The character of climate change part 1

Guest Post by Erl Happ

Figure 1 records global temperature as it runs between its minimum in January and maximum in July. Vital information is lost when we reduce the data stream to a computed mean (maximum plus minimum/2). But that information is retained in Figure 1.

Figure 1 Evolution of Global temperature from 1948 to early 2011

Observations in relation to figure 1

  • The global maximum and minimum moved up and down for thirty years between 1950 and 1980 but without establishing a clear upward or downward trend despite the increase in so-called greenhouse gases over the period.
  •  After 1978 the minimum began to advance but not as fast as the maximum,
  • The minimum is much more volatile than the maximum.

The Earth is closest to the sun in January and this is the time when the ocean, most of it in the southern hemisphere, is best illuminated. The year-to-year variability in the January minimum is patently unrelated to ‘greenhouse factors’ that exhibit a monotonic increase over time. What causes this variation in the January minimum? A likely candidate is a variation in the degree of illumination of the southern oceans as cloud comes and goes. Cloud cover varies on a daily, seasonal, inter-annual and decadal basis. It varies on the scale of a human lifetime and longer.

Obviously we need to understand the forces that lie behind change in cloud cover. At this stage we don’t. We simply can’t rule out change in cloud cover as a cause of the change in global temperature.

How do we decide what is ‘good’?

The average between the daily maximum and the minimum is commonly reported as the ‘mean’. The mean temperature is averaged over the globe to derive the average temperature for the globe as a whole. A change in the mean can be due to change in minima or maxima. As is seen in figure 1 the maximum can change independently of the minimum.

For practical purposes it is the transition between the extremes that is important to agriculture, trade, commerce and human habitation. We find the extremes ‘remarkable’. However it is the length of the period of favorable weather between the extremes that determines whether plants will grow and mature well or poorly. The period of sunlight within the day influences the rate of photosynthesis and respiration. But, unless the air is warm plants will not grow. The same consideration applies when we consider the growing season as a whole. The mean temperature actually tells us very little about the habitability of the planet.

The UN panel on climate change was set up to assess whether mans activates have influenced the climate of the globe. It was not asked to describe the natural forces that drive the temperature of the globe one way or the other. That was not part of the brief. The source of natural variation on inter-seasonal, decadal and longer time scales is still a mystery. When the panel reports that it cannot imagine what is causing the variation in the climate that we see (other than man) it is telling the story as it is. But, is the panel totally honest in suggesting that man is the culprit when it cannot describe the source of natural variation that is plainly there. If that source of natural variation can cause the temperature to rise and fall over a year or two, why not a decade or a century?

We need to discover the sources of natural variation so that we can expand the range of explanations for the change that we observe. It is desirable that we should not mistake one for the other, and like Don Quixote, go off tilting at windmills.

But, there is a more fundamental concern that relates to the efforts of the UNIPCC. It is this. The UN does not address the question as to whether the change in the climate that we see is advantageous or disadvantageous. It is the failure in this respect that represents the ongoing irrelevance of UNIPCC deliberations. The UN does not seem to be interested in the question that can be phrased in this way: OK, things are changing but does it really matter? Are we better or worse off?

Before leaving figure 1 lets note that the depression of maximum and minimum temperature from 1992-95 that is possibly related to the eruption of Mount Pinatubo. This is plainly an example of a ‘natural’ rather than a man made or ‘anthropogenic’ cause of climate variation.

What climate would we prefer?

At what temperature would the Earth be most productive? A temperature of at least 15°C is required to support plant growth and 25°C is about optimal. But, figure 1 indicates that the temperature of the air at the surface of the planet varied between just 12°C (the coolest average minimum) and 16° C (the warmest average maximum) between 1948 and 2010.

Were the temperature of the Earth to be the same at all latitudes and were there to be no variation at all (no seasons) the Earth would be quite unsuitable for human habitation. A regime that varied between 12°C and 16°C would very much inhibit the growth of many plants. It is the variation in temperature from warm at the equator and cold at the poles and the seasonal variation between summer and winter that opens the window for agriculture and animal husbandry. Birds migrate across the hemispheres because they need a daily food source and it is infrequently available on a year round basis within a single hemisphere. Man builds shelters and carefully conserves food so that he can eat in the lean times. Outside the tropics the lean times arrive with winter. It is the ‘larder’ the ‘pantry’, the ‘freezer’ and the ‘refrigerator’ that we hold nearest and dearest, a point that is well established in Kenneth Graham’s classic tale “The Wind in the Willows”. There has to be a time of the year when it is possible to actually grow the food and effective means to conserve it. That time of the year begins in ‘spring’ when animals emerge from their burrows after the winter hibernation and look around for something to eat.

So, we should begin with the obvious question “what is the nature of a ‘desirable climate’, where is it to be found, is it changing over time and is that climate improving or deteriorating ’? Are we happy to have a ‘winter’ or would summer be preferable? For that category of climates quite unsuitable for human habitation at any time of the year we might put aside any concern as to whether the temperature is increasing or decreasing as simply inconsequential.

The ‘global average’ is a statistic of little practical value especially if it is driven one way or the other by change in places that are uninhabitable  Similarly, the daily mean tells us nothing about how cold the nights are and how warm the days, nor the number of daylight hours in winter. We need to know more. Madrid has a much wider annual range of temperature than the isle of Capri. Which suits our purpose? If we seek to retire and write poetry under the shade of a tree the temperature requirement will be different to that if we wish to grow cherries that must experience a strong winter chill in order to set fruit.

Plainly such an approach increases the complexity of the analysis, but realistically, if we cannot answer these questions we are being hysterical rather than practical. Hysterical behavior is not adaptive. In former times it might have brought a slap around the head. Today it should bring a kindly arm around the shoulder and the polite query: What’s up dear? But, I do sometimes wonder whether the former approach is more appropriate if one is dealing with evangelical advocates who are plainly out of touch with reality. To people of this ilk I say, forget the mean, give me the raw data by latitude and longitude and I will try and make something sensible of it.

Where do people choose to live?

AS an Australian I know that the early visitors to Australia were unimpressed. Much of Australia is desert and to this day most of the habitable country is seen as ‘marginal’. Australia supports little in the way of human habitation and is never likely to. This is one country that suffers extreme swings in weather and climate. When the rain falls the desert blooms and the inland rivers flow, and there is an enormous party of procreation. But for long periods it does not rain at all. Some coastal margins have a reliable rainfall and can support the growth of forests, but for a large part the desert runs close to, or all the way to the coast. The vegetation is hardy and Australians describe it as ‘the scrub’. The scrub can survive a run of bad seasons. In the early years in South Australia a notion was put about that ‘the rain follows the plough’, and for a while it seemed to work that way. But clearing of the Western Australian scrub started at the beginning of a long period of rainfall decline. Today, there seems to be no way back.

An intergalactic explorer, looking for greener pastures might not give Earth a second look. Humans are fond of their blue planet, but were it slightly warmer; it would be more productive. When Australians retire, even though they live in a continent that experiences warm summers, they move north because they don’t like winter. The grass may be green but it doesn’t grow much. It is just too cold. So, we must look at the pattern of human habitation as an indication of the manifest preference of the human species. Unlike bears, humans like to eat several times a day, every day of the year, so agricultural productivity is important. In pre-industrial societies gardening and food gathering were of pre-eminent concern. By and large, most of the globe is still pre-industrial and means of transport can be primitive so people tend to live close to where food can be easily obtained.

To some extent climate can be engineered, certainly within structures built by man, certainly in wealthy sophisticated industrial societies. Less naturally favorable climates can be tolerated if we can shelter ourselves from the extremes. Air conditioners are more numerous in China than anywhere. Mankind, by and large lives in India and China where the growing season is long, there is plenty of moisture and spring, summer and autumn favors plant growth, oftentimes in an environment that may be distinctly humid and a touch warm, certainly from the western European point of view. There is substance in the words of the song “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun” because the really productive parts of the British Empire were in climates rather warmer than experienced in the British Isles. That warmth made for a long growing season and high population densities.

Figure 2 Distribution of mankind on planet Earth

The map above indicates that human settlement is denser in humid, warm environments on the east coast of the major continents. South and East Asia are examples of locations eminently favorable for agriculture having abundant rainfall and a long growing season.   Western Europe defies the rule. But this part of the globe is unnaturally warm in relation to its latitude, particularly in summer, in part due to the influence of the warm North Atlantic Drift and also a persistent flow of tropical moist air from the south west. The growth of mining, commerce and manufacture and the development of cities and transportation promote a pattern of settlement different to that which existed in the agrarian past. Nowadays a lot of food is transported and stored for long periods increasing the range of climates that can support high population densities, so long as people can be kept warm in winter.

From figure 2 it is apparent that the densest areas of human settlement are to be found between latitude 10°south and latitude 60°north. But look at this. Figure 2 truncates a large part of the southern hemisphere. Why? Because, the missing portion experiences sub freezing temperatures over most of the year. The Southern hemisphere pole-wards of about 45°south has little land to support human habitation and pole-wards of 60° south comprises the giant, ever deepening  ice mound of Antarctica.

Why is it that the bulk of humankind is to be found between latitude 10° south and 60° north? It is because the land is more productive there. Life is easier. This is the message in figure 3.

Figure 3 The seasonal flux in temperature in degrees C in the more habitable latitudes

The habitable area of the northern and southern hemispheres experience very different thermal regimes. Which is to be preferred?

Agriculture is a seasonal activity. If temperature moves into the favorable range for long enough, farming is possible and so long as the food that is produced has an adequate ‘shelf life’, a larger population can be supported.  The more habitable latitudes of the northern hemisphere have the advantage over the southern hemisphere in this respect. Summer is warmer than it is in the southern hemisphere. At the height of northern summer, mean temperature approaches 25°C. In the warmest month the temperature is almost warm enough to promote the fastest rate of plant growth. This outweighs the disadvantage that northern winters are cooler than southern winters. Summer provides the bounty that maintains life and a relatively inhospitable winter is not a high price to pay if you are warm, well housed and well fed.

The most productive and most heavily populated parts of South and East Asia have a summer thermal regime that is even warmer than the global average. (Delhi India June Av Min 26.6, Av Max 39.3, Shanghai, China 24.9-31.3, Chongqing 25-34, Hanoi July 26.1-32.9). It is apparent that the warmest months of these locations are rather warmer than is optimal for photosynthesis. But the growing season is very long and this makes the land unusually productive. If the all the habitable lands of the northern hemisphere were as warm as East Asia productivity would increase with the length of the growing season. So, in this respect we can conclude that the warmest part of the globe, the northern hemisphere in summer, would be more productive if it were a little warmer. It is not warming that we should fear, but cooling.

A lesson in climate dynamics for the UNIPCC

Looking again at figure 3 we see that the pattern of seasonal change in ‘global temperature’ more strongly relates to the annual range in the northern hemisphere than the southern hemisphere. The extended annual range in the north is driven by the warming and cooling of the continental landmasses of Eurasia and North America in northern summer.

There is an interesting paradox here. In July and August, the globe as a whole is warmest. Paradoxically the Earth is actually 3% further from the sun in July than it is in March and September.  Solar irradiance is 7% less intense in July than it is in January. But atmospheric warming due to enhanced daytime radiation from warm land masses drives a loss of global cloud cover in mid year. Consequently the global average temperature is driven upwards to a strong peak in July-August. The strong rise in temperature in the northern hemisphere more than compensates for the cooling of the southern hemisphere in winter.

So, the surface is warmest when the Earth is furthest from the sun, in June, July and August. The lesson is plain. The level of irradiance from the sun is not the prime driver of surface temperature. It is the relative presence of cloud that determines the issue. Climate scientists that write IPCC reports maintain that cloud holds the heat in and amplifies the supposed heating effect of carbon dioxide. There is no shadow of doubt that the effect of cloud is to cool the earth, not warm it.

However, the fact that the southern oceans face the sun in January when the sun is closest and irradiance is 7% greater than in June, makes for a warmer globe because the ocean absorbs and stores energy rather than expelling it into the atmosphere from where it is pretty well lost to space within the 24 hour time cycle.

The Earth would be a lot cooler if the vast oceans of the southern hemisphere faced the sun when it was furthest away. Then the energy from the sun, when it is most abundant, would be expended on the land masses of the northern hemisphere and promptly returned to space. Due to the present happy conjunction of the tilt of the Earth’s axis, the orbital influence and the current distribution of land and sea one can conclude that the global climate is in a warm phase. The available energy when it is most abundant is safely delivered into storage in the southern oceans. The warmth from the sun is conserved for longer and the cooler areas of the globe benefit because the ocean currents (e.g. Gulf Stream) are warmer. It follows that the area of the globe that is currently suitable for habitation is larger than it would be if the sun were closest in June. We live in times that are favorable to mankind in a globe that is actually a little cool for maximum comfort. But we should note that the globe will cool as the orbit around the sun becomes less favorable.

It is apparent that surface temperature is much affected by the distribution of land and sea, orbital considerations and most of all, the relative abundance of cloud.

Were the orbit of the earth around the sun more elliptical than it currently is, the difference in irradiance between January and July would be greater. If the tilt of the axis were to be less than it currently is, the contrast between summer and winter would be less and higher latitudes would experience cooler summers.

If there were some factor that drives a variation in cloud cover when the bulk of the ocean faces the sun in December to March it would change the January minimum and the climate globally. With less cloud the globe would warm. With more cloud it would cool.

Plainly there is no variation at all in the area of the land masses of the northern hemisphere and this leads to little variation in the global maximum temperature in June-July. But there is obviously a large variation in cloud cover that causes the January minimum to swing wildly from year to year.

Does ‘climate science’ offer us an explanation for wide swings in the global minimum in January? Sadly, no! Climate science seems to be very closely focused upon the global average temperature and subtleties of this sort are un-remarked because un-noticed. This is like owning a car and not knowing whether the engine is in the front or the back.

If you went to your doctor and he insisted that the corns on the sole of your foot were related to the temperature of your inner ear you would probably seek alternative advice. If he said the corns could be related to the fit of your shoe you might be more inclined to listen. Similarly, a climatologist that observed that global temperature varied most dramatically in January and pointed to the clouds makes more sense than the guy who looks at the global average and points his finger at you suggesting that humanity is exhaling too much carbon dioxide, extravagantly using up scarce fuels and generally living too high on the hog.

Who is it that peddles this nonsense that the globe is in danger of getting too warm? Why are they doing it?

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64 thoughts on “The character of climate change part 1

  1. I don’t even know where to begin! Coming on the heels of Bastardi’s post which mistreats the laws of physics, this posting is like the icing on the cake. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Instead, I think I’ll give this to my undergraduate students as an assignment in identifying the physics fallacies.

  2. Thanks Erl – very interesting.

    I would like to just make one point – the plants which produce most of our food have been specifically developed (selected) over 12,000 years or so to be productive in the the current (seasonal) climate. If climate had not been seasonal, different types or species of plant would now be grown (and will be grown in future as the climate changes).

    This to me is the critical point about what humans should do about climate change; adapt as we have done for many thousands of years. Since the climate has always changed and will continue to change, it matters not one jot whether humans are a factor in that change; as a species, we simply have to maintain our ability to adapt. And the most critical factor in the ability to adapt is the wealth which comes from development. Hamstringing ourselves with what is essentially a de-development agenda masquerading as an atempt to control the climate is quite simply the stupidest approach one could take.

    Thanks again, much food for thought.

  3. An interesting article and one which close to my heart.
    There are clearly three seperate issues, namely (1) is the world warming and if so where, when by how much and how fast is this warming, (2) if the world is warming is this in any way due to man’s beavoiur/influence on the enviroment and if so what lies at the root of this and can anything usefully and economically be done to address this; and (3) if the world is warming, is this a good, bad or indifferent matter.

    The answer to the third issue, is the most important since it comes into play irrespective as to the cause of any warming (ie., manmade or natural).

    There is of course a reason why the IPCC has stood back from addressing this issue and that is because, even without any research, one can almost certainly bet that the answer is that (10 global warming is not a global phenomen but rather a local one with some countries experiencing warming, some countries experiencing all but none and even some countries experiencing some cooling. Further one can almost certainly bet that that for some countries warming would be beneficial, for others it would be neutral and for some, it may be a cause of concern (to more or lesser extent)..

    Given that is almost certainly to be the outcome of any investigation, one can see why the IPCC has stood back from enquiring into this. If it were to do so, it would quickly become apparent that this is not a world wide problem and that we are not all in it together. This would therefore make it very difficult to come forward with a global solution and ppaople would be unwilling to be dragged into the world government agenda which politically is at play in this debate. Indeed, the global community of all being in it together would not simply fall apart, each country is likely to become selfish. If it is in that country’s vested interest to see some warming, why would that country wish to implement measures that would limit the warming which would be desirable to it. Thus some countries would wish to exacerbate ‘global’ warming since the effects for them would be beneficial whereas other would wish to implement restrictive policies since the effect of warming would be disadvantageous to them.

    At the end of the day, one would be left with the scenario that each country should adapt to the extent that there are adverse consequences for that country. The political problem is that that does not permit the redistribution of wealth from rich to poor.

    To date, AGW has promoted the mantra that any change is bad without this being properly examined. Even the most cursory review of man’s history would show that warm is good and cold is bad. Factually, if it were not for the fact that man can change his enviroment and adapt this to his needs, most of the Earth would be uninhabitable. We wear clothes not for modesty but to keep us warm. Without clothes, we could inhabit only a few places such as tropical rain forests, and other warm areas provided that there were caves into which we could retreat and as necessary build campfires (although even that is adaption). It is no coincident that man evolved in a warm climate and not in cold high latitudes.

    Likewise, if you look at the advancement of man and civilisation, sophisticated civilasations came sooner in warm area than in cold areas. One only has to look at what the Egyptians were building (and their skill set) and compare that with Stone henge. In cold northern latitudes man was struggling for day to day survival and there did not have the opportunity to take the great steps forward in advancement in mathematics and engineering. All the great civilisations Minoan, Egyptian, Persian, Greek, Roman etc were from warm climes and there has been no great northern clime civilisation. The nearest to a significant northern clime civilisation is the Vikings and it is no coincident that they came to the fore during the MWP when it was warmer. Even if one casts one net wider to middle/South America, those civilisations rose in warm areas, ditto in China.

    Of course, one should not be selfish and only consider what is good for man but perhaps one should have regard to what is good for life on Earth more generally. Again, maximum bio-diversity can be seen in warmer areas than in frigid and cold areas. If one goes further back in time and looks at the giant creatures of the past, these came to the fore in warm periods of the Earth’s history.

    The upshot of the above is that if proper research was to be conducted into the effects of global warming, I for one, consider that it would almost certainly be the case that it would establish that warm is good and that a warming of 2 or 3 or 4 degrees would be a desirable thing. In making that observation, I accept that some adaption may be required for a relatively few countries. However, provided the western world does not bankrupt itself in the futile attempt to mitigate by cutting back on CO” emissions, the developed world will have the financial means to assist tjose countries in the required adaption.

    Rather than seeking to go back to the dark ages, man should press ahead as quickly as possible with further industrialisation which will lead to advancements that we can not now imagine and which advancements will almost certainly make it easier to address any problems that may be caused by a warming globe (whatever be the cause of that warming). The present proferred approach behind the precautionary principle is a disaster since if (1) CO2 is not the cause of the present warming, then we will have bankrupted ourselves without addressing the problem and we will then have little financial ability to pay for adaption, and (2) we may be depriving ourselves of the very real benefits of a warmer planet that may for the majority make life on Earth better and make it easier to feed an expanding global population. It would be very silly to give up the opportunity of such a godsend event.
    .

  4. OT, but for those who would like to comment on NPR

    Arctic Warming Unlocking A Fabled Waterway

    The Arctic may be the world’s next geopolitical battleground. Temperatures there are rising faster than anywhere else in the world, and the melting ice will have profound consequences on the roof of the world, opening strategic waterways to shipping, reducing the ice cap on Greenland, and spurring a rush to claim rights to the wealth of natural resources that lie beneath. NPR examines what’s at stake, who stands to win and lose, and how this could alter the global dynamic.

    First in a six-part series

    http://www.npr.org/2011/08/15/139556207/arctic-warming-unlocking-a-fabled-waterway

  5. The IPCC projections of global temperature increase show that upper latitude areas, in particular the Arctic, “will” rise dramatically more than the tropics. GISTemp’s usage of computer modelled infill of the Arctic adds less than 15% to the global temperature record relative to HadCruT but adds some 0.12C to the temperature anomaly. If the GISTemp total increase is 0.70C, then the non-Arctic heating (0.85 of the planet) accounts for 0.68C (simple 0.85x + 0.15y = 0.70). The amount that the Arctic will contribute to the 2100 value of 1.7 or 5.0C would be greater than 0.15 as I understand it (the Arctic being the future hotspot).

    While this post shows the global maximum and minimum, from the point of view of the world’s people what counts is the amount of warming to be expected in their particular area. I haven’t seen/stumbled across a breakdown by latitude of the projected end-of-the-world IPCC CAGW scenarios.

    Erl – does your data allow such a breakdown for the historical record? Even hemispheric would be interesting. The warnings of disaster are sweeping: heat and drought in Africa being only one (though during various times of warmer Mediterranean lands Egypt etc. were moister than today).
    What do the records show as to where the heat has grown, and where do the projections show the heat is going to grow?

    An interesting re-take on the global records which, being global, obscure the situation on the ground. Though the warmists probably don’t care, as they spend most of their waking hours with their heads in the clouds (some sort of ironic emoticon, here).

  6. Ooops. Simple math, bad typing: if 0.15 Arctic coverage adds 0.12C, the 0.85 of the planet accounts for 0.60C of the 0.70C total planet temperature anomaly, not 0.68C.

  7. Come on fredb, stop laughing/crying and tell us what it is that you find so exasperating about Erl’s post. Which law of physics has he abused? It made sense to me.

  8. “The Earth is closest to the sun in January and this is the time when the ocean, most of it in the southern hemisphere, is best illuminated.”

    Accurate for the purposes of the OP but in actuality perihelion makes a complete circuit of the calendar approximately every 22,000 – 26,000 years. This is called orbital precession and is distinct from axial precession. Axial precession cycles once every 26,000 years. Axial and orbital precession are not synchronized so at any one point in time they may anywhere from perfectly in phase to 180 out of phase. It is when they happen to be in phase or out of phase that they at least contribute (straw:camel’s back) to the beginning and end of glacial and interglacial periods.

  9. “The UN panel on climate change was set up to assess whether mans activates have influenced the climate of the globe. “
    *************************************
    Au contraire mon ami. It was set up to PROVE that man is responsible for catastrophic global warming. That would justify massive taxation and control of every aspect of the economy. The proposed level of taxation would kill the economy of the “first world” but that is irrelevant.

    It was NEVER about science. It was always about looting the first world economy and transferring the money to Swill bank accounts.

    Regards,
    Steamboat Jack (Jon Jewett’s evil twin.)

  10. fredb says: “I don’t even know where to begin! Coming on the heels of Bastardi’s post which mistreats the laws of physics, this posting is like the icing on the cake. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Instead, I think I’ll give this to my undergraduate students as an assignment in identifying the physics fallacies.”

    And I shall give your empty rant to my students as an example of logical fallacies.

  11. “We simply can’t rule out change in cloud cover as a cause of the change in global temperature.”

    Yes but by the same token we can’t rule out change in global temperature as the cause of change in cloud cover and we can’t rule out CO2 as the cause of either changes in temperature or changes in cloud cover. Or for that matter we can’t rule change in temperature of cloud cover causing change in CO2. We pretty much can’t rule out anything at this point.

  12. fredb says:

    August 15, 2011 at 8:44 am

    I don’t even know where to begin! Coming on the heels of Bastardi’s post which mistreats the laws of physics, this posting is like the icing on the cake. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Instead, I think I’ll give this to my undergraduate students as an assignment in identifying the physics fallacies.

    Don’t insult, clown, explain your thesis so that we can tear it apart.

  13. Common sense approach to climate. Loved reading it. Thanks for letting Erl post this. I’ve come across your blog recently, Erl, and I like reading your perspectives. You really have a down-to earth feel in your writing., along with definite food for thought on what kind of natural processes we are really dealing with. We really, really need to understand the natural workings of climate before we can ascertain what, if anything, man is doing to it. I seem to remember a quote, and someone can correct me if I’m wrong, that said ” You have your math right, but your physics are wrong.” I think much of climate science is still in that phase.

  14. Great post, thank you Erl. Logic and real world observations always make more sense than incomplete and imperfect computer models.

    It’s a pity that the IPCC and many “climate scientists” don’t spend more time looking at the real world. They should be investigating everything about climate change and variability instead of staying wedded to the Hubris of human-produced CO2 being the sole driver, to say nothing of the idea that we can stop the ongoing changes. There’s no such thing as a stable climate. The climate has always changed, and there’s nothing going on which is even slightly unusual in terms of geological history*, or archaeological history, even written history. The patterns of human migration and settlements clearly show that people in general prefer to live where the climate is conducive to a good food supply, ie warmer.

    * Except, of course, that the atmospheric concentration of CO2 is rather lower than it has been for most of the Earth’s existence.

  15. “The year-to-year variability in the January minimum is patently unrelated to ‘greenhouse factors’ that exhibit a monotonic increase over time. What causes this variation in the January minimum? A likely candidate is a variation in the degree of illumination of the southern oceans as cloud comes and goes. Cloud cover varies on a daily, seasonal, inter-annual and decadal basis. ”

    1. greenhouse factors include more than C02 and they do not increase monotonically
    2. some greenhouse “causes” are “instaneous” and we see the effect immediately, like volcanoes;
    others have lagged effects, like C02.
    3. You have to demonstrate by statistical test that year to year variability in one month is greater
    than others, with 12 draws from a random sample one will likely give you results that differ dramatically.
    4. Of all the months in the year I believe that January ( and also december ) is one of the months with the greatest number of missing observations, hence the increased variability. You have to account for this
    5. You identify changes in cloud cover. I’ll suggest you can test you thesis by looking at satillite data. simply go pull years of data, “cloudiness” is a variable captured in the record. Of course, understand, that by using this data you tacitly accept the physics required to generate the images. That would be physics that some here deny.

  16. The AGW proponents have been making much of the fact that they now realise natural variation can cool things down for several decades at a time.

    When do you think they’ll realise that natural variation can also warm things up for several decades at a time?

  17. fredb says:
    August 15, 2011 at 8:44 am
    “I don’t even know where to begin! Coming on the heels of Bastardi’s post which mistreats the laws of physics, this posting is like the icing on the cake. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Instead, I think I’ll give this to my undergraduate students as an assignment in identifying the physics fallacies.”

    Why not give your students an unbiased assignment to evaluate the information and comment upon it rather than “identifying the physics fallacies”. This would, of course, be less likely to indoctrinate them and force them to give the answers you want. This, no doubt, is a very unusual tactic for today’s educational system.

  18. Rob Potter says:
    August 15, 2011 at 8:45 am
    “Thanks Erl – very interesting.

    I would like to just make one point – the plants which produce most of our food have been specifically developed (selected) over 12,000 years or so to be productive in the the current (seasonal) climate. If climate had not been seasonal, different types or species of plant would now be grown (and will be grown in future as the climate changes).”

    I would just like to add that the crops has not just been selected but spliced and diced to get a better selection to choose from (pre-GMO style). And it is just not “our” food but of various quality to be used for various purposes, crap crop for gas, qualitative crops for human consumption, and fast growing but qualitative enough for animal consumption.

    Another point to add is that even though all natural selection and human selection of crops they still aren’t growing optimal unless you put ‘em in actual greenhouses where you can have a more perfect environment per each specific specie. Outside in nature all plants are undernourished in the NH. In, essence, nature didn’t do such a good job choosing the best plants after all, man did. :p

  19. Erl Happ:

    You have been reading my mail and I cannot agree more.

    The first (prime) question that must be asked and answered (before any contemplation of climate modification or mitigation) is:

    What is the optimum climate for the Earth and all of it’s inhabitants… Man, critter, and plant?
    I doubt, it was the climate of the Mini-Ice age, nor the cold of the 50(s) and 70(s).

    Until this question is answered, by a consensus, for all geographic areas… it is best we just keep our hands in our pockets.

    Those that suggest, animal and plant life have “evolved” for our current conditions are deluded. Life evolved for a wide range of climate, and it is up to us to determine optimum. GK

  20. As we all have a good laugh and/or cry, I would remind folks that it is great men and women of letters who have created the global chaos that we are all enjoying so nicely right now. Whether it is misallocation of scarce food resources, increasing energy costs, wars around the globe, the bankruptcy of whole countries and perhaps a continent, we can all give a round of applause to those bastions of higher education who churned out our “masters of the universe.”

    I’ve been amazed to learn recently that we have more than 4 base proteins in Human DNA. Something I thought was settled while I was in grade school. An hour of watching Through the Wormhole and you will learn how much of the settled physics of our universe is not so settled after all. Then again, it’s only television and hence, entertainment.

    Now is your chance to enlighten us with your knowlege, my good sir, Mr Fredb. The floor is always open here for lively debate and discussion. The people here are a mix of the unwashed and the learned, but they all have a voice and always seem most civil. However don’t tell me about your undergraduate students, I’d rather chat with the plumber across the street. He will regale me with stories of a couple of bicycle mechanics who taught the world to fly.

  21. I’m thinking FredB is really Al Gore hanging out trying to get back some cheap hit back becasue we mocked his butt sohard last week.

    C’mon Al . . fess up . . . the truth will set you free.

  22. @Steamboat Jack says:
    August 15, 2011 at 9:07 am
    ““The UN panel on climate change was set up to assess whether mans activates have influenced the climate of the globe. “
    *************************************
    Au contraire mon ami. It was set up to PROVE that man is responsible for catastrophic global warming. ”

    Actually no, it was set up to be policy advisor to the governments and their policy making progress.

    That’s why they don’t dabble in proof but mere projections of “possible” outcomes of what-if scenarios, all according to UNIPCC itself, so that governments can frame and mold “green” policies to meet the predetermined goal.

    Everything else is just propaganda to reach that goal. The goal itself seem to have several definitions, both official definitions and unofficial definitions, apparently it depends on who does the talking or so it would seem since all the UNIPCC officials say different things at different times. My take it’s because different factions (the grey, the brown, the red, and the green) of the socialists have different goals and they’re not exactly famous for team play, at least not the ones from EU.

  23. @fredb says:
    August 15, 2011 at 8:44 am
    “I don’t even know where to begin! Coming on the heels of Bastardi’s post which mistreats the laws of physics, this posting is like the icing on the cake. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Instead, I think I’ll give this to my undergraduate students as an assignment in identifying the physics fallacies.”

    Do they get extra points for identifying your logical fallacies, I wonder?

  24. Dave Springer says:
    August 15, 2011 at 9:06 am
    …in actuality perihelion makes a complete circuit of the calendar approximately every 22,000 – 26,000 years. This is called orbital precession and is distinct from axial precession….Axial and orbital precession are not synchronized so at any one point in time they may anywhere from perfectly in phase to 180 out of phase. It is when they happen to be in phase or out of phase that they at least contribute (straw:camel’s back) to the beginning and end of glacial and interglacial periods.

    Hi Dave, I don’t think that’s right.
    Axial precession has the effect Erl goes on to describe in his excellent article. Orbital precession has no effect (so far as I know) except to change the orientation of the background stars at perihelion.

  25. FredB, students identifying fallacies, I am sure you meant identifying misconceptions. Hmm, tutor or student?

  26. I personally don’t think one should put much stock in population “densities” vis-a-vis Asian countries, especially India, China, Indonesia, Japan. One runs into something more human than climate. But, no doubt, temperature and water play a big roll in the mix.

  27. fredb says:
    August 15, 2011 at 8:44 am
    “I don’t even know where to begin!

    Judging by your vacuous rant, that much is patently obvious.

  28. 1. greenhouse factors include more than C02 and they do not increase monotonically

    Say what? ‘Splain how it doesn’t increase monotonically.

  29. @Fredb reminds me of my maths tutor. If you got a calculation wrong he would unerringly riccochet a board rubber off your head and throw a tantrum, but never give you a correct answer. He also took cricket (baseball in slow-motion) where he would completely fail to hit the stumps, or in fact anything, with the ball. We called him a tosser, as he bowled incorrectly. @Fredb throws tantrums, fails to hit the stumps and appears to be a tosser as well. Only 40 academics have been sacked since who knows when. It would be a good idea to make it 41.

  30. @fredb:
    “I don’t even know where to begin!”

    Start at the very beginning
    A very good place to start

  31. What causes this variation in the January minimum? A likely candidate is a variation in the degree of illumination of the southern oceans as cloud comes and goes.

    The cause is a reduction in near horizon particulate pollution (smoke) due to the almost complete elimination of domestic coal fires since the late 1960s.

    This has increased early morning solar insolation resulting in earlier and higher minimum temperatures, especially in winter.

    You clearly see this effect in Australian temperature data taken at fixed times which shows no significant warming for most stations, even though minimum temperatures have increased.

  32. great post again, Erl. Global climate has no importance, rather it is the weather regime you experience in your local region that counts. I’d rather see Europe get to the levels seen during the Roman warm period, when civilisation flourished!

  33. Why is it that the bulk of humankind is to be found between latitude 10° south and 60° north? It is because the land is more productive there. Life is easier.
    ———–
    Somehow the elephant in the room, the Sahara, is invisible.

    Another critical question glossed over is that if the global temperature continues to rise to match known climate maxima, what happens to the high population areas? Is it reasonable to expect that productivity there just gets better and better? Or is it more readonable to say there is a limit?

    I am betting there is a limit.

  34. Dave Springer says:
    August 15, 2011 at 9:12 am
    “We pretty much can’t rule out anything at this point.”

    Tell that to the Gaia Modelers. Hey, that would be a great science project. What do the Gaia models rule out? I be the list is never ending.

  35. Thanks for the comments folks. Some of the responses seem to be knee jerk reactions from believers who don’t like to have their ideas questioned. I might judge the value of the post by the number of angry yowls of that complexion. But a reply is unmerited.

    richard verney says:
    August 15, 2011 at 8:46 am
    Rather than seeking to go back to the dark ages, man should press ahead as quickly as possible with further industrialisation which will lead to advancements that we can not now imagine and which advancements will almost certainly make it easier to address any problems that may be caused by a warming globe (whatever be the cause of that warming). The present proferred approach behind the precautionary principle is a disaster since if (1) CO2 is not the cause of the present warming, then we will have bankrupted ourselves without addressing the problem and we will then have little financial ability to pay for adaption, and (2) we may be depriving ourselves of the very real benefits of a warmer planet that may for the majority make life on Earth better and make it easier to feed an expanding global population. It would be very silly to give up the opportunity of such a godsend event.

    Richard, my sentiments entirely.

    Doug Proctor says:
    August 15, 2011 at 8:58 am

    Erl – does your data allow such a breakdown for the historical record? Even hemispheric would be interesting. The warnings of disaster are sweeping: heat and drought in Africa being only one (though during various times of warmer Mediterranean lands Egypt etc. were moister than today).
    What do the records show as to where the heat has grown, and where do the projections show the heat is going to grow?
    Doug, Part 2 will describe the pattern of evolution of temperature by latitude. Part 3 will go into the mechanics behind the variation in cloud cover.
    steven mosher says:
    August 15, 2011 at 9:33 am
    3. You have to demonstrate by statistical test that year to year variability in one month is greater
    than others, with 12 draws from a random sample one will likely give you results that differ dramatically.
    4. Of all the months in the year I believe that January ( and also december ) is one of the months with the greatest number of missing observations, hence the increased variability. You have to account for this
    5. You identify changes in cloud cover. I’ll suggest you can test you thesis by looking at satillite data. simply go pull years of data, “cloudiness” is a variable captured in the record. Of course, understand, that by using this data you tacitly accept the physics required to generate the images. That would be physics that some here deny.
    Steven,
    The variation in the global minimum (figure 1) that occurs in January is obvious to the eye. But if it’s not obvious to your eye by all means go ahead and run your tests. I will describe the reasons for the variation in the January minimum in part 2 and 3.
    Beesaman says:
    August 15, 2011 at 9:37 am
    JOhn, Arctic temperatures soaring, where?

    http://ocean.dmi.dk/arctic/meant80n.uk.php

    Beesaman, that link represents an excellent resource. I urge everyone to have a look at the pattern of variability in temperature in the Arctic. There is strong variability in winter and none in summer. That should start you thinking. The temperature variation is episodic on a week by week basis. Does greenhouse gas concentration vary only in winter and on that short time frame? No, obviously not. But the Arctic Oscillation does vary on that time frame. The AO is associated with a 180° turn around in the prevailing wind with warm periods associated with warm moist winds from the south and cold periods associated with cold dry winds from the north. The ‘cold dry’ is as it is experienced in Canada and the USA. But the air that descends over Greenland that gives rise to that southerly flow is warmer than average.
    So, here we see strong temperature variation in the northern hemisphere in mid winter when the global minimum temperature is reached.
    Philip Bradley says:
    August 15, 2011 at 2:19 pm
    What causes this variation in the January minimum?
    The cause is a reduction in near horizon particulate pollution (smoke) due to the almost complete elimination of domestic coal fires since the late 1960s.
    This has increased early morning solar insolation resulting in earlier and higher minimum temperatures, especially in winter.
    Philip, that explanation is consistent with an increase in the January minimum in the northern hemisphere and the mid year (July) minimum in the southern hemisphere. It tells us nothing about the VARIABILITY in the global minimum in January. That variability has not changed. Since 2007 it has become even more exaggerated.

  36. “Tom in South Jersey says:
    August 15, 2011 at 10:01 am

    . However don’t tell me about your undergraduate students, I’d rather chat with the plumber across the street. He will regale me with stories of a couple of bicycle mechanics who taught the world to fly.”

    The story goes that Wilbur Wright had the opportunity for higher education but felt that his unreliable health might mean he would not be able to complete any studies he started.Given that the financial burden to his family may be ‘wasted’ he declined to follow that course.
    In other words,under different circumstances,he would have had letters after his name.

  37. Typo:

    “The UN panel on climate change was set up to assess whether mans activates have”

    Should be:

    “… man’s activities …”

  38. how much new land will open up under a warmer climate and be available for agriculture? The Vikings found much usable land in Greenland during the MWP, surely scandinavia and siberia will become much more agri-friendly under a warmer globe. Given that any warming the globe does experience seems to only increase the size of the tropics at the expense of the poles rather than causing the tropics to get any hotter themselves – the water cycle seems to limit the diurnal variation due to negative feedback of late afternoon clouds. When the planet was Ice free the tropics were almost the same temperature as today. So really the only thing that is really even worth discussing is sea level rise and the change in state of land masses. Coasts will be lost but new lands will become ice and permafrost free – and as always man will mitigate – look at Holland or Venice, people just built walls against the water (even reclaiming land from the sea) or just built up and on it. We have the best technology we’ve ever had now, why would we be worse at adapting now? Warmists like fredb and layteenager miss the point so completely in worrying about the level of plantfood in the atmosphere. Any change in climate is going to happen over a much longer timescale than any of their carbon tax or emmission trading policy schemes effects can hope to work on. They are beyond pointless they are in fact damaging. Even the IPCC admits the best way to reduce emissions is to increase prosperity worldwide – economies naturally decarbonise as they progress – every strategic video game ever had the same mechanism built in – look at Sim City or Civilization for example

  39. Where I very strongly agree with Erl:

    The role of land-ocean contrast & the distribution of continents is seriously overlooked in the cloud/circulation discussion.

    All of the puzzle pieces needed to see this are available, but climate discussion participants appear to be (somewhat understandably) too overloaded (TMI = too much info, much of it diversionary, peripheral, etc.) to synthesize the pieces. It’s certainly a piece of work demanding patience. More on this later…

    Best Regards.

  40. Question.. How can a “GLOBAL” temperature be seasonal (as in the top graph), unless it is heavily biased toward one hemisphere (the northern hemisphere by the looks of it.)?

  41. @Rob Munning. Thank you for that snippet about Wilbur Wright. I was worried that the fabric of the Universe may collapse as a man without a Phd had developed powered flight. As he could have been given honorary letters after his name had he been healthier my faith in the sanctity of higher education has been restored.

  42. Looks plain common sense to me, and ignoring the trolls one of whom seems to be mal practicing teaching! make for a theory that our tax dollars shoild go to looking at, and fredb if he is that wrong why has some lands nrar the sahara been coming back in to agricultural use due to warming??
    Im sorry AGW was a false god but be more skeptical next time! and keep your fingers out of my wallet too.

  43. Hi Erl,

    Changes in cloud cover could be the reason, but the fact this change started in the 80s makes me think of another. Electronic thermometers were introduced in the 80s. Not all at once, but gradually over time. Electronic thermometers tend to give readings about 1-2Celsius higher than mercury thermometers. What we could be seeing in your graphs is the gradual introduction of systematic error over more and more themometers over time.

  44. “If you went to your doctor and he insisted that the corns on the sole of your foot were related to the temperature of your inner ear you would probably seek alternative advice. ”

    If you have a corn on each foot and the doctor wants you to bend over because he has averaged the location for surgery between the two feet, that’s when I’d say you’re really in trouble.

    Seriously though:

    There is one more major factor that might make the Northern Summer warmer than the Southern Summer, and that is the greening of land vegitation. The Northern land surface becomes significantly darker in the Summer. Just a little food for thought, before placing all your bets on clouds.

  45. Ryan,
    The climate shift of 1976-78 is associated with change in atmospheric pressure, stratospheric temperature and wind strength and direction, not just the temperature record. Any instrument has calibration problems but I reckon the errors are likely distributed about the point of calibration. Electronics go on working until the battery dies but the data is retrievable anyway. I like em. They offer the opportunity to get the sort of grasp on the record that you can not get with just two readings a day, namely the maximum and the minimum.

  46. Gary,
    I reckon the greening of a land mass will make it cooler because plants transpire water. Leaves must stay cool to work properly. More water vapour in the atmosphere means more clouds.

    The loss of cloud in mid year is well documented from satellite observations. Its not a guess but a fact. Sorry but I can’t give a ready reference. It simply follows on from the atmospheric warming due to the seasonal march of the sun to beam directly over all that land.

  47. “More water vapour in the atmosphere means more clouds.

    The loss of cloud in mid year is well documented from satellite observations.”

    By mid-year, do you mean Summer? If so, then you’ve just contradicted yourself.

    I was merely pointing out that it’s more complicated than simply clouds. The anual variations are a combination of many different factors. When I pointed to plant albedo, I was just picking one at random. If I had to pick one reason for interanual variation over all the rest, I would choose variations in atmospheric and ocean circulation from one year to the next. Where is the jet stream, for example. Your cloud observation could be more of an effect than a cause.

  48. I did manage to find a good reference though:

    http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1990JCli….3.1204R

    See specifically points 3,4,5, and 6.

    Point 3 says:
    “3) Although cloud variations appear to be the primary cause of regional radiation budget variability at 5-30 day time scales, the effects of their seasonal variations at larger spatial scales are less important than the changes associated with changes in solar declination and atmospheric/surface temperatures”

    They summarize in point 9 by saying:

    “There appears to be no simple relation between global mean surface temperature, global mean cloud properties and their global mean effects on ERB and SRB, implying that cloud radiative effects on the seasonal temperature cycle must be described as multiple feedbacks, ”

    It doesn’t seem that they found evidence as conclusive as you suggest.

  49. I’ve come to learn that SAT over the seas is derived from measured SST, so that a comparison between SAT over northern and southern hemispheres is to a degree reducible to a comparison between SAT and SST. It seems it would be more useful to compare SST between north and south. I find your linking Milankovitch cycles with southern ocean insolation and climate warming plausible and appealing–this is the first I’ve come across the suggestion–but difficult to reconcile with the ice cores: the best correlation between M cycles and global T is given by insolation at 65 degrees NORTH latitude, while you’re implying that we would do better to look at variable insolation southward. In your favor the effect you suggest would be amplified by the growth of southern sea ice during glacial advances, which sea ice even now reaches 65 degrees south on a seasonal basis.

    But the last insolation max 10ky at 65 north–roughly corresponding to a min at 65 south–coincided with a steep T rise, again, while southern seas enjoyed an insolation minimum, indicating a trigger better associated with northern land/ice. The northern correlation is out of phase by millennia–T rise begins at insolation max, but the southern correlation is much worse.
    –AGF

  50. Erl,

    I’m questioning the actual meaning of the so-called “global temperature”

    I cannot believe that the Earth as a whole undergoes a REAL +/- 3to4 degree shift in 6 months then back up again.

    Surely the orbital eccentricity could not cause this? And if ,as you say, its because the southern hemisphere has a lot more water, then that is a good thing because it points to sea level rise (increased surface area) as having a big cooling effect on the planet.

    I strong suspect that the it is the method of calculation that is giving a heavy bias toward northern hemisphere land mass and that the “global” temperature is really just a farce, and pretty meaningless.. I mean, a swing of +/- 3to4 degrees per season, and we are concerned about minor changes at the maxima and minima.????. .

  51. @ A G Foster (August 16, 2011 at 11:27 am)

    I’m not at all convinced that the mainstream has a handle on north-south asymmetry, maritime-continent contrast, & the effect of the distribution of continents (& topography more generally) on flow. “Global average” etc. reconstructions don’t tell all and are suspect. Best Regards.

  52. AndyG55 says:
    August 16, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    I’m questioning the actual meaning of the so-called “global temperature”

    I cannot believe that the Earth as a whole undergoes a REAL +/- 3to4 degree shift in 6 months then back up again.

    Sure does. Look at the data at:http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/cgi-bin/data/timeseries/timeseries1.pl

    And it is warmest when it is furthest away from the sun in July and August. The loss of cloud at that time is well documented.

  53. A G Foster says:
    August 16, 2011 at 11:27 am

    Sorry AGF but I am not up with the temperature reconstructions back into geologic time. In my work I have been looking very closely at the atmosphere at all levels using the best data available in the modern era, post 1948. That includes temperature within the atmosphere at all heights. I have been trying to work out when, why and how sea surface temperature changes. As you will see in the next post I see the polar stratosphere as the agent of change because it has a very strong influence upon cloud cover by virtue of the influence of the coupled circulation of the troposphere and the stratosphere. Now, it is entirely possible that the coupled circulation in Antarctica that is currently deterministic on decadal and multi decadal time scales is less or more influential when orbital and tilt conditions change…. the Milankovich influences. Then there is also the question of changing surface albedo.I don’t pretend to have a grasp on all that stuff that evolves on the thousand year time scale.

    But the distribution of land and sea will always be important because it influences the residence time of energy. Systematic seasonal cloud cover variations follow from the fact that evaporation lags insolation and when the atmosphere warms clouds simply disappear until it starts to cool again. That occurs on a daily, monthly and a seasonal basis.

    I see atmospheric specific humidity responding to wind, temperature, precipitation levels and leaf surface area and don’t for a moment imagine that leaf surface area is invariable. The advance in CO2 has led to a greening of the margins of the deserts. That improves the evaporative response to surface warming, particularly as plant activity is almost universally limited by temperature. Most of the globe is too cool.

  54. yes Erl, I know what NOAA’s calculations of the so-called “global” mean give as the graph..

  55. Erl Happ and others, Reasons why people live where they are:
    Include this image: http://www.seafriends.org.nz/issues/global/global52.jpg
    The map shows where people live, and their densities. It also shows the extent of the Inter Tropical Convergence zone which travels from the July curve (northern summer, red) to the January curve (northern winter, blue) and back each year, with variations in its extent. The ITC is essentially a rain band, which means that the people living in its zone experience two rainy seasons each year, which is most beneficial for agriculture and thus for humanity. About half the world’s population lives here.
    The other half lives in the temperate zone where annual evaporation equals rainfall, thus retaining ground moisture for agriculture. In between these two areas extends an arid zone where few people live. To the north (60ºN) and south (50ºS) it is too cold for plant productivity, reason why very few people live there.

  56. Floor Anthoni (August 17, 2011 at 8:04 pm) linked to:

    Thanks.

    An alternate view:

    Leroux was encouraging us to think about how that thing flaps around. Le Mouël, Blanter, Shnirman, & Courtillot (2010) showed us the light.

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