Comments On An NSF Webcast On “Will Clouds – The Wild Card of Climate Change – Speed Or Slow Warming?” By David A. Randall

There is a webcast Thursday October 28 2010 titled “NSF Webcast for  Reporters: Will Clouds–the Wild Card of Climate – Speed Or Slow Warming?” by David Randall of Colorado State University (h/t to Joe D’Aleo). Randall was one of the two convening lead authors of Chapter 8 on Climate Models and their Evaluation in the 2007 IPCC report, and has been selected as one of the two convening lead authors of Chapter 7 on Clouds and Aerosols for the next IPCC assessment.

I raise two issues in this post with respect to this webcast.

1.  Clouds are not the only “wild card” as implied by the title of his talk.  For example, Chapter 8 of the 2007 IPCC report, which Randall was one of the two convening lead authors, was not a balanced  assessment of climate models. As I wrote in

Pielke, R.A. Sr., 2008: A Broader View of the Role of Humans in the Climate System is Required In the Assessment of Costs and Benefits of Effective Climate Policy. Written Testimony for the Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality of the Committee on Energy and Commerce Hearing “Climate Change: Costs of Inaction” – Honorable Rick Boucher, Chairman. June 26, 2008, Washington, DC., 52 pp.

Chapter 8 of the IPCC Report is …. poorly written on this subject where while they write

“Evaluation of the land surface component in coupled models is severely limited by the lack of suitable observations. The terrestrial surface plays key climatic roles in influencing the partitioning of available energy between sensible and latent heat fluxes, determining whether water drains or remains available for evaporation, determining the surface albedo and whether snow melts or remains frozen, and influencing surface fluxes of carbon and momentum. Few of these can be evaluated at large spatial or long temporal scales. This section therefore evaluates those quantities for which some observational data exist”

they fail to identify the rich peer-reviewed literature on this subject but only provide a very limited presentation on this subject in the Chapter.

Indeed, while land processes are discussed in the Report, the focus is on its role in the carbon budget and in its effect on the global average radiative forcing.

To document missing papers….. we have cross-referenced Climate Science with the IPCC WG1 Report on just one aspect of the above two topics (regional radiative forcing and nonradiative forcing), namely the role of land use change within the climate system [see the Appendix in the section Documentation Of IPCC WG1 Bias by Roger A. Pielke Sr. and Dallas Staley - Part II in Pielke 2008].

The highlighting by the NSF of the IPCC finding in the Workshop announcement for David Randall’s presentation that

“Clouds are “the largest  source of uncertainty” in projections of climate change, according to  the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)”

perpetuates the narrow view of the IPCC that

“Although the natural causes of climate variations and changes are undoubtedly important, the human influences are significant and are dominated by the emissions into the atmosphere of greenhouse gases, the most important of which is CO2. The adverse impact of these gases on regional and global climate constitutes the primary climate issue for the coming decades.”

which is refuted in our article

Pielke Sr., R., K. Beven, G. Brasseur, J. Calvert, M. Chahine, R. Dickerson, D. Entekhabi, E. Foufoula-Georgiou, H. Gupta, V. Gupta, W. Krajewski, E. Philip Krider, W. K.M. Lau, J. McDonnell,  W. Rossow,  J. Schaake, J. Smith, S. Sorooshian,  and E. Wood, 2009: Climate change: The need to consider human forcings besides greenhouse gases. Eos, Vol. 90, No. 45, 10 November 2009, 413. Copyright (2009) American Geophysical Union.

The only robust, non-refuted hypothesis, as we show in our article, is that

“Although the natural causes of climate variations and changes are undoubtedly important, the human influences are significant and involve a diverse range of first-order climate forcings, including, but not limited to, the human input of carbon dioxide (CO2). Most, if not all, of these human influences on regional and global climate will continue to be of concern during the coming decades.”

I agree with David Randall that clouds are a wild card in the assessment of climate variability and long term change. However, there are quite a few “wild cards” including the diverse range of effects of aerosols, of land use-land cover change, and of natural effects, all of which remain incompletely represented in the multi-decadal global climate models. David Randall failed to include this broader perspective when he was convening lead author of Chapter 8 in the 2007 IPCC report, and appears to be persisting in this narrow view.

2. My second issue is that the NSF comes across as an advocate for a particular perspective (i.e. that there is a main”wild card”) without presenting to reporters that there are other scientifically sound viewpoints in the climate science community.

The NSF is already funding research which compromises the scientific method; e.g. see

The National Science Foundation Funds Multi-Decadal Climate Predictions Without An Ability To Verify Their Skill

I urge reporters and others who participate in this webcast ask questions on other “wild cards” in the understanding and assessment of the predictability of the climate system.

The e-mail announcement for their webcast is reproduced below

From:  Whiteman, Lily M []
Sent: Thursday, October 21, 2010 9:58  AM
To: Whiteman, Lily  M
Subject: NSF Webcast for  Reporters: Will Clouds–the Wild Card of Climate Change- Speed or Slow  Warming?
This  is an automated e-mail. Please do not respond to this  message.
National Science  Foundation
4201  Wilson Blvd., Arlington,  VA 22230
“Where Discoveries  Begin”

For  Immediate Release
Media  Contact:
Lily Whiteman, NSF, (703)  292-8310,  _lwhitema@nsf.gov_
NSF invites media to participate in a webcast  briefing on Thursday, Oct. 28 at 1:00 p.m.,  EDT

Cloud behavior will  help determine how warm the planet becomes as climate change  continues.
Credit:  Kristina Rebelo
_Credit  and Larger  Version_
Clouds are “the largest  source of uncertainty” in projections of climate change, according to  the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This uncertainty  arises because different types of clouds exert different forces on  climate: Some clouds help cool the Earth and some clouds help warm it.  So far, no one knows which effect will win out as the climate continues to change. This uncertainty begs some  of the most critical (and most fascinating) questions about climate  change: Will clouds help speed or slow global warming? Why is cloud  behavior so difficult to predict? And, in the midst of such uncertainty  about clouds, how in the world are scientists learning to project the  behavior of these ephemeral, ever-changing, high-altitude  phenomena? To help give the role  of clouds in climate change its due, the National Science Foundation  (NSF) will host a webcast with a leading authority on clouds and climate  change: David Randall, director of the Center for Multiscale Modeling of  Atmospheric Processes and a professor of atmospheric science at  Colorado  State University. The webcast will be  held on Thursday, Oct. 28 at 1:00 p.m.,  EDT.

Following the webcast, NSF  will release a multi-media package about clouds and climate change  titled, “Clouds: The Wild Card of Climate Change.” This package–which will provide a wealth of information to reporters,  policy makers, scientists, educators, the public and students of all  levels–will be posted on NSF’s website at _
( .

Who: Cloud and  climate change expert David Randall, director of the Center for Multiscale Modeling of Atmospheric Processes and a professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University.
What: A media  briefing via teleconference and webcast to discuss why clouds are the wild card of climate  change.
When: Thursday, Oct. 28, at 1:00 p.m.,  EDT. How to  Participate: Reporters in the  United  States may participate by teleconference or Internet. To participate by teleconference, call (888) 603-7924. Passwords are needed to access the presentation and to  ask questions during the live event.  To obtain the password to  participate in the teleconference and to obtain the URL and password to  access the webcast, e-mail
Lily Whiteman at _lwhitema@nsf.gov_ ( . Before and
during  the event, e-mail questions for David Randall at
NSF-MA  10-027
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an  independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education  across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2010, its  budget is about $6.9 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to  nearly 2,000 universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives over  45,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes over 11,500 new funding  awards. NSF also awards over $400 million in professional and service  contracts yearly.

Comments Off

Filed under Climate Science Op-Eds, Climate Science Presentations, Climate Science Reporting

Comments are closed.