Thursday, July 25, 2013
Morano on vacation
On Tues 23rd., I put up a note of concern about our apparent loss of the inimitable Marc Morano. Marc is still pretty much in touch, however, as he did see my note. He has emailed me as follows:
I have been on extended two week plus travelling vacation with family, plus relatives funeral and selling a home. All during same time.
I have been doing updates to my site from smart phone. Normalcy should resume by Monday.
Something is happening to our sun
by astronomer David Whitehouse
Something is happening to our sun. It has to do with sunspots or rather the activity cycle their coming and going signifies. Sunspots – dark magnetic blotches on the sun's surface – come and go in an 11-year cycle of activity first noticed in 1843. It is a process related to the motion of superhot, electrically charged gas inside the sun; a kind of internal conveyor belt where vast sub-surface rivers of gas take 40 years to circulate from the equator to the poles and back.
Somehow, in a way not very well understood, this circulation produces the sunspot cycle in which every 11 years there is a sunspot maximum followed by a minimum. In the last century, the sun's activity may have been the highest for more than 8,000 years with lots of strong solar cycles. But then things turned. The recent cycle – so called 'Cycle 24' - is puny. If history is anything to go by, then the sun's change of mood could affect us all by cooling the earth and throwing our climate change calculations into disarray.
Not all sunspot cycles are the same. They can be long or short, weak or strong and sometimes they can go away altogether. Following the discovery of the cycle, astronomers looked back through previous observations and were able to clearly see it until they reached the 17th century when it seemed to disappear. It turned out to be a real absence, not one caused by a lack of observations. Astronomers called it the Maunder Minimum.
It was an astonishing discovery, our sun can change. There was something different about the sun back then. Between 1645 and 1715, sunspots were rare. About 50 were observed. There should have been 50,000. Ever since the sunspot cycle was discovered, researchers have looked for its rhythm superimposed on the earth's climate. In some cases, it is there but usually at low levels. But there was something strange about the time when the sunspots disappeared that left scientists to ponder if the sun's unusual behaviour could have something to do with the fact that the 17th century was also a time when the earth's northern hemisphere chilled with devastating consequences.
Scientists call that event the Little Ice Age and it affected Europe at just the wrong time. In response to the more benign climate of the earlier medieval warm period, Europe's population may have doubled. But in the mid-17th century, demographic growth stopped and in some areas fell - in part due to the reduced crop yields caused by climate change. Bread prices doubled and then quintupled and hunger weakened the population.
The English preacher John King wrote: "Our years are turned upside down, our summers are no summers; our harvests, no harvests." Ralph Josselin, an English vicar, wrote: "I find nothing but confusions." But while Josselin looked for God's inscrutable purpose, others looked elsewhere. The Italian historian Majolino Bisaccioni suggested that the wave of bad weather and revolutions might be due to the influence of the stars but Jesuit astronomer Giovanni Battista Riccioli speculated that fluctuations in the number of sunspots might be to blame. For he too had noticed they were unusually absent.
The key point is that looking back through the sunspot record reveals many periods when the sun's activity was high and low - and in general they are related to warm and cool climatic periods. For example, as well as the Little Ice Age there was the weak sun and the cold Iron Age, the active sun and the warm Bronze Age. Scientists cannot readily explain how the sun's activity affects the earth but it is an observational correlation that the sun's moods have a climatic effect on the planet.
The big question is what will happen in the future. Cycle 24 is weak with few sunspots. Could it be that our sun is behaving like it did in the 17th century? Could we be on the verge of a new Little Ice Age? The last decade has been warmer than previous ones. It is the result of a rapid increase in global temperature between 1978 and 1998. Since then, average temperatures have held at a high although steady level. Many computer climate projections suggest that the global temperatures will start to rise again in a few years' time. But crucially those projections do not take into account the recent change in the sun's behaviour.
Some members of the Russian Academy of Sciences say we may be at the start of a period like that seen between 1790 and 1820, a minor decline in solar activity called the Dalton Minimum. It is something we must take seriously because what happened to the sun in the 17th century is bound to happen again sometime. It might even be the case that the earth's response to low solar activity will overturn many of our assumptions about man's influence on climate change. Cold not warmth might be our future. We do not know. We must keep watching the sun.
The latest pontifications of Britain's Met Office
"We predicted the temperature standstill. We just didn't tell anyone"
The three briefing papers on the recent pause in global surface temperature released by the UK Met Office this week make interesting reading. They can be found here, here and here.
But perhaps unintentionally they say more about the messenger than the actual science, of which there is very little that is new. The overall message (reached with the considerable help of hindsight for no one predicted it) is that the current standstill in global surface temperature is nothing unusual, can be explained quite simply by climate models, has its explanation in the heat uptake by the deep oceans, and ultimately doesn’t make much difference. After many years of denying that the standstill existed the Met Office now seeks to explain it, and bring it into the fold.
The problem with all this is that after such confident assertions, the actual evidence, as the reports eventually confirm, doesn’t merit such conclusions. The reports seem to push their favourite explanation strongly, and then less enthusiastically state elsewhere that such conclusions are premature.
This leads one to question why the reports have been written, as apart from details about a climate simulation model (unpublished in peer-reviewed literature) they contain nothing new. The Met Office recently said it was ‘loosing the PR war’ because it had been concentrating on arguments about global surface temperature. Perhaps this is part of a fight back?
Scientifically it adds nothing, but it is a report stamped with the Met Office’s authority and released to journalists at a press conference at the UK Science Media Centre a day before the reports were available to the public. Wasn’t it the Science Media Centre that recently testified before MPs that ‘sceptics’ had been using the global temperature standstill to undermine climate science?
Pick Your Coincidence
A careful eye sees the lack of internal consistency in the reports. One of the reports says the temperature has been ‘relatively flat’ over the past 15-years to 2013. It is not ‘relatively’ flat, it is flat. Later on the Met Office claims that the standstill is not 15 years, but since 2001.
Part 1 is the ‘State of the Climate,’ and it is interesting to see the range and variation of the numerous climate variables mentioned. There is a lot of disagreement between them. Looking at them makes one realise what a big deal, and a big clue, is the recent temperature standstill.
Part 2 states: “Observations of Ocean Heat Content (OHC) and Sea Level Rise (SLR) suggest that the additional heat from the continued rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration may have been absorbed in the ocean and not been manifest as a rise in surface temperature.”
There are many problems with this statement which are not addressed by this report. It presents SLR from 1992 only – the satellite era. Omitted are the previous 100 years of data based on tidal gauges. It is perfectly reasonable to analyse the SLR data and find no increase in its rate of rise in recent decades (in fact quite the opposite might be happening) and deduce that there is no anthropomorphic signal in the data. So how exactly does the Met Office’s conclusion work given that there is a rise in OHC in recent decades and no increase in the rate of SLR?
The problem with OHC is that the data is not up to drawing good conclusions. It is also contradictory. The Met Office takes the start of the pause as 2001, which is coincident with an observed maximum in ocean heat uptake in 2002 (from what data is available). The problem is that the pause, most of it, has continued long after 2004 when the oceans upper layer heat uptake declines. Despite the explanation of the pause in ocean heating is suffused throughout the report, buried within it is the statement that they, “cannot show definitely that this has been the dominant factor in the recent pause.” So there you have it. The ocean uptake is a unproven hypothesis, like so many others. I bet that wasn’t a headline used in the newspapers.
The report says that the pause could be caused by a combination of changes in the total energy received by the planet and under-surface ocean heating. Explaining the pause this way makes its most interesting property – that it’s statistically constant – seem a strange situation, begging the question how could two competing factors exactly balance themselves for 16 years!
The report states that there have been pauses before, notably between 1940 and the late 1970s. They attribute this to aerosols reflecting sunlight. Their confidence in this explanation is far too strong given that this pause is poorly understood and there are many problems with the aerosol explanation. On this point the report is comparing apples and oranges as the 1940 pause occurred at a time when the IPCC says that greenhouse gasses had only a tiny effect on the climate, wheras the post-1980 warming – which includes the post-1997 standstill – has occurred in the era where climate is dominated by greenhouse gasses. In short, the two pauses are not comparable.
Dancing Like It’s 1998
It makes the old mistake of referring to 1998 – the year of the super El Nino – as some kind of starting point for the standstill. This is a common error. It also says that the start of the current pause is difficult to determine precisely. Well actually it isn’t. It started in 1997. The following year saw the great El Nino, but statistically this was offset by 1999 and 2000 that were La Nina years.
The only new thing in the three reports are the results from a single climate model that was run thousands of times and was in some cases able to reproduce something like the standstill giving a ten-year pause about twice a century. But what does this prove? Than an (unpublished) model kind of works. It would be surprising given the number and spread of results from climate models if some of them didn’t conform to the observations. However, what we have is a 16-year hiatus, not a ten-year one, and that makes a big difference.
Later on the report goes into climate sensitivity and dismisses all recent research papers indicating lower climate sensitivity that was thought. They also, according to Nic Lews one of the authors of Otto et al 2013, misrepresent the findings of that study.
In its conclusions the Met Office states that the pause has not falsified the climate models. If the pause is, as they define it and limit it, from 2001 onwards, then this is true. But if the pause is 16-years, as the temperature data actually show, then the models, already looking unimpressive, are in jeopardy.
We are at the waiting stage. Better and more reliable OHC data are desperately needed. Even if global temperatures were to rise again the climate models have shown themselves inadequate. If the pause continues, however, then the crisis of climate science will become more serious.
Why has global warming stalled?
By BBC science editor David Shukman, commenting on the Met. Office press conference. At age 55, it would seem that David is finally getting tired of being taken for a mug. If they've lost the BBC ...?
Gradually the words 'pause' and 'hiatus' which first featured in the blogs have crossed to the media and then to the scientists professionally engaged in researching the global climate.
Professor Piers Forster of Leeds University has tried to quantify the different factors involved - what's known as their "radiative forcing".
Between 1998-2012, he reckons, manmade greenhouse gases were still the biggest influence, causing warming of 0.48 of a Watt per square metre (a key measure of energy flows to and from the planet).
At the same, he estimates, two other natural influences might have led to some cooling: a relatively quiet Sun might have been responsible for a reduction of 0.16 of a Watt/sq m and volcanic eruptions another 0.06 Watt/sq m.
A big unknown is the effect of aerosols - tiny particles released by industrial pollution which could cause a further cooling effect.
It is thought that the world's massive industrialisation after World War Two contributed to a slight drop in global temperatures in the late 1940s.
But the key factor - according to all the speakers at the briefing - is that whatever solar energy is making it through to the surface, much is being absorbed by the hidden depths of the oceans.
The Argo network of automated monitors has been deployed since 2005 to measure the waters as deep as 1,800m. This isn't a very long period but the data are apparently showing some warming - even in this short time frame.
And readings from satellites since 2000 show how much energy is arriving at the planet, and how much is leaving, so if the energy left behind is not manifesting itself in rising surface temperatures, then it must be going somewhere - and the deep ocean is the most plausible explanation.
On top of that, the scientists say, pauses in warming were always to be expected. This is new - at least to me.
It is common sense that climate change would not happen in a neat, linear away but instead in fits and starts.
But I've never heard leading researchers mention the possibility before.
Professor Rowan Sutton, of Reading University, said computer simulations or models of possible future climate scenarios often show periods of ten years with no warming trend - some even show pauses of 20-25 years.
And Professor Stephen Belcher, head of the Met Office Hadley Centre, said observations and models showed that on average there were - or would be - two pauses in warming every century.
I asked why this had not come up in earlier presentations. No one really had an answer, except to say that this "message" about pauses had not been communicated widely.
So where does this leave us, as greenhouse gases emissions keep rising but the temperature does not?
Dr Peter Stott, of the Met Office, pointed out that 12 of the 14 warmest years have occurred since the year 2000 and says that other indicators - like the decline in Arctic sea ice of 12.9% per decade and losses of snow cover and glaciers - still point to a process of manmade warming.
But what about another possibility - that the calculations are wrong?
What if the climate models - which are the very basis for all discussions of what to do about global warming - exaggerate the sensitivity of the climate to rising carbon dioxide?
Dr Stott conceded that the projections showing the most rapid warming now look less likely, given recent observations, but that others remain largely unchanged.
A Met Office briefing document, released at the briefing, says that, even allowing for the temperatures of the last decade, the most likely warming scenario is only reduced by 10% - so "the warming that we might have expected by 2050 would be delayed by only a few years".
Overall, it concludes, the pause "does not materially alter the risks of substantial warming of the Earth by the end of this century."
In other words, global warming is still on.
But until the pause can be properly explained, many people will take a lot of convincing - especially if the pause lasts longer than expected.
We Really Don’t Understand Our Climate
Scientists are still struggling to explain the slower-than-predicted global warming over the past decade. It’s a puzzle with enormous implications: we know that we’re emitting greenhouse gases in record quantities, and we know that these gases trap more of the sun’s heat, yet global surface temperatures are significantly lower than what our climate models predicted. If our models are otherwise correct, then where is this heat going? A group of UK climate scientists have some ideas:
"A range of factors have been pinpointed for what has come to be called the “hiatus” or “pause” in warming, which the scientists said they expected to be temporary. These include small airborne particles known as aerosols from volcanic eruptions that have a cooling effect as they reflect sunlight back into space; the impact of the regular cycle of solar activity; the sensitivity of the climate to greenhouse gases, and the way the oceans absorb heat."
There are innumerable variables in the climate system that could be responsible for the warming slowdown. These scientists have identified some of the likeliest culprits, but one professor admitted that they “don’t fully understand the relative importance of these different factors.”
That’s a big problem, considering most green legislation aimed at reducing emissions calls for measures to prevent very specific degrees of warming. This recent warming plateau is exposing our limited understanding of climate, and it’s effectively killing the rationale for green policies that limit growth and, at the most basic level, try to force people to do things they would rather not do.
The biggest cause of climate skepticism isn’t evil oil companies and campaigns of disinformation; it is the inability of greens to refrain from overstating their case and insisting dogmatically and self righteously on more certainty than the frustrating facts can give.
When it comes to climate change, we have to trust our scientists, because they know lots of big scary words
Some deserved derision from Sean Thomas below:
Whither the weather? As you may have heard, a conference of national forecasters assembled this week in Exeter: to discuss the future of the British climate, following the spate of harsher than expected winters, and unusually wet summers, since 2007.
Already, commentators are asking if global warming is to blame. In particular, some are wondering if the direction of the Jet Stream is being altered by Arctic ice melt. Others are speculating that natural variations, such as the “Atlantic multi-decadal oscillation”, might be responsible for recent evolutions.
However, most of this reportage has been second-hand. Unprecedentedly, I had direct access to the meteorologists concerned, as I was in Exeter in spirit form, and I managed to speak to the principal actors.
First, I asked Stephen Belcher, the head of the Met Office Hadley Centre, whether the recent extended winter was related to global warming. Shaking his famous “ghost stick”, and fingering his trademark necklace of sharks’ teeth and mammoth bones, the loin-clothed Belcher blew smoke into a conch, and replied,
“Here come de heap big warmy. Bigtime warmy warmy. Is big big hot. Plenty big warm burny hot. Hot! Hot hot! But now not hot. Not hot now. De hot come go, come go. Now Is Coldy Coldy. Is ice. Hot den cold. Frreeeezy ice til hot again. Den de rain. It faaaalllll. Make pasty.”
Startled by this sobering analysis, I moved on to Professor Rowan Sutton, Climate Director of NCAS at the University of Reading. Professor Sutton said that many scientists are, as of this moment, examining the complex patterns in the North Atlantic, and trying to work out whether the current run of inclement European winters will persist.
When pressed on the particular outlook for the British Isles. Professor Sutton shook his head, moaned eerily unto the heavens, and stuffed his fingers into the entrails of a recently disembowelled chicken, bought fresh from Waitrose in Teignmouth.
Hurling the still-beating heart of the chicken into a shallow copper salver, Professor Sutton inhaled the aroma of burning incense, then told the Telegraph: “The seven towers of Agamemnon tremble. Much is the discord in the latitude of Gemini. When, when cry the sirens of doom and love. Speckly showers on Tuesday.”
It’s a pretty stark analysis, and not without merit. There are plenty of climate change scientists who are equally forthright on the possibilities of change, or no change, and of more hot, or less hot, or of rain, or no rain, or of Britain turning into the Sahara by next weekend, or instead becoming a freezing cold Frostyworld ruled by a strange, glistening ice-queen – crucially, it all depends on the time of day you ask them, and whether or not they had asparagus the day before.
So who are we to believe? For a final word, I turned to the greatest climate change scientist of all, Dr David Viner, one-time senior research scientist at the climatic research unit of the University of East Anglia, who predicted in 2000 that, within a few years, winter snowfall would become "a very rare and exciting event".
However, he was trapped under a glacier in Stockport, so was unable to comment at the time the Telegraph went to press.
Climate Alarmism’s 10,000 Commandments
by PAUL DRIESSEN
The United States will "do more," before it's "too late" to prevent "dangerous" global warming, President Obama told Berliners last week. If Congress won't act, he will, by regulating carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, increasing subsidies and reduce environmental overview for wind and solar projects on federal lands, and issuing other rules that will adversely affect economic growth and job creation.
Indeed, his Environmental Protection Agency is already devising new rules that will sharply curtail carbon dioxide emissions, by regulating thousands of facilities that use hydrocarbon energy - and thus ultimately almost everything Americans make, grow, ship, eat and do.
However, the manmade global warming "disasters" exist only in computer models and assertions by scientists who are addicted to billions in government Climate Armageddon grants. Moreover, the "preventative measures" are far worse than the disasters EPA claims to be preventing.
Even the most diehard alarmists have finally recognized that average global temperatures have hardly budged since 1997, even as atmospheric levels of plant-fertilizing CO2 climbed steadily. For many areas, the past winter was among the coldest in decades; the USA and Britain just recorded one their coldest springs on record; and satellite data show that Earth has actually cooled slightly since 2002.
The frequency and severity of hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and droughts are no different from observed trends and cycles over the last century. 2012 set records for the fewest strong tornadoes since 1954 and the number of years with no category 3 or higher hurricane making US landfall. (The vicious tornadoes of recent weeks underscore how quickly the weather can swing back to normal patterns.) Arctic sea ice is within a few percentage points of "normal" levels for the past fifty years, and the rate of sea level rise is not accelerating.
These facts completely contradict computer model predictions and alarmist claims. Moreover, as Climategate and numerous studies have shown, the "science" behind EPA's ruling that carbon dioxide "endangers" human health and welfare is conjectural, manufactured, manipulated and even fraudulent.
EPA is supposed to protect our environment, health and welfare. Instead, it "safeguards" us from exaggerated or illusory risks - by issuing mountains of costly, intrusive regulations that endanger our health, wellbeing and wildlife far more than any reasonably foreseeable effects from climate change.
This accumulation of anti-hydrocarbon restrictions and penalties is putting EPA in control of nearly every aspect of our lives. Fuel, compliance and business costs will soar. Companies will be forced to outsource work to other countries, reduce work forces, shift people to part-time status, or close their doors.
Poor and minority families will be unable to heat and cool their homes properly, pay their rent or mortgage, buy clothing and medicine, take vacations, pay their bills, give to charity, and save for college and retirement.
With twelve million Americans already out of work, and another eight million working multiple lower-paying, part-time jobs, EPA's global warming and 1,920 other rules over the past four years translate into unprecedented sleep deprivation, lower economic and educational status, and soaring anxiety and stress. That will mean greater risk of strokes and heart attacks; higher incidences of depression, alcohol, drug, spousal and child abuse; more suicides; and declining overall life expectancy.
EPA's new 54.5 mpg fuel efficiency standards will force more people into smaller, lighter, less safe cars - causing thousands of needless additional serious injuries and deaths every year - in the name of preventing illusory climate and oil and gas depletion crises.
Federal regulators use the same phony climate change and energy depletion arguments to justify letting wind turbine operators slaughter millions of birds and bats every year - including bald and golden eagles, hawks, condors and whooping cranes. They continue to promote and subsidize $50-per-gallon biofuels, to replace oil and natural gas that the world still has in abundance - thanks to new exploration, drilling and production technologies. This focus on biofuels also means more rainforests and other wildlife habitats are being cut down in the name of "renewable" energy.
EPA and President Obama never consider any of this, in calculating the supposed "benefits" of their onerous regulations. They refuse to recognize that their hysterical claims of climate cataclysms are increasingly indefensible. They ignore the damage that their heavy-handed rules impose on our health, welfare and environmental quality.
EPA finds, punishes and even targets anyone who violates any of its ten thousand commandments, even inadvertently. The agency's climate change actions, however, are not inadvertent. They are deliberate, and their effects are harmful and far reaching. They will affect every American and 100% of our economy.
And yet, these increasingly powerful bureaucrats - who seek and acquire ever more control over our lives - remain faceless, nameless, unelected and unaccountable. They operate largely behind closed doors, issuing regulations and arranging sweetheart "sue and settle" legal actions with radical environmentalist groups, to advance ideological agendas, without regard for their impacts on our lives, livelihoods, living standards, health, welfare and environment.
They know that, for them, there is rarely any real transparency, accountability or consequences - even for gross stupidity, major screw-ups, flagrant abuses or deliberate harm.
We need to save our environment from environmentalists and EPA - and safeguard our liberties, living standards and lives against the arrogance of too-powerful politicians and bureaucrats. How we achieve this, while protecting our lives and environment from real risks, is one of the greatest challenges we face.
For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.
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 or here
Posted by JR at 9:20 AM