Thursday, April 09, 2009

We're getting to them!

The latest paper on climate in New Scientist (below) acknowledges the claim that warming stopped in 1998 and tries to pooh pooh it. They ignore that there has been no statistically significant temperature variation since at least 1975. Lack of statistical significance means that the observed variations could have arisen by chance alone. They also fail to look at the pattern over the entire 20th century, which is one of oscillating rises and falls. Combine that with the fact that the warming across the entire 20th century was a totally trivial .6 of one degree (approx.) and all indicators show that we are in fact in the midst of a period of unusual climate stability -- with just random ups and downs occurring from time to time. Ignoring that, the "New Scientists" once again put their faith in guesswork: "models"

According to some records of past temperatures there has been no significant surface warming between 1998 and 2008. "Now the world is COOLING!" the bloggers scream. As if this means we can all stop worrying about global warming.

I am not sure how anyone who takes even a brief look at records of past surface air temperatures for themselves can jump to such conclusions. It's blindingly obvious that even when there's a long-term warming trend, over shorter periods temperatures may fall.

There was also no significant warming trend from between 1977 and 1985, or between 1981 and 1989 - and those periods certainly weren't the end of global warming. Now, as if more evidence were needed, two climate scientists have produced more data showing that the current lull in no way contradicts the fact that human emissions of greenhouse gases are causing long-term warming.

David Easterling of the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, North Carolina and Michael Wehner of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley in California looked at both at observed temperature records and at climate model predictions for the 20th and 21st centuries. Their paper is in press in Geophysical Research Letters. Their conclusion?

"We show that the climate over the 21st century can and likely will produce periods of a decade or two where the globally averaged surface air temperature shows no trend or even slight cooling in the presence of longer-term warming."

It'd be nice to think their contribution would make a difference. But I doubt it will change the minds of those who dismiss the idea of climate change despite the key evidence from physics and chemistry, despite the evidence from past climate changes and despite dramatic changes such as collapsing ice shelves in Antarctica, the shrinking of summer sea ice in the Arctic and the retreat of glaciers all around the world.

I suspect that claims such as "Global warming stopped in 1998" will give way to claims such as "Global warming stopped in 2017" and "Global warming stopped in 2033", even as the long-term warming trend becomes ever clearer


New finding: Correlation of sunspots and sea level

Click to zoom in. Did they ever fit together? Most ridiculous thing I ever heard. :-)

I find this graph by David Archibald stunning. Relevant posts at climate realist websites:
Watts: Archibald posts this graph
Climate Audit: Holgate on sea level
Watts: Sea level and Jason data
The graph shows a remarkably accurate correlation between the number of sun spots - following the approximately 11-year solar cycle - and the annual sea level rise in millimeters.

See pages in Colorado to download the sea level data from satellite altimeters etc. and a previous posting about the sun spots for links to the solar data.

To draw it, Archibald had to calculate the "derivative" of the usual graphs showing the sea level itself, as a function of time (years).

In the real climate, the solar activity seems to influence the sea level rise.

I would bet that such a tight correlation simply cannot be a coincidence. There's no independent reason for such an accurate "11-year" cycle in the sea levels that would moreover happen to be synchronized with the sun spots. If you know about an alternative explanation of the 11-year cycles in the sea level rise, let me know: I am very curious.

My explanation suggested by the picture is the obvious:
  1. a higher solar activity increases the global temperature, probably by shielding the Earth from the cosmic rays that would otherwise create additional cooling clouds
  2. the number of cooling clouds is therefore decreasing when the number of sun spots is high, and vice versa; the temperature behaves in the same way with the opposite sign
  3. the sea level is the most accurate proxy for the global mean temperature - and especially the non-meteorological and "external" drivers and of it - that we can get; it may automatically subtract some local, internal, meteorological effects such as ENSO; it automatically chooses the right altitudes where the temperature should be measured and averaged, and so on
  4. the sea level therefore responds much like the temperature that behaves as explained above
  5. its increase therefore directly reflects the solar activity, with almost no lag
  6. the additional underlying linear warming trend evident from the rising sea level is caused by much slower effects, especially the glaciation cycles and the enhanced greenhouse effect
This theory seems to make perfect sense to me. But we will have to wait for some time to see whether the correlation and synchronization survives.

At any rate, the Sun seems to have a huge effect. The graph suggests that solar activity changes the annual sea level rise from a minimum around 0 millimeters per year to a maximum around 5 millimeters per year.

The average trend, around 2.5 millimeters per year in the time interval of the graph, is caused by slower effects - including the Milankovitch cycles and the enhanced greenhouse effect. But you can see that the solar activity is as big as all these effects combined.

What I mean by the previous sentence is that if the solar activity drops to zero or near zero, e.g. for two decades, the sea level rise will also be zero or slightly negative, indicating a modest global cooling - regardless of the origin of the slow, currently warming underlying trend.

Needless to say, after some time, the underlying slow processes will switch to cooling, too.

In a few millenia or so, the Earth will naturally begin to return to another ice age. Recall that between 15,000 and 5,000 years ago, the sea level was increasing by more than 1 meter per century (about 100 meters during the period), much faster than today, and a comparable decrease of the sea level may be expected in the opposite parts of the cycles.

When we look at these long-term developments, one must realize that while the sea level may be a great proxy for the global temperature, measuring the external drivers only, the coefficient relating the warming/cooling and the sea level rise is changing after millenia. When there were many more continental glaciers, the sea level arguably responded to the changes of the temperature much more intensely than today - because there was a lot of continental ice ready to melt or grow.

For the most recent 6,000 years or so, essentially only Greenland and Antarctica contributed to the sea level rise by ice melting. The heat expansion of water in the oceans is a contribution to the coefficient that doesn't change much.

Let me say that I do believe that the increasing CO2 concentration does contribute to the slower underlying trend. But it is clearly not the only (or dominant) contribution because the sea levels have been changing equally or more rapidly than they are today, long before we were producing lots of CO2.


Back to basics

It's one of the first things I remember learning in second grade science class: People breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide, plants "breathe" in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen. It seems that some scientists and journalists missed that day of class:
The phenomenon has been discovered in a variety of flora, ranging from tropical rainforests to British sugar beet crops.

It means they are soaking up at least some of the billions of tons of CO2 released into the atmosphere by humans that would otherwise be accelerating the rate of climate change.

Plants survive by extracting CO2 from the air and using sunlight to convert it into proteins and sugars.

Since 1750 the concentration in the air has risen from of CO2 278 parts per million (ppm) to more than 380 ppm, making it easier for plants to acquire the CO2 needed for rapid growth.

Plants are getting bigger and stronger, taking in more CO2 and, I presume, sending out more O2. Could it be that a little extra CO2 in the atmosphere, rather than spelling out doom for every living thing on the planet, is...a good thing? Could it be that increased CO2 will mean stronger plants, and thusly more and better crops? Could it be that efforts to stem the tide of the increase in CO2 will lead to decreases in food production and food shortages across the globe?

Lawrence Solomon, author of The Deniers, wrote about this very phenomenon last June in the Financial Post, in a column called "In Praise of CO2."
Doubling the jeopardy for Earth is man. Unlike the many scientists who welcome CO2 for its benefits, many other scientists and most governments believe carbon dioxide to be a dangerous pollutant that must be removed from the atmosphere at all costs. Governments around the world are now enacting massive programs in an effort to remove as much as 80% of the carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere.

If these governments are right, they will have done us all a service. If they are wrong, the service could be all ill, with food production dropping world wide, and the countless ecological niches on which living creatures depend stressed. The second order effects could be dire, too. To bolster food production, humans will likely turn to energy intensive manufactured fertilizers, depleting our store of non-renewable resources. Techniques to remove carbon from the atmosphere also sound alarms. Carbon sequestration, a darling of many who would mitigate climate change, could become a top inducer of earthquakes, according to Christian Klose, a geohazards researcher at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Because the carbon sequestration schemes tend to be located near cities, he notes, carbon-sequestration-caused earthquakes could exact an unusually high toll.

Amazingly, although the risks of action are arguably at least as real as the risks of inaction, Canada and other countries are rushing into Earth-altering carbon schemes with nary a doubt. Environmentalists, who ordinarily would demand a full-fledged environmental assessment before a highway or a power plant can be built, are silent on the need to question proponents or examine alternatives.

Everywhere you look, there's another hole in the theory of Global Warming. Even a second grader could tell you that.


Harvard Astrophysicist says global cooling may prompt rethink of man-made warming theory

"The Sun is the all encompassing energy giver to life on planet Earth," said Dr. Willie Soon, an Astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. And these days the sun is getting a lot of attention from scientists. "The Sun is just slightly dimmer and has been for about the last 18 months," said Dr. Soon. "And that is because there are very few sunspots."

Sunspots are giant islands of magnetism on the Sun and the appearance of sunspots runs in 11 year cycles. When sunspots are abundant during the cycle, it is called the "solar maximum" and when there are few sunspots, it is considered to be the "solar minimum." "Right now we are in the deepest solar minimum of the entire Space Age," stated Dr. Soon. "In fact, this is the quietest (fewest sunspots) Sun we have had in almost a century."

And those lack of sunspots have a link to our climate. "When you have a lot of sunspots, there is a lot more light energy coming from the Sun and that tends to warm the Earth," added Dr. Soon."When the Sun produces less sunspots, it essentially gives up less energy to the Earth's climate system." And less energy means a cooler planet.

"There were very few sunspots in 2008 and by all measures, 2008 was a cold year," said Dr. Soon. And that link between temperatures on Earth and sunspot activity can be picked out many times from past history.

"For example, from 1645 to 1715 there were no sunspots and it was a very, very cold period for our planet. Most call it the "Little Ice Age," said Dr. Soon. "Based on my research, I tend to be in support of a very, very strong role by the Sun's energy input as a climate driver. If you were to ask me about the role of CO2, I would say its very, very small," he added.

In fact, Dr. Soon sees this historic solar minimum as an opportunity to reframe our understanding of Earth's climate system. "If this deep solar minimum continues and our planet cools while CO2 levels continue to rise, thinking needs to change. This will be a very telling time and it's very, very useful in terms of science and society in my opinion," concluded Dr. Soon.


'Nightly News' Brings Alarmism Back

NBC chief environmental affairs correspondent alleges melting ice is 'a situation made worse by manmade global warming that now needs a manmade solution.'

Between the very cold winter in many places and everyone including Vanity Fair focused on the economic downturn, many in the news media took a vacation from global warming alarmism. But on April 6, NBC brought the hype back with yet another story about the threat of melting ice caps. Anchor Brian Williams introduced an “Our Planet” segment by reminding viewers that the Obama administration was remaining active on the issue of climate change.

“The Obama administration is calling for greater protection of the earth’s polar regions, including limits on tourism,” Williams said. “Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the proposals at a global summit in Washington. Coincidentally, it comes two days after a crucial ice bridge collapsed at the South Pole, effectively changing the map of that part of the world.”

Then chief environmental affairs correspondent Anne Thompson went back to the well for an old standby – that polar bears and penguins were threatened by the thinning ice attributed to no other than climate change.

“From polar bears in the north to penguins in the south, thinning ice at the poles means more climate trouble for the planet,” Thompson said. “In the Arctic Ocean a government report out today shows ice cover this winter was the fifth smallest on record, and the ice that's there was the thinnest ever. Ice accumulated over the years – the thick stuff marked in red on this map – makes up a record low 10 percent of the ice cover. The orange area is first year ice, thin ice, the vast majority of this winter's ice cover and most susceptible to summer melting.”

And, as Thompson pointed out in keeping with the tradition of her one-sided climate change alarmist reporting, this could affect the weather for everyone all over the planet. “It's a crisis that may seem far away, but the poles are like thermostats for the planet,” Thompson said. “And changes there could affect the weather everywhere people live.”

And what global warming segment would be complete without an activist from an environmental organization that wants urgent action to be taken to stop global warming? NBC’s story featured Neil Hamilton of the World Wildlife Fund who said, “The science is telling us that we are actually in a much worse situation than we would think we would otherwise be.”

Thompson agreed and blamed man for shifts in climate saying, “A situation made worse by manmade global warming that now needs a manmade solution.” Her report didn’t include any voice of dissent, though many exist.

A report recently updated by the U.S. Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee includes more than 700 international scientists that dispute Thompson’s claim – that global warming is a manmade phenomenon.


The state wants to ban your big-screen TV

They are coming for your television. As first reported by the Orange County Register, the California Energy Commission is considering banning the sale of big-screen TV sets that don’t meet new, higher energy efficiency standards.

The proposed regulations will make many big-screen sets illegal. By 2011, the commission wants all large-screen TVs to use 33 percent less power. By 2013, sets must consume 49 percent less power. The bureaucrats say the regulations will reduce global warming and save consumers $18 to $30 a year.

If the law was enacted today, the Consumer Electronics Association says about 25 percent of TVs would be non-compliant, most of those being sets with screens of 40-inches or more. Considering that most manufacturers already work to meet voluntary Energy Star standards, it is questionable how much more state agencies can demand from manufacturers without forcing them to pass on these added costs to consumers, which means more expensive TVs.

There is also a huge question about how such a law would be enforced. Many California consumers would simply choose to purchase non-compliant TVs on the Internet, or drive to stores in nearby Nevada, Arizona or Oregon. As a result, local California-based retailers, who provide jobs and income to state residents, stand to lose the most from the ban.

The Energy Commission insists that it is not “banning” big screen TVs, but simply setting higher efficiency standards. But setting standards that few, if anyone, can actually meet is really just prohibition by another name.

The energy commissioners are really concerned about our prosperity. They fret that too many people are buying bigger TVs, hooking them up to Digital Video Recorders (DVRs), cable boxes, computers and digital cameras. We simply can’t have that. These home electronics now consume about 10 percent of household electricity, according to PG&E. So here comes the state’s nanny to tell taxpayers how they should be using electricity and to tell us we are using too much of it watching big screen TVs.

Ironically, these nanny-state tactics are unnecessary. Bureaucrats don’t have to browbeat consumers into saving energy. The cost of power isn’t getting any less expensive. You don’t have to buy into the global warming doctrine to want to lower your electricity bills.

Many television manufacturers, well aware that their customers want to save money, are developing organic light-emitting diode (OLED) televisions that are much more power efficient than today’s sets.

And Wired magazine points out “most of the TVs that would be banned by the proposal would be larger TVs that are already losing steam in the market anyway… consumers are already ahead of the game here. No matter what happens with the proposal, energy-hogging TVs will be gone within two years.”

As usual, customers and companies are ahead of the bureaucrats. To cover the added $18 to $30 yearly cost of that big screen TV, people might choose to turn down the air conditioner, do a better job turning off the lights around the house, or waiting until the dishwasher is full before running it. People can find plenty of ways to be economical when they have to. They might even choose compact fluorescent light bulbs.

Just as the commission seeks to ban big televisions, the state legislature tried a similar tactic with attempts to ban incandescent light bulbs. But the legislature wisely stopped short of an outright ban in favor of a list of requirements that light bulbs must meet in the future. That list, however, was intentionally malleable so businesses and consumers would have some flexibility. Legislators, unlike the energy commissioners, are elected officials and need to be somewhat sensitive to what voters want.

If the energy commission moves to ban big screens, I suspect the commissioners will learn Californians take their televisions very seriously.



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1 comment:

John A said...

*NASA: Clean-air regs, not CO2, are melting the ice cap*

"Sulfates, which come primarily from the burning of coal and oil, scatter incoming solar radiation and have a net cooling effect on climate. Over the past three decades, the United States and European countries have passed a series of laws that have reduced sulfate emissions by 50 percent. While improving air quality and aiding public health, the result has been less atmospheric cooling from sulfates."