Tag Archives: James Hansen

Old Predictions Make Prejudiced Scientists

On Monday, the Alaska Dispatch News reprinted a Washington Post story by Chris Mooney titled Renowned climate scientist projects rapid rise in sea level, more intense storms The article discusses a research study Dr. James Hansen and 16 of his associates are about to release.  That study predicts gloom and doom even if the UN is successful in controlling climate change. The study has yet to be peer reviewed but is given priority by the Washington Post because as the article states:

It’s an alarming picture of where the planet could be headed — and hard to ignore, given Hansen’s reputation.

Why is it hard to ignore?  Why is gloom and doom by Dr. Hansen news?  Dr. Hansen has been predicting gloom and doom since the 1980’s.  He has been predicting rapid temperature rises and sea level mass destruction since 1982.  His 1988 projections in front of Congress were wrong.  This graph from a Skeptical Science article defending Hansen shows three Hansen predictions.  Scenario A predicted changes with carbon dioxide near current levels: https://i1.wp.com/www.skepticalscience.com/pics/Hansen_1988.gif According to Dr. Hansen, we should be quite a bit warmer.  And I would argue that the black line drawn by Skeptical Science is a bit too aggressive.  Most temperature models show a rapid rise from the 1992 cooling following the  Mt. Pinatubo eruption, to the great El Nino of 1998.  Worldwide temperatures since 1998 have been largely unchanged.  The  Skeptical Science graph makes it look like there is a persistent uptrend that really stopped in 1998.

Climate research sites  UAH, and East Anglia University both show this.   As Skeptical Science said in the article, Dr. Hansen’s models had a too high climate sensitivity. English translation…his predictions were wrong.

Dr. Hansen is not alone, most early models at the IPCC were wildly high  in their predictions.  Climate models have had to be modified to reflect the lack of warming since 1998.   IPCC reports have been toning down the immediate impacts of carbon dioxide (and methane too), using natural climate variation as the reason.

They still think they are right, but natural climate variation appears to be masking the predicted results and their predictions  might take a long time to materialize.  Virtually every temperature based prediction made by the IPCC in the 2007 Climate Change Report was wrong.  The IPCC has now modified their positions to reflect this reality.   Not Dr. Hansen. Back in June of 1988, Dr Hansen is quoted in a New York Times article as saying the following to Congress:

that it was 99% certain that  the warming trend was not a natural variation but was caused by a build up of carbon dioxide and other artificial gasses in the atmosphere.

And in 2007 he had not changed his view one iota as these quotes courtesy of the Steve Goreham website demonstrate:

“…99 percent confiden t that the world really was getting warmer and that there was a high degree of probability that it was due to human-made greenhouse gases.”     —Dr. James Hansen on his 1988 Senate testimony, PBS Frontline, Apr. 24, 2007

Two years later he said:

“The climate is nearing tipping points. Changes are beginning to appear and there is a potential for explosive changes, effects that would be irreversible, if we do not rapidly slow fossil-fuel emissions over the next few decades.”     —Dr. James Hansen, The Observer, Feb. 15, 2009

“The greatest danger hanging over our children and grandchildren is initiation of changes that will be irreversible on any time scale that humans can imagine.”     —Dr. James Hansen, The Observer, Feb. 15, 2009

“Burning all the fossil fuels will destroy the planet we know, Creation, the planet of stable climate in which civilization developed.”     —Dr. James Hansen, letter to Barack and Michelle Obama, Dec. 29, 2008

Back in 1988, we knew much less than we do now and Dr. Hansen was 99% sure he was right.  How could anyone be that sure then or now?   Even the UN is only 90% sure that most warming seen since 1950 is man caused.  Some could be natural climate variation.  This is one extraordinarily difficult science discussion.  A rational person should have more doubt.

Now, Dr. Hansen believes even a modest rise in temperature of less than a degree C will be catastrophic.  I have doubts.  Dr. Hansen is so prejudiced in his view, I doubt he can produce a document that does not display his almost religious zeal on the subject.

Interestingly, the Washington Post decided to use Michael Mann as their independent scientist to discuss this controversial paper presented by Dr. Hansen. Mann would not have been my first choice.

Back in 1998, Dr. Mann produced a paper predicting rapid climate change.  It was the rage of the Climate Community for years. Al Gore used the Hockey Stick Graph as it was called in his film.  In 2005 the study was successfully challenged by Canadian mathematicians.  Dr. Mann has been at the center of a climate fire storm for some 10 years now.

Hansen and Mann share a common problem.  Both made wild predictions in the distant past and must either defend them or admit mistakes.  Neither has been willing to admit errors, and errors were made. Some times I don’t understand journalistic choices.  I cannot think of any duo more shrouded in controversy in Climate Science than Dr. Hansen and Dr. Mann.

All this begs a question – Why did Mr. Mooney give Dr. Hansen such stature and why did he use Dr. Mann as a source confirming the story?

Mt. Tambora – A Mann Hockey Stick Problem

Whenever I look at the Mann Hockey Stick reconstruction of past climate I am ever awestruck by the small amount of temperature change depicted during the first 900 years of the chart.  It just doesn’t seem possible.  Very nearly no climate variation for hundreds of years, and then presto, lots of variation.

I often wonder what the powers that be at the UN must have been thinking in 2002 when they made the Mann Hockey Stick Graph the new climate standard.  A new, untested theory with multiple indications of probable sloppy mathematics; science is not supposed to work that way.  It is still around, and still defended vigorously by many in the climate community.

Here is a copy of an image of the 1000 year Mann graph I pulled from a Skeptical Science web  post defending  Mann’s work:

Climate variation shown before 1950 is, according to the IPCC, mostly natural climate variation. The increase in variation started at about the same time direct measurement replaced indirect measurement.   This chart begins using direct measurement in 1902.  Interesting….and odd too.

The UK’s East Anglia Climate Research Unit (CRU) has direct measurement data that begins in 1860.  NOAA data dates back to 1880. Why start in 1902?   And when does the data begin to look like a hockey stick?  Hmmm…1900…enough said.

Zoom in on 1815 if you can.  A very small decrease in temperature that had been trending downward since about 1775, stops in about 1830.   The net change for the entire period was only a bit over -0.1 degree C.  Something is wrong.  This should be a time of spectacular natural change.  The very small, nearly no change shown makes no sense. Why?  Mt. Tambora.

Mt. Tambora is a 9354 ft. mountain in Indonesia.    It used to be over 14,000 feet tall.  One day in April of 1815, the top 5000 feet went away.  Imagine if you can, an eruption 150 times larger than the Mount St. Helens eruption of May 18,1980.  Tambora is  the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history.   The eruption has been estimated to be 10 times the size of the Mt. Pinatubo eruption of 1991.  Mt. Pinatubo has been credited with cooling  the world’s weather by about 0.5 degree C for 2 years.

Tambora was and still is a big deal.   1815 has been called the year without a summer because the air pollution from the eruption made the world a darker and colder place. Five degrees F. colder or so says a USA Today article. The winter of 1815-16 was a spectacularly cold one all over the world.

An eruption that big should have caused a significant temporary change in the world climate that would have lasted for several years, perhaps longer.   Look at the Mann Chart.  Nothing.   Where did the Mt. Tambora impact go?

Skeptical Science provided the following temperature reconstruction as a defense of the Mann work on their web site.  The two studies supposedly confirm each other.  The new study has an advantage over the Mann work in that it covers a shorter period of time making it easier to read:

Where is the -3 degree C blip in 1815?   Nothing, Nada, Zip?  Whaaaaat? A smaller but significant eruption in 1883, Krakatoa, is not visible either.   Another significant eruption, at Huaynaputina, in 1600 fails to make the chart.   Too small to be detected I suppose.  Changes in the 20th century are here, there and everywhere.  This inconsistency  has never made sense to me.

The Mann reconstruction is a Northern Hemisphere reconstruction of a 1000 year period.   At it’s beginning settlers in Greenland grew hay and their diet was 80% farm animal based including cattle.  Yep cattle in Greenland.   400 years later, most settlers were gone.  The survivors ate primarily whatever they could harvest from the sea.  And all the while the world only cooled 0.1 degree C?  I don’t think so.

20th century warming  7 or 8 times that much?

Most warming before 1950, and some warming since 1950 is presumed to be natural climate variation. No natural climate variation for centuries and then magically lots!?  AND it coincided with a change in the data source.  Come on guys.  Get REAL.

I don’t doubt that the world has warmed, but I do believe that all the data before 1902 in the Mann reconstruction is a guess….a wild ass guess.   Mann has claimed the entire Medieval Warming Period was a regional event or so he is cited in a Scientific American article published in 2005.   I don’t buy it.    Greenland was warm for hundreds of years.   Records all over Northern Europe support the notion that the warmer weather was widespread and lasted for hundreds of years.

Before the Mann study it was widely believed that the Medieval Warming Period was warmer than Mann claims.   Simple charts were included in UN studies as  this one that was featured in the first study published by the IPCC in 1992..


The Third Assessment of Climate (TAR), published by the IPCC in 2002 featured a new world order, the Mann chart.  Magically, the Medieval Warming Period disappeared.

Now consider this.

The scale for measuring volcanoes is called the Volcanic Explosivity Index.  It goes up to 8.  Mt. St. Helen’s was a 5, Mt. Pinatubo, Huaynaputina and Krakatoa were in category 6.  Mt. Tambora was a 7.  The average 7 is 100 times larger than the average 5.

Some 26,500 years ago a big chunk of New Zealand went away in the world’s most recent category 8 eruption at Taupo Volcano.  A category 8 eruption is on average 10 times larger than a category 7.  Imagine what that must have done to the ecosystem.  Now there’s a tipping point, Nature’s tipping point.

This happened during an ice age cold spell.  Wow.

Now consider this.

Taupo was a boringly average category 8.   75,000 years ago, plus or minus 5000 years, the Indonesian area blessed us with Toba, the largest category 8 known to man.  This beast was the equivalent of 3 Taupo’s and is suspected of starting a 1,000 year cooling period.

I’ll bet you right now that science will discover more significant volcanic activity.  Some of that activity will have global climate implications.   Who knows how many more will be discovered that have the ability to impact climate as we look back in time?

Climate Science – A data plucking epidemic

Cherry picked data and wild ass guessing  are everywhere in climate science discussions.   I just spent three posts discussing a new gloom and doom article by James Hansen and 17 other scientists.   The whole article is chock full of cherry picked data and wild guesses.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in the starting assumption, namely that the world temperature has risen 1 degree C in the 20th century.   Well that’s not strictly true.  Here is the East Anglia University Climate Research Unit(CRU) Chart from 2009:


The NOAA  data looks similair but a bit different.  The NOAA data is best viewed by looking at their web site.  The NOAA data is interactive.  One can place a curser on any year and get a specific reading for that year.   The year 1900 was -0.1 degree C and 2000 was +0.4.  The years around 1910 were -0.4 which would have been provided a +0.8 net total for the time period.   The only way you get a 1 degree C reading is to stop in 1998 (a strong El Nino year).

And the data keeps changing all the time.   Here is the 2012 East Anglia data.

Notice how 1998 is now cooler and 2010 is the new hottest ever!

Suppose I wanted to support the argument that the climate hasn’t changed much in the last 130 years.  I could start with 1879, a +0.1 degree C year according to NOAA…and end my data in ….well lets look at some Satellite data and cherry pick our best number:


Let’s pick 2008.

The satellite is using a slightly higher temperature as their zero point which means there is some warming, but probably less than +0.2 degree C. in that specific period from 1879 to 2008.     So how much warming did we have?   And how much is natural climate variation and how much is man caused?  I don’t know and neither does Dr. Hansen.

World temperature is a guess that does not stay constant.   In 2006, a skeptic noticed that the NASA climate data was flawed.   They had used raw rather than corrected data for most of North America in their models and they had been doing it since the year 2000.  NASA corrected their mistake and suddenly 1939 got lots warmer relative to 1998 and 2005.   1939 no longer makes even the top ten.  Between 2006 and 2013…1939 got colder!?  And so did 1998.

World temperature is a SWAG number.  There are two mains reasons I am comfortable saying that.  Oceans and test site irregularities.

70% of the world is ocean.  Before 1979 we had almost no data.  Ships at sea provided temperatures.  These temperatures have been accumulating for a long time, but standards have existed only since the 1950’s.  When should a temperature be taken, how often should it be taken, and at what point on the hull?

Ocean temperature outside shipping lanes began with satellite data in 1979.   And Satellite data measures the air near the surface, not the sea temperature.  Buoys began being used in the 1980’s which provided better data.  But buoys drift and most are near land.  So what was the temperature of the Pacific Ocean near Antarctica in 1879?   What is it right now?  AND how much has it changed between 1879 and 1979?

Test sites are impacted by their environment.   As the environment becomes more urban, the temperature at the site rises.   There are literally thousands of sites that must be adjusted.  A paved road and/or new mechanical equipment nearby have the ability to impact calculations.   Cities are warmer than the countryside nearby.  When a site does not provide data, and that does happen, the data must be surmised is some way.   SWAG is rampant.

Here is a piece of information provided by a skeptic demonstrating the difference between raw and corrected data for New Zealand. .  First the unadjusted data:


And now the adjusted data:


I have absolutely no idea as to whether the adjustments are right or wrong.  I do know this though….they tell a different story.

When I am told storms are becoming more frequent and more extreme, I tend to question the source.  The world is a spectacularly changeable place.  Here are a few simple examples that come to mind.

  • Settlements in Greenland a thousand years ago.
  • Villages high in the Alps that have shown up after recent melting.
  • A Sahara that has gone from sand to lush vegetation and back again to sand in the last 5000 years.
  • Starvation of the Mayans due to severe and prolonged drought less than 1500 year ago.
  • The dust bowl of the 1930’s (at the end of another prolonged warm spell).
  • Krakatoa volcano eruption of 1883. And throw in the 1815 Mt. Tambora eruption.  Krakatoa is assumed to have lowered the world’s temperature for 5 years.  The year following the Mt. Tambora eruption is know around the world as the year without a summer.
  • Parts of New York State were under 5000 feet of ice just 20,000 years ago.

Whenever I hear a climate hawk talk about gloom and doom and a climate tipping point, I think about Super Volcanoes.    Ahhh.   More on that next time.

Dr. Hansen’s Dream World – Part 3

This post is the third of 3 dealing with an article published on December 3rd by Dr. Hansen and 17 other scientists.  The article’s basic argument is that carbon dioxide is creating an energy imbalance.   They attempt to measure the energy imbalance, and make predictions about the future.

The article is refreshing in that it finally addresses many of my objections about the IPCC.  It actually discusses other possible drivers for climate change and tries to provide a compelling argument for why these other drivers of climate are not important.   I am less confident than I was before reading the article, but I still have doubts, many doubts.

Dr. Hansen made up his mind about the importance of carbon dioxide before most of the research used was performed.   He has been an advocate for a really long time.   And many of his arguments use data with very short histories.   The data displayed about the sun only goes back 40 years.


I want to see what happened during the last cooling cycle from 1940 to 1976.   Information that went back to the beginning of the Little Ice Age would be even better.

The Energy Imbalance discussion uses data from buoys.  The changing amount of energy stored by the oceans is used as an indicator that the world is accumulating energy.  That it is out of balance.  Virtually all of the data used in the calculation is less than 10 years old.   It is more a snapshot in time rather than a trend established over a long period of time.

And I worry about the data set.   There are about 4,000 buoys spread out around the globe.  They drift with the currents and too many are near land.  Many of the buoys have only been available since 2005.   The data is so new and so important to his conclusions that I suspect lots of wild guessing.

The article also dismisses all the short term temperature predictions in past IPCC reports.  It uses the oceans and the large ice masses near the poles as reasons why the horrible changes predicted have been late.   This effectively eliminates one of my main complaints about the IPCC….stupid short term predictions.

And they bravely encourage widespread use of Nuclear Power.   I think Nuclear power is a necessary part of any green answer.  Unfortunately with the exception of China, the world is walking away from nukes.

The article paints a bleak picture of the world unless we make the following changes to the way we generate energy.

  1. The article advocated carbon trading on a worldwide scale.
  2. They advocated widespread use of wind and solar.
  3. They advocated widespread use of Nuclear to replace both coal and natural gas generation.

Carbon trading requires all the countries of the world to agree.   That is unlikely to happen.  Without a worldwide agreement, carbon trading only works for the countries that don’t join.   Today, China and the USA have a huge trading advantage when trading with the EU because they don’t have to worry about carbon taxes.

Wind and solar will continue to be developed, but they have limitations due to Mother Nature.  If and when a better battery is developed,  their use can expand.  Until then, their use will be limited.

Germany has so much solar that their power grid is developing reliability issues when solar is not available.    Germany’s ability to manufacture goods may be impacted.   Germany’s 21st century solution, a brand new coal fired power plant!

The world has changed a lot since 2006 when Al Gore won a Nobel Prize for his political commercial masquerading as a documentary film.   Dr. Hansen and his cohorts barely got any press for their latest bit of gloom and doom.  The world has passed them by.  Why?

They have been gloomy for a long time. Doom failed to arrive on schedule.   Throw in climate-gate and the Mann Hockey Stick debate; the group has lost some credibility.  How did they get into this position?

I think it starts with their mind set.  Dr. James Hansen and his comrades live in a political dream world.  Why do I say they live in a dream world?  Let me count the ways:

  1. They think the science is so compelling that there is no other plausible view.  When Dr. Hansen and 17 other scientists wrote the article I am critiquing, they declared there were no competing interests.  The world does not have unlimited funds.  Every dollar spent on global warming is not spent on something else.  Things like world overpopulation, starvation in Africa,  AIDS, Cancer, over fishing the oceans, and safe drinking water all have the potential to be competing interests.
  2. This group lives on government funds.  Every other need of the government is a competing interest.
  3. Competing interests go beyond government money.  Jobs are at stake in the coal industry.   Wind turbines kill birds, including some endangered species.  People dislike the appearance of wind mills in pristine areas.   Solar panels take up lots of space and must be imported, impacting trade.   Nuclear, well it’s Nuclear, need we say more.
  4. The carbon dioxide is evil climate group has made many mistakes.  These mistakes have given the skeptical community reason to doubt their results.  They have been caught cooking data (Climate-gate), adopting questionable scientific theories (The Mann Hockey Stick Graph) and their short term predictions have been wrong.  Horribly wrong.
  5. They have been too secretive and too vague.  They have argued against sharing data with skeptics.  If the data is good, they should be doing exactly the opposite.  In 2005, the Scientific American  wrote an article defending this use of secrecy shortly after the Mann Hockey Stick data began to be attacked by skeptics.   The Scientific American defended Dr. Mann aggressively.  Interestingly, Dr. Hansen in his new article, appears to argue that the specific temperature conclusions in the Mann Hockey Stick Graph were wrong.
  6. The politics has turned against them.  A worldwide recession, cheaper and more plentiful fossil fuels, and the Fukashima Nuclear Disaster have changed the political landscape.   Global warming advocates are failing because people fear Nuclear Power.  Germany and Japan are abandoning their Nukes, only China seems willing to build new Nuclear plants.
  7. Long ago they made one very large mistake, they let a politician become point man for the cause, Al Gore.   Mr. Gore is driven by political realities.  He will never advocate Nuclear Power.   Green energy without Nuclear energy does not work.  It will not work until a cheap way to store electrical energy is developed.    The green community has been advocating a solution that does not work.  This is now becoming obvious.
  8. They expect the United Nations to be an effective force.   This expectation never made sense.   Much is made of the original Kyoto Treaty.   A treaty that did not work.  Carbon emissions soared during it’s implementation period. Kyoto created too many winners and losers.   Russia got special treatment.  India and China got a free ride.   It was politically unacceptable in the USA.
  9. China has become significant politically.   Any solution must involve China.  In a few years  China will produce a third of the world’s anthropogenic carbon dioxide. The 2009 Copenhagen attempt at a new treaty failed in large part because there was no way for the world community to get China to do what they felt needed to be done.  Absent political concessions in China, the USA will never come on board.   The two largest economies in the world must be a part of any real agreement.
  10. Stop living in the past.   Dr. Hansen has been an advocate of counting all the pollution a country has produced since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution when dictating what each country is obligated to do to stop warming.   I personally don’t buy the argument scientifically, but that’s beside the point.  This approach has effectively given China a pass.  It provides them with an excuse not to cooperate.
  11. Global warming hawks need to learn how to compromise.   Natural gas is a cleaner burning fuel than coal.  While it is not as good as Nuclear as a base load fuel, from a carbon dioxide perspective, it is much better than coal.   No new plants are currently under construction.   Decades will pas before any new Nuclear plants come on line in the USA. And old plants are being retired as we speak. Dr. Hansen and his cohorts should be adopting natural gas as a lesser of two evils while they wait for technology to provide a better choice in the short run.

I would be more convinced by the arguments in Dr. Hansen’s article if Dr. Hansen hadn’t made his mind up about global climate change in the 1980’s.   15 years ago doom was coming and coming soon.   His article still says it’s coming, but it could be delayed by centuries.   It is a better argument than the immediate gloom arguments of 15 years ago. Unfortunately for him, politicians usually don’t respond to problems in the indefinite future.

And still  I wonder.   Is Dr. Hansen right now….or is he just selectively looking at data to defend a position he has held for 30 years?   Only time will tell….lots of time.

Dr. Hansen’s Dream World — part 2

It’s time to beat up on Dr. Hansen some more.  My last post only dealt with the introduction of  a new article published by Dr. Hansen and 17 other authors“Dangerous Climate Change”: Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations and Nature is the less than catchy title. This post deals with the first section of the body of the article, the section that deals with temperature.

Oh! First a sidebar…NASA (Dr. Hansen’s employer) Climate Research Funding  and Columbia University funding helped pay for the project.   I don’t mind NASA funding research, but I’d rather have them not use their own employees….it feels like we (the people of the United States) are paying them twice.

In part 1 of this discussion I mentioned that Dr. Hansen had been somewhat cavalier with his data selection.   I accused him of using regional data, and of cherry picking data.  But Dr. Hansen does so much more.  He uses old data, he misrepresents data and uses his own work as a resource.

He does all that within the first major section of the article, which is called Global Temperature and Earth’s Energy Balance.   In a subsection titled Temperature, he begins by showing temperature graphs.  The following graphs are displayed:


I find those charts difficult to read and I think they misrepresent the recent past.  Here are three other charts that better tell the story.   First is the East Anglia University chart that was prepared in 2010:


The total amount of temperature variation shown is less on the East Anglia chart than on the charts provided in the article.  A lot less.  Dr. Hansen has a rationale for using only average data, but I don’t like the choice.  The 13 year average data masks all recent data and makes details much more difficult to interpret.   It in effect spreads the El Nino data out for a long period of time.

I like the older (pre 2013) East Anglia charts.  The University changed something in 2013 that made 1998 look cooler relative to the rest of the chart.  I suspect data fudging and prefer the older charts.

Next is a 45 year chart I used in my last post.  It shows East Anglia data, and  2 satellite sets of data:


and finally the current UAH chart:


I like the UAH data best.  It is the most current and the most detailed.   I am fascinated by the changes in data from month to month.  The data Dr.Hansen chose makes it look like there is a steady march upward with a small pause at the end of the chart; the other charts tell a different, less ominous sounding story.

In the text that appears with the graphs, Dr. Hansen tells his story complete with multiple cites, including one to an article by an expert.   Yep, he cites himself.  He does that on 3 different occasions within the first two sub-section of the article.

A little further into the piece we get this statement:

The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets began to shed ice at a rate, now several hundred cubic kilometers per year, which is continuing to accelerate.

An article by Edward. Hanna et al. is cited as the source material for the statement.   The article was published in Nature in June of 2013 and the article has this to say about Antarctica:

It remains unclear whether East Antarctica has been gaining or losing ice mass over the past 20 years, and uncertainties in ice-mass change for West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula remain large.

Parts of Antarctica are losing ice, other parts are not.  And there is lots of uncertainty. Surface ice adjacent to Antarctica is at record high levels according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.


I am sure that if the world warms, ice will melt.  If enough melts it could become a serious problem. But Dr. Hansen overreached in this area.

The next sentence of the report (after the Greenland stuff) is as follows:

Mountain glaciers are receding rapidly all around the world  with effects on seasonal freshwater availability of major river.

Dr. Hansen provided two cite references for the Mountain glacier section.  Both were published in 2007.  That’s really old data in this field.  Recent studies blame some of the melting  not on carbon dioxide, but on particulate matter.   Air pollution turns the snow a slightly grey color, which causes it to melt faster.  It’s still a man caused problem, but the solution to the problem is to clean the air, not to eliminate carbon dioxide.

Oh…carbon black impacts melting in Greenland and the Arctic too.

The first of two cites supporting his argument for rapid melting referenced an article about the Andes; a part of the world that has not experienced significant warming.  The second site was the 2007 IPCC  Climate Change Report.   I was surprised to see this cite.  This part of the IPCC report is famous…or should I say infamous.  The Guardian ran a story on it in 2010.   The Guardian reported the following:

The UN’s climate science body has admitted that a claim made in its 2007 report – that Himalayan glaciers could melt away by 2035 – was unfounded.

The admission today followed a New Scientist article last week that revealed the source of the claim made in the 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was not peer-reviewed scientific literature – but a media interview with a scientist conducted in 1999. Several senior scientists have now said the claim was unrealistic and that the large Himalayan glaciers could not melt in a few decades.

In a statement, the IPCC said the paragraph “refers to poorly substantiated estimates of rate of recession and date for the disappearance of Himalayan glaciers. In drafting the paragraph in question, the clear and well-established standards of evidence, required by the IPCC procedures, were not applied properly.”

So, in 2010, the IPCC admitted the cite referenced by Dr. Hansen was flawed.  And his other cite was both regional and at an odd location.

The IPCC makes several statements  in their 2007 Synopses report.  Two are applicable here.  1) Warming has been regional  with most warming occurring over land in the Northern Hemisphere and 2) climate on a less than continental scale is subject to wild swings which makes it difficult to predict.

In finishing up the temperature section of the paper,  the article discusses the changes seen in the world. We are told the following:

Mega-heatwaves, such as those in Europe in 2003, the Moscow area in 2010, Texas and Oklahoma in 2011, Greenland in 2012, and Australia in 2013 have become more widespread with the increase demonstrably linked to global warming

The world is a big place.  I can make any argument I want to by picking my location.  If I want to sound alarmist about tropical storms, I can discuss the disastrous impacts of the Typhoon that destroyed so much of the Philippines.  If I want to sound calming, I can discuss the record low number of hurricanes  in the Atlantic during the same period.

Both events happened.  Both are regional.  And both happened in a part of the world that has not warmed significantly in the last 30 years.

The article provides two cites for the statement saying these items are demonstrably linked to global warming.  One cite provides a statistical argument for extreme weather whenever there is any warming or cooling.  It is in effect an argument that says extremes will appear whenever the average weather changes.   Climate has not been changing recently, so Dr. Hansen’s conclusion seems to be unsupported by the cite. The second site deals with one event, the 2013 drought in Australia.  No link was provided to that reference.

In Part 3, I’ll look at Dr. Hansen’s evaluations as to why climate politics has stalled and what needs to be done.  Stay tuned.

Dr. Hansen’s Dream World – Part 1

James Hansen, world famous global warming hawk and perennial doom speaker extraordinaire, has just published a new paper titled Assessing “Dangerous Climate Change”: Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations and Nature.

The article uses lots of short term data, cherry picks that data, draws worldwide conclusions from regional data, and makes ridiculous assumptions.   Opinion wanders willy nilly throughout the article.

I am ever amazed at what gets passed off as scientific research in the environmental community.  The article looks more like a legal brief than a scientific document.   Lawyers are paid to represent a client, science isn’t supposed to work that way.

Where to begin? Let’s start at the beginning.  The first paragraph of the introduction says the following:

Humans are now the main cause of changes of Earth’s atmospheric composition and thus the drive for future climate change

Humans are changing the climate, but are they the main cause and is that change the drive for future climate change?   I don’t think so.  Greenhouse gases, air pollution, carbon black, solar winds, gamma rays, volcanoes, hot spots in the sea floor, aerosols and variations in the Earth’s orbit all play a part.  Dr. Hansen’s preoccupation with man caused carbon dioxide is a gross oversimplification.

This article sites the 2007 IPCC report as their reference for the statement.  The IPCC report says they are 90% certain that man is responsible for more than 50% of the changes seen in worldwide  climate since 1950.  Changes before 1950 are considered normal climate variation.

Many of the predictions made in that 2007 IPCC document  have proven to be wrong.   Their specific short term temperature predictions have, so far at least, been way off the mark.   I have been wondering how the global warming community would try to tiptoe around that fact.  This article offers a glimpse into this new reality of global warming climate predictions with the following statement:

The climate response to this forcing and society’s response to climate change are complicated by the system’s inertia, mainly due to the ocean and the ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica together with the long residence time of fossil fuel carbon in the climate system. The inertia causes climate to appear to respond slowly to this human-made forcing, but further long-lasting responses can be locked in.

Okay, I suppose.   Society’s response is an odd addition to the statement.

In 2007 the IPCC said warming was already locked in, now it’s still locked in….but the actual warming might not show up for a while….how convenient.    IPCC reports since 1990 have insisted that warming since 1976 has proven their case.  As soon as that warming wanes a bit, short term data no longer matters.

Lots of controversy in the very first paragraph of the introduction.   Wow.   I’d better move on or I’ll never finish this post.

The introduction continues with a few paragraphs describing  IPCC history, followed by a few paragraphs about energy use.  Near the end of the introduction, the article begins advocating for a serious reduction in total anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions  with the following statement:

Our evaluation of a fossil fuel emissions limit is not based on climate models but rather on observational evidence of global climate change as a function of global temperature and on the fact that climate stabilization requires long-term planetary energy balance. We use measured global temperature and Earth’s measured energy imbalance to determine the atmospheric CO2 level required to stabilize climate at today’s global temperature

This paper does not use computer models, it simply looks at lots of regional data (cherry picked regional data) and draws conclusions based on those observations.  Correlations are presumed.  Many many identified events are presumed to be the direct result of a 1 degree C change in climate.   Factoids that do not support the position are simply ignored.

This study starts with three assumptions; 1)man is responsible for the energy imbalance they see, 2) if we severely reduce anthropogenic greenhouse gases,  an energy balance can be restored, and 3) climate stability will be achieved.

I think all three assumptions are likely wrong!  Man probably deserves some credit for recent warming, but not sole credit.   Remove all man caused effects and climate still changes.   The notion that any specific level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can all by itself stabilize climate at any specific temperature is… well…it’s just extra special stupid.   And it’s the base premise of this entire article!

Why would anyone ever assume climate in the world can be stabilized at any specific temperature?  We live in an ice age cycle.   It has been lots warmer than it is today and lots colder as this Antarctic ice core demonstrates:


Temperature varies by about 11 degrees C in the average ice age cycle.   The warm periods tend to be short, the cold periods tend to be long.   We live in the Holocene, an 11,000 year period of unusually stable warm temperatures.   Ice ages are presumed to be caused by the location of the continents and variations in solar irradiance due in part to variations in the Earth’s orbit.

The goal of the article is to keep temperatures at or below the temperature experienced in 1990, which is about 1 degree C higher than it was in 1750.   This  is an  unrealistic and unachievable goal.  Temperature is not now and has never been that stable.  Just look at the movement we have witnessed in  the last 45 years:


The late 1970’s were more than a degree cooler than it was in 1998.  1998 was a strong El Nino year.  In June of 1991, Mt. Pinatubo erupted, changing the climate for over a year and causing a decline of almost 1 degree C.    Just imagine what would happen if a volcano 5 or 10 times bigger than Mt. Pinatubo erupted.   We’d all be wishing for a warmer world.

If we did exactly as Dr. Hansen recommends, would the world magically become stable climatically? I don’t think so. It might be a bit cooler, but stability is an unachievable goal.

Surprisingly, there has been nearly no net change in climate since 1987.   In 1987 we were .2 degree C above the base line and in late 2013 we are still about .2 degree C above the base line.  Temperatures have the ability to warm and cool rather dramatically all by themselves and yet, these past 25 years have been boringly stable.

And that is a political problem for Dr. Hansen and the IPCC.

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.

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.

Carbon Dioxide — How much is too much?

My last post differentiated between air pollution and carbon dioxide.  It finished by posing a question.  If some carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is good,  when is there so much carbon dioxide that it becomes bad?

Climate activists answer this question unequivocally and with a confidence that confuses me .   There are so many variables and too many unknowns.  Confident, well paid scientists seem to be everywhere.

  • The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) states in their latest Synopses Report that they are 90% certain most warming since 1950 is man caused.
  • Climate activist James Hansen has said we must return to the 1990 level of carbon dioxide or we are all doomed.
  • Global Climate Project executive director  Josep Canadel sounded concern in a recent NY Times article.  He was worried — a goal of 2 degree C rise in temperature might not be attainable even with an immediate, large and sustained global mitigation effort.

Where they see clarity, I see problems, lots of problems.

Problem number 1 — temperature moves around a lot.

This is one of my favorite themes.   Past posts have used 4 different temperature graphs to demonstrate the variability.  I’d like to start by revisiting those graphs. The most accurate information is the newest and my favorite new data is satellite based.

In 1992 the IPCC said we’d be going up at .3 degree C per decade and that we’d be a degree C warmer by 2020 (using 1990 as a base year).  Well they were right until 1998.  In 2007 they altered their estimate to .2 degree C.   I wonder what they will say in 2014 in their next report.

Next we’ll add some UK data from East Anglia University. The data goes back to 1850;

Now for the Holocene chart from my last post:

And finally the Vostok Antarctic Ice Core that goes back 400,000 years:

The last 10,000 years look pretty harmless in the Vostok core.  One reason I am a skeptic — the correlation between carbon dioxide and temperature is flawed. It is easy to see in  Antarctic Ice Core graphs.  Sure, the charts (carbon dioxide and temperature) have the same shape generally, but there are lots of places where temperature and carbon dioxide diverge.

It looks to me like temperature leads…and carbon dioxide follows.  Temperature changes first, followed by a change in carbon dioxide.   Climate scientists insist the correlation is the other way around.

As any good scientist will tell you…a correlation proves nothing.  The correlation provides a starting point.  An experiment to confirm or deny the assertion assumed in the correlation is the next step in the process.

The earth is very difficult to study,  there are no spare Earths handy.  A proxy is needed, and the proxy used is computer modeling.  I don’t trust this type of science.  I miss the experimentation.  Climate scientists make assumptions, generate computer models, and use the output of the model to verify their assumptions.   Can you say SWAG.

Problem number 2 — We don’t know enough

The IPCC admits to not knowing lots of stuff.  A chart of Radiative Forcing  Components on page 39 of the 2007 Synopses shows  a low LOSU (level of scientific understanding) about several items that they admit could be important.

  • land use
  • carbon black
  • aerosols
  • the sun

In other areas of the text they acknowledge shortcomings in other important areas including

  • clouds
  • deep ocean currents

What do you do when you don’t know….you guess  or you leave it out of the model.  If you leave it out, it better not be important.  Lots of models are run with different guesses.  SWAG and WAG are here, there, everywhere!

Problem number 3 — Model results are inconsistent.

Table 3.1 on page 45 of the 2007 Synopses has the following data.  The Synopses uses Scenarios.  Each Scenario has an assumed carbon dioxide production profile that is described earlier in the same chapter of the document.  The chart is predicting temperatures that are expected at some time between 2090 and 2100.   The likely range includes 90% of the models.  Another 10% lie outside the stated likely range.

Scenario                      Best Estimate           Likely Range

B1 Scenario                  1.8 degree C               1.1 to 2.9
A1T Scenario              2.4 degree C               1.4 to 3.8
B2 Scenario                 2.4 degree C               1.4 to 3.8
A1B Scenario              2.8 degree C               1.7 to 4.4
A2 Scenario                3.4 degree C                2.0 to 5.4
A1F1 Scenario           4.0 degree C                2.4 to 6.4

The first three scenarios are unlikely (my opinion, the  Synopses states that no attempt has been made to quantify any of the scenarios). The assumptions built into the scenarios do not match the real world.   I’d guess we will actually end up somewhere in between the A1B and the A2 Scenarios.

The range of values is actually a bit less precise than this chart would indicate.  The predictions were made in 2007 but the base line they are adjusting from is the average value during the period from 1980 to 1999.   The world was warming steadily for that period, so all the numbers are inflated by about .2 degree C.  The temperature in 2000 was .2 degree C above their baseline.

Models that  agree are varying by anywhere from 2.7 to 3.4 degrees C only 90 years into the future.  10% of the model runs show even bigger changes.  That’s a lot of variation.  I guess I’m a bit pickier than the IPCC.  I think variation in model output makes the Climate prediction performed by the IPCC statistically unsupportable.

The IPCC must disagree.

The best estimate data point is then used by the IPCC in models that are then extrapolated centuries further into the future (table 5.1 page 67 of the 2007 Synopses).    Table 5.1 predicts very specific temperatures  hundreds of years into the future.  That’s one sloppy WAG.

What probability did the IPCC attach the their  best estimate?  Beats me. There’s no information provided.   The best estimate is probably the mean of a bell shaped curve of a relatively small data set, but that’s just a guess on my part.

I’d be the first to admit that carbon dioxide probably has warmed the planet…but quantifying that is an extraordinarily difficult task.  The IPCC likes to make it sound like they know the answer, but they don’t.  Nobody knows.

David Brooks blames Al Gore incorrectly

I just finished reading an editorial in our local paper written by New York Times columnist David Brooks.   Green tech has gone grey with bad investments and resurgent oil and gas supplies is an interesting article chock full of tidbits about the politics of climate change.  It’s worth a read.

I knew Al Gore got rich touting green energy, but $100 million dollars rich, wow!   Companies Al Gore has been associated with have garnered $2.5 billion dollars in federal subsidies, more wow.   I knew Mr. Gore did well financially, but I really had no idea how well.

The article recognizes the polarizing impact Al Gore has had on the debate, but the opinion piece gives him too much credit.   Sure Al makes lots and lots of mistakes that give his opponents cover, but he has not acted alone.    He has had help, and lot’s of it…..from the global warming is bad and it’s mans fault science community.

Al Gore did turn me into a skeptic, but not because he is polarizing politically, but because he is a bad spokesman scientifically.    Before An Inconvenient Truth, I was a casual believer.   As I watched the film I became more skeptical.    The film was cute, clever, emotional and entertaining…..and a mess scientifically.

I checked out the IPCC reports, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and James Hansen.  I watched videos critical of climate science and read article after article on the internet.    The more I read the clearer it became….this is an extremely complex scientific problem with many many interdependent variables and lots of unknowns.    My opinion became what it is today…..the science does not support any position at this time.   SWAG and WAG are everywhere.

The IPCC basically takes 150 years of weather….and uses that data to predict climate centuries into the future.   I’m sorry, wild extrapolation about the weather is not an exact science.  Sure it’s warmer and man may play a part….but it’s impossible to accurately predict what that part could or should be  until we know a lot more about the sun, clouds, aerosols, soot, climate cycles and the oceans.

Sure Al Gore got me hooked with his film…but the bad science kept me going.   If Mr. Gore had simply done a bad job of presenting the science…I would still be a believer.    I am a skeptic today because of the bad science….not because Al Gore is a bad spokesman.