Friday, May 28, 2010

Cave data show that temperatures have been systematically FALLING in the last 5,000 years

Excerpt (minus the algebra) only below -- from work by Willis Eschenbach

In my usual peripatetic wandering around the web, I came across an interesting paper called “Millennial- and orbital-scale changes in the East Asian monsoon over the past 224,000 years”, in Nature Magazine (subscription required), 28 Feb. 2008 , with Supplementary Online Information.

The paper uses “speleothems” to estimate past climate conditions. Speleothems are secondary mineral deposits formed in caves. Stalactites and stalgmites are speleothems, and they come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes.

What can we learn from the speleothems? The authors used the speleothem data from two caves in China to investigate the climate changes over the last two glacial periods, a quarter million years or so. Being more interested in the recent past, and noticing that one of the datasets extended up to the year 1490, I decided to see what speleothems could tell us about the temperature changes in more recent times. So I got a large group of speleothem records from the NOAA Paleoclimatology web site.

I wasn’t interested in what happened thousands and thousands of years ago, so I got all of the long records that covered all or part of the period from the end of the last ice age to the present. This gave me 20 records.

The speleothems give us a record of what is called the “delta oxygen 18″. This value is related to the temperature. The paper does not give the associated temperature values, so I converted them

So, what does all this mean? Heck, I don’t know, I’m investigating, not drawing conclusions. A few comments, in no particular order:

• As is shown in the Greenland ice core records, we are currently at the cold end of the Holocene (the current interglacial).

• Recent phenomena (Roman Warm Period, Medieval Warm Period, Current Warm Period) are scarcely visible at this scale. So much for the “uprecedented” nature of the recent rise.

• The polar bears are not in any danger from the recent rise.

• What’s up with the big jump and drop about 12 000 years ago? A number of people have pointed out that this is almost certainly the “Younger Dryas” event. I hadn’t noticed it in the Vostok record, but a closeup of that record shows it.


Climategate and the scientific elite

The news that Dr. Andrew Wakefield, who popularized the idea of a link between the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine and autism, has been struck off the register of general practitioners in the United Kingdom testifies to the fact that, in many scientific fields, objectivity still reigns. Britain’s General Medical Council found that Wakefield had used unethical and dishonest research methods and that when his conclusions became common knowledge, the result was that far more children were exposed to the risk of those diseases than would have been the case otherwise. Unfortunately, in other areas, some scientists have been getting away with blatant disregard for the scientific method.

The most prominent example, “Climategate,” highlights how dangerous the politicization of science can be. The public reaction to Climategate should motivate politicians to curb such abuses in the future. Yet it was politicians who facilitated this politicization of science in the first place.

The economic historians Terence Kealey (The Economic Laws of Scientific Research) and Joel Mokyr (The Gifts of Athena) help us understand just how science progresses. Their central insight involves the recursive nature of the scientific process. In Mokyr’s terms, propositional knowledge (what politicians term “basic” science) can inform prescriptive knowledge (“applied” science). However, the reverse happens just as often.

This understanding contradicts the linear model of scientific research, which became prevalent in America in the 1940s and ’50s, following the model of the great scientist Vannevar Bush. Under this model, we must invest in propositional knowledge as a public good, because that’s where our prescriptive knowledge comes from. Yet even as Bush’s model was taking hold, President Eisenhower warned against it. In his farewell address, just after the famous remarks about the military-industrial complex, he said:

Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers. The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present — and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

What Ike warned about has now come to pass. The scientific elite, with the help of its allies in Congress, increasingly dictates public policy and thereby secures the continued flow of research funding. Time and again, scientists have told me how they have to tie their work to global warming in order to obtain funding, and time and again — bar a few brave souls, who are immediately tagged as “deniers” — they tell me it would be career suicide to speak out openly about this.

Moreover, by consciously reinforcing the link between politics and science, the scientific elite is diminishing the role of private innovation, where prescriptive knowledge informed by market demand drives propositional knowledge. Thus, they are driving the market out of the marketplace of ideas.

For that reason, we must challenge the linear model of science. One way to do this is to break the link between political patronage and scientific funding. For example, we could fund basic science by awarding prizes for excellent research results instead of grants before the event. With their patronage powers curtailed, politicians might become less interested in scientific funding, allowing private money to fill the void.

That’s the good news about Climategate. It starkly revealed to the public how many global-warming scientists speak and act like politicians. To those scientists, the message trumped the science. Few members of the public have accepted the findings of the inquiries exonerating the scientists; most dismiss them as whitewashes. This is to the good, for it reinforces awareness of the scientific elite President Eisenhower warned about.

If politicians realize that the public regards them as corrupting science rather than encouraging it, they might become less inclined to continue funding the scientific-political complex. Then scientists would be free to deal with the Andrew Wakefields among them as needed, rather than worry about their funding.


Greenies are up against a "conspiracy of physics"

by John Stossel

I ride my bike to work. It seems so pure. We're constantly urged to "go green" -- use less energy, shrink our carbon footprint, save the Earth. How? We should drive less, use ethanol, recycle plastic and buy things with the government's Energy Star label.

But what if much of going green is just bunk? Al Gore's group, Repower America, claims we can replace all our dirty energy with clean, carbon-free renewables. Gore says we can do it within 10 years.

"It's simply not possible," says Robert Bryce, author of "Power Hungry: The Myths of 'Green' Energy." "Nine out of 10 units of power that we consume are produced by hydrocarbons -- coal, oil and natural gas. Any transition away from those sources is going to be a decades-long, maybe even a century-long process. ... The world consumes 200 million barrels of oil equivalent in hydrocarbons per day. We would have to find the energy equivalent of 23 Saudi Arabias."

Bryce used to be a left-liberal, but then: "I educated myself about math and physics. I'm a liberal who was mugged by the laws of thermodynamics."

Bryce mocked the "green" value of my riding my bike to work: "Let's assume you saved a gallon of oil in your commute (a generous assumption!). Global daily energy consumption is 9.5 billion gallons of oil equivalent. ... So by biking to work, you save the equivalent of one drop in 10 gasoline tanker trucks. Put another way, it's one pinch of salt in a 100-pound bag of potato chips."

How about wind power? "Wind does not replace oil. This is one of the great fallacies, and it's one that the wind energy business continues to promote," Bryce said.

The problem is that windmills cannot provide a constant source of electricity. Wind turbines only achieve 10 percent to 20 percent of their maximum capacity because sometimes the wind doesn't blow. "That means you have to keep conventional power plants up and running. You have to ramp them up to replace the power that disappears from wind turbines and ramp them down when power reappears."

Yet the media rave about Denmark, which gets some power from wind. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman says, "If only we could be as energy smart as Denmark."

"Friedman doesn't fundamentally understand what he's talking about," Bryce said. Bryce's book shows that Denmark uses eight times more coal and 25 times more oil than wind.

If wind and solar power were practical, entrepreneurs would invest in it. There would be no need for government to take money from taxpayers and give it to people pushing green products.

Even with subsidies, "renewable" energy today barely makes a dent on our energy needs. Bryce points out that energy production from every solar panel and windmill in America is less than the production from one coal mine and much less than natural gas production from Oklahoma alone.

But what if we build more windmills? "One nuclear power plant in Texas covers about 19 square miles, an area slightly smaller than Manhattan. To produce the same amount of power from wind turbines would require an area the size of Rhode Island. This is energy sprawl." To produce the same amount of energy with ethanol, another "green" fuel, it would take 24 Rhode Islands to grow enough corn.

Maybe the electric car is the next big thing? "Electric cars are the next big thing, and they always will be."

There have been impressive headlines about electric cars from my brilliant colleagues in the media. The Washington Post said, "Prices on electric cars will continue to drop until they're within reach of the average family."

That was in 1915.

In 1959, The New York Times said, "Electric is the car of the tomorrow."

In 1979, The Washington Post said, "GM has an electric car breakthrough in batteries, now makes them commercially practical."

I'm still waiting.

"The problem is very simple," Bryce said. "It's not political will. It's simple physics. Gasoline has 80 times the energy density of the best lithium ion batteries. There's no conspiracy here of big oil or big auto. It's a conspiracy of physics."


NASA accused of 'Climategate' stalling

The man battling NASA for access to potential "Climategate" e-mails says the agency is still withholding documents and that NASA may be trying to stall long enough to avoid hurting an upcoming Senate debate on global warming.

Nearly three years after his first Freedom of Information Act request, Christopher C. Horner, senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, said he will file a lawsuit Thursday to force NASA to turn over documents the agency has promised but has never delivered.

Mr. Horner said he expects the documents, primarily e-mails from scientists involved with NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), will be yet another blow to the science behind global warming, which has come under fire in recent months after e-mails from a leading British research unit indicated scientists had manipulated some data.

"What we've got is the third leg of the stool here, which is the U.S.-led, NASA-run effort to defend what proved to be indefensible, and that was a manufactured record of aberrant warming," Mr. Horner said. "We assume that we will also see through these e-mails, as we've seen through others, organized efforts to subvert transparency laws like FOIA."

He said with a global warming debate looming in the Senate, NASA may be trying to avoid having embarrassing documents come out at this time, but eventually the e-mails will be released.

"They know time is our friend," said Mr. Horner, author of "Power Grab: How Obama's Green Policies Will Steal Your Freedom and Bankrupt America."

Mark S. Hess, a spokesman for NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, which overseas the climate program, said the agency is working as fast as it can, and that Mr. Horner should expect some answers any day. "It looks like the response to his appeal is probably going to happen very soon. I can't tell you it's going to be tomorrow or the next day, but it's just a matter of days," Mr. Hess said.

He said he hasn't seen the response, and doesn't know whether it will authorize any more information to be released.


Erratic and uncertain rise in ocean heat content

The steady rise in atmospheric CO2 has not produced any warming on land in the last decade or so nor has it produced a similar steady rise in ocean heat content.

It is indisputable that the world has warmed in the past 150 years but how that warming relates to man’s activities is debatable given the irregularity of that warming and the influence of natural cycles. The post 2000 global temperature standstill is particularly problematic. It is said by some that a more robust demonstration of global warming will come from the oceans with increasing heat content and sea- levels rise (though see a previous post for a discussion on sea-level changes.)

It is difficult to measure how the heat content of the ocean changes. The problems are everywhere; only in the past few years have we had anything approaching adequate data and coverage, different systems measure different things in different ways, how to select data, how to process it and indentify sources of errors. In reality the scientists concerned select ‘valid’ data and then decide what cyclical periods should be removed so as to smooth out annual variations, how to map data taking into account under and oversampled regions of the ocean and how to harmonise data from different observing systems. It is not surprising then that different teams working on ocean heat changes have produced very different results.

Lyman et al seek to overcome these difficulties by looking at a range of results about the ocean heat content since about 1994. They find, once individual absolute results are removed, that the general shape of the post 1994 ocean heat curves are roughly similar with no change up to 2001, then an increase for two years, followed by another stable period until 2009. See fig 1 and note that the errors are large.

Lyman et al suggest that from 1997 to 1998 – the time of a strong El Nino – that some of the curves show cooling. In fact, only one of them does and that is a very marginal effect given the error bars and the large interannual variability. Lyman also suggests some curves show warming over this period, which is also difficult to justify looking at the data. Overall it is difficult to make any significant conclusions about differences among these curves.

Curiously, Lyman et al point out that ocean temperatures have been statistically constant since about 2000 even though one of the most important features in fig 1 is the 2001 – 2003 rise. They note that during this standstill sea levels have continued to rise which they attribute to melting ice however they comment that it takes less energy to melt ice than to warm the ocean for an equivalent rise in sea level. No great conclusions there.

It is interesting that the flattening of the ocean heat content curve occurs around 2004 which was the time that the Argo array of ocean sensors became the main source of ocean heat data. This is a situation reminiscent to the introduction of satellite-based sea level measurements introduced in the early 1990’s that also resulted in a (as yet unexplained) discontinuity of the data with the previously used tidal gauges. The Argos data is universally regarded as heralding a revolution in monitoring the state of the oceans, but the possibility remains that this abrupt change is due to an as yet unrecognized problem causing a bias in the observing system....


Australia: Official climate "experts" can't even spell

A waiver is the voluntary surrender of some right or privilege. Does the big brain below mean "waver"? Spellcheckers are no substitute for knowledge
DSE invites members of the Victorian Public Service to a presentation on: Dealing with climate change denialism with Paul Holper, CSIRO

Popular opinion on climate change often waivers, particularly when the media focus on denialist views and encourage “debates” with climate change scientists. The Victorian Government, along with other governments in Australia and across the world, rely on the scientific community for advice on climate change and its likely impacts. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is recognised as the international authority on climate change science and denialist views often lack rigor and credibility in comparison. Paul Holper (CSIRO) will present on ways to approach climate change denialism in a Victorian context.

Paul Holper Paul manages the CSIRO’s involvement in the Australian Climate Change Science Program, a $15 million program supported by the Commonwealth Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. This program undertakes observations of the atmosphere, oceans and terrestrial systems, as well as climate model development, and projections of Australia’s likely future climate. Paul coordinated the most recent climate change projections for Australia (based on IPCC models), announced by BoM and CSIRO in 2007.


Note that Public servants only are invited. Secret knowledge? I'd love to go and ask some awkward questions but I don't have that much time to waste anyway.

It would be fascinating to see a transcript of Mr Holper's lecture but I'm betting that he won't have the balls to release it. He would know that to do so would expose him to ridicule and refutation.


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