Friday, 30 August 2013

A Pacific Reason why Global Warming has Stopped.

An interesting week in climate change science and climate change politics - sometimes a little difficult to distinguish between them!

We have a new paper published in Nature which ties the current hiatus in global-warming to cooling in the eastern equatorial pacific, a sample area covering just 8.2% of the ocean surface. I quote: "Our results show that the current hiatus is part of natural climate variability, tied specifically to a La-NiƱa-like decadal cooling."

We also have another paper, published the same day in Nature Climate Change, seeking to explain the mismatch between observed and estimated warming over the last twenty years, specifically with reference to "some combination of errors in external forcing, model response and internal climate variability".

Judith Curry has examined both of these papers in her blog and I shall be making reference to her important comments on them.

We are also approaching crunch time in the Arctic, with predictions of continuing catastrophic melt by alarmists looking to be increasingly untenable. In fact, 2013 is shaping up to be the year when Arctic ice started to recover at record rates when compared to the all time (well, since 1978 anyway) low recorded in Sept 2012. No doubt, as with the global warming pause, we will soon be hearing from the Arctic alarmists that the 'death spiral' of sea-ice decline was never predicted to be a continuous one and therefore we should expect interruptions (albeit, massive, record breaking ones) in the downward trend.

It looks to me like we are now seeing the beginnings of an acknowledgement by the wider climate science community that natural processes (in particular those mediated by ENSO and PDO cycles - El Nino Southern Oscillation and Pacific Decadal Oscillation, respectively) can have a significant effect on our climate in that they can interrupt rapid predicted CO2 mediated warming to create a 15 year pause and even set the planet off cooling again. However, there seems to be a lack of an accompanying acknowledgement, inherent in this argument, that therefore natural climate forcings have a far more significant role to play in climate change, comparable to, or greater even, than hypothesised anthropogenic influences. Which leads us to the obvious, and the ultimate in climate change heresy, i.e. that 20th/21st Century warming trends have been contributed significantly to by natural influences at play in our ocean/atmosphere coupled climate system, even - perish the thought - that natural forcings have dominated that recent warming trend. We see this reluctance to take the next logical steps very clearly in the following comment taken from the Nature paper referenced above: "Although similar decadal hiatus events may occur in the future, the multi-decadal warming trend is very likely to continue with greenhouse gas increase".

What we basically have at the moment is a PDO in negative phase which is tending to put a lid on world temperatures and even drag them down. ENSO at the present time is fairly neutral, i.e. neither La Nina or El Nino. ENSO is, to a large measure, constrained within the longer period PDO and moderated by this longer period cycle, but ENSO can, and does, flip polarity whilst PDO remains either positive or negative, thereby reinforcing warming/cooling, or tending to act against the prevailing PDO trend. So if we get a strong La Nina soon, this will tend to exacerbate global cooling, and vice versa if ENSO goes into El Nino phase.

Hence, the anthropogenic global warming predicted by climate scientists is, for a variety of reasons, not showing itself and this is placing global warming policy advocates and scientists in a tough position. They may argue that this is a temporary glitch, a minor interruption in an otherwise continual late 20th century/21st century 'catastrophic' warming trend. The problem is, it is neither minor, nor particularly temporary, lasting anywhere between 12 and 20 years, depending on how you look at the figures and which dataset you choose to use. Nor also was it widely predicted, as claimed, by the climate models used by the IPCC, particularly those developed in the 1990s. Even now, a 15 year hiatus in global warming is a very rare occurrence in model runs and let us not forget, it is the climate models, not observations, which still drive current thinking on the threat posed by a hypothetical anthropogenic global warming. Natural variability was, and still is, regarded as minor compared to the effects of man-made CO2 on climate change according to IPCC scientists - though we wait with baited breath for the soon to be published finally completed AR5.

Judith Curry quotes excerpts from the Nature Climate Change paper here. On the subject of the 15 year hiatus starting in 1998, the authors say:

"The inconsistency between observed and simulated global warming is even more striking for temperature trends computed over the past fifteen years (1998–2012). For this period, the observed trend of 0.05 ± 0.08 °C per decade is more than four times smaller than the average simulated trend of 0.21 ± 0.03 °C per decade. The divergence between observed and CMIP5- simulated global warming begins in the early 1990s, as can be seen when comparing observed and simulated running trends from 1970–2012.
The evidence, therefore, indicates that the current generation of climate models (when run as a group, with the CMIP5 prescribed forcings) do not reproduce the observed global warming over the past 20 years, or the slowdown in global warming over the past fifteen years. [S]uch an inconsistency is only expected to occur by chance once in 500 years, if 20-year periods are considered statistically independent."

The authors conclude that some "combination of errors in external forcing, model response and internal climate variability" is to blame for these large discrepancies. They tentatively identify ENSO, volcanic activity and the AMO (Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation) as playing their part, though admit that the amplitude of these natural influences is probably not sufficient to account for the gap between observation and model prediction, inviting the reader to perhaps conclude that the models themselves may be somewhat lacking.

The real eye-opener is the Nature paper which Judith talks about here. By looking at the two separate graphs of simulated 'natural plus anthropogenic' and 'natural internal variability only', in comparison with observations (which the former graph matches closely), she states the following:

"What is mind blowing is Figure 1b, which gives the POGA C simulations (natural internal variability only).   The main  ’fingerprint’ of AGW has been the detection of a separation between climate model runs with natural plus anthropogenic forcing, versus natural variability only.  The detection of AGW has emerged sometime in the late 1970′s , early 1980′s. Compare the temperature increase between 1975-1998 (main warming period in the latter part of the 20th century) for both POGA H and POGA C:
  • POGA H: 0.68C (natural plus anthropogenic)
  • POGA C:  0.4C (natural internal variability only)
I’m not sure how good my eyeball estimates are, and you can pick other start/end dates.  But no matter what, I am coming up with natural internal variability associated accounting for significantly MORE than half of the observed warming."

So, we have an anthropogenic effect, but it is outpaced by natural changes. As a rough calculation, we are looking at natural exceeding AGW by 40%, which is most definitely not the message that has been consistently drilled into us by the IPCC, who have always maintained that natural forcings are not significant and/or are surpassed by man-made climate change.

So it would appear that, as sceptics have maintained all along, climate changes naturally and these natural changes outweigh any man-made influences upon our climate. In particular, ocean currents seem to be driving these changes over multi-decadal periods. Take another step then and ask the question: what is driving the ocean currents? The Sun, our very own star, that superheated ball of plasma 330,000 times as heavy as Earth, 109 times Earth's diameter, just 93 million miles away, is the most likely candidate. Theodor Landscheidt theorised that solar activity and PDO/ENSO were connected. He also predicted what has become known as the Landscheidt Minimum, the current decrease in solar activity, which is calculated to impact upon our climate in the coming decades by sending world temperatures down. Tallbloke's blog gives further info on Lanscheidt's theories here and here and is well worth taking the time to read. In my opinion, climate science is about to move away from the current obsession with CO2 to a more balanced approach involving a holistic assessment of factors affecting climate variability, with the Sun sitting squarely at the top of a pyramid of spreading influences and AGW, at best, relegated to a role on the sidelines, enviously watching the main players.

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Tuesday, 6 August 2013

A Sensitive Issue and Why Advocacy is not a Moral Imperative

So, the climate debate rushes swiftly on, not so meandering now, not gently spreading out and forming nice ox-bow lakes of comfortably 'settled science', but gushing anew, foaming and bubbling as 'radical' viewpoints begin to be expressed in the mainstream media and observations of 'non-warming' start piling up like so much drifting snow against the front entrance of the warmists' enclave.

I would say that this paper by Otto et al in Nature Geoscience caused the first really major geological upheaval and set the waters rushing downhill once more. It is authored principally by IPCC scientists and is peer-reviewed (a must it seems, on any papers having to do with climate science, though noticeably not so in many other scientific research fields). I quote:

"The authors include fourteen climate scientists, well known in their fields, who are lead or coordinating lead authors of IPCC AR5 WG1 chapters that are relevant to estimating climate sensitivity. Two of them, professors Myles Allen and Gabi Hegerl, are lead authors for Chapter 10, which deals with estimates of ECS and TCR constrained by observational evidence. The study was principally carried out by a researcher, Alex Otto, who works in Myles Allen’s group."

The paper is disappointingly hidden behind a paywall which, considering the very significant nature of its contents, particularly in relation to public policy, I think is a tad scandalous, but then I suppose I am one of these Moon landing conspiracy theorist types aka 'concern trolls' (who, to their eternal credit, do not at least believe that our major satellite is made of cheese).

The basic gist of Otto et al is that, given recent observations concerning global temperatures (in particular the 15 year 'pause'), combined with the fact that atmospheric CO2 has been steadily rising throughout that period, there is a scientific case for lowering estimates for Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity (ECS) and Transient Climate Response (TCR). These two quantities basically describe how our climate can be expected to respond (in terms of degrees surface warming) to a doubling of the concentration of atmospheric CO2 in the long term and in the short term, respectively. They are now pegged at 2 degrees C and 1.3 C respectively. Contrast this with the published IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) which gave a 'best guess' figure for ECS of 3 degrees C. It is widely expected that AR5 will incorporate these downward revised figures for climate sensitivity and this appears to be producing considerable consternation amongst the warmist community at large because, up until now, the IPCC has been THE voice of authority on everything CAGW and the main impetus behind policy measures worldwide.

In a seemingly desperate attempt to counter this growing acknowledgement of a lowered climate sensitivity and in particular the existence of the highly inconvenient global warming pause, the Met office recently issued three papers seeking to downplay the significance of these events. Otto himself commented on the significance (or otherwise) of the revised climate sensitivity measures via the platform of the Met Office here. On the subject of the 'pause' or hiatus, we are now asked to believe that pauses in warming were always 'to be expected' and that they are not especially significant and were a feature of the models from the word go but Met office scientists failed to communicate this fact to the general public! []

Lest we are tempted to swallow this new explanation for 'warming that isn't warming' (along with 'missing heat' gone deep sea-diving), I draw your attention to another paper by Meehl et al which shows that a 15 year pause in global surface warming, far from being an 'expected' and not very significant deviation from the predicted rise, does in fact occur only once in 375 years of model runs. As each year passes and still global temperatures stubbornly refuse to accede to the increasingly urgent requests of the global warming zealots, the mismatch with reality becomes ever more difficult to pass off as 'within the limits of expectation of the models'.

The imperative to look again at the supposed 'urgent' policy implementations which are wreaking havoc upon our landscapes and upon our pockets, cannot be overstated, yet such a move is being resisted by our Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Ed Davey, intent as he is on going full steam (or should that be wind) ahead with the 'greening' of our energy supplies largely via vastly expensive and inefficient onshore and offshore turbines.

Where policy is concerned, University of Bristol climate scientist Tamsin Edwards, recently had the temerity to suggest that climate scientists should not be tempted to advocate for politicians, industry representatives and environmental pressure groups, even if they are convinced of the reality of man-made global warming. This, she suggests, damages public trust in scientists, climate scientists in particular. I would agree, but her seemingly reasonable comments are stirring up a furious backlash in the media, with many saying that climate scientists should not keep quiet and remain neutral on such an important issue as climate change, even, as in today's Guardian, that climate scientists have a 'moral obligation' to advocate on behalf of their science. This is the biggest load of tosh and absurd nonsense I've read in literally hours (the last being the laugh-a-minute latest AGU statement on climate change). There is only one moral obligation upon scientists as scientists, and that is to gather and present the facts impartially to their chosen audience, be that their scientific colleagues and/or the wider public.

We may argue that, as human beings, scientists are morally obliged to communicate their findings to the general public. I wholeheartedly agree. Some of course, may be better suited to this role than others. I vehemently disagree however that this communication should take the form of advocating policy 'solutions' because this compromises their roles as scientists. What they should be doing, if they are able, especially in the contentious field of climate change, is communicating honestly and impartially their actual research such that it is accessible to the public and then letting the public decide for themselves whether the policy solutions advocated by politicians, green groups and renewables industry executives, justify the measures being taken. This is the role of the truly responsible scientist; no more, no less.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Increasingly Fracktured Parties to the Climate Debate

The Guardian runs two articles today: and from the ever irascible and irrational Dana Nuccitelli,

I quote these because, of late, it seems that the Guardian is adopting a somewhat more mature attitude towards the debate on climate change with recent thought-provoking articles from the likes of Warren Pearce and climate scientist Tamsin Edwards, which evince a move away from the gnashing of teeth by mainstream warmists at the temerity of unqualified nobodies questioning anthropogenic global warming theory towards a more inclusive approach. Edwards, in particular, draws on her personal experience to question the role of climate scientists lured into advocacy by politicians and environmental pressure groups and lobbyists; so a breath of much needed fresh air in the heated and claustrophobic arena hosting Climate Wars. Nuccitelli of course does his best to counter this with his customary expellation of stale wind, cursing all those who dare to kick the tyres of his shiny Global Warming Bentley which he has so enjoyed cruising around on in the past but, of late, doesn't get out much, because the road is increasingly littered with inconvenient truths.

According to Nuccitelli, those who question global warming are not sceptics, they might possibly be labelled contrarians because they set themselves up in opposition it seems, simply as a matter of course and not principle, but really they're just 'concern trolls' who have nothing better to do with their time than inexpertly trying to pick holes in the unassailable fortress of Global Warming Theory. Whatever label you chose, we are all mischievous unscientific ignoramuses whose views should not be entertained at all lest we derail the 101% justifiable crusade to decarbonise UK industry and save the world.

I AM a contrarian. I set myself up in opposition to everything and everyone who seeks to muddy the waters of the climate debate and unnecessarily prolong a much needed and very overdue root and branch reassessment of the entire science of anthropogenic global warming. I do not have a political agenda and I try very hard to assess each issue on its particular merits, not according to a pre-programmed mindset. Which brings me to the other article in today's Guardian concerning fracking.

Andrew Simms says: "Renewables are, according to the International Energy Agency, now the fastest growing global energy sector, set to beat gas and generate double the supply from nuclear power by 2016. . . . . . . Yet, from the apparently 'desolate' north, to the Tory front line of the home counties, political priority is given to the development of shale gas, a difficult, dirty and inefficient fuel to exploit, whose extraction will accelerate climate change."

Greens will always be ant-fracking, if only because it destroys the prospect of ever achieving their dream of a green economy powered by windfarms and solar panels. Fracking, even for 'clean' gas, is ideologically as far removed from their position as coal-mining or the building of nuclear power plants. So of course, they will be hopping mad all over the country at the prospect of this invasive technology being used to extract gas from beneath their neighbourhoods. But is there a more rational reason why we should oppose fracking? Is it really as safe as the industry would have us believe? Are we really certain that it will not contaminate aquifers which have remained pure and pristine for centuries, if not millennia? Will the use of huge amounts of water in the process have any knock-on effects, for instance, possible water shortages, rising water bills? Will house prices in fracking areas plummet because of fears about subsidence and minor earth tremors?

I remain unconvinced with this latest 'dash for gas', in particular because it contradicts so acutely the government's public stance on renewables and the avoidance of climate change. That alone alerts me to the overriding possibility of yet more vested interests. Personally, I think we should be building nuclear power stations as of yesterday, plus investing in cleaner technologies for burning fossil fuels (coal and gas) of which there still remain significant unexploited conventionally accessible reserves. ANY means of power generation necessarily involves pollution somewhere on the planet, even 'clean green'. We need to engage our critical faculties a lot more in deciding which sources we are going to exploit instead of relying upon crooked ideology and quick-fix solutions.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

A Climate in Denial and an Energy Policy in Tatters

Recently Ed Davey, Energy & Climate Change Secretary, went onto the BBC to defend his energy policy under questioning by Andrew Neil, principally concerning the ongoing 15 year pause in global surface temperatures and the recent peer-reviewed paper downgrading both the Transient Climate Response and the Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity, two measures of short term and longer term CO2 sensitivity respectively.

Rather than acknowledge the possible importance of these events in determining a change in policy, i.e. conceding the need for less urgency in pursuing a decarbonisation agenda, Davey predictably chose to summarily dismiss Neil's questioning by (a) reference to a recent highly suspect 97% consensus (supposedly those in favour of attributing significant climate change to CO2 emissions) and (b), by reference to supposed other major indicators of climate change which have not paused for 15 years (sea-level rise, polar ice melts, weather extremes, rising ocean heat content). So, we are left in no doubt that, even though the playing field has altered considerably in the debate about climate change, the UK government intends to keep pushing the renewables agenda with very little change in momentum, hence more costly and inefficient wind turbines, no change in punitive carbon taxes on power stations burning coal and gas and a disincentive to build new nuclear plants because of demands from energy companies for price-matching subsidies.

In case we are moved to consider Davey's argument that Earth hasn't stopped 'warming', only the surface has and we should look to other indicators as evidence for this, let us briefly examine the two most important of those other pointers towards ongoing rapid climate change:

1. Rising ocean heat content - the 'missing heat' issue. It's not in the top 700m and most definitely not at the ocean surface (Hadcrut and Argo float measurements confirm this). So, it's 'hiding' below 700m in the deep oceans. The network of Argo floats register a slight increase in temperature at these depths during the last decade. But what we are being asked to believe is that, basically 3000 odd floats, measuring temperature increases of less than 0.1 degrees, with a supposed accuracy of 1/100th of a degree, can accurately register an increase in total global ocean heat content (OHC) below 700m. That's a pretty astounding claim in itself, but furthermore, we are asked to believe that, all over the globe, warming surface waters, which ordinarily, during non-hiatus periods, would register as increasing in temperature, are now being rapidly subducted below by ocean currents and mixed with colder water, thereby transferring the surplus heat to the ocean depths. Even if we accept this unlikely proposal, what is happening on land? Why are land temperatures not increasing when there is no obvious mechanism for rapidly removing surplus heat from solid rocks and soil? Finally, in a last twist, we are then requested to assume that this deep ocean heat will come back to haunt us in the not too distant future as a resumption of accelerated surface warming (the only type of warming which can justifiably have any direct influence on policy). I would suggest a very large pinch of (sea) salt is required in order to digest this explanation.

2. Polar ice reduction.

The Arctic regions have seen fairly rapid ice loss since satellite monitoring began in 1978/79. Before that, the evidence is imperfect, based on anecdote and charts. 2012 saw a record minimum September ice extent and reports of an 'ice free' Arctic in 2013 were being widely circulated. But here we are at the beginning of August, just one month to go, and Arctic ice extent is not looking at all like it will dip to anything like the 2012 minimum, much less completely disappear. I could be wrong, there's still time, but the balance of probabilities is swinging firmly away from the Arctic alarmists.
In the Southern hemisphere, Antarctic ice is reported to be at a record extent, so no joy there for Mr Davey et al. It would seem that Gaia is just not willing to play ball with the climate alarmists, much to their increasing chagrin in many instances.

Enter fracking into the fray, the all-singing, all-dancing, 'new' way to exploit billions of tons of shale gas lying beneath our feet. Britain has been eyeing the US now for some time and has seen how the shale gas revolution across the Atlantic has driven down the cost of energy. Obama, global warming advocate extraordinaire, sees no conflict in developing this fossil fuel resource because it is so much 'cleaner' than dirty, polluting coal. Now our government has decided it wants in on the act and is busily granting licences willy-nilly for shale gas extraction and offering generous tax-breaks to the companies involved. Seemingly, even though gas is still a fossil fuel, the department of Energy & Climate Change perceives there to be no incongruity in the dash for shale gas with its efforts elsewhere to be a world leader in the development of green technology.

The US is not Britain. Even there, with vastly more land area and a much lower population density, protests have been vigorous and well organised. If recent events are anything to go by, protests against fracking in the UK are going to be even more widespread and vociferous than those against windfarms. So trouble lies ahead. Meanwhile, 'dirty' cheap coal lies in the ground, the huge power plant which formerly burnt it now reliant upon 'sustainable' woodchips and nuclear power station plans remain on the drawing board. If Davey is not unhinged, his energy policy most certainly is; to coin a phrase from a well known climate alarmist, I would say it was in fact "bat sh*t crazy".