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.