Guest weblog – A Report from the Global Warming Battlefield

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by Roy Spencer | 15 Aug 2007

In case you hadn’t noticed, the global warming debate has now escalated from a minor skirmish to an all-out war. Although we who are skeptical of the claim that global warming is mostly manmade have become accustomed to being the ones that take on casualties, last week was particularly brutal for those who say we have only 8 years and 5 months left to turn things around, greenhouse gas emissions-wise.

I’m talking about the other side – the global warming alarmists.

First, NASA’s James Hansen and his group had to fix a Y2K bug that a Canadian statistician found in their processing of the thermometer data. As a result, 1998 is no longer the warmest year on record in the United States – 1934 is. The temperature adjustment is admittedly small, yet there seemed to be no rush to retract the oft-repeated alarmist statements that have seared “1998!” into our brains as the rallying cry for the fight against global warming.

Then, the issue of spurious heat influences on the thermometers that NOAA uses to monitor global temperatures has reared its ugly head. Personally, I’ve been waiting for this one for a long time. Ordinary citizens are now traveling throughout their home states, taking pictures of the local conditions around these thermometer sites.

To everyone’s astonishment, all kinds of spurious heat sources have cropped up over the years next to the thermometers. Air conditioning exhaust fans, burn barrels, asphalt parking lots, roofs, jet exhaust. Who could have known? Shocking.

Next, my own unit and I published satellite measurements that clearly show a natural cooling mechanism in the tropics which all of the leading computerized climate models have been insisting is a warming mechanism (Spencer et al., August 9, 2007 Geophysical Research Letters).

We found that when the tropical atmosphere heats up from extra rain system activity, the amount of infrared heat-trapping cirrus clouds those rain systems produce actually goes down. This unexpected result supports the “Infrared Iris” theory of climate stabilization that MIT’s Richard Lindzen advanced some years ago.

No one in the alarmist camp can figure out how we succeeded with this sneak attack. After all, there isn’t supposed to be any peer-reviewed, published research that denies a global warming Armageddon, right?

But these volleys have not gone unanswered. From the other side of the battlefield, Al Gore and Newsweek coordinated an assault on a few skeptics with all kinds of guilt-by-association accusations. They allege that a few scientists were offered $10,000 (!) by Big Oil to research and publish evidence against the theory of manmade global warming.

Of course, the vast majority of mainstream climate researchers receive between $100,000 to $200,000 from the federal government to do the same, but in support of manmade global warming. Apparently, that’s okay since we all know that the federal government is unbiased and there to help, whereas petroleum companies only exist to force us to burn fuels that do nothing more than ruin the environment.

Little damage was done by the Gore-Newsweek assault, though, since the attack amounted to little more than a verbal “Well, your mama wears Army boots!” It didn’t help matters that the magazine’s own columnist, Robert Samuelson, published a follow-up article saying the allegation of bribes offered to scientists “was long ago discredited” and that “the story was a wonderful read, marred only by its being fundamentally misleading.”

Next, I’m happy to report that we skeptics have been getting a steady stream of new recruits. In the last year or so, more and more scientists have been coming out of the closet and admitting they’ve had some doubts about this whole global warming thing.

In fact, chances are that your favorite TV weather person is a closet skeptic (unless it’s Heidi Cullen). But please observe the “don’t ask – don’t tell” rule. Most broadcast meteorologists are not ready for the public embarrassment that would accompany their outing.

And lastly, I have been heartened by new scientific intelligence that we skeptics have been gathering. I can predict there are more surprises to come, with some pretty powerful tactical weapons yet to be deployed. Climate scientists are beginning to question long held assumptions – which is almost always the first step toward a major scientific discovery. So stay tuned.

Oh, and by the way, in the interests of a fair fight, the next time someone sees Al Gore, could you ask him to stop calling us “global warming deniers”? I don’t know of anyone who denies that the Earth has warmed. I’m sure this has just been an honest misunderstanding on Mr. Gore’s part, and he’ll be more than happy to stop doing it.

The author, Roy Spencer, is Principal Research Scientist, University of Alabama. This article originally appeared in TCS Daily

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27 thoughts on “Guest weblog – A Report from the Global Warming Battlefield

  1. Great Article. I will get hold of that study of yours as soon as I can get to our local Uni library. I’ve been interested in the Iris Theory for some time and had felt that the other studies that produced a different result had not really looked at the same thing Richard did.
    J

  2. the new Red Spot on Jupiter = iris effect
    The comments over at Pielke’s blog are hilarious.
    They are seriously pondering if clouds make it colder.
    You don’t even need cloud cover here (in Sacramento), just the extra water vapor from the delta is keeping us colder then normal. Coldest Aug 6th since the dawn of the thermometer age.

  3. Mark the more intelligent question is why the glaciers have been melting since the 1800s.
    The answer is unfortunately complex and had many elements; these include Emerging from the mini-ice age, dirty snow, changes in land usage and precipitation, ozone depletion and greenhouse gases. It is simply not true that we can blame CO2 and therefore man’s fault; nature plays its part.
    Personal I feel that only a small part is cause by CO2; and I have no truck will the alarmist theories that are so popular.

  4. Whereas the 20th century was a time of seemingly absolutist assessments and overly simplistic claims regarding Man’s impact on the environment, the 21st may just be a turning point where we rightfully view ourselves as a participant in the biosphere imparting both positive and negative impacts. The Pielke Sr. approach to spatially varying solutions is encouraging, as is your work to better understand clouds and precip, and their roles as active filters in the system. Bravo!

  5. Mark – I dunno, maybe just because? Glaciers have been melting since the last Ice Age, 12000 years ago in a land far, far away. Then the Great Gi’ichy Goomi came along, dug a few holes and made the Great Lakes. Then he made people outta clay so that they could play along the shores of those lakes. Why is the sky blue, Mark? You have some reading to do and then a book report, so get at it.

  6. A period of regional warming in northern latitudes. It’s just that the cause is not clear – probably a combination of changes in solar input, circulation patterns, albedo, aerosols, and various non-linear feedbacks. Maybe even some GHG contribution.

  7. Mark asks “Okay, so why are the glaciers melting?”
    Mark, Roy Spencer said “I don’t know of anyone who denies that the Earth has warmed.”
    Does that answer your question?

  8. Okay, so why are the glaciers melting?
    Which ones? Where?
    Not all the glaciers are melting, including those that are retreating. Retreating does not equal melting. Some are stable; some are even growing. Some, while having retreated quite a bit, are still considerably larger than they were 100 years ago.
    The only way your question can be answered is by looking at individual glaciers and their local conditions. There’s no one pat answer that can be given. The earth is far too complex for simple answers.

  9. Mark, who says they’re all melting?
    It’s not “the glaciers”. According to the data from WGMS, 63%lost mass. Most of these don’t seem to be near the poles though. Bahia del Diablo in Antarctia did lose, but it was only 120 mm.
    But that’s in a comparison of only 77 out of 160,000. We don’t know of the other 99.95% of “the glaciers”.
    Using physical samples for 10-15 glaciers, along with aerial photography, satellite imagery, 2D models and GIS-based spatial energy/mass balance models by the World Glacier Monitoring Service, Department of Geography, University of Zurich, data from 77 glaciers was compared between the periods 2003/2004 and 2005/2006. For 63% of the glaciers being compared in that data set, the derived figures showed a net loss in mass balance between the two periods.
    If you want to talk about how the terminus acts, the correlation of movement to mass is not a given. Even so, there’s more stationary ones than receding ones. And some are actually advancing.
    According to the NSIDC database of 60,000 of the world’s 160,000 glaciers (numbers do not equal 100% due to rounding):
    62.5% of the world’s glaciers are uncategorized.
    23.8% of the world’s glaciers are unknown as to status.
    6.3% of the world’s glaciers are stationary or surging.
    5.6% of the world’s glaciers are receding.
    1.2% of the world’s glaciers are advancing.
    A check of the mass of glaciers nearest the poles from that list found about an overall 10 meter mass gain.
    Overall, glacier mass numbers for Antartica, Austria, Canada, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland from 2003/2004 to 2004/2005 in mm w.e. was up +10.25 meters. (+9 if you include the US glacier that seems to be the only one in Alaska)
    Where were the mass losses? They’re huge if you include Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, France, Italy, Kazakhstan, New Zealand, Spain and the US.
    For example, Nigardsbreen (Norway) gained over 1 meter and is at +1.1 from historic, while Charquini sur (Bolivia) lost 1 meter and is -2.4 under historic levels.

  10. Mark, Dr. Spencer’s findings clearly refer to temperature patterns in the tropics.
    And there is no consensus that the glaciers are melting- there are local effects, of course, apparently largely tied to solar activity.
    But if you are desperate to see disaster and be as noble as Big GloWar in fighting it, buy a Prius and fly all over the world in private jets telling us all to junk our automobiles. Working here in a major research university as I do, I can assure you that the biggest money whores in the world are faculty chasing government- not industry- dollars.

  11. Rumor has it that some glaciers were offered bribes, sometimes as much as $10,000!, to calve for the entertainment of cruise ship passengers. Unfortunately do to a currency exchage rate error and misreported inflation statistics it appears this amount of money was actually no greater in 1998 than it was in 1934 when corrected for conversion adjustments.

  12. …the rains disappeared — not just for a season, but for years on end. With no sod to hold the earth in place, the soil calsified and started to blow. Dust clouds boiled up, ten thousand feet or more in the sky, and rolled like moving mountains — a force of their own. When the dust fell, it penetrated everything: hair nose throat kitchen bedroom well. A scoop shovel was needed just to clean the house in the morning. The eeriest thing was the darkness. People tied thenselves to ropes before going to the barn just a few hundred feet away, like a walk in space, tethered to the life support center.
    Many in the East didn’t believe the initial stories of predatory dust, until a storm in May 1934 carried the windblown chards of the Great Plains over much of the nation. In Chicago, twelve million tons of dust fell. New York, Washington — even ships at sea, three hundred miles off the Atlantic coast — were blanketed in brown.

    But of course 1998 was at least as hot as if not hotter then 1934. NASA said so.
    But there are pictures. Picture speaks a thousand words.

  13. Re: “Why is the sky blue, Mark?”
    Not to be too nit-picky, but the sky is actually violet. It appears blue to the human eye because of our peak sensitivity to green. Thus the violet sky appears blue.
    I forget where I read this, maybe in a Physics News Update.
    Just another fun fact.

  14. Mark:
    I share some of your concern. Frankly, sea level is my one real longterm worry. The warming is, in aggregate, GREAT, otherwise.
    If it weren’t for sea level concerns, I’d say &^%$ the glaciers and the *&^%$%^ tundra they rode in on. Melt and be damned to you.
    But I do have some worries about sea level rise due to nothern hemisphere melt and thermal expansion.

  15. Good news Evan!
    You have nothing to worry about. The problem of sea level rise is linked with the state of the Greenland and Antarctic ice caps (not the Arctic). And they are both doing well. Greenland is not shedding ice or else losing very little. Antarctica is growing.
    With the two significant bodies of ice holding up well, sea level rises will be modest – so you have nothing to worry about!

  16. re: 05:39 PM – you just don’t have a sense of humour, do you. Still doesn’t negate the fact that Mark needs to read a bit and then do his book report.

  17. Papertiger, to be more exact, if we’re going to look at the temps, trust them or not is one issue, what they trend is another. Even tho ’98 and ’34 are about the same, the trend is up. What that means is another issue also…
    Um, um, ah, uh, David, all color is in the eye of the beholder…. Seriously, “the sky” is at 715ish THz?
    Are you sure its color isn’t infrared and ultraviolet?
    😀

  18. I love it when someone says something like this:
    “Greenland is not shedding ice or else losing very little.”
    Well, which is it?

  19. “Well, which is it?”
    It’s hard to tell.
    It’s receding a bit around some of the edges, but the increase in precipitation causes more snow dump to the interior. That brings a lot of apples and oranges into the mix and it becomes hard to tell if Greenland is gaining or losing.
    What I want to knw is what the glacier line was in the 13th century? Over 5,000 lived in Greenland back then. That was a greater % of world. pop. back then than Greenland’s modern pop. of 55,000.
    And what were the sea levels in Europe?

  20. “They allege that a few scientists were offered $10,000 (!) by Big Oil to research and publish evidence against the theory of manmade global warming.
    Of course, the vast majority of mainstream climate researchers receive between $100,000 to $200,000 from the federal government to do the same, but in support of manmade global warming.”
    This is hyperbole at best, and an outright lie at worst. Is it really intellectually honest to say things like that?
    http://tinyurl.com/2ulbe2
    “Letters sent by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an ExxonMobil-funded thinktank with close links to the Bush administration, offered the payments for articles that emphasise the shortcomings of a report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).”
    By contrast “mainstream climate researchers” receive a salary to do research. No pre-conceived results are required.

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