may be the single piece of evidence that confirms the strong AGW conjecture, or it might not. The indicators are puzzling, should it be that the both the OHC and SSTs have been static at the same time over an extended period, which appears to be a tremendous conundrum, it may well be that any indication of a contemporaneous increase in land temperatures gives evidence for the strong AGW conjecture.

    The promoters of AGW and also the strong AGW conjecture do have the right to remain silent, lest they saw off the wrong part of the branch they sit upon. They also have the right not to pooh-pooh things that they later come to rely upon as evidence.

    Now you here that read the stuff I write are probably aware of my absurdist outlook. I suspect that many a correct conjecture was initially right for the wrong reasons, Fermat’s Last “Theorem”, the introduction of the cosmological constant are examples; or were glimpsed obliquely at premature moments, as were the mass-energy equivalence, much of special relativity and some of quantum mechanics. Serendipity plays a role and one dismisses it at ones peril.

    I find many things perplexing and one that is relevant here is the mask of certainty that has been conjured from thin air. Perhaps it is just I who thinks this way but thinking it finds me wondering where it comes from. I find very little evidence that the considered (or even concenus) position is anything but hedged around with so many ifs and buts that it almost slips between ones fingers. Apparently I live in a parallel reality where modellers are highly critical of their models, or at least of other people’s models, where scientists confess doubt and admit ignorance, at least between friends when no one else but they (and anyone with an internet connection) is likely to witness. A reality in which scientists do not call a press conference every time a model devastates a country, a reality where the darkest suspicions are not blurted out inopportunely. Yet some do otherwise at lest in public and those we must discuss.

    I think that for some the IPCC WGI analysis is wet and compromised by excessive caution. Those that actively seek to undermine the analysis (or concensus) with their more “robust” considerations. It must be difficult if ones models rank the possibility of half the post 1950 warming being due to other causes as being virtually non-existent to have that watered down to unlikely (a level viewed as not proven in the statistcially significant sense). Perhaps that must smart a little. Whether to leave it at that, or rock the boat is a judgement call but the analysis is what it is for a reason, if all concerned thought that the models had the last word the analysis would be different. That it is not, suggests that there be others that have expressed caution, that there are counter-weighing arguments.

    Again one can call on serendipity to seek caution on the simple basis that one must always be circumspect when one finds evidence just when one looks for it based on suspicion. For were it not there, one would not be looking. The question: what are the chances of finding evidence of global warming, is inherently Bayesian. It is much improved if one looks. That is perhaps trivial and circular but just the sort of absurditiy I bear in mind.

    That which I have read in WGI reports, and they haven’t changed so much that it matters which one, has left me with an impression that is perhaps the the intended (or concensus) one. An impression that is equally at odds with both extremes (or the debated positions). In particular that if one might pick one half for the stated warming, human influence is the better bet but not a sure fire certainty. I cannot see why I or others should infer anything else.

    How the IPPC WGI position has maintained its balance is probably a credit due that few would even like to countenance. I expect with difficulty would be a likely answer or through inate wisdom in such matters. Somethings are judged likely, some more so, some less. The result is a view that is unsatisfying but arguably worthy. Theirs is a difficult position for their analysis has consequences and it is to consequences that I return.

    The offices of authority do not come without consequences and those that find themselves with such offices might focus on that. What some say does carry weight which they only have on loan from the truth. Abuse or misuse that loan is to squander the truth. This is a message particularly to blog-holders and others in the media. First do no harm. Every time authority calls on the truth to justify opinion there is a bet with dire consequence. Truth is neither immutable nor inexhaustable, it is subject to peril. If two take authority from truth to stake out categorically opposed positions there must be three losers. This is more and more of what I see happening. It is the first casualty.


  56. Harry Costas

    The wave of information promoted by politcs, media and through education systems create whatever belief is flowing down mainstream. Scientific evidence takes a back seat for now until time ticks over to allow for a different wave of information. We know that the climate is affected by the Sun’s cycles and the Earth’s response to those cycles, we also know the effects of Volcanoes, meteorites and yes the Earth’s internal cycles. We know and yet we know most of us cannot do anything about it, so we ADAPT.

  57. Thank you Pekka.

  58. Jeff Glassman; “Science true knowledge; it has probable.”
    Please don’t inflict such sentences on us. Care to discombombulate?

    • Brian H, 7/28/11, 1:46 pm, Theories

      BH: “Science true knowledge; it has probable.” … Care to discombombulate?

      Good grief! No excuse for such garbage. I will instead try to discombobulate:

      Science has no true knowledge [PE]; it has probable knowledge.

      Thanks for riding shotgun.

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