Wednesday, March 24, 2010
You can't predict the weather; or climate change: Our weather forecasts will always be as unreliable as our predictions of climate change
By Roger Highfield (Roger Highfield is the Editor of 'New Scientist’, a generally Warmist publication, so the stress below on the uncertain magnitudes involved is a big retreat)
Last year, the Met Office claimed the UK was “odds-on for a barbecue summer”. The reality was a washout. Then came its predictions of a mild winter, when it was the coldest for three decades. Now another company predicts this year’s summer will be sizzling. Can we believe them?
I asked Prof Tim Palmer, now at Oxford University, who pioneered medium-range climate forecasts. He sighs, and says of the Met’s forecasts that “we weren’t promised a barbecue summer — unfortunately, there was a certain amount of unnecessary spin placed on uncertain predictions”.
Today, at the Royal Society, London, Prof Palmer has gathered experts to discuss how we should handle uncertainties. Among them are Lord May, who put chaos theory into biology.
Chaos rules the weather. One can appreciate this with a mathematical structure called a Lorenz attractor, named after an American meteorologist. The lines depicting this structure never repeat their trajectory, just as the weather varies from day to day, but overall the lines form an owl-eye shape, just as our climate has regularities, notably warm summers and cold winters.
Although chaos theory limits the accuracy of weather predictions, we can still understand factors that influence the climate such as the greenhouse effect, predicted in 1827 by the French mathematician Joseph Fourier (1768-1830). The name arises because, like glass in a greenhouse, gases such as carbon dioxide and water vapour let solar energy in to warm the Earth but also trap some of the planet’s heat. Without greenhouse gases, the ground temperature would be 30C lower.
The uncertainty in predictions of global warming have not changed much since pioneering work by the American Jule Charney in the Seventies, when he worked out the possible impact of climate change. His lower limit estimates of 1.5 deg warming for a doubling of carbon dioxide levels are similar to those from the latest climate models.
There is little uncertainty when it comes to explaining why the Earth is warming, says Prof Palmer. The big issue is what happens next. Some scientists fear apocalyptic scenarios, others believe the change will be smooth. All agree that there are major holes in our understanding.
“What has been naggingly difficult has been working out the upper limit of possible warming,” says Prof Palmer. There is much debate among scientists, but among the public this comes over as “you are either a believer or non-believer in climate change, which is a false dichotomy”.
All the time, there is endless pressure to simplify. PR disasters such as the Met’s seasonal forecast can result when uncertainty is rendered down to a soundbite. The Met had said it was ''odds-on for a barbecue summer’’ in its press statement, which had a greater ring of certainty than the actual 50 per cent probability of above-average temperatures. Similarly, although the winter had a 50 per cent chance of being milder, there was a 20 per cent chance of being colder.
This month the Met Office abandoned these forecasts, where many variations on the same computer model of the climate are run to produce a fuzzy “ensemble” of forecasts, a method Prof Palmer popularised back in 1989. Palmer believes they are still valid. “The Met has been criticised too much.”
Uncertainty is a part of everyday life. “The big issue is this,’’ Prof Palmer explains. “When it comes to a catastrophic 4 deg average global warming, how big a probability would the public have to be faced with to back taking drastic action?”
The failure to make the uncertainties of climate change crystal clear may be another reason why public confidence in climate science has slumped.
Lord Oxburgh, the climate science peer, ‘has a conflict of interest’
A member of the House of Lords appointed to investigate the veracity of climate science has close links to businesses that stand to make billions of pounds from low-carbon technology.
Lord Oxburgh is to chair a scientific assessment panel that will examine the published science of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.
The CRU has been accused of manipulating and suppressing data to overstate the dangers from climate change. Professor Phil Jones, its director, has stood down from his post while a separate inquiry, chaired by Sir Muir Russell, takes place into the leaking of e-mails sent by him and his colleagues.
Climate sceptics questioned whether Lord Oxburgh, chairman of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association and the wind energy company Falck Renewables, was truly independent because he led organisations that depended on climate change being seen as an urgent problem.
Andrew Montford, a climate-change sceptic who writes the widely-read Bishop Hill blog, said that Lord Oxburgh had a “direct financial interest in the outcome” of his inquiry.
Lord Oxburgh has said that he believes the need to tackle climate change will make capturing carbon from power plants “a worldwide industry of the same scale as the international oil industry today”.
The CCS Association has stated that carbon capture could become a “trillion dollar industry” by 2050, but this would happen only if governments made reducing emissions a top political priority. In an interview in 2007, Lord Oxburgh said that the threat from global warming was so severe that “it may be that we shall need . . . regulations which impose very severe penalties on people who emit more than specified amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere”.
The university appointed Lord Oxburgh, a geologist and former chairman of the Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology, after consulting the Royal Society, of which he is a fellow.
Professor Trevor Davies, the university’s pro-vice-chancellor for research, said that the university had been aware of Lord Oxburgh’s business interests but believed that he would lead the panel of six scientists “in an utterly objective way”. The panel will meet in Norwich next month.
He added: “We all have an interest in seeing alternatives to fossil fuel energy sources. This is going to be an issue for us all in future regardless of climate change.
“The choice of scientists is sure to be the subject of discussion, and experience would suggest that it is impossible to find a group of eminent scientists to look at this issue who are acceptable to every interest group which has expressed a view in the last few months. Similarly it is unlikely that a group of people who have the necessary experience to assess the science, but have formed no view of their own on global warming, could be found.”
He said the scientists has been selected because they had “the right mix of skills to understand the complex nature of climate research and the discipline-based expertise to scrutinise CRU’s research”.
Lord Oxburgh, a former chairman of Shell UK, said: “The shadow hanging over climate change and science more generally at present makes it a matter of urgency that we get on with this assessment. We will undertake this work and report as soon as possible.”
The university expects his report to be published before the summer.
The panel members are: Huw Davies, Professor of Physics at the Institute for Atmospheric & Climate Science at ETH Zürich; Kerry Emanuel, Professor of Meteorology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Professor Lisa Graumlich, Director of the School of Natural Resources and the Environment at the University of Arizona; David Hand, Professor of Statistics in the Department of Mathematics at Imperial College, London; Herbert Huppert, Professor of Theoretical Geophysics at the University of Cambridge; and Michael Kelly, Prince Philip Professor of Technology at the University of Cambridge. They will be given access to CRU’s original data and be able to interview its scientists.
Professor Bob Watson, Chief Scientific Adviser to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said: “I strongly support the choice of chair and panel members — all world class — and the terms of reference. This should lead to a critical evaluation of the quality of the CRU science.”
Great news for earth's ecosystems
Recent news has been all bad for the International Panel on Climate Change and the former gold standard for global temperatures at East Anglia University.
Leaders of the organizations have been less than forthright regarding these facts: "The climate science is not settled," that assumptions in models used to "predict" catastrophic future warming may have been wrong, that the rapidity of glacier loss was overstated by multiples of years (initially denied), that there has been a tendency to leave out inconvenient scientific data in IPCC's all-important summary for policymakers, that temperatures today are possibly not unprecedented, and that there has been no statistically significant global warming in the last 15 years.
These admissions, prompted by information generated from 3,000 internal e-mails at East Anglia's Climate Research Unit, have shaken the warming community to its roots (even the leader of Greenpeace of the United Kingdom is appalled).
There is, however, great news for planet Earth and the plant and animal kingdoms, including humanity. With these admissions that the data and conclusions may be suspect, scientists and policymakers should now realize that carbon dioxide may not be a significant cause of climate change and that the addition of CO2 to the atmosphere may be beneficial to Earth, as it already has been since the beginning of the industrial revolution around 1860.
Thousands of real field and laboratory experiments by the agricultural community indicate that Earth's plants have experienced an increased growth of about 12 percent and Earth's forest an increase of about 18 percent.
In fact, these peer-reviewed studies show that an addition of 300 parts per million of CO2 to Earth's existing 387 ppm would result in average plant growth of 35 percent and growth of trees by 50 percent.
Other benefits include the fact that plants require less water to grow as large in a CO2- enriched atmosphere. This makes plants drought-tolerant as evidenced by plants today encroaching onto the deserts. Plants also become more tolerant of many environmental stresses.
It quickly became obvious that people, scientists and politicians were not aware of the astonishing benefits of CO2. Because there is not a single instance of CO2 being a pollutant and my own research of the literature indicating that there is no convincing evidence of CO2-caused global climate change, I gave some public talks and found that objective people were very interested in having a summary of these benefits to weigh against what they were being fed by proponents of CO2-caused warming.
This led to my becoming chairman and spokesman for a 501 c(3) organization, PlantsNeedCO2.org, and a 501 c(4) advocacy foundation, CO2IsGreen.org.
People easily grasp the magnitude of the benefits of more CO2 but invariably ask, "But isn't CO2 causing global warming?"
While climate science is very complex, these observations deny that conclusion. First is the fact that detailed studies of ice cores prove that changes in CO2 levels follow changes in temperature by several hundreds of years.
Secondly, a law of physics shows that CO2's ability to absorb more heat declines very rapidly, logarithmically, as more CO2 is added to the atmosphere.
Thirdly, empirical (real) studies of current and historical climates do not support the hypothesis that CO2 is or has been a major cause of climate change.
Check it out on PlantsNeedCO2.org. You will soon realize the amazing benefits that additional CO2 can bring to Earth's ecosystems, habitats, food supplies and human health.
More CO2 will truly "green" the Earth, while the cries from extremists to actually reduce atmospheric CO2 would result in a "browning" of Earth and death or increased misery to hundreds of millions of people living on the edge of starvation.
H. Leighton Steward, a Texas geologist, is also the author of two best-selling books challenging conventional wisdom -- "Fire, Ice and Pa
Water Vapour as a greenhouse gas?
Clouds have a warming effect because in order for water vapour to condense back into water droplets, the water molecules must first re-emit the energy they absorbed to become vapour in the first place.
The latent heat which is released in this process is what makes the local environment feel warmer. But this does not increase the overall energy in the system. This effect is simply a localized effect, the result of large amounts of energy actually leaving the system.
Most of the energy in this process is energy that has been stored by the oceans. This energy is then moved into the clouds via evaporation. When this evaporated water condenses it releases that energy into the atmosphere and it feels warmer. But it is a fleeting short lived increase in local temperature.
This energy would have been absorbed into the oceans somewhere near the equator. Then it will have been transported North or South by oceanic convection currents. When this warmer water reaches colder latitudes the warmer water evaporates. The water vapour caries the energy up to cloud level. Enormous amounts of energy are then released as the water vapour condenses into cloud. This released energy quickly leaves the system as it is lifted high up into the atmosphere by powerful convection currents in the atmosphere and is re-emitted to space as infrared radiation.
As I said the warming provided by this process is fleeting. To call it a greenhouse effect is to misunderstand what is happening. We feel the effect of this process in the form of milder localized weather. But this process is not adding energy to the system, it is actually a process that removes energy from the system. It is equivalent to standing in a shop doorway on a cold day. The door is open and the heat from inside the shop is rushing by you and it feels warmer by the door than it does inside the shop itself. But standing there with the door open isn't going to make the shop warmer. It can only make it colder.
Clouds are simply a transport mechanism for energy leaving the Earth's system. The warming they provide on a temporary local basis is energy that was absorbed in warmer equatorial regions. We feel its benefit on its way out of the system.
This process is not a greenhouse effect. It is not a net increase, it is a net loss.
There is no greenhouse effect in the atmosphere, it is a fraud.
A greenhouse is warmed by energy as it comes into the system. Our atmosphere is warmed by energy as it leaves the system.
Don't believe AGW is a fraud, know it!
Grass is also Green
Comment from Australia
You may have heard of Peter Spencer, the desperate Australian farmer who went on a hunger strike to draw attention to the fact that government bans on clearing vegetation had stolen his assets and destroyed his business. Peter is just one of many Australian farm families reduced to desperation and even suicide by seizure or sterilisation of their land to satisfy the voracious green god.
The most massive injustice occurred a couple of years ago, when, as a sacrifice to the Kyoto god, the federal government conspired with state governments to ban vegetation clearing on all property, even freehold. This was done in an underhand way to allow the government to seize carbon credits from landowners without paying compensation.
Many well meaning people, while not happy with the tactics and the refusal to pay compensation for property seized or devalued, think that there will be some environmental or climate benefits to come from all this.
Generally there are none.
Even if extraction of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere was a good idea (and it isn't), no tree can keep extracting it on a long term basis. Every living thing (including trees, grass, cows and humans) borrows carbon from the environment as it grow, stops extracting it at maturity, and hands the valuable carbon back to the environment when it dies and the body rots. Net life time extraction equals ZERO. It is absolute scientific nonsense to believe that trees can have a long term effect on so called greenhouse gases. Like everything politicians touch, short term appearances and secret agendas are preferred to long term reality.
Banning the clearing of scrub regrowth in our grasslands is also a backward step environmentally. Everyone can see and understand tree forests, but no one appreciates the grass forests beneath their feet. Natural fires created our grasslands long before humans occupied Australia. They are valuable environmental landscapes far more important to humans than the stupid carbon credit forests and eucalypt weeds now invading them. With closer settlement and excessive areas locked up by governments, fires no longer protect our grasslands and landowners must use machinery to maintain their grass. Preventing this is like telling a market gardener he is not allowed to chip weeds invading his vegetable patch. Every landowner tries to guard the long term value of his land. No one has a monopoly on knowledge on how to do it. Some properties may need more trees, some less - if more trees are a benefit, landowners will grow them without coercion.
Does anyone seriously believe that a few green politicians and activists can devise one dictatorial land plan for every property from Longreach to Wagga and then use legal bludgeons, land confiscation and a desk bound bureaucracy to enforce the co-operation of landowners?
The Senate is currently carrying out an enquiry into some aspects of this massive land mismanagement. It is a bigger scandal than the home insulation scheme, and few politicians are free of blame. The Senate will be surprised at the injustices that will be revealed by this enquiry.
The Carbon Sense Coalition has (in some haste) made a Submission to this enquiry. We urge you to read it and print it out for friends. See it here
Corroboration of Natural Climate Change
By Dan Pangburn, P. E. (Licensed Mechanical Engineer), Life Member of ASME. Excerpt only below. Full article available from the author: email@example.com
I observed the many conflicting assertions regarding the existence and cause of Global Warming, particularly as to whether it was significantly contributed to by human activity.
This led to substantial curiosity as to the truth. As a result I have conducted research on the issue for thousands of hours for over three years and have determined that the belief that human activity has had a significant influence on global climate is a mistake.
This may be how the mistake began. Incorrect conclusions may have been drawn from various observations and discoveries. Some of the discoveries and developments are:
1. Electromagnetic wave theory which includes that all objects above absolute zero emit electromagnetic radiation (EMR).
2. Radiation heat transfer.
3. Quantum mechanics.
4. Gases absorb (and emit) photons (quanta) of EMR at discrete wavelengths. (Although probably inconsequential in the present discussion, theory and extremely fine observations have revealed that the absorption and emission `lines' are actually narrow statistical distributions).
5. Absorption by various atmospheric gases, especially water vapor and carbon dioxide, of EMR radiated from this planet, make the planet warmer than it would be if this absorption did not occur.
6. Window glass is transparent to EMR at wave lengths of visible light but opaque to EMR from objects at room temperature which are radiating at infra-red (IR) wavelengths.
Since early greenhouses were glass (plastics had not been invented yet) and glass is predominately transparent to EMR at short wave lengths (visible) and opaque at long wavelengths (IR), some concluded that this characteristic is what made greenhouses work. Similarly the discovery that some gases are nearly transparent at short wavelengths and absorb certain long wavelengths led to these being called greenhouse gases (ghg).
Now, however, most greenhouses use plastic film which works very nearly as well as glass but is cheaper and doesn't break as easily. (The construction is often double wall with trapped air between the walls to greatly reduce conductive heat loss). The plastic film is essentially transparent to EMR at both visible and IR wavelengths which shows that greenhouses actually work primarily because convection with outside air is blocked.
Despite this realization the term ghg remains and refers to gases such as water vapor and carbon dioxide that are transparent to EMR at visible wavelengths and absorb (and emit) EMR at discreet (but slightly smeared) IR wavelengths. There are several other ghgs. Some are much higher EMR absorbers per molecule, but they are of less significance because they are present in only tiny amounts.
Absorption and emission spectral lines reveal that gases can absorb and emit EMR only at certain specific wavelengths. When a molecule of ghg (or any gas) absorbs a photon of EMR (EMR can be considered to be in packets called photons) and then bumps into another molecule before it has emitted a photon, its energy changes to a level where essentially it can not emit a photon. The mechanism of bumping in to another molecule is thermal conduction in the gas mixture. When a photon is absorbed but not emitted the absorbed photon has been thermalized.
After the photon has been absorbed by a carbon dioxide molecule but prior to it bumping in to another molecule the carbon dioxide molecule is at an energy level where it can emit a photon. The photon that it emits (if it emits one) is the same wavelength as the photon that it absorbed. An observed characteristic of gases is that they absorb and emit at the same discrete wavelengths.
It should be apparent that a time interval must pass between absorption and emission by any molecule. If that time interval were zero there would be no evidence that the photon had been absorbed. The amount of time that passes between absorption and emission is very short, less than a microsecond, but it must be more than zero. The amount of time that passes between contacts of molecules in a gas is also very short. If a photon is absorbed by a carbon dioxide molecule just before it contacts a nitrogen (or other) molecule, then emission will not have taken place and the photon is thermalized. Thus a fraction of the radiation that is absorbed by gas molecules is emitted as EMR (of the same wavelength that was absorbed) and the remainder is thermalized. The fraction that is thermalized is determined by the statistical probability of which occurs first, the variable time to emit after absorption by a molecule or the variable time to make contact with another molecule. [All EMR energy in a microwave oven appears as heat but the physical process involved is entirely different from that described above.]
Failure to identify thermalization is a major deficiency of the 1997 Kiehl & Trenberth chart which has been relied on heavily by the Climate Science community. This chart is shown for example at
A color version of this chart is at http://junkscience.com/Greenhouse/stupid.html .
This chart is also shown in the fourth IPCC report at AR4WG1, Chapter 1, page 96.
A 2008 update to this chart can be seen at
It also fails to indicate thermalization.
The Kiehl and Trenberth charts imply that absorbed radiation penetrates substantially to high altitude and also that all r radiation from high altitude gets all the way to the ground.
Both of these implications are misleading. With thermalization, EMR flux declines with distance from the emitting surface.
A rough analysis using a corrected Kiehl and Trenberth type chart indicates that, at sea level atmospheric pressure, about 11.6% of the absorbed radiation (most of the IR that is absorbed is absorbed by water vapor) is thermalized. Thermalization of absorbed radiation is primarily what warms the atmosphere. The lower per cent of thermalization that takes place at higher altitude because the molecules are further apart is not accounted for in any of the assessments presented here
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Posted by JR at 9:38 PM