Thursday, 19 December 2013

ET on Climate Wars

Imagine if you will a rational-minded, scientifically literate being from another planet suddenly finding themselves on planet Earth right in the middle of Climate Wars, the on-going, exhaustive and increasingly unproductive and bitter battle being waged between those convinced that man-made climate change is real, very significant and dangerous and those sceptics/contrarians/'deniers' who remain unconvinced, contending that climate change is a predominantly natural process. Such a being knows nothing of politics on planet Earth, nothing about environmentalism, Greenpeace, Big Oil, Big Green and all the rest of the paraphernalia that encircles the core scientific debate on man-made global warming. He is therefore unmoved by arguments of millions of people drowning or starving, or dying from heat stroke, matched by counter-arguments of equal numbers freezing to death because of fuel poverty and such like. He knows only common sense and a fair bit of science which, it has to be said, is a lot more than your average Earth boffin.

Do we think that our off-world visitor will look at the scientific ‘evidence’ for CO2 emissions producing runaway greenhouse gas warming and conclude that it is scientific fact, rather than unproven theory? Do we think that they will look favourably upon the attempts of climate scientists - increasingly bereft of hard data to back up their theory - to look at ways that they can better 'communicate' their science to an increasingly unconvinced and sceptical public? Do we think that they will wholeheartedly approve of scientists becoming political advocates rather than concentrating solely on scientific research to bolster their case? Will they approve of 'consensus science', of Al Gore, Michael Mann, James Hansen, John Cook, Dana Nuccitelli, Skeptical Science, the IPCC and the Greenpeace 'Save the Arctic' campaign? On balance, I think not.

Perhaps they will look favourably upon the efforts of some climate scientists to try and communicate their science in a balanced fashion, free of alarmism and Green advocacy but, nevertheless, conclude that their scientific reasoning is faulty. Then again, maybe, on the weight of the scientific evidence alone, ET will throw his hands up in horror and conclude that we are indeed destroying the planet with CO2 and that the hordes of deniers are a roadblock to urgent reform.

Our extraterrestrial visitor might naturally be interested in the world's premier space agency, which put men on the Moon and sent probes to all the planets and beyond. What have they got to say about man-made global warming, based on the evidence of data collected by their many satellites and monitoring stations? He might be rightly satisfied that they are using this wealth of data to honestly and scientifically illuminate the real risks which the planet is facing. Then again, he might be utterly dismayed.

For it is a matter of supreme irony is it not that NASA and NOAA hype the global warming dogma by claiming that November 2013 is the warmest ever in the instrumental surface temperature record, ignoring their own satellite instrumentation data, in a bid to convince us all that the world is getting hotter, year on year? UAH and RSS satellite data for November 2013 report only the 9th and 16th consecutive warmest. And so what, you may well ask, if November 2013 is the warmest in the 134 year record for two particular surface temperature data series? Is it meaningful? Other surface temperature data don't concur and the satellite data certainly doesn't. Furthermore, we are talking about just one month, not a yearly mean. Mean global temperatures have not risen significantly in 17 years.

The irony here is that the likes of Nuccitelli, Cook and Lewandowsky have long labelled man-made global warming sceptics as Moon-landing conspiracy nuts, when it cannot fail to escape anyone’s notice that the very organisation responsible for putting Man on the surface of the Moon 44 years ago was NASA. Not to suggest in any way that sceptics are of the same breed as Moon-landing conspiracists, just illustrative I think of the corrupt politicisation of a once noble and prestigious scientific organisation whose original purpose was the exploration of worlds beyond our own, which now seems to gaze increasingly sclerotically earthward, obsessed with finding ‘scientific proof’ that we are wreckers of the planet, a species actively engaged, unwittingly at first, now knowingly and culpably, in unleashing climate catastrophe aka global warming, aka thermageddon upon the globe. NASA's mission now is to save the planet from ourselves. Ergo, space agency has become environmental activist group with an agenda to promote at the expense of hard science.

Perhaps ET may have, in addition to his rationalist side, more artistic leanings and therefore he may look with interest at what the Royal Society of Arts has to say about those sceptics who question the science of man-made global warming and, by definition therefore, sometimes implicitly, often explicitly, the mitigation measures being put in place to counter this threat. This is what they have to say; basically that the 20% of the population who deny that man-made climate change is a reality should be ignored because they are 'unhelpful'.

The rest consist largely of people who are convinced of the reality of global warming but remain mostly unmoved by it. These are the 'stealth deniers' who, unlike the real deniers, who are presumably beyond the help of medical and psychiatric science and can therefore be conveniently and safely ignored, can be worked on. The key to combating climate change and propelling the world into a bright New Age of carbon-free renewable energy is to mobilise this army of stealth deniers, of climate zombies who need help to think and act for themselves, into positive action.

All very arty-farty, social engineering-type stuff posed in response to a problem revealed by hard science which, apparently, climate scientists (even advocating ones) and politicians are failing to 'communicate' effectively to the public. Will ET nod his head in approval of such a proposal or will he conclude that, whilst alarmist propaganda has brain-washed most people into believing that anthropogenic climate change is real, it has singularly failed to convince a complacent and unresponsive public to act upon that reality?

In his dispassionate survey of the evidence for and against dangerous AGW, for and against the increasingly prevalent view that the Sun drives our climate (that huge star he steered around to get to our tiny rocky planet), perhaps he will come across this graph:

I look at this and see an oscillatory climatic variability superimposed upon a general gradual warming trend. My own knowledge and understanding of climate change leads me to conclude fairly positively that this represents a general warming trend mediated by increasing solar activity, overlaid by a natural oscillatory climatic influence due chiefly to the PDO (Pacific Decadal Oscillation). I conclude futhermore that since 2005, Earth has been cooling. AGW theorists lay claim to the underlying warming trend, but they also claim that the upward part of the sine curve going from 1978/79 to about 2005 is the 'unmistakable fingerprint' of anthropogenic global warming. They also contend that planet Earth is still getting hotter. I wonder what conclusion our off-world visitor would come to?

Finally, what must ET make of Future Earth? This is a new and exciting climate change narrative based on risk and on the opportunities presented by switching to sustainability. Three crucial buzz-words though there are more. Here's the low-down:

Future Earth will empower the scientific community to provide knowledge through open and collaborative processes for society to define pathways towards sustainability and respond effectively to the risks and opportunities of global environmental change.

Future Earth will provide a global knowledge and collaboration platform and deliver a step-change in the way science for sustainability is produced and used. The need for knowledge to achieve global sustainability is twofold:

Firstly, we need to pursue longstanding efforts to understand how the Earth system works and how its many natural and social components interact. This calls for increased collaboration between disciplines and knowledge domains to integrate disciplinary strengths, and to develop research themes and processes that are better suited to addressing interconnected and multi-faceted problems.

Secondly, the scale and magnitude of global environmental change and the risk posed to ecosystems and societies requires a bridging of the gap between science, policy and practice, to deliver knowledge that will effectively support decisions and actions towards sustainability. This will be achieved through effective cooperation with funders and research users, including decision makers and the private sector, to identify research priorities and deliver knowledge for solutions.

Do you see where we're going with this? The emphasis is on more effective cooperation/collaboration between science and politics in order to construct a new narrative, one that doesn't focus exclusively on boring old climate science - which has failed to get the 'message' across - but that incorporates many more disciplines and spheres of knowledge. In that way, the key impetus for sustainability solutions, namely AGW, can be minimised and hopefully lost in the confusion because, quite frankly, the 'science' (i.e. the computer models) has failed to live up to reality and it's now getting quite embarrassing.

The international scientific community must rapidly reorganize to focus on global sustainability solutions. We must develop a new strategy for creating and rapidly translating knowledge into action, which will form part of a new contract between science and society, with commitments from both sides.
14. Society is taking substantial risks by delaying urgent and large-scale action. We must show leadership at all levels.

Will ET embrace this visionary goal minus my cynical interpretation or will he roll his bug eyes upward and think 'Jeez, what a con. These humans really are something when it comes to disguising the truth'? Then, when he gets back aboard his spaceship and sits down to dinner and drinks with his ET pals and shows them the evidence which human science has amassed for global warming, will they all break out into hysterical fits of laughter, as in For Mash Get Smash? Or will they all wear looks of pressing concern and agree that next time they visit they might need to don their heat-proof suits?

Saturday, 23 November 2013

A Human History of Climate Change in Europe Part I - 45,000 to 20,000 BP

After noticing this guest post by Andy May on Anthony Watts' WUWT blog - well worth a read - I was reminded that I've been meaning to write something similar with respect to the human impact of (natural) climate change in Europe (more specifically NW Europe) which, for obvious reasons, is historically, archaeologically and geologically rather better documented than elsewhere.

May's timeline starts at 18,000 years ago. I want to go back much further, starting at around 40-45,000 BP, in the depths of the last Ice Age, when anatomically modern humans first appeared in Northern Europe. A very long time, relatively speaking, during which average temperatures in Europe have fluctuated by as much as 15 degrees Celsius, sometimes dramatically and in a matter of just decades, as during the Dryas stadials/interstadials immediately prior to the Holocene. A period when, for much of the time, agriculture and large scale settlements were not even invented. A period during which much of Northern Europe was covered by huge ice sheets up to a mile thick, when a piffling 0.3C 'global warming', supposedly due to human CO2 emissions over the last 50/60 years, would have meant diddly squat to your average caveman and to the climate in general.

Worrying about incremental environmental changes, the evidence for which is often made possible to observe only because of advanced instrumentation, is a distinctly modern phenomenon. The temptation to attribute such changes to human beings probably goes back much further to the murky origins of anthropocentric thinking. Humans have, it seems, always preferred to reside at the centre of their very own universe.

The point is, and people often overlook this fact - the vast majority of the history of human habitation in Europe has been during Ice Age conditions. Only relatively recently (approx. 12,000 BP onwards) have Europeans basked in the warmth of the current interglacial - and civilisation has thrived in the process, made possible by the development of large-scale agriculture. Only even more recently (circa 5500 BC) has human civilsation really taken off and the population exploded. For the past 12,000 years, and particularly during the last 5000, global warming has been extraordinarily beneficial to mankind. Only now are we asked to believe that another possible 2-4C warming in the coming centuries, supposedly due to anthropogenic CO2, if it ever happens, will be catastrophic for the environment and for human civilisation.

It was originally thought that modern humans did not appear in Europe until well after 30-35,000 BP when the last Neanderthals died out. However, recent archaeological discoveries put back the date for the arrival of modern humans in Europe to 40-45,000BP. They were probably able to migrate north overland from Africa to Europe, across terrain which nowadays forms the sea-bed - sea levels being very much lower during the Ice Age. Therefore early modern humans and Neanderthals must have coexisted in Europe for many thousands of years. This 2011 paper in Nature confirms the discovery of the earliest known modern human remains in Devon, dated to between 41,000 and 43,000 years BP.

Did Climate Change Kill off the Neanderthals?

Neanderthals are said to be our closest extinct relatives and, indeed, Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens diverged along separate evolutionary paths from a common African ancestor only 400,000 years ago. Neanderthals moved north to Europe whilst our direct ancestors stayed put in Africa for over 300,000 years. The reasons for the demise of Neanderthals in Europe have been fiercely debated for many years now and theories have come and gone with no definitive answer to the question 'Why did Neanderthals become extinct approx. 28,000 years ago?'

Climate change has been mooted as a possible cause on several occasions, with volcanic eruptions suggested as one driver of such climatic variability, but nothing really substantive has ever come out of these arguments. To understand why climate change 30 or 40,000 years ago is unlikely to have done for Homo Neanderthalensis we need only look at the evidence of repeated glaciations over the last 400,000 years, as revealed by the Vostok ice core:

Neanderthals thrived in Europe for 200-300,000 years, during which they endured repeated ice ages followed by warmer inter-glacials. Cooling is unlikely to have sent them over the edge as they were well adapted to enduring a frigid climate, more so than Homo sapiens who spent most of their time evolving in Africa during the period when Neanderthals reigned supreme in a much colder Europe. Neanderthals disappeared during the peak of the last glacial maximum. They had been gone for many thousands of years before the retreat of the great European ice sheets starting approximately 20,000 years BP. If anyone was going to suffer from the severe cold, one would have thought it would have been our direct ancestors, having only relatively recently arrived from sunnier climes further south.

The most likely reason for the demise of the Neanderthals is not climate-related but rather due in no small measure to the arrival of modern humans on the scene. Before Homo sapiens appeared, the European offshoot of our common African hominid ancestor was doing just fine. After we arrived, the original Europeans went into rather rapid decline and disappeared totally within several thousand years. Competition is a possibility. Transmission of disease from modern humans is another. As an interesting and somewhat wry historical observation, Europeans are often slated for their past colonialist behaviour, particularly in Africa. But in actual fact, it was 'Africans' who, directly or indirectly, probably wiped out the original Europeans - the Neanderthals - and it was their ancestors - modern white northern-latitude adapted Homo sapiens - who went back to Africa thousands of years later to impose colonialist rule!

Another intriguing suggestion is that the domestication of dogs played a significant part in the downfall of Neanderthals. It is now thought that dogs were first domesticated from an extinct lineage of European wolf some 19,000 to 32,000 years ago. Previously, it was believed that they were domesticated much later in the Middle East (as suggested in Andy May's WUWT essay) or even in China. This introduces the real possibility that canines were domesticated in Europe at the time when Neanderthals and modern humans co-existed. Accordingly, there have been suggestions that the companionship of dogs, who were supposedly domesticated by modern humans, afforded modern humans a crucial advantage over their Neanderthal cousins, especially when it came to assistance in hunting prey. Hence, with the help of canines, Homo sapiens were far better placed to out-compete their Neanderthal rivals, bereft as the latter were of the assistance, protection and early warning provided by Man's best friend.

Early domestic dog remains have only been found in human encampments, not Neanderthal, so it seems likely that Neanderthals did not originally domesticate wild wolves. However, Neanderthals and early humans did interbreed, hence there are remnants of ancient Neanderthal DNA in our genome. Only human females impregnated by Neanderthal males were able to produce viable offspring as evidenced by the lack of mitochondrial Neanderthal DNA in modern humans. My personal theory is that these cross-breeds, who naturally would have been raised in human encampments with their human mothers, uniquely possessed the ability to interact with 'friendly' wolves who would linger around human encampments looking for food and perhaps protection from other wolves. Domestication of dogs was thus achieved via two hominid species, but our direct human ancestors were the only ones to really benefit. Neanderthal communities lost out because the 'dog-friendly' hybrids were brought up in human groups.

Perhaps this might also explain why humans were able to endure the icy cold despite their recent African ancestry. Dogs have a natural body temperature a few degrees higher than ours. Long-haired species are supremely adapted to the cold. The Inuit have an expression 'three dog night' - meaning a very cold night when snuggling up to sleep with three dogs would be the equivalent of a modern high tog rating duvet!

Whatever the case, modern humans survived the worst vagaries of the last great Ice Age in Europe. They survived and then they thrived, hunting for big game on the vast dry open grasslands of the Late Pleistocene just beyond the edges of the great ice sheets, no doubt also supplementing their diet with plants and herbs, berries and nuts. Then, after the dramatic and damaging series of climatic upheavals associated with the ending of the Ice Age proper (notably the Younger Dryas) human population exploded into the relatively warm and benign Holocene.

Jaime Jessop   2013

Friday, 1 November 2013

A Reaction to Mike Lockwood's Carbon Brief blog post 1/11/13

Professor Mike Lockwood has written more formally on the controversy which has blown up around his decision to speak to Paul Hudson about his research into solar activity. You can view it here.

He concentrates his fire exclusively on the Express now for misquoting him, although, quite frankly, I can't see how they have transgressed by merely reporting on what he said in his interview with Hudson on the BBC. He says:

"Unfortunately, I now find myself in the position of being cited as predicting that the current rapid decline in solar activity will plunge the world into a "Little Ice Age".

There is not one single mention in the Express article about global cooling; it is all about Britain, Europe, the UK. Where does Lockwood get the notion that the Express is warning of the world being plunged into a new 'Little Ice Age'? Perhaps the Express amended the news item, though it is still dated 28/10/13.

More to the point, Lockwood's comments on the Maunder Minimum, Little Ice Age and Central England Temperature give cause for concern. He states categorically that:
"There is some evidence for a prolonged period of somewhat lower global mean temperatures beginning in around 1400 to 1500 (estimates vary) and ending sometime between 1700 and 1800. 
This has been termed the " Little Ice Age" and is often wrongly linked with the Maunder minimum in solar activity, a period between about 1650 and 1700 when almost no sunspots were seen."

Apparently then, he sees absolutely no reason to suggest that the Maunder Minimum caused, wholly or partly, the dramatic drop in European temperatures concurrent with the decrease in solar activity at that time, even though there is a strong positive correlation between the two. I say 'apparently' because Lockwood's " Little Ice Age" seems to be slightly different from the traditional notion of what most would term the Little Ice Age, a predominantly European phenomenon. Whatever, he seems to be tying himself up in knots by acknowledging a global LIA effect, denying that it is solar-induced, then saying elsewhere that there is a possibility that solar activity affects UK and European climate. Finally, is it purely coincidental that the worst winters on average experienced in the UK occurred precisely between the years during which solar activity reached its absolute minimum in terms of sunspot numbers, i.e. 1645-1715?

As just mentioned, whilst acknowledging that the world did indeed see lower global temperatures between about 1400 and 1800, Lockwood does not accept the fact that the Sun was a major contributing cause to this drop in temperature, preferring instead to finger the blame on volcanoes and internal climate variability.

Quoting Lockwood again:

"During the Maunder minimum there were an unusually large number of cold winters in Europe. However, there is no evidence that this was a global phenomenon. Indeed, our research strongly suggests it was a regional phenomenon and that the colder winters in Europe would have been accompanied by warmer ones elsewhere, for example Greenland."

He's already acknowledged lower mean global temperatures during the Maunder Minimum, so what exactly is Lockwood saying here? It appears to be self-contradictory. Is he just implying that there is no evidence for lower winter temperatures on a global scale? Seems odd, if there is evidence for lower mean global temperatures?!

Lockwood seems to have issues with the term 'Little Ice Age' anyway, because he thinks that it implies that Europe was plunged into unrelentingly glacial cold conditions during this period. I don't think many sensible people think that; that's why it's called 'Little' because it wasn't an ice age really, just seemed like it over many bitter winters. He points out that the coldest winter in the depths of the Maunder was followed two years later by one of the warmest in the CET record. Yes, it was, but this does not detract from the fact that the majority of winters during this period were bitterly cold. Most people reasonably aware of climatology and European history will be aware of this fact. That is why we say the climate of Europe changed during this period.

His final dig at LIA terminology involves saying that,

" . . . there's no evidence that summers in the Maunder minimum were any colder than usual. This is not a "Little Ice Age" - it is not an ice age of any shape or form."

This is very odd coming from a distinguished Professor of climate science. Is it just my eyes then that see a definite trend in this graphic of the five year running CET average for summers?

Lockwood continues his blog post by affirming that there is a possible link between European winter temperatures and solar activity, stressing that this is purely regional and there is very little possibility of a new Maunder minimum affecting temperatures globally, even though he earlier stated that the Maunder Minimum was evinced by a drop in mean global temperatures, even though he earlier denied that there was an association between the Maunder Minimum and the LIA. All very confusing to the average layperson!

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Evidence that the Little Ice Age in Europe was a Global Phenomenon

Climate scientists have traditionally held the view that the extended period of cooling experienced in Northern Europe, most severe around 1645-1715, was a regional phenomenon. It coincided with a marked decrease in solar activity (the so called Maunder Minimum), as did also the less severe European cooling associated with the later Dalton Minimum. These two extended sunspot minima, along with the late 20th Century Modern Maximum, are illustrated here:

Central England Temperature records going back to 1650 correlate closely with these periods of decreased solar activity, even the modest lapse in solar output which occurred in the 1960's/70's. It is clear that during the Little Ice Age associated with the Maunder Minimum, winters in Britain were more often than not very harsh indeed and summers were often wet and miserable, resulting in many crop failures. Historical records show that the cooling was simultaneous across much of Northern Europe, across mid-latitude Asia and into North America. So, in extent at least, there is firm evidence that the Little Ice Age was a mid-latitude Northern Hemisphere phenomenon.

The cooling appears to have been particularly severe in North Western Europe and may have been exacerbated here by a weakening of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), precipitated by, or merely coincidental with the decrease in solar activity, with a consequent 'slowing' of the Jet Stream, causing it to track much further south. The NAO, via the Gulf Stream, via the North Atlantic Drift, is largely responsible for the pleasantly mild maritime conditions experienced in NW Europe, particularly during winter. During the LIA, it seems that our winters hailed largely from the continent, from the much colder east and north east, as was the case during the winters of 2009/10 and 2012/13. The Jet Stream during these most recent periods was noticeably far south, allowing much colder air from Siberia and the Arctic to penetrate our shores. The pattern of a south-tracking Jet Stream was established during the summer of 2012 when it sat over the UK, instead of being north of us, resulting in the now infamous washout summer of flooding. Come winter, it moved even further south, depriving us of our typical mild wet winter which was replaced by a much colder continental one, lasting well into late Spring.

So, why is all this so important right now? Well, for a start we are definitely looking like we are headed into Dalton Minimum territory in terms of solar activity during the present cycle (SC24) and on into the next. But here's where it gets interesting: Mike Lockwood of Reading University has increased his estimate of the probability of the Sun lapsing into Maunder Minimum type solar activity from 8% to 25-30% and he says that a repeat of a Dalton Minimum is 'more likely than not' (IPCC speak!). He related this information to Paul Hudson, Look North BBC Weather Presenter, and Paul wrote a blog post which appears to have stirred up a real hornet's nest, not least comprised of stinging comments from Lockwood himself who claims that the Hudson blog has misrepresented him.

The basic gist of Hudson's blog is that there is now a real possibility of Little Ice Age type conditions impacting upon us in the UK and in Northern Europe. Lockwood's research confirms this possibility of regional cooling, though he is careful to stress that it is only regional and that it must be viewed in the context of the wider effects of CO2 induced global warming, which he considers are still pre-eminent. So any UK cooling, though possibly severe in the short term, would presumably be eventually aced by anthropogenic CO2 and, on a global scale, Lockwood clearly states that even a repeat Maunder Minimum would have little, if any impact.

Hudson takes a slightly different view and raises the possibility in his blog that, according to research by Mann et al, 2001, global temperatures might also be expected to nose-dive by 0.3C to 0.4C, smaller than the regional change, but still significant, enough to wipe out the warming seen since the 1950's. How Lockwood comes to the conclusion that this addition by Hudson somehow misrepresents what he has to say about regional climate change, I don't quite figure. I suspect he is just a bit miffed that Hudson took the step further in his blog and is concerned now that others might therefore misquote him: Paul Hudson certainly did not and he quite rightly stands by his blog post. Just for the record, here is what Mike Lockwood has said on Facebook:

"It amazing how one can be misrepresented no matter how clear one tries to make it! One point I made to Hudson is that many of the so called bits of "evidence" for solar influence on global temperature actually come from Europe in winter (cf Eddy and all that) and so are not global at all. Depressing.

So there is absolutely no misunderstanding here - I too am 'vociferous advocate' of (the known science that anthropogenic greenhouse gases causes) global warming!

Since 1985. I've explained below I am only talking about a possible (stress possible) solar influence on European blocking events and not at all about global temperatures. But it is a fact that solar activity HAS declined since 1985, the "exceptional" long and low solar minimum of 2008/9 and the current very weak cycle 24 are both part of that trend and we are now back to conditions last seen around 1920.

Hi David, Bru - too right I am only talking of regional effects!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! On the global front I refer you to Jones, Stott and Lockwood (JGR 2012 doi: 10.1029/2011JD017013) in which we showed that even a Maunder minimum would have almost no effect on global temperatures - very similar to the result in Stefan's paper. I have always made it clear (and did make it absolutely clear to Paul Hudson - I couldn't have stressed it more!) that I am only talking about blocking events so for example if such an event brings cold Arctic air to central Europe in winter, it takes warm moist air up to Greenland. The offending web pages had disappeared when I looked so I have no idea how badly I am being misquoted and misrepresented here. I'd point you at a review I wrote last year Lockwood, M. (2012) Solar influence on global and regional climates. Surveys in Geophysics, doi: 10.1007/s10712-012-9181-3 which also makes it absolutely clear that although there is some (as yet not cast iron) evidence for European winters of some solar effects theres none on a global basis."

Note what Lockwood says about evidence for the effects of solar activity on winters globally - there is none according to him. I'm here to tell you that there is some! In point of fact, the evidence for a simultaneous global impact of the Maunder Minimum is quite extensive and growing, due to increased coverage of proxies from the Southern Hemisphere, in particular Antarctica. Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego graduate Orsi et al analysed data from an ice core drilled into the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and found that, during the LIA Antarctic temperatures were an average 0.52 ± 0.28°C colder than the last 100-year average. It should be stressed that this was contemporaneous with the temperature drop in the Northern Hemisphere, therefore did not involve a simple redistribution of heat around the globe. I quote:

"The period between 1400 and 1850 was marked by an average temperature drop of just less than 1 degree C (1.8 degrees F), but not just in the Northern Hemisphere. Scripps graduate student Anais Orsi and colleagues found evidence of the same cooling trend in samples of ice from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. That contradicts prevailing theories that the Little Ice Age was not globally synchronized, but a regional cooling possibly triggered by changes in ocean circulation that created a temperature see-saw effect between the hemispheres."

A good summary by CO2 Science of various papers pointing to the global aspect of the LIA can be found here.

The Simms et al paper mentioned in the above link can be found here. CO2 Science says (of this paper) that:

"Although Simms et al. write that initial studies on ice cores "suggested that the timing of the most recent Neoglacial advance in West Antarctica may have been out of phase with the Little Ice Age in the Northern Hemisphere (Mosley-Thompson and Thompson, 1990)," they report that other ice core records from East Antarctica and elsewhere in West Antarctica support an in-phase relationship between climate events in the two hemispheres, citing the work of Li et al. (2009) and Bertler et al. (2011). And they add that the marine record provides ample evidence "for cooler conditions around ~250-550 calBP (1400-1700 AD)," citing the studies of Domack and Mayewski (1999), Brachfeld et al. (2003), Yoo et al. (2009), Hass et al. (2010) and Shevenell et al. (2011)."

I let CO2 Science have the last word here as the author states very clearly and eloquently the following:

"Clearly, the greater weight of real-world evidence in this controversy resides with Simms et al. and the many other researchers who have identified and dated a Little Ice Age in various parts of Antarctica that coincides in time with the Little Ice Age of the Northern Hemisphere. And that dating of the Little Ice Age, plus the comparing of its temperature with the temperatures that both preceded and followed it, also pretty much confirms the existence of the Medieval and Current Warm Periods in Antarctica, which are thus found to have occurred contemporaneously with the Medieval and Current Warm Periods in the Northern Hemisphere. And when viewed in this global and oscillatory context (and when extended even further back in time through the Dark Ages Cold Period and the Roman Warm Period), it becomes ever more clear that there is nothing unusual, unnatural or unprecedented about the global warming of the 20th century. Nor is there any need to invoke atmospheric CO2 enrichment as the driver of 20th-century warming, as previous equivalent ups and downs in earth's surface temperature occurred during times of both low and relatively constant values of the air's CO2 content."

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

UK Regional Cooling - Predicted or Not by the IPCC?

On September 26th, the eve of the release of the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report, the UK Telegraph ran this story. The next day, the Global Warming Policy Foundation tweeted a link to the article, mysteriously suggesting that the Telegraph might have just pulled it for some unexplained reason. As it happened, the story remained. I thought it slightly curious at the time.

What the Telegraph is basically saying is that the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, which includes the North Atlantic thermo-haline ocean circulation which drives the North Atlantic Drift, is predicted to weaken over time which will impact upon the climate of North-Western Europe. The other component of AMOC is an atmospheric phenomenon driven by wind patterns associated with the Coriolis Force and the pressure difference between tropical and higher latitudes (often wrongly referred to as The Gulf Stream - a major ocean current of which the North Atlantic Drift is but one extension), which transports mild air from the tropical regions to the cooler northern latitudes. AMOC is in turn mediated and influenced by the variable bipolar climate oscillation known as the Nort Atlantic Oscillation! Confusing, or what!? Almost inevitably, any mention at all of the Gulf Stream in the media is likely to be technically and scientifically inaccurate or misleading because of this confusion with ocean currents and atmospheric circulation.

The Telegraphs says:

"It will say that the circulation of warm and cold water in the Atlantic, which includes the Gulf Stream, will weaken by 20 to 44 per cent by the end of the century. Scientists claim that such a slow-down in the Gulf Stream will have a big impact on Britain, causing cooling of about 1.8F (1C) and disrupting weather patterns . . . . . . . . The report will say that the warming of the oceans will interfere with the currents in the Atlantic, also known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). It will state: “It is very likely that the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation will weaken over the 21st century. It is likely that there will be some decline in the AMOC by 2050, but there will be some decades when the AMOC increases.”"

I can as yet find no specific mention of predicted cooling in the UK or its magnitude in AR5. To search, I went naturally to Chapter 14: Climate Phenomena and their Relevance for Future Regional Climate Change. On page 49 in the section 14.8 Future Regional Climate Change (14.8.6 Europe and Mediterranean), the IPCC says:

"In summary, there is high confidence in model projections of mean temperature in this region. It is very likely that temperatures will continue to increase throughout the 21st century over all of Europe and the Mediterranean region. It is likely that winter mean temperature will rise more in NEU than in CEU or MED, whereas summer warming will likely be more intense in MED and CEU than in NEU. The length, frequency, and/or intensity of warm spells or heat waves are assessed to be very likely to increase throughout the whole region".

My guess is that the Telegraph has used the IPCC's figures and linked them with other research which predicts cooling in the UK if the Gulf Stream weakens.

Searching deeper with respect to the North Atlantic Oscillation and the closely related Arctic Oscillation, also the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation, one comes up with the following info, which appears to demonstrate an acceptance by the IPCC that natural changes in these bipolar climate modes have dominated, and probably will continue to dominate, in the short term, regional climate change in areas affected by them. Hence the possibility that natural variation may result in climate change for Europe, unrelated to anthropogenic global warming causing Arctic ice melt with consequent weakening of the Gulf Stream due to freshening polar waters.

"Model agreement in projections indicate that future boreal wintertime North Atlantic Oscillation is very likely to exhibit large natural variations and trends of similar magnitude to those observed in the past and is likely to become slightly more positive on average, with some, but not well documented, implications for winter conditions in the Arctic, North America and Eurasia."

"Multiple lines of evidence from paleo reconstructions and model simulations indicate that the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation is unlikely to change its behaviour in the future as the mean climate changes. However, natural fluctuations in the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation over the coming few decades are likely to influence regional climates at least as strongly as will human-induced changes with implications for Atlantic major hurricane frequency, the West African wet season, North American and European summer conditions."
[p7, Ch14]

"Model simulations have underestimated the magnitude of the large positive trend from 1960-2000 in winter NAO observations, which now appears to be more likely due to natural variability rather than anthropogenic influences"
[p26, Ch14]

"The North Atlantic Oscillation which exhibited a positive trend from the 1960s to the 1990s has since exhibited lower values, with exceptionally low anomalies in the winters of 2009/2010 and 2010/2011 (Section 2.7.8)."
[p37, Ch10]

For mention of anthropogenic influences causing regional climate change in Europe, we have the following:

"Sea ice in the Arctic has declined significantly in recent decades (Chapter 4.2), which might be expected to reduce the surface salinity and increase freshwater content as freshwater locked in multi-year sea ice is released. Generally, strong multidecadal variability, regional variability, and the lack of historical observations have made it difficult to assess long-term trends in ocean salinity and freshwater content for the Arctic as a whole (Rawlins et al., 2010). The signal that is now emerging, including salinity observations from 2005 to 2010, indicates increased freshwater content, with medium confidence". 
[p19, Ch3]

"Based on the assessment of the CMIP5 RCP simulations and on our understanding gleaned from analysis of CMIP3 models, observations and our understanding of physical mechanisms, it is very likely that the AMOC will weaken over the 21st century. The best estimate decrease in 2100 is about 20–30% for the RCP4.5 scenario and 36–44% for the RCP8.5 scenario."
[Ch12 p61]

This is obviously the source of the Telegraphs's headline claiming that [anthropogenic] warming will cause cooling in the UK by affecting Atlantic ocean currents. For there to be sustained and significant cooling in Northern Europe, there would presumably need to be a sustained weakening of AMOC, as confirmed by the Carbon Brief here:

"A recent study by McCarthy et al. describes how researchers observed a decline in the AMOC during the winter of 2009/2010 by around 30 per cent. They attribute the decline to an unusual wind event and changes in the deep branch of the AMOC (3000-5000 m). But the decline was followed by a swift recovery. For significant cooling to occur, such a decline would have to persist for a much longer period."

It is nevertheless somewhat puzzling that the IPCC appears not to mention the possibility of regional cooling in the UK, stating in fact the complete opposite, that regional warming is expected, when, by its own admission, it anticipates a weakening of AMOC which would probably mean cooling (as in 2009/10). Perhaps this is fortunate from the perspective of the UK government: already increasingly unpopular measures in the UK designed to mitigate global warming, in particular sky-high energy bills due to renewables subsidies, would become potential political dynamite if the world's authority on climate change was to say that global warming in the UK would mean actual cooling. Colder winters would not go down well at a time when fuel bills are rocketing because we're supposed to be 'all in it together' in the effort to avoid warmer, wetter winters and scorching summers!

In the final analysis however, all this may be somewhat irrelevant as sustained cooling in the UK looks set to proceed not as a result of Arctic ice melting due to CO2 emissions, but as a result of declining solar activity (see my previous post).

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

The Prospects for Cooling in England and Around the Globe

With the IPCC just days away from releasing its mega report on the state of the world's climate and, by all accounts, set to reinforce the view that scientists are more confident than ever that humans are causing significant global warming despite the 15 year 'hiatus', with Ed Milliband claiming that he will force energy companies to freeze prices if Labour are elected at the next General Election, I thought it would be interesting and timely to take a look at the prospects for significant cooling, in England particularly and across the globe. 

So, whilst Ed aims firmly at the swing voters of Middle England, I thought I would take a look at what the UK's unique 350 year old data series tells us about temperatures in Central England. If, as I suspect, we are in for a significant drop in temperatures in our part of the world, particularly noticeable during winter, then energy prices are going to prove to be an extremely hot political potato in the next few years.

Firstly, let's take a look at what the Sun is doing. It cannot have escaped many people's notice - at least those who take an interest in climate change - that the Sun is in the midst of a lull in activity not seen for at least 100 years; by lull I mean lack of sunspots. We are near the middle of Solar Cycle 24 (SC24), having just passed maximum which was in fact the second max of a 'double peak' in activity, the first of which occurred in 2012. Sunspot numbers are around a half to a third of what they were during the comparable period in the early 1990's. 

SC25 is predicted to be even smaller still, with SC24 tracking fairly closely activity during Solar Cycle 5, which marked the decline in solar activity seen at the start of the 19th Century, now known as the Dalton Minimum. The Dalton Minimum lasted in Europe from about 1790 until 1830 and was responsible for a run of some pretty severe winters and lacklustre summers, though the oft quoted Year without a Summer of 1816 was largely due to a massive volcanic eruption. What is not absolutely certain is that, if SC25 turns out to be even smaller than predicted, we may be facing a downturn in activity reminiscent of the more severe Maunder Minimum which coincided with the so called Little Ice Age in Europe around 1645 - 1715. This useful little graphic illustrates the Maunder and Dalton Minima in relation to sunspot numbers.

By happy coincidence, the start of the Maunder Minimum in Europe is also very close to the beginning of the Central England Temperature data series maintained now by the UK Meteorological Office, the longest running continuous set of temperature measurements in existence. If we look at these figures, from 1660 until the present, what is immediately apparent is that there is a high correlation between central England temperatures and solar activity, with the Dalton and Maunder Minima and the late 20th Century Modern Maximum all very clearly discernible in the record.

Let us take some figures from these graphs, firstly for the 5 year running average annual temperatures:

Maunder                               7.8C

Dalton                                   8.3C
Modern Maximum             10.5C

What this tells us is that, if we allow only for external climate forcings due to solar activity, dismissing any supposed anthropogenic component for the time being, we can expect a drop in annual average temperature in England of about 2.2C for a decline in solar activity which mirrors the erstwhile Dalton Minimum and a steeper drop of 2.7C if we head into Maunder territory in the coming years. Note that internal climate variability (eg. ocean currents) must already be accounted for in the CET data series, so we need only look at external forcings and thus it is apparent that, if AGW turns out to be minor compared to solar and other natural variability, then, in the UK at least, we are headed for chilly times in the coming decades.

Just how chilly, on occasion, might be illustrated by further looking at the non-averaged figures for winter:

Maunder                         -1.1C      
Dalton                              0.3C
Modern Maximum        6.4C

In any particular winter, these figures mean a huge difference between a mild, relatively ice and snow free season, as we have generally come to expect since the 1980's, to something more akin to the winter of 1963, or even worse, not just on a one-off basis, but regularly. Even the averaged winter figures reveal a worrying trend:

Maunder                         1.8C

Dalton                             2.7C
Modern Maximum       5.3C

At the very least, we might expect winter temperatures on average to be 2.6C colder presuming no or negligible effect from anthropogenic CO2 warming. This will have a huge social, environmental and economic impact and is extremely concerning at a time when energy bills are at an all time high ironically because our government has put in place policies to mitigate the effects of a theoretically predicted catastrophic rise in temperatures due to AGW. 

So indeed, perhaps we in the UK and northern Europe had better hope that AGW is real and significant because it might be the only thing which saves us from freezing in the decades ahead!

What of the prospects for world temperatures and the global climate? Should we automatically expect a Maunder type solar event to impact upon the wider globe? There is evidence that the Little Ice Age was indeed a global event.  The UK government links global temperature with CET. Look at the plot of CET compared to global temperature provided in this link and it is immediately apparent that there is a strong correlation between the two, albeit that CET is more 'noisy' and appears to precede global temperature changes by several years quite often. So, on this empirical basis alone, we might expect to see a future significant drop in global temperatures. Average annual Central England temperatures have already declined markedly since 2009, falling more than half a degree in just 4 years. Worryingly, winter average temperatures have dropped 1.8C in that same period, shown here.

The increasingly urgent cries of the climate alarmists telling us that we need to be doing much more to limit carbon emissions to prevent imminent thermageddon look increasingly vapid, irrational and downright dangerous in the light of what has been said above. It is not sceptics who bear the heavy responsibility of leading the world into disaster; it is climate alarmists and the piggy-backing Green idealists promoting Agenda 21 type 'sustainability'.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

David Rose's HALF global warming claim and a HALF-witted spin-off.

David Rose in The Mail has done it again, managing to stir up a minor maelstrom in the world of climate change debate with his latest article claiming boldly that "Global warming is just HALF of what we [scientists] said". This seems to have upset quite a lot of people who claim that the headline is misleading and that, furthermore, claims made in the actual text of the article are factually incorrect - not an unheard of accusation re. David Rose climate-related articles it must be said!

The Telegraph ran a spin-off piece the very next day on the same theme, i.e. that scientists got it wrong on global warming.

Now, as a man-made climate change sceptic/contrarian, I am of course heartened to see, at long last, admissions in the mainstream press that predictions of anthropogenic CO2 induced warming have turned out to be grossly overestimated by the IPCC and others, which they have, no denying. However, I have to take issue with the manner in which Rose has chosen to write about this discrepancy because I believe, ultimately,  he fails to clearly inform the public of how exactly scientists got it wrong, and that is not a good thing when, at this critical juncture in the climate debate, we need scrupulous clarity. Having said that, the bulk of Rose's piece in the Mail is spot on, clear and precise, just not on the issue of observed and predicted warming over the timescales implied.

The Telegraph spin-off piece is one of the most shoddy examples of journalism I have seen in a while, to which I shall return presently.

Rose says: 

"The Mail on Sunday has obtained the final draft of a report to be published later this month by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the ultimate watchdog whose massive, six-yearly ‘assessments’ are accepted by environmentalists, politicians and experts as the gospel of climate science."

He refers of course to AR5, the much anticipated latest upcoming climate Assessment Report by the IPCC, which will form the basis of government policy decisions on climate change across the world. The last was AR4 in 2007 and it would seem that the IPCC have considerably altered their scientific appraisal of AGW since that time because the world's climate has steadfastly refused to behave as they originally predicted.

This is the passage that gets Rose into hot water. He says:

"Yet the leaked report makes the extraordinary concession that the world has been warming at only just over half the rate claimed by the IPCC in its last assessment,  published in 2007. 

Back then, it said that the planet was warming at a rate of 0.2C every decade – a figure it claimed was in line with the forecasts made by computer climate models.
But the new report says the true figure since 1951 has been only 0.12C per decade – a rate far below even the lowest computer prediction."

Firstly, commentators in the press and on Twitter and elsewhere have picked up on the supposed 'inaccuracy' of 0.12C/decade, claiming that Rose has got his figures wrong. This stems from the fact that in 2007 the IPCC stated that "The [observed] linear warming trend over the last 50 years [is] (0.13°C [0.10°C to 0.16°C] per decade)". Bear in mind that this is what the IPCC were saying in 2007, so it is entirely conceivable that the leaked AR5 report concludes that the average linear trend in warming since 1951 is now 0.12C per decade, virtually unchanged. So whence comes Rose's idea that warming is HALF of what the IPCC  stated in 2007? Commentators have jumped on this as evidence of the fact that Rose's statements are misleading/incorrect/ill-informed.

It is not at all clear whether Rose's leaked linear warming trend figure covers the entire period from 1951 to the present - we shall have to wait until the publication of the actual report to see exactly what period this covers. Note that in AR4 it was the 'last 50 years' which technically would cover 1957 to 2007. My guess is that the figure of 0.12C covers the period 1951-2010, but it may extend further. The point is, it's very confusing and not at all obvious exactly what Rose is trying to say.

So where does Rose get his figure of 0.2C from to enable him to claim that warming has been only half of what the IPCC said in 2007? From here probably. Note that this is the IPCC's projections of warming as opposed to their direct observations of warming which they equated to 0.13C per decade in 2007. They say:

"For the next two decades, a warming of about 0.2°C per decade is projected for a range of SRES emission scenarios."

BUT, and here is where it starts to get really confusing, they also state that:

"Since IPCC’s first report in 1990, assessed projections have suggested global average temperature increases between about 0.15°C and 0.3°C per decade for 1990 to 2005. This can now be compared with observed values of about 0.2°C per decade, strengthening confidence in near-term projections".

So, in essence the IPCC are stating that their predicted warming is 0.2C/decade and that actual warming over the period 1990 to 2005 is also 'about' 0.2C/decade. So this is very likely where Rose gets his info from but he compares this very inappropriately with the observed linear warming trend since 1951 leaked from AR5. The fact is, scientists have got it wrong in that they predicted far more warming than has actually taken place, just not in the way Rose is claiming, which is unfortunate, because I don't think Rose set out to deliberately mislead; he just failed to express clearly and coherently the actual situation, thereby providing opponents with ammunition to claim that he was 'wrong'.

Which brings me to the very sloppily written and ill-informed spin-off article in the Telegraph, penned by Hayley Dixon.

She states, ludicrously, that:
"The “summary for policymakers” of the report, seen by the Mail on Sunday, states that the world is warming at a rate of 0.12C per decade since 1951, compared to a prediction of 0.13C per decade in their last assessment published in 2007". 

The implication somehow is that this tiny difference is the basis for stating that scientists 'got it wrong' because there is no mention at all of the projected figure of 0.2C covering the period from 1990. Wrong. Wrong also in the fact that 0.13C was not a prediction in AR4 but an observation of an actual warming trend.

Quite how the IPCC could have predicted a linear increase in global temperatures covering a period from 1951 when they were not even in existence I have no idea, unless they are privy to the secrets of time travel yet to be released to the global community and availed themselves of this secret knowledge to make the trip back to 1951 - first erasing their actual knowledge of the observed warming trend of course, thereby ensuring that it would actually be a prediction!!

Dixon goes on to say:

Other admission in the latest document include that forecast computers may not have taken enough notice of natural variability in the climate, therefore exaggerating the effect of increased carbon emissions on world temperatures".

Let me rewrite that for you in plain English my dear:

Other admission[s] in the latest document include [the fact] that [computer forecasts] may not have taken enough notice of natural variability in the climate, therefore exaggerating the effect of increased emissions on world temperatures.