Friday, May 22, 2009

Climate Science Is Not Settled

This post is a place where I write about things that show the "science" is not "settled," a reference to global warming and the controversy that continues to rage in that arena.

For today's installment, some background. One of the dire predictions from the AGW crowd (anthropogenic Global Warming) is that CO2 in the atmosphere (mostly from coal-fired power plants) will cause the oceans to warm, so much so that coral reefs around the world will die. The reefs-are-going-to-die folks do not explain how coral reefs survived during periods when the oceans were much hotter than today, but I will leave that to the side for the moment. Meanwhile, get a load of this!

"The most exciting thing was discovering live, healthy corals on reefs already as hot as the ocean is likely to get 100 years from now," said [Stephen] Palumbi, director of Stanford's Hopkins Marine Station. "How do they do that?" -- from Heat Tolerant Coral Reefs Discovered. May 22, 2009, Science Daily.

Another is the amazing number, and variety, of temperature measurements, or proxies, developed by climate scientists to show temperatures from the past. One would expect that there is no disagreement, if the science were settled. Apparently not.

Yet another is the number of climate models, or GCMs, that are used by climate scientists to make their predictions for the inevitable warming that is to come. Some sources indicate as many as 20 different, reputable, models exist, yet all yield different results. This is a far cry from the single mathematical model that accurately predicts the velocity of a falling object, by modeling gravity's pull. That science (gravity at non-quantum levels) is settled. Climate models, not so much.

Still another is the IPCC's finding that atmospheric CO2 is the cause of recent warming of the earth's atmosphere. Yet, a renowned process control engineer shows that, from fundamental control theory, it is impossible to make a change in the earth's atmospheric temperature by adjusting the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. If the science were settled, why would there be disagreement between the control engineers, and the climate scientists?

And one of my favorites is the strange behavior of the sea level measured at Hilo, Hawaii, during the past 80 years. The so-called "settled science" maintains that sea level increases as the ocean temperature rises, thus we will all be inundated by rising seas sometime late next week. Or maybe the week after. The Pacific Ocean periodically experiences warm phases, then cooler phases; these are known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. When the ocean is warm, the sea levels should increase a bit based on the thermal expansion coefficient of water. When the ocean cools down, the sea levels should decrease a bit. How then, did the sea level at Hilo remain constant for 24 years, from 1978 through 2002, while in a warming phase of the PDO? Another curious thing happened with the sea level at Hilo during the years 1945 through 1961, which coincided with a cooling phase of the PDO. The sea level increased at a rate of just over 4 mm per year. How could that happen, if the science is settled? I put my trust in the people who measured the sea level at Hilo over the past 80 years. Islanders are very in tune with the ocean, and know how to measure sea level. The sea level data were taken from the website of the University of Hawaii Sea Level Center.

UPDATE 1: (May 24, 2009) Apparently the entire global warming scenario of gloom and doom is not settled, either. A new study from MIT (why are new studies being conducted, if the "Science" is "settled"?), (smart guys up there at MIT, no doubt) shows 5.2 degrees C warming by 2100, compared to their earlier projection of 2.4 degrees C. The reasons cited for the new and improved forecast are, first, the influence of volcanoes on the cooling in the latter half of the 20th century, second, improved accounting for GDP growth, and third, "carbon-nitrogen interaction in the terrestrial ecosystem." Next, and this makes the fourth adjustment, the MIT studiers introduce a caveat, a wiggler, if you will. Apparently, the ocean surface temperature is not cooperating, so its influence is now accounted for. This is an indication that the science is settled? I am not so impressed, if the "settled science" now requires adjustment for four additional aspects.

This is fascinating, because it indicates that MIT either (A) did not account at all for volcanoes in the 20th century, or (B) did not properly account for the impact of those volcanoes. One can only wonder if they are accounting for volcanic eruptions in the next 91 years, and if so, how many, how violent or large, and how often?

This is good. Now, as we keep running the heaters in our homes here in Southern California, and the snows keep falling earlier than any records show in New Zealand, it will become more and more difficult for the AGW crowd to meet their gloom and doom projections. Quite a shift, this is. Usually, the AGW crowd moves the goalposts, as it were, in their favor when yet another prediction falls flat on its face. This time, however, the goalposts are moved boldly, and way out there. Five point two degrees, is more than double the earlier estimate of 2.4 (wait, can an estimate be from "settled science"?). I love settled science. Perhaps we should re-visit the law of gravity, too. Maybe 32.2 feet per second per second really, upon further modeling by MIT and deep reflection, will turn out to be 64, or maybe 65. Hey, it could happen.

UPDATE 2 (May 27, 2009): MIT may have been very busy this week, as it appears a second study on Climate Change was performed and published; but then, maybe it is the same study as just mentioned above. At any rate, the study projected the rate of increase in atmospheric CO2 to the year 2100, citing that as the ultimate culprit in causing the (projected) calamitous warming. A curious thing, though, came across my desk (screen) just today, from the EIA, related to CO2 and power generation from wind:

From the U.S. Energy Information Agency, EIA,

“. . . the electric power sector, which generates 41% of the carbon dioxide emissions in the United States, decreased its power generation by 1% in 2008, but decreased its carbon dioxide emissions by 2.1%. In other words, the power sector decreased its emissions intensity by 1.1% in 2008. The EIA attributes that accomplishment to a decrease in the use of all fossil fuels at power plants, a “feat credited in part to an increase in electricity generated from wind power.” [bold emphasis added -- RES]

One can only wonder if the MIT study-group(s) has included the impacts on atmospheric CO2 from all the wind-power plants that are to be built over the next 90 years? The wind-power plants that eliminate evil CO2 from evil coal-burning power plants? Or will this require yet another iteration of model-tuning and running? Is this science settled yet?

UPDATE 3: June 3, 2009.

Two items in this update, both in the category of refuting the IPCC reports 1 - 4. The first is from Dr. Richard Lindzen, professor at MIT. He concludes that the entire concept of global warming due to atmospheric CO2 and feedback mechanisms is completely false. A copy of hispowerpoint slides is here. One must wonder how something in science is "settled" when such a study is produced from such a respected, competent scientist at such a distinguished university.

The second item is the just-announced publication of the 800-plus page report from NIPCC, the Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change. From their website:

"In “Climate Change Reconsidered: The 2009 Report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC),” coauthors Dr. S. Fred Singer and Dr. Craig Idso and 35 contributors and reviewers present an authoritative and detailed rebuttal of the findings of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), on which the Obama Administration and Democrats in Congress rely for their regulatory proposals.

The scholarship in this bookdemonstrates overwhelming scientific support for the position that the warming of the twentieth century was moderate and not unprecedented, that its impact on human health and wildlife was positive, and that carbon dioxide probably is not the driving factor behind climate change.

The authors cite thousands of peer-reviewed research papers and books that were ignored by the IPCC, plus additional scientific research that became available after the IPCC’s self-imposed deadline of May 2006."

If the science were settled, how is it that such reports could be published, and from such reputable people? As I wrote above in the original post, the science of gravity is settled (in non-quantum domains). -- Roger

UPDATE 4 (June 25, 2009):

Just when we thought that the "science" was "settled," along comes another report that just perhaps the effect of aerosols has not been properly assessed up to now. Aerosols are those small droplets of, well, stuff such as acid rain that is formed from sulfur-oxides that combine with water vapor in the atmosphere. Volcanoes belch these forth in staggering amounts. Why, oh why are the scientists still investigating these issues? Settled science surely does not require any further investigation, does it?

UPDATE 5 (July 14, 2009) :

And now, a word from some really smart of whom is from Rice University in Houston, Texas. They found that, 55 million years ago, the earth's atmospheric CO2 increased by 70 percent, and over the next 10,000 years the earth's temperature warmed by 7 degrees C. The current round of IPCC computer, excuse me, climate models, do not predict nearly that much warming. Apparently, something else is going on and CO2 has nothing to do with atmospheric temperatures. Now really, if the science were settled, why would smart guys like this even bother to perform such research?

UPDATE 6 (July 26, 2009): Regarding sea levels, an interesting article on unusually high tides along the U.S. Atlantic coast recently. One would think that NOAA, given its motto (see below), would have settled the science of changing tides long ago. After all, tides are due merely to the rotation of the Earth, the gravitational pull of the moon, and gravitational pull of the Sun. Big tides occur when all three bodies line up. But apparently not.

Quote from the article: “Since June, tides have been running from 6 inches to 2 feet above what would normally be expected, even considering seasonal and lunar fluctuations. While local tidal changes are not uncommon, researchers for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration aren’t sure they have ever recorded an event like this one, which is showing up all the way from Maine to Florida.” [bold emphasis added - RES]

The article goes on to state that they are sure it is not due to global warming. That article about NOAA and unusual high tides (that NOAA failed to predict because they do not understand what is going on) is especially good, considering NOAA’s rather “modest” self-proclamation:

“NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the oceans to surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.”

UPDATE 7 (Sept 29, 2009): So much going on! The crop growing season in the USA is struggling to a photo-finish with early frost and freeze happening each day, and the harvest not yet in at least for corn. Yet the Carbon is Killing Us crowd is demanding more and more ethanol, which is mostly made from corn in the USA. Great call, legislators. The global temperature "hockey stick" from Mann and his cohorts has once again been shown to be due to highly selective data choices, and not at all from actual science. The modern century is not the warmest in the past 1000 years, far from it, it is very close to the coldest. The sun refuses to show its spots, and measurements of galactic cosmic rays are increasing. The Arctic icecap extent showed a minimum just about a week ago, right on schedule, and the amount of ice coverage is increasing year-over-year, much the opposite of what the Carbon is Killing Us crowd's computer models all predicted. Meanwhile, CO2 in the atmosphere continues its slow but steady rise, an incredible 385 ppm now. This is some type of settled science! It is a very good thing that the science of bridge-building is somewhat better than the climate alarmists have for their side -- otherwise the first hummingbird that landed on a bridge would cause a massive collapse.

More to come. As my old buddy Todd Wehner said, "Stay tuned, sports fans."

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.


chiefio said...

There is an odd correlation between major volcanic events and solar Grand Minima. I doubt that the MIT model has either our present Sleepy Sun in the model, nor the likely volcanic events.

Chaiten is still dumping. Redoubt is being rumbly. Indonesia is in a small cranky phase, and we have had 4.7 ish quakes in both Long Beach and now just south of Mammouth Lakes.

The good news is that the science is settled so clearly there is no possible way the sun or the vulcanology can be important...

Roger Sowell said...

So true, Mr. Chiefio. The MIT model is likely the type that maximizes grant funding; e.g. here is what we found thus far, and please give us more money so we can improve these results by incorporating x, y, and Z.

Poor Sir Isaac. He blew it on his grant funding, because he got gravity right the first time.

Btw...we felt the 4.7 and later the 4.0 earthquakes last week. Not a big deal, did not even set off the car alarms. My relatives in Dallas also felt (barely) their 3.0 about a week ago.

mtn_gardener said...


This is a great blog. I did find this via WUWT.


Jack Simmons

Roger Sowell said...

Thank you, Mr. Simmons! I sincerely appreciate your comments. If you would, please pass this link to your contacts.

Also, if anyone has other examples of Unsettled Science in the climate arena, please add them here in the comments.

Ellie in Belfast said...

Hello Roger, I thought I'd stop by to say hi since I couldn't hang around on WUWT the other evening. I saw the next day you'd got a bit of a hard time from a few idiots. We're all biased in some way, but at least you have plenty of technical knowledge to back up your opinions. And you are in the right game to be able to craft a good arguement.

Good posts here. I do read often, just don't comment much.

Talking of settled science and 'consensus' I caught a good reference to consensus a few weeks back. Boris Johnson (Mayor of London) has a weekly column in the Daily Telegraph and had an article
on 3rd May:

Talking about Mrs Thatcher he writes:
"..she believed she had to shatter the post-war consensus that the solution to every problem was always an expansion of the state. Indeed, she did not think much of the word consensus itself, since it was not only too Latinate for her taste but also because it probably masked a conspiracy by cowardly politicians to dodge the hard questions, and, if you look at the consensus that now exists around, say, academic selection, you can see that she is right."

Immediately made me think it is also so true about climate science.

Roger Sowell said...

Ms. Ellie, I do thank you for the kind words.

I must admit I was a bit surprised at first over the "bit of a hard time from a few idiots" over on WUWT, but I was also greatly pleased to see that you, and some others, rallied to my defense. You always write with such eloquence and logic.

Still, the back-and-forth allows for various opinions to be raised, and either defended, left hanging, or withdrawn. As you can see, I usually defend, sometimes vigorously.

It is interesting to see that those who appear most antagonistic have usually "lost" an earlier exchange, and escalate their attacks rather than develop a defensible argument. In a court of law, the attorney who resorts to such attack tactics will offend the jury or judge, and likely lose the case. But of course, WUWT is not a forum of attorneys!

As to my bias, I suppose I have a bias, or as I prefer to view it, a considered opinion after having a long and careful look at various viewpoints.

I suppose my small skills in crafting an argument comes from having only recently graduated from law school, in 2005, and while there engaged in daily debates with professors of law. Now, those ladies and gentlemen can argue!

Since law school, I have ample opportunity to argue with opposing counsel, many of whom have much more experience than do I, but I somehow manage.

It does amaze me that the topics of renewable energy, conventional fossil energy, and nuclear energy produce such heated debate these days. Perhaps the desire for debate was with us always, and the internet blogs bring a forum for the debate to occur.

I like the quote about Ms. Thatcher. She may have been right about cowardly politicians ducking the hard questions. I wonder if any in that consensus were just lazy, or had an agenda that was advanced by joining the consensus and keeping mum. I see all three types at various times.

I do hope you find the time to leave more comments.

jim papsdorf said...

I just found your site, Roger, via WUWT. It looks interesting and I have it bookmarked for future access.

I was especially struck by chiefio's posting:"There is an odd correlation between major volcanic events and solar Grand Minima....".I like to bring up the AGW issue at social events and this sounds like a fun topic-so far, as an AGW-Denier, I have not been thrown out yet.

Roger Sowell said...

Glad to see you on here, Jim. I actually run two blogs, this one is more for the legal side of things.

My other blog is and is more on the techie side of energy.

I'm with you on the interesting discussions with AGWers.