A warm debate (part 1)

* Warning another long global warming post – probably should be ignored by all but enthusiasts.

John Quiggin and Ken Miles are both erudite and generally mild-mannered bloggers, except when it comes to the global warming debate. John Quiggin, for instance, tends to label people who dare to dissent from what he sees as global warming orthodoxy as “hypocrites” and “frauds”; analogises scepticism about any aspect of global warming to “creation science”; and accuses dissenting scientists of “conflict of interest” for having associations with right wing thinktanks, even though those associations are not dissimilar to his own links with the left-leaning Australia Institute (or Christopher Sheil’s association with the Evatt Foundation).

Ken Miles is usually marginally less extreme in his language about global warming sceptics, and is also rather more familiar with the scientific literature. However, he certainly didn’t hesitate to label one of Australia’s most eminent scientists Ian Plimer as intellectually dishonest (“picked the [data] that best suits his case”) and an ideologue (“Ideology 101”) for daring to subject global warming claims to sceptical analysis, when I blogged recently about a sceptically-oriented paper Plimer had delivered at an IPA conference earlier this year. I probably didn’t assist the tone of debate by responding to Miles’ comment with a tactless (if accurate) observation that Ken Miles himself was manifestly an ideologue on this issue. I see Ken now characterises the discussion as a “flame war”. Really? I can only assume Ken never reads blogs like Little Green Footballs or even our own Tim Blair if he thinks this is a flame war.

This post attempts to inject some clarity into the discussion about (1) the satellite temperature record and (2) historical climate proxies (tree rings, ice cores etc), which were the main focus of Quiggin and Miles’ attacks on Ian Plimer.

The satellite temperature record

Ken Miles makes the following criticism:

Plimer claim that a “24 year global coverage of satellite atmosphere temperatures shows only modest warming in the Northern Hemisphere and a slight cooling in the Southern Hemisphere” requires some pretty selective picking of data. There are four different analysis of the satellite data (this is a testament to the difficultly and uncertainties inherent in the satellite atmospheric record), Plimer has picked the one that best suits his case. Additionally, Plimer also gets it wrong. The slight cooling in the Southern Hemisphere, isn’t observed in the lower Troposphere, rather there is a slight warming trend – where the effects of extra CO2 are most felt. This might be good for ideology 101, but it sure isn’t science.

John Quiggin puts it this way:

Your description of the satellite data story is misleading. Christy et al originally claimed that it showed cooling, until it was pointed out (by Wentz and others) that they had failed to take account of orbital decay. When orbital decay is taken into account, there is an upward trend. Christy et al eventually conceded on this point, but came up with other adjustments that reduced the trend to statistical insignificance. The Wentz team has now come up with yet further adjustments that eliminate most of the discrepancy between the satellite and surface records. Given the past history, Wentz et a arel the ones with the best claim to have “the most credible rendering of the data”, and this rendering supports the global warming hypothesis.

Let’s look at the facts. Here’s a useful summary from Wikipedia containing lots of links. Christy and Spencer (the team most commonly cited by warming sceptics) have been compiling a global and hemispherical temperature record from satellite data for the troposphere (lower atmosphere) and stratosphere for over a decade. Until quite recently, they were the only group doing so. Their record showed minimal warming of the lower atmosphere (and even a slight cooling at many points) in the 24 year satellite temperature record. The science and computer models used by the UN IPCC, on the other hand, indicated that the lower atmosphere should have been exhibiting warming at a rate even greater than the surface if global warming was really taking place at the rate indicated by the averaged surface temperature record. The surface temperature record showed warming at approximately 0.18 °C per decade, and the lower atmosphere should have been warming even faster at 0.23 °C per decade. Hence the satellite data presented a puzzling discrepancy for the UN IPCC.

However, in August 1999 Nature published a paper by Wentz and Schabel which (at first) seemed largely to reconcile the surface and satellite records. Wentz and Schabel discovered that the phenomenon of orbital decay had been introducing a false cooling signal into the satellite data. Christy and Spencer immediately (within a week of publication of Wentz and Schabel’s paper) accepted the validity of the orbital decay discovery, but themselves pointed out that Wentz and Schabel had wrongly failed to adjust for orbital decay of each of the 9 satellites individually, and had failed to take into account another phenomenon namely east-west drift of satellites over time. After those adjustments, there is still a major discrepancy between the satellite and surface temperature records. Note the contrast between what actually happened and John Quiggin’s prejudicial and false characterisation of Christy and Spencer as having “eventually” conceded the point on orbital decay. Christy and Spencer make no secret of their sceptical views on global warming, so apparently they’re fair game for character assassination as far as John Quiggin is concerned.

As far as I can see from reading this very complex research, Wentz and Schabel accept the validity of the additional corrections (to their own corrections) made by Christy and Spencer, although there remain small (indeed almost statistically insignificant) differences between the (now) three separate formulations of the satellite data, because each of the three teams undertakes necessary adjustments of the raw data in slightly different ways. All the research teams working in this area are going to meet at the end of October to see if they can reach complete consensus on the most appropriate methodology for adjustment of the raw satellite data. However, even now, the increasing length of the satellite record and the intense focus by three separate high-powered research teams has achieved a high level of concordance. The most recent update of Christy and Spencer’s data set generates a temperature trend of 0.074 °C per decade, the data set of the Mears team generates 0.097 °C per decade, and Wentz and Schabel’s most recent (so far unpublished as far as I know) data set generates 0.1 °C per decade. All three data sets are therefore very close together, and all three show markedly less cooling than the 0.18 °C shown by the surface record, let alone the 0.23 °C per decade that the IPCC’s favoured computer models say they should be exhibiting.

Interestingly, Ken Miles himself blogged a couple of days ago about a study of the huge quantity of (notoriously difficult to adjust and interpret accurately) radiosonde weather balloon data. Like the 3 mainstream satellite teams, the study appears to generate a decadal global warming trend of around 0.1 °C, almost identical to the 3 mainstream satellite data sets.

Very recently (September 2003), a fourth team led by Vinnikov and Grody published a paper on the online supplement to Science, which global warming devotees are again touting (as they did with Wentz and Schabel for a short while back in 1999) as removing the discrepancy between the surface and satellite records. It purports to extract a warming trend from the satellite data of 0.22-0.26 °C (exactly what the computer models claim should be happening). Ken Miles gleefully and uncritically blogged a report of the Vinnikov and Grody paper under the title The Global Warming Skeptics Won’t Like This One. However Ken conspicuously failed to mention that the other teams researching in the area have dismissed the Vinnikov and Grody paper as arrant nonsense:

The findings have been attacked not only by John Christy of the University of Alabama at Huntsville, who along with colleague Roy Spencer produces the generally-accepted satellite temperature data, but also by Frank Wentz of Remote Sensing Systems in California, which has published data that finds more of a warming trend than Christy’s data. Wentz told the Wall Street Journal (Sep. 12), “It just adds noise to the whole debate.”

Christy went further, saying, “I think it’s a paper that should not have been published “¦ There are many fatal problems with it.” The principal objection is that Vinnikov and Grody did not correct the measurements for inaccuracies introduced by the heating up of the satellites by the sun. “They allowed it to remain in the data,” he told Cox News (Sept. 12), “and it corrupted all of their calculations, like a computer virus.” Grody responded that he did not think Christy should have made the adjustments.

And Ken Miles wonders why I label him a ideologue! I suppose it’s barely conceivable that Vinnikov and Grody might be correct, and the three other teams completely wrong. But it’s hardly reasonable to accuse Ian Plimer, one of Australia’s leading scientists, of selective use of data (let alone the “pot calling the kettle black” accusation of being an ideologue) in the circumstances, especially when Plimer’s IPA paper was presented months before Vinnikov and Grody’s research (for what it’s worth) was published. Moreover, when we examine Plimer’s words on which both Quiggin and Miles build their character assassination, we find he didn’t even mention any specific satellite temperature data set. Here’s what Plimer actually said:

To put such measurements into perspective over the history of time, changes in atmospheric temperature in the 20th Century can only be considered small and slow. A 24 year global coverage of satellite atmosphere temperatures shows only modest warming in the Northern Hemisphere and a slight cooling in the Southern Hemisphere. Temperature measurements from balloons agree with the satellite measurements for the period of overlap. Because greenhouse warming is a phenomenon of the atmosphere, significant changes should have been recorded. They have not.

Except for the relatively minor error about slight cooling in the southern hemisphere, everything Plimer says here is manifestly correct, whether based on Christy and Spencer’s, Wentz and Schabel’s or Mears’ version of the satellite record. Plimer’s statements simply don’t justify the relatively extreme ad hominem abuse employed against him by both Quiggin and Miles.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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Ken Miles
Ken Miles
2022 years ago

Ken, I’ll reply in more detail later (once you’ve posted the other parts, and when I’ve had a chance to read over in more detail), but I’ll just note that if you consider that what I said about Plimer is “relatively extreme ad hominem abuse”, then like me, you need to read more LGF and Tim Blair.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Ken,

That’s why I used the qualifier “relatively”. I agree you’re not in LGF commenter class (or even Blair’s RWDBs) when it comes to ad hom abuse. No rational adult is!

cs
cs
2022 years ago

accuses dissenting scientists of “conflict of interest” for having associations with right wing thinktanks, even though those associations are not dissimilar to his own links with the left-leaning Australia Institute (or Christopher Sheil’s association with the Evatt Foundation).

I would be interested in more discussion of this aspect. Can one reasonably surmise a conflict of interest (presumably between the integrity of one’s research and such associations) if there is no financial interest involved? If one was to suggest that there is a real or potential conflict, surely this would also rule out academics joining unions, political parties, writing for the media … and so on, through to and including all associations that have objectives that are not identical (even if they’re not inconsistent) with academia. On the other hand, if you are a hired think-tank gun, and/or the think-tank’s supporting financial interests are not transparent … a case may well be made, I think.

If one was to accept the conflict by mere association test, where would that leave the already seriously dubious but increasing practice of academics supplying outputs for commercial interests?

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Chris,

The points you raise are certainly all worth elaborating and discussing, though probably they’d better developed in a separate post.

However it’s worth noting that JQ normally defends himself by pointing out that he’s in a different position from Sallie Baliunas (his usual target for this accusation), because she’s on the committee/board of a right wing thinktank, whereas he (Quiggin) isn’t on the board/committee of the Australia Institute. That’s why I chucked your name into the pot: you ARE on the Evatt committee, so that your position is relevantly indistinguishable from Baliunas. Yet I don’t think anyone could reasonably make a case that your research and writing (or John Quiggin’s) is tainted by such an association. I don’t really think whether the committee/board position is voluntary or attracts a sitting fee or stipend really affects the conclusion either.

We get closer to the mark in considering a thinktank’s sources of funding. If (1) it draws a major proportion of its financial support from a particular source (e.g. a corporation, or for that matter trade unions) (2) the major supporter benefits from the research being undertaken (depending on the outcome); and (3) sources of funding are undisclosed (or significantly lacking transparency); then I think we’re beginning to approach a point where one can reasonably suggest that the work of an expert who is on the committee of such a thinktank and who is also publishing in an area likely to benefit the major donor, ought to be treated prima facie with reservation or suspicion (though not automatically written off and treated per se as irredeemably biased). Note that this proposition wouldn’t apply to specific research commissioned and paid for by a particular corporation, union, government etc, as long as the source of funding is disclosed (as it usually is with commissioned research).

Finally, I’m not sure whether Baliunas would qualify as suspect on my tests outlined above. Maybe JQ can tell us. However that IMO is the case that needs to be made.

John Quiggin
John Quiggin
2022 years ago

I’m happy to accept your evidence that was in error about “eventually” – I was writing from memory and obviously confused Christy and Spencer themselves with members of the anti-GW lobby such as Seitz who were very reluctant to accept this finding.

On affiliations, I don’t lay much stress on the difference between a formal appointment and an association – my only point about informal associations is that they are hard to include in an end-of-article disclaimer (“John Quiggin has lots of lefty friends?”). My main defence is that I make no effort to conceal my general position, whereas Baliunas uses her high-status scientific affiliations whenever possible, and avoids mentioning the fact that she is a right-wing ideologue.

John Quiggin
John Quiggin
2022 years ago

I should further mention that whereas your post refers to “Quiggin and Miles’ attacks on Ian Plimer”, I didn’t mention Plimer and have never discussed him. You may not agree with my judgements about global warming sceptics, but I do attempt to assess them individually, rather than dismissing them en masse.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

John,

Again I don’t think the distinction you seek to make between yourself and Baliunas stands up. Note that I don’t agree with her position that current global warming is purely an artefact of solar activity changes, but I also don’t agree with your dismissal of her arguments on associational grounds rather than on their intrinsic merits. Like Baliunas, you don’t go out of your way to specify your political affiliations. However, you typically write about broadly political subjects, so that your political orientations become apparent even without any overt conscious effort at disclosure. Indeed it would be almost impossible to write on politics and economics for any length of time without one’s own political orientations becoming apparent to readers.

Baliunas, on the other hand, almost invariably writes about scientific topics, where political orientations don’t naturally arise for discussion and would only become manifest if a specific disclosure note was included at the end of an article (which you seem to agree would usually be impractical). I would hold that such a disclosure SHOULD indeed be made if Baliunas’s position satisfies all of the preconditions laid out in my previous comment, but not otherwise. As I say, however, I don’t know whether she does satisfy them (and frankly I’m not especially interested – I’m perfectly happy to assess her arguments on their merits).

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

PS I concede you didn’t mention Plimer specifically, although your comments follow and echo those of Ken Miles which clearly did. Nevertheless, it was inappropriate to label this particular comment of yours as “character assassination”, and I hereby remove the label (in this instance anyway).

John
John
2022 years ago

Ken, what about past track record – for example Baliunas’ history as an ozone sceptic?

The problem with ‘assessing the arguments on their merits’ is that it’s precisely in the areas where I have difficulty doing this that I’m expected to take Baliunas’ expertise on trust. I can show that the statistical and economic stuff she does is low-grade advocacy, but I don’t know enough astrophysics to make an independent judgement of her claims on this subject versus those of other scientists who come to the opposite conclusion.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

John,

I don’t have a problem with having regard to a person’s record in advocating dicredited, half-baked theories in the past (and her dismissal of ozone depletion by CFCs etc is certainly in that category). That’s clearly relevant and an entirely proper consideration in assessing what weight to give to material.

I haven’t read anything from Baliunas (as opposed to Lomborg) that professes to express views on matters economic. Obviously you’re far better able to assess such material than I. Again, an objective assessment of the quality of any such material is clearly relevant to an assessment of overall credibility. Similarly with statistical methodology and assertions. Indeed I’d be very interested in your assessment from a statistical viewpoint of Baliunas et al’s recent meta-paper on historical climate proxies. My sole objection is to rejecting Baliunas (or anyone else) solely on her thinktank associations and/or failure to make express disclosure of them in articles she writes.

John
John
2022 years ago

On corporate ties, this story details a wide range of links for Baliunas and her co-authors. OTOH, the Marshall Institute denies receiving any corporate funding. The Institute is, however, funded by the Sarah Scaife foundation, which is on the far-right of US politics.

My main point on this, though, is not one about financial conflicts of interests, but a point you made yourself. You expect an economist or political scientist engaged in public debate to have some sort of viewpoint (free-market, Keynesian or whatever) that informs their approach, and to assess their arguments in the light of that. On the other hand, you would normally not expect that the views of an astrophysicist on matters of scientific controversy would be determined by their political affiliation. Evidence that this is the case is therefore relevant, regardless of the formalities.

Ken Miles
Ken Miles
2022 years ago

I’m bored, so rather than waiting for Ken P’s part 2, I’ll jump in at this point…

I don’t accept Ken P’s account of the satellite record to be particular accurate, so I’ll provide my own description.

Since 1979 data on the absorption profile of the earth’s atmosphere has been collected by a number of satellites. Theoretically, this data can be used to determine the temperature of the earth’s atmosphere at various altitudes. However, this is easier said than done. A large number of external factors (such as altitude, temperature of the satellite etc) influence the data, all of which have to be corrected for.

The first serious attempt at extracting out the temperature profile of the data was performed by Spencer and Christy. After a number of corrections, their current results show a warming trend of 0.074 K/decade in the lower Troposphere, 0.036 K/decade in the mid-Troposphere and a cooling trend of 0.476 K/decade in the low Stratosphere (their data can be found here). It should be noted at this point, that earlier versions Spencer and Christy interpretation showed substantially less warming than what their latest version does (this is due to incorporation of extra data, and the addition of extra corrections (included a very significant orbital correction which was first noted by the RSS team mentioned below)).

The second interpretation is known as the RSS (after Remote Sensing Systems – which is a company involved in the work). Ken P has mixed up this interpretation by dividing it into two groups (Wentz, Schabel and Mears are all involved in collecting this data). RSS uses a different technique to separate out the temperatures from the data, and they get a warming trend of 0.097 K/decade for the Troposphere (Ken P gets mixed up here, and compares the RSS Troposphere results to the C&S lower Troposphere (and hence substantially warmer) results). An example of how much the two interpretations differ is the Middle Troposphere temperatures; RSS gives a warming trend of 0.121 K/decade (cf. C&S of 0.036). Clearly, these two results don’t back each other up. More information can be found here.

The third interpretation, which Ken P doesn’t appear to be aware of, is by a team lead by Cuddapah Prabhakara. This uses a simplified technique, which gives less mixing of stratosphere and troposphere results (ie. a more accurate reading), at the cost of many data points and limited geographic coverage. I’m not too familiar with Prabhakara results, so I won’t look into them in detail, but they appear to be consistent with the RSS results. Readers with more enthusiasm than me can read about this in Prabhakara, C., J. R. Iaacovazzi, J.-M. Yoo and G. Dalu (2000). “Global warming: Evidence from satellite observations.”

Dano
Dano
2022 years ago

1. I also pointed out to Ken P that he needs to consider the rise in avg troposphere height, which hasn’t been done here.

Why must we do this, you may ask? A rise in height indicates warming. If the sat records indicate no warming, why then a rise in trop height?

A second indicator is the melting of tropical glaciers, all of which are a considerable fraction of the way up the trop – S America, for instance, has glaciers 2/5-3/5 of the way up the trop. One must acknowledge this fact.

2. Scientific work is done in primary source journals. One should look at the responses to the paper in Science for discussion of the merits or weaknesses of the Vinnikov & Grody paper. One must expect less rigor in a non-primary source (especially something on the www. that is not reviewed for accuracy).

Best,

D

Dano
Dano
2022 years ago

The Christy statements in Cox News are wrong, as far as I can see.

Christy claims that the two authors (not a team of authors, BTW) don’t correct for temp bias, but it is clearly stated in the paper that

As mentioned earlier, we used the operational data provided by NESDIS, which incorporates the latest calibration of the MSU and AMSU instruments. However, both the Christy and the Wentz groups added the same empirical adjustments to the NESDIS calibration, which are a function of the warm target temperature. But, because they both used the same calibration adjustments, one can only explain their large differences in trend (0.0 versus 0.1 K/10 years) by their different analyses.

So Vinnikov and Grody (VG) used the same data as did Christy et al.

Further,

Our analytical technique of estimating the trend by simultaneously removing instrumental biases together with seasonal and diurnal variations is radically different from theirs and can possibly explain why our trend estimate is different from that of Wentz et al. by a factor of two. Also, as part of this investigation we found that the results of the trend analyses can depend on how the data are globally averaged.

and the paper goes on to say that the temps are latitudinally-dependent, and temp corrections must be made with this zonation in mind, which is what Christy et al and Wentz et al also missed when subtracting channel or sat data.

So, one team has analyzed data that show the troposphere has warmed by an amount similar to the amount the surface has warmed in the same period, which corresponds to other data that show the average troposphere height has risen (in addition to my aforementioned point about tropical glaciers)

Dano
Dano
2022 years ago

Oh, I forgot:

no one has put forth any comments to the VG paper in Science.

Personally, I would think that authors of other sat papers would have published something by now, since they have had a month to reply.

One must consider this significant.

D

Dano
Dano
2022 years ago

Another team of scientists, not mentioned by Ken P (perhaps because he has no subscription to on-line journals?) has found problems with the UAH data.

One must note that the MSU satellite data have, until recently, only been analyzed by the UAH team.

With that in mind, Santer et al. 2003. Influence of Satellite Data Uncertainties on the Detection of Externally Forced Climate Change. Science Volume 300, Number 5623, Issue of 23 May 2003, pp. 1280-1284. note that there are some issues with the analysis of the data.

Interestingly, Wentz et al., a team looking at the data afresh, find an upward positive trend, which is strengthened by VG. Santer et al. note that the Wentz team [RSS] has minimized inconsistencies between datasets (a criticism of the UAH team), and also

Although the RSS T2 data are more consistent with both model results and surface observations, we cannot say definitively whether RSS or UAH provides a better estimate of the “true” tropospheric temperature changes. This dilemma may be resolved by analysis of complementary data sets, such as tropopause height, water vapor, and sea-surface temperature (SST) (18, 35). Better characterization of the diurnal cycle in satellite data correction procedures would also help to reduce UAH-RSS differences.
I’d like to point out the ‘tropopause height’ and ‘diurnal cycle’, which is one of the corrections made in the VG paper.
So the Santer et al. addresses some of the issues I mentioned earlier.
OK, I’m done for a while. In conclusion:
Ken P, I believe, does not know enough about the issue to defend his position, which is the UAH (Christy) data is the best dataset. The evidence shows that very well may not be the case. One cannot support this UAH-centric view without acknowledging the serious analysis and methodology issues with the UAH team’s approach.
Firmness of a position with respect to scientific theories is usually, to me, an indication of incomplete understanding of a topic.
D

Ken Miles
Ken Miles
2022 years ago

Dano,

Not trying to be too much of a pedant, but a rise in tropopause height could be due to warming of the troposphere or cooling of the stratosphere (or both – which is what appears to be the case).

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Dano,

You don’t seem to have bothered to read or digest my post properly before commenting on it. If you had, you would realise that my position is not that “the UAH (Christy) data is the best dataset”, but that ALL but the very recent Vinnikov-Grody data set essentially corroborate each other (in that their broad troposphere results are relatively tightly grouped), and all show tropospherical warming substantially less than the surface record (i.e. they all show only around half or less the warming of the surface record) or the even higher temperatures that computer models say should be recorded in the troposphere to reflect the measured surface warming.

While it’s certainly true that I suggested in a comment box contribution to an earlier post that the Christy/Spencer data set might be regarded as preferable because they’ve been doing it for much longer, that is manifestly not my central argument. Indeed, as you point out, I lack the in-depth scientific knowledge in this area to argue on scientific grounds which of the 4 data sets is the most accurate reconstruction. So, I suspect do you and Ken Miles.

However, I don’t need to do this, because 3 of the 4 data sets essentially support each other. Ken Miles pointed out a couple of misperceptions in my rendering of the various data sets, but they don’t affect the point I’m making. Thus, Christy/Spencer (UAH) overall troposphere data set shows warming at 0.6

Dano
Dano
2022 years ago

Ken M:

I believe you are more correct in saying ‘both’, as that appears to be the case – I was too narrow in my quest for brevity, thanks for pointing it out.

Ken P:

1. The Wentz et al. (RSS) are closer to the UAH than VG, but they are still higher. I can’t get Geophys Res Lett, so I haven’t read the other one. The RSS also found something that UAH overlooked, hence their higher figures.

2. A later analysis explains the divergent findings and explains how that could be (Santer et al).

3. A STILL LATER paper (VG) shows an analysis, with more corrections and a deeper analysis of the data, with more corrections that UAH didn’t think about while Santer et al. (and RSS) did.

4. The point being that the later analyses are more in line with what is happening on the ground, so to speak: sfc warming, trop rising, tropical glaciers in retreat. The implication is that UAH missed some stuff, 2 other teams noticed some problems and got different results – perhaps that is why UAH are testy. The other implication is that as finally more people have access to it, we are learning how to analyze the data.

Now, your possibilities:

This suggests at least the possibility that the surface record (which is an averaging of thousands of disparate readings of varying reliability) may be overstating the true extent of warming. May in fact be partially true; this is a dataset, like the sat dataset, that requires clever and extensive analysis. Some later analyses say the UHI effect in the US may be as high as .26 deg C, which doesn’t translate across the globe, but it’s an interesting result. My experience with UHIs in the U.S. (I’ve measured the spatial extent of three) is that they drop off rapidly in ag lands, so both the spatial extent and aggregation need to be analyzed further. I used to ride my bike to work into (a well-studied) one in California, and it wouldn’t be warm until you just about hit the concrete.

On the other hand, it might ultimately be discovered instead that the satellite renderings were wrong. Maybe even Vinnikov and Grody have done so (although the initial reactions of the other teams suggest otherwise) I think RSS and Santer et al. were on to something, and VG had an idea too. We’ll have to wait, but its not looking good for the Alabama team.

The third possibility, of course, is that both the surface record and the (3 convergent) satellite renderings might BOTH be correct, and there may be some as yet undiscovered mechanism that allows the troposphere to warm by substantially less than the atmosphere at the surface. Lindzen has said that this might be the case (a model artifact or glitch), and that there is no reason to think why this might not be true. A possibility might be found in the rising heat content of the oceans. Or your ~iris effect implication (Lindzen’s idea, not doing that well in peer review – but has funding for testing nonetheless).

Additionally, Ken M blogged about an analysis of a radiosonde dataset that indicated trop warming that is height-stratified, larger than RSS but smaller than VG and specifically found a warming of the upper trop (rather than cooling)

Ron Mead
Ron Mead
2022 years ago

Reading this stuff by a few admittedly well-read laymen on this topic (and I don’t aspire to progress to the knowledge levels of the two Kens or John Quiggin or Dano) it strikes me rather forcefully just how primitive is mankind’s real knowledge of matters affecting climate and climate change. It seems that many participants in this debate are taking ideological stances based on primitive knowledge and religious faith. Right-wingers are skeptics and left-wingers are believers in anthropogenic causes of climate change. It’s the oldest story of man – the less we know the more we turn to religious faith. Since nothing can be proven or disproven in religious faith we can be as dogmatic as we feel inclined.

The vast majority of people these days are on the side of the believers because that is the perceived “safe” option. If you want to hear anything about the skeptics’ cases you have to get it from the internet rather than the mass media which has accepted the believers’ case without question.

I think I’ll stay agnostic for quite a lot longer yet, although I do find the logic of Lomborg and by extension, Ken P, somewhat more appealing than that of the believers. But then I don’t believe in God either, damned infidel that I am.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Dano,

Just to set your mind at rest about my access to journals, I have access to most of the mainstream journals in hard copy at CDU Library. I generally try to read articles relating to global warming when I become aware of them. However, I haven’t read anything recent by Wentz et al. Has anything been published recently and if so where? I also haven’t read the paper by Prabhakara et al to which Ken Miles refers (in fact I didn’t even know it existed until he mentioned it). I usually don’t photocopy the articles I read, which generally means that if I have occasion to blog about them months (or longer) later, I’m working from memory and whatever I can find on the open Internet to prompt it. I also frequently find that the more complex technical aspects of papers are beyond my compehension e.g. I’m still trying to get my head around Mann et al’s explanations of how they calibrated the post-1850 component of their notorious “hockey stick” graph. It’s clear that post-1850 proxies were used in some way (i.e. they didn’t just “graft” the surface record onto the older proxies), but exactly how I can’t decipher. I’ll probably publish the second part of this post anyway, and let you and others sort it out.

Moreover, that leads to quite an important point. Despite the frequently testy nature of this dialogue, I’m actually tying to advance my understanding of this horrendously complex area, and hopefully that of others interested in it as well. I value the insights that people like you and Ken Miles can provide, even though it often pisses me off when you let your evident biases get in the way of disinterested analysis (not that I’m claiming a lack of biases either). I really think that’s the case with your attempt to bracket Wentz et al with Vinnikov and Grody as providing a more reliable synthesis than Christy and Spencer, when V and G produce results more than twice as warm as Wentz from the same data. It’s hardly surprising that Wentz/RSS was dismissive of V and G. What emerges from the data (including the balloons) as far as I can see is that the research seems to be converging around a proposition that overall tropospherical warming is around 0.1 degrees C per decade. If we assume (as IPCC does) that around half of the measured warming is attributable to changes in solar activity, it suggests that warming attributable to human influence is around 0.5 degrees C per decade, which doesn’t sound all that scary and suggests that careful, moderate policies rather than extreme ones are called for.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

The last figure in the previous comment should have read 0.05 degrees C (not 0.5).

Dano
Dano
2022 years ago

oops. forgot this: .

Peter Secomb
Peter Secomb
2022 years ago

I’m with Ron Mead. Having no scientific grounding at all, I’ve tried to follow the arguments in this thread, and where we are now seems to be that there is cautious agreement that some atmospheric warming is taking place, but we’re not sure how much, or even whether it is consistent around the globe. That established, before rushing into extremely expensive programs to “combat” GW we still need a helluva lot more info:
(a) to what extent this warming has been caused by human activity; and to what extent it may be attributed to some natural cycle
(b) what impact this degree of warming will actually have on the biosphere (either positive or negative)and
(c) whether the warming is reversible by human agency, and over what time frame.
It’s a bit early to blame every storm or melting glacier on GW, don’t you think? Not long ago I heard an

Dano
Dano
2022 years ago

I hear you Ken.

Now, let’s step back for a moment on the sat data analyses. UAH was first, and the only analysis for a while. RSS then got access to the data. Then Prabhakara. Then Santer et al. looked at UAH and RSS’ analyses. Then VG weighed in (again, I can’t speak to the Prabhakara Geophys Res Lett paper).

UAH appears to have overlooked some things. RSS looked at the data a little differently and got some different results. Santer et al. said, well, maybe the result differences are this and ~that. VG looked at the data using only ~that, and found a different interpretation yielded new data.

This is what is called learning. This is how humans have developed ways of observing the world and making predictions from that observational method. Now, sequester reductionist scientists and don’t teach them how to communicate their results to people affected by their work. Messy, no? What fun! No wonder we have posters in this thread who write what they do.

Science informs policy, for better or worse. All these bits taken together inform a trajectory. Policymakers are not informed of scientific matters by you and me. Our wish to influence the dialogue is part of the human condition, but our society, today, uses the scientific method to ask questions and collect information to answer these questions. It is the only way we have devised to observe and predict.

One can wish for more information, more study, as a poster above does. And rightly so. One can also wish for more time before trajectories become irreversible. Some policymakers have said we’re running out of time. Anyway, we have instituted static development patterns that place our society at risk, and as ecosystems are not static, we need to address this risk.

As I’ve said many times before, one cannot look at a graph, say ‘aha!’ and figure out a complex system with complexity on many spatial and temporal scales (only on some advocacy web sites is this done)

Dano
Dano
2022 years ago

I’m not sure why the tags don’t work.

‘written extensively’: http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/publications/viewpubs.html?grouping_no=1

‘here’: http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/homepages/roger_pielke/hp_roger/pdf/2003.22.pdf

I viewed the source and see Ken’s tags have quotes.

Dan&#934