Guest opinion: Dr. Tim Ball
The recent article by Philip Lloyd about long-term precipitation patterns referenced the record from 1766 for England and Wales. It reminded me of my doctoral thesis defense before a committee chaired by Professor C.G. Smith of Keble College Oxford. After about 2 hours of questions Smith said,
“I don’t know what the procedures are at the University of London, but with the approval of the Committee I am going to tell the candidate the thesis is acceptable. I am doing this because there are issues we need to discuss, and I want the candidate to answer without the trepidation of a candidate.”
We then had a three-hour discussion about long-term records and relationships to various mechanisms. Smith was involved with the 1766 record because of his work on the Radcliffe Meteorological Station. He also worked with Manley on the Central England Temperature record.
Some of the discussion centered on the problems of measuring rain and snow. Another issue evolved from a challenge in the thesis defense about a spectral analysis of long-term precipitation. It showed a distinct 22-year cycle, and I related it to sunspot data. Some Committee members wanted it removed, but I resisted, and it remained.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was set up to prove that human CO2 was causing life-threatening global warming. As a result, they made the focus CO2 and temperature for everyone, including most skeptics. They ignored the benefits of warming and the fact that cooling is a much greater threat to flora, fauna, and therefore humans. Worse, they ignored the fact that variation in precipitation is a much greater threat as droughts and floodings attest.
The IPCC know droughts are a problem because they exploited the threat by incorrectly claiming warming will cause more droughts. This is counter-intuitive because higher air and water temperatures will result in more evaporation and higher atmospheric moisture content, more clouds, and more rain. The IPCC said that warming caused more evaporation when it suited their argument. When it was determined that there is an upper limit to the temperature increase from increasing CO2 (Figure 1) they claimed, incorrectly, that water vapor creates a positive feedback.
The contradiction in their claim is because they also argued that the amount of water vapor humans add to the atmosphere is of no consequence. However, they claim that 95% of the temperature increase since 1950 is due to human addition of CO2. If humans caused the temperature increase, then they are responsible for increased evaporation and higher atmospheric water vapor. This selective application of principles is just one proof of the political objective of their science.
Lack Of Data
The data to create the models and predict the weather or the climate is inadequate for temperature, it is even worse for precipitation. With temperature, they assumed that the record of one station was representative of a 1200km radius region. I urge people to draw a 1200km radius circle around any location and determine the unreality of that claim. The lack of precipitation data is a much bigger problem. First, there are fewer stations measuring precipitation as an August 2006 Science report from Africa explains. The headline says,
“No one can predict the heavy summer rains (monsoons) that bring the Sahel back to life each year.”
“One obvious problem is a lack of data. Africa’s network of 1152 weather watch stations, which provide real-time data and supply international climate archives, is just one-eighth the minimum density recommended by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Furthermore, the stations that do exist often fail to report.”
The 2007 IPCC Report noted in Chapter 8 that,
In short, most AOGCMs do not simulate the spatial or intra-seasonal variation of monsoon precipitation accurately.
It is important to note that most think monsoons only occur in the Indian subcontinent, but they are a specific pattern of climate with a very distinct wet and dry seasons.
Second, temperature varies spatially, but not as much as precipitation. There are two forms of precipitation patterns. 1. Frontal precipitation that is primarily associated with the warm air overrunning retreating cold air along what is called the Warm Front of a mid-latitude cyclone. The associated cloud comprises different levels of stratus (layer cloud) with extensive precipitation (Figures 1 and 2). The precipitation is steady and falls over a large area for a prolonged period. What my father called “a good soaking rain.”
Figure 1 The Mature stage of a mid-latitude cyclonic system.
Figure 2 Cross sections through warm and cold front.
2. The second form of precipitation comes from convective cells that create cumulus (heap cloud) that yield showers (Figure 3).
Figure 3 Cumulus (Cu) clouds that can develop to Cu+, Cb and produce showers
The amount of precipitation and distribution is extremely variable. Any Midwestern farmer can tell you about the neighbor getting rain on one section, and they get nothing. In most parts of the world, you would require a rain gauge at least every kilometer to get even a crude measure of the amount of precipitation. A standard summer forecast in regions where cumulus develops is, “Clear in the morning, clouding over in the afternoon, a chance of showers and thundershowers in the evening.”
A very important function of these clouds is the transfer of heat from the surface through evaporation and condensation. Normally evaporation is combined with transpiration from plants as evapotranspiration. Here is the IPCC (2007 Report) admitting their lack of ability in this area.
For models to simulate accurately the seasonally varying pattern of precipitation, they must correctly simulate a number of processes (e.g., evapotranspiration, condensation, transport) that are difficult to evaluate at a global scale.
The IPCC state in AR5 that they try to offset the combination of a lack of data and methodology by parameterization but it is much more difficult for precipitation, if not impossible compared to temperature
The simulation of precipitation is a more stringent test for models as it depends heavily on processes that must be parameterized.
But it is much more limited than that.
In addition to issues related to resolution and model complexity (see Section 9.6.3), errors and uncertainties arise from observational uncertainty in evaluation data and parameterizations (see Box 9.3), choice of model domain and application of boundary conditions (driving data).
The magnitude of observational uncertainty for precipitation varies with region, which is why many studies make use of several estimates of precipitation.
It leads them to this conclusion.
In summary, confidence in precipitation change averaged over global land areas is low for the years prior to 1950 and medium afterwards because of insufficient data, particularly in the earlier part of the record.
The blunt truth is we know little about the Carbon Cycle and even less about the Water Cycle (Figure 4). Maybe that is why I could not find a Water Cycle diagram in AR5.
The IPCC further confuse and divert from possible understanding by misrepresenting tree rings, one of the best possible indicators of precipitation levels and variation over time. The advantage is they link across the division between instrumental and historic record. The hockey stick exploited this, but for the wrong reason. The history of tree ring research illustrates other issues and problems.
Leonardo Da Vinci showed an interest in tree rings, but A.E. Douglass produced the first climate-related studies. An astronomer, Douglass established the Laboratory of Tree Ring Research at the University of Arizona. His interest involved dendrochronology, originally used as an absolute dating method. He began looking at the connection between sunspots, tree growth and weather. Ellsworth Huntington used Douglass’ work to study droughts and civilizations in south central Asia as I wrote about here. Most agree that tree ring width is a function of total environmental conditions. According to Lamb, H.C.Fritts author of “Tree Rings and Climate” (1976) said a tree was “a ’window’ through which a certain complex of climatic behavior is converted into a ring width.”
While this accommodates the spatial differences in important growth controlling factors, there is a certain threshold transcends in which one them all. It is demonstrated in the concept of a “wilting point”. Plants extract water from the ground through osmotic pressure in their root systems. When the water content in the soil reaches the wilting point, it means that even though there is water still in the soil the plant cannot obtain it, and the plant begins to wilt. So, at a certain point, precipitation, or rather lack of it, becomes the dominant factor in all situations. Vladimir Koppen understood this when he established the concept of “effective precipitation” in his climate classification system. No rain, no plant growth.
The data I used for the spectral analysis came from daily records of precipitation events. The 22-year peak was related to drought spells. This matched with the work of Douglass and others like Mitchell et al., (1979) who published “Evidence of a 22-year Rhythm of Drought in the Western United States Related to the Hale Solar Cycle since the 17th Century.”
Figure 5 shows one reconstruction of the pattern produced as a result of these works.
The Dalton Minimum is evident between 1800 and 1840. The drought periods marked by the H vary in length because the 22-years is an average. I did not extend this graph but used it to warn Canadian and northern US farmers about the potential drought that came in the late 1980s.
A recent article by Kimball et al., claims a link between droughts and El Nino. This is not surprising because Labitzke and Van Loon produced several papers showing the relationship between sunspot cycles and El Nino in the late 1980s. The authors do not reference any of the material mentioned by me in this article. Is it because they cannot have a natural cause explanation? Could the source of funding have influenced what they looked at and the conclusions they reached? They acknowledge,
This work was supported by the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 (P.L. 113-2), which funded NOAA research grant NA14OAR4830100
A possible cause is related to cloud cover, which varies with the Cosmic Theory. The problem is the IPCC does not even mention the Cosmic Theory because it is outside its mandated definition. Even if it is included, the database is completely inadequate to reach any conclusions, but that hasn’t stopped them claiming the following in the Summary For Policymakers (SPM)
“Impacts from recent climate-related extremes, such as heat waves, droughts, floods, cyclones and wild fires, reveal significant vulnerability and exposure of some ecosystems and many human systems to current climate variability (very high confidence).”
This is a statement they can’t even make, let alone with very high confidence. I make that determination based on the lack of evidence and knowledge of mechanisms acknowledged in their Working Group I Report, The Physical Science Basis. In defining the terminology the IPCC says,
The IPCC Guidance Note on Uncertainty defines a common approach to evaluating and communicating the degree of certainty in findings of the assessment process. Each finding is grounded in an evaluation of underlying evidence and agreement. In many cases, a synthesis of evidence and agreement supports an assignment of confidence, especially for findings with stronger agreement and multiple independent lines of evidence.
The projections about increasing extreme weather are as wrong as all the IPCC projections. Despite this, they are determining policies, damaging lives, economies, and entire social structures. The claims about more and more severe droughts are particularly troubling because humans have an inherent fear of droughts and their impact on food supply. But this fits with the new narrative of threats to water and food supply.
Here is Lester Brown, renowned leader of the band playing that tune in “Global threat to food supply as water wells dry up, warns top environment expert.” It is a tune he has sung for a couple of years, in 2013 he said,
“…although “peak oil” has been extensively written about in recent years, it is peak water that is the real threat to our future.” Peter Gleick of Heartland skulduggery fame created the term “Peak Water.” He explained, “The term peak water has been put forward as a concept to help understand growing constraints on the availability, quality, and use of freshwater resources.”
There was no “peak oil” and there is no “peak water” unless the situation is artificially created.
The IPCC focus on CO2 and temperature was political. While focusing on human causes of climate change, they ignored the one variable, precipitation, so critical to human existence. Now they are trying to shift the focus away from temperature to precipitation. It can’t work because there are even fewer precipitation data and less knowledge about the mechanisms.