Things we don’t know – about climate

This is a guest post by Paul Murphy – and I’d like to thank Mr. Watts for giving me this opportunity to present it here.

This is a very long post by WUWT standards – nearly 3,000 words all driving toward the basic conclusion that what we know about global warming is pretty much nothing: we’ve no baseline, so don’t know if it’s happening; we’ve no cost/benefit evaluation so don’t know whether it would be net positive or net negative; if it is happening we don’t understand its causation and if it isn’t we don’t understand why not; and really the only thing we’re pretty sure of is that the people jumping up and down screaming that they have the answers are either deluded or charlatans.

I drafted this article on November 19th, 2010. At about ten that morning the weather channel, which gets its data for Lethbridge, Alberta from environment Canada and thus ultimately from sensors less than ten kilometers from my house, said the temperature was -17C. At that same time, however, the sensors about four feet above my roof reported a temperature of -19.2C.

By coincidence, and again according to the weather channel, the all time record low for November here, -35.6C, was set on that same day in 1921.

The source number for that claim, presumably 32.08F, is actually an interpolation from various agricultural research and military facilities across southern Alberta, because the airport weather station has been moved a few times and many of the source records lost – but it should be obvious in any case that neither the thermometers in use at airports in 1921 nor the processes in place to record temperature supported anything like that level of precision.

So how cold was it here before I left that morning? there’s really no way to know – and how did that compare to 1921? I don’t know that either.

What I do know is that the values shown were averages taken over time; that neither instrument is predictably accurate to even one decimal place; and that the air between the two is of variable depth, variable humidity, in constant motion, and had markedly less than one chance in twenty-two of being at a real average temperature of -18.1C at about 10 AM that day.

So how does this extrapolate to sticking a thermometer into the troposphere to estimate our planet’s near ground air temperature? Well, in total the world has less than one sensor for every sixty thousand square kilometers; about three quarters of them are closely grouped in the United States, western Europe, and the militarily significant part of southeastern Russia; almost none have trustworthy time-of-readings records for more than a few years; most of the records are both short and discontinuous; most of the readings are accurate only within loose bounds; and an unknown proportion of the time series supposedly formed from instrument readings contain unknown interpolations.

There are other sources of information. For example, weather satellites have produced records for perhaps half the earth’s surface since about the mid seventies – but those records too have unknown source errors; may now contain accumulated and largely undocumented differences from the source data; show significant coverage bias favoring areas important to civil aeronautics; and are generally accessible only in the form of time series whose values are derived from real measurements pertaining mainly to the upper troposphere through calculations calibrated against the same ground sensor readings they’re used to extend and correct.

In contrast many of the proxy records are both long and internally consistent – but they don’t help because these are very coarse grained: whether they’re based on isotope decay or tree rings, the best “rulers” these produce are location specific and marked in decadal or century intervals, not globally applicable and marked in seasons or years.

The bottom line on this is simple: I can’t pretend to know the temperature within a few kilometers of my house right now to within a couple of degrees C without making basic scientific errors in everything from measurement and imagined precision to application – and when people like Jones and Hansen announce in all apparent seriousness that the entire earth is now 0.5C degrees warmer than it was during the period from 1961 to 1990 they’re asking us to accept a very precise number on the basis of data that’s much worse than mine and in the face of applicability, measurement, and computational ambiguities that are orders of magnitude greater.

There seem to be two arguments for not dismissing their claims as nonsense. First, that we don’t need to know the atmosphere’s temperature now because climate science is about change and X + 0.7 degrees will have visible effects regardless of the value of X. The Polar bear, for example, will go extinct and Manhattan will flood – except that we’re pretty sure the medieval warming period was just one of many such in history and not only did the polar bear make it through those embarrassingly undead, but what’s known of civilizational history in estuaries and around tidal basins from the Thames to the Yellow does not suggest the existence of longer term human noticeable flooding during any of those extended warm periods.

Second there’s the Foundation myth: the belief that it’s possible to predict the direction and extent of motion of something like a collection’s center of mass (or the chartrist’s Dow Jones average) without knowing anything about the motion of the individual units involved – or, in other words, that we can predict where a herd of cattle will go when stampeded without needing to know where they started, how many there were, what frightened them, much about the land they’re on, the direction each animal starts in, or even whether they’re actually cattle.

The Frank Slide took place on April 29th of 1903, about an hour’s drive from here when an estimated 90 million tons of limestone tipped off Turtle Mountain to bury the people, their town, and the railway beneath an estimated two kilometer rubble run-out. This slide hasn’t moved much since, has been extensively studied, is comprised of materials for which the basic physics of motion and energy transfer are well understood – and yet the best we can do in terms of placing its center of mass is plus or minus about fifty meters – roughly on the same order of accuracy as predicting yesterday’s temperature in Lethbridge to within a few degrees.

Basically the Foundation idea is intuitively obvious and makes for great science fiction, but the reality of any analysis aimed at actually making it work is that you need a secure grip on starting conditions, an understanding of the physics of change, strong boundaries on the range of change, and a small enough data set to make the simulation computationally feasible – so if you’ve ever wondered why the best known climate models come down to thirty or forty years of encrusted tinkering you now know: these models are continually adjusted to predict their own inputs, but cannot reliably predict excessions because the underlying climate science does not meet any of the conditions required for this kind of modeling to work.

So what do we know? We know that many of the people warning us of the horrible consequences of human caused global warming haven’t been the disinterested scientists they’ve pretended to be – basically from Hansen and Jones to Gore and Waxman most of the more deeply committed have shown themselves deeply corrupted. That’s sad, but even sadder is the hidden reality: that knowing Mann and Bradley made up the hockey stick to defend a lie doesn’t tell us anything about global climate change – it just tells us things we didn’t want to know about them.

Most people, of course, know the numbers don’t work but rationalize accepting alarmist conclusions anyway because they think that “greenhouse science” – the belief that increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will cause traumatic global warming – is settled; and so see the lack of response to increasing atmospheric CO2 in weather data as a reflection on the quality of the data, not the theory.

Basically these people assume the wolf to justify the alarm: picturing Gore et al as yelling “Wolf!” because “greenhouse science” proves the wolf – and then excusing the business of rather obviously drawing improbable conclusions from inadequate data as laudable and necessary moral sacrifice by experts committed to rousing the rest of us to action.

Unfortunately the science on greenhouse gas effects is not only not settled, the claims made for it seem rather more likely to be wrong than right.

Specifically, the usual assertion is that human actions distort natural processes to negative effect – with the supporting proposition being that the planetary atmosphere will trap more solar energy, thus causing atmospheric heating, when it contains relatively more greenhouse gases, particularly CO2, then when it contains relatively less.

The classic demonstration for this involves adding CO2 to the air in only one of a pair of similar, closed, containers; exposing both to a radiant heat source until the containers reach equilibrium with the surrounding atmosphere; and then comparing one or both of the internal temperature and/or duration of the cool down period for the two. Do it, and you’ll find that the one containing some additional CO2 retains more heat and the claim is that this demonstrates the greenhouse effect.

It doesn’t. The experiment actually demonstrates two things about heat energy capture and storage: first, that increasing density increases heat storage capacity; and, second, that increasing the volume being heated at some constant rate increases the rate of energy transfer. Imagine the same experiment with the addition of a piece of non reflective metal material of comparable weight to the CO2 placed in the jar previously containing only air. What you would find is that the jar containing the CO2 changes internal temperature more quickly than the one with the metal sliver does, but that the total energy transfers are about the same.

Basically doing only the first half of the experiment and not thinking about the result supports the case, but going beyond that does not – and neither does looking at what real world extrapolation from the jar experiment might mean.

Most importantly, the material in the CO2 enriched jar is of a fixed mass, in a fixed state, and there is no expectation that its energy absorption and retention rates will change over time. Imagine glimpsing the earth from some significant distance and it can look just like that: a gravitational container filled with air and a bit of heavier stuff in the center. But up close, time passes and things happen: water and greenhouse gases move into and out of the atmosphere, mixing occurs at different rates both vertically and horizontally, some surfaces are net radiators, others net absorbers – overall the longer term energy balance seems to work, but many of the specifics and nearly everything about the rates of change involved, are neither understood in the science nor modeled in the jar experiment.

For most purposes the biggest difference between the experiment and reality is that in the real world there’s only one jar: i.e. the CO2 introduced into the test jar comes from the test jar. Thus it’s true that the materials in the planetary jar change state over time – trees grow, coal burns – but because the total mass in the jar is very nearly constant, the assumption that the input energy is roughly constant means that the total amount of heat energy the entire system can hold in long term equilibrium against the space around it has to be close to a constant too – and thus that a glaciated world cannot become tropical without significant change in energy input.

Thus the bottom line on the argument that alarmists can justify patching over weaknesses and contradictions in the data they purport to base their conclusions on because the effect of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere is certain, is perhaps best illustrated in a joke generations of mathematicians have told about an experimental physicist testing the proposition that all odd numbers are prime: “1″, he says, “is, so is 3, -and 5, 7, 9, umm, 9, umm, 11 is, 13 is, 17 is, 19″ -ok, they’re all prime and nine? experimental error, it’ll come out right next time.

So if we can’t believe in the data, the people, or the “settled science”, what can we believe? Perhaps that a hypothetical Canadian Canute party offering a credible commitment to end winter would win in a landslide? Or, more seriously, that all the fuss about whether or not humans are influencing global climate change has allowed the alarmist lobby to insert an obvious falsehood into the public consciousness on this issue: the belief that even minor global warming will produce terrible harm when what we know of both history and biology says the contrary is far more likely to be true.

By 10 PM on the evening of November 19th, for example, it was about -27 here with the wind chill dropping that down to an effective -40 something: an environment just as much the opposite of the green and fecund jungle most of the earth’s life has evolved in as the driest deserts in north Africa, central Asia, and Australia.

Come spring the area around here will go green with rain and erupt with life: people in our parks, ducks on our lakes, fawns in our coulees – and the water cycle effects that might well go with even a few degrees increase in “average” atmospheric temperaure worldwide might do the same for the roughly one third of the earth’s potentially arable land that’s now too dry or too cold for agriculture.

So there’s something else we don’t know: why do “greens”, people who profess to favor life and bio diversity in all its forms, so strongly oppose change most likely to strongly favor life and bio-diversity?

The obvious answer, that many of the leaders involved are merely using environmentalism as a handy bludgeon for the achievement of unrelated political or monetary goals, may well be correct, but is merely an ad hominem argument allowing us to dismiss them while telling us nothing about either the desirability or reality of anthropomorphic global warming.

So when you get down to it, what we know about global warming is pretty much nothing: we’ve no baseline, so don’t know if it’s happening; we’ve no cost/benefit evaluation so don’t know whether it would be net positive or net negative; if it is happening we don’t understand its causation and if it isn’t we don’t understand why not; so really the only thing we’re pretty sure of is that the people jumping up and down screaming that they have the answers are either deluded or charlatans.

Wow – so because I haven’t a clue how to go about getting the information needed to address any of this, I’m going to do what I did at about this time back on November 19th: throw another log on the fire, and watch The Good Guys on TV.

About these ads
This entry was posted in Alarmism, Climate data, measurement, Obvious science. Bookmark the permalink.

139 Responses to Things we don’t know – about climate

  1. latitude says:

    Thank you Paul
    When they adjust past CO2 levels down…
    Adjust past temperatures down…..

  2. Vorlath says:

    Reminds me of the three laws of computing (no, not robotics). This relates to models or any computation really. The cool thing about these laws is that you need to know nothing about computing or the models.

    1. Garbage in, garbage out. (IOW, bad input means bad output)
    2. Garbage algorithm, garbage out. (bad methods, bad output)
    3. Garbage past predictions, garbage future predictions.

    It seems that all the models suffer from all three problems.

  3. Alexander Vissers says:

    “Antropomorphic”? is this a typo?

  4. Alvin Warwas says:

    Thanks for this post. It has many basic things for new people and laymen.

  5. Alexander Vissers says:

    The greenhouse gas effect of CO2 and other with graphics of the wavelength window has been extensively depicted on this site. No point in questionning it, it is undisputed but by itself allows no conclusion on future “global climate” (not a very meaningful concept either). Forgot to include the uncertainty of sea surface temperature but overall a sobering expose.

  6. jorgekafkazar says:

    The tranaparent bottle experiment seldom is done correctly. If the thermal mass is a factor, it would be interesting to do the experiment using methane instead of CO².

  7. Pamela Gray says:

    I think we also don’t know causation behind the correlation of sea ice and the Arctic Oscillation. Here is a “what if” mind experiment.

    First the set up: It is clear that a negative AO leads to much colder river freezing temperatures in lower latitudes outside the Arctic Circle. Why? While polar pressure is weaker, the vortex is wider, sending Arctic blasts into a wider circle.

    Second, an interesting phenomenon: Warmer water in and around a warmer Southern tip of Greenland appears to be related to Arctic winds pushing/piling warmer water South.

    Third, now a mind experiment: This same wider vortex, if it continues, could eventually sweep out lots of warmer waters out of the Arctic and into currents that would send it further South. Would at first, this same condition cause an anomaly in Arctic ice area and extent that at first would lead many to consider that the Earth as a whole was warming up (IE thinner ice and the appearance of a death spiral), in spite of colder weather at lower latitudes? And would this retreating wind-blown warmer water be eventually replaced by ever colder water in the Arctic leading to an eventual rebound?

    Fourth, now the “what if”: What if this condition, a persistent negative AO, is exactly what is needed at the beginning of mini, minor, or major ice ages that see ice sheets further South? There is no question that cold air is needed at lower latitudes to freeze up rivers and lakes, leading to the ice dams necessary for ice sheets to form.

    Hmmmmm.

  8. Joe Prins says:

    Great going, Paul. Here in St.Albert, Alberta, where temperature changes partly depend on the wind direction from Edmonton, the same observations can be made. It is my presumption that the same holds true, everywhere on the globe. Even Vanuatu.
    A professor who is the chair of a department at the University of Lethbridge probably would want to argue your comments. However, he also stated that the Antarctic is melting.
    Such is the level of “science” in the warmist community.

  9. Kath says:

    This is all about dogma. Global warming only requires belief from its adherents. The science is settled. After all, Global warming is truly a magical event in nature. It not only causes warmer winters, but more snow, more antarctic ice, more antarctic melt, acidifies oceans, causes droughts in California and elsewhere, causes floods in California and elsewhere, causes hurricanes, does not cause hurricanes, causes sea levels to rise, does not cause sea levels to rise. It also causes climate change, something that has obviously never happened before humans started generating CO2 by burning oil and coal.

    Talking of global warming causing more snow:

    The NYT Op-ed contributor Judah Cohen
    (Judah Cohen is a director of AER based in Lexington
    http://www.aer.com/index.html
    One home page headline: Climate Change Could Cause $12.3B In Annual Losses For Gulf, East Coasts National Underwriter Property & Casualty, Nov. 18, 2010
    Findings of research study by Atmospheric & Environmental Research (AER) and AIR Worldwide, a risk modeling firm.)

    Anyway, Judah would have us believe that:
    “As global temperatures have warmed and as Arctic sea ice has melted over the past two and a half decades, more moisture has become available to fall as snow over the continents. So the snow cover across Siberia in the fall has steadily increased.”
    ….
    “It’s all a snow job by nature. The reality is, we’re freezing not in spite of climate change but because of it.”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/26/opinion/26cohen.html?_r=1&ref=opinion

  10. HenryP says:

    I like Murphy’s law. It also applies to truth.
    Given enough time, eventually the truth will come out…
    Essentially, Paul came to much the same conclusion as I did,
    http://www.letterdash.com/HenryP/more-carbon-dioxide-is-ok-ok
    Just looking at the same problem from different corners offers valueable insight.
    thanks Paul.

  11. Anything is possible says:

    Pamela Gray says :

    Fourth, now the “what if”: What if this condition, a persistent negative AO, is exactly what is needed at the beginning of mini, minor, or major ice ages that see ice sheets further South? There is no question that cold air is needed at lower latitudes to freeze up rivers and lakes, leading to the ice dams necessary for ice sheets to form.

    Hmmmmm.

    _____________________________________________________________

    I think there is some merit in this proposition, but the big flaw is that ice sheets can only begin to form if summer temperatures cool sufficiently to allow ice and snow to persist all year round. We would seem to be a long way from that right now.

    Even if conditions are becoming conducive to ice sheet formation, another big push would be required to force the climate into a full-scale glaciation.

    Volcanic eruptions on a grand scale would do the trick……….

  12. Blackhole2001 says:

    Who cares about how many temp gauges there are and how accurate they are! Open your eyes and see the physical REAL world effects of global warming! And they are probably caused by man made burning of fossil fuels, which create heat and CO2 in the process. 75% of the scientists think that this is the case.

  13. Curiousgeorge says:

    Paul, you’ve done a well written piece, but you do know you are preaching to the choir here, right? If you have any pull with, say, the NY Times or other “true believers” in AGW/Anthropogenic Climate Change, or a tame lobbyist up your sleeve, you should try to get this published where it might attract some new eyes. The pressure needs to be on those who use AGW for various political/regulatory and economic agendas (the climate justice mantra ), not the folks who already agree with you. Just sayin’ . :)

  14. Noblesse Oblige says:

    Humans are more predictable than climate. Follow the money. It beats thermodynamics everytime.

  15. Allencic says:

    Kath is right, to the AGW believers it really is a magical event. So, why don’t we simply start calling it “Global Climate Magic” or GCM. If it can morph from global warming to climate change to climate disruption it seems perfectly reasonable to me to make the change to the more honest description of “Climate Magic”.

  16. pat says:

    Kath -

    in the same way ben santer attended UEA, note cohen’s academic (and other) connections:

    AER: Dr. Judah Cohen, Director of Seasonal Forecasting, joined Atmospheric and Environmental Research, Inc. as a Staff Scientist in 1998. Prior to AER, he spent two years as a National Research Council Fellow at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies after two years as a research scientist at MIT’s Parsons Laboratory. Cohen received his Ph.D. in Atmospheric Sciences from Columbia University in 1994 and has since focused on conducting numerical experiments with global climate models and advanced statistical techniques to better understand climate variability and to improve climate prediction…
    Dr. Cohen has a Research Affiliate appointment in the Civil Engineering Department at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and is a member of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) and the American Geophysical Union (AGU). He has published over two dozen articles on seasonal forecasting in their journals and others. Most recently, Dr. Cohen was appointed Associate Editor of the Journal of Climate, a peer-reviewed publication of the AMS.
    http://www.aer.com/aboutUs/leadership.html

  17. Pete Olson says:

    @ Alexander Vissers:

    “questionning”? is this a typo?

  18. Dave Springer says:

    Groucho Marx said: “I refuse to join any club that would have me for a member.” Thus I was a bit alarmed when Anthony accepted me as guest author. Scary stuff.

    While I agree with the conclusion there are some problems in the preceding diatribe where it discusses satellite temperature sensing and “jar experiments” with greenhouse gases.

    The satellites used since 1979 to measure global temperature do not sense surface temperature nor are their measurements more focused on particular areas important to aviation nor are they compared to surface temperatures. These are polar orbiting satellites sweeping across every latitude on every orbit with longitude varying as the earth rotates beneath them. There is no bias in extent of coverage. The bias is in their predecessors which are radiosonde ballons which extend the record back to 1958 for the same mid to upper troposphere range which the satellites now cover. Neither the satellites nor the radiosondes attempt to or were designed to establish a surface temperature record. Temperature aloft is all they do. Radiosondes were definitely biased in coverage to areas important to aviation and artillery. I launched a fair number of radiosonde balloons myself back in the 70′s before the satellites took over for temperature data. The tracking and recording equipment probably weighed at least a ton back then and it was persnickety. It also required substantial generator to power the ground based gear. I was actually an electronics technician responsible fors repair, maintenance, and calibration of, among other electronic weather forecasting gimcracks, radiosonde tracking and recording gear. Since my work was done by launch time I usually helped with filling and launching. Anyhow, that’s why radiosonde coverage was limited. It was a major endeavour far more costly and difficult than setting up a Stevensen screen and reading a min/max thermometer once a day. Radiosondes are far simpler and more reliable than remote sensing by satellites. They’re the gold standard used to judge whether the satellite data is good or not. There is controversy over how good the satellite data is. I suggest this for a primer:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satellite_temperature_measurements

    Next up, the jar experiments. Those described are the crudest of things that wouldn’t even place in a science fair competition. The seminal experimental work in radiative characteristics of gases was done by John Tyndal in the 1850′s. He was arguably one of the greatest experimental physicists of the 19th century. The author of the OP has obviously never read the book “Heat: A Mode of Motion” by Tyndal. Anyone who begins to question the physics of greenhouse gases in the most basic form of working as an insulator is, quite honestly, an example of the cranks that give informed CAGW skeptics a bad reputation through association.

  19. Theo Goodwin says:

    I agree totally with your main points, as stated in your first paragraph, after your introduction of yourself. I agree with everything that you say about the data and the way that pro-AGW climate scientists cuisinart the data. In fact, all of this has been proven in slam dunk fashion many times. If climate scientists were serious about their science, they would insist that the first order of business is to convene a council of climate scientists and leading sceptics for the purpose of designing one or more temperature measurement systems for Earth’s atmosphere. Once we have some reliable data, then maybe we can make some progress in debates about temperature change.

    By the way, for those who think that measurement stations can be trusted, a good exercise is to navigate to wunderground.com, put in your zipcode, and then navigate to the bottom of the screen. Depending on where you live, you will find reports from twenty to a hundred thermometers local to your area. In some cases, you will find more than one official NOAA thermometer. The shape of my area is a rectangle of length about five miles by two miles. In that area, the range of temperature reports at any moment is about twelve degrees. If I discount the obvious outliers, the range drops to about 7 degrees. One of those thermometers is an official NOAA thermometer and another is owned by a recently retired meteorologist. Given this range of variation among existing, local thermometers, how could anyone take seriously thermometer reports from total strangers who were not trained, reported no metadata, reported from sites unseen, and reported from records that contain obvious errors, including systematic errors?

  20. Jack says:

    Excellent. The Irish Government ran out of money, so it is brining in a carbon tax.
    The Australian Government run by warmists has run out of money, so they are bringing in a carbon tax Sceptics or or charmingly defined deniers are deliberately excluded from the committee.
    CSIRO, Australia’s mostly government funded science organisation, has been found to have colluded in tampering with temperature data, yet they are taken as proof. Your line about the computer models being used to justify the input data nails CSIRO exactly. In New Zealand, the used contaminated data to justify and ETS but when challenged in court, they agreed the data was not reliable enough to even claim there was a record at all. The biter bit his own arse.
    The gyrations of the climate carpetbaggers are incredible. As soon as they are caught red handed, they change their story.

  21. vigilantfish says:

    Paul, thank you for this post. Greetings from balmy southern Ontario! I was almost put off by the warning about length, but found this very easy reading. It is far more approachable than many of the graph-laden posts, some of which do not condescend to provide a synopsis or conclusions for those of us who are somewhat science-challenged. You provide a nice perspective, and a very clear and logical rebuttal of the standard transparent bottle experiment. As Jorgekafkazar notes above, it would be interesting to see what would happen if another ‘greenhouse’ gas were added, or in fact, what would happen if any gas were added so as to increase the gas density.

  22. JRR Canada says:

    Beautiful summation, I have been wondering along similar lines, what of the IPCC “proof” of causation is left? As I understand it the foundation of CAWG has evaporated under scrutiny. My own reading of the 2007 4th report left me with a summary as follows, We (IPCC) don’t know what drives weather/climate, we identify 16 possible drivers and investigate 1 (CO2 produced by man) and our computer models only appear to work if CO2 is the driver and therefore CO2 is the only possible driver. but trust us even tho we have got it wrong every time so far, this time our computer projection models are accurate. Pretty weak stuff to be calling for drastic wealth redistribution and calling all who inquire as to their data and methodology nasty names. And after M&M, Wegman and the CRU emails, trust is in short supply. As for science, well in my world, No Data means No Valid Results. So claiming as in the case of the CRU, to have lost the raw data but that they stand by the results is hopeless. Now the NZ Official Climatology has been run away from and the UHI effect may be far more than allowed for, its possible we are in a cooling weather phase but the data is too messed up to know. Government funded science is indistinquishable from propaganda at the moment and therefore about as useful for policy purposes. I never expected scientology to be more credible than climatology but I think we have seen that happen this year.Happy New year 2011 will be very entertaining.

  23. dave38 says:

    A very good post Paul. It should be required reading for everyone.

  24. Alex says:

    Any person that takes what they learned about what is Science seriously know that we don’t know much about climate.

  25. stephen says:

    The Good Guys is a great show.

    I’ve always wondered why the basic rejoinder is not: “How will we know when climate is perfect? And if we ever happen to stumble across this climate utopia, how do we keep it from changing then?”

  26. Roger Andrews says:

    Thanks for an interesting article. However, the fact that we don’t know exactly what the temperature was at any one place at any given time doesn’t necessarily mean that the temperature records are no good. In most areas (including Alberta) we can usually find a number of raw records that show pretty much the same 20th-century trends, which gives us reasonable confidence that they’re recording real temperature fluctuations and not garbage. And by averaging these records into monthly or annual means we can then get reasonably robust estimate of actual surface warming.

    Where we get into trouble is when we start “correcting” the raw records to match what someone thinks the regional trend should look like, which is a highly subjective process that usually involves the addition of more warming. The Lethbridge records in GISTEMP are an example. There’s nothing obviously wrong with the raw record, and Lethbridge is by definition an urban station, meaning that if anything we would expect the raw record to show too much warming. But GISS maintains that it still doesn’t show enough, so they “homogenize” it by adding 0.6C of warming between 1937 and 2001 (0.5C of it between 1990 and 2001). Maybe they just want you to feel warmer than you really are.

  27. spangled drongo says:

    Thanks Paul, for an honest assesment.

    Here is something else we dont know much about but if true, debunks CAGW:

    http://debunkhouse.wordpress.com/2010/12/25/co2-ice-cores-vs-plant-stomata-wuwt/

  28. vukcevic says:

    My (nonconformist) observations of the oceanic oscillations show that nature of these oscillations is misunderstood. Due to de-trended calculations, real and fundamental meaning of a possible long term rise or fall in the underlining cause is lost . Deprived of the cause the oceanic oscillations would revert to the default state of ‘no oscillation’.
    Fundamental error of treating oscillations in their de-trended form is more than clear in this set of graphs:
    http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/NPG.htm
    ‘Gateway’ is a symbolic name, gate can open and close in sequence generating oscillations; but if fully, partially open or not open at all, the long term oscillations will disappear.
    All the underlining causes are on an rising slope since 1860’s coinciding with general trend of the global temperature rise. Further, there are short periods of fall towards ‘default state’ which clearly can be identified with well known lows in the global temperatures. Such a trough, according to this analysis, is currently evident which leads to a conclusion that another significant dip in global temperatures can be expected, with a high probability.
    I would suggest both PDO and AMOare not permanent cycles, they may or may not be there, they may just bobble up and down, with no significant longer oscillating period discernable, as it was case with for some time prior to1900, before the ‘global temperatures’ and larger oscillations took off.
    I always look to the CETs for the long term variability reference:
    http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/CET-GMF.htm
    (ignore green line, here just coincidental); following sudden recovery after 1720 oscillations are slow to build up (integration process) in either the intensity or length, to culminate in the 20th century’s large deviations. I suspect that if the AMO was available it would show a similar trend. Source of the 1670-1700 plunge in the temperature’s data is identified to be the same one as the de-trended N. Atlantic Gateway (last of graphs on NPG link above).
    Next, I think a regulating negative feedback should be ignored by climate scientists,
    Current winter is an example:
    - accumulated heat content from the Russia –Siberia land mass from the last summer/autumn was well above normal.
    - once the Arctic was deprived of its insolation, increased temperatures in the sub-polar ring, supplied polar vortex with extra energy, greatly increasing tangential velocity of rising vortex, moving in the direction of the energy source (Siberia and away from north Canada and Greenland).
    - rise in velocity increases radius of polar vortex, the area and volume of warm air drawn in, rises with square law.
    - the heat energy contained in the rising vortex is dissipated by stratospheric radiation greatly overwhelming any other feedback.
    - the cooled air mass deprived of its heat content is deposited further south, distributed by the jet-stream along middle latitude reducing this winter temperatures.
    Hey presto, the North Hemisphere’s temperatures go down, until the next overheated summer season of the great Euro-Asian land mass.
    Finally, larger melt of the ice in the Arctic may initially, for a decade or two, cause cooling of the North Atlantic regions.

  29. Douglas says:

    Blackhole2001 says:
    December 26, 2010 at 1:19 pm
    Who cares about how many temp gauges there are and how accurate they are! Open your eyes and see the physical REAL world effects of global warming! And they are probably caused by man made burning of fossil fuels, which create heat and CO2 in the process. 75% of the scientists think that this is the case.
    ——————————————————————————-
    What effects, Blackhole2001,are you observing that lead you to your conclusions and also what scientists comprise the 75% that you mention?

    Douglas

  30. Pat Moffitt says:

    Paul, The fact that 75% of Canadians live within 100 miles of their southern border speaks volumes about human aversion to cold.
    I have yet to see a travel brochure that says– Come visit Snag Yukon this winter- and experience our lethal temperatures.

  31. RichieP says:

    Blackhole2001 says:
    December 26, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    ‘Who cares about how many temp gauges there are and how accurate they are! Open your eyes and see the physical REAL world effects of global warming! And they are probably caused by man made burning of fossil fuels, which create heat and CO2 in the process. 75% of the scientists think that this is the case.’

    Still bowing down blindly before the great idol? Do you think this religious ranting will work here, where people actually think for themselves? Stop talking to yourself; seek out some real evidence, not the mantras your priests tell you to spout. Your ignorance is the only thing in evidence in your statement and, of course, your need to be enslaved and led by the nose by fear, superstition and the confidence tricksters who promote the scam. Blackhole indeed.

  32. morgo says:

    our labour gov,t in australia should read your post, but I am afraid to tell you they cannot read and have no commonsence

  33. spangled drongo says:

    Roger,

    “Where we get into trouble is when we start “correcting” the raw records to match what someone thinks the regional trend should look like, which is a highly subjective process that usually involves the addition of more warming.”

    Exactly! And when this “experimenter’s bias” is only capable of increasing temps by about 0.7c for a century, imagine what our corrected temperature would be if the bias was towards cooling?

  34. Hank Hancock says:

    Alexander Vissers says:
    December 26, 2010 at 11:39 am
    “Antropomorphic”? is this a typo?

    Anthropomorphic is something having human like characteristics but isn’t human at all. It is also a term used in art and literature for passing down fables of human like creatures of lore. The word fits AGW rather well – not human and fabled.

  35. H.R. says:

    Blackhole2001 says:
    December 26, 2010 at 1:19 pm
    “Who cares about how many temp gauges there are and how accurate they are! Open your eyes and see the physical REAL world effects of global warming! [...]“

    Otzi the Iceman certainly appreciated global warming. He wouldn’t be where he is today without it.

  36. Mike Borgelt says:

    Blackhole2001, The reason we’re looking at the instrumental record, such as it is(useless essentially) is that when we look around we see no evidence that anything unusual is happening. Of course your mileage may vary and you may also be delusional, seeing things that others don’t.

  37. HybridWeb says:

    Nice article Paul.

    Do they use radioactive decay to measure temperature? I had always thought that temperatures which could affect radioactive decay are not normally encountered on earth…

    Perhaps its temperature-dependent differences in stable isotope fractionation?

  38. DirkH says:

    Blackhole2001 says:
    December 26, 2010 at 1:19 pm
    “Who cares about how many temp gauges there are and how accurate they are! Open your eyes and see the physical REAL world effects of global warming! And they are probably caused by man made burning of fossil fuels, which create heat and CO2 in the process. 75% of the scientists think that this is the case.”

    You have to be a comedian. If not, consider a career change, you’re fantastic. The 75% line alone, down from what?

  39. PJB says:

    Had the alarmists chosen earlier to champion the decline rather than hide it, I would have been much more likely to buy into their machinations.

    A globe at +2C anomaly, for me, is better. At -2C or lower, I become concerned with the eventual arrival of an ice age and living in Canada, that eventuality would have much more deleterious effects.

  40. jaypan says:

    Blackhole2001 says: December 26, 2010 at 1:19 pm
    “… see the physical REAL world effects of global warming!
    And they are probably caused by man made burning of fossil fuels …
    75% of the scientists think that this is the case.”

    How do you know what is caused by global warming?
    What is the probability that it is caused by man made burning of fossil fuels?
    How do you know?
    How did you find those 75%? Did you ask them?
    Few years ago, it has been only a handful stupid ones, paid by tobacco and big oil.

    Check this blog more frequently and find out what’s going on.
    Have a great 2011.

  41. David, UK says:

    Many thanks for a clear and concise post, Paul (even at that length). As far as I have been concerned for a long time now, the fight between sceptics and alarmists is a political one, not a scientific one. We already know their bent anti-science has been beaten – the battle of scientific reason has already been won – but on paper only, not in the alarmists’ minds. This is of course because they believe in their Climate Science gods religiously, and almost nothing will convince most of them otherwise. That is the nature of people and religion.

    There is, however, one thing which has been shown to convince sane people that their religion is a con. That is to expose their all-knowing “gods” for what they really are: mere ignorant mortals, corrupted by money, fame and ego, who fool the masses with smoke and mirrors and various tricks (or “clever things to do”).

    Oh wait – Climate Gate has already done just that. And still the masses believe.
    We’re all f****d.

  42. JPeden says:

    Blackhole2001 says:
    December 26, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    Who cares about how many temp gauges there are and how accurate they are! Open your eyes and see the physical REAL world effects of global warming! And they are probably caused by man made burning of fossil fuels, which create heat and CO2 in the process. 75% of the scientists think that this is the case.

    “Open your eyes and see the physical REAL world effects of global warming!”

    Exactly! It’s been a massively net positive since the end of the last ~100,000 year ice age! So that’s yet another reason why we certainly shouldn’t be trying to prematurely abandon fossil fuel!

  43. 1DandyTroll says:

    What “we” know about the climate, in general, meaning in a global term and definition, seem more to be seem the be more like the two faced relationship most mann has with his own respective edifice’s fabric’s framework of a real and actual defined superstructure.

    Climate is thiiis biiig the guy says standing in the booth. Then the woman opens his pants and finds out the horribly sad truth. :p

  44. jtom says:

    I am always in a ‘learning’ mode, believing I simply don’t know enough to contribute anything intellectual to the discourse, but this post matches many of my (unspoken) thoughts so well, I thought I might venture one of my issues with the global warming researchers: trying to average temperatures over the world.

    I hope we all agree that the question is whether earth has begun to retain more energy in the last few decades. While temperature is an attempt to measure energy, it really does not tell us much about the total energy of a system (i.e., heat content). Does something 50 degrees (chose your own units) have twice the energy of something 25 degrees? No. Does it take the same amount of energy to raise the temperature of something from -26 degrees to -25 degrees as it does to raise the temperature of something from 44 degrees to 45 degrees? No. Does it take the same amount of energy to raise dry air one degree as it does humid air. No.

    So unless the sign (higher temp, lower temp) of all your reporting stations are in the SAME direction, can you make any statement as to whether the total energy of the earth is increasing or decreasing? No. You can not take Greenland’s increase in temperature and average it with Europe’s decrease in temperature, and get a meaningful answer with respect to what is happening to the total energy of those two areas. Yet that is exactly what ‘climatologists’ are doing.

    Looking at their own temperature maps, it looks like the “heating” is taking place in the higher lattitudes, while lower lattitudes have actually gotten a little cooler. Using nothing more than seat-of-the-pants guess work I strongly suspect that the total energy being retained by earth has actually gone down. Even this is a moot point, however, since changes in ocean heat content has not been factored in – if it can be determined at all.

    This all seems very straightforward to me. I am just perplexed that physicists are not making an issue out of this. I wish we could channel the spirit of Dr. Feynman for his take on it.

  45. Enneagram says:

    It has been demonstrated that LOD it is one of the intermediaries of causal change in world climate:
    ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/005/y2787e/
    We know, also, that small changes in LOD are caused by earthquakes (recently-in february 27, by the Chilean earthquake; and in december 2004 by Indonesian´s earthquake -and tsunami-); however we really don´t know ( or at least, don´t want to know) why the earth spins as it does, to begin with. A continuous force needs a continuous power.

  46. Douglas says:

    spangled drongo says:
    December 26, 2010 at 2:58 pm
    Roger,
    Exactly! And when this “experimenter’s bias” is only capable of increasing temps by about 0.7c for a century, imagine what our corrected temperature would be if the bias was towards cooling?
    ———————————————————————————-
    Spangled. If you consider the miniscule increase in temperature of 0.7c over a century that they have calculated as being the measure of global warming set against the wide range of data collected throughout the world, often by people with indiferent training for the purpose, the human error in even reading this data, the same for recording it, hour of the day it is read then the splicing and manipulations that have been carried out, the discrediting of certain experts (Jim Salinger in NZ comes to mind as an example) then you have to be an exceptionally trusting (more-like naïve) person to have any faith in their conclusions. It really is a case of GIGO, The mind boggles!

    Douglas

  47. erlhapp says:

    Pamela Gray says:
    December 26, 2010 at 11:59 am
    You say:
    “First the set up: It is clear that a negative AO leads to much colder river freezing temperatures in lower latitudes outside the Arctic Circle. Why? While polar pressure is weaker, the vortex is wider, sending Arctic blasts into a wider circle.”

    Just a point of clarification: Last time I looked negative AO represented positive polar pressure and a strengthened stratospheric vortex. Are you talking about the vortex at the Arctic Front at the surface that gives rise to polar lows?

  48. Phew what a relief!
    The grumpy and irrascible Bob Tisdale has got trapped in the December 24th posting!
    Hallelujah!

  49. Onion says:

    Things we don’t know – about climate

    Of the things we do know about climate, we know that CO2 is rising due to human emissions, that CO2 levels are already at 850,000 year highs, that they are probably at 15 million year highs. That the rate of CO2 rise may have no precedent for even longer. We know that CO2 is likely to rise much higher this century. We know that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and a significant contributor to the greenhouse effect that warms the earth. We know that the CO2 rise will have a warming effect and that it will lower ocean surface pH. We know that temperature changes and ocean pH changes will induce changes in yet more climate components. A kind of cascading effect.

    When we look for reassurance that the cascade will be minor and inconsequential and safe, we find no reassurance. Because the things we need to know to conclude CO2 is not a problem are…

    Things we don’t know – about climate

  50. Alex the skeptic says:

    Mr. Murphy, you have ruined my plans to get rich, filthy rich. I was planning to go for carbon capture technology. I was going to ask all world governments and citizens to save the planet by depositing all their carbon crystals (a.k.a. diamonds) in my carbon sink hole in my front garden, at a hefty charge of course, with a promise to return the carbon crystals to their original owners once our global enemy, that carbon thingy in the atmosphere, goes down to IPCC acceptable levels, ie from 0.0385% down to zero ppmv.

  51. spangled drongo says:

    Steve M says it well here:

    Steve McIntyre
    Posted Dec 26, 2010 at 7:05 PM | Permalink | Replythe only content left is that Hansen’s adjustment has changed and you don’t like the direction.

    The changes in the GISS US temperature adjustments since August 2007 are very large (~0.3 deg C) relative to the size of the trend in the most studied and measured area of the globe. Surely that deserves to be noticed and explained regardless of the direction. The size of the change is surely very surprising regardless of the direction.

    Hansen et al 2010 is a very recent publication on GISS methodology, but did not contain a reconciliation of why the new adjustments differ so remarkably from adjustments believed to be satisfactory at the time of AR4. It is surely Hansen’s job to present a mathematical rationale for why these new adjustments are correct relative to the former adjustments. Why didn’t the peer reviewers ask Hansen for such a reconciliation? At present, I don’t know whether the changes arise in modifications at GISS or at USHCN or both. If people critical of my merely noting the new adjustments can clarify this point, I’m sure that readers would appreciate such a reconciliation.

  52. Tim Folkerts says:

    “The source number for that claim, presumably 32.08F, is actually an interpolation from various agricultural research and military facilities across southern Alberta, because the airport weather station has been moved a few times and many of the source records lost – but it should be obvious in any case that neither the thermometers in use at airports in 1921 nor the processes in place to record temperature supported anything like that level of precision. “

    But they would have the capability to measure +/- 1 F. If the record was -32F, which is -35.55555 C, they would reasonably round that to -35.6 C. No dastardly averaging or over-precision or interpolating is needed.

    “Second there’s the Foundation myth: the belief that it’s possible to predict the direction and extent of motion of something like a collection’s center of mass (or the chartrist’s Dow Jones average) without knowing anything about the motion of the individual units involved”
    Well, in physics this is known as conservation of momentum, and yes, it is quite possible to predict that the center of mass of a diver jumping from a diving board will be very close to a parabola independent of how he tucks or waves his arms. It is quite possible to predict the distributions of speed of a gas knowing just the type of gas and the temperature.

    I will admit that the “motion” of the stock market or a herd of cattle or the climate is more complex than freefall motion. I will admit that prediction of the “motion” of the climate has so many more variables that it is a challenging problem to make any decent predictions. But it is certainly possible in principle to predict a general trend without knowing all the individual bits.

    Is climate science to the place where it can make accurate predictions of the global conditions years into the future? Clearly not. But the goal of science to to do the best with what you have, and to keep working to be better. It would be defeatist to say “Since I can’t predict the stock markets, it is impossible to predict the climate.”

    ““greenhouse science” – the belief that increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will cause traumatic global warming – is settled”
    A strawman argument — this is not how most scientists would define “greenhouse science”. If you drop the word “traumatic”, then I suspect most scientists would be pretty comfortable with the statement (other perhaps than the word “belief”). The absorption of IR by these gases and the warming affect it has IS settled science. Of course, other feedbacks and other affect ALSO play a major role in global temperatures, but that would not be “greenhouse science”.

    With the word “traumatic”, then scientists should hang back (and to their detriment, they have not been good at doing that). You rightly call out Hansen and Jones to Gore and Waxman for being overly dramatic (but please don’t malign science by including Gore and Waxman as “scientists” ;-) ).

    “The classic demonstration for this involves adding CO2 to the air in only one of a pair of similar, closed, containers; exposing both to a radiant heat source…”
    This is a strawman argument at its finest! This (and your following discussion) is NOT the rational for the greenhouse effect.

    It is a simple fact is that earth’s surface is much warmer than the temperature calculated from the incoming radiation from the sun and the outgoing radiation from the surface. The only way for this to occur is if something else is also providing energy to the earth’s surface (unless you can get around Conservation of Energy). That something is radiation from the atmosphere (ie greenhouse gases emitting radiation down toward the surface). Again, there are many other factors that come into the equation, like evaporation and clouds, but the “greenhouse effect is clearly one part of that equation.

    Doing the experiment you suggest is certainly possible. Dealing with any differences in mass, heat capacity, thermal conductivity … is pretty straightforward and you are kidding yourself if you think a competent scientist trying the experiment you describe wouldn’t have thought of all your concerns. But the experiment you describe is NOT the only way (or even the best way) to show the “greenhouse effect”.

    “So there’s something else we don’t know: why do “greens”, people who profess to favor life and bio diversity in all its forms, so strongly oppose change most likely to strongly favor life and bio-diversity? “
    I see this as yet one more strawman argument, on two counts. 1) Not all biodiversity is supported by “greens” — for example, they are typically not for increasing diversity by introducing invasive species. I would say the “green” goal is more to maintain the status quo; to maintain the natural balance. 2) Many people would contest your claim that raising the temperature would increase diversity. It would certainly move species around, but that will not a priori increase diversity.

    “Wow – so because I haven’t a clue … ”

  53. cal says:

    Although I agree with much of this post I am worried by its discussion of the bottle experiment. This is a simple experiment that you would show to 11 year olds. It proves only one thing: that CO2 absorbs infrared radiation well and dry air does not. In this narrow sense it is a good experiment but it is proving something that is an irrefuteble scientific fact: it adds nothing to the debate about climate. By discussing it in the context of global climate one gives the experiment a value that it does not deserve. Those showing the experiment are trying to suggest that the tube is in some way a model for how the climate system works. This is bizarre since the tube has almost nothing in common with the climate system. It is the lack of relevance that we need to focus on not the experimental details.

  54. Douglas says:

    Onion says:
    December 26, 2010 at 4:08 pm
    Things we don’t know – about climate

    Of the things we do know about climate, we know that CO2 is rising due to human emissions, that CO2 levels are already at 850,000 year highs, that they are probably at 15 million year highs. That the rate of CO2 rise may have no precedent for even longer. We know that CO2 is likely to rise much higher this century. We know that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and a significant contributor to the greenhouse effect that warms the earth. We know that the CO2 rise will have a warming effect and that it will lower ocean surface pH. We know that temperature changes and ocean pH changes will induce changes in yet more climate components. A kind of cascading effect.

    When we look for reassurance that the cascade will be minor and inconsequential and safe, we find no reassurance. Because the things we need to know to conclude CO2 is not a problem are…
    —————————————————————————

    Onion Baby – You have just made a good case for the things that you don’t know about climate – My advice – quit while you have the chance.

    Douglas

  55. RoyFOMR says:

    Let me get this straight. The Science is not settled?
    Is that correct? According to RC, climate science from climate science, and Al Gore, inventor of the Imternet, doomsayer of rising sea levels, beach-front investor and the best president that the US never had, I thought the Science was settled, the masses had pressed the right button and that 97% of 40 odd climate-fundees had said, yes it is!
    Next you’ll be telling me that James Hansen is a brilliant but totally deluded activist.
    How is this possible? I’m struggling to understand how anyone could be seduced by government funding, foreign travel and expense-free drinky-poos to peddle lots of little White lies.
    Sincere question. Is it possible that we may have been lied to?

  56. Darren Parker says:

    The transparent bottle experiment is never conducted properly because the non-co2 container needs to have air in at the average humidity of the planet at the tropics as this is where mostyy of the suns eneregy is received. The second container being highly humid actually retains the heat better than the pure co2 container. if the second container is very dry air the co2 wins every time. this is the classic mistake they made over on the treehugger.forums.

  57. Darren Parker says:

    The ocean can’t have a lower pH if it get’s warmer at the same time – you can’t have both Onion. How do you keep your pepsi cold and fizzy?

  58. SkepticAll says:

    The most interesting thing in reading this article is the selection of replies. As a skeptic, I’ve been perusing articles by proponents and opponents of AGW [and I do believe that's anthropoGENIC, not anthropomorphic] and what struck me most forceably about the anti-AGW comments here is that they are almost identical in tone to those I’ve seen on pro-AGW articles / sites.

    I think I’m going to keep my skeptical viewpoint right now, which means I’m taking nobody’s word for it. I certainly will do more to stay informed about both sides of the issue, though, unlike many posters I’ve seen in my travels.

  59. erlhapp says:

    Dave Springer says:
    December 26, 2010 at 1:45 pm
    “Anyone who begins to question the physics of greenhouse gases in the most basic form of working as an insulator is, quite honestly, an example of the cranks that give informed CAGW skeptics a bad reputation through association.”

    If the atmosphere were more substantial than it is. Just 10Km yields 75% of its mass.

    If it exhibited a temperature rather higher than minus 60°C at the 10km margin or minus 85°C at about 17km above the equator.

    If atmospheric gas were to be somehow chained to a fixed location and non convecting (thereby elevating heat at a rapid rate through this thin medium).

    If there were no wind at the surface.

    If a cooling stratosphere (loaded with ozone the best greenhouse gas of them all) were to be allied with falling surface temperature.

    If my thermos continued to work when the vacuum is no longer.

    If radiation from the surface was the only means of heat escape.

    If the surface warmed on cloudy days.

    And, if I couldn’t think of any other reason why the Earth has warmed.

    Then, I might agree with you. But in the meantime count me amongst the cranks that you would rather not associate with and I will count you amongst the guys why elevate a singular physical principle to the position where it overwhelms all other forces that play a role in determining the outcome, or worse, is considered wholly deterministic all on its very own.

  60. LazyTeenager says:

    Paul says
    —————
    and really the only thing we’re pretty sure of is that the people jumping up and down screaming that they have the answers are either deluded or charlatans.
    —————
    And since Anthony’s readership is jumping up down and screaming that they have the answers this means that…….

  61. richard verney says:

    It is the arrogance of man that he expects to know everything and to understand everything when if acting truthfully, he should admit that he knows little and understands even less.
    In truth, we do not know what is the ideal temperature for the earth. We do not know what is the ideal temperature for human kind, the species. We therefore do not know whether the earth is too hot or too cold, or whether it would be beneficial for humans if the world was warmer or cooler.
    Obviously, we have no accurate record of temperatures prior to the instrument record. Any reconstruction of prior temperatures is at best a guestimate. Unfortunately, we have made so many adjustments to the instrument record that we no longer have any idea as to the precise temperatures during the instrument period still less the recent trends. As a result, we do not know whether the earth is currently warming or cooling or if so by how much.
    We do not understand what processes may control climate. There are probably many components that we do not know even exist and since we do not know of their existence, we cannot know of their workings. There are many components that we know exist that we do not know how they work nor what influence they have. Even as regards CO2, we may know something of its behavoir in isolation but we do not know how it behaves in the real world. ie., when mixed in atmospheric proportions.
    We do not know whether humans the species is having any influence on the climate and if so why this might be the case (eg., pollutants, CO2 emissions, urbanisation, deforestation. land use etc).
    Given this state of knowledge, or rather the lack of it, one cannot help wandering why we are so concerned with the conjecture that manmade CO2 emissions are a problem given that they form only a very small component of the CO2 that exists naturally in the atmosphere.
    What little evidence that exists suggests that a warmer planet would be a good thing such that we have time on our side such that any sane scientist would say lets get an accurate record of temperatures and since global warming is not a global problem but rather a local issue lets evaluate the data on a country by country basis so that we can determine what effect it may have on the population in any given area and the food production/water supply in that area.
    Further, the present uncertainty suggests that adaption (if truly needed) is a better policy than mitigation (of what in all probability is a non problem).

    Unfortunately, the least intelligent life form on planet earth often ends up as a politican.

  62. R. Shearer says:

    Noblesse Oblige says:
    December 26, 2010 at 1:32 pm
    Humans are more predictable than climate. Follow the money. It beats thermodynamics everytime.

    Priceless!

  63. Mike. says:

    For sure the nitpickers will be here in abundance, but the OP has done his job. Invariably, some of the info out there could almost have you argue with yourself, more than that, it is the miniscule paragraph disclaimer, goes something like, “no-one completely understands the complexity of anomalous weather systems but the trend is…”

  64. richard verney says:

    I have never seen the jar experiment conducted with say air but with CO2 at 290 ppm, and air but with CO2 at 380ppm, and air but with CO2 at 500ppm.
    Why have these experiments not been done, or is it that the accuracy of the measuring equipment could not detect the difference in temperature between these gas mixtures?
    Of course such an experiment does not reflect the real world wherein changes in cloud formation may negative entirely the effect of additional concentrations of CO2.

  65. DN says:

    Onion@4:08,

    Your list of the things we supposedly DO know about climate is so riddled with fallacies that I hardly know where to begin. Let’s take it a phrase at a time, shall we?

    1) “Of the things we do know about climate, we know that CO2 is rising due to human emissions”
    - Nonsense. We know that CO2 is rising and we know that human activities – principally consumption of fossil fuels but also manufacture of cement – produce CO2. But regardless of whether it is true, it is also irrelevant, because there is no empirical evidence to support the thesis that CO2 (let alone the tiny proportion of atmospheric CO2 that qualifies as ‘anthropogenic’) is a significant contributor to global temperatures. Even the IPCC acknowledges that most of the alleged 20th Century temperature increase occurred before 1940, while most of the allegedly anthropogenic CO2 increase occurred after 1950 (see 4AR, Report of WG 1, Chap 2, p. 137). Until this discrepancy is explained, there is no reason to suspect CO2 (let alone anthropogenic CO2) is the key player in temperature forcing.

    2) “that CO2 levels are already at 850,000 year highs, that they are probably at 15 million year highs. That the rate of CO2 rise may have no precedent for even longer”
    - wrong again. During the Late Carboniferous and Early Permian periods (ca. 270-300 MY ago), for example, both temperatures and CO2 concentrations were similar to today’s levels. In the late Ordovician period (ca. 450 MY ago), however, temperatures were low – as low as current temperatures – while CO2 concentrations were 10 times higher than they are today (see Monte Hieb, “Climate and the Carboniferous Period”, 21 March 2009; [http://www.geocraft.com/WVFossils/Carboniferous_climate.html]). CO2 levels are in fact at an historic low (see Ian Plimer, Heaven and Earth, p. 490), to the point where the Earth has been described as being in a “CO2 famine” (Testimony of Dr. Will Happer, “Update on the Latest Global Warming Science”, US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, 25 February 2009. Dr. Happer is the Cyrus Fogg Brackett Professor of Physics at Princeton University; his full testimony may be found at [http://epw.senate.gov/ public/ index.cfm?FuseAction=Files.View&FileStore_id=84462e2d-6bff-4983-a574-31f5ae8e8a42]).

    3) “We know that CO2 is likely to rise much higher this century.”
    - Based on a linear projection of the past 150+ years, you’re probably right. But whether CO2 concentrations increase or not tells us (a) nothing about whether the rise is due to human activities, and (b) nothing about the role of CO2 in influencing climate.

    4) “We know that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and a significant contributor to the greenhouse effect that warms the earth.”
    - We know that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and we know for a fact that it CANNOT be a “significant contributor” to the greenhouse effect that warms the Earth. Significance is established in relation to other factors, and the single most important greenhouse factor in Earth’s atmosphere is water vapour, which is both 4 times as potent a greenhouse agent, and is 10 times as prevalent in the atmosphere as a whole, and up to 100 times as prevalent near the surface. Compared to water vapour – which no one is trying to regulate – CO2 is simply not a “significant contributor” to Earth’s greenhouse effect.

    5) “We know that the CO2 rise will have a warming effect”
    - this is an hypothesis (actually, it is the AGW hypothesis in a nutshell). It has not been demonstrated by experimentation. And in fact it has been falsified by observed data. As Henrik Svensmark put it: “over the past 500 million years, there has been no correlation between carbon dioxide and temperature; over the past million years, there has been a correlation, with increases in temperature preceding increases in carbon dioxide concentrations; over the past 10,000 years there has been no correlation between carbon dioxide and temperature; and over the past 100 years, there has been a “rough link” between increasing carbon dioxide and temperature.” (Henrik Svensmark and Nigel Calder, The Chilling Stars: A Cosmic View of Climate Change (Cambridge, UK: Icon Books, 2007), 247.) However, the existence of a “rough link” over the past century cannot explain away the absence of any statistically relevant correlation between CO2 concentrations and temperatures over any other time period. Nor can it explain away the past 10-12 years, which have seen an increase in CO2 concentrations but a decline in temperatures – something which none of the IPCC models predicted (IPCC 4th AR, Summary for Policymakers, Figure SPM.5 [http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/syr/ar4_syr_spm.pdf]).

    6) “and that it will lower ocean surface pH.”
    - again, this is conjecture, and it flies in the face of a much better understood scientific discipline, chemistry. The oceans are basic, and carbon dioxide is continually removed by deposition of calcium carbonate from shell-forming organisms. Biologically significant ocean acidification is unlikely to happen in the future because it did not happen in the past, when CO2 concentrations were upwards of 10 times as high as they are today.

    7) “We know that temperature changes and ocean pH changes will induce changes in yet more climate components. A kind of cascading effect.”
    - This suggestion is unfounded in science. I suggets you stop watching Roland Emmerich films.

    8) “When we look for reassurance that the cascade will be minor and inconsequential and safe, we find no reassurance. Because the things we need to know to conclude CO2 is not a problem are…”
    - …listed above. The bottom line is this: the lack of any statistically relevant correlation between CO2 concentrations and temperature precludes a causal relationship – except to the extent, per the Vostok and other ice cores, that increasing temperatures appear to lead to increasing CO2 concentrations, an unsurprising conclusion to anyone who has left an open beer to warm up on the counter.

    I suggest you drink the beer and stop worrying about doomsday.

    Happy New Year. I promise, the evil CO2 won’t get you.

    - DN

  66. LazyTeenager says:

    More seriously you could apply this species of argument just as validly , not just to the climate, but to everything. The result you would get is ridiculous.

    This tells you that the argument is just a big lump of sophistry.

    In practice people make decisions in the face of imperfect knowledge all the time. They apply their judgment, however imperfectly, to assess future risk. They do not say:

    “my knowledge is imperfect
    therefore I know nothing
    therefore I should never take action”.

  67. Edward Bancroft says:

    The classic demonstration for this involves adding CO2 to the air in only one of a pair of similar, closed, containers; exposing both to a radiant heat source until the containers reach equilibrium with the surrounding atmosphere; and then comparing one or both of the internal temperature and/or duration of the cool down period for the two. Do it, and you’ll find that the one containing some additional CO2 retains more heat and the claim is that this demonstrates the greenhouse effect.

    Once the containers have reached their equilibrium temperature states and the IR source is removed, the container with the most CO2 will cool the quicker. All this demonstrates is the basic property of any IR active gas, such as CO2 or water vapour, to absorb and re-emit IR energy. It has a relevance to the Earth’s atmosphere though, in that adding more IR active gas will tend to cool the atmosphere more at nightime, compensating for the slight increase in temperature in the daytime, assuming that the sky is not covered by cloud.

  68. Richard Patton says:

    @ Theo Goodwin:

    Good practical suggestion on demonstrating variability of temperatures in an area. I am a retired meteorologist and I have a site on wunderground.com (http://tinyurl.com/2eaox8a) and I KNOW that my sensors read at least a deg or two high from what they would if I could site them with ‘no closer than 30′ from structures, over grass, etc.’ that is necessary for accurate reading-it’s just not possible. Also not possible is elimination of UHI effect and even with that my sensors read cooler than most in the PDX area on a clear cool night! (including the multi thousand dollar government sensor only a mile from my place). What hope is there for knowing what the temperature “truly” is and if we’ve had any warming or cooling?

  69. Edward Bancroft says:

    Of the things we do know about climate, we know that CO2 is rising due to human emissions, Also, less is absorbed because reduced forest coverage and the greater use of agriculture?
    that CO2 levels are already at 850,000 year highs, that they are probably at 15 million year highs. From ice records, yes, but from plant stomata records, no.
    That the rate of CO2 rise may have no precedent for even longer. Any proof of that?
    We know that CO2 is likely to rise much higher this century. True, but if there is little connection with global temperatures, and higher CO2 promotes plant growth, what is the issue here?
    We know that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and a significant contributor to the greenhouse effect that warms the earth. CO2 is an IR active gas, as is water vapour,which is 25 to 100 times more prevalent than CO2. Many sources dispute that the ‘greenhouse effect’ actually exists. Perhaps that since CO2 also cools the atmosphere at night it could equally be called a ‘refrigerator gas’.
    We know that the CO2 rise will have a warming effect… No such provable correlation exists... and that it will lower ocean surface pH.The predicted alkalinity changes are small and marine life regularly faces much greater natural changes.
    We know that temperature changes and ocean pH changes will induce changes in yet more climate components. A kind of cascading effect. The ocean’s temperatures vary in natural cycles and are affected by many other factors such as solar cycles. This they have been doing for millions of years over ranges much greater than today’s, and through ice ages.

  70. David Ball says:

    LazyTeenager says:
    December 26, 2010 at 4:55 pm
    Are we reading the same blog? Majority of the people here are well aware of the knowledge and data shortcomings. This is why we laugh at Gavin et al. They seem so dang certain. You really are lazy.

  71. fhsiv says:

    Onion,

    I would be more convinced of the sincerity of your summation above, if you replaced the word ‘know’ with the word ‘believe’.

  72. Thank you for this article Paul. I have never been convinced that any warming (or cooling) rate of this planet of ours has been positive enough for scientists to be able to tell us what they are telling us at the moment, which is that the Earth has warmed 0.8 °C since the year 1850. – After all the surface of the Earth has been worked out to be (in round numbers) some 510 000 000 km² of which 150 million km² is land.
    For that reason it is important to know the answer to the questions: “How many “permanent measuring stations” existed between the years 1850 – 2000? – Also; “How many were measured in °F and how many in °C.” This matters as all land based thermometers had mercury or spirits/alcohol as expansion media and it is damned hard to be accurate to a fraction of a degree (0.8°) when reading that kind of instrument.
    Furthermore it is just as important to know the answers to another relevant question; “Where on the Earth were these “measuring stations” of local temperatures located?”

    I have memories now from wandering around this planet for more than 65 years and I can say with confidence that where I have frequented it is warmer today than what it was in 1945.
    I like this new and warmer place better than I liked older colder one.

    However I realize that there is no reason as to why I should thank you, your grannie, uncle, boss or anybody else who is releasing CO² for making my living space more agreeable, so I am not going to. But, once again thank you for the article.

  73. David Ball says:

    Joe Prins says:
    December 26, 2010 at 12:02 pm
    I believe the “professor” that Mr. Prins is referring to teaches “environmental studies” which has precisely ZERO to do with science and the good “professor’s” credentials have exactly ZERO to do with climate. Close ties with the Suzuki Foundation. Big surprise there.

  74. And then I feel I should make a comment on somebody else’s comment to this article which is one, as I see it, which is being “partially nasty” or “nasty in one part” and is coming from a chap called Dave Springer who is informing us about his former interesting life with radiosondes. Be that as it may, but then he says:
    “Anyone who begins to question the physics of greenhouse gases in the most basic form of working as an insulator is, quite honestly, an example of the cranks that give informed CAGW skeptics a bad reputation through association.”

    That sounds very much like someone saying:

    “Isn’t anyone who begins to question the physics of the greenhouse effect in its most basic form – and the human enhancement of it through the burning of fossil fuels, quite honestly, an example of the skeptical cranks that oppose informed (CAGW) climate scientists?”

    Any “Greenhouse Effect” explanation I have heard of so far has always omitted conduction, convection and the adiabatic lapse rate for Carbon Dioxide and other “Dry greenhouse gases” like Methane etcetera – all in favour of radiation.

    If I am not allowed to ask why, then don’t blame me if I make up my own answer. After all during all my many years as a mechanical engineer I have never had to consider radiation when working out heat transportation.

  75. David Ball says:

    I tear up every time I read Onion’s posts !!! 8^D

  76. John F. Hultquist says:

    DN says Onion should stop watching Roland Emmerich films.

    I wondered where he/she was getting that crap.

  77. erlhapp says:

    Paul Murphy,
    “the basic conclusion that what we know about global warming is pretty much nothing: we’ve no baseline, so don’t know if it’s happening; we’ve no cost/benefit evaluation so don’t know whether it would be net positive or net negative; if it is happening we don’t understand its causation and if it isn’t we don’t understand why not; and really the only thing we’re pretty sure of is that the people jumping up and down screaming that they have the answers are either deluded or charlatans”.

    Never a truer word.

  78. Tom T says:

    Onion:
    We know that the response to CO2 is logarithmic. We know the world has been warmer than it is now.

  79. John F. Hultquist says:
  80. Dear Paul

    Thanks for a very well set out rebuttal of the AGW foolishness. In this site, you are preaching to the converted and I hope that you can get this good sense before some of the politicians who are backing this nonsense. Eventually Mother Nature will show them the error of their ideas, but it could cost years of human suffering.

    Nicholas Tesdorf

  81. Roger Andrews says:

    Spangled Drongo, Douglas:

    Thank you for your earlier comments.

    If you want a real “correction” problem, take a look at HadCRUT3, the IPCC’s official surface air temperature time series and the one it bases all its AGW conclusions on. Despite its obvious importance, HadCRUT3 is in fact based on three totally unproven assumptions, two of which (1 and 2) are probably incorrect and one of which (3) is definitely incorrect:

    1. Sea surface temperatures are valid long-term air temperature proxies (HadCRUT3 is 75% based on SST readings that don’t measure air temperatures directly, which makes it basically a proxy reconstruction, like the Hockey Stick.)

    2. The raw SST record is heavily biased by measurement method changes (which is the only way of explaining why it doesn’t look anything like an air temperature series)

    3. We can accurately identify and quantify these biases (even though we don’t know how SSTs were measured for most of the period of the SST record).

    Because of these assumptions HadCRUT3 contains some enormous “bias corrections” that can not only be shown to be wrong but which are known to be wrong (Thompson et al. 2008).

    If anyone wants a data quality bone to chew on, they should chew on this one.

    (Incidentally, I hope you can find this response. It would certainly make things easier if this blog had a “reply” option, like Judith Curry’s.)

  82. Bruce Cobb says:

    LazyTeenager says:
    December 26, 2010 at 5:08 pm
    In practice people make decisions in the face of imperfect knowledge all the time. They apply their judgment, however imperfectly, to assess future risk.
    Unfortunately, the Alarmist credo contains so little that can be described as “knowledge” that it renders it basically Grade A bilge. What they claim to “know” is so far from reality that it beggars belief to call it “imperfect knowledge”.
    The only risk lies in making idiotic decisions based on it.

  83. David Kitchen says:

    As a teacher who tries to make students aware of both sides of the climate debate it is always fascinating to find our more about the authors who write on climate related sites. I must say that I am familiar with most of the “warmers” as they are out in public and generally well known. I am less familiar with the background of contributors to this blog, as they are not often from the mainstream scientific community. I am always telling students that scientific credibility it important, and that they need to check who is writing before weighing different opinions, so if you could include short bios on the contributers and their qualifications it would be a great help for the general public who read this site. For example, when I tried to check on this author, the only Paul Murphy I could find who had written elsewhere about climate states in his own bio that he is “Originally a Math/Physics graduate who couldn’t cut it in his own field” Hardly a glowing recommendation. http://www.zdnet.com/blog/murphy/climate-vagaries-and-the-zdnet-time-machine/1319 Is this really the author of this entry? Must be some confusion… which is exactly why short bios and background would be a real help. It would stop this kind of confusion with students- or at least helps them reach an informed opinion on the credibility of divergent opinions.

  84. Mike says:

    Paul,

    What is so hard about the concept of a mathematical average? With more data random measurement errors tend to cancel out. Even the most extreme skeptics acknowledge the world is warming. What do you think is causing glaciers to melt all over the world?

  85. Douglas says:

    LazyTeenager says:
    December 26, 2010 at 5:08 pm
    More seriously you could apply this species of argument just as validly , not just to the climate, but to everything. The result you would get is ridiculous. This tells you that the argument is just a big lump of sophistry. In practice people make decisions in the face of imperfect knowledge all the time. They apply their judgment, however imperfectly, to assess future risk. They do not say:

    “my knowledge is imperfect
    therefore I know nothing
    therefore I should never take action”.
    ————————————————————————-
    LazyTeenager. Not quite sure of your point here. But it seems that you are generalising and are being critical of people who are reluctant to take actions because they are not confident about the validity of the information they possess on a particular subject so they take no action.

    Of course we know that life is about risk taking. But risk taking is also about good judgement. A businessman takes risks based on a whole range of factors but in essence he uses good advice and his own knowledge and usually risks his own money. We hear a lot about the successful ones and forget about the failures. But they are small cheese compared to what we are considering here.

    Here we are not talking about ordinary risk. We are considering transferring the wealth of the ‘west’ (whole economies) to the so called ‘undeveloped’ nations and simultaneously destroying the means of creating wealth in the ‘west’. All of it based upon what is patently poor science and incredibly stupid politics. One needs to be pretty careful in these circumstances – it is not about not taking any action at all. It is more about being rather sensible. So you see Lazy, it is not quite the same thing as you quite flippantly, IMO, imply. It is not just an exercise in sophistry – as you might expect from teenagers testing their debating skills – it is a matter of the survival of whole economies.

    Douglas

  86. Mike McMillan says:

    Hari Seldon’s Foundation had (will have) a better track record than James Hansen’s has had so far. Shame he wasn’t (won’t be) in the climate business.

  87. Douglas says:

    Roger Andrews says:
    December 26, 2010 at 7:12 pm
    Spangled Drongo, Douglas:

    Because of these assumptions HadCRUT3 contains some enormous “bias corrections” that can not only be shown to be wrong but which are known to be wrong (Thompson et al. 2008).

    If anyone wants a data quality bone to chew on, they should chew on this one.

    (Incidentally, I hope you can find this response. It would certainly make things easier if this blog had a “reply” option, like Judith Curry’s.)
    ———————————————————————————–
    Roger Andrews. Thank you for the information. While I am appalled that the science has been proven to be ‘shonky’ I am now even more concerned about the underlying cause(s) for it to be so. Naturally one does not like to mention ‘conspiracy arguments’ (smacks of paranoia) but the powerful financial and consequential political influences that underpin all the so called ‘science’ here convinces me that the ‘science’ has been tailored to suit wider agendas. The likes of Phil Jones seems to me to be ‘pawns’ in this game while Hansen seems now to be somewhat removed from reality. Both seem candidates for going under a bus in the near future.

    I had to search for information about both the science surrounding climate and the motivation for producing the alarm about it because the main stream media was either silent or too shallow or biased in its coverage to be informative enough. That too is worrying because investigative journalism also seems to be a thing of the past. We sorely need bloggs like WUWT to glean information that allows us to arrive at rational conclusions. The USA seems to be the last bastion of political debate which offers the world a little hope to resolve matters like this. I look at Europe and the UK and shudder in despair. As I see it,the European Union is destroying democracy faster that the Soviets ever dreamed of.

    Thanks
    Douglas

  88. Smokey says:

    LazyTeenager says:

    Paul says
    —————
    and really the only thing we’re pretty sure of is that the people jumping up and down screaming that they have the answers are either deluded or charlatans.
    —————
    And since Anthony’s readership is jumping up down and screaming that they have the answers this means that…….

    You haven’t got a clue, and you’re not even aware that you’re clueless.

    For the umpteenth time: Scientific skeptics have nothing to prove. The null hypothesis has never been falsified.

    Paul is right. It is the purveyors of the repeatedly debunked CO2=CAGW conjecture who are going ballistic trying to convince skeptics that CO2 is causing harm to the environment. The fact that they have zero evidence for their belief leaves them only one choice: to jump up and down and demand that we must believe that CO2 is causing harm. In fact, their belief is only baseless conjecture.

    Climate alarmists replace the scientific method with false claims of “consensus.” That pretty much sums up their entire argument.

  89. Roger Carr says:

    Theo Goodwin says: (December 26, 2010 at 1:46 pm) Depending on where you live, you will find reports from twenty to a hundred thermometers local to your area. [...] In that area, the range of temperature reports at any moment is about twelve degrees. If I discount the obvious outliers, the range drops to about 7 degrees.

    A rather startling snippet of information, Theo. In saner times that alone would knock the bottom out of the boat.

  90. tckev says:

    Excellent piece.
    It’s also seem that the global bell jar of CO2 gas is overly simplistic. Research has found that the atmosphere expands and contracts – low earth satellites are affected by the friction effects.
    Of the rest, basically this chaotic system starting from an unknown parameter set, with many close coupled feedback and loose coupled feed-forward links, is mostly unpredictable.
    Ah! But the “settled science” of Mankind Attributable Globally Inconstant Climate (M.A.G.I.C.) computer model projects that all is lost. Therefore we fossil fuel users must be made to feel guilty and open our banks for all those that feel aggrieved by our evil methods of ‘improving’ mankind’s lot with affordable food, medicine, building materials, communications, etc., and give them all the money they require…

  91. BigOil says:

    Thanks, Paul, for a very clear minded posting.

    As a non- scientest I an looking for a simple explanation. It might be impossible.

    I am amazed that all of the science is based an a 0.7C degree rise in a 100 years. Nobody talks about actual measurement, just warmest year ever, warmest decade ever. Why not show graphs of actual temperatures, not variations to the norm.

  92. HenryP says:

    Reading the comments, you see again and again the same arguments on CO2,
    but the truth is that
    a) some warming is caused by CO2 but nobody has any quantified measurements in the relevant range, i.e. from 0,02% to 0.05%. Experiments shown to me so far are all insufficient and/or without relevant value.
    b) some radiative cooling is caused as CO2 also has absorptions in the 0-5 um range, but again nobody has any quantified mesurements of that
    c) cooling is also caused by CO2 due to its participation in the process of photo synthesis. To carry out photo synthesis and “growth” you need warmth, hence the reason why forrests do not grow at higher altitudes and latitudes.

    the question is what is the net effect?

    Clue: LOOK AT THE PATTERN OF MODERN WARMING
    at the various weather stations. If warming is caused by greenhouse gases, you would expect minimum temparature to show more rise. Yet, it does not.

    eventually your conclusion will be that the net effect of more carbon dioxide in the air is probably zero or close to zero.

    http://www.letterdash.com/HenryP/more-carbon-dioxide-is-ok-ok

  93. John Meget says:

    While I greatly enjoy reading the comments, I wish more people would post contrary views. As someone noted above, a lot of this is preaching to the choir. Is there any way to encourage AGW supporters to give their reactions to the points made in the article and the comments?

  94. ge0050 says:

    Since CO2 causes climate change, why not tax Oxygen instead of Carbon? After all, there is a lot more Oxygen than Carbon in CO2. By weight CO2 is only 27% Carbon, and 73% Oxygen. Wouldn’t it make more sense to tax things based on their Oxygen footprint?

  95. wayne says:

    “BigOil says:
    December 26, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    Thanks, Paul, for a very clear minded posting.

    As a non- scientest I an looking for a simple explanation. It might be impossible.”

    Not impossible at all but you will have to read a bit of Kirchhoff’s law in thermodynamics. It basically says that emissivity (α) is equal, not just close, EQUAL to the absorptivity (ε) overall at equilibrium. This does no mean that all emission is in the same frequencies as the energy received, as on Earth, but that the total energy emitted at equilibrium is equal to the energy received. Equilibrium is the point when the temperature stops changing while in a steady radiative field as that of the Earth in the sun’s radiative field. A black high absorber is also equally a high or rough emitter at a temperature, the frequencies may be different in and out but this is speaking of total energy across all frequencies. A white or shiny low absorber is a low emitter of energy at a temperature.

    Here’s the kicker for you to spend so time thinking about, if you have two balls (small planets), one black and one white in equal circular orbit about a perfectly steady radiation field like a steady sun for millions or billions of years, close and long enough for both to reach equilibrium, will they both EVENTUALLY end up at the same temperature? I have the answer and integration proof of the results but you need to think that one through yourself. Even my daughter go it right and she’s also non-scientist (there is no magical matter substance that escapes from Kirchhoff’s law overall all frequencies considered).

    If you should come up saying yes then that is your impossible explanation you figured out yourself.

    You see, our *true* global temperature is only dictated by the radiation field we float in usually measured as TSI or total solar irradiance. Black, shiny, white of rough makes no difference unless the radiation field is changing. Those objects if initially placed not touching anything (no conduction) in a totally evacuated warm room will all eventually end at the same temperature, guaranteed. The black or rough ones will get to equilibrium much faster but that’s the only difference. Same for our Earth in the void of space about a rather steady hot fusion reactor.

    One ‘however’, with a gravitationally held atmosphere there is a certain point vertically at which an imaginary sphere with that certain radius is, in respect to radiation only, exactly the same as the Earth itself as viewed from space. At the surface of that imaginary sphere the radiation energy in all frequencies as a whole are equal incoming and outgoing. My spreadsheets indicates that height it at about 5400 meters (17,700 feet). Maybe someone else will follow that logic and come with a closer answer. It is curious that that is also very near the point of one-half of the sea level pressure.

    Willis’s multiple posts on the clouds influences plays right into this thought line but it seems maybe it’s the mean height of the clouds that matters the most. Move the height of that imaginary sphere upwards and ground-level will get warmer, move it down and the ground-level would be colder due to the lapse rate to the equilibrium level. Just a thought.

    Later.

    PS: Hey, BigOil, can you send some of that money that others keep saying I’m suppose to get? Maybe you just have the wrong address. ☺

  96. HenryP says:

    John Meget says
    “While I greatly enjoy reading the comments, I wish more people would post contrary views”.

    Agree. In the beginning, I was also astounded to discover that each site maintains its own flavor. However, the reason why I stay on WUWT is that it does not wipe comments like they do on other sites. Although everyone knows that generally speaking, WUWT is not AGW or CAGW, it does allow opposing views. You may get a hiding (from commenters) but at least your comments are not wiped. This is not the same on Sceptical Science and other pro-AGW sites. Imagine my frustration when making a large argument only to find the next morning it was wiped.

  97. Bigoil says:

    Wayne,

    Your cheque is in the mail.

  98. alleagra says:

    Darren Parker: get’s warmer

    What a truly Swiss Army Knife of a symbol is the apostrophe!

  99. wayne says:

    BigOil: Whoa! Now the cats out of the bag!

    More serious, let me know if you can logic through that example above. I’ve spent a bit over a year sifting all of this science information and conflicting hypotheses and it is finally coming all together, for me anyway.

  100. manicbeancounter says:

    To say that we cannot make any predictions from models is inaccurate. However, a combination of the scarcity / inaccuracy of data and the highly complex nature of climate systems severely limit what we can be extrapolated. We are restricted to the most basic of “pattern predictions”. With respect to future temperature changes this is most probably restricted to the range of longer-term (30 plus years) trends. Prof. Bob Carter’s analysis is probably as far as we can go on the available data. That is we have a uniform, increasing, average temperature trend over the last 150 years, with 60 year cycles providing deviations around this trend. This trend is unexceptional when viewed from temperature data from ice-cores going back hundreds of thousands of years.
    The attempt to cast every unusual weather event in terms of anthropogenic warming, and only selecting the data that fits the theories, not only risks policies that are inappropriate. It may lead us in failing to pick up the signals of potential trends for which the signal is weak, or where detection is from trends or patterns that do not fit theory. For example my house, along with hundreds of others in the area, has been without water for over twelve hours now due to a burst water main, caused by the severe cold. A contributing factor to the delay in repair was the lack of resource available. Too much reliance on speculative forecasts of increasingly mild winters, and snow being a rare event has virtually eliminated contingency planning for extreme cold. Yet natural factors (e.g. La Nina, lack of sunspots) would have suggested otherwise.
    The AGW science is not only costing us more for fuel. It is also putting us at greater risk of the consequences of extreme weather.
    For Robert Carter’s views, see a video at http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-1326937617167558947#

  101. jtom says:

    David Kitchen:

    As a student, if I were to cite an authority I would certainly want to know his/her credentuals, but such citation would come from published literature, not an online site. If I found something interesting online, I would seek out confirmation from the relevant experts in the field. I don’t think I would suggest any online discussion site – or (and especially) Wikipedia as a legitimate source of fact without extensive additional research.

    At a certain point a person should be able to recognize a well-reasoned argument, supported by verifiable facts, without relying on the author’s credentials, and should be capable of further researching the topic him/herself. That’s the time to engage in these sites, IMHO.

    ‘Climate science’ is not a single subject, and requires input from most all fields of science. I don’t think a major university or college even had a degree program in climate science before the year 2000. It is surprising what the formal education of “climate scientists” include. As a result, people from far flung fields contribute to the overall understanding of climate. Additionally, there are many, many people who study different sciences as a hobby and have no formal education nor career related experience. Their contribution should not be dismissed for this lack.

    A fresh voice from the outside is sometimes necessary to upset the cart and show growing biases in an area of study. This happened in the field of history a few years back, when a popular, award winning, historian named Michael Bellesiles was shown to be a fraud by a software engineer and amature historian (Clayton Cramer) and a law professor (James Lindgren). Historians resisted the idea of a fraud being perpetrated because of Bellesiles’ credentials, and his support of their strong anti-gun biases. Indeed, Bellesiles primary defense was that his detractors were rank amatures. To a great extent, the airing of the relevant facts via the Internet made the fraud impossible to contain and cover up. Credible historians had to address the issue. I have seen a lot of parallels between that episode and global warming.

    It is far better to read the views and ideas of the contributors and accept or dismiss them based intrinsic value of the ideas rather than the reputation of the contributor. I don’t think we need to bias our opinions of the message based on the reputation of the messenger, unless the messenger has already been shown to be of disrepute.
    As far as what one writes about himself or herself on a blog, I have to wonder what Einstein or Feynman would have written in their own bios. (I have read Feynman’s books – whatever he would have written would be funny, true, and not exactly inspiring as to his credibility as a scientist!).

    As a final potshot, if you do tell your students to dismiss anything produced by an “uncredentialed” contributor, I would suggest that you must tell them to dismiss the IPCC report, since its content and conclusions were controlled by Pachauri, a railroad engineer.

  102. Michael Larkin says:

    David Kitchen says:
    December 26, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    A number who post here also post at Judith Curry’s blog:
    http://judithcurry.com/

    There’s a link on the main page, near top right, labelled “denizens”. Click that for bio information.

  103. Bruce Cobb says:

    Mike says:
    December 26, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    What is so hard about the concept of a mathematical average? With more data random measurement errors tend to cancel out. Even the most extreme skeptics acknowledge the world is warming. What do you think is causing glaciers to melt all over the world?

    What is so hard about the concept that the temperature record could be badly skewed in favor of warming, due to rural station drop-out, UHI, and poor station placement? Nothing random about it. “Extreme Skeptics”? LOL. Do tell us more, but in any case, it is incorrect to say “the world is warming”. We only know that it did warm up some amount from the LIA, but the evidence is that the warming has stopped, and we may in fact be cooling.
    Regarding glaciers, again, many have receded from their growth during the LIA, and at this point one of the biggest causes for glacial melt, such as in the Himalayas appears to be soot deposition. Others are stable, and some are growing. The reasons for the disappearance of the Kilamanjaro glacier are well known, and have nothing to do with warming.

  104. Alexander K says:

    Excellent post, Paul.
    I am still trying to figure out the rationale of the ‘average global temperature’ which, to me, seems based on so much uncertainty in both measurement and methodology that the concept itself has no meaning and is merely a convenient myth to frighten those who refuse to think for themselves. What matters is not a mythic ‘ideal temperature’, but the ‘livibility’ of the parts of the planet where Man chooses to live. Right now, my experience of cold in the UK tells me I would be sensible to opt to live in a temperate zone where I don’t have to worry about freezing to death because idiot politicians hell-bent on saving the planet from plant food are making domestic energy too expensive for the average wage-earner or retiree to stay warm and healthy.

  105. MartinGAtkins says:

    Is this really the author of this entry? Must be some confusion… which is exactly why short bios and background would be a real help. It would stop this kind of confusion with students- or at least helps them reach an informed opinion on the credibility of divergent opinions.

    You would only be teaching them subservience to apparent authority.

    Crucial in this world of drive through academic qualification is the tool of critical thinking and research plus more research. Of course we need to access prior knowledge gained through years of learning and experimentation of those who have gone before. There are many text books that deal with the foundation stones of our classical sciences and it’s philosophies. Many these texts can found on the web at no cost.

    Nullius in Verba

    http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/3357/

  106. Onion says:

    Re Darren Parker:
    December 26, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    “The ocean can’t have a lower pH if it get’s warmer at the same time – you can’t have both Onion.”

    Well it is Darren.

  107. Onion says:

    I would recommend everyone read DN’s reply to me marked “December 26, 2010 at 5:07 pm” and try to figure out just how DN managed to misread my clear points multiple times and instead address strawmen. What’s up with that?

  108. mkelly says:

    Blackhole2001 says:
    December 26, 2010 at 1:19 pm
    Who cares about how many temp gauges there are and how accurate they are! Open your eyes and see the physical REAL world effects of global warming! And they are probably caused by man made burning of fossil fuels, which create heat and CO2 in the process. 75% of the scientists think that this is the case.

    You are kidding, right?

  109. BS Footprint says:

    jtom says:
    December 27, 2010 at 5:27 am

    David Kitchen:

    As a student, if I were to cite an authority I would certainly want to know his/her credentials, but such citation would come from published literature, not an online site. If I found something interesting online, I would seek out confirmation from the relevant experts in the field. [snip]

    At a certain point a person should be able to recognize a well-reasoned argument, supported by verifiable facts, without relying on the author’s credentials, and should be capable of further researching the topic him/herself. That’s the time to engage in these sites, IMHO.

    [snip]

    A fresh voice from the outside is sometimes necessary to upset the cart and show growing biases in an area of study. This happened in the field of history a few years back, [snip]

    It is far better to read the views and ideas of the contributors and accept or dismiss them based intrinsic value of the ideas rather than the reputation of the contributor. I don’t think we need to bias our opinions of the message based on the reputation of the messenger, unless the messenger has already been shown to be of disrepute.

    [snip]

    As a final potshot, if you do tell your students to dismiss anything produced by an “uncredentialed” contributor, I would suggest that you must tell them to dismiss the IPCC report, since its content and conclusions were controlled by Pachauri, a railroad engineer.

    Hear, hear. Thanks for that. You said it better than I could have late last night.

    An argument should stand on its own merits. If we accept arguments only from the ‘credentialed’, ‘qualified’, ‘experts’ on politically-charged or contentious subjects, we’d be well and truly screwed. Being credentialed, qualified, and expert on a subject is no guarantee that political/personal/financial agendas have been scrubbed from the material being presented.

  110. Solomon Green says:

    I have been waiting to hang these questions on to a post and it strikes me that Paul Murphey’s excellent article might just provide an opportunity.
    On a recent visit to a marine lab, I noticed that modern equipment enabled atmospheric temperatures to be recorded continuously. Hence the mean temperature over a single day (or any other period) can be accurately (as far as the piece of equipment is accurate) assessed from the area under the curve.

    Many years ago, at school, when we had a max/min thermometer and took daily readings the mean temperature was taken as the average of these two figures. It does not require a mathematician to prove that such an average, even if taken more frequently, does not provide the true mean temperature.

    My question is when were the old-fashioned max/min thermometers replaced by continuous measuring instruments? And are mean temperatures now calculated on a continuous basis, even though they are recorded daily?

  111. Douglas says:

    Onion says: December 27, 2010 at 8:50 am
    I would recommend everyone read DN’s reply to me marked “December 26, 2010 at 5:07 pm” and try to figure out just how DN managed to misread my clear points multiple times and instead address strawmen. What’s up with that?
    ————————————————————————-
    Onion. I know that this is a waste of time to even bother to comment but – a question – how can you be so obtuse?

    Douglas

  112. Bruce Cobb says:

    Onion says:
    December 27, 2010 at 8:50 am

    I would recommend everyone read DN’s reply to me marked “December 26, 2010 at 5:07 pm” and try to figure out just how DN managed to misread my clear points multiple times and instead address strawmen. What’s up with that?

    I read it, and it looks like he refuted your pathetic claims pretty thoroughly. Would you like a new shovel? Yours must be pretty worn by now.

  113. Thanks Paul, excellent article!

    There are many things we don’t know about climate, a few we could be beginning to learn. One thing we should know is that when trickery is being used, it usually from the side that is wrong and knows it.

    Happy New Year!

  114. HenryP says:

    Henry@onion

    Perhaps if you read my blog
    http://www.letterdash.com/HenryP/more-carbon-dioxide-is-ok-ok
    you find a few more reasons other than those already pointed out to you as to why many here doubt that CO2 has got something to do with global warming and why some of us actually believe that more of it is beneficial rather than catastrophic….
    It is written in clear language without difficult formulae so even a non scientific man like yourself should be able to understand it.
    After you have read everything, do come back to me if you still have any questions or if you (still) disagree with (some of) my findings. Rather than calculated estimates, actual test results from actual measurements would always be welcome and much appreciated, if you have them.
    Note that I did not get any of bigoil’s money to do my investigations. Like Newton, I was challenged to start playing with a few pebbles on the beach. An apple did fall on my head. I was a strong AGW man before I started my investigations….
    Strange, how a man can turn in his steps once he is confronted with truth….
    Miracles do happen, even with onions. (They multiply when they start growing up).

  115. Steven Mosher says:

    Many years ago, at school, when we had a max/min thermometer and took daily readings the mean temperature was taken as the average of these two figures. It does not require a mathematician to prove that such an average, even if taken more frequently, does not provide the true mean temperature.

    My question is when were the old-fashioned max/min thermometers replaced by continuous measuring instruments? And are mean temperatures now calculated on a continuous basis, even though they are recorded daily?

    #########################

    a min/max sample is an unbiased ESTIMATOR of the mean. This has been established over and over again. Since historical measurements are min/max if you want to build a continuous record you have to use min/max.

    You can if you like establish this for yourself. Merely ask And I will point you to data collected from about 190 stations over a decade. The measurements are taken ever hour. You can then do the following.

    1. calculate the area under the curve (Tmean)
    2. calculate (Tmin+Tmax)/2 (Tave)
    3. Then calculate (Tmean-Tave) for every day.
    4. then calculate the mean of (Tmean-Tave). This measure will be close to zero.
    5. Then calculate the trend in Tmean for every station
    6. Then calculate the trend in Tave for every station.
    7. then subtract those trends. This measure will be zero.

    (Tmax+Tmin) is an estimator for the mean. It’s unbiased and it preserves trends.

    if you want to do it with 5 minute data I can arrange for that too. However, nobody to date has wanted to repeat the tedious work to reprove what has been shown many times.

  116. Solomon Green says:

    Mr. Mosher,
    Many thanks for taking the trouble to reply to my questions. I understand the need for consistency between modern measurement methods and those of the not so recent past.

    In my varied experience as a statistician I have found that a min/max sample is very often not a good estimator of the mean. Admittedly this refers to samples other than temperature. But in many areas of work it is common place to disregard the outliers (sometimes wrongly).

    But to revert to temperatures, I am still puzzled. Let me explain. Take a 24 hour period. Let Tmax and Tmin represent the max and min temperatures recorded that day, then using your notation Tave = (Tmax + Tmin)/2.

    But Tave =/= Tmean. It is quite possible for T > Tave for 8 hours and for T < Tave for 16 hours.
    Or, the sake of argument, let us assume that during the 8 hours,
    T – Tave = 1 degree
    and that during the 16 hours,
    Tave –T = 1degree
    then
    Tmean = Tave – 0.3 degrees.

    You say that, over a period, the mean of Tmean – Tave will be close to zero. While this not an unreasonable assumption has it ever been proved? For any station using continuous recording it should not require any elaborate calculations, since daily max and min will be available together with the running mean.

    You also say that pooling the trends first for Tmean and then for Tave for every station and then subtracting these trends will result in a measure of zero. Again not an unreasonable assumption, provided that the trends in Tmean and Tmin are identical. But are they? Has anyone proved that they are?

    You say that the work has been done many times. I have no desire to waste my time reworking what has already been proved. I should, however, be grateful if you could point me to a paper showing where this work has been carried out and reported.

  117. onion says:

    I said: “that CO2 levels are already at 850,000 year highs, that they are probably at 15 million year highs. That the rate of CO2 rise may have no precedent for even longer”

    DN replied: “wrong again. During the Late Carboniferous and Early Permian periods (ca. 270-300 MY ago), for example, both temperatures and CO2 concentrations were similar to today’s levels.”

    Noone sees that DN hasn’t addressed what I said? Hint: Look at the dates I reference and then look at the date DN references. (hint 2: “MY ago” means million years ago)

  118. HenryP says:

    Henry@onion

    it does not matter when the CO2 was higher
    what matters is that is was high before
    and earth was luscious, probably close to paradise
    for without carbon dioxide there would not be any onions (food)
    Did you read my blog?
    Acc. to my books the safe working limit of CO2 is 9000 mg/m3
    that is 0.75% (9/1200 x 100%)
    We are now at only 0.04%
    Even at 0.75% you would not die.
    Same book says you would need 20% to fall asleep and 30% to die.
    So it is not that easy to kill yourself in a car. If caught in time,often people can still revive suicide victims who tried this method….
    If you, as an onion want to grow, you need more carbon dioxide, not less.

  119. HenryP says:

    Sorry, I posted before I completed reading the whole story in my book.
    Rabbits have been shown to live for hours in 65% CO2 as long as there was a continuous supply of fresh oxygen….
    The conclusion (of that study) was that CO2 cannot be regarded as a poison. People and animals dying of CO2 “poisening” were simply deprived of the required amount of oxygen.
    (Remember Co2 is heavier than air)

  120. Paul Murphy says:

    An attempted omnibus answer..

    1) thanks for all the nice comments! And, no, I have no “climate science” qualifications.

    2) re: no point in questioning the greenhouse gas effect

    Sorry, but there is. The jump from bench experiment to atmosphere isn’t supported in either the theory or the observations we have.

    There are some difficult issues underlying this. Temperature is measured, for example, in terms of the energy of motion of molecules and we can model, but don’t really understand, the mechanism by which a single arriving photon interacts with a CO2 molecule in air to produce a change in that molecule’s kinetic energy. Similarly, heat is a measure of the transfer of energy not the thing itself, so we know CO2 enriched air will connect a heat source to a heat sink slightly more efficiently than non enriched air, but next to nothing about how this actually works out in the lower troposphere.

    Notice that the people who talk about blankets or greenhouses gases as insulators or one-way heat gates have it completely backwards – in reality adding heavier molecules (e.g. water vapor or CO2) to dry air makes it a better heat conductor, not a better insulator.

    3) re: “preaching to the choir” –

    Not really the intent. The intent was to point out that we have no basis for any set of comprehensive conclusions about the earth’s climate, that debunking the other guy’s claims provides a valuable public service but tells us nothing about climate, and that we really have neither the data nor the definitions needed to even express reasonable hypotheses about global climate behavior.

    4) re: satellite data offers near universal coverage, is generally trustworthy, and is compared to radiosonde data, not surface temperature data.

    Yes, this is the best data we’ve got – however the record is very short, not universal, not easily available in raw form, of varying quality, and the underlying calculations are not the same for all instruments – even those measuring on the same wavelengths.

    5) it’s ok to average sensor outputs showing similar trends.

    Yes and no. Yes, if you have a bunch of temperature sensors in some region and most move in one direction during some interval, then you can reasonably describe the temperature in that region as changing in that direction over that period.

    For most purposes that’s good enough – but, no: computing an average southern Alberta temperature change over fifty years of +0.65 degrees C on the basis of a handful of locally applicable observations that are only accurate to plus or minus one or two degrees is absurd.

    6) averaging and over simplification via strawmen

    6.1 You’re quite right that were the reading of -35.6C based on a single observation, that observation might have been -32F and therefore that no precision need have been magically added by the calculation. Unfortunately.. the number is an interpolation from several records originating at different times, in different places, and under different protocols (e.g. some from the military, some from the ag research station, and some from civil air ops).

    6.2 Of course we can compute a diver’s center of mass: my point is that there are conditions under which this kind of model works, and conditions under which it doesn’t – with climate models in the latter group (and diver’s in the former).

    6.3 I agree science should object to the word “traumatic” – but the sentence refers to popular belief – hence the quotation marks

    6.4 Pointless to question the CO2 meme: – please see comment 2 above.

    6.5 To profess does not mean to clearly state real beliefs. (grin). More to the point, species diversity is highly correlated with access to water and heat – so if the research were done, I’m guessing we’d find that a warmer earth would hold more life.

    7 – daily min/max and averages

    Trends computed on daily averages work if the underlying processes are closed, continuous, and not correlated with time of day. For example temperatures in a brewery vat, (proxy for chem/bio-activity), fit this model.

    However, outside air temperatures do not meet the conditions – for example day/night lengths change, chinooks disrupt everything; and, in general, actual readings reflect multiple, non synchronous, input signals added together. A day whose minimum is reached at 11:59PM is very different from one with the same average temperature whose minimum is reached at 5:30AM.

  121. HenryP says:

    Henry@Steven and Solomon

    I have worked with continuous temp. recorders in ovens….
    First of all, they need to be calibrated at regular intervals (1 year)
    the error of the ones I worked with was at least 0.5 degree C
    I would be interested to know what the error is of the temp. recorders you are talking about?

  122. Satellites “calibrated against the same ground sensor readings they’re used to extend and correct. ”

    I dunno. Dr. Spencer has, if I recall correctly, several times posted articles to the effect that certain satellite sensors are calibrated by regularly pointing them at outer space and setting the resulting reading to the kinown background (3 deg K, I think), and others are individually calibrated in the lab before launch. Look around drroyspencer.com .

    Of course, the averaging and other statistical crunching of the satellite readings has the effect of oversimplifying the results, but the (incredibly huge) quantity of raw data is accurate — for what it is.

    Aside from this quibble, a fine article; thanks.

  123. HenryP says:

    Henry@onion

    Just to be clear on this:
    If someone claims that global warming is caused by an increase in carbon dioxide it is up to that person to provide me with the evidence. In this respect I would need to see clear results in the relevant concentration range and it must show how much cooling and how much warming is caused by the CO2. This would have to include the radiative cooling caused by CO2 and the cooling by CO2 caused by taking part in the process of photo synthesis.
    Just because someone or some entity makes a claim it is not up to me to”prove” that it is not so. A good lesson from the bible it is that you should never follow the crowd if you are not sure they are doing the right thing(s).
    So if you make the claim (to me) that carbon dioxide is the cause of global warming, it is up to you to provide me with that evidence. For that, I would expect you to show me exact test results and the method and instruments used to get those results.
    People I corresponded with like Weart and Alley, all claim, like you, that those results
    do actually exist. Well, I could not find them.
    IPPC and them used a system whereby the increase of CO2 and other GHG’s were measured from 1750 to 2005 and then a value of forcing was attributed to each of them according to the warming observed. This would make sense if we knew for sure that GHG’s are the cause of modern warming.
    But, surely, that is looking at a problem from the wrong end? That is assuming you know what is causing warming and then working your way back. It is the worst mistake any scientist can make.
    To be completely truthful, I did make a similar mistake myself in the past. It happens when you get carried away too much with what you think is right or what you think ought to be.
    So, I know what went wrong here.

  124. Erl Happ says:

    Re: daily min/max and averages
    As a grape-grower I realized that if I was to get the best result from Pinot Noir, which has a thin skin and very sensitive to heat I needed to choose a cool ripening environment. A regular heat spike for a couple of hours in an environment subject to regular cooling overnight is invisible when you look simply at the mean i.e. Max plus Min/2.

    I started logging temperatures at 15 minute intervals, but today I would consider a hour sufficient. I discovered that the average of 24 hourly readings can lie up to 2°C either side of the mean.

    I realized that what I needed to do was calculate the area above a critical point, in the case of Pinot Noir the critical point could be taken as the average maximum in Burgundy, a good practical bench mark. That is 22°C. The temperature in most parts of France has a narrow range of variation in autumn and that enables grapes to ripen at relatively high temperature without experiencing the damage that accrues when heat spikes occur.

    So, practically speaking, if you want to characterize a thermal environment it pays to look at the thermal experience above or below some critical point or within the range that you consider desirable.

    The mean is not a good statistic to rely on when money, time and trouble is involved.

    As to whether it accurately reflects trends one would have to do some checking. And I have never seen that work in print.

    Electronic temperature loggers are now cheap and they can be in the field for a year or more accumulating hourly temperature data. If remote, some communication device may be required and unfortunately in many official records that I have seen there are gaps where one must extrapolate. Hourly temperature data is available from airfields and the USA does a great job of archiving this information and making it freely available on the web. In Australia where people have kept good records for 100 years or more you will have difficulty accessing hourly data for many places earlier than the mid nineteen eighties.

    My view: the temperature records are dodgy. Cities are grow ever warmer. The location where the temperature is observed is shifted about as a town grows. The instruments break and are replaced. The environment in the vicinity is constantly changing as houses and roads are built, lawns planted or replaced with concrete, trees grow etc. To estimate the temperature of the globe heroic assumptions and spectacular projections are required in order to get what one might call the the raw data. Its really raw but some might think it is actually ‘cooked’.

    Where I live, in the south west corner of Western Australia we have an equable climate with average minima about 10°C in the coolest month. It never snows. People like to take off in the winter to warmer places. Holidays in Bali are very popular, even in summer. That tells you something. Its always best to try and keep a sense of perspective.

    Photosynthesis is optimal at about 25°C. Average temperature of this planet is 14-16°C, and there is this awkward thing called ‘seasons’.

    The notion that the current temperature is somehow just right is questionable.

  125. Solomon Green says:

    Thanks Mr. Happ. An ounce of practical experience is worth a ton of theory.

  126. John David Galt says:

    Those are just the beginning of what we don’t know.

    Even if it were established for certain tomorrow that AGW exists, is large enough to matter, and will be harmful (all big hurdles that haven’t been met yet), the environmentalists still need to make the case that the lifestyle changes they demand from us 1) will alleviate it enough to save us, and 2) are a more cost-effective means of doing so than technical fixes such as Gregory Benford’s boatload of iron filings.

    Until then I believe the least hypothesis is that the “warmists” are a bunch of religious fanatics whose purpose is to ruin the world’s wealth and establish a communism out of “Ecotopia”, and who have corrupted government, academia, and science establishments alike to serve that cause.

    Oh, and I’m not a “science denier”. They’re corruption deniers.

  127. Richard Sharpe says:

    Steven Mosher says on December 27, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    a min/max sample is an unbiased ESTIMATOR of the mean. This has been established over and over again. Since historical measurements are min/max if you want to build a continuous record you have to use min/max.

    You can if you like establish this for yourself. Merely ask And I will point you to data collected from about 190 stations over a decade. The measurements are taken ever hour. You can then do the following.

    1. calculate the area under the curve (Tmean)

    Hmmm, I think that the area under the curve is actually Tmean*duration, but that was probably a simple omission (and I assume you mean arithmetic mean).

  128. HenryP says:

    Henry@Steven Mosher

    So far I only have two weather stations
    http://www.letterdash.com/HenryP/more-carbon-dioxide-is-ok-ok

    and here I only looked specifically at minimum temps.
    Namely if modern warming is caused by GHG’s
    you would expect minimum temps. to show the trend of modern warming
    (due to the trapping of warmth and heat)

    If you have more weather stations where minimum temps are recorded,

    I would love to look at a few more.

  129. Otte says:

    Wow, a lot of assertions in this article, but not a single reference to any sources or any information addressing the assertions. Why should I (or anybody) think that this article has any truth to it? What value does this bring to any discussion on climate change? If any of the claims concerning the validity of the science are true, why not publish a paper that dismantles and retracts the portions of climate science that are supposedly not settled?

  130. otter17 says:

    Wow, so there are a lot of claims in this article, but not a single reference to a source or piece of information that backs any of it up. Why should I (or anybody) think that any of this article is true? What value does this bring to the knowledge of our climate? If this article is true, why not publish a paper that definitively shows that portions of climate science are not settled and should be retracted or re-examined?

  131. HenryP says:

    Henry@theotters
    So where are your proofs?? I think we should sue all those that make false claims like the one where they say that CO2 is bad for us, e.g. Al Gore, Hansen, Alley, Weart, Romm. Let us see what they really have when we challenge them about it in a court of law.

    http://www.letterdash.com/HenryP/more-carbon-dioxide-is-ok-ok

    Read my blog if you are interested to learn more about why CO2 is good for us.

  132. otter17 says:

    Oops, didn’t think the first post went through.

    @Henry
    Where are my proofs? I didn’t really make any claims other than the article in question only makes assertions without citing any other resources on the matter. Some anecdotes are given, but don’t provide any substantial analysis. The intention may be that this piece is simply a brief summary or overview of the state of climate science, the main premise being that we actually know little. Still, though, this article makes very bold claims that haven’t been discussed in the scientific literature (at least to my knowledge). Without some references, I take this as just another blog post that is blowing hot air, which anybody could do.

    And we should sue all those that make false claims like “CO2 is bad for us”, eh? Well, science is a pretty democratic process already. If you have a specific problem with a published paper or dataset, you can write your own paper that clearly shows there is a statistical flaw, measurement flaw or whatever. I do support your right to sue them, though. You would have to show very specifically where they are incorrect, plus how their work has negatively affected you or society. There should be a movement or group that at least tries.

    But seriously, why not beat those “deluded charlatans” at their own game by publishing a paper that clearly points out the shortcomings in climate science? Science works because people that have a problem with a hypothesis/theory can tear that hypothesis or theory apart by showing how it is flawed. You have to look a little deeper into climate scientists’ claims other than “CO2 is bad”. Get into the specifics.

  133. otter17 says:

    @HenryP

    The argument put forth in that linked post is in direct conflict with this post’s argument. One claims that we know very little about our climate, and the other claims that current climate is cooler than the past several thousand years, which we know about with some accuracy from an ice core dataset. So, which is it?

    Plus, the linked article has some flaws that others have pointed out in the comments.

    My challenge still stands. If there are serious flaws in climate science, examine the data or previously published material and write your own landmark paper that points out those glaring flaws.

  134. HenryP says:

    Henry@otter17

    I just did an analysis of some data of a weather station nearby:
    This is here in Pretoria, South Africa
    http://www.tutiempo.net/en/Climate/Pretoria/05-1974/682620.htm

    I looked at the month of May in every year from 1974 to 2010
    (May is generally a dry month here in Pretoria )
    Amazing results:
    (pity it does not want to copy the graph out of excel here now)
    The trend of the mean is absolutely flat
    The (linear) trendline on maximum temps. is slightly up
    The (linear) trendline of minimum temps. is slightly down.

    this is the third weather station where I find minimum temps. flat or even declining.
    So what does that tell you?
    It says: no global warming as a result of an increase in GHG where I live, I am afraid. if the two two trendlines had been exactly opposite or even in the exact slope up,
    I would have to agree that global warming is caused by GHG’s
    All the results I find or get, always point to global warming due to reasons other than GHG warming. Like I said, the carbon dioxide is not your problem…

    I will update my blog spot again with these results.. That is my “paper”. If you would like to publish it, that is fine by me. All the results I find or get, always point to global warming due to reasons other than GHG warming. Like I said, the carbon dioxide is not your problem…
    BTW if you are interested in a meeting, I am in LA the 2nd week of february for a church conference.

  135. otter17 says:

    @HenryP

    Well, I’m sure you could contact the review board of a prominent scientific journal in order to determine how to publish a paper. My real challenge stands with the author of this post. Anyway, the point is that it isn’t enough just to say that “they say CO2 is bad, but they’re wrong”. One has to make a fair assessment of the current knowledge base and the claims/evidence presented, which sometimes means a literature review. If you are really interested in testing the validity of temperature measurements, it may be worth your while to subscribe to a journal in order to get the details on the science (although that can be pricey). I just read abstracts, since they are generally free to read. Not the best scientific detail, I know, but the topic of climate isn’t my day job, engineering is.

    But I find this claim interesting…
    “All the results I find or get, always point to global warming due to reasons other than GHG warming. Like I said, the carbon dioxide is not your problem…”

    Ok, so you disagree with the author of this post in that we DO know that global warming is occurring, but you think the warming is from something other than greenhouse gases? What are these things? How do these warming mechanisms work?

  136. HenryP says:

    Hi Otter17

    I am sorry. It appears now from my own investigations that it has not been warming.
    You might find this investigation done by myself interesting!?

    http://letterdash.com/HenryP/assessment-of-global-warming-and-global-warming-caused-by-greenhouse-forcings-in-pretoria-south-africa

    You too can do this! It is easy. Remember the final note at the bottom. Prove it for yourself that it is not warming.

    Blessings

    Henry

  137. HenryP says:

    I think you might find this investigation done by myself interesting!?

    http://letterdash.com/HenryP/assessment-of-global-warming-and-global-warming-caused-by-greenhouse-forcings-in-pretoria-south-africa

    You too can do this! It is easy. Prove it for yourself that it is not warming.

Comments are closed.