Thursday, October 27, 2011

"Nature" is both apologetic and defiant about its premature promotion of the Berkeley/Muller claims

It is even embarrassed enough to include a letter from Fred Singer pointing out how unenlightening the Berkely/Muller data really is

Results confirming climate change are welcome, even when released before peer review.

Global warming is really happening — really. There was no conspiracy or cover-up. Peer review did not fail and the scien-tists who have spent decades working out the best way to handle and process data turned out to know how to handle and process data after all. Thank you Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) study.

Four papers released by the BEST team at the University of California, Berkeley, last week are of undoubted interest to the media, given that they support what is portrayed as the mainstream scientific position on climate change. They could also find traction in politics, especially in the United States, where they could be used to combat the assertions of Republicans, who have effectively tossed climate science away. But the headline scientific conclusion, that a century and a half of instrumental measurements confirm a warming trend, is, well, all a little 1990.

Of course, reproduction of existing results is a valid contribution, and the statistical methods developed by the BEST team could be useful additions to climate science. But valid contributions and useful additions alone do not generate worldwide headlines, so the massive publicity associated with the release of the papers (which were simultaneously submitted to the Journal of Geophysical Research) is a curious affair.

There was predictable grumbling at the media coverage from within the scientific community, which saw it as publicity in lieu of peer review. Reporters are more than happy to cover the story now, while it's sexy, but will they cover it later, when the results are confirmed, adjusted or corrected in accordance with a thorough vetting? The short answer is no, many of them will not. Barring an extraordinary reversal of message, the wave of press coverage is likely to be only a ripple when the papers are finally published. And this is what upsets the purists: the communication of science in this case comes before the scientific process has run its course.

Members of the Berkeley team revelled in their role as scientific renegades. Richard Muller, the physicist in charge, even told the BBC: "That is the way I practised science for decades; it was the way everyone practised it until some magazines — particularly Science and Nature — forbade it."

This is both wrong and unhelpful. It is wrong because for years Nature has explicitly endorsed the use of preprint servers and conferences as important avenues for scientific discussion ahead of submission to this journal, or other Nature titles. For example, on page 493 this week we publish a paper that discusses the dwarf planet Eris, based on results that the lead author presented (with Nature's knowledge and consent) at a conference several weeks ago. Journalists are, of course, welcome to report what they come across in such venues — as several did on Eris. What Nature discourages is authors specifically promoting their work to the media before a peer-reviewed paper is available for others in the field to read and evaluate.

Muller's statement is unhelpful because such inflammatory claims can only fuel the heated but misguided debate on climate-sceptic blogs and elsewhere about the way science works and how it treats those who insist on viewing themselves as outsiders.

To solicit input on results before publication is not a guerrilla action against a shadowy scientific elite. Witness the posting on a preprint server last month of the paper reporting neutrinos that apparently travel faster than light: the authors made it clear that they were seeking help from the wider community to explain the findings, and the media stories (if not the headlines) mostly reflected that. To pretend otherwise can only erode public trust in science, as it is practised by all.

Comments

Fred Singer said:

Dear Editors of Nature:

What a curious editorial [p.428, Oct.26} -- and how revealing of yr bias! "Results confirming climate change are welcome, even when released before peer review"?

You imply that contrary results are not welcomed by Nature. But this has been obvious for many years.

Why are you so jubilant about the findings of the Berkeley Climate Project that you can hardly contain yourself? What do you think they proved? They certainly added little to the ongoing debate on human causes of climate change.

They included data from the same weather stations as the Climategate people, but reported that one-third showed cooling — not warming. They covered the same land area -- less than 30% of the Earth's surface -- housing recording stations that are poorly distributed, mainly in the US and Western Europe. They state that 70% of US stations are badly-sited and don't meet the standards set by government; the rest of the world is likely worse.

But unlike the land surface, the atmosphere has shown no warming trend, either over land or over ocean — according to satellites and independent data from weather balloons. This indicates to me that there is something very wrong with the land surface data. And did you know that climate models, run on super-computers, all insist that the atmosphere must warm faster than the surface? And so does theory.

And finally, we have non-thermometer temperature data from so-called "proxies": tree rings, ice cores, ocean sediments, stalagmites. They don't show any global warming since 1940!

The BEST (Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature) results in no way confirm the scientifically discredited Hockeystick graph, which had been so eagerly adopted by climate alarmists. In fact, the Hockeystick authors never published their post-1978 temperatures in their 1998 paper in Nature -- or since. The reason for hiding them? It's likely that those proxy data show no warming either. Why don't you ask them?

One last word: You evidently haven't read the four scientific BEST papers, submitted for peer review. There, the Berkeley scientists disclaim knowing the cause of the temperature increase reported by their project. They conclude, however: "The human component of global warming may be somewhat overestimated." I commend them for their honesty and skepticism.

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S. Fred Singer is professor emeritus at the University of Virginia and director of the Science & Environmental Policy Project. His specialty is atmospheric and space physics. An expert in remote sensing and satellites, he served as the founding director of the US Weather Satellite Service and, more recently, as vice chair of the US National Advisory Committee on Oceans & Atmosphere. He is co-author of Climate Change Reconsidered [2009 and 2011] and of Unstoppable Global Warming 2007.

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Hoodwinked by Berkeley Earth

Nigel Calder, former editor of "New Scientist" looks at the motives of Richard Muller and the significance of his findings

My previous post was too polite about Berkeley Earth. I’d not figured out Richard Muller’s game. The mainstream media have have portrayed him as a repentant climate sceptic who has wonderful new evidence confirming man-made global warming. To see how the story is playing, look for Richard Muller Berkeley on Google News (139 reports and counting).

Normally I try to stick to the science, without being na├»ve about the politics. Posted earlier on this blog is the text of a talk I gave called “Global Warming is Just Propaganda”, which you’ll find here here

It compares the behaviour of the warmists with the tradecraft of propaganda during the Second World War. And the latest bout from Berkeley and the media reminds me, belatedly, of a manipulation of British propaganda in the Balkans in the early 1940s. For global warming read Stalinism and (at the risk of grossly overstating his importance) for Richard Muller read Tito.

Hoodwinking Churchill: Tito’s Great Confidence Trick, by the TV producer and military historian Peter Batty, was published earlier this year. Helped by a Communist mole filtering messages in the British team in Cairo, Tito fooled the West into thinking that he was the hero of the fight against the Italian and German forces in Yugoslavia. In fact he was subverting other guerrilla bands, doing deals with the Germans, and keeping his forces safe for a postwar Communist takeover of Yugoslavia. As Batty relates, Tito secured his 35-year dictatorship by butchering the non-Communist guerrillas who had been the real fighters in the occupied Balkans.

When Richard Muller, leader of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperatures (BEST) project, gave testimony to the US Congress back in March, he called for the creation of an ARPA-like agency for climate issues. ARPA, more correctly nowadays called DARPA, is the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a mighty organization with a $3 billion budget. Climate ARPA (CARPA?) might offer a promising niche for a 67-year-old astrophysicist.

But if that’s the aim, catastrophic man-made global warming must stay high on the political agenda. How better to go about making sure about that than to call yourself a sceptic, just as Tito pretended to be on Winston Churchill’s side. When the time came to show himself in his true colours Tito was celebrated in the Communist world. Similarly Muller has become an instant hero for the warmists.

Scientifically grotesque was the blurring in the Berkeley press release, as well as in the media, of the meaning of Muller’s main graph, shown in my previous post. Invited to comment by New Scientist, I said:

“What do they mean by ‘global warming is real’? The graph of global land temperature changes associated with BEST’s announcement neatly confirms by their independent method that the warming stopped about 15 years ago. The Sun’s recent laziness has apparently cancelled any effect of ever-increasing man-made greenhouse gases.”

The interviewer commented:

“I take your point about the reduced warming trend over the last 15 years, but this study is focused on the long-term warming trend which covers a century. How do you account for this long-term warming trend?”

My reply (which wasn’t reported by New Scientist) was:

“Increased activity of the Sun, of course, from 1950 to the early 1990s as signalled most strikingly by the decline in ionizing cosmic rays at the Earth’s surface. See the red curve (ion chamber) in the attached figure.”


This is a coloured version of a graph in Henrik Svensmark, Physical Review Letters, 81, 5027-30,1998.

The message about Muller in the media, that “the science is settled (again)”, is completely at odds with the evidence.

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British Wind Farms Shut Down Again Because It's Too Windy

NATIONAL GRID has been forced to ask wind farms to shut down for the second time in a MONTH - because it's too windy. Seven wind farm operators switched off their turbines on Monday night. It leaves taxpayers with yet another bill.

National Grid said they were generating TOO MUCH power as storms ripped across Scotland.

It leaves taxpayers with yet another bill. National Grid has to pay wind farm operators compensation when asking them to stop the turbines.

National Grid said: "It was very windy yesterday and there was some curtailment of wind generation."

Despite huge subsidies for wind farm operators, National Grid claims its network is not ready to handle the power surge in storms.

Demand for electricity also drops off late at night.

National Grid paid out almost £3 million to wind farm operators in compensation in mid-September when a dozen wind farms were shut for three nights in a row.

Fred Olsen Renewables pocketed £1.2 million.

The Grid spokesman insisted: "This is all a normal part of how we balance the electricity transmission system and manage constraints on the network."

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Another reason for disbelieving German Warmist Rahmstorf

Yesterday, I put up a restrained comment by Pielke Jr. that questioned a paper by Rahmstorf that attributed last year's Russian heatwave to global warming. The real experts on the subject, the guys at the Physical Sciences Division, Earth System Research Laboratory, of NOAA, disagree with Rahmstorf.

Scientific prose is a heavy read so let me summarize the abstract below: The heatwave was due to common natural factors, not global warming:

Was there a basis for anticipating the 2010 Russian heat wave?

By Randall Dole et al.

Abstract

The 2010 summer heat wave in western Russia was extraordinary, with the region experiencing the warmest July since at least 1880 and numerous locations setting all-time maximum temperature records. This study explores whether early warning could have been provided through knowledge of natural and human-caused climate forcings. Model simulations and observational data are used to determine the impact of observed sea surface temperatures (SSTs), sea ice conditions and greenhouse gas concentrations. Analysis of forced model simulations indicates that neither human influences nor other slowly evolving ocean boundary conditions contributed substantially to the magnitude of this heat wave. They also provide evidence that such an intense event could be produced through natural variability alone. Analysis of observations indicate that this heat wave was mainly due to internal atmospheric dynamical processes that produced and maintained a strong and long-lived blocking event, and that similar atmospheric patterns have occurred with prior heat waves in this region. We conclude that the intense 2010 Russian heat wave was mainly due to natural internal atmospheric variability. Slowly varying boundary conditions that could have provided predictability and the potential for early warning did not appear to play an appreciable role in this event.

GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 38, L06702, 5 PP., 2011
doi:10.1029/2010GL046582






Rick Perry makes a good energy plan sound bad

The biggest problem with the energy plan that Rick Perry released recently is Rick Perry himself. Like a desperate used-car salesman, he is making such outlandish claims for it that his customers might walk out before taking a good look.

That, however, would be a pity, because the plan is actually better than any proposed by any president in recent memory.

The liberal blogosphere is up in arms against it because it stands for everything liberals despise. Unlike that other yahoo from Texas, George W. Bush, who made curing America’s “addiction to oil” a guiding principle, Perry is absolutely unapologetic about this “addiction.” To the contrary, rapidly exploiting America’s fossil fuel reserves—coal, oil, gas—is a key plank of his energy agenda.

To this end, he wants to:

* Expand oil drilling in the Gulf and the mid-Atlantic, as well as federal lands including Alaska’s hallowed Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

* Blast out natural gas trapped in shale basins through a new process called fracking. Fracking, incidentally, can help America unlock enough clean-burning natural gas to replace all its coal-generated electricity for 70 years. Enviros initially welcomed this development—until they realized it would make their beloved renewables even more uncompetitive.

* Rescue coal, as abundant in the U.S. as oil is in Saudi Arabia, from President Obama’s greenhouse gas strictures, which make it prohibitively expensive.

Perry isn’t hostile to renewables. He insists he would use an “all of the above” energy strategy, including wind, solar, and biomass. But he won’t give them government handouts, something that every president, Democrat or Republican, has done since Gerald Ford.

He also promises to end federal subsidies for non-renewables. This is more easily said than done, given the complex web of direct and indirect tax breaks and subsidies that have long distorted the energy sector. One would take his promise more seriously if he offered more specifics, but his plan is blissfully vague. Still, it represents progress (of sorts) that he hasn’t identified any sacred cows for special protections.

However, the part that has liberals really foaming at the mouth is his suggestion to severely check the power of the EPA and give states more leeway to set their own environmental regulations. The standard criticism of such rollbacks is that states, released from Uncle Sam’s iron fist, will engage in a race to the bottom and gut environmental standards to attract business. But states have a far greater incentive than distant bureaucrats to look for ways to protect their natural resources with minimal sacrifice of economic and other priorities.

All in all, Perry’s plan offers a radical blueprint for energy liberalization. So what’s wrong it? His sales pitch.

For starters, precisely because it is so ambitious, it won’t be easy to pull off. But instead of leveling with the American public, Perry is exaggerating the plan’s political feasibility, claiming that most of it can be implemented by executive fiat without congressional action.

Take the EPA, for example. It was created to enforce duly enacted federal laws, such as the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act, whose constitutionality courts have long upheld. Rolling back the EPA’s authority over states will require congressional approval, something harder to come by, these days, than divine grace. Pretending otherwise is just dishonest.

What’s more, Perry is touting his energy plan as a jobs program, claiming that it will create 1.2 million jobs. This is not as wild as Obama’s promise of generating 5 million green jobs by shoveling stimulus money into politically-connected duds like Solyndra. However, job projections are notoriously difficult to make accurately, and there is every reason to believe that Perry’s claims, largely lifted from oil industry studies, are way off. Michael Levi, senior fellow for energy and environment at the Council on Foreign Relations, estimates that Perry’s plan will create 620,000 jobs at best. If Levi is right, Perry has needlessly opened himself up to attack by using inflated numbers. And for what? The main point of energy liberalization is not to create jobs. It’s to make cheap and reliable energy available to individuals and businesses. That’s the message that Perry should be hammering.

Perry touts his plan as the road to energy independence, and in this lies its fatal flaw. The world market sets energy prices, especially the prices of oil and gas. Energy won’t cost any less because it is made in America. Yes, America should tap its energy resources if it can do so competitively. If it can’t, it should buy energy from abroad, just as it does food, clothing, electronics, and every other commodity. Chanting an energy independence mantra will commit America to generating its own energy, eviscerating the entire initial rationale for energy liberalization: letting the market determine where and how to generate supply to meet demand.

Perry has a solid energy plan that can distinguish him from the pack and force a real debate on the issue. But he has to stop claiming that it can cure every American ill. He’s pouring good medicine into a snake oil bottle.

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Now it's rivers and streams that are at fault

Are SUVs off the hook now?

Rivers and streams in the United States are releasing substantially more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than previously thought. These findings could change the way scientists model the movement of carbon between land, water, and the atmosphere.

The findings were recently published in a Nature Geoscience article entitled “Significant efflux of carbon dioxide from streams and rivers in the United States” by David Butman and Professor Peter Raymond of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, as part of David’s Ph.D. thesis. Funding for the study was from NASA, NSF, and the USGS.

Butman and Raymond found that a significant amount of carbon accumulated by plant growth on land is decomposed, discharged into streams and rivers, and outgassed as carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. It is estimated that streams and rivers release almost 100 million metric tons of carbon each year. This release is equal to a car burning 40 billion gallons of gasoline, enough to drive back and forth to the moon 3.4 million times.

Average concentration at and distribution of USGS gauging stations used to calculated CO2 efflux from US streams and rivers. The names correspond to the subregions discussed in the text. Graph published in Nature Geoscience

Water chemistry data from more than 4,000 rivers and streams throughout the United States were incorporated with detailed geospatial data to model the flux of carbon dioxide from water. The river and stream samples were collected at USGS gaging stations and the geospatial data was produced by both the USGS and EPA.

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