What Is A “Normal” Climate?

Guest Opinion: Dr. Tim Ball

There is a form of argument called reductio ad absurdum. If you can reduce a position to the absurd, it was absurd in the first place. It doesn’t work as well as it used to because there is an embarrassment of absurdity in today’s world. However, there are arguments that are exposed by such an approach.

Al Gore’s fairy tale movie, An Inconvenient Truth claimed global temperature was “just right.” It is as Goldilocks said about porridge, “Not too hot, not too cold, but just right.” The movie fully deserved the Oscar because it was a fairy tale produced in Hollywood, the land of make-believe. The great Goracle declares we must maintain this normal because the wicked witch CO2 threatens it. From whichever castle he currently resides, he dictates we maintain the status quo, so he can continue his “normal” lifestyle, including profiting from selling the tale. He delights in referencing people from the past, such as Arrhenius, Callendar, or Roger Revelle, conveniently ignoring that they all lived through different “normals”. He also ignores the “normal” conditions his Ice Age ancestors enjoyed.

Gore wants to maintain his “normal” by reducing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere to pre-industrial levels. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says this was 270 ppm. This is incorrect, but let’s assume it is true in order to consider the consequences of achieving that level. Assume also that the IPCC is correct and that virtually all the increase in global temperatures from the nadir of the Little Ice Age, especially since 1950. The IPCC says current levels are 400 ppm, so presumably to achieve pre-industrial levels requires a 130-ppm reduction. According to the science of the IPCC and fellow Nobel winner Al Gore CO2 levels determine temperature, so this will result in a return to Little Ice Age conditions. A multitude of sources itemizes these conditions, particularly Jean Grove’s The Little Ice Age and a listing at CO2Science.org, and the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC).

The IPCC and Gore only consider the temperature implications of CO2, but it is essential to plant life, which in turn determines oxygen levels essential to all life. How much vegetative loss would occur with a 130-ppm reduction? It is only a computer model determination, but Donohue et al., (pay-walled) abstract explains.

Satellite observations reveal a greening of the globe over recent decades. The role in this greening of the “CO2 fertilization” effect—the enhancement of photosynthesis due to rising CO2 levels—is yet to be established. The direct CO2 effect on vegetation should be most clearly expressed in warm, arid environments where water is the dominant limit to vegetation growth. Using gas exchange theory, we predict that the 14% increase in atmospheric CO2 (1982–2010) led to a 5 to 10% increase in green foliage cover in warm, arid environments. Satellite observations, analyzed to remove the effect of variations in precipitation, show that cover across these environments has increased by 11%. Our results confirm that the anticipated CO2 fertilization effect is occurring alongside ongoing anthropogenic perturbations to the carbon cycle and that the fertilization effect is now a significant land surface process.

Again assuming they are correct, a 14% increase in CO2 resulted in an 11% increase in vegetation. What impact would a reduction of 130 ppm, approximately a 32% decrease, have? What would the combined impact of reduced CO2 fertilization and temperature have? Grove and others showed the impact of temperature reduction, but not CO2.

In the 1970s when global cooling was the consensus, Martin Parry produced studies of the impact of cooling over the course of the LIA (Figure1).


Figure 1

Figure 1 shows the county of Berwickshire in the Borders Region of the UK with a high percentage of land lost to cultivation over the period. What was normal for the people living through these times? The answer is whatever they experienced.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) introduced the 30-year normal, purportedly to help this problem of what is normal or average for planning and other applications. As they explain,

“The Standard Climate Normals underpin many climate services and applications, including climatologies, and also comprise the reference period for the evaluation of anomalies in climate variability and change monitoring.”

A problem becomes evident when comparing historic records, such as for the period 1781 to 1810, with the modern normal. Which modern normal would you use, the first one, 1931 – 1960, or the current one 1981-2010? William Wright wrote a paper about the problem in which he

“…argued in favour of a dual normals standard. CCl-MG concurred with the conclusion that there is a need for making frequent updates in computing the normals for climate applications (prediction and climatology purposes), based on the need to base fundamental planning decisions on average and extreme climate conditions in non stationary climate conditions.”

And there is the rub, “non stationary climate conditions.”

There is also the problem of adjustments endemic with all “official” data. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says,

“Several changes and additions have been incorporated into the 1981-2010 Normals. Monthly temperature and precipitation normals are based on underlying data values that have undergone additional quality control. Monthly temperatures have also been standardized to account for the effects of station moves, changes in instrumentation, etc.”


Presumably this means you cannot compare the results with those of earlier “normals”.

NOAA informs us that

“Normals are a large suite of data products that provide users with many tools to understand typical climate conditions for thousands of locations across the United States.”

No, they aren’t! They are only 30–year averages that add nothing to understanding typical climate conditions for any location. Since the 30-year average changes because of mechanisms that operate on longer than 30-year timescales, they simply tell you the climate for that period. The problem illustrates the omission of Milankovitch mechanisms from the IPCC. As reported, Professor Lindzen observed in the recent APS workshop,

He also notes that the IPCC estimate of the man-made effect is about 2 Watts/m2 in AR5 and that is much smaller than the Milankovitch effect of 100 Watts/m2 at 65 degrees north, see Edvardson, et al.

Figure 2 shows the 100 Watts/m2 insolation variability at 65°N calculated by Berger in 1978 and discussed in my article “Important But Little Known “Earth “ scientists.”


Figure 2: Variations in the amount of insolation (incoming solar radiation) at 65°N

Source: BERGER, A. 1978. Long-term variations of daily insolation and Quaternary climatic changes. J. Atmos. Sci. 35: 2362–2367.


While on a radio program, an IPCC modeler told me they omitted Milankovitch because they considered the time scale inappropriate.

Apparently people are planning and making management decisions on the basis of these “normals”. NOAA reports,

In addition to weather and climate comparisons, Normals are utilized in seemingly countless applications across a variety of sectors. These include: regulation of power companies, energy load forecasting, crop selection and planting times, construction planning, building design, and many others.

They are assuming that these conditions will continue. It reminds me of the presentation by Michael Schlesinger at a conference in Edmonton on the future of climate on the Canadian Prairies. A bureaucrat said we are planning reforestation in parts of Southern Alberta, and your data shows it is a desert in 50 years. How accurate is your prediction? Schlesinger said about 50 percent. The bureaucrat said, “My Minister wants 98 percent.”

It is no better today. Figure 3 is a map of 12 – month precipitation forecast accuracy for Canada. It is less than 40 % for 95 % of Canada when compared to the 30-year normal for 1981-2010.


Figure 3

I understand 30 years was chosen because 30 is considered a statistically significant sample size (n) for any population (N). It is of no value for climate patterns and the mechanisms that create them that operate over much longer time periods. NOAA acknowledge this when they write,

In fact, when the widespread practice of computing Normals commenced in the 1930s, the generally-accepted notion of the climate was that underlying long-term averages of climate time series were constant.

That idea permeated and became the fundamental public understanding that climate is constant, making current changes unnatural. What also happened was the 30 – year normal became the average for radio and TV weather people. NOAA confirms this adaptation.

Meteorologists and climatologists regularly use Normals for placing recent climate conditions into a historical context. NOAA’s Normals are commonly seen on local weather news segments for comparisons with the day’s weather conditions.

When media meteorologists say a weather variable is above average today that is usually only for the 30-year average, not the entire weather station record. This narrows the range and creates a distorted picture of how much climate varies. It enhances the effectiveness of Gore and others claiming that current weather is abnormal The climate “normal” is now as distorted as Goldilocks Gore’s “normal”. It might work for porridge and climate fairy tales, but it doesn’t work for the actual climate. Claiming that normal is abnormal appears to be an absurdity.


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“look man, I only need to know one thing; where they are. “

Brandon Gates

“… nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.”


“They’re real tough hombres”

Brandon Gates

Frost has the best line in the entire movie: “What are we supposed to use … harsh language?!”

George E. Smith

The Goldilocks hypothesis is sheer nonsense; about as stupid as the Gaia hypothesis.
If there exist(s) any form of chemistry, which allows for the formation of complex molecules, which somehow are able to replicate themselves; then that would fit any definition of a life form.
And such reactions would likely take place under circumstances that favored those reactions, and in places where the required elements and reaction conditions both existed.
Those optimum conditions would be a property of the elements and reactions needed to get that kind of life form.
If any of those life forms developed some sort of intelligence (whatever that is), they might think they are in some special place; and they might call it “Earth”.
Well there’s nothing special about those places. What might be regarded as “special” would be the elements and chemistry that would allow the evolution of self replicating molecules, in such places.
Life; meaning self replicating systems, could develop, any place at all where that is possible.
Our life forms are possible on earth. (our earth that is; and we have as much as a 150 deg C temperature range to develop life in.
Just my opinion of course.

Joe G

Carbon seems to be the only atom capable of being the basis for complex molecules that living organisms contain. Also crystals are replicators but the are far from life.
The Earth is indeed a privileged planet. There are some 20 factors required for complex intelligent life. A large stabilizing moon is one of them. And within our system the only planet with total solar eclipses is the only one with observers to appreciate them, scientifically. With the rate of recession it appears that we arrived at exactly the right time, too.

George E. Smith

Well Joe, isn’t it convenient that your list of 20 factors required for intelligent life; which list you didn’t give us, happens to contain factors present on this planet. Well of course that also includes your definition (which you didn’t give us), of what is intelligence, or why it is of any relevance to the existence of life.
The dinosaurs existed just fine, for 165 million years by just being big and mean and ugly.
Intelligence is just one of the recent experiments of mother nature in the art of survival (or persistence if you wish).
There’s not a shred of evidence, that intelligence promotes survival. Indeed it would seem from the daily news, that “human intelligence” is rather unlikely to survive even one million years; maybe not even 100 k years.
And aren’t we so self centered in our thinking to believe that somehow we are an important species.
There are far more creatures on this planet that look like Lobsters, than there are that look like humans. So evidently there are better morphologies for life forms than the human one.
So just what miracle is it that a moon performs to make us humans possible.
Plants seem to be far more diverse and pervasive than humans, and it is not too apparent, what if any role intelligence plays in their survival.
For example, take a plant like a dandelion, which sprays seeds into the wind on the slopes of a mountain perhaps.
Typically, the temperature is lower further up than it is further down so there are usually more plants at lower altitudes.
So when a dandelion sprays its seeds to the winds, those that blow up the mountain have a better chance of landing on open ground (soil) than seeds which blow down the mountain, and have a better chance of landing on some other plant already occupying that spot; so they will never get a chance to grow into another dandelion, like the uphill ones will.
NO intelligence at all needed for propagation of the dandelion or other species as well. Just sheer random chance will do it.
Why is it that we humans can’t get away from the mirror and stop looking at ourselves as something special.
It is we who have narrowed our survival range with our central heating and air conditioning, and our artificial clothing and housing. And that is why we go gaga if the temperature changes by a tenth of a degree for a while. And we build mountains of paperwork laws to define what is food that we are allowed to eat or make available for somebody else to eat.
Yes we are sowing the seeds of our own demise by driving our existence requirements into a smaller and smaller corner.
There are countless species better suited to survival, than humans, and not a great deal of what we regard as intelligence among them.
So how much intelligence does a venus fly trap have; yet it captures plenty of food, of presumably more intelligent organisms.

There’s intelligent life on Earth?


The silicon atom has the same combining power as carbon, and silicon life-forms appear in star trek. On Earth, however, all known life is carbon-based and depends on the ability of plants to photosynthesise CO2 to form basic sugars and carbohydrates. This is the base of the food chain for all living things.
Thus, all life on this planet depends on that particular pollutant being in the atmosphere
George E Smith
Very good!

Crispin in Waterloo

Joe G
??? Jupiter has lots of solar total eclipses.

Joe G

Hi George- Read “The Privileged Planet”, all the factors are listed in it. Intelligence is nothing more than the ability to manipulate the environment for a purpose. All organisms exhibit that intelligence.

Joe G

No, Jupiter does not have total solar eclipses. There is a scientific paper that goes over this- that the earth is the only planet in this system that has total solar eclipses

@ George E. Smith March 17, 2015 at 11:47 pm

There’s not a shred of evidence, that intelligence promotes survival. Indeed it would seem from the daily news, that “human intelligence” is rather unlikely to survive even one million years; maybe not even 100 k years.

In the grand scheme of things, …”survival of the fittest”, …. you are correct on the above. Human intelligence does not promote “survival of the fittest of the species”.
But in the “short term”, …. human intelligence promotes survival, ….. but it is ”survival of the un-fittest”, which is, per se, …. slowly polluting the “gene pool”.
And as the human population continues to increase, …. the resources required to maintain a continuing ”survival of the un-fittest” will increase exponentially (Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare, etc., etc.) …. and thus the Law of Diminishing Populations will rear its ugly head, to wit:
The law of diminishing returns is an economic principle that states that as investment in a single goal increases, while all other variables remain constant, the return on investment will eventually decline.
The legacy of Easter Island, ……. perhaps?


Samuel C Cogar
March 18, 2015 at 7:31 am

In the grand scheme of things, …”survival of the fittest”, …. you are correct on the above. Human intelligence does not promote “survival of the fittest of the species”.
But in the “short term”, …. human intelligence promotes survival, ….. but it is ”survival of the un-fittest”, which is, per se, …. slowly polluting the “gene pool”….

One of the profound errors that most people make when attempting to talk about evolution is the mistaken concept of what “fittest” means. Selection, which is the only means of determining what “fittest” means at any given moment, acts like a filter that shifts through the “noise” of adaptive ranges present within living beings exposed to the specific selective filters in play. Those filters change with time, leading to the obvious but generally ignored fact that “fitness” can only increase with reference to specific filter and that can resulting in limiting fitness in terms of other acting filters. That’s how bull dogs, beefsteak tomatoes and Sphynx cats come into existence (humans are an evolutionary selective force when we deliberately decide which dog has pups).
At the same time, entropy acts on genetic information creating transcription errors, methylization and other noise, which might or might not come to be a selective advantage under some circumstances. Human intelligence was selected for within the population because the folks bright enough to invent a new “extrasomatic” means of catching a fish, or hooking down fruit were able feed their own. That lead pretty inexorably toward an approach to survival that was partially immune to the common selective filters. Can’t venture into an area because it’s too cold? Kill that bison and steal the coat. Too breezy in the coat? That bird stitches the nest together, suppose we do that to these captured furs of ours. Desert too dry to venture into? Let’s make a “puddle” of drinking water we can carry with us. This sort of behaviour exists elsewhere, but humans are uniquely adapted physiologically to take advantage of it (opposable thumbs). New Zealand crows are smart enough to make tools, but it is considerable work for them compared to a human with two functioning hands.

George E. Smith

Last time I checked there were approximately 92 different elements found here on earth, and much of the life we know about seems to contain compounds of Hydrogen, Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen, Sulfur, Phosphorus, and maybe a few more.
The carbon chemistry enables a wide range of molecules made from those few. Some compound’s isomers exist in living organisms, while other isomers of the same compound never are found in living organisms. And in many instances the non-existing ones are energetically favored over those that are in living organisms.
But in any case, the other 85 or so elements are also able to form many arrangements. Silicon forms the silicones which are a fairly diverse group of materials.
But when you add in to silicon, some other elements, for example Boron, or Phosphorous, or Arsenic, along with Oxygen, Nitrogen Aluminum, gold, and plenty of others, you can get quite elaborate resulting forms.
Right now, materials based on silicon are capable of replicating themselves and other things, and are slowly subjugating other intelligent forms to second class ratings.
You only have to watch some carbon life forms getting down the street, obeying the wishes of their silicon finger toys, to realize that the carbon forms are rapidly getting dumber and dumber, while the silicon ones are rapidly getting more and more intelligent.
Pretty soon the silicon life forms, will supplant the carbon ones in processes like large scale movement, and the carbon forms will have their ability to move freely will atrophy while the silicon ones take over the movement of other organisms, and materials as well from place to place.
Our appendix is already superfluous, and to some extent, so is our gall bladder. Eventually arms and legs will not be needed as silicon life forms will be perfectly capable of moving us from place to place, with little need of input from us.
And they already think for us, so more and more people can’t even give you change from a dollar bill, for a MacDonald’s Senior coffee, and have to call on a silicon life form to show them how to do it.
So while most life forms on earth, and those we call “intelligent”, are based on carbon chemistry, they are quite rapidly being overtaken by the intelligent forms of silicon based life forms, that are allowing the carboniferous ones, to get ever more stupid.
Now some people explain “life” on earth as being the result of “intelligent design.”
But why would an intelligent designer start off populating the earth with the dumbest things that have ever lived, such as Trilobites for example.
For how many millions of years was earth inhabited by “intelligently designed” organisms, that were as dumb as a box of rocks ? Why not make the intelligent ones first.
And why would an intelligent designer create billions of tons of squished “fossil” organisms that store enormous quantities of chemical energy, and then create an “intelligent life form” that chooses to eschew that source of energy, to the detriment of the well being of the majority of its total earth population.
Clearly the design of earth’s flora and fauna, was not the result of the application of any intelligence.
But we humans are so full of ourselves as being important in the universe, that we think it was all done for us.
So I prefer to believe, that we actually have learned to adapt to the climate that was given us on this non Goldilocks planet, and so have the many other life forms that share it with us.
But silicon life forms are capable of thriving in a much wider Temperature range than carbon life forms are, and at the higher Temperature extremes, there are plenty of other chemistries, that work very well.
Silicon carbide, is capable of functioning while glowing red from Temperature.
So the only thing special about planet earth is that we are on it.

George E, … I loved it, loved it, loved it, ….. especially this paragraph, to wit:

You only have to watch some carbon life forms getting down the street, obeying the wishes of their silicon finger toys, to realize that the carbon forms are rapidly getting dumber and dumber, while the silicon ones are rapidly getting more and more intelligent.

Thanks for posting that.

@ Duster March 18, 2015 at 11:29 am

One of the profound errors that most people make when attempting to talk about evolution is the mistaken concept of what “fittest” means.

Well now, Duster, after reading your explanation of “survival of the fittest” it doesn’t surprise me any that so many people are profoundly confused about the “fitness of the fittest”, ….. ‘descent-with-modification’ speaking, ….. that is..

George E. Smith

Joe G
March 18, 2015 at 4:07 am
Hi George- Read “The Privileged Planet”, all the factors are listed in it. …..”””””
The privileged planet is privileged, only in that we are on it. And since we defined what the word privileged means, then of course we can claim that the planet is privileged.
As for Jupiter’s “Total solar eclipses, can anybody on Jupiter’s surface, even see the sun at any time ??

Tom O

Why is this and it’s mates here? Where is the relevance to the article?

Game over man; game over.


I think it is rather amusing that those who call themselves “progressives” wish for the climate to be unchanging while the conservatives are keen to encourage adaptive change in the face of any changes that might happen. Talk about having things upside down, like Tiljander really.


And taking a typical hurricane and claiming that it’s abnormal is equally absurd.
Thank you Dr. Ball.


And taking a tropical storm and calling it a “Super Storm”, is nearly criminal. I still know people who think it was called super storm Sandy because it was even worse than a hurricane.

Mark from the Midwest

There are legions of estimates about how much damage was done, but I have two friends on the East Coast, who are dyed-in-the-wool-tree-huggers, who admitted that 90% of the damage was done within 2 feet of sea level. Crap, we get 2 foot storm surges on Lake Michigan in November.


… instead of it being a massively amplified disaster due to the incredibly awful response of federal, state and local government agencies (except the USCG) and poor to non-existent preparation on the part of the population due to the almost total dependence on government in the urban NE. If Sandy had hit down here in Florida no one would have mentioned its name after two weeks had passed. It would have faded away almost immediately like TS Fay (which dumped far more rain than Sandy did.) I was absolutely horrified at that response. There were emergency utility crews from Florida turned away from working in NY and NJ because they weren’t union, truckloads of supplies routed far from the places things were needed.

George E. Smith

On average Storm Sandy didn’t do much of anything. For most of its existence it simply stirred up the ocean surface a bit and the atmosphere. It is only when you cherry pick data, and consider only the few hours of Sandy’s life when it was in proximity to humans or human structures, that anything untoward happened.
I just flew to Auckland NZ partly in the fringes of Hurricane Pam, which slammed Vanuatu. Yes it was quite bumpy coming in to land.
And as a result of that storm, which is a disaster for Vanuatu, the six Volvo ocean race boats moored in the Viaduct Harbor, were unable to leave port for the southern ocean on Sunday. I don’t know yet whether they succeeded in leaving on Monday or not.
So I flew to Melbin on Monday, and it was a perfectly calm and uneventful flight.
It’s a terrible tragedy for those folks who were in the path, but they are already starting to pick up their pieces and lick their wounds. They will survive; they have for maybe thousands of years on those islands.

Ian W

It was a ‘superstorm’ as it arrived in the closing stages of a presidential election race and hit states where the politicians were more concerned with the size of soda cups than in basic planning laws and protection against storms which they, like New Orleans, had been prewarned about for decades. The storm had to be talked up otherwise these politicians would have been held accountable. However, unlike New Orleans the NE politicians have still not learned their lesson and the continuing lack of sea defenses and poor planning decisions will lead to more loss of life in future extra-tropical storms.

Iffen you want to talk about “superstorms” then you should be talking about the Tri-State Tornado that occurred on March 18, 1925, which was the deadliest tornado in U.S. history with 695 confirmed fatalities with a one (1) mile wide, 220 mile long path of death and destruction that began in southeastern Missouri and ended in southwestern Indiana.
Try to guess what a REPEAT of that storm would result in if it occurred in 2015.
Read more @ http://www.ustornadoes.com/2014/03/18/the-tri-state-tornado-of-1925/

In geological timescales, there’s no such thing as a “normal” climate.


Yes Pointman, If there is a great architect of the universe, that being must surely find some of our popular naive assumptions amusing. We obviously don’t have the longevity of lifespan or a vast enough perspective to judge what is normal for the third rock from sol.
What history paints is a slow-motion roller-coaster ride, where it is normal to gain and lose inertia but not normal to stay at the same elevation for long.
The one thing of which I am convinced, is that no single forcing is omnipotent. The interplay of cycles with random events determines the amount of heat which this planet retains at any given locale and juncture. If anthropological CO2 is actually abundent enough to be a forcing factor, it must compete in that arena of interplay, where it is challenged by other forces, terrestrial, heliospheric and cosmic.


Indeed Pointman. The end of the last glaciation saw rapid climate change. The Holocene saw wild climate changes come and go. PS I vaguely recall that the ‘normal’ state of the Earth over the last million years is ‘ice-ages’!

‘90% of the last million years, the normal state of the Earth’s climate has been an ice age’

It may be normal climate but I don’t want any of it thanks.

Agreed Jimbo, speaking as a Homo Sap, 70% of our estimated 200,000 existence has been in ice ages. Gimme at least our current interglacial. As for CO2 being the big controlling knob of climate, you’d have to be a big knob yourself to believe anything so simplistic.

Brian H

A million years? 1/4,500 of Earth’s history? A minor episode.

What is normal for the climate?
t.dT/dt = 0.2C
for most periods from a year to a century.

Rob Dawg

California thinks it is in a drought because the last three years of precipitation have been lower than they wish were average. Reference timeframes matter.

California is in a drought because that’s what deserts do.
Shear madness to build enormous cities in the desert and expect not to have water problems.

Brian H

Sheer, even. Cutting not necessary.

California is running out of water because we were stupid enough to build cities of millions of people in a desert.

If we use know “cheep” sources of energy that not a problem, if we do not allow the use of such energy sources it is, that where California is at today! Fresh water in today world is moot, the only question is are we willing to apply the know technology to change salt water to fresh?

Gunga Din

What Is A “Normal” Climate?

There was a time when stories of Man controlling the climate were considered science fiction.
Today such stories are political science fiction.


Excellent. I was thinking the same thing. I also recall that one of the ‘rules of war’ that were extent at some point on the recent past, and possibly still today, is that you don’t modify the weather on purpose to damage your enemy/help your guys.

Peter O'Brien

I may be missing something but if ‘normals’ are gradually shifted to the right of the timescale, in a warming world won’t anomalies understate the ‘warming’? I’m not a warmist by the way. Just want to understand how useful normals and anomalies are as opposed to absolute temperatures.


The new normal will be worse than the old normal. No matter what happens. It will just give people something else to moan about.


Yes, indeed. What is normal?
The Romans enjoyed a balmy English climate with vineyards during the RWP. The Norse enjoyed Greenland’s farming colonies, and the Anasazi of the American Southwest could grow maize on high Colorado plateaus during the MWP. CO2 levels followed natural temperature variations with the terrestrial biosphere holding down natural CO2 venting from the oceans and thawing permafrost.
Today, with a natural warm period returning, the growing seasons will slowly lengthen in the Northern Hemisphere. It will only take about an additional 20 days, 10 days in earlier in Spring, and 10 days later in the Fall into October to reverse the secular trend of increasing CO2 even with the “business as usual CO2 scenario”release from human activity. The sinks are far from saturated and are expanding to soak up the rising pCO2. Instead of 155 growing days from early May to mid-September, 176 days of CO2 NH biosphere sink activity will reverse the CO2 secular trend. CO2 is the effect of warming, not the cause.
But if the Climate cools due to natural internal variability and/or diminished solar forcings, then the CO2 will slow its rise, yet still be elevated, and thus assisting the biosphere in resilience, and helping to buffer the cooling.
CO2 is our friend. It feeds the plants which feed the world. It may buffer against the calamity of a cooling world.
Climate Change is no longer a scientific question. The pseudoscience of the IPCC has been unmasked. Carbon emissions are now only a political battlefield for the control of the mankind’s wealth and industry. As for nature, the biosphere is content with elevated CO2. We should be too.

Crispin in Waterloo

I know it is a popular meme but melting permafrost is not a net source of CO2. Once the underlying ice melts trees grow rapidly – well as rapidly as they can. The subtraction of CO2 from the air is larger than the CO2 and other carbon sources.
Trees bury a lot of carbon in the ground actually, that is where the vegetation in the permafrost came from.
The permafrost line shifts north and south over hundreds or thousands of years with all sorts of thirty year normals.
There are different ‘normals’ for Toronto and Waterloo. So what? Does it tell me what the temperature will be today? Or is it just a method of making people feel they are being cheated? It is bloody cold again and not very spring-like.


What is normal climate?
Climate where Norm lives.


I had more pictured Normal, Illinois and it’s sister city, Bloomington. Pretty cold there these last few years.


(Go ISU Redbirds!)

Bruce Cobb

IOW, Boston. Record-breaking snow this winter.

Are you sure it not Leiif, as in Leif Erickson, after all he knew where vinland was and not only that that were the grapes grew, cold chance in hell if the grapes grow there today! Oh i forgot it suppose to be warmer today day than when Leif sailed the North Atlantic.

Laker aka Daffy Duck

The Sahara, ” a lush savanna, teeming with wildlife, fish-filled lakes, …”
I’ll take the climate of 9,000 years ago; can you dial it up for me?

From 10,500 to 7,300 years ago much of the Sahara was habitable by humans, hippos, elephants, rhino, crocodiles, and 30 species of fish. For over 3,000 years that was the “normal”, and so it may be again in another 100,000 years. In the interim the normal for Chicago at some point will be a mile-thick ice sheet cover, and San Franciscans will have to go west 26 miles to reach the coast. The Great Barrier Reef will once more be a high and dry plain, as it was until just 12,000 years ago.

Gary in Erko

This is normal climate – http://www.blueplanetbiomes.org/climate.htm . What’s changed?

Thanks for that link.
I live in Pennsylvania. When I was growing up, summers got hot and winters got cold, and it warmed up in the spring and cooled down in the fall. Some summers got hotter than others, and some winters got colder than others. Some years, spring weather got an earlier or later start, or end, and some years fall weather got an earlier or later start, or end.
And that’s what happens now, too. So, I’m not sure in what sense the climate here has actually changed at all.


Re Gary in Erko – from your link:
“Trade winds north of the equator blow from the northeast. South of the equator, they blow from the southeast. The trade winds of the two hemispheres meet near the equator, causing the air to rise. As the rising air cools, clouds and rain develop. The resulting bands of cloudy and rainy weather near the equator create tropical conditions.
Westerlies blow from the southwest on the Northern Hemisphere and from the northwest in the Southern Hemisphere. Westerlies steer storms from west to east across middle latitudes.”
Now that is an interesting speculation, that the trade winds meet near the equator and push the air up! Perhaps my Geography and Physics masters were wrong at school – they thought the air was warmed in the near equatorial regions, expanded, and as it was less dense than surrounding air, was buoyant and so rose. The trade winds were cooler, denser, air which flowed in to fill the gap.
And westerlies ‘steer’ storms? Intelligent westerlies which can steer storms? Puleeze!

David A

30 years is, at a minimum, 1/2 of a “normal” 30 year cycle.
Consider the AMO compared to NH T.
(At east this version of normal captures a real ocean observation. Yet it tells us nothing of a general trend over larger cycles.
I am curious how the nations on this planet would get along with a sudden reduction to 270 ppm CO2. As every crop on the planet would suddenly reduce production by about 10% to 15 %, I imagine the “new normal” would be quite stressful.


A productivity decrease of 10 to 15% in the Public Service would be unnoticeable.


You would be into negative figures.


Ø x 90% = Ø.

David A

True that. 10 to 15 percent less harm is not much.


“After*” the Wintah for the Ages in Greater Boston — I favor reverting to the “Normal” of 130k years ago
* — while it will be Spring tomorrow we are also predicted to pick-up some additional snow and more “Below Average Temps”

A “Normal” climate, is one which hasn’t been tampered with, by the Climate Alarmists.

In psychology “normal” and/or “norms” are determined by the gestalt or broad behavior patterns of a group of people. Cultural Norms can be very different from each other, one peoples normal can be another peoples crazy. Point being to even attempt naming a “climate norm” is in itself absurd. Normal in both psychology and climate science is a moving target.


I have a lot of respect for Bruce Krasting’s articles. What would the opinion of this be for the WUWT crowd?

M Courtney

The Trade Winds drive the El Nino.
A big storm could disrupt them. Pam was a Cat 5 storm – that’s big.
So it seems reasonable, in my opinion (despite the sensationalist writing style).
But we’ll have to wait and see. The storm was big but not long-lived by the standards of the Trade Winds.
If it pans out then we would have a mechanism for triggering El Ninos – Big storms blocking the Trade Winds. But does the blockage last long enough to cause a complete change? I don’t know.

Brian H

Donch’a mean, “If it pams out”? /;-p


In English, what is the normal meaning of the word “normal”?
Take your pick:

In the 60’s, I remember playing soccer in shorts on the front lawn for my brother’s birthday in late November. The following year we played ice hockey and cut it short because it was too cold.
To this day I don’t know which year was “normal”.

Bob Boder


Mike Maguire

The last 3 decades have featured the most favorable weather and climate that life on this planet has experienced in at least 1,000 years, going back to the Medieval Warm Period.
Taking into account the additional CO2 and you have an even better environment.
However, we have a group of humans that decided that they know what the perfect temperature and CO2 level is………………. exactly where they were at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
Nothing else matters.
Warmer, even by a small amount=bad.
CO2=Pollution, even if it greens up the earth and massively increases the food supply

“History shows that whenever man achieves a civilization of peace and plenty some one has found a way to wreck it and send the world back to the old hard life again.”
Dr. Edith Boyd
Assistant Professor
Department of Anatomy
University of Minnesota
The Straits Times (Singapore)
8 December 1935

normal is probably a bad choice of words. the right word is ‘scaled’
you can choose any length period you like.

k. kilty

Maybe average is a better term.

no. you scale by subtracting the average.


No. Scaling is multiplicative, not additive. You scale by multiplying a value times a scale factor.

David A

Hum, well numbers are certainly malleable.


I think this raises some important definitional issues that get swept under the table.
First “climate” is typically applied to a region, how do we define a “global climate”? What artifacts of the atmosphere can we abstract out (using for example 30 year time frames) to define a global climate? Particularly if we want to discuss climates over centuries past and future?
When you look at the regional definitions most of the criteria become meaningless at a global level so I suspect we are reduced pretty much to using global temperatures as the surrogate measure. This may be fine, but I haven’t seen this issue being addressed in the literature (and I’ve looked).
Second we talk of “climate change”. To get beyond the non-trivial interpretation that climates are always changing we need to have some predefined categories of “global climates” so we can judge when the climate changes from one state to another. We do that at a regional level.
To focus the mind on this issue it is worth asking how many discrete climates we have had over the last 2000 years say, when did the transitions occur and how do we all agree are the requirements to say we have made the transition to the next state. I’m not prejudging whether we’re are going up or down in temp – just looking for the definitions of the next adjacent categories to the category we are in (this presumes the categories are basically a function of temperature).
I think this is important for the policy debate. Some definition would make the measurement and forecasting problems clearer. We might well decide we don’t need GCMs to help.

“First “climate” is typically applied to a region, how do we define a “global climate”?
this definition of climate ties climate to a location ( not a region) allthough many locations in a region can have a similar climate. the global version of this is merely an enumeration. further in this definition climate never changes. climate change happens in the weather.


The Koeppan classification is location independent (but is “applied to a region”). It would become reduced to little more than classifying global temperatures if applied globally. We could alternatively measures the size of the regions in various Koeppan classes and develop a score from that. My point is that I have not see either done, and the latter becomes difficult for the historic record.
On either definition the climate will change (global temp or distribution of Koeppan classes), but the problem remains: how do we classifying these climates into categories of global climate?
The problem doesn’t go away if you define the global climates as the set of all observed weather. Putting aside the question of how we move from average weather patterns to global climate, we are still left without any agreed classification of the latter.

I’m running a simple competition. The rules are simple: get an alarmist to call you a denier.
I thought it would be really easy, but I’ve been asking all night and no one’s playing ball.
Perhaps I’m doing it wrong? Any suggestions.


Easy. go onto getup.com.au and challenge global warming.


Easier. Go over to HotWhopper. I guarantee you be hit with denier quicker than an AK47 on full-auto.

Bob Boder

Denier! Ah never mind I am not an alarmist.

M Courtney

Are you banned at the Guardian?
If not, I have an idea.

Brian H

Wool that be people who don’t believe wool comes from sheep?

Brian H

Ya, as soon as you appeal to “normal” you reference someone’s usual, or tolerable. Well, Bring back, Bring back, Bring back the Holocene Optimum to me, to me! It was really great! Just after all those nasty ice sheets, that lasted so long!

Andrew Richards

Climate and every component that contributes to that term varies on all time frames and at all spatial scales. To even link the words ‘climate’ and ‘normal’ just provides further evidence of the utter absurdity of thinking characteristic of those (post-normal?) ‘climate scientists’ pushing the ‘man-made climate change’ meme. ‘Normal climate’, I suspect, is simply another psuedo-scientific ¨trick¨ used by the CAGW cultists because the word ‘normal’ is used by real scientists to describe a specific type of statistical distribution as a standard for analysing other types of statistical distributions.

Mark from the Midwest

The whole notion of language is critical to the debate, or lack of it. Look at the comments on yesterday’s debate. Even the word anomaly plays into some degree of fear mongering. In scientific communities the term generally means “difference,” but the colloquial meaning is “irregularity,” as in “not normal.”

Some day, when computers become cheap enough that rich multi-billionaires and mega-corporations will not be the only ones that can afford them, we will be able to move beyond static 2 dimensional presentations of data and instead utilize a dynamic, user selectable interactive user interface method of displaying data. Someday, the digital divide that separates society into the rich that have access to computers, and the rest of us will be overcome.
On a serious note, I am at the coffee shop with 3 computers, this one I am typing on, a smartphone orders of magnitude more powerful than my first computer, and an e-ink eBook reader. When I took my first year of university studies, there was not one single laptop in existence at the university.
What I am getting at is, there are ways of overcoming some of the problems as presented by Dr. Tim Ball in this essay. One of my specialties is in the presentation of data.

Back in the early 1980s, I programmed mini-computers that had 1,500 MB of RAM. About the size of a refrigerator, they had to be kept in climate-controlled rooms.
Now, my smartphone with 1,500 MB of RAM fits in the palm of my hand.

I frequently told my students that when I was an undergraduate, I never wasted time playing computer games. Very few of them could guess why I didn’t.
In the 1960s the University of Adelaide had two computers: a big one in an air conditioned room, and a smaller one that was about twice the size of a large fridge. My brother learned to programme FORTRAN on them.


When my dad was head astronomer at the University of Chicago in the 1950’s the only air conditioned room on the campus was Univac’s home and I remember being amazed at how cool it was in that part of the building during summer.
Univac was a big. And mainly crunched big numbers calculating astronomical details (and nuclear bomb stuff).

Univac was a big. And mainly crunched big numbers

And RAM memory was magnetic “core” memory …. and “quick” random-access mass storage was a Fastrand Drum … with about 90 megabytes of storage, … which makes us ole computer dinosaurs appreciate the SanDisk USB Flash Drives they we now have in the desk drawer or carrying on a key chain. to wit:comment image
Source: http://oldendaysbp.blogspot.com/2011/02/univac-fastrand-ii-what-beast-of.html

Joe G

A normal climate is one that is constantly changing. heh


Dr. Ball did you read the latest from the CBC where capitalism is saving us from global warming. Lots of talk about solar but left out natural gas. No mention of fracturing being a big example of capitalism.


Actually, it’s not fracking that is the revolution, that’s been going on for a hundred years, its horizontal drilling that is the revolution. It’s been found that even old depleted wells can produce again with horizontal drilling and fracking combo and it’s relatively cheap (About a million) to reactivate a well compared to 20 Mill for a greenfield well. I forecast a lot of interest in buying up old wells.



Brandon Gates

Tim Ball,

While on a radio program, an IPCC modeler told me they omitted Milankovitch because they considered the time scale inappropriate.

The orbital insolation calculations from Berger (1978) are here: ftp://ftp.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/paleo/climate_forcing/orbital_variations/berger_insolation/
File BEIN11.dat contains calculations for the next 100 KYr into the future, with year 0 = 1950 CE. At present, June insolation at 65 N is changing at a whopping -0.18 W/m^2 per century. That rate is not expected to go positive until the year 2600, at which time the net change in insolation from now will have been about -0.54 W/m^2. For comparison, by 2100 the insolation change from now is estimated to be -0.08 W/m^2.
To truly put these figures in perspective, consider that the rise from LGM to the Holocene max was ~3.5 K globally according to Shakun (2012):comment image
The computed insolation change over the same interval is 134 W/m^2. Assuming for sake of argument that 100% of the temperature change can be explained by the insolation change, that works out to 0.026 K/(W/m^2). Take the product of that and the expected -0.08 W/m^2 change by 2100, and the answer is -0.002 K, a figure which isn’t even worth being called a rounding error over those eight and a half decades.

Gore wants to maintain his “normal” by reducing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere to pre-industrial levels. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says this was 270 ppm. This is incorrect, but let’s assume it is true in order to consider the consequences of achieving that level. Assume also that the IPCC is correct and that virtually all the increase in global temperatures from the nadir of the Little Ice Age, especially since 1950. The IPCC says current levels are 400 ppm, so presumably to achieve pre-industrial levels requires a 130-ppm reduction. According to the science of the IPCC and fellow Nobel winner Al Gore CO2 levels determine temperature, so this will result in a return to Little Ice Age conditions.

Before assuming that the IPCC is correct, you first need to demonstrate that you understand what the IPCC’s actual argument is. The best way to do that is with an explicit citation and a direct quote. While you’re hunting around for something to substantiate your oft-repeated talking points, here’s what AR4 had to say about net forcings since about 900 CE:
It certainly looks to me like they’re not discounting solar activity. Neither should you.
[ LGM is the abbreviation for ? .mod]

It can “look” like anything you want. AR5 was the first to allow that solar variation might be a factor, but insisted it was probably minor.

Brandon Gates


It can “look” like anything you want.

Since they went to the trouble to prepare the plot and allocated page space to it in AR4, I’d be rather hard-pressed to argue that they were ignoring it. Here’s something else AR4 had to say: http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ch1s1-4-3.html
The TAR states that the changes in solar irradiance are not the major cause of the temperature changes in the second half of the 20th century unless those changes can induce unknown large feedbacks in the climate system. The effects of galactic cosmic rays on the atmosphere (via cloud nucleation) and those due to shifts in the solar spectrum towards the ultraviolet (UV) range, at times of high solar activity, are largely unknown. The latter may produce changes in tropospheric circulation via changes in static stability resulting from the interaction of the increased UV radiation with stratospheric ozone. More research to investigate the effects of solar behaviour on climate is needed before the magnitude of solar effects on climate can be stated with certainty.
So they weren’t “ignoring” it in TAR either.

AR5 was the first to allow that solar variation might be a factor, but insisted it was probably minor.

A first approximation is pretty easy to come by. Since 1950, average TSI has been about 0.5 W/m^2 above the 1821-1850 30-year mean. Rule of thumb when dealing with solar irradiance is to divide by 4 to account for spherical geometry, so that’s 0.125 W/m^2. “Pretty minor” seems a reasonable descriptor to me. That does not at all mean “to be ignored” in my book.

k. kilty

How is June isolation decreasing when “june” gets closer to perihelion each year? I think you are misinterpreting Berger’s tables.

Brandon Gates

k. kilty,

How is June isolation decreasing when “june” gets closer to perihelion each year? I think you are misinterpreting Berger’s tables.

This may look like crap, but here’s the first full record from BEIN11.dat:
date = 0 ecc = 0.016724 omega = 102.04 obl = 23.446 prec = 0.01636
0 90 0 0 0 553 944 1082 938 546 0 0 0 0
0 80 0 0 156 545 930 1065 923 538 154 0 0 0
0 70 0 87 308 604 887 1016 881 597 304 86 0 0
0 60 92 229 450 700 904 984 898 692 444 226 91 50
0 50 228 374 579 786 939 994 933 776 571 370 227 177
0 40 374 513 690 852 961 996 954 842 680 507 372 322
0 30 518 639 780 895 961 980 954 884 769 631 514 468
0 20 651 747 846 912 938 940 931 901 835 738 646 609
0 10 768 834 887 903 890 878 884 892 875 824 763 737
0 0 866 896 901 867 819 794 813 857 888 886 861 848
0 -10 942 933 887 807 726 690 721 797 875 922 935 937
0 -20 992 942 846 723 615 570 611 714 835 931 986 1004
0 -30 1017 924 780 618 489 439 486 611 769 913 1010 1046
0 -40 1017 880 690 496 354 301 351 490 680 870 1010 1064
0 -50 994 812 579 362 216 166 214 358 571 802 987 1062
0 -60 957 724 450 221 86 47 86 219 444 715 950 1050
0 -70 939 624 308 84 0 0 0 83 304 617 932 1085
0 -80 984 563 156 0 0 0 0 0 154 556 977 1137
0 -90 999 572 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 565 992 1155

First column is kiloyears from 1950, so zero obviously is … 1950. Second column is latitude. The next 12 columns are the insolation values at the indicated latitude by calendar month. 65 N isn’t available, so I averaged using the values for 60N and 70N: (1,016 + 984)/2 = 1,000 W/m^2.
date = 1 ecc = 0.016307 omega = 119.21 obl = 23.317 prec = 0.01423
1 70 0 88 311 608 890 1015 876 592 301 86 0 0
1 60 93 231 454 706 909 984 894 686 440 225 92 51

The above are the relevant values from the next record, same file. The year is 1000 * 1 + 1950 = 2950. Insolation at 65N is (1,015 + 984)/2 = 999.5 W/m^2.
date = 2 ecc = 0.015867 omega = 136.48 obl = 23.190 prec = 0.01093
2 70 0 90 313 612 894 1017 873 588 299 86 0 0
2 60 94 233 457 711 914 988 893 683 437 224 92 53

Finally, the above are the relevant values for the year 3950. Insolation at 65N is (1,017 + 988)/2 = 1,002.5 W/m^2.
I did cubic spline interpolations every 50 years to figure out where Jun insolation starts going positive, the answer is somewhere between 2600 and 2650. So, we’re still on the downslope. It’s very shallow and basically not worth bothering with when doing 85 year projections.
As for why June insolation is still decreasing at high northern latitudes, that’s a function of eccentricity, obliquity and precession that any old Milankovitch theory article explains far better than I could at the moment. The good news is the ice age doth not cometh.

[ LGM is the abbreviation for ? .mod]
I believe it is Last Glacial Maximum

Brandon Gates


David A

So this statement, which was the main thrust of the comment..
“The IPCC says current levels are 400 ppm, so presumably to achieve pre-industrial levels requires a 130-ppm reduction. According to the science of the IPCC and fellow Nobel winner Al Gore CO2 levels determine temperature, so this will result in a return to Little Ice Age conditions.”
…is about CO2, as most every other factor has been minimized to not much. So using IPCC math, what does a reduction in CO2 bring the GAT to?

k. kilty

Berger’s table does not list months but rather equal values of true solar longitude. By assuming as you did you are not comparing equivalent time of year. If you register days, for instance compare identical day of year, you will likely find a different trend of insolation.

Brandon Gates

k. kilty,

Berger’s table does not list months but rather equal values of true solar longitude. By assuming as you did you are not comparing equivalent time of year. If you register days, for instance compare identical day of year, you will likely find a different trend of insolation.

Yes, Berger (1978) does make it clear that his tables are meant to be interpreted as astromomically-derived values, not calendrical: http://www.whoi.edu/science/GG/paleoseminar/pdf/berger78.pdf
This section shows the importance of a new astronomical solution relative to previous ones.

Jumping down to the caption for Figure 1: ϖ is the longitude of the perihelion relative to the moving vernal equinox and is equal to Π + Ψ. The annual general precession in longitude, Ψ, describes the absolute motion of γ [the vernal equinox] along the earth’s orbit relative to the fixed stars. Π, the longitude of the perihelion is measured from the reference vernal equinox of 1950 AD and describes the absolute motion of the perihelion relative to the fixed stars. For any numerical value of ϖ, 180° is subtracted for a practical purpose: Observations are made from the earth, and the sun is considered revolving around the earth.
Omega-bar shows up in the tables as simply “omega”, and is a sawtooth pattern. From that one can work out at what longitude the sun is over at maximum zenith at the astronomical summer solstice, and do the sidereal calculations to map that to whatever calendar of one’s choosing, but why bother? For most applications these calculations were originally intended, the age uncertainty of the the observations runs to tens or hundreds of years, and the time resolution from centuries to millennia. The fact that his published tables from 1978 are done in 1,000 year increments really ought to be a big hint that daily resolution is empty precision.
Compiling his original FORTRAN code and running it might be fun in a geeky kind of way, but these curves are so well-behaved and regular that a cubic spline interpolation in a spreadsheet program really ought to get it, don’t you think?
Now. It turns out I was wrong about something. Some modellers actually do bother with this: http://www.cesm.ucar.edu/models/atm-cam/docs/description/description.pdf
4.8 Parameterization of Shortwave Radiation
4.8.1 Diurnal cycle
With standard name-list settings, both the longwave and shortwave heating rates are evaluated every model hour. Between hourly evaluations, the longwave and shortwave fluxes and flux divergences are held constant. In CAM 3.0, insolation is computed using the method of Berger [1978]. Using this formula- tion, the insolation can be determined for any time within 10 6 years of 1950 AD. This facilitates using CAM 3.0 for paleoclimate simulations. The insolation at the top of the model atmosphere is given by S I = S 0 ρ −2 cos μ, (4.174) where S 0 is the solar constant, μ is the solar zenith angle, and ρ −2 is the distance factor (square of the ratio of mean to actual distance that depends on the time of year). In the standard con- figuration, S 0 = 1367.0 W/m 2 . CAM 3.0 includes a mechanism for treating the slow variations in the solar constant over the 11-year cycle and during longer secular trends. A time series of S 0 for 1870-2100 based upon Lean et al. [1995] is included with the standard model. We represent the annual and diurnal cycle of solar insolation with a repeatable solar year of exactly 365 days and with a mean solar day of exactly 24 hours, respectively. The repeatable solar year does not allow for leap years. The expressions defining the annual and diurnal variation of solar insolation are:

They then rattle off pretty much the same formulae in Berger (1978). Then, further down:
The orbital state used to calculate the insolation is held fixed over the length of the model integration. This state may be specified in one of two ways. The first method is to specify a year for computing t. The value of the year is held constant for the entire length of the integration. The year must fall within the range of 1950 ± 10^6 . The second method is to specify the eccentricity factor e, longitude of perihelion ϖ − 180°, and obliquity. This set of values is sufficient to specify the complete orbital state. Settings for AMIP II style integrations under 1995 AD conditions are = 23.4441, e = 0.016715, and ϖ − 180 = 102.7.
So, set it and forget it a la Ron Popeil, which I maintain is defensible for runs on the order of centuries. Longer than that, less defensible. I can’t make sense out of, oh, Mann (2009) …
… or Moberg (2005) …
… without taking high northern latitude insolation into account. A TSI reconstruction helps there quite a bit as well, particularly for Moberg and the MWP/LIA swing.

Brandon Gates, from your quotes about the GCM model basis above:

In the standard con- figuration, S 0 = 1367.0 W/m 2 .

Dr Leif Svalgaard now tells us that the solar radiation TSI is actually only 1362 watts/m^2.
So, all this money spent trying to fixing an “extra” 3 watts/m^2 due to extra CO2 that might be in the atmosphere one hundred years from needs to “find” a missing 5.0 watts/m^2 NOW!!!!!!

k. kilty

Brandon Gates
I confess to being baffled by your response. Let’s return to the graph from AR4 which began this whole thread. That graph shows a solar forcing that varies with periods of a few hundred years. There are no such periods among earth orbital parameters, so the graph must be largely a guess as to the influence of varying solar output, and says little about changing insolation due to orbital factors.
You persist in looking at June northern hemisphere insolation. That this is near an extremum in the annual cycle of insolation just obscures how much orbital elements impact insolation at other times of year…say in mid March. Which trend in insolation is more influential in the melting of northern hemisphere ice and snow, the trend during spring or the trend during summer? More specifically which insolation trend would have greater influence in greening up the northern hemisphere, and thus decreasing albedo, the trend of mid March or mid june?


Very interesting Dr Ball, Is it possible to expand the Millankovich chart around where we are now so we can see better the direction of the 65N forcing and since the forcing is utterly predictable see how deep the next minimum will go?
One other point, I watched your debate with the Greens. I think you may have made a tactical mistake, you try to focus on the facts, the science while the Greens are focussed on the feelings, the emotions. Greens are political, not scientific animals. You failed to sell your message on several points because you refrained from diving into the morality arguments the greens excel in. This post is an important illustration, when CO2 was last at 270PPM there was only about 2 Billion humans (If I recall correctly), if we were to return to 270PPM (and the crop yields this implies) with a temperature drop of say 1 degree, what are the implications for humanity – ie.. the Greens are arguing for a climate that would cut crop yields by about 50% at a time when humanity is reaching 7 Billion – the debate should be shifted to how unethical/immoral doing that would be… You would have won the debate right there if you had put that argument.
Strategically when you address climate change it would be better to challenge the moral basis for this religious zeal as well as the science,since the activism is not based on science, listen to the words, it’s an ethical war. We can’t win the political debate unless we demonstrate the moral superiority of our argument as well as the scientific. Some examples.
As outlined , how sustainable is shifting the climate back to 270PPM and -1 degree of the preindustrial with 21st century population levels.
How many children in the world could have clean water if the money used in climate change (research and Subsidies) were invested in clean water supplies (Ans. All of them)
How many children in the world could eat if the money used in climate change (research and Subsidies) were invested in food supplies (Ans. All of them)
How many children in the world could be immunized against serious childhood diseases (like whooping cough, diptheria, polio etc) if the cash wasted in climate change were used in a massive immunization campaign (Probably close to all of them)
25000 excess pensioners died in the UK in 2012 due to effect of fuel poverty driven by green subsidies
The best fuel for electricity after coal is flour (Similar calorific value, can be used in the same furnaces as pulverised coal) – How moral is that
You mentioned biofuel effects on the population in the debate – note the defensive response you got on that, greens don’t want to be seen to be inhumane. Take that to the limit, if they succeed then many more die due to defertilisation of the plants. We need to start talking about the morality of a Greens success!
I have a list of about 13 of these consequences if you want them, all of them show that the cure is worse than the disease.

k. kilty

Do not expand the Berger table. Get a copy of Berger’s Fortran code and modify it, or do as I did and rewrite it in some way to get finer time steps, but keep in mind that you must register days of year with respect to one another over the years.


Re Bobl,
Please list all of the Green’s immoral positions. You might like to compare the ill effects of coal against the ill effects of cold – I think that only about 12 000 people died in London due to the Great Smog – see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Smog .
Now that was London’s “normal” climate.

M Courtney

But the use of coal increased and the smog went away due to Clean Air Acts. Coal was burnt in power stations instead.
Power stations that were affordable due to the development of the economy caused by cheap fossil fuels.
It was called the Industrial Revolution.
Ironically, banning cheap energy and switching to expensive and unreliable wind and solar has led to an increase in private small-scale generator use and more urban pollution.


Half of Europe died through the little ice age, that’s what 1/2 a billion in todays terms? Now lets consider the present, my immoral friend, how long has it been since Sulphur dioxide scrubbers were invented and added to coal furnaces, what is the likelihood of another “Great smog” in the west in 2015? So we have potentially 1/2 a billion people (more like 2 Bn world wide) at risk due to cold and something close to Zero at risk due to smog.
Humans being a tropical animal loves it warm, it is more likely that human beings will breed better with global warming that without, so there are no future human implication of warming other than we might like the new climate too much (oh that and the human race will spend even more time mowing the lawn because of the fertilisation effect of CO2 on the average garden)

Tom in Florida

“One other point, I watched your debate with the Greens. I think you may have made a tactical mistake, you try to focus on the facts, the science while the Greens are focussed on the feelings, the emotions.”
Sales 101. People make decisions based on feelings and emotions, rarely on facts. Remember, you don’t sell the steak, you sell the sizzle. Sales 101.


Would someone please set the global thermostat at 77ºF (25ºC)?
For those of you who will miss snow skiing, they’ve got that covered here.
A ‘normal’ climate has never existed and will never exist when you consider that the climate started with he formation of he Earth and will end when the Earth is obliterated. In between those points is the path the climate will take. It is a unique climate path. Our lives are just too short to observe the journey.
OK, the preceding is certainly true, but not particularly useful. We do need to know enough about the Earth’s weather and climate system on human time scales to at least allow a little rudimentary planning. ‘Normal’ isn’t particularly useful but knowing what’s in store is useful.
My ha’penny worth.


Thanks Dr. Ball. You did an excellent job yesterday as well regarding Ms. May. Well done Sir.


The climate is always normal. It’s warmist delusions that are extreme.

Could someone please explain how you determine temperature from an ice core. I understand how CO2 can be gotten from the bubbles in the ice core, but how do you determine temperature from that bubble???


The ratio of oxygen and hydrogen isotopes forming the ice is used as ‘a proxy’ for determining the temperature at the time the ice was laid down.
In principle, water made of the heavy isotopes (oxygen18 or deuterium) condenses out first and rains down (or snows down) and the ratio of heavy isotopes to lighter isototopes in the ice sheet that they form provides an indication of the prevailing temperature.

Thanks MikeB…


Bruce Cockburn is a left-wing folk singer (wait, that’s a bit redundant, isn’t it…). But he is a great song writer and guitar player, known for great lyrics. One of which is:
“The trouble with normal is it always gets worse”

k. kilty

In winter around here we have a few days of warm weather daytime highs of 40 to 50F, then a few days of daytime highs of 15 to 30F. This pattern repeats all winter but is not truly cyclic. Nevertheless the normal temperature pattern is this constant shifting temperature. The average winter daytime high is 35F or so, but almost no days actually have an average of 35F. We should not use the word normal, when we actually mean average.


Re Bobl, BTW, a misting of flour and air is a high explosive. Granaries and flour mills have blown up as a result of carelessness and an ignition source.

Creating such an explosion in a tin was a regular part of first year science when I was a boy. Probably banned now.

Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

a 14% increase in CO2 resulted in an 11% increase in vegetation — that means proportionately the temperature goes down.
Climate normals are used in general terms that includes extremes observed in that 30-year period. But when we want to extrapolate or interpolate these conditions, it is common among meteorologists to look at the long term pattern of a individual meteorological parameter. If a parameter like precipitation presents a cyclic variation — WMO in 1966 published a manual dealing with methods to separate man induced trend from natural variations [cyclic pattern and irregular variations]. So, when the data shows a cyclic variation, the period must a period of a full cycle. The truncated part of a cycle gives mis-leading conclusions or inferences.
Let me present a case of Indian minister briefing the parliament on Indian rainfall. He presented to the house saying that the rainfall is decreasing. In fact the All India Southwest Monsoon rainfall presents a 60-year cycle. Already two cycles have been completed and the third cycle started in 1987/88. The first 30-year period is above the average in majority of the years with more flood years. This is sine curve, that means it varies between 0.0 to +1.0 to 0.0 to -1.0 to 0.0. to +1.0 to 0.0 to -1.0 to 0.0 to +1.0: That means when we select a data period from + 1.0 to – 1.0, this shows a decreasing trend — this exactly what the minister was briefed. If the data would have been selected between _1.0 to +1.0, then it would mean the rainfall is increasing. So, in meteorological data never make sweeping conclusions based on a truncated data.
In the case of undivided Andhra Pradesh of one Indian state receives rainfall two monsoons [southwest and northeast monsoon] and cyclonic activity is more seen in northeast monsoon season. The individual seasonal rainfall shows a 56-year cyclic pattern but they are in opposite pattern. The cyclones in Bay Bengal followed the northeast monsoon 56 year cycle. But when the annual rainfall taken, the cycle shows a 132 year cycle. In the above the average 66 year period the flood years were 24 and drought years were 12 and in the 66 year below the average period the flood years were 12 and drought years were 24 [flood year refers the rainfall more than 110% of average rainfall and drought year refers to the year with precipitation less than 90% of the average]. Now, the below the average pattern started since 2001,
Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy


Normal climate is the prevailing weather over an indefinite span of time and space. Fortunately, the natural chaos is tolerable in Earth’s semi-stable, bounded states.

Dr. Strangelove

What is a “normal” climate? In simplistic terms
normal = natural
abnormal = anthropogenic
It follows a “normal” climate includes a frozen Thames River and a temperate Greenland suitable for agriculture that have occurred in last 1,000 years without man’s influence. In last 100 years, we have not yet seen climate more extreme than these. So everything is normal.
Al Gore thinks the earth’s crust is millions of degrees hot. That means the rocks are pure plasma. It reveals his level of scientific knowledge. Therefore we should believe his climate science. Reductio ad absurdum

Dr Tim Ball’s essay is informative and thought-provoking.
My best takeaway is Dr. Ball’s explanation of the number 30 for the length of the WMO period for defining climate. In statistics we use 30 as the break-point below which we apply small-sample theory. Dr Ball’s explanation is one of those where you say to yourself, “How obvious, why didn’t I think of that.” Which is what Thomas Huxley said about Darwin’s theory of natural selection.
Of course Dr Ball’s main point is that the number 30 has no relationship to climatology, but only to statistical procedures. By contrast there are many natural fluctuations in temperature and precipitation with duration longer or shorter than 30 years, such as ENSO (El Nino) and the AMO (Atlantic Decadal Oscillation).
What I have difficulty with after studying climate for over 50 years, is: Can these small fluctuations in temperature and rainfall properly be described as climate change?
According to the Gaia theory, that the Earth is a homeostatic system, a “normal” temperature does exist. Whether or not we are able to quantify “normal” temperature and rainfall is a separate issue.
As Dr Ball points out the definition of “normal” climate itself is subject to change. Taking the long view, I ask: What was normal a million years ago or 5000 years ago? The former normal may not be normal for today because the “normal” thermostat setting for Earth changes naturally on long and short timescales. We don’t know why, and we don’t know if the drivers are systematic or random. We are not even sure about the timescales.
Is there a normal climate for the latest 3,000 years of the Holocene Epoch? (Holocene = 11,700 years ago to the present.)
To approach this question, I think about how a house thermostat operates as it seeks to adjust to its set temperature target. The house temperature overshoots and returns to the set point and then overshoots in the opposite direction. Every time the outside door opens the house temperature is pushed away from equilibrium (the set point) in the direction of warming or cooling, depending on whether it is winter or summer outside. Gradually the house returns to near equilibrium until a door again opens.
Does the Earth’s climate system work the same way? I think there is general agreement it does, but there is no agreement about why it does. There is disagreement about whether this time, instead of Nature resetting the thermostat, Mankind is resetting the thermostat by releasing CO2 and other GHGs into the atmosphere.
What is normal climate? What a brilliant topic for a blog article.
Do short-term fluctuations in temperature and rainfall represent changes in climate? In Roman times, did Italy and Greece have a Mediterranean climate similar to today’s climate, similar to the climate of southern California? If so, how can we say that climate has changed rather than merely fluctuated?
Can we say that climate changed during the Little Ice Age (LIA)? Or did temperature and rainfall merely deviate to the extreme cool edge of the normal climate range? During the Medieval Warm Period (MWP), did temperature and rainfall merely deviate to the extreme warm edge of the normal range?
Surely, climate fluctuates. But does climate actually “change” on time scales of a few centuries or millennia?
Do we know in quantitative terms the “normal” temperature and rainfall properties of the Earth’s dozens of climatic regions? (I am here referring to regions such as those defined by Koppen or Thornthwaite.)
Could the same sort of deviation from a “normal climate” have occurred during the last quarter of the 20th century?
Is climate now driven continuously upwards to a new temperature set by mankind and his emissions of GHGs? OR is climate continuing to fluctuate above and below a continually shifting thermostat level set by nature?
Perhaps during the MWP and LIA, the climate system reached two standard deviations from the mean of its normal range before returning to the normal central position set by the Earth’s thermostat.
The evidence indicates that temperature during the Holocene has declined by about 0.3 degree C per millennium, so we expect the modern normal to be 0.6 deg C cooler than Roman times and 0.3 deg C cooler than during the MWP. How does the IPCC analysis compare?
The IPCC defines climate change as the departure from “normal” in the direction of warming and assumes that any such warming is caused by mankind. The “normal” climate was that at the start of the industrial age, around 1850. But mankind has been resetting the Earth’s thermostat. And the pace has accelerated since 1950.
For this claim to have force, the IPCC must show that the Earth’s climate has exceeded that of the Roman Warm Period plus 0.6 degree C. and the Medieval Warm Period plus 0.3 degree C. The argument would be that modern global temperature exceeds deviates more than two standard deviations from Nature’s set position and therefore there is a high probability that this is no longer the “normal” temperature for the beginning of this century / millennium.
The IPCC has not shown that this has already occurred. Rather the IPCC claims that this is 95% certain to occur based on projections by models (CGMs). Current human activities will lead to resetting the Earth’s thermostat to at least 2 degrees C higher than normal.
However, the wide divergence in climate model(CGMs) projections shows that the modelers do not agree about how the climate system works. Analysis of the models shows that cloud and other aerosol effects are the key to scientific disagreement about the climate system.
Svensmark has called this “The cloud mystery”.
Whether or not Svensmark and his colleagues (Kirkby, Shaviv, Veizer) are correct in their theories about the role of Galactic Cosmic-ray Flux (GCF), they are approaching the investigation in the correct manner, while other scientists busy themselves, not with studying Mature, but studying how the models work.
I leave you with two papers which may hold a couple of clues to the cloud mystery.
Vieira and da Silva (2006) Geomagnetic modulation of clouds effects in the Southern Hemisphere Magnetic Anomaly through lower atmosphere cosmic ray effects
Frigo et al (2013) Evidence for cosmic ray modulation in temperature records from the South Atlantic Magnetic Anomaly region

Brian H

Frederick Colbourne
March 18, 2015 at 1:12 am
Excellent summary. I have always struggled to use a more general context for the word “climate”, referring to the set of conditions and forcings which determine the range and variation of weather. Not the weather and range themselves! Thus we can have a stable tropical climate, that is the same all year, or a wildly random “temperate” one, with abrupt shifts and long “stuck” conditions in or near the extremes. Etc.
In such a context, you would need to see a change of regime and in the pattern of changes before you could conclude a climate change had occurred. Long sampling and attribution analysis would be necessary. Ice Box to Hot House 10K shifts might qualify, but they might be considered alternate states of a single planetary condition (as contrasted with e.g. Mars).
AGW trivializes the term in its claims, for political and rhetorical effect, IMO.

Dr. Strangelove

“For this claim to have force, the IPCC must show that the Earth’s climate has exceeded that of the Roman Warm Period plus 0.6 degree C. and the Medieval Warm Period plus 0.3 degree C.”
Greenland ice cores indicate the MWP was warmer than present and RWP was warmer still by over 1 C.
“The argument would be that modern global temperature exceeds deviates more than two standard deviations from Nature’s set position and therefore there is a high probability that this is no longer the “normal” temperature for the beginning of this century / millennium.”
In normal probability distribution, two standard deviation is 5% probability. You expect to exceed two sigma once every 20 years by chance. It doesn’t necessarily mean somebody is messing up the climate.

John M. Ware

The word “normal” is meaningless in reference to climate. “Normal” should be used to mean “conformity to a norm or standard,” which in turn means “how [x] should be.” There are many cases in which a norm is known or at least reliably posited. My favorite brief example is dramatist George Bernard Shaw’s visit to his oculist, at the suggestion of friends. After a thorough examination, the eye doctor told Shaw that his vision was normal, “and that condition is very rare.” Even back then, experiment and observation had been sufficient to tell what one’s vision should be [i.e., 20/20, without color blindness], and a patient’s actual visual acuity could be compared to that, and treatment (e.g., spectacles) could be manufactured and supplied. A similar situation is evident in human body temperature, where the norm has been known for many generations to be 98.6F when measured at a certain body location by a reliable thermometer. A deviation upwards by more than a degree or two is called a fever and may require treatment. A deviation downwards may indicate various dangerous conditions.
Passing to the weather: What is it supposed to be? Who says? On what basis? Even knowing the average temperature for the past several hundred years does not determine a norm. Let us say that city X has an average July temperature of 80 degrees F, with highs of 90 and lows of 70. Is a day five degrees above average abnormal? Surely not; every summer has days that go above average. Adding precipitation to the mix: Let us postulate a July average of 3.1 inches of rain for city X. Does that mean that on a normal day the city gets a tenth of an inch of rain, no more, no less? Just asking the question shows the absurdity of the concept. Probably, over the length of city X’s climate records, July has a few days of rain and many days of no rain. Are the rainy days abnormal? I would say no. To be sure, there are unusual days, such as the glorious July 4 in Baton Rouge, LA, many years ago, when a cold front moved dryly through, giving us a high of about 80 and a low of about 60, with refreshing breezes from the northwest. It was actually a pleasure to be outside–such a contrast to the usual July day when walking outside felt like going inside a hot, wet Army blanket. (A fellow grad student, back in the late 60s, had gone to Alaska on an internship at the U of Alaska in Fairbanks; she stayed there for a year, but she came back to Baton Rouge for an exam. On an average July day–high 93, low 74, deeply oppressive humidity–she arrived in mid-afternoon, stepped off the plane, and fainted dead away.) So–was that delightful cool breezy July 4 abnormal? Only if one can say that a cold front should not exist that far south in the summertime.


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M Courtney

Good point.
That outs climate change as being of concern only if it significantly changes faster than we upgrade our infrastructure anyway.
And if it doesn’t then we don’t have to worry at all. The cost and impact would be effectively zero (negligible).
Anyone really think that the warming of the 20th Century was faster than the routine wear and tear requirements for sea defence maintenance?
Anyone think that the “Paused” warming of the 21st century is more of a problem?
“Normal” is “Not newsworthy”.

M Courtney

But these things have always happened. As you rightly pointed out – it is our ability to adapt that matters.
And we have more people fed and healthy now than anytime in history. It’s an unprecedented period of goodness for mankind. The costs of the bad things that have always happened are now relatively far less.
Thank God for the Industrial Revolution and King Coal!


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David A

He really cannot help it, and listened very poorly to what was said.


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Brian H

He got it. He’s just using hyperbole and irony to go with the joke. Lighten up (in both senses).

“Normal” is kinda like ”beauty”, ……. it only exists in the eyes of the beholder.

Technical note:
There are at least three versions of reductio ad absurdum.
The strongest version is to show that making claim X leads to a self-contradiction. This proves that X is false.
The second is to show that making claim X leads to contradicting a well-established fact. (E.g.: most people die eventually, the Queen outranks God, the answer is 42.) This is good reason for rejecting X.
The difficulty here is that the fact may not be as well-established as we think.
The third is to show that making claim X leads to a position that is just silly. This is the weakest version. It gives a fair reason for provisionally rejecting X.
The difficulty is that there may be other factors involved that we do not know about.
The Ancient Greeks rejected heliocentrism because they did not observe parallax effects. Heliocentrism without parallax effects implied that the stars were mind-bogglingly distant. But to be dots of the size they seemed at such distances meant the stars would have to be so huge that the mind would boggle at how much it would have boggle to contemplate such size. (Much bigger than the largest ones we now know of.) And that was too much. Ignorance of the optical imperfections of human vision led to the apparent absurdity.

Tim Hammond

The biggest problem is that “average” and “normal” have become synonyms.
Weather forecasters say “it’s above average” and think that means it’s not normal, even when it’s well within the natural variability of the average they are using. Some use the phrase knowing it will fool politicians and other weak-minded individuals, thus stoking the Climate of Doom.
The simple fact is that averages are often useless and/or meaningless – try throwing the average throw of a thousands throws of a dice (yes I know).

M Courtney

Pedantic answer.
I could roll it in another 1000 rolls.
And the average will be 7.
1 and 6, 2 and 5, 3 and 4 and vice versa.
(Dice or Die)

Frederik Michiels

seen the fact we have had glacial stages and interglacials, that we are in an “ice age”, that there have been “total ice free” episodes,… learns us two things: climate has never been stable and will never be stable. This concludes to the second lesson: in a chaotic series of events (that’s what climate is a cheotic series of weather events) there is no normal to be found.
actually there is only a “mean value” which can give an idea of the current weather event compared to the mean value of all the past weather events of a 30 year timespan, that’s all
i wonder what the ipcc would project when we would encounter the famous end of the young dryas with that unreal abrupt climate shift of several degrees in just a few decades…..
in many debates i always ask the question: “would the ipcc still be this alarming if we had a reliable temperature record of 10,000 years?” Very honestly i don’t think so, i rather think it would list as “normal end of the little ice age to a new optimum transition period”

old construction worker

What is normal “Climate”? That’s like asking me where do I live. I live where I hang my hat.

Mike M

With at least 99% of earth’s known species living in the tropics at least we know that warmer is better than colder for LIFE on this planet.


So, let me get this straight by those who want to stop climate change. Suppose, just suppose, that the climate which allowed humans to take control of the earth (sarc) is NOT normal but an aberration that allowed humans to develop. And that the planet is trying to return to whatever “normal” there was in the last 4.5 billion years. And we are trying to stop it just because its not “normal” for US??? Wow.Talk about hubris!!! We are dictating what is normal for the planet and all the other living organisms? Who elected us to that position?

Frederik Michiels

a variable climate is normal for our planet the question should be: “who elected those idiots that think climate never changes to that position? and with it the silly belief that CO2 can do everything….

Climate on Earth never ever been “Normal” always been changing over seasons, over decades and over million of years.


there is an embarrassment of absurdity in today’s world.”

Boy is that an understatement. Follow local or national politics and the attendant media coverage objectively and the circus of absurdity becomes absurdly evident.
In terms of normal temperature, it is a relationship between a person and temperature. After months of temperatures in the single digits and below (Fahrenheit) a day of sunshine and temperature of 35 degrees had people shedding winter coats and going outside in a sweater. On the other end, after summer a day of 60 degrees is enough to bring out the sweaters because it is “freezing”. Not surprisingly even in a controlled environment where the temperature is kept constant a person can flip between feeling cold and feeling too warm. There is no such thing as normal temperature in terms of individuals experiencing temperature, there is just a persons reaction to the current temperature.
Climate evangelists have faith in an idealized normal temperature for climate. I say faith because similar to no empirical evidence for God, there is no empirical evidence for an ideal earth temperature. Similar to faith in God there is faith in a mythical ideal temperature.
Blessed be the normal.

In terms of normal temperature, it is a relationship between a person and temperature.

Humans become acclimatized as the climate changes and/or whenever they migrate to a different climate, …. just like many other life forms do.
HA, I remember the year I migrated to Upstate NY the 4th of February to begin a new job ….. and I don’t think I finally got “warmed-up” until mid-July of that year. Mercy gawd was it “cold”….. but then I eased into the cold of the next winter and learned to love living there.


“Normality is the most virtual of all virtues.” – Al Haig