Stephen Wilde has been a Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society since 1968. The first two articles from Mr Wilde were received with a great deal of interest throughout the CO2 Sceptic community. In Stephen Wilde's third and exclusive article below, he explores the mechanics and mechanisms involved in the Earth's warming and cooling. Needless to say, CO2 variations are unimportant
It's all very well doing what alarmists do which is to say that CO2 is rising and temperatures are rising so in the absence of any other known cause it must be man made CO2 that is warming the planet. That approach ignores both the differing scale of the possible influencing factors and the clear historical relationship between cooler climates and periods of a less active sun. The presence of the sun must be a much bigger influence on global temperatures than the greenhouse characteristics of CO2 on it's own.
At most the greenhouse effect can only be marginal though some have tried to talk it up by asserting that the planet would be very much colder without a greenhouse effect, which is correct, but avoids the issue of the rather small proportion of the overall greenhouse effect provided by CO2 and the even smaller proportion provided by man. It also begs the question as to whether the oceans are slowly releasing CO2 as a result of natural warming. If the oceans warm for any reason they will release CO2 into the atmosphere because water holds less CO2 at higher temperatures.
The greenhouse effect, as a whole, may smooth out rises and falls in temperature from other causes but is not itself the determining factor for global temperature. If the heat from the sun declines the global temperature will fall with or without any greenhouse effect and if the heat from the sun increases the global temperature will, of course, rise. The greenhouse effect does not create new heat. All it does is increase the residence time of heat in the atmosphere.
In the ice core record, CO2 increase has always lagged behind temperature rises and the lag involved is estimated to be 400 to 800 years. There has never been a period when a CO2 rise has preceded global warming. I have seen it argued that the past 30 years has been so exceptional that it MUST, for the first time in the history of the globe, be CO2 driving the warming trend. That is an assertion of such low probability that it should require very powerful evidence to support it. I have seen no such evidence. Indeed, on a cursory inspection the slow but steady increase in atmospheric CO2 is clearly not coming through in a slow but steady rise in global temperatures. Instead we see rises and falls in global temperatures that bear no obvious relationship to the steady rise in CO2 unless one puts the cart before the horse and announces that there is no other possible reason and the trend period adopted is carefully chosen to suit the proposition.
All it needs to cast doubt on the CO2 theory is an alternative possibility to explain a rising global temperature trend over the past 500 years and there is one. Everyone will have heard of the Little Ice Age and the global temperature would appear to have been recovering from it ever since. On a balance of probability is that not the more likely explanation of an overall warming trend ever since? Why introduce manmade CO2 at all except for politically motivated reasons? By all means exclude a recovery from the Little Ice Age as the reason if one can but the burden of proof is heavy and probably impossible to discharge with current knowledge. There was also a Mediaeval Warm Period (MWP) that preceded it. It has been asserted by some that the MWP was not as warm as the planet is now but there is evidence to the contrary such as Viking settlements in Greenland at the time. It has also been asserted that the MWP was not worldwide but some recent indications have been found in South America that it was warm there at about the same time. In any event it is unlikely that such a warm period affecting Greenland and Western Europe would not be worldwide. The heavy burden of proof is on those who would seek to deny it.
Be that as it may, there is a probability rather than a possibility that the warming trend since the lowest point of the Little Ice Age is continuing to this day and is the real cause of recent observed warming with only a minimal contribution, if any, from man made CO2 emissions.
Then there is the matter of scale. The greenhouse effect is mainly a phenomenon of the land surface and the atmosphere because more of the incoming heat is absorbed by water as compared to land and a lower proportion is reflected to participate in the greenhouse effect. However the surface of Earth is 70 % water. Water has a hugely greater heat carrying capacity than the land or the atmosphere above it. Land loses most of the heat it receives during the day via overnight radiation and the atmosphere loses heat rapidly via convection, rainfall and radiation to space despite the greenhouse effect. The true heat store that we need to consider, dwarfing by far any atmospheric greenhouse effect is all that water. I describe the implications of that below.
It seems so complex but the global heat balance only comes down to three parameters that swamp all others.
Heat from the sun.
The fact that 70% of the planet is water covered.
Heat, radiating out to a very cold Space.
Extra heat is constantly being generated within the Earth by convection and movement caused by external gravitational forces from the sun and other planets but that only seems to disrupt the basic scenario intermittently.
The heat from the sun varies over a number of interlinked and overlapping cycles but the main one is the cycle of 11 years or so. That solar cycle can last from about 9.5 years to about 13.6 years and appears to be linked to the gravitational effects of the planets of the solar system combining to affect the sun's magnetic field which seems then to influence the amount of heat generated and incidentally affects the number of sunspots. For present purposes I will concentrate on the past 1000 years during which the 11year cycle has been the main factor linked to observed temperature changes. For pre thermometer numbers we have to rely on less reliable indicators of past temperature.
It is clear that temperatures have varied so much over the past 1000 years that there have been substantial effects on human societies so disruption caused by weather and climate is by no means unusual. Many civilisations have fallen as a result of entirely natural changes in climate. Interestingly, they often blamed themselves for offending the Gods, nature or the planet (that sounds familiar!).
It is necessary to note that those disruptive changes have occurred quite quickly. A decade or two is quite enough to see changes that result in considerable hardship.
Because 70% of the planet is covered by water most heat from the sun is accepted by water. The seas take a long time to warm up or cool in comparison to land. Heat reaching the land by day is soon radiated back out to Space at night. Water has a much greater lag both in warming and cooling which also means that as a store of total heat the oceans are hugely effective. The strongest sunlight reaching the Earth is around the Equator that is primarily oceanic. The equatorial sun puts heat into the system year in year out whereas loss of heat is primarily via the poles with each alternating as the main heat loser depending on time of year.
The Earth therefore accumulates or loses heat to and from, primarily, the oceans. The land and the atmosphere are largely an irrelevance. That heat then has to find it's way out into Space over time. Before it can be radiated out into Space heat has to pass through the atmosphere.
The planet cannot maintain and does not maintain a constant temperature. It is not even possible to identify a specific current temperature for the whole planet and for present purposes there is no need to do so.
All I need to assert at this point is that whatever the Earth's temperature is at any given moment it will always be in the process of warming or cooling and, of course, the rate of that warming or cooling is highly variable.
Because the Earth is always either warming or cooling the point of balance could well be very fine so to attribute `blame' to any particular factor we have to ascertain the scale and degree of sensitivity of each factor we wish to consider.
The point I need to make here is that on the basis of historical evidence from weather and solar cycle records the largest single factor influencing global temperature, whatever it might be at any time, is variations in the input of heat from the sun.
It is clear from the historical record that warmer weather accompanies short solar cycles and cooler weather accompanies longer solar cycles. Although I refer to weather the fact is that weather over time constitutes climate so for present purposes they are the same. During the recent warming the cycle lengths were less than 10 years so that meant we were getting more heat from the sun whatever the alarmists say about Total Solar Irradiance (a flawed and incomplete concept).
So far, the current solar cycle (number 23) is into the 12th year in length and may go to the full 13.6 years for known astronomical reasons. The very fact that it is longer than the previous two cycles suggests we are getting less solar energy already and, surprise, surprise, it is now being accepted by alarmists that warming has stalled and the planet may be cooling for the next 10 years at least. All they can do now is bleat that the underlying man made warming signal is still there but they cannot prove that to be the case nor can they demonstrate the scale of it in relation to natural causes.
As far as I can see nobody seems to be able to say why the observed changes in weather that accompany changes in solar activity actually happen. They seem to be disproportionate to the changes in heat coming from the sun. This is where I feel the need to make a suggestion.
The ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) Cycle has been heavily investigated for many years but seems to be looked at as a freestanding phenomenon that just redistributes heat around the globe, sometimes warming and sometimes cooling.
I think that is wrong. I believe that ENSO switches from warming to cooling mode depending on whether the sun is having a net warming or net cooling effect on the Earth. Thus the sun directly drives the ENSO cycle and the ENSO cycle directly drives global temperature changes. Indeed, the effect appears to be much more rapid than anyone has previously believed with a measurable response occurring within a few years of a change in solar energy input. Indeed I see some evidence for the proposition that for various reasons cooling occurs faster than warming but I will save that for another time.
It was no coincidence that during the years from 1975 to 2000 we had a strong emphasis on El Nino with warming-also known as a period of positive Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), and now, with an emphasis on La Nina we have cooling or at least a stall in the warming (a period of negative PDO).
As regards the Pacific Decadal Oscillation that is simply a periodical change in the predominance either of El Nino (positive mode) or of La Nina (negative mode). El Nino events can occur in a positive PDO mode and vice versa.
I believe that both ENSO and PDO are manifestations of the same process and are directly driven by shifts in the balance of heat output from the sun as it switches to or from net warming and to or from net cooling effects on the Earth.
It was no coincidence that the change from one ENSO mode to the other was approximately contemporaneous with the extension of solar cycle 23 to a period longer than the preceding two solar cycles and at about the same time the PDO switched from positive to negative.
Although there are similar periodic oscillations in other oceans such as the Atlantic and the Arctic I believe that they follow the lead of ENSO and PDO. In effect they simply continue the distribution of the initial warming or cooling state around the globe and of course there are varying degrees of lag so that from time to time the other lesser oceanic oscillations can operate contrary to the primary Pacific oscillations until the lag is worked through.
I believe that this is a clear and simple theory of solar driven global climate change which should now be tested empirically.
Just looking at the activity levels of the past few solar cycles and the temperature and ENSO changes that occurred at about the same time would have revealed the truth if those who should have known better were not trying to implicate man generally and western nations in particular. Refer to my two earlier articles for fuller detail.
The fact is that the Earth could well be a highly sensitive water based thermometer as far as solar input is concerned. The balance between overall warming and overall cooling is probably finely linked to the energy received or not received from the sun over decadal time periods or possibly even less.
Advances have been made in predicting the likely activity levels of the sun so it should be possible to make general predictions as regards the onset of warming or cooling trends on Earth from solar observations and astronomical measurements of planetary influences on solar cycles.
Finally, one should consider whether other warming or cooling influences might have any significance to humanity and the environment.
The fact is that the solar effect is huge and overwhelming. Other influences can only ever delay or bring forward what would have happened anyway because of the time scales involved with solar changes that tend to develop and intensify over centuries. One must also remember that, the warmer the Earth gets, the faster the radiation of heat to Space because of an enhanced temperature differential so it would be false to propose an ever increasing positive differential as a result of adding any warming effect of man made CO2 to the effect of solar changes.
The length and intensity of a solar cool down would strip out the human portion of any extra CO2 quite ruthlessly because the cooler temperatures would increase the amount of CO2 absorbed by the oceans and oceanic life would flourish to lock it away in the carbon cycle again in the form of organic calcium carbonate from a multitude of tiny sea creatures (which generally prefer cooler waters) falling to the sea bed.
In effect, all life on Earth has the benefit of an oceanic and atmospheric air conditioning system that clears out excess CO2 as well as well as dust, other particulates and noxious substances created by either the planet itself or the life forms on it from time to time.
Of course a single organism can upset the balance of it's own environment for a time but the planet always renews itself and repopulates with new life forms if necessary. The solution is always a new balance between numbers and lifestyle for any particular organism and that includes us.
That is why, despite hugely different environmental conditions in the past, including far higher CO2 levels, there has never been a `tipping' point that changed the pattern of glaciations and interglacials that have occurred with clockwork precision based on astronomical movements throughout the historical record.
Nor need we fear any man made addition to solar warming because the proportion of the warming which we would be responsible for would be insignificant against the scale of the solar induced portion. In any event, since cooling is worse than warming for humanity and most life on the planet, our production of CO2, however large in our puny terms, would be wholly beneficial for life on Earth. CO2 is the least of our problems so our attention and resources should be better directed to a more general concept of sustainability
Environmentalists Still Can't Get It Right
By WALTER E. WILLIAMS
Now that another Earth Day has come and gone, let's look at some environmentalist predictions they would prefer we forget. At the first Earth Day celebration, in 1969, environmentalist Nigel Calder warned, "The threat of a new ice age must now stand alongside nuclear war as a likely source of wholesale death and misery for mankind." C.C. Wallen of the World Meteorological Organization said, "The cooling since 1940 has been large enough and consistent enough that it will not soon be reversed."
In 1968, professor Paul Ehrlich, former Vice President Al Gore's hero and mentor, predicted that there would be a major food shortage in the U.S. and "in the 1970s . . . hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death." Ehrlich forecast that 65 million Americans would die of starvation between 1980 and 1989, and that by 1999 the U.S. population would have declined to 22.6 million. Ehrlich's predictions about England were gloomier: "If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000."
In 1972, a report was written for the Club of Rome warning that the world would run out of gold by 1981, mercury and silver by 1985, tin by 1987 and petroleum, copper, lead and natural gas by 1992. Gordon Taylor, in his 1970 book "The Doomsday Book," said Americans were using 50% of the world's resources and "by 2000 they (Americans) will, if permitted, be using all of them."
In 1975, the Environmental Fund took out full-page ads warning, "The World as we know it will likely be ruined by the year 2000." Harvard biologist George Wald in 1970 warned, "Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind." That was the same year that Sen. Gaylord Nelson warned, in Look magazine, that by 1995 "somewhere between 75% and 85% of all the species of living animals will be extinct."
It's not just latter-day doomsayers who have been wrong; doomsayers have always been wrong. In 1885, the U.S. Geological Survey announced that there was "little or no chance" of oil being discovered in California, and a few years later they said the same about Kansas and Texas.
In 1939, the U.S. Department of the Interior said American oil supplies would last only another 13 years. In 1949, the secretary of the interior said the end of U.S. oil supplies was in sight. Having learned nothing from its earlier erroneous claims, in 1974 the U.S. Geological Survey advised us that the U.S. had only a 10-year supply of natural gas. The fact of the matter, according to the American Gas Association: There's a 1,000- to 2,500- year supply.
Here are my questions:
In 1970, when environmentalists were making predictions of man-made global cooling and the threat of an ice age and millions of Americans starving to death, what kind of government policy should we have undertaken to prevent such a calamity?
When Ehrlich predicted that England would not exist in the year 2000, what steps should the British Parliament have taken in 1970 to prevent such a dire outcome?
In 1939, when the Department of the Interior warned that we only had oil supplies for another 13 years, what actions should President Roosevelt have taken?
Finally, what makes us think that environmental alarmism is any more correct now that they have switched their tune to man-made global warming?
Here are a few facts:
More than 95% of the greenhouse effect is the result of water vapor in Earth's atmosphere. Without the greenhouse effect, Earth's average temperature would be zero degrees Fahrenheit.
Most climate change is a result of the orbital eccentricities of Earth and variations in the sun's output. On top of that, natural wetlands produce more greenhouse-gas contributions annually than all human sources combined.
Hansen refuted: East Siberian Arctic Temperatures of the Last Interglacial
Earth's temps were 'much warmer than they are today at various times over the past million years'
Discussing: Kienast, F., Tarasov, P., Schirrmeister, L., Grosse, G. and Andreev, A.A. 2008. Continental climate in the East Siberian Arctic during the last interglacial: Implications from palaeobotanical records. Global and Planetary Change 60: 535-562.
In an attempt to portray earth's current temperature as being extremely high and, therefore, extremely dangerous (as well as CO2-induced), Hansen et al. (2006) have claimed the earth "is approximately as warm now as at the Holocene maximum and within ~1øC of the maximum temperature of the past million years.
What was done
In a study that provides evidence that is pertinent to this claim, Kienast et al. studied plant macrofossils found in permafrost deposits on Bol'shoy Lyakhovsky Island (73øN, 141ø30'E) of the New Siberian Archipelago on the coast of the Dimitrii Laptev Strait, from which they reconstructed climatic conditions that prevailed during the prior or Eemian Interglacial.
What was learned
In the words of the five researchers, "macrofossils of warmth-demanding shrubs and aquatic plants, occurring farther south today, indicate that local mean temperatures of the warmest month were at least 12.5øC, thus c. 10øC higher than today at that time," when maximum atmospheric CO2 levels were on the order of 290 ppm, or about 100 ppm less than they are today.
What it means
This finding is just one of many that indicate that various places on the planet have been much warmer than they are today at various times over the past million years, and when the air's CO2 content was also much lower than it is today. For more such examples, see our Major Report Carbon Dioxide and Global Change: Separating Scientific Fact from Personal Opinion, which also presents evidence refuting many of Hansen's other outlandish claims.
North Atlantic Sea Surface Temperatures of the Past 150 Years
"Considering the totality of their findings, the UK and Australian researchers concluded, in the broadest of terms, that "current 'warm era conditions' do not eclipse prior 'warm' conditions during the instrumental record"
Discussing: Hobson, V.J., McMahon, C.R., Richardson, A. and Hays, G.C. 2008. Ocean surface warming: The North Atlantic remains within the envelope of previous recorded conditions. Deep-Sea Research I 55: 155-162.
What was done
The authors used International Comprehensive Ocean-Atmosphere Data Set sea-surface temperature data to calculate, in annual time steps, the mean August-September positions of the 12, 15 and 18øC isotherms in the North Atlantic Ocean from 1854 to 2005 at 2-degree longitudinal intervals.
What was learned
This effort revealed, in the words of Hobson et al., that (1) the three isotherms "have tended to move northwards during two distinct periods: in the 1930s-1940s and then again at the end of the 20th century," that (2) "the chances of this occurring randomly are negligible," that (3) the 15øC isotherm "reached a maximum latitude of 52.0øN in 1932, and a latitude of 51.7øN in 2005, a difference of approximately 33 km," and that (4) "of the 10 most extreme years, 4 have occurred in the 1992-2005 warm era and 3 have occurred in the 1926-1939 era."
What it means
Considering the totality of their findings, the UK and Australian researchers concluded, in the broadest of terms, that "current 'warm era conditions' do not eclipse prior 'warm' conditions during the instrumental record," which sounds an awful lot like what we have concluded, over and over, in our U.S. Temperature Record of the Week feature, i.e., that during the period of most significant greenhouse gas buildup over the past century (1930 and onward) there has been little to no net increase in mean near-surface air temperature throughout the United States. Now the same appears to also have been true throughout a large sector of the North Atlantic Ocean.
WARMING VULTURES DESCEND ON BURMA
By Andrew Bolt
The world has not warmed in a decade. Moreover, there is little evidence that tropical cyclones have got worse. And any link between hurricanes and warming is highly disputed. Yet Al Gore is already feeding on Burma's dead:
Using tragedy to advance an agenda has been a strategy for many global warming activists, and it was just a matter of time before someone found a way to tie the recent Myanmar cyclone to global warming. Former Vice President Al Gore in an interview on NPR's May 6 "Fresh Air" broadcast did just that...
"And as we're talking today, Terry, the death count in Myanmar from the cyclone that hit there yesterday has been rising from 15,000 to way on up there to much higher numbers now being speculated," Gore said. "And last year a catastrophic storm from last fall hit Bangladesh. The year before, the strongest cyclone in more than 50 years hit China - and we're seeing consequences that scientists have long predicted might be associated with continued global warming."
Of course, a British judge has already rapped Gore for linking hurricanes to global warming. And the leading proponent of the warming=hurricanes claim [Kerry Emanuel] has backed off.
Note an additional problem for Gore: Here is a list of the 20 Deadliest Tropical Cyclones in World History. Note that all but one or two occurred before so called "global warming".
Blessed are the sceptics
Comment from Australia
In 1633 Galileo Galilei was hauled before the religious authorities of his day, the Inquisition, for daring to concur with Copernicus that the Earth was not the centre of the universe and also that it orbited the sun rather than the other way around. For his pains, he was placed under house arrest and forced to recant. Giordano Bruno failed to recant and suffered a crueller fate.
Today we are faced with a newer religion known as environmental activism which has insinuated itself into some aspects of science. It shares some of the intolerance to new or challenging ideas with the old. Immolation at the stake is no longer fashionable but it has been replaced by pillory in the media. The new faith makes it apostasy to question the proposition that our river systems are dying and that nothing like this has ever happened before. And it is the blackest heresy to suggest that the beatification of StAl and the Goronites may be a little premature.
The symbols and practices of the new and the old faiths are remarkably similar. The crucifix has been replaced by the wind turbine; where before there was the hair shirt and self-flagellation, mortification of the flesh now consists of switching off your airconditioner when it's hot and your patio heater when it's cold.
The head of the University of Tasmania's school of government, Aynsley Kellow, has pointed out the close similarity between medieval papal indulgences and carbon offsets. However, these things matter less than the corruption of science by faith and the failure to recognise the contingent nature of scientific concepts. Concepts are only valid until such time as they are demolished by the scientific methods of observation, measurement, experimentation and analysis. Phrases such as "the argument is over, the science is settled" are so much fatuous nonsense and should almost never be used in the scientific community.
Throughout history dissenters, sceptics, contrarians and innovators have suffered criticism, abuse and even persecution, but it is these people who have driven progress. To quote Thomas Huxley, "scepticism is the highest of duties, blind faith the one unpardonable sin". Where would we be without the Galileos, Newtons, Darwins and Pasteurs? I would like to think that some time in the future we could add the names of our scholars to that list.
So what is this partnership between the Institute of Public Affairs and the University of Queensland to support environmental research about? What are we doing it for? There are two main reasons. First, to provide a haven for our scholars without ideological or commercial interference and with no prescription as to the end point of their inquiries. If they challenge orthodoxies and assumptions, particularly mine, then that's good. If they find that conventional wisdom is correct, then that's good, too. The only criterion is to seek empirical evidence.
Second, it is important that any research that our scholars undertake is made available to aid the development of better, more rational public policy. Good public policy means applying our resources more efficiently to achieve the outcomes we desire, such as lifting the poor out of their poverty, feeding the hungry, healing the sick and, in our case, managing our environment sensibly and productively.
I would like to think that what we have launched today is just the first step in something much bigger. I envisage that, in the future, to environmental lawyers and scientists we will add other disciplines: biologists, economists, statisticians, even philosophers. What we need to do is shine the hard light of reason and critical thinking on our environmental problems, aided by multiple skills and points of view. As they say, from tiny acorns do mighty oak trees grow; or, to make the metaphor more geographically relevant, from tiny gumnuts do mighty river red gums grow.
That's all I have to say but I would like to leave you with one thought. For those of you have a feeling of despair about the direction that some aspects of environmental science is taking, remember that most people now believe that Galileo was right.
The above is an edited version of a speech by Perth philanthropist Bryant Macfie, who is funding a research partnership between the Institute of Public Affairs and the University of Queensland.
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