Monthly Archives: March 2013

IPCC Short Term Predictions are Wrong

Anyone wishing to understand why I don’t trust IPCC (the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) science need only look at the 2007 IPCC Climate Change Synopses Report.   Chapter 3 is one of my favorite chapters, it deals with predicted changes in Climate and is full of wild ass guesses.   Section 3.2 is titled Projections of Future Changes in Climate.   It begins with the following statement

For the next two decades a warming of 0.2 degree C is projected for a range of SRES emissions scenarios.  Even if the concentrations of all GHG’s and aerosols had been kept constant at year 2000 levels, a further warming of 0.1 degree C per decade would be expected.  Afterwards temperature projections are increasingly dependent on specific emissions scenarios.

The very next paragraph states

Since the IPCC first report in 1990, assessed projections have suggested  global temperature increases between 0.15 and 0.3  degree C per decade from 1990 to 2005.  This can now be compared with with observed values of about 0.2 degree C per decade, strengthening confidence in our near-term projections.

I wonder what the IPCC thinks now.   Just about everybody (except NASA) thinks we had a short term temperature peak in 1998.  Since then we have had 15 years of relatively stable climate.   8 years of warming followed by 15 years of stasis.

Last December, a temperature chart in a draft of the next IPCC report (AR5) started making the rounds at the various skeptical web sites including Watts Up With That?     Here is that chart.

The color bands in the chart represent the temperature projections the IPCC has done since it’s first study in 1990.  The black bars are measured temperatures.  Four projections have been issued, FAR in 1990, SAR in1995, TAR in 2002 , and the AR4  (orange) which is the 4th report issued in 2007.  The color bands represent a prediction that is supposed to include 90% of all possible outcomes with 5% percent being higher and 5% being lower than the color band.  The orange band was constructed in 2005 and published two years later.

Just 7 years later, the world temperature is below the range predicted.  We are in 5% land  according to the IPCC.  That’s quite a bit off, just 7 years after the study and only 5 after publication.  2008, the first year after publication was the first year to land completely outside the curve boundary.

The last data included in the graph is now over 2 years old. How have we been doing since 2010.  Let’s look at the UAH satellite data

The running 13 month average is the same as it was in 2000 and .2 degree C below the peak encountered in 1998.  I’d be the first to admit that any conclusion based upon short term data is stupid in a climate cycle that averages 100,000 years per cycle.  The recent past does not prove the science behind global climate change right or wrong, it merely points out that the IPCC practices sloppy science full of wild guessing.

They never should have made such specific projections. Natural climate variation makes any specific projection problematic.   Volcanic eruptions mess things up in the short run (Mt. Pinatubo in 1992 is an excellent example).  The IPCC has difficulty modeling periods before 1850.  They have trouble with the Little Ice Age and the Medieval Warming Period.  Climate modeling has come a long way….but it still has a long way to go.  They should have been more circumspect.

Imagine trying to predict changes in your speed relative to the ground while walking on a moving train.  You know your walking speed, but if you don’t know what the train is doing, it is extremely difficult to accurately predict your ground speed.   The IPCC is trying to predict changes caused by man without knowing how to accurately model the natural system.

They were bound to be wrong.    Getting the right answer fifty or one hundred or one thousand years into the future is a very difficult science problem.  The cause is not well served by IPCC wild guesses.

Do You Believe In Global Warming

Last night I played Team Trivia at a local bar.   We were asked the following

According to a Yale study, what percentage of the population believes in Global Warming.

The answer was 70%.   Hmmm.   I wonder how I would have responded to such a question?   Yes, I believe scientists when they say the world warms and cools and that we are in a warming cycle that began about 250 years ago.   I do think that climate changes with time and that man is probably responsible for some of that change.   But do I believe in Global Warming?

I’m stumbling over the word believe. The word believe implies a religious experience.  I don’t think I have a belief structure associated with the notion that world climate changes.   I think the climate changes for a whole host of reasons including variation in all of the following:

  1. gamma rays reaching the earth’s surface
  2. the solar winds and other variations in the sun
  3. the relative location of the continents
  4. variation in the earth’s orbit
  5. natural and man-made air pollution including volcanic eruptions
  6. comet and asteroid collisions
  7. other things we haven’t figured out yet

I think item 7 puts me in the no camp when the word believe is used.   I expect the answer to change as we learn more about the subject. Conventional wisdom in science changes all the time.  I don’t know the answer, I’m sort of a climate change agnostic.  I am very confident that Al Gore, the IPCC and James Hansen are wrong….but I might be wrong too.

Time will tell……lots of time.  And lots more science too.

Environmental Dreamers on Pennsylvania Avenue

I’ve been struggling for a long time with the Obama Administration Energy and/or Environmental Policies.  I am particularly puzzled by their reluctance to embrace natural gas.  Today I think I finally figured out what is going on…and admittedly I’m a slow study….but I think I’ve got it.   The bureaucrats that advise the President are environmental dreamers.

Dreamers live in the world they would like to have, the rest of us are stuck in the real world.   In the dreamers world…we have lots of renewable energy… and we have a way to store the energy.   Storage that is both economical and efficient would be nice.  Too bad it doesn’t exist.

When it does exist, all sorts of wonderful things become possible.  But until then, there is one truth that cannot be denied, utilities cannot use renewable energy to meet their demand requirements because it is not reliable (except for hydro, which works because it has storage in the form of water behind the dam).  The average solar panel works about 5 hours a day, the average windmill 7 or 8.  What is a utility to do the rest of the time?

Power utilities must choose between three available choices, coal, natural gas and  nuclear.  There are no other currently available choices.   Of those, one is a clear loser… with current technology…coal.  And the Obama administration has figured that out.  There are two choices left….and the residents at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue refuse to make a choice.

I like both choices, but since I live in the real world I know that Nuclear is not a political reality.   This leaves natural gas.  This is not a difficult choice.   Support widespread use of natural gas.  Sure it’s a fossil fuel, but it’s the good one.  It burns relatively cleanly.  Sure natural gas produces some carbon dioxide, but it produces about half as much as oil or coal and is clean burning (no cancer causing air pollutants).  And it’s cheap.

Therein lies the problem….a cheap clean burning fuel reduces the need for renewable energy.   And according to the dreamers at the White House, that is not a good thing.   Renewable energy good…fossil fuels bad….in the fantasy world surrounding the White House.    When a cheap battery becomes available, the economics of solar power and wind turbines will dramatically improve…..but while we wait…..let’s produce lots of natural gas.

Record warming ahead — LA Times Article Critique

Today (March 9), my local paper ran a story with a LA Times byline titled Study of 11,300 years suggests record warming ahead. Here is the link to the LA Times article.

I tried to read the paper on which the article was based and could have…except I’m too cheap.  Science wanted me to pay for it.  So I took a pass.   There are three reasons I decided not to pay for the article.

  1. The promotional tease on the Science website made direct reference to IPCC data.  It looked like the study was using existing IPCC work as a basis for its predictions.
  2. The LA Times article was full of errors that made me wonder.
  3. The study period and the number of sites looked odd.

Point 1 – Promo problems

The promo tease on the Science website says the following:

Current global temperatures of the past decade have not yet exceeded peak interglacial values but are warmer than during ~75% of the Holocene temperature history. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change model projections for 2100 exceed the full distribution of Holocene temperature under all plausible greenhouse gas emission scenarios.

It looks like this article is simply assuming that existing IPCC emission scenarios are plausible and correct.  Scenarios prepared in 2005 and published in 2007.  Sounds like old news to me.   And besides….so far at least…. the IPCC predictions have been wrong.   We were supposed to be 0.2 degree C warmer in first 10 year of the 21st century and another 0.2 degree C warmer  by 2020.  So far (March 2o13) there has been no net change.

Point 2 – LA Times errors.

My favorite paragraph demonstrating errors concerns rising sea level.

While a 1-degree Fahrenheit increase sounds small, it represents an enormous amount of heat energy. For instance, a 10-degree drop would plunge the world into another period of major glaciation, while every 1.8-degree increase would gradually amount to a roughly 65-foot rise in sea level due to melting polar ice, according to NASA climatologist James Hansen.

Just about everything in the paragraph is incorrect or misleading, except the first sentence, which is correct.   We have had a 1 degree C rise (1.8 F) in the last 250 years and sea level did not go up 65 feet.  The same 2007 IPCC Synopses Report that the Science tease noted has specific sea level predictions (table 3.1 on page 45).   Their predictions  for the year 2100, using 1990-2000 as a base, look like this:

Case                     Best Estimate (C)          Temp Range  (C)       Sea Level Rise (m)      BI Scenario                  1.8                                1.1-2.9                              0.18-0.38             AIT  Scenario             2.4                                1.4-3.8                             0.20-0.45               B2  Scenario                2.4                                1.4-3.8                             0.20-0.43              AIB  Scenario             2.7                                1.7-4.4                             0.21-0.48                 A2 Scenario                 3.4                               2.0-5.4                             0.23-0.51           A1F1 Scenario            4.0                               2.4-6.4                             0.26-0.59

The absolute worst possibility according to the IPCC would be a 6.4 degree C rise and that would lead to an increase of .59 meters, about 1.93 feet.  Why the discrepancy?   Time.  Which leads to another error of the article.  The sea level rise is not because of polar ice melting.

If  the temperature stays warm long enough, the deep oceans begin to change temperature.  The complete cycle takes about a thousand years.  As the oceans warm, the water expands.  Notes associated with chart 3.1 note that additional sea level rise is probable at the rate of a foot per century as the deep oceans warm.  So far at least, most warming noted since the Industrial Revolution has been on land and in Northern Latitudes.

Arctic polar melting has absolutely no impact on sea level.  That ice is floating and  is less dense than the water it displaces.  Consider ice in a soda, it does not flood the glass if you let it melt.  Ice melting in Greenland and Antarctica would change sea level, but not by the 65 feet noted in the article.

The 10 degree F statement in the article is almost right.   Our world would be a very nasty place with only 5 degrees F of cooling.  The little ice age was warmer than that and lots of really bad things happened.

That’s a lot of mistakes for just one paragraph!

Point 3 – Incomplete and Oddly Chosen Data

Why did the study begin at a climate peak?  I see nothing but benefit by adding just a little more time.   Add  1000 years and rapid warming shows up, albeit from a very cold base.  A study of that warming would be invaluable in attempting to understand the differences between man made and natural warming.    Go back another  five thousand years and the world is a really nasty place and 10 degrees F cooler.

The Times article says the study uses 17 locations for the entire world.  Sure it’s better than the Hockey Stick Graph which is infamous because it used questionable mathematics and had one proxy consisting of just 2 trees at a single location; but 17 sites for the whole world is still a relatively small number.

The IPCC data shown (table 3.1) has a wide range of estimates because there is lots of variation in the models it runs.  This study used 17 sites and referenced IPCC data sets.  Which Scenario, which data set, interpolation between sites and data sets?   I see lots of guessing.  It does look like a step forward from the Hockey Stick Graph, but there’s still too much guessing, particularly if IPCC data is used a a predictor.

I’m hopeful that the actual article in Science is better than the LA Times story it is based upon, but I have doubts.  So I didn’t pay to see the article.