Tuesday, February 04, 2014


With none of the fanfare that accompanies their prediction of the global temperature for the forthcoming year the Met Office has quietly released the global temperature for 2013. It will come as no surprise after the 2013 temperatures released by NASA and NOAA that it shows the global temperature standstill – now at 17 years – continues.

The temperature anomaly (above 14.0 deg C) for 2013 is 0.486 making 2013 the 8th warmest year. Statistically with errors of +/- 0.1 deg C ranking the warmest years is meaningless, but it seems to be something many scientists and the media do. So, 2013 is cooler than 2010, 2009, 2006, 2005, 2003, 2002, 1998 and only 0.003 above 2007. Note that the early part of the 2000s was warmer than the latter part. Four of the five years between 2002-2006 were warmer than 2013, but only two of the past seven have been. Note also that 2013 is cooler than 2003.

The forecast for 2013 made by the Met Office in late 2012 said it would be between 0.43 and 0.71 deg C with a best estimate of 0.53. Once again the Met Office predicted the following year would be considerably warmer than it turned out to be.

There is something seriously wrong with the Met Office’s forecasts. Consider the assessment given by the Met Office’s Vicky Pope in 2007.

Vicky Pope: “By 2014 we’re predicting it will be 0.3 degrees warmer than 2004, and just to put that into context the warming over the past century and a half has only been 0.7 degrees, globally, there have been bigger changes locally but globally the warming is 0.7 degrees. So 0.3 degrees over the next ten years is pretty significant. And half the years after 2009 are predicted to be hotter than 1998 which was the previous record. So these are very strong statements about what will happen over the next ten years, so again I think this illustrates we can already see signs of climate change but over the next ten years we are expecting to see quite significant changes occurring.”

This ‘state-of-the-art’ estimate, and advice to government, could not have been more wrong. 2014 will not be 0.755 deg C. Only one of the four years since 2009 has been warmer than 1998, and that by less than 2 hundredths of a deg, again statistically insignificant.

The Met Office predict that 2014 will have the same range as it did last year – 0.43 – 0.71 deg C but their new best estimate is 0.57 which will make 2014 the warmest year ever. It might be possible if 2014 is an El Nino year (the reason why 2010 poked its head marginally above the means of the other years) but that would prove nothing about global warming, just inter-annual variations. Many expect 2014 to be an El Nino year.

It is time some best practice seeped into these temperature datasets, at least as far as their communication to the public and the media is concerned. If a pre-university student produced a measurement of 0.486 +/- 0.1 they would be failed. Global temperatures should be quoted to one significant figure. This would mean all years since 2001 would be either 0.5 or 0.4 deg C with errors of +/- 0.1.


North Carolina Renewable Power Mandate Pushing Electricity Prices Up

North Carolina consumers are paying a steep price for the state’s renewable power mandates, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data. In North Carolina, electricity prices have risen 65 percent faster than the national average since the state imposed renewable power mandates in 2007.

Under the 2007 law, investor-owned utilities must generate 12.5 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2021. Electric co-ops and municipal utilities are required to get 10 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2018.

Sharply Rising Prices

Since 2007, U.S. electricity prices have risen 10.8 percent, but North Carolina electricity prices have risen 17.8 percent.

Notably, the increase in North Carolina electricity prices masks an even faster rise in electricity costs. Federal taxpayers (including North Carolinians) provide substantial subsidies to renewable power producers, most notably through the wind power production tax credit. These additional costs are hidden, and are not reflected in the EIA retail price data.

Directly Traceable to Renewables

The increasing generation of costly renewable power directly raises North Carolina electricity costs. During testimony last year before the Ohio Senate Public Utilities Committee, Andrew Ott, senior vice president for markets at the grid operator which which coordinates electricity transmission in 13 states, testified it costs at least double or triple as much to deliver wind power to electricity consumers as it does to deliver conventional power. These renewable power cost premiums apply in North Carolina and throughout the nation.

Household Finances Hit Hard

The rapid increase in electricity prices is imposing real financial hardship on North Carolina families. Had North Carolina electricity prices risen at merely the national average since 2007, North Carolina electricity consumers would have saved over $4.2 billion in electricity costs. Averaged out over North Carolina’s 3.7 million households, the average North Carolina household has already paid an extra $1,135 in electricity costs (approximately $190 per household per year) beyond what each household would have paid if North Carolina electricity prices rose merely at the same pace as the national average since 2007.


Climate Protection May Cut World GDP 4% by 2030, UN Says

The cost of holding rising temperatures to safe levels may reach 4 percent of economic output by 2030, according to a draft United Nations report designed to influence efforts to draft a global-warming treaty.

Most scenarios that meet the 2-degree Celsius (3.6-degree Fahrenheit) cap on global warming endorsed by world leaders require a 40 percent to 70 percent reduction in heat-trapping gases by 2050 from 2010 levels, according to the third installment of the UN’s biggest-ever study of climate change. The world would need to triple the share of renewables, nuclear power and carbon-capture and storage to meet that goal.

“This report shows that 2 degrees is still technically possible and ought to remain the primary policy target” for climate negotiations that intend to produce a global agreement in 2015, said Bob Ward, policy director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics.

A draft of the study was obtained by Bloomberg from a person with access to the documents who asked not to be identified because it hasn’t been published. A spokesman for the panel declined to comment on the document.

The research is important because it’s intended to influence the direction of UN negotiations involving more than 190 countries on how to combat global warming. The discussions have been beset by wrangles between developing and industrialized nations over who should bear the cost of tackling climate change.


 Coral reefs in Palau surprisingly resistant to naturally acidified waters

Ocean researchers working on the coral reefs of Palau in 2011 and 2012 made two unexpected discoveries that could provide insight into corals' resistance and resilience to ocean acidification, and aid in the creation of a plan to protect them.

 The team collected water samples at nine points along a transect that stretched from the open ocean, across the barrier reef, into the lagoon and then into the bays and inlets around the Rock Islands of Palau, in the western Pacific Ocean. With each location they found that the seawater became increasingly acidic as they moved toward land.

"When we first plotted up those data, we were shocked," said lead author Kathryn Shamberger, then a postdoctoral scholar at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and a chemical oceanographer. "We had no idea the level of acidification we would find. We're looking at reefs today that have levels that we expect for the open ocean in that region by the end of the century."

Shamberger conducted the fieldwork in Palau with other researchers from the laboratory of WHOI biogeochemist Anne Cohen as well as scientists from the Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC).

While ocean chemistry varies naturally at different locations, it is changing around the world due to increased levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. The ocean absorbs atmospheric CO2, which reacts with seawater, lowering its overall pH, and making it more acidic. This process also removes carbonate ions needed by corals and other organisms to build their skeletons and shells. Corals growing in low pH conditions, both in laboratory experiments that simulate future conditions and in other naturally low pH ocean environments, show a range of negative impacts. Impacts can include juveniles having difficulty constructing their skeletons, fewer varieties of corals, less coral cover, more algae growth, and more porous corals with greater signs of erosion from other organisms.

The new research, published in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, explains the natural biological and geomorphological causes of the more acidic water near Palau's Rock Islands and describes a surprising second finding – that the corals living in that more acidic water were unexpectedly diverse and healthy. The unusual finding, which is contrary to what has been observed in other naturally low pH coral reef systems, has important implications for the conservation of corals in all parts of the world.

"When you move from a high pH reef to a low pH neighboring reef, there are big changes, and they are negative changes," said Cohen, a co-author on the paper and lead principal investigaor of the project. "However, in Palau where the water is most acidic, we see the opposite. We see a coral community that is more diverse, hosts more species, and has greater coral cover than in the non-acidic sites. Palau is the exception to the places scientists have studied."

Through analysis of the water chemistry in Palau, the scientists found the acidification is primarily caused by the shell building done by the organisms living in the water, called calcification, which removes carbonate ions from seawater. A second reason is the organisms' respiration, which adds CO2 to the water when they breathe.

"These things are all happening at every reef," said Cohen. "What's really critical here is the residence time of the sea water."

"In the Rock Islands, the water sits in the bays for a long time before being flushed out. This is a big area that's like a maze with lots of channels and inlets for the water to wind around," explained Shamberger. "Calcification and respiration are continually happening at these sites while the water sits there, and it allows the water to become more and more acidic. It's a little bit like being stuck in a room with a limited amount of oxygen – the longer you're in there without opening a window, you're using up oxygen and increasing CO2."

Ordinarily, she added pushing the analogy, without fresh air coming in, it gets harder and harder for living things to thrive, "yet in the case of the corals in Palau, we're finding the opposite.  "What we found is that coral cover and coral diversity actually increase as you move from the outer reefs and into the Rock Islands, which is exactly the opposite of what we were expecting."

The scientists' next steps are to determine if these corals are genetically adapted to low pH or whether Palau provides a "perfect storm" of environmental conditions that allows these corals to survive the low pH. "If it's the latter, it means if you took those corals out of that specific environment and put them in another low pH environment that doesn't have the same combination of conditions, they wouldn't be able to survive," said Cohen. "But if they're genetically adapted to low pH, you could put them anywhere and they could survive."

"These reef communities have developed under these conditions for thousands of years," said Shamberger, "and we're talking about conditions that are going to be occurring in a lot of the rest of the ocean by the end of the century. We don't know if other will be able to adapt to ocean acidification – the time scale might be too short."

The scientists are careful to stress that their finding in Palau is different from every other low pH environment that has been studied. "When we find a reef like Palau where the coral communities are thriving under low pH, that's an exception," said Cohen. "It doesn't mean coral reefs around the globe are going to be OK under ocean acidification conditions. It does mean that there are some coral communities out there – and we've found one – that appear to have figured it out. But that doesn't mean all coral reef ecosystems are going to figure it out."

"In Palau, we have these special and unique places where organisms have figured out how to survive in an acidified environment. Yet, these places are much more prone to local human impacts because of their closeness to land and because of low circulation in these areas," said co-author Yimnang Golbuu, CEO of the PICRC. "We need to put special efforts into protecting these places and to ensure that we can incorporate them into the Protected Areas Network in Palau."


The UEA has a new priest

A sermon below by Corinne Le Quéré, a professor of climate change science and policy at the notorious University of East Anglia, home of Phil "hiding the decline" Jones.  Queer Corinne claims to be a scientist but forgets to mention that there has been no climate change for 17 years.  So she must be wrong about what she attributes to it.  Something that does not exist cannot cause anything.  Whether she is a scientist or not she is certainly no logician

Sean Thomas depicts me in his blog as professing a new type of religion because I speak about climate change and flood risk. His tweet appears to describe me as a "nutter". Mr Thomas appears to be himself professing ignorance, something I hardly recommend.

I am a physicist of 20 years' experience, and climate change research is a science, not a faith. That means it is based on observations and on understanding of how the world works. It is the same kind of science that provides the tides, currents and weather forecasts. It’s not perfect science, but science, and knowing the weather, has taken us a long way in making our everyday life a lot more comfortable.

Mr Thomas is ignorant of the fact that heavy precipitation in winter has increased over the past 45 years in all regions of the UK. That’s not just stories told by people based upon their own experience, it is a lot of data collected and analysed all over the UK.

Mr Thomas is ignorant of the fact that that heavy precipitation is an anticipated consequence of a warming climate in wet regions of the world, such as the UK. It is simple physics: the planet warms, water evaporates more, more moisture is available in the atmosphere for individual storms, therefore more heavy precipitation. Storms are made by the weather, but climate change puts more moisture into the atmosphere that makes the rainfall heavier.

As for his ignorance on Arctic melting, Mr Thomas cites one year of data for his claim. The September ice cover has shrunk by 40 per cent in 30 years. When there is no ice, seawater evaporates and loads the atmosphere with moisture, which affects the weather patterns. A look at a map shows that the UK is close to the Arctic, and the possibility that changes in the Arctic might play a role in the weather that we are experiencing in the UK and elsewhere. Mr Thomas takes science and data very lightly.

What is harder to detect is the exact contribution of climate change to extreme weather when it occurs. Bad weather has always been around and “extreme” is a relative term. The techniques required to detect the role of climate change in extreme weather are at an early stage of development, and we don’t yet have the capacity to apply them while weather events occur. If UK science had that capacity then it would help alleviate Mr Thomas’s ignorance over the difference between weather, climate and belief. It would also help put a cost to the risks we are taking by changing the climate.

Mr Thomas refers to the “eerie and echoing syntax” and “the faintly theological tones of the estimable Professor Corinne Le Quéré” – but the only faintly theological tones here are made up by Mr Thomas’ livelihood as a writer of religious fiction. His fatalistic belief that data and independent evidence is of no value, and that climate change is all in the mind of the thousands of scientists specialising in the topic, is ignorant and foolish.

While Mr Thomas might believe that it is all in the hand of god, science attributes manmade climate change to man, and coping with and limiting the consequences is in our hands.


Climate Change’s Inherent Uncertainties

By Garth Paltridge, emeritus professor at the University of Tasmania and a fellow of the Australian Academy of Science. He is the author of "The Climate Caper: Facts and Fallacies of Global Warming". He was a chief research scientist with the CSIRO Division of Atmospheric Research

Virtually all scientists directly involved in climate prediction are aware of the enormous uncertainties associated with their product. How is it that they can place hands over hearts and swear that human emissions of carbon dioxide are wrecking the planet?

The World Meteorological Organisation of the United Nations took its first steps towards establishing the World Climate Program in the early 1970s. Among other things it held a conference in Stockholm to define the main scientific problems to be solved before reliable climate forecasting could be possible. The conference defined quite a number, but focused on just two.

The first concerned an inability to simulate the amount and character of clouds in the atmosphere. Clouds are important because they govern the balance between solar heating and infrared cooling of the planet, and thereby are a control of Earth’s temperature. The second concerned an inability to forecast the behaviour of oceans. Oceans are important because they are the main reservoirs of heat in the climate system. They have internal, more-or-less random, fluctuations on all sorts of time-scales ranging from years through to centuries. These fluctuations cause changes in ocean surface temperature that in turn affect Earth’s overall climate.

The situation hasn’t changed much in the decades since. Many of the problems of simulating the behaviour of clouds and oceans are still there (along with lots of other problems of lesser moment) and for many of the same reasons. Perhaps the most significant is that climate models must do their calculations at each point of an imaginary grid of points spread evenly around the world at various heights in the atmosphere and depths in the ocean. The calculations are done every hour or so of model time as the model steps forward into its theoretical future. Problems arise because practical constraints on the size of computers ensure that the horizontal distance between model grid-points may be as much as a degree or two of latitude or longitude—that is to say, a distance of many tens of kilometres.

That sort of distance is much larger than the size of a typical piece of cloud. As a consequence, simulation of clouds requires a fair amount of guesswork as to what might be a suitable average of whatever is going on between the grid-points of the model. Even if experimental observations suggest that the models get the averages roughly right for a short-term forecast, there is no guarantee they will get them right for atmospheric conditions several decades into the future. Among other problems, small errors in the numerical modelling of complex processes have a nasty habit of accumulating with time.

Again because of this grid-point business, oceanic fluctuations and eddies smaller than the distance between the grid-points of a model are unknown to that model. This would not be a problem except that eddies in turbulent fluids can grow larger and larger. A small random eddy in the real ocean can grow and appear out of nowhere as far as a forecasting model is concerned, and make a dog’s breakfast of the forecast from that time on.

All of the above is background to one of the great mysteries of the climate change issue. Virtually all the scientists directly involved in climate prediction are aware of the enormous problems and uncertainties still associated with their product. How then is it that those of them involved in the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) can put their hands on their hearts and maintain there is a 95 per cent probability that human emissions of carbon dioxide have caused most of the global warming that has occurred over the last several decades?

Bear in mind that the representation of clouds in climate models (and of water vapour, which is intimately involved with cloud formation) is such as to amplify the forecast warming from increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide—on average over most of the models—by a factor of about three. In other words, two-thirds of the forecast rise in temperature derives from this particular model characteristic. Despite what the models are telling us—and perhaps because it is models that are telling us—no scientist close to the problem and in his right mind, when asked the specific question, would say that he is 95 per cent sure that the effect of clouds is to amplify rather than to reduce the warming effect of increasing carbon dioxide. If he is not sure that clouds amplify global warming, he cannot be sure that most of the global warming is a result of increasing carbon dioxide.

Bear in mind too that no scientist close to the problem and in his right mind, when asked the specific question, would say there is only a very small possibility (that is, less than 5 per cent) that internal ocean behaviour could be a major cause of the warming over the past half-century. He would be particularly careful not to make such a statement now that there has been no significant warming over the most recent fifteen or so years. In the mad scurry to find reasons for the pause, and to find reasons for an obvious failure of the models to simulate the pause, suddenly we are hearing that perhaps the heat of global warming is being “hidden” in the deep ocean. In other words we are being told that some internal oceanic fluctuation may have reduced the upward trend in global temperature. It is therefore more than a little strange that we are not hearing from the IPCC (or at any rate not hearing very loudly) that some natural internal fluctuation of the system may have given rise to most of the earlier upward trend.

In the light of all this, we have at least to consider the possibility that the scientific establishment behind the global warming issue has been drawn into the trap of seriously overstating the climate problem—or, what is much the same thing, of seriously understating the uncertainties associated with the climate problem—in its effort to promote the cause. It is a particularly nasty trap in the context of science, because it risks destroying, perhaps for centuries to come, the unique and hard-won reputation for honesty which is the basis of society’s respect for scientific endeavour. Trading reputational capital for short-term political gain isn’t the most sensible way of going about things.

The trap was set in the late 1970s or thereabouts when the environmental movement first realised that doing something about global warming would play to quite a number of its social agendas. At much the same time, it became accepted wisdom around the corridors of power that government-funded scientists (that is, most scientists) should be required to obtain a goodly fraction of their funds and salaries from external sources—external anyway to their own particular organisation.

The scientists in environmental research laboratories, since they are not normally linked to any particular private industry, were forced to seek funds from other government departments. In turn this forced them to accept the need for advocacy and for the manipulation of public opinion. For that sort of activity, an arm’s-length association with the environmental movement would be a union made in heaven. Among other things it would provide a means by which scientists could distance themselves from responsibility for any public overstatement of the significance of their particular research problem.

The trap was partially sprung in climate research when a number of the relevant scientists began to enjoy the advocacy business. The enjoyment was based on a considerable increase in funding and employment opportunity. The increase was not so much on the hard-science side of things but rather in the emerging fringe institutes and organisations devoted, at least in part, to selling the message of climatic doom. A new and rewarding research lifestyle emerged which involved the giving of advice to all types and levels of government, the broadcasting of unchallengeable opinion to the general public, and easy justification for attendance at international conferences—this last in some luxury by normal scientific experience, and at a frequency previously unheard of.

Somewhere along the line it came to be believed by many of the public, and indeed by many of the scientists themselves, that climate researchers were the equivalent of knights on white steeds fighting a great battle against the forces of evil—evil, that is, in the shape of “big oil” and its supposedly unlimited money. The delusion was more than a little attractive.

The trap was fully sprung when many of the world’s major national academies of science (such as the Royal Society in the UK, the National Academy of Sciences in the USA and the Australian Academy of Science) persuaded themselves to issue reports giving support to the conclusions of the IPCC. The reports were touted as national assessments that were supposedly independent of the IPCC and of each other, but of necessity were compiled with the assistance of, and in some cases at the behest of, many of the scientists involved in the IPCC international machinations. In effect, the academies, which are the most prestigious of the institutions of science, formally nailed their colours to the mast of the politically correct.

Since that time three or four years ago, there has been no comfortable way for the scientific community to raise the spectre of serious uncertainty about the forecasts of climatic disaster. It can no longer use the environmental movement as a scapegoat if it should turn out that the threat of global warming has no real substance. It can no longer escape prime responsibility if it should turn out in the end that doing something in the name of mitigation of global warming is the costliest scientific mistake ever visited on humanity. The current redirection of global funds in the name of climate change is of the order of a billion dollars a day. And in the future, to quote US Senator Everett Dirksen, “a billion here and a billion there, and pretty soon we’ll be talking about real money”.

At the same time, the average man in the street, a sensible chap who by now can smell the signs of an oversold environmental campaign from miles away, is beginning to suspect that it is politics rather than science which is driving the issue.

Scientists—most scientists anyway—may be a bit naive, but they are not generally wicked, idiotic, or easily suborned either by money or by the politically correct. So whatever might be the enjoyment factor associated with supporting officially accepted wisdom, and whatever might be the constraints applied by the scientific powers-that-be, it is still surprising that the latest IPCC report has been tabled with almost no murmur of discontent from the lower levels of the research establishment. What has happened to the scepticism that is supposedly the lifeblood of scientific inquiry?

The answer probably gets back to the uncertainty of it all. The chances of proving that climate change over the next century will be large enough to be disastrous are virtually nil. For the same reason, the chances of a climate sceptic, or anyone else for that matter, proving the disaster theory to be oversold are also virtually nil. To that extent there is a level playing field for the two sides of the argument. The problem is that climate research necessarily involves enormous resources, and is a game for institutions and organisations. Scepticism is an occupation for individuals. Things being as they are in the climate-change arena, scepticism by an individual within the system can be fairly career-limiting. In any event, most individual scientists have a conscience, and are reluctant to put their heads above the public parapet in order to propound a view of things that may be inherently unprovable.

In short, there is more than enough uncertainty about the forecasting of climate to allow normal human beings to be at least reasonably hopeful that global warming might not be nearly as bad as is currently touted. Climate scientists, and indeed scientists in general, are not so lucky. They have a lot to lose if time should prove them wrong.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  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


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