Monthly Archives: April 2014

IPCC Climate predictions change in AR5

Shortly after I left town for a 2 week trip to the East Coast, the IPCC released their latest assessment on climate change, it’s Fifth Assessment is nicknamed AR5.  Today I pulled up some of the report from the web.    It was full of surprises.

The press did not surprise.  Gloom and doom has been everywhere these past two weeks.   Lost is all the hoopla is a significant change in the way the IPCC makes predictions.  They have become more circumspect.    Gone are absolute short term predictions like this one from AR4 made in 2007:

For the next two decades a warming of about 0.2°C per decade is projected for a range of SRES emissions scenarios. Even if the concentrations of all GHGs and aerosols had been kept constant at year 2000 levels, a further warming of about 0.1°C per decade would be expected. Afterwards, temperature projections increasingly depend on specific emissions scenarios. {3.2}

AR4 included the following charts to help explain their short term temperature predictions:

Now look at what AR5 says:

It is more likely than not that the mean global mean surface air temperature for the period 2016–2035 will be more than 1°C above the mean for 1850–1900, and very unlikely that it will be more than 1.5°C above the 1850–1900 mean (medium confidence).

A quick peek at the East Anglia University  temperature data set will allow us to interpret what 1 degree C since 1900 really means:

The world average from 1850 to 1900 was about 0.7 degree C cooler than the year 2000 baseline used in AR4.   So the new report is saying that the world has about a 65% chance (more likely than not) of being about 0.3 degrees C warmer on average between 2016 and 2035 than it was in the year 2000.  They also say that temperature is very unlikely to be as high as 0.8 degrees C higher.

Compare that statement  to the chart from AR4.  The IPCC predicted  0.8 degree C above 2000 as a most likely case in the year 2035.    The AR5 report lowers their estimate and changes the way it is calculated.  AR5 deals with average temperatures over a period of time while AR4 made much more specific and higher predictions.  AR4 effectively ignored natural climate variation.  AR5 does not repeat the mistake.

AR5 includes two significant temperature prediction caveats.   They acknowledge that natural climate variation makes specific temperature predictions difficult in the short run and they included a statement on volcanic activity:

This projection is valid for the four RCP scenarios and assumes there will be no major volcanic eruptions or secular changes in total solar irradiance before 2035.

IF the earth experiences a significant  (Mt. Pinatubo equivalent) volcanic eruption, then IPCC projections will likely be wrong according to the IPCC.   How likely are Pinatubo equivalent eruptions?  Volcanic eruptions are measured using the Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI).   Mt. Pinatubo was a 6.   A chart courtesy of Wikipedia describes VEI and offers their best guess for each classification.  Here it is:

This chart says both VEI 5 (Mt St. Helens) and VEI 6 (Mt. Pinatubo) eruptions happen at rates that are less than one every 100 years.   What are these guys smoking?    The Wall Street Journal published a chart that shows each VEI 5 or higher event in the last 200 years.

Between April of 1815 and August of 1991, the Earth produced 19 VEI 5 or greater eruptions.   Mt. Tambora,  got things started in April of 1815.   This category 7 event was really special.  5,000 feet of this Indonesian volcano disappeared in a single event.   There was so much crap in the air that 1816 was named the year without a summer.  It was followed by 14 category 5 events, and  4 category 6 events culminating with Mt. Pinatubo in 1991.

Recent history is going to give us the best data.  Recent history says the IPCC is ….well…wrong.   We probably will have a significant eruption before 2035.   I suspect wild ass guessing at the UN.  Mother Nature gave us 4 category 6 events in the 108 year period from August of 1883 (Krakatoa) to June of 1991 (Pinatubo).

I am glad AR5 noted the exclusion of volcanic activity and made some references to natural climate variation.  These inclusions make the work so much better. The admission really was necessary.  AR4 short term temperature predictions were so flawed that they had to do something to explain why they were so wrong.

AR4 was full of bad wild ass guessing….and at least  AR5 acknowledges that they might be wrong.  The IPCC admits that there is a one in three chance that they are being too aggressive simply because normal climate variation makes specific predictions difficult.  A VEI 6 Volcanic eruption will totally mess with their predictions.

Lets assume VEI 6 eruptions happen every 40 years or so.   A VEI 6 volcanic eruption between now and 2035 carries a 50% probability.  We must then reduce the probability that the IPCC predictions are correct by that 50% since they admit they assumed a zero probability.

I’m just glad to see the IPCC adjusting to the real world…at least a little bit.

Polar Bears, Whales, Climate Science and Exxon


What  a day. Four different articles in Section One of the Anchorage Daily News worthy of a post.  Most days nothing catches my eye.  Not today….well it is April Fools Day.

  1. UN Court orders Japan to halt Antarctic whaling was the feature page 1 story of the day.   The court voted 12 to 4 against the Japanese claim that killing up to 1000 whales a year was a form of scientific research.
  2. Researchers use DNA to trace lineage of polar bears was also a page one story.  A University of Alaska Fairbanks study used DNA evidence to demonstrate that the Polar Bear, Black Bear and Brown Bear have specific genetic histories.   The article went on to discuss the Endangered Species Act and the use of computer models to try to place the Polar Bear on the Endangered Species List.
  3. Exxon: Climate Change Policy Highly Unlikely to Limit Fossil Fuel Sales appeared on Page 3.   This article featured arguments between Exxon scientists and Environmental scientists about the relative costs and benefits of fossil fuels to society.  Surprise…they disagree.
  4. UN report: Global warming dials up our risks made it’s appearance on page 5.  The UN released a 32-volume report on climate on Monday.   This AP article discussed the impact climate change will have on food production.  The article talked about the impacts on poor people and the impacts on fine wine and coffee too.

There you have it, four wonderful April Fools Day treats in the first five pages of  my local paper.

Article 1 – Whaling in Antarctica

Apparently, last year the UN’s highest court had a trail.  In that trial, the Japanese government claimed that killing up to 1000 whales a year in the Antarctic was being done as a form of scientific research.

The Japanese position fails the laugh test.  When a legal position is so bad that others witnessing the lawsuit might actually laugh during the argument, that position has failed the laugh test.  Trust me, no lawyer wants to present a position that fails the laugh test.  Japan just failed.

This story says  something about Japan and about the UN too. 4 judges agreed with the Japanese position?!  And it took the court months and months to come to this conclusion?  World politics is a constant source of amazement.

Article 2 – Polar Bears

When I first started reading about Polar Bears, the conventional wisdom was that they became a distinct species about 200,000 years ago.   Perhaps two years ago, early DNA studies changed that to 600,000 and then another study last year said it could be as high is 4 million years.   This study pegs the change at 1.2 million years plus or minus.  And the study acknowledges that the time clock being used is approximate.

The lead scientist, Dr. Matthew Cronin, has been a vocal critic of the Endangered Species Act.   He has made, according to the article,  the following statements about the listing of the Polar Bear as an endangered species

It seems logical that if polar bears survived previous warm, ice free periods, the could survive another.


This is of course speculation, but so is predicting they will not survive, as the proponents of the Endangered Species Act listing of polar bears have done.


I don’t think you should base endangered species on predictions and models.  It should be focused on real-world problems.

All this was music to my ears. No so for Dr Steven C. Amstrup, principal author of the report recommending the ESA listing.  He called Dr Cronin’s study incautious and misleading.  Dr. Amstrup then pointed out that the current warming cycle was happening much more rapidly than had previous cycles.

Wrong.  The world is predicted by IPCC climate scientists to begin rapid warming soon. The World has been warming for over 200 years, but most of that has been natural climate variation.  The 2007 IPCC Climate Synopses predicted immediate warming.  The world was supposed to be about .2 degree C warmer than it is right now and that warming was supposed to accelerate with time.  The IPCC was wrong.

Warming to date is well within the normal range of the last 10,000 years.  The Earth warmed at a relatively rapid rate between 1993 and 1998, which also included a climate changing volcanic eruption and a strong El Nino.  Warming stopped and has been relatively stable since 1998 as this Satellite Temperature chart demonstrates:

Perhaps Dr. Amstrup is just a tiny bit defensive.   He based all his arguments on climate models that have …at least so far…been wrong.

Article 3 Exxon vs Environmentalists

This article seemed perfect to me for April 1st.   Exxon and the Environmental lobby differ on the relative value of fossil fuels.   Duh!  Talk about a firm grasp on the obvious.   The article can be summed up by a single paragraph about halfway through the article.

Exxon and the environmental groups agree that climate change is a risk and that society will take steps to reduce emissions from fossil fuels to slow the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.  They differ, however, on how drastic society’s response could be, and what would cost more — severely restricting fossil fuel consumption or not doing so and allowing more carbon dioxide to build up in the atmosphere.

Exxon thinks emissions will peak in about 2030.  The peak level of emissions will be less a risk than the environmental lobby predicts.    I have no idea where the truth lies.  Vested interests are everywhere.   The article really broke no new ground and provided no new information.

Article 4 — UN Report on Climate

Our local paper ran an AP story titled UN Report: Global warming dials up our risks in today’s paper.  I cannot find the article at AP or at (The Anchorage Daily News website).  I found stories with the same title.   I also found a story with the same title written by the same AP writer, but the story was completely different.  The Anchorage Daily News has a history of editing AP articles, so I read the online AP article.   The two articles are completely different. I have never encountered this before.

It does feel a bit like an April Fools Day prank…on page 5 of the Anchorage Daily News.

My local newspaper version of the AP story is an awful story.  It focuses solely on food supply issues caused by global climate change.   I wish I could find a way to link it.   The article mixes starvation in India with fine wine and coffee in the developed world.  Global climate change will change food availability and costs according to the article.  And not in a good way.

The article talked about potential starvation in India.     Yep, as India goes from a country with a billion people to a country with 1.5 billion people, food is going to become more of an issue.   Perhaps birth control or lack thereof might be a part of India’s food supply problem.   Maybe even more important than carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere?