Saturday, February 16, 2008


From Lee C. Gerhard [], Senior Scientist Emeritus, Kansas Geological Survey, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas

Can anyone out there provide me with any empirical data in support of the theory that humans control climate warming? No, don't tell me that climate is changing - we geologists absolutely know that climate changes all the time, in both directions, and at many scales of time and intensity.

Don't give me results of computer modeling - those are not empirical data, they are the results of very serious attempts to place numbers on natural phenomena, but they are still based on assumptions and estimates, and have not been able to replicate past climate changes, particularly over the last 1500 years. Computer models are currently nothing more than scientific theories set to mathematical music.

Bring us some data, some values that support the concept. Right now the data show correlative changes in temperature and solar activity, modified by ocean current movement and orbital variations, many of which are predictable and which have operated to change climate for billions of years.

Yes, there is an increase in carbon dioxide, but its effects drop logarithmically with its increase. Thus, it doesn't pose a threat. All told the full greenhouse effect, mostly water vapor, does make Earth a habitable planet.

Please don't argue that climate is changing at rates and intensities not ever seen before. That is just not true. Read the data already out there from the geologists and those who study past climate change.

Tell me why otherwise competent scientists argue for their theory but fail to provide any support for their theory other than constant repetition of untrue statements and alarmist exaggerations. Upton Sinclair, author of The Jungle said, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it." Is that what is happening?


I'm writing this after doing an exhaustive search to see what sort of solar activity has occurred lately, and I find there is little to report. With the exception of the briefly increased solar wind from a coronal hole, there is almost no significant solar activity. The sun has gone quiet. Really quiet.

It is normal for our sun to have quiet periods between solar cycles, but we've seen months and months of next to nothing, and the start of Solar cycle 24 seems to have materialized (as first reported here) then abruptly disappeared. The reverse polarity sunspot that signaled the start of cycle 24 on January 4th, dissolved within two days after that.

Of course we've known that the sunspot cycle has gone low, which is also to be expected for this period of the cycle. Note that NOAA still has two undecided scenarios for cycle 24 Lower that normal, or higher than normal, as indicated on the graph below:

But the real news is just how quiet the suns magnetic field has been in the past couple of years. From the data provided by NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) you can see just how little magnetic field activity there has been. I've graphed it below:

What is most interesting about the Geomagnetic Average Planetary Index graph above is what happened around October 2005. Notice the sharp drop in the magnetic index and the continuance at low levels.

This looks much like a "step function" that I see on GISS surface temperature graphs when a station has been relocated to a cooler measurement environment. In the case of the sun, it appears this indicates that something abruptly "switched off" in the inner workings of the solar dynamo. Note that in the prior months, the magnetic index was ramping up a bit with more activity, then it simply dropped and stayed mostly flat.

We saw a single reversed polarity high latitude sunspot on January 4th, 2008, which would signal the start of a new cycle 24, which was originally predicted to have started last March and expected to peak in 2012. So far the sun doesn't seem to have restarted its normal upwards climb.

If you have ever studied how the magnetic dynamo of the sun is so incredibly full of entropy, yet has cycles, you'll understand how it can change states. The sun's magnetic field is a like a series of twisted and looped rubber bands, mostly because the sun is a fluid gas, which rotates at different rates between the poles and the equator. Since the suns magnetic field is pulled along with the gas, all these twists, bumps, and burps occur in the process as the magnetic field lines get twisted like taffy. You can see more about it in the Babcock model.

The Babcock model says that the differential rotation of the Sun winds up the magnetic fields of it's layers during a solar cycle. The magnetic fields will then eventually tangle up to such a degree that they will eventually cause a magnetic break down and the fields will have to struggle to reorganize themselves by bursting up from the surface layers of the Sun. This will cause magnetic North-South pair boundaries (spots) in the photosphere trapping gaseous material that will cool slightly. Thus, when we see sunspots, we are seeing these areas of magnetic field breakdown.

Sunspots are cross connected eruptions of the magnetic field lines, shown in red above. Sometimes they break, spewing tremendous amounts of gas and particles into space. Solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CME's) are some examples of this process. Sometimes they snap back like rubber bands. The number of sunspots at solar max is a direct indicator of the activity level of the solar dynamo.

Given the current quietness of the sun and it's magnetic field, combined with the late start to cycle 24 with even possibly a false start, it appears that the sun has slowed it's internal dynamo to a similar level such as was seen during the Dalton Minimum. One of the things about the Dalton Minimum was that it started with a skipped solar cycle, which also coincided with a very long solar cycle 4 from 1784-1799. The longer our current cycle 23 lasts before we see a true ramp up of cycle 24, the greater chance it seems then that cycle 24 will be a low one.

No wonder there is so much talk recently about global cooling. I certainly hope that's wrong, because a Dalton type solar minimum would be very bad for our world economy and agriculture. NASA GISS published a release back in 2003 that agrees with the commonly accepted idea that long period trends in solar activity do affect our climate by changing the Total Solar Irradiance (TSI).

Some say it is no coincidence that 2008 has seen a drop in global temperature as indicated by several respected temperature indexes compared to 2007, and that our sun is also quiet and still not kick starting its internal magentic dynamo.



I had to chuckle to myself reading a letter here at The Register, recently. "David Whitehouse - although a respected scientist - is still only one voice and his speciality is astrophysics not climate," wrote a reader. This is one of my greatest concerns about so called climate science. Climate science is a very, very new field. So new, in fact, that it has had little chance for its assertions to be tested.

For example, climate models are being developed with very little ability to test out of sample. Furthermore, the climate science bandwagon has come about solely because of supposed anthropogenic climate change, which means that their funding is intrinsically tied to climate change happening and being man-made. A more self-interested group I could not find anywhere, even looking at the researchers who were paid by big tobacco companies to tell us cigarettes are safe.

The scientists who interest me in this field are those who can draw on the experience of a lot of people who have come before them. And uniformly in these areas I find scepticism. People who write mathematical models of complex systems for a living tend to find the climate models very unconvincing. Geologists find the arguments very unconvincing. Engineers find the arguments unconvincing. And astrophysicists find the arguments unconvincing.

Why? Well the answers are clear. Climate groupthink The climate models seem to be largely driven by over-fitting to a small sample set and positive feedback. The small sample set - at most 30 years of accurate data - might be enough to try and predict one or two years, but 50 year predictions? Ignoring the biggest effect on global warming - water vapour - is surely going to cause problems.

Positive feedback in engineering invariably results in unstable systems - so we have to ask why do most if not all of the climate models rely on it to get doomsday predictions? For the Earth to have survived as long as it has with a stable climate, through major events like ice-ages or volcanic eruptions, there is little doubt that a degree of negative climate feedback is essential.

Geologists will quite happily explain how major climate changes in the Earth are a result of geological changes. Remember that more carbon is trapped in limestone than in either plant life or fossil fuels (or both put together for that matter). Ice ages and volcanic eruptions are all things that will unarguably change the climate. Yet, with the notable exception of the extinction of the dinosaurs, it seems life has happily trundled along through it all. We're the living proof.

Of course, it's also interesting to see changes over shorter time periods. If you go to see the Roman ruins at Ephesus in Turkey, the guide will point out that the harbour is miles from where the nearest sea is today. Sea levels go up and down for many reasons - carbon dioxide not being one of them. Somehow, we survive.

Of course, astrophysicists and astronomers will happily tell us about global warming on other planets in the solar system, a period of extensive solar activity and the like. But they get poo-pooed just like all the other "real scientists" who have a view. Climate scientists have to disagree with real scientists or they would lose their funding.

Finally, why can't we trust human ingenuity? At the moment, I don't see that the evidence for anthropogenic climate change is strong enough to wreck our economies to try to change it. But if, over the next 10 or 20 years, the evidence really does come out in favour of these theories, then I have faith in our ability to solve the problem. Just like we have successfully dealt with smog in London, rivers flooding, or acid rain. We always have.



1. Uber-alarmist James Hansen is head of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

2. Hansen is said to be the boss of RealClimate alarmist Gavin Schmidt at NASA GISS.

3. Gristmill alarmist Andrew Dessler says he did his post-doctoral work at NASA Goddard (at about the 40 second mark here).

4. RealClimate alarmist Eli Rabbet is said to be Josh Halpern: Prof. Halpern is also the Co-Director of the NASA Faculty Fellowship Program at Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD in odd numbered years. This program supports about 30 faculty each year to do summer research at Goddard.

When this worldwide global warming hysteria inevitably dies, it will probably become clear that a core cause was groupthink among a surprisingly small set of people.



Netizens get the real story. The general public get led up a dry gulch

Yesterday provided one of the starkest contrasts I have ever witnessed between the standards of news broadcasting on BBC TV News and BBC News Online. Putting it in the crudest of terms, the so-called flagship, BBC Ten O'Clock News (BBC 1), provided little more than tabloid hysteria, while the BBC Online coverage was thoughtful, and genuinely worthy both of plaudits and of the BBC's long tradition of public service.

The story in question somehow inevitably related to 'global warming', and it was about the report from a panel of scientific experts commissioned by the Department of Health, and the Health Protection Agency (HPA), to examine the way in which the UK has responded to rising temperatures since the 1970s, and to assess how the risks are likely to change. The moment you glimpsed the BBC Health News Online headline, you knew that you were in for some balanced and nuanced reporting, well-worth the read: 'Global warming "may cut deaths"' [BBC Health News Online, February 12]:

"The risk of a fatal heatwave in the UK within ten years is high, but overall global warming may mean fewer deaths due to temperature, a report says. A seriously hot summer between now and 2017 could claim more than 6,000 lives, the Department of Health report warns. But it also stresses that milder winters mean deaths during this time of year - which far outstrip heat-related mortality - will continue to decline."

The coverage went on to point out: "While summers in the UK became warmer in the period 1971 - 2003, there was no change in heat-related deaths, but annual cold-related mortality fell by 3% as winters became milder - so overall fewer people died as a result of extreme temperatures.

Rather than physiological changes explaining our ability to adapt to rising temperatures, the report puts this down primarily to lifestyle alterations - our readiness to wear more informal clothes, for instance, and the shift away from manual labour."

All very interesting. The account then, quite fairly, discussed the impacts of potential heatwaves, but, even in this context, it entered sensible caveats: "However, even 6,000 deaths pales in comparison with the number of cold-related deaths, which in the UK currently average about 20,000 per year."

Throughout, the Online reportage read, and felt, like real science, well-presented and cautious. I congratulate the Online Editor and the reporters concerned.

In stark contrast - you will have to take my word for this - the report on the BBC Ten O'Clock News was a travesty, focusing entirely on the mayhem of heatwaves, with lurid graphics and the use of over-dramatic language. By the end, any careful science had been brutally violated (I nearly said 'raped') - there is no other word for it - in the worst traditions of tabloid journalism. The role of milder winters cutting deaths, of course, was just ignored.

What can one say? No wonder TV audiences are falling. That is the last occasion on which I shall bother to waste my time watching the BBC Ten O'Clock News. BBC Online and Radio will do fine for me, thanks. But what must the excellent reporters of the Online site think?

And, what would the doughty John Charles Walsham Reith, 1st Baron Reith, the BBC's first Director-General, think? We could well recall his weighty words: "Need we be ashamed of moral values, or of intellectual and ethical objectives? It is these that are here and now at stake."



For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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