Week in review – science and policy research

by Judith Curry

A few things that caught my eye this past week.

Science news

The Hubbard #Glacier defies ‘climate change’ – continues to grow [link]

Science fiction made real in Siberia. Long-frozen reindeer corpse thaws, anthrax kills 1500 reindeer. [link]

The National Weather Service Selects A New Global Weather Prediction Model: Will It Make the Right Choice? [link] …

The tropical Atlantic Ocean is toasty warm. So where are all the storms? [link]

Climate research

New paper finds there is “no consensus” on how much CO2 is taken up by the European terrestrial biosphere  [link]

New study “reveals the *exact* timing of onset of modern monsoon pattern in Maldives 12.9 million years ago” [link]

New paper finds mean annual temperature of Xi’an China was 1.1C warmer than present ~6000 years ago  [link]

“The role of El Niño in the global energy redistribution: a case study in the mid-Holocene” [link]

“Monsoon intensity enhanced by heat captured by desert dust” [link] …

New paper finds Impacts of Natural Climate Change on the Collapse of Mayan Civilization [link] …

New Paper Shows No Precipitation Trend On Iberian Peninsula Over Past 300 Years [link]

Natural variability dominates: Middle atmosphere in sync with ocean cycles  via @physorg_com [link]

Volcanic Eruptions Stir an Already Complex Atmosphere [link]

The rogue nature of hiatuses in a global warming climate [link]

Tracking sea level rise [link]

Sociology of science

“Blogging is quite simply, one of the most important things that an academic should be doing right now” [link]

Scientists must remember not to shy away from failure. [link]

Climate Activism Disguised as Development Assistance [link]

Prof Charles Lipson shares his five steps to reverse the “death of campus free speech.” [link]

The uneven impacts of research impact: Adjustments needed to address the imbalance of the current impact framework. [link]

Why scientists should write blogs, not articles.  [link]

Lets talk about the bad science being funded [link]

The Climate Anxiety Doctor Is “In” [link]


The United Nations: An Unconstrained Bureaucracy [link]

Letter to @NatureGeosci on “Climate change as a wicked social problem” by @ReinerGrundmann [link]

Adaptation planning and the use of climate change projections in local government in England and Germany [link]

5 ways to break the link between development & consumption [link]

Six Conflict Prevention Takeaways from New Climate and Conflict Research [link]

Who should pay for climate change? [link]

“resilience…is the answer to addressing the climate challenge” and that resilience relies on women’s leadership: [link]

There is certainly a lot of potential for 3D printing to reduce climate risks [link]

Evolution is a key motif for next era of tech. “No longer enough to disrupt, have to discover & build.”  [link]

New research from Harvard re competitiveness & climate policy [link]


64 responses to “Week in review – science and policy research

  1. Pingback: Week in review – science and policy research – Enjeux énergies et environnement

  2. The problem is the lack of real science in the UN’s Agenda 21 policies.

  3. Curious George

    “Long-frozen reindeer corpse thaws, anthrax kills 1500 reindeer.” Who would think of eating a long-frozen reindeer corpse? Solzhenitsyn has a story about “gulag camp” prisoners who ate frozen mammoth accidentaly discovered in their camp. Some things never change.

    • I grew up a cowboy. We worked thousands of head of cattle a year. We never saw a case of anthrax.

      I’ve read that viable anthrax spores were found in the ancient textiles found inside the pyramids, so surviving being frozen in the tundra was not much of a problem.

      • Curious George

        It is not about anthrax spores surviving. It is about people who are hungry enough to eat them.

      • I don’t think they ate the old, recently thawed carcasses. I think existing reindeer came into contact either with thawed carcasses or the soil and water around them. The living reindeer contracted anthrax, and herders/families picked up the disease from them… either contact or consumption.

      • Hey JCH,

        Am happy to report that Annapolis is still above water. At least as of this past Wednesday.

        Ellicott City on the other hand had a river running through it last Saturday.

  4. Either, “The Hubbard Glacier defies ‘climate change’ – continues to grow,” representing a quixotic reaction by the Earth to humanity’s CO2. Either way, humans obviously don’t know what’s going on so, curbing CO2 would have had some other more disastrous consequence… for all we know.

    Climate change has to be broken down into three questions: ‘Is climate changing and in what direction?’ ‘Are humans influencing climate change, and to what degree?’ And: ‘Are humans able to manage climate change predictably by adjusting one or two factors out of the thousands involved?’ The most fundamental question is: ‘Can humans manipulate climate predictably?’ Or, more scientifically: ‘Will cutting carbon dioxide emissions at the margin produce a linear, predictable change in climate?’ The answer is ‘No’. In so complex a coupled, non-linear, chaotic system as climate, not doing something at the margins is as unpredictable as doing something. This is the cautious science; the rest is dogma. ~Philip Stott

  5. “New paper finds Impacts of Natural Climate Change on the Collapse of Mayan Civilization”

    This reminded me of Rhys Carpenter’s book based on the J.H. Gray lecures for 1965, Discontinuity in Greek Civilization. The lectures were: A Climatic Background to History; Minoans, Mycenaeans and Dorians; and The Key to the Riddle. (Available via Amazon).

    Carpenter’s research inspired Ried Bryson to investigate paleoclimates of the Mediterranean together with a more senior scholar, HH Lamb and also with Robert U. Bryson. (Google Scholar: RA Bryson).

    The web site for the Center for Climatic Research founded by Ried Bryson scrupulously avoids revealing that the founder was skeptical both about AGW and about policies that would stabilize global climate at some arbitrary level. However, Wikipedia has some choice quotations concerning his view of the AGW and the unprecedented nature of climate fluctuations.


    Worth a read: Bryson, Reid A. “The paradigm of climatology: An essay.” Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 78.3 (1997): 449-455.

    Below I cite some of Bryson’s papers related to climate change and culture, a subject that has been a minor avocation of mine since the mid-1950’s, prompted by the observation by US and Canadian gardeners that tender plants could then be grown more than a hundred of miles further north than in their grandparents’ time.

    (My grandfather had a horse barn near the city center, but where the horse had formerly been stabled, there was a sleigh the size of Santa’s sleigh. So before the age of 10 I knew that climate change was real: it had been a lot colder in the past when horses were still used in cities.)

    Bryson, Reid A., H. H. Lamb, and David L. Donley. “Drought and the decline of Mycenae.” Antiquity 48.189 (1974): 46-50.

    Bryson, Robert U., and Reid A. Bryson. “Application of a global volcanicity time-series on high-resolution paleoclimatic modeling of the eastern Mediterranean.” Water, environment and society in times of climatic change. Springer Netherlands, 1998. 1-19

    Bryson, Reid A., and Robert U. Bryson. “High resolution simulations of regional Holocene climate: North Africa and the Near East.” Third millennium bc climate change and Old World collapse. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 1997. 565-593.

    Ried Bryson and Robert Bryson published papers on the paleoclimatology of Africa, Europe, Asian and the Americas, mostly for the US but also for Latin America. Ried Bryson wrote 230 or so papers and five books.

  6. SDG: Climate Activism Disguised as Development Assistance

    Jamal Munshi tells it like it is,

    ABSTRACT: Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) marks a shift in the priority of the UNDP from tackling
    poverty to tackling climate change. This shift erodes the ability of the UNDP to perform its primary function of providing
    development assistance to poor countries. The climate finance proposal is unlikely to mend this fundamental defect in the SDG
    initiative of the UNDP.

    I speak with some authority because I have worked as an economic development consultant to UN, World Bank, ADB and bilateral technical assistance agencies since 1970, in Latin America, North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Western Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia.

    The situation is an order of magnitude worse than what Dr Munshi describes, because not merely the UN is involved. Multinational development banks and technical assistance agencies are promoting climate mitigation as well as climate adaptation investments down to the level of municipalities.

    This includes countries and regions that are among the world’s poorest, including municipalities without adequate water supply and sanitation, human waste treatment, garbage collection and garbage disposal.

    The only way I have survived this perverted approach to improving global health and welfare is by redefining “sustainable development” as proper maintenance of infrastructure and equipment sufficient to enable delivery of services over their design life of the assets, thereby avoiding what usually happens: neglect and deterioration of project assets as soon as the contractor leaves the site.

  7. “New paper finds mean annual temperature of Xi’an China was 1.1C warmer than present ~6000 years ago.”

    Quite a few papers have already suggested that temps during the early Tang and early Song were comparable to now, some say warmer. That’s not thousands of years ago, but hundreds. History would bear it out in the loose way it can. Just as history bears out chilling in the Ming, corresponding to the LIA

    But I know one shouldn’t inject discussion of actual climate change into discussions of (wink-nudge-wink) Climate Change. You know, the special one with the capital letters, if needed. Wink. Nudge.


  8. Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel on BBC:

    Most climate scientists think the world is getting warmer and that humans are at least in part responsible. Almost every country in the world has pledged to make efforts to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere in order to prevent dangerous “interference with the climate system”. But exactly how to do this raises interesting questions about fairness.


    This begins with the assumption that CO2 emissions are dangerous and, without presenting evidence to support this assumption, continues on to discuss solutions. It’s BS!

    • Here’s the correct link: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-36900260

    • Great comment by Peter Lang.

      I did go looking for some evidence that fossil fuel emissions have an impact on atmospheric CO2 and on warming but I did not find any. The big problem with finding empirical evidence of this kind is the very large uncertainty in natural flows. I think these uncertainties are unquantifiable because we really don’t have adequate measurements. The IPCC published values for these uncertainties in AR4 and AR5 but then ignored them in the carbon budget which miraculously balances to the penny and clearly shows the impact of fossil fuel emissions on the surface-atmosphere carbon cycle. Yet, this is just bad statistics.

      If you don’t ignore uncertainty, fossil fuel emissions become undetectable because the carbon budget balances with and without fossil fuel emissions.

      Therefore, the honest answer to the question of the effect of fossil fuel emissions on the surface-atmosphere system is “we don’t know because we can’t measure natural flows well enough to detect fossil fuel emissions”.

      Also, the IPCC presents a strong correlation between cumulative emissions and cumulative warming as empirical evidence that that fossil fuel emissions cause warming. This too is bad statistics because correlations between cumulative values are spurious. Please see

      Similarly, I was unable to find empirical evidence that changes in atmospheric or oceanic CO2 are related to the rate of fossil fuel emissions on an annual time scale and net of a common upward drift.

      The bottom line is that we have to measure natural flows – mostly CO2 flows to and from oceans and the biosphere – much much better to understand the impact of the relatively small flow of 10 GT/Y of fossil fuel emissions. The debate between climate deniers and data deniers often boils down to what the temperature trends are and the data deniers like that because it is a debate that they can engage in. Yet, the real AGW question is not what the temperature trend is but whether it is related to fossil fuel emissions. This debate would be a lot harder for the data deniers. A longer list of my work (not all climate related) may be found here

      • Chaamjamal,

        Thank you for your comment. Your comment is about the effect of CO2 on temperature. For example, you say:

        Yet, the real AGW question is not what the temperature trend is but whether it is related to fossil fuel emissions.

        However, that is not the point I was trying to make. My point is whether or not increasing CO2 concentration in the atmosphere will do more harm than good to human wellbeing, GDP, productivity, food and water supplies, etc. After 30+years of climate research we have negligible understanding of the relationship between CO2 concentration and the overall global net damages or benefits. This argues that

        Social Cost of Carbon should be set at zero


        Another way of stating my points is: we have a very poor understanding of the damage function (very high uncertainty). Without a damage function we cannot estimate the costs and benefits of increasing CO2 concentrations and therefore there is no valid, rational justification for mitigation policies or for continuing huge expenditures on the ‘Climate Industry’.

  9. The paper on European CO2 uptake should be devastating for the pundit / politician / emission tracker community. I’ve long argued only CO2 emissions, and only those from combustion, should be counted. Emissions of CO2 from land use, and of non-CO2 GHGs, are so uncertain as to be useless (though they can be useful for politicians trying to fudge the numbers). Now we can add the ‘negative emissions’ from forests to this list.

    ‘Bottomup estimates (0.27±0.16GtC/a for 2000–2005) are consistent with the insitu inversion estimates (0.40±0.42GtC/a for 2001–2004)… Recent results indicate that Europe may take up considerably more carbon per year (e.g., 1.03±0.47GtC/a for 2009–2010) or 0.95±0.33GtC/a for 2003–2010) than previously thought. These estimates are similar to earlier results derived from TES (Tropospheric Emission Spectrometer) thermal infrared (TIR) satellite measurements (1.20±0.17GtC/a for 2006′

    So CO2 uptake by European forests is 0,27 gigatonnes of carbon per year, or 0.40, or 1.20, or 0.95, or 1.03.

    The obvious conclusion is nobody should use these numbers to calculate anything, because it can only lead to fraud and confusion, yet I know that at least the US (and probably many other countries) do include this junk math in their national counts of ’emissions’. And this is at European level. Common sense says the smaller the region, the more uncertain the CO2 uptake – how do you know if CO2 is being sequestered by forests in Ghana or in Togo?

    In other words, how are you going to even verify countries are ’emitting’ what they say they’re emitting?

    • ‘only CO2 emissions should be counted’ –> obviously this refers to ‘counting’ this emissions towards Paris and similar agreements. There is nothing bad about trying to estimate emissions of other stuff.

    • Furthermore, what is the evidence that CO2 or CO2-eq is dangerous, or even that it is doing more harm than good? [Note: temperature change is not a measure of net cost or net benefit, nor is CO2 and nor are projections of these).

    • Well this issue may be quite big. A few months ago I said the emission numbers shown in the Paris agreement were absurd, because they were higher when including land use than when excluding it.

      Now what happened seems clear: lots of countries submitted pledges that included the ‘negative emissions’ from forests – even though such numbers are pure guesswork. That’s why ‘total land use’ has negative emissions, when in fact the IPCC has typically said it makes up 10-20% of CO2 emissions (a quantity obviously above zero).

      The farce is even farcier than you thought.

      • Thank you. I agree. Australia convinced the the members of the IPCC to included Land Use, Land Use Change, and Forestry (LULUCF) in the Kyoto Agreement. We’ve been estimating the emissions from this for over a decade. So I am aware of the uncertainties you mention.

        However, my point was really about the damage function. I accept that atmospheric CO2 concentrations are increasing. What I don’t know is whether increasing concentrations are doing more net-damage or net-benefit. I think this is the most important issue we need to know, but very few in the climate fraternity seem to even recognise this as a significant issue, let alone the most important issue of all. Three charts on this thread of a week or so ago https://judithcurry.com/2016/07/12/are-energy-budget-climate-sensitivity-values-biased-low/#comment-796768 show why I am not persuaded that increasing CO2 concentrations or increasing global average temperature is a significant threat. I am not even persuaded it is doing more harm than good.

      • Thanks Peter – we were talking past each other. I agree that the evidence for temperature-related damage is flimsy; those who claim to be worried about it only want to bet on the temperature itself, and not on damage metrics such as crop yields, tornado counts, etc. To be clear there are undeniable negative impacts (sea level rise,), but also positive ones (agriculture). I find it funny that people mention heatwaves as a negative impact – it’s true, but one of the few things we know for sure is warming will reduce extreme cold more than it will increase extreme heat. This can already be seen in that the nighttime temperature trend is about 10% higher than that of daytime.

        Whatever the sign of the net cost or benefit, it’s likely to be diminutive compared to our overall economy and welfare. Rule #1 of every chart – look at the scale.

      • Thank you. I agree with pretty much all of this but would caution about this statement:

        To be clear there are undeniable negative impacts (sea level rise,)

        But they are miniscule. The net economic cost for the world over 95 years for a 0.5 m sea level rise is estimated at $200 billion and for 1m rise at $1 trillion. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11027-010-9220-7

        This is miniscule compared with about $75,000 trillion cumulative global GDP over the period.

  10. An extensive overview of climate related decision making:


  11. Peter Lang

    “My point is whether or not increasing CO2 concentration in the atmosphere will do more harm than good to human wellbeing, GDP, productivity, food and water supplies, etc. ”

    yes, a fascinating area of research which i have not adequately followed. thank you for the heads up,

  12. The rogue nature of hiatuses in a global warming climate

    The nature of rogue events is their unlikelihood and the recent unpredicted decade-long slowdown in surface warming, the so-called hiatus, may be such an event.

    Which is why the pause made complete fools of so many smart people.

    Here, surface air temperature from twenty climate models is analysed to estimate the historical and future likelihood of hiatuses and “surges” (faster than expected warming), showing that the global hiatus of the early 21st Century was extremely unlikely.

    I don’t really agree with this. What was unlikely was it would last for decades, and it didn’t. They can’t.

    A novel analysis of future climate scenarios suggests that hiatuses will almost vanish and surges will strongly intensify by 2100 under a “business as usual” scenario. For “CO2 stabilisation” scenarios, hiatus and surge characteristics revert to typical 1940s values.

    • How does looking at a hiatus as a ‘rogue event’ assist anyone in understanding anything. Is an earthquake a rogue event? Isn’t any weather event that we admit to ourselves is unpredictable., nevertheless something that is inevitable, if history is any judge? But the analogy of a ‘greenhouse’ implies predictability precisely because it is inevitable: close the windows in a car — preventing convection — and, temperatures inside the car will rise, whether or not the atmosphere inside the car is enriched with CO2.

      • You really need to start over. You won’t, and it doesn’t matter. Onward and upward.

      • The fact that a flat temperature is a rogue event these days should tell you something, Wagathon.

      • They’re not just expecting unlikely flat spots; they’re expecting a downturn in GMST like the one that occurred in ~1942 – ~1952… a ~30-year hiatus. In terms of hitching ones wagon, they want to hitch the future to an apparent impossibility.

      • More like hitching one’s wagon to a dead horse: believing the Left can stop the seas from rising is like betting on a horse with 40-to-1 odds and then spending the winnings before the race is run.

        Even if we closed down every factory, crushed every car and aeroplane, turned off all energy production, and threw 4 billion people worldwide out of work, climate would still change, and often dramatically. Unfortunately, we would all be too poor to do anything about it. ~Philip Stott

    • So we’ve gone from asserting that there was no hiatus to predicting that it will ‘vanish’?

  13. This showed up in my Facebook feed this morning:


    Related to this weeks econtalk I listened to yesterday, Abby Smith Rumsey on memory, forgetting and collective memory in the digital age: http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2016/06/abby_smith_rums.html

    • Oops, Econtalk is actually from last month. Got to it from link I’m Twitter and assumed it was most recent.

  14. The Nino3_4 region temp continues to plummet. Interesting times ahead, eh?


  15. Elsewhere there was discussion of this claim: “…Germany letting in a million refugees in one year, 90% of whom were young men of traditional military age…”

    Is the proportion as high as 90%? If so, it’s not like any refugee influx ever heard of before.

    Let’s just assume the proportion is pretty high, as are the numbers.

    Put that together with this:

    Germany’s traditional ally and collaborator, Turkey, may be trying to edge away from the West and toward Russia, especially now that Syria can’t be dismantled to set Turkey up as an energy hub connecting the Gulf States with the European market. (Another Clinton/Obama move which was both murderous and a failure.)

    Whether Turkey does or doesn’t stay friends with the West, it will be trouble unless the US and Anglosphere collaborate with Russia in a big hurry.

    The deals needed may be cynical, but nothing matches the cynicism of the West’s (failed) manipulation of the Arab Spring.

    Maybe Russia and China are the big problem. But two global wars of the 20th century would indicate that a German hegemony in Europe is hard to avoid and never healthy.

    Why Trump? Because he’s the closest thing to a peace candidate. He’s an ugly port in a much uglier storm.

  16. Many jewels in your list Dr. Curry and in the reader comments.
    Thank you all.

  17. Two members of the Global Warming Policy Foundation academic advisory board have each lost [roughly $1,320 (1,000 British Pound)] betting that 2015 would not be warmer than 2008.


  18. RE: Natural variability dominates

    “the current study contradicts earlier hypotheses about the temperature variability of the tropical tropopause. As early as in the late 20th century, scientists had seen a cooling trend there which began in the 1970s. They traced this observation back to anthropogenic causes, in particular the increase in greenhouse gases… Our study shows that the cooling of the tropical tropopause does not have to be a one-way street but could also be part of a natural fluctuation which extends over several decades,” Professor Matthes emphasized.

    The Professor is trying to be politically correct by undermining the study. What the study really means is the warming since 1970s is not anthropogenic but caused by PDO. Cooling of the tropopause warms the troposphere because the outgoing radiation to space occurs at the tropopause. The lower the temperature, the lower the radiative flux. This is how the greenhouse effect works. The study shows PDO can do the same trick.

  19. From the article:

    One of the worst consequences of the global warming scam is the corrupting effect it has had on science – to the point where even senior professors and heads of department no longer appear to understand what science actually is.

    Take this week’s climate prat of the week, Professor Jonathan Butterworth of the Physics and Astronomy Department at University College London.

    Butterworth has just been caught red-handed trying to prevent one of his colleagues holding a conference for climate sceptics because, in his opinion, their views are “rather fringe.”


    • Judith doesn’t go to these types of events either. That should tell you something. It is all the usual suspects and it is just a safe haven for pseudoscience where they probably won’t even question each other’s wackiest ideas.

  20. It is argued that climate change is preceding exponentially.

    NASA says,
    “When global warming has happened at various times in the past two million years, it has taken the planet about 5,000 years to warm 5 degrees. The predicted rate of warming for the next century is at least 20 times faster. This rate of change is extremely unusual.”

    If we look at sea level rise, longer time frames don’t show a lot of acceleration. Shorter time frames do but there’s the roughly 60 year cycle problem to account for.

    There’s the Zwally paper putting more snow onto Antarctica than ice is being lost. This would be a deceleration of climate change and a negative feedback.

    What other observations would disagree with exponential climate change?

  21. Tesla Motors Inc reported its 13th straight quarterly loss as a rise in sales of its Model S and Model X electric cars failed to make up for the huge cost of ramping up production.