Monday, March 04, 2013

"No Certain Doom: On physical accuracy in projected global air temperatures"

Patrick Frank, a Ph.D. chemist with more than 50 peer-reviewed articles, gave a talk at Stanford last month on climate models.  The title of the talk was as in the heading above.  Below is the blurb for the talk:

The UN IPCC predicts that by 2100, human CO2 emissions could increase global surface air temperature by about 3 Celsius. The validity of this projection depends upon the physical accuracy of general circulation climate models (GCMs). However, model uncertainties or errors are never propagated into air temperature projections, which invariably lack physically valid error bars. This seminar will explore how GCMs project global air temperature. GCM cloud error will be described and propagated to produce a lower limit estimate of physical uncertainty in projections of future global air temperature. The extent of our knowledge of future climate will be clarified.

The talk does not appear to have been recorded but Dr. Frank reports as follows:

 The talk went well. About 70 people attended, including at least two climate modelers, who took some issue during Q&A afterwards. But I'd  heard their arguments before and so was prepared to rebut them, and had  some extra graphics in anticipation of them.

 The criticisms will be familiar to you. Noah Diffenbaugh, a climate  modeler and a WGII lead author in the up-coming AR5, recapitulated your  comment, Andreas [Schmittner], that the calculated growth of uncertainty would be different if I used a different time-step in the calculation for future  temperature. I agreed this is true, but pointed out that the  uncertainties would never be small.

 He also claimed that successful simulation of 20th century temperature  means that the models are accurate. But he had no response when I  pointed out that models are tuned using 20th century observables before  they're used to simulate the 20th century climate.

 A second audience member, name unknown, said that the growth of cloud error in GCM temperature projections, to confidence intervals of (+/-)10 C after 100 years, was ridiculous because it supposed that temperatures might be 10 degrees warmer or colder by 2100.

 I thanked him for that comment, because it gave me the opportunity to point out that confidence intervals are statistical values, not thermodynamic quantities. They estimate our level of ignorance, but say nothing about where the truth lays; an important distinction that seems obscure to many.

 Another point that seems obscure to many is that, as the cloud error confidence intervals are about accuracy not about precision, the mean  line through the confidence bars is not necessarily the most probable line.  Any physically plausible line through the intervals is as good as any other, and the mean line is just one among their number. Because of this, "ensemble averages" of GCM projections have no special physical significance, even if they do get closer to the observed data. I plan to be explicit about this in any future seminar.

 Some in the audience were glowering during my talk, but others were very receptive. There were a few other questions, but nothing seriously challenging. Over all it was a good experience, going into the lions den and seeing how sharp were the teeth and claws. So far, it's worked out OK.

Gordon Fulks comments to Dr Frank:

You certainly had a great turnout that spanned the spectrum from true believers to heretics.  That speaks well for Stanford University.  It should be possible to discuss controversial topics in a university setting.  Princeton Professor of Physics Will Happer mentioned to me that he had a far more attentive audience at UC Berkeley than at a nearby community college when he gave identical lectures on Global Warming.  The Nobel Laureates in the Berkeley audience were polite and asked good questions while the community college audience was disruptive.

It is interesting that the climate modeler who questioned you did not realize the fallacy in saying: "successful simulation of 20th century temperature means that the models are accurate."  That is circular reasoning, a mortal sin in science!  I'm glad you pointed out that the models are "tuned" to 20th century observables.  That makes them data fits that fit the data!  Wow, any child can do that by connecting the dots.  But what does the child do after the last dot?

Freeman Dyson described an encounter with Enrico Fermi where the young Dyson tried to impress the great Fermi with his ability to fit the data they were discussing.  Fermi asked how many free parameters he had and then quoted John von Neuman: "With four free parameters I can fit an elephant.  With five I can make him wiggle his trunk."  That ended their conversation!  (Climate models have far more than five free parameters, as you well know).

If our university system were working, you would be invited to give your talk at Oregon and Washington universities too.  But your ideas are far too much of a threat to the status quo for them to risk hearing you out.  The faithful might come away with doubts.  That cannot be allowed!

Via email

The Scary Hidden Stressor

The excerpt below from an article in the NYT by the inimitable Thomas Friedman is right for the wrong reasons.  Food shortages were undoubtedly a factor in the recent upheavals in Arab lands.  But what caused the shortages?  There were several factors but it was primarily the EPA mandate to poison American gasoline supplies with ethanol.  That mandate produced a huge new demand for ethanol which was primarily supplied from the massive American corn crop.  Supply does not respond instantly to demand, however, so the price of corn shot up.  And that affected wheat prices as well as corn prices because the two grains are to an extent substitutable.  And at the new high prices poor people (including most of the Arab world) could not afford either grain.  Obama could have solved the food shortage in a penstroke by suspending the ethanol mandate but he did not.

IN her introduction to a compelling new study, “The Arab Spring and Climate Change,” released Thursday, the Princeton scholar Anne-Marie Slaughter notes that crime shows often rely on the concept of a “stressor.” A stressor, she explains, is a “sudden change in circumstances or environment that interacts with a complicated psychological profile in a way that leads a previously quiescent person to become violent.” The stressor is never the only explanation for the crime, but it is inevitably an important factor in a complex set of variables that lead to a disaster. “The Arab Spring and Climate Change” doesn’t claim that climate change caused the recent wave of Arab revolutions, but, taken together, the essays make a strong case that the interplay between climate change, food prices (particularly wheat) and politics is a hidden stressor that helped to fuel the revolutions and will continue to make consolidating them into stable democracies much more difficult.

Jointly produced by the Center for American Progress, the Stimson Center and the Center for Climate and Security, this collection of essays opens with the Oxford University geographer Troy Sternberg, who demonstrates how in 2010-11, in tandem with the Arab awakenings, “a once-in-a-century winter drought in China” — combined, at the same time, with record-breaking heat waves or floods in other key wheat-growing countries (Ukraine, Russia, Canada and Australia) — “contributed to global wheat shortages and skyrocketing bread prices” in wheat-importing states, most of which are in the Arab world.

Only a small fraction — 6 percent to 18 percent — of annual global wheat production is traded across borders, explained Sternberg, “so any decrease in world supply contributes to a sharp rise in wheat prices and has a serious economic impact in countries such as Egypt, the largest wheat importer in the world.”

The numbers tell the story: “Bread provides one-third of the caloric intake in Egypt, a country where 38 percent of income is spent on food,” notes Sternberg. “The doubling of global wheat prices — from $157/metric ton in June 2010 to $326/metric ton in February 2011 — thus significantly impacted the country’s food supply and availability.” Global food prices peaked at an all-time high in March 2011, shortly after President Hosni Mubarak was toppled in Egypt.

Consider this: The world’s top nine wheat-importers are in the Middle East: “Seven had political protests resulting in civilian deaths in 2011,” said Sternberg. “Households in the countries that experience political unrest spend, on average, more than 35 percent of their income on food supplies,” compared with less than 10 percent in developed countries.

Everything is linked: Chinese drought and Russian bushfires produced wheat shortages leading to higher bread prices fueling protests in Tahrir Square. Sternberg calls it the globalization of “hazard.”

Ditto in Syria and Libya. In their essay, the study’s co-editors, Francesco Femia and Caitlin Werrell, note that from 2006 to 2011, up to 60 percent of Syria’s land experienced the worst drought ever recorded there — at a time when Syria’s population was exploding and its corrupt and inefficient regime was proving incapable of managing the stress.

In 2009, they noted, the U.N. and other international agencies reported that more than 800,000 Syrians lost their entire livelihoods as a result of the great drought, which led to “a massive exodus of farmers, herders, and agriculturally dependent rural families from the Syrian countryside to the cities,” fueling unrest. The future does not look much brighter. “On a scale of wetness conditions,” Femia and Werrell note, “ ‘where a reading of -4 or below is considered extreme drought,’ a 2010 report by the National Center for Atmospheric Research shows that Syria and its neighbors face projected readings of -8 to -15 as a result of climatic changes in the next 25 years.” Similar trends, they note, are true for Libya, whose “primary source of water is a finite cache of fossilized groundwater, which already has been severely stressed while coastal aquifers have been progressively invaded by seawater.”


Realism peeps through in a  "Guardian" article

The author below knows that scares are now heavily discredited so tones that down.  The foundation of his story is however still risible  -- None other than a quote from the hysterical Jim Hansen.  That there is at the present no warming to lead to the calamities he predicts he ignores.  Global warming is for him an axiom, not a testable fact.  More cynically, it is just a good hook to hang his book on

After millennia of falsely predicting the apocalypse, humanity has become understandably flippant. There were so many threatened catastrophes in 2012, from rolling earthquakes to interstellar collisions and a misunderstanding of the Mayan calendar that the quips began to flow. "People are making apocalypse jokes like there's no tomorrow,' was a favourite.

But just because we've been wrong so many times before, does that mean we're safe forever? Or have we been lulled into a false sense of security, and do the timeframes involved disguise the scale of the risks posed to conditions for human civilisations?

Look back far enough and you'll see that very bad things do happen. The world has experienced five mass extinction events during which over 95% of marine species and 80% of four legged creatures died out.

The climate warmed during the gloriously named Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), driving one of Earth's more recent extinction events 55m years ago. Now we are living through a man-made mass extinction event.

The PETM was bad, but NASA climate scientist James Hansen notes that with global warming today, climate zones are moving about 10 times faster than they did during the PETM extinction. It's an indicator of the force and speed of the unintended consequences of our economic activity, and something which makes it impossible for many species to adapt. And left unaddressed that could be the case for humanity too.

Homo Sapiens may feel smugly secure in our abilities, but its worth remembering we've only been around for a humble 300,000 years or so. The dinosaurs lasted for about 165m years, and we seem to be trying hard not to outlive them.

Vast subsidies pour into the fossil fuel industries, and in the UK new tax breaks have encouraged investment at a 30-year high into North Sea oil and gas exploration and production.

That is in spite of the best science available suggesting that we can only afford to burn around a quarter or a fifth of proven reserves if we are to avoid potentially runaway global warming. And, instead of climate campaigners being applauded for their actions, they are being hounded with £5 million law suits.

My new book, Cancel the Apocalypse, is about how we can face this challenge positively, without slipping into denial, despair or cynical profiteering.

With the right approaches we can all benefit from re-engineering our financial, food, transport and energy systems. We can re-imagine the shape of our high streets and the pattern of our working weeks to improve the quality of our lives and lessen our burden on the biosphere. But this can only happen if we let go of the tenacious economic dogma that has taken root in recent decades. Perversely, as evidence mounts of its failure to spread the benefits of enterprise, its lack of respect for its natural resource base, or even its ability to succeed on its own terms, the old ideas are clung to more tightly. Political familiarity misinterpreted as security.


State Department Finds Keystone XL Pipeline Won't Accelerate Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Well it looks like now not only do the Republicans have what’s best for the economy and people in mind, but they also care about the environment?! Imagine Democrats with confused looks on their faces! The journey to clearing the path for the Keystone Pipeline has been a bitter fought battle, but it looks like now the White House and its administration can’t fight any more.

In a new report done by the State Department it has been confirmed, “the project would not accelerate global greenhouse gas emissions or significantly harm the natural habitats along its route”.

As ABC reports (yes even the mainstream media is picking up on this),

“The approval or denial of any one crude oil transport project, including this proposed project, really remains unlikely to significantly impact the rate of development of the oil sands or the continued demand for heavy crude oil in the U.S.,” said Kerri-Ann Jones, the Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.

The State Department, which conducted the study because the pipeline would cross an international boundary, also suggested in a voluminous report that impacts on air, water and landscape would be minimal.

The agency found it “very unlikely” that the pipeline would affect water quality in any of the four aquifers through which it crossed. It also concluded that along one part of the proposed route, in the case of a large-scale oil spill, “these impacts would typically be limited to within several hundred feet of the release source, and would not affect groundwater.”

Government analysts found that Keystone XL would each year produce the equivalent carbon dioxide emissions of 620,000 passenger cars operating for a year. But they concluded that whether or not the pipeline is approved, those emissions would still likely occur because of fuels produced and obtained from other sources.

Now, we all know the fight that has been going on between environmental activists and those who support the Keystone Pipeline. But now it seems that there is no real argument for the environmentalists. What can they possibly complain about now? Oh wait, here it is, apparently the government and the State Department don’t really know what they’re talking about, according to the president of Friends of the Earth. He says, “The draft SEIS reads like an on-ramp to justify the Keystone XL pipeline project. We cannot solve the climate crisis when the State Department fails to understand the basic climate, environmental and economic impacts of the Keystone XL pipeline.”

So basically it seems that no matter what supporters of the pipeline do, it is not good enough. We now have the Obama administration on our side, and it is still not enough for these “green” people. They used to try the excuse that the people of the states affected didn’t like it, but now Nebraska, Montana and South Dakota have all signed-off on the pipeline plan and their governors and congressional delegations have been calling on Obama to follow suit. It is time everyone wakes up and realizes this pipeline is the best choice to create thousands of new jobs and provide gas to thousands of people across the country.


Why no Environmental Impact Statement on "immigration reform?"

The federal government has just released a 2,000 page environmental impact statement on the proposed Keystone pipeline from Canada to the U.S. I haven't quite gotten around to reading it yet, but that reminds me of something: Why shouldn't there be a required environmental impact statement on proposed amnesty and guest workers plans? How can the politicians blithely make changes that will have vast environmental consequences without first submitting an environmental impact statement?

Back in 2010, I estimated the impact of immigration on American and global carbon emissions. After all, pretty much the whole point of moving to America is to live larger and emit more carbon. I came up with immigration to the U.S. from 2005 to 2050 adding about 6% to global carbon emissions, which is a gigantic number.

Perhaps somebody else would come up with a different number, but, that's kind of the point: nobody is looking at this question.



Three current articles below

Marine park poorly conceived

Manta ray habitat not protected, other areas inappropriately protected

Up to 150 mantas have been spotted by divers off Lady Elliot Island after a spike in nutrients flushed out by record flooding at Bundaberg.

Rated as the best place on the planet to dive with the marine creature, Lady Elliot is home to the Project Manta survey.

The project's latest research shows the graceful animals can migrate up to 3000km every year.

Scientists also found they stop at "cleaning stations", the aquatic equivalent of a fishy car wash, where smaller fish nibble off dead skin. Popular sites are North Stradbroke Island and Osprey Reef in the Coral Sea.

But the Osprey Reef site is under threat, with outraged dive operators and researchers condemning as a "sham" the latest plans by the Federal Government to lock up nearly a million square kilometres of the Coral Sea in the world's biggest marine reserve.

Underwater filmmaker Richard Fitzpatrick said the giant mantas were at risk because the critical "cleaning station" site known as The Entrance, on the western side of Osprey Reef, was unprotected under the plan.

"(Federal Environment Minister) Tony Burke has singled out Osprey Reef yet he has failed to protect it," the Emmy-award winning diver said.

"Green zones are useless unless they take in movement patterns of animals. The plan takes no notice of the science."

Veteran dive operator Mike Ball said the new no-go zones need more bite to protect sharks and manta rays.

Osprey Reef, a 2km-deep seamount that plunges into the deep blue, is the state's only underwater shark feeding dive site and an iconic $16 million-a-year dive expedition destination.

Mr Ball and others want a 3km-wide no-go fishing zone to protect the entire seamount, 140km outside the Great Barrier Reef.

The 25-year veteran of Coral Sea dive expeditions said the whole Coral Sea plan was a sham if it did not protect the most iconic of the isolated ocean reefs.

"There is zero protection for the southwest part of the reef," Mr Ball said.

But aquarium collectors, charter boat operators and spearfishing crews oppose the move to lock up such a vast swathe of the ocean, home to prized black marlin, whales, tuna and swordfish.

Mr Burke said plans would be finalised mid-year before coming into force in July 2014.


Everything is caused by global warming says Australia's official Warmist

Since there has been no global warming for 16 years (even the head of the IPCC says so), he is clearly talking through his anal aperture

CATASTROPHIC bushfires, damaging rain and the most intense heatwave on record this summer are just a taste of what climate change will bring, a new report says.

Climate Commissioner Will Steffen said the extreme weather of 2012/13 was climate change in action, and more events are on the way.

In his Climate Commission report, Angry Summer, released today, Prof Steffen also said Queensland's one-in-100-year flood was one part of a "very, very unusual summer".

"We've been storing extra heat in this system for about a century now, due to increasing greenhouse gases," he said.  "When we do the sums, as we do in the climate models, for the next couple of decades you're going to see increasing likelihood of very hot weather and more record hot weather."

That means wilder weather than last summer, when a staggering 123 records were broken throughout Australia in 90 days.

It was the hottest summer, capped by the longest and most extreme heatwave on record. Sydney, Newcastle and Hobart sweltered through their hottest days on record. The average temperature in Australia was 40.3C on January 7.

Rainfall records were smashed along eastern Australia, tropical cyclones wreaked havoc, bushfires raged in every state and territory and tornadoes hit Bundaberg.

Prof Steffen acknowledges Australia has always had extreme weather.  But he argues the way these events are shifting "tells a very, very compelling story" because extreme weather events are occurring in a climate system that is warmer and moister than it was 50 years ago.

Prof Steffen said action taken now to cut greenhouse gas emissions would have a big influence on how hot it would be in the second half of the century.

Climate Commissioner Professor Tim Flannery argues the events of summer didn't happen out of the blue and were forecast decades ago by scientists warning of the dangers of man-made climate change.

"As these record-breaking conditions continue, it gets ever more difficult to deny there is a link between them and human activity," he said.


Pressure among Australian Federal conservatives to wind back global warming support

Pressure is mounting within the federal Coalition to abolish or scale back the 20 per cent renewable energy target, with Nationals senator Ron Boswell claiming his party backs his demand the policy be axed.

While pledging to abolish the carbon price, the Coalition has always offered bipartisan support for the RET, which remains the biggest driver of investment in renewable energy.

But Senator Boswell told the Senate on Thursday that the RET should be abolished because it was increasing electricity prices and was "costing jobs in western Sydney".

"The whole of the National Party agrees with me, although we haven't got a formal policy on it yet, and I suspect many Liberals do also," Senator Boswell said.  "If we want to have a manufacturing sector in Australia, we have to dump the carbon tax and abolish the RET."

A high-profile Liberal candidate in the New South Wales seat of Hume, Angus Taylor, said last week that the RET was an inefficient and expensive way of reducing emissions, and argued it should be restructured, possibly to include projects generating electricity from gas.

The Coalition climate change spokesman, Greg Hunt, has said there are no plans to change the RET, but the Coalition would consider a review to be held in 2014.

Meanwhile, Greens senator Christine Milne will use a speech on Friday to take aim at the Coalition's Direct Action climate policy, which she claims is a "sham".

Direct Action proposes to spend more than $1 billion a year, mostly on competitive government grants to companies or farmers who "bid in" ideas for how they might reduce emissions.

But Senator Milne will outline why she believes the scheme has no chance of working.

"The Coalition expects more than 60 per cent of the abatement to come from soil carbon - but the science to back this up is not yet solid, so this abatement would not be recognised in international treaties. That's a show-stopper," she will say.

And she will quote Coalition frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull to make the point that "assessing the tenders to ensure that they involve genuine reductions in emissions is fraught with difficulty.

"As Malcolm Turnbull has said, and I quote, 'If a scheme operates whereby the government pays the firm to reduce its emissions intensity … there is firstly going to be a substantial and contentious debate about what the correct baseline is, and then whether it will actually be reduced …

"Arguments of considerable ferocity will arise as to whether a new piece of equipment would have been bought anyway, with the risk that the government ends up funnelling billions of dollars to companies to subsidise their profit without achieving any real additional cuts in emissions.' "




Preserving the graphics:  Graphics hotlinked to this site sometimes have only a short life and if I host graphics with blogspot, the graphics sometimes get shrunk down to illegibility.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here and here


1 comment:

Stephan White said...

Direct Action proposes to spend more than $1 billion a year, mostly on competitive government grants to companies or farmers who "bid in" ideas for how they might reduce emissions.

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