Tag Archives: climate

Why are Skeptics Ridiculed by Society?

Any discussion of our changing climate (aka weather) is by nature somewhat speculative.  I am only a little surprised when tomorrow’s weather is accurately predicted.  When weekly or monthly forecasts prove correct I am impressed.  I expect them to be wrong.

Soooo….answer me this.   Why are people who question the predictions of gloom and doom coming from the global climate community ridiculed by society?

News stories assuming that man caused global climate to change dramatically are everywhere.

  • Today’s paper touted February 2016 as the warmest ever in Alaska
  • Yesterday One news blamed the strong El Nino for floods in Peru
  • Yesterday the Anchorage Dispatch news featured a political cartoon of an argument between person touting global warming and a person noting that it had been warmer 2500 years ago.  The cartoon was drawn to make the skeptic look stupid.
  • Articles are here, there and everywhere calling 2015 the warmest in history for the earth.
  • On Sunday, it was reported that the Arctic Ice cap is at it’s lowest level in history and it stopped growing early this year.  ( A history that is only 40 years old)
  • A month or so ago, I read an article about the recent (last two years)  warmer than anticipated weather.   The article touted climate experts that said climate was again warming rapidly after a 15 year hiatus.  And that it was proof that the UN climate experts were right.

I could go on forever.

We are in the midst of a strong El Nino climate pattern in the Northern Hemisphere.  It has been warmer in 2015 and early 2016 than in the recent past.  2016 is starting out a a bit warmer than 2015.  Interestingly, satellite data and land based temperature data disagree about 2015.  Satellite data is a tiny bit cooler than land based data.  It shows a 13 month  average that is still below the 1998 peak.  If the current El Nino pattern persists, 2016 could be warmer than 2015 or 1998.  Land based data already has 2015 higher than 1998.

https://i2.wp.com/www.drroyspencer.com/wp-content/uploads/UAH_LT_1979_thru_February_2016_v6.png

What happened 50 or 150 or 500 years ago?   How does the current El Nino compare to El Nino patterns in history?  We don’t know.   Study of El Nino is a relatively new science.   Our understanding of it began about 50 years ago as we began to collect better Ocean current and temperature data.  So how did El Nino events impact the climate in the dust bowl era?  Your guess is as good as mine!

Science is a guessing game.  Weather science is a big time guessing game.  And too many of the articles I have read assume Scientists are certain.  Doubters are the fools.  Carbon Dioxide is the culprit and  if we don’t keep it under under control, the world’s climate will  change dramatically.  And if we meet IPCC goals, everything will be just fine.

REALLY!?

How can we really know what is gong to happen to the world climate ecosystem in 50 or 100 or 500 years?   How can we guarantee a small change in a system that changes regularly regardless of what we do or do not do.

And people that have doubts are the bad guys?

I’m one of those guys.  I look at the science and I see lots of guessing.  Wild Ass Guessing.   I’m in favor of a cautious approach to greenhouse gas emissions. They might be bad.  Why take the risk.    But then again other things that Scientists aren’t paid to study are likely more important.  Global temperature changes don’t track particularly well to carbon dioxide levels.  It has been argued that carbon dioxide is a following rather than a leading indicator.

One thing is certain, we need to know more.   Lots more.   Something important is being missed or misunderstood.  I see a society that decided what the answer was in 1992 and UN Scientists and their many comrades have been trying to prove it ever since.

The level of confidence displayed by the scientists and the writers is wildly out of place with the science.  This specific science problem has many many variables.   Orbital variations, solar winds, sunspots and even the relative position of continents matter. Climate changes wildly without the assistance of man.  A change of 10 degrees C is common in a single 100,000 year long ice age cycle. It has been lots warmer and lots colder in the last 20,000 years. And in the climate game, 20,000 is a short time period.

It was warmer that it is today just 1000 years ago.  And skeptics are not stupid just because they have a contrary opinion or wonder what will happen when/if  it starts to get cold again.

Sometimes I think about a Mark Twain quotation or three.  All this has gone on before.

It’s not what we don’t know that gets us into trouble, it’s what we know for sure that just aint so.

and

Get your facts first, then you can distort them any way you please.

and finally

Facts are stubborn things, statistics are pliable.

It’s worth remembering that measuring the average temperature of the Earth is a difficult task full of guessing.  We have very few thermometers in the Southern Hemisphere (only 1 in Antarctica).  The Oceans that absorb heat better than land,  represent most of the Earth’s surface and are underrepresented in any current global climate temperature measurement.  Ocean probes drift with the currents and are not well distributed.  Adjustments are made to temperature measurements to compensate for these shortcomings. Global surface temperature is not a precisely known number.

Was 2015 the warmest ever? NO.  The warmest in the last 100 years?  Well maybe.  How about 100o years?  Unlikely.

Satellite data varies somewhat from surface data.  Satellite data says 2015 was a warm year and 2016 is starting out strong.  2016 might be just a bit warmer than 1998 (another El Nino year) but it might not (according to the Satellite data).  It’s a close call and the data on 2016 has a while to run.

Our collection of Satellite data began in the late 1970’s.  We know the world was warmer than average in the late 1930’s.  And our ability to measure temperature was less sophisticated then than it is today.  We have no idea what went on in Antarctica or in the Oceans back then.   We think it is warmer today than it was back then…but we are not certain.  We were guessing back then and we’re guessing today.

Have a nice day.

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Balmy weather in Alaska

Today, Thursday January 23rd was a noteworthy day for South-central Alaska.  It was 48 degrees F at my house in the Hillside area of Anchorage, and we had 7 hours of daylight.  The Sun is getting a bit higher in the sky and the extraordinarily flat light that is early January is beginning to fade.  On December 21st, we had only 5 hours, 27 minutes and 41 second of daylight.  Today we had 7 hours, 2 minutes and 31 seconds.  And the Sun is 4 degrees higher in the sky than it was just a month ago.

And that 4 degrees is a big change.  As we near the Winter Solstice, the Sun almost disappears, rising to about 5.5 degrees above the horizon.  Such is life at 61 degrees North Latitude.   On January 20th, we were all treated to a spectacular sunrise.   The sun rises at a flat angle, which allowed for viewing like this that lasted half an hour as the Sun struggled to come up above the Chugach Mountains:

We are having a Chinook, which means we have a warm wind blowing down from the mountains east of Anchorage.  The warm wind makes it’s quite a bit warmer near the mountains, and cooler down in the flat-lands.  Also,  there’s a funny bend in the Jet Stream causing most of the State to feel a warm wet Southerly flow of air.  The same bend is making it super cold in the Midwest.

The result. It’s almost 30 degrees F warmer than the average Anchorage January Day.  Yesterday, the Weather Channel, AP and ABC News  all ran the same Alaska  weather story.  Alaska was on average 2 degrees F warmer the lower 48 states.  Yep, the calculated average for the State of Alaska was 24 degrees F and the lower 48 US States were a whopping 22.

It was a fun story to read, but was it true?   Let me use today as an example.  Today my car thermometer said 37 degrees in a midtown parking lot.   I immediately drove the 10 miles to my house where the same thermometer said 48.  I have no idea what the temperature was 10 miles east of my house.  Nobody knows.   It’s in the middle of an uninhabited mountain range.   Alaska is a really big place with not very many weather stations.

Today my house was 10 degrees warmer than the official weather station.   In cold clear weather, I am 5 to 10 degrees cooler…and I’m only 10 miles away.  The trip from Anchorage to Barrow is 800 miles long and crosses two mountain ranges…including the tallest Mountain in North America.

Any single number temperature for the entire state at any given time must be a guess.  A Scientific Wild Ass Guess.   It has been a warm January.   No doubt about it.  One for the record books.  But, we really don’t know  how warm, exactly.  Nobody knows.  But we can give a pretty good educated guess….and it is just that, a guess!

Winter Temperature in Anchorage?

What is the temperature in Anchorage right now?  The official weather service reading in 28 degrees F as I write this Blog.  I live about 12 miles from the weather service office.  It’s 42 degrees F at my house.

A few minutes ago I drove from my house toward Service High School, a distance of about 4 miles.  The temperature varied  between 39 and 42 for the first 3.5 miles of the trip and then ….in the last half mile it dropped to 29 degrees F.

On the afternoon of December 26th I drove from my house to the sleepy ski town of Girdwood.  The 31 mile trip was witness to a similarly odd temperature swing.  I glanced at the thermometer as I left my house, it read 22 degrees F and it was cloudy.  By the time I got to Indian (about half way) it was 35 and raining.   Rain continued and the temperature slowly warmed to about 38 degrees F in Girdwood.   When I drove back to Anchorage 2 hours later… it was still 22 degrees at my house, and still cloudy.  The rain ended a bit north of Indian, and the temperature quickly dropped from 34 into the high 20’s.

Our official Anchorage temperature for December 26th…cloudy with a high of 28 and a low of 17.  No precipitation.

The next morning I drove friends to the Airport.  It was 35 and raining at my house and 22 and cloudy at the airport.   The weather had completely reversed at my house in only 14 hours.   The official weather service temperature is very near the airport.

Anchorage is a hard place to predict weather.   We have very few official weather sites nearby to use as a reference.  We have mountains to the east, ocean to the west and some variation in elevation.   When there is low pressure on one side of the mountains and relatively high pressure on the other side it gets windy and warm at higher elevations.  Shift the pressure gradient a bit and it gets windy at sea level.

When it’s calm, which is most of the time, it can be colder at altitude or warmer, depending on whether or not there is a temperature inversion.   Whenever it’s clear and cold….which happens a lot in winter, the temperature varies with location.    The NE corner of the city can get very cold…compared to where I live.

We in Alaska are used to the weather service being wrong.  We are used to wild temperature swings…and it doesn’t surprise us when the official temperature is nothing like our own experience.   So what’s the temperature in the middle of the Chugach Mountains 5 miles East of my house.   I don’t know.  Nobody knows.  Surface measurements are not available.  There’s nobody there.

Wild temperature variation and poor data sets help add perspective to the debate about climate.  I think  most Americans have too much trust in the statistics provided.  We in Alaska have a better appreciation of the difficult task at hand.   Yes the world is warmer than it was a while ago; but how much warmer?  Precise calculation is a difficult task, very difficult.

Alaska is not alone.  Canada and Siberia have relatively few data sets.  Many parts of the developing world are poorly represented.  The deep oceans that cover 70% of the earths surface are poorly represented too.  So……how warm is the world right now?

NOT an easy question to answer.

Milky Way and Andromeda to merge

I just finished a BBC article titled Hubble times galaxy pileup

In about 4 billion years the Milky Way will collide with our neighboring galaxy Andromeda. And 2 billion years later there will only be one galaxy.  Scientific study is a curious occupation.  Scientists are discussing events that will happen in 4 to 6 billion years.   The article is full of interesting information and this curiously amusing reassurance:

Our Sun’s position will be disturbed but the star and its planets are in little danger of being destroyed.

I suppose that is true….but in 4 billion years the sun will be a red giant, Mercury and Venus will have been consumed by the Sun and the Earth will be so close to the Sun that it will have no atmosphere and be unbearably hot.  But it won’t be damaged by the galaxy collision.   Go Earth.