Monthly Archives: November 2011

Interesting Quotes By Two Major Climate Scientists – John Nielsen-Gammon and Peter Gleick

UPDATE: John has sent me this response

Roger -

   Sure!  You can post this, thanks!

   First, assuming something is correct doesn’t make it so.  I simply regard it as so much more likely to be correct than incorrect that it’s a more effective use of my time to assume it’s correct unless I’m aware of some shortcoming.  Second, Roger seems to equate the NAS with the IPCC; I do not. For example, NAS tries to populate its committees with a broad balance of high-quality scientific perspectives, while the IPCC tries to ensure that its authors represent a broad balance of geographic origins.  This is a consequence of the IPCC being simultaneously a scientific and political organization.  

 Since I’m in-discipline, I can evaluate the IPCC reports for myself.  Generally, I find them to be right about 95% of the time.  

 I actually was on an NAS panel that reviewed one of the CCSP reports, and there were two interesting aspects of that experience that are worth noting.  First, the NAS actually submitted our review for review!  Tell me any other agency that is so rigorous!  Second, unlike conventional peer review, the agency responsible for the CCSP report was under no constraint to change their report in response to our review.  There was no editor tasked to ensure that the authors of the CCSP report made appropriate corrections.  So just because a CCSP report underwent NAS review doesn’t make it as reliable as an NAS report.

- John

in response to my e-mail to him (and one to Peter also)

Hi John

Would you like to send me a guest post on my weblog in response to mine? It would provide a counterpoint to my presentation.

Best Wishes for Thanksgiving!



In today’s post, I am presenting quotes from two well respected climate scientists. I also provide my perspective on what they have said.

First, John Nielsen-Gammon


The Crackpot-Einstein Scale 

he writes

“Eventually, especially if there’s still some dispute about a particular set of findings, the new results might become the subject of a review article by a group of scientists or, even better, a report from the National Academy of Sciences. The latter type of report is quite reliable because it represents a unanimous opinion by a group of qualified scientists with diverse viewpoints. When I’m reading science outside my field, where I can’t judge for myself whether it’s right, I’m quite happy to assume that anything that comes out of the National Academy of Sciences is correct. Their committees are wrong so rarely that it’s usually not worth worrying about.”

My Comment:

The assumption that “I’m quite happy to assume that anything that comes out of the National Academy of Sciences is correct“, is what, in my view, has resulted in the blind acceptance of the IPCC reports.  My personal experiences are quite different from the rosy picture that John presents. I have documented this, as just one example, in my comment on the CCSP 1.1 report [which was used for the USA input for the 2007 IPCC report; this CCSP report was reviewed by a committee of National Academy of Science appointees] 

Pielke Sr., Roger A., 2005: Public Comment on CCSP Report “Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere: Steps for Understanding and Reconciling Differences”. 88 pp including appendices

where I summarized in the Executive Summary

The process for completing the CCSP Report excluded valid scientific perspectives under the charge of the Committee. The Editor of the Report systematically excluded a range of views on the issue of understanding and reconciling lower atmospheric temperature trends. The Executive Summary of the CCSP Report ignores critical scientific issues and makes unbalanced conclusions concerning our current understanding of temperature trends.

The process that produced the report was highly political, with the Editor taking the lead in suppressing my perspectives, most egregiously demonstrated by the last-minute substitution of a new Chapter 6 for the one I had carefully led preparation of and on which I was close to reaching a final consensus. Anyone interested in the production of comprehensive assessments of climate science should be troubled by the process which I document below in great detail that led to the replacement of the Chapter that I was serving as Convening Lead Author.

Future assessment Committees need to appoint members with a diversity of views and who do not have a significant conflict of interest with respect to their own work. Such Committees should be chaired by individuals committed to the presentation of a diversity of perspectives and unwilling to engage in strong-arm tactics to enforce a narrow perspective. Any such committee should be charged with summarizing all relevant literature, even if inconvenient, or which presents a view not held by certain members of the Committee.

John fails to see that such conflicts of interest compromise balanced assessments in climate science, and, presumably also in other fields where we do not have expertise.

John also states

“So I would venture to say that a large fraction, perhaps the majority, of the science that people hear about on the news will turn out to have something seriously wrong with it.”

In this comment, I agree with John! This is a candid much needed statement that I hope the media works on.

For the second set of quotes, I refer to a news article in the November 1 2011 issue of the AGU publication EOS

Meeting basic human needs for water remains huge challenge, expert says by R. Showstack

where Peter Gleick states

Since the 1998 publication of the first volume of The World’s Water, a biennial report on freshwater resources from the Pacific Institute, some significant strides have been made in improving water management and quality. However, there has also been a continuing stream of bad news about the state of water in many parts of the world. With the 18 October publication of volume 7 in the series, two stark statistics stand out to lead author Peter Gleick: More than 1 billion people still lack safe drinking water, and more than 2.5 billion lack adequate sanitation.

My Comment

I agree with Peter on this. This is a focus of one of our books (with Faisal Hossain as Editor) for Elsevier where we are presenting examples of using the bottom up, resource-based contextual vulnerability approach to assess risks to water, food, energy, human health and ecosystem function.  Our overarching theme is the 5 volume set of books, which will appear in 2012, is

“There are 5 broad areas that we can use to define the need for vulnerability assessments : water, food, energy, health and ecosystem function. Each area has societally critical resources. The vulnerability concept requires the determination of the major threats to these resources from climate, but also from other social and environmental issues. After these threats are identified for each resource, then the relative risk from natural- and human-caused climate change (estimated from the GCM projections, but also the historical, paleo-record and worst case sequences of events) can be compared with other risks in order to adopt the optimal mitigation/adaptation strategy.”

Peter is also reported as saying

“Global climate change is going to have very dramatic impacts on water resources because the hydrologic cycle is such a fundamental part of the climate cycle,” Gleick told Eos. “We know we are going to see changes in snowfall dynamics. We know we are going to see changes in extreme precipitation events. We know that higher temperatures are going to increase evaporation rates. We know that rising sea level is going to contaminate more coastal aquifers with salt water. I find the climate debate and specifically the issues around water frustrating, because the science is clear. There are plenty of uncertainties, but not everything is equally uncertain. We know more than enough, and we’ve known more than enough for decades, to act. And we’re not acting. And that’s irresponsible.”

My Comment

Unfortunately, this is an example of applying a top-down global model perspective (i.e. outcome vulnerability) which we have shown is seriously flawed in

Pielke Sr., R.A., R. Wilby, D. Niyogi, F. Hossain, K. Dairuku, J. Adegoke, G. Kallos, T. Seastedt, and K. Suding, 2011: Dealing with complexity and extreme events using a bottom-up, resource-based vulnerability perspective. AGU Monograph on Complexity and Extreme Events in Geosciences, in press. 

Peter is perpetuating a misleadingly narrow perspective of relying on the IPCC-type global model predictions to inform the impact community of risks to water resources in the future.  Indeed, I have challenged Peter in  a series of e-mails between us over a month ago to inform us what confidence he has in these model predictions, but he has not answered this question yet.  For myself, I have no confidence that these models can skillfully predict changes in climate statistics in the coming decades.

Peter than further is reported as saying

Gleick said he doesn’t know whether there could be movement on this issue during this time of government gridlock. “I’m a scientist and not a politician….”

Peter is very much in the politics, and should candidly admit this. Otherwise, he is acting as a “stealth advocate” as discussed in the book

The Honest Broker: Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics by Roger A. Pielke Jr

Peter continues in the news article

 “…I know that people care about water. It’s the highest-polling environmental issue consistently. I know it’s still difficult to remove politics from water, but Republicans and Democrats played together very well in passing our water quality laws, and I think we can do it again. I don’t know if we will, but I know that we have to.” The U.S. government, Gleick said, also has to do a better job at integrating water management strategies, responsibilities, and policies at the federal level. He noted that more than 20 federal agencies currently are responsible for dealing with different aspects of the nation’s water, such as agriculture, ecosystem protection, water quality monitoring, and climate forecasting. “I’m not saying that there ought to be a department of water. But I am saying that we need to do a better job at the federal level of managing water as an integrated challenge.”

My Comment

I agree with Peter on this, except that what he lists as “climate forecasting” should be “seasonal and longer term weather forecasting“.  As Judy Curry has so effectively summarized on her weblog post The wrong(?) conversation

What if we had devoted all of those resources to making better probabilistic predictions on timescales of 2 weeks to 3-4 months?  Farmers would be able to make better choices about what crops to plant.  Water resource managers could make better choices.  Energy generation and demand could be made more efficient.   Etc.  Most of the developing world doesn’t have weather forecasts beyond two days, and often these forecasts do not anticipate extreme weather events (think Pakistan floods, Severe Cyclone Nargis).   Anticipating extreme weather events by a week or two, or even a few days,  could make an enormous difference in the developing world.

This is what Peter should be urging support for.

source of image

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Another Excellent, Well-Explained Post By Bob Tisdale Titled “Satellite-Era SST Anomalies: Models Vs Observations Using Time-Series Graphs And 17-Year Trends”

I want to alert readers of my weblog to a post by Bob Tisdale on his weblog Bob Tisdale – Climate Observations. He has posted another effective analysis of multi-decadal global climate model predictions titled

Satellite-Era SST Anomalies: Models Vs Observations Using Time-Series Graphs And 17-Year Trends

In Bob’s conclusions, he writes

So what impression is the casual observer left with if he or she were to investigate how well climate models can hindcast and project sea surface temperatures over 17-year periods, a time span that is appears to be acceptable to the who’s-who of climate scientists that helped prepare the Santer et al (2011) paper? Not a very good impression. They can see that the observed Sea Surface Temperature trends and those projected by the climate models only appear to come close to matching one another on a global basis, but that the match is only good for the first 17-year period of the satellite-era Sea Surface Temperature data. They can see that the models do not come close to matching observations in either hemisphere during the first or last 17-year periods.

 His analyis and conclusion should be further examined by rigorous statistical analyses such as performed by Lucia Liljegren at The Blackboard. Real Climate or other weblogs that are supportive of these models as having multi-decadal prediction skill should show how Bob’s findings can be refuted.

 I would be glad to repost such analyses and their discussion on my weblog.

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Comments On The Physics Today Article “Communicating The Science Of Climate Change” By Richard C. J. Somerville and Susan Joy Hassol

Last week I posted on the first of two articles in the October issue of Physics Today (see).  Today, I am commenting on the second article in that issue

Richard C. J. Somerville and Susan Joy Hassol, 2011: Communicating the science of climate change. Physics Today.  October 2011.  ISSN: 0031-9228

As presented in the article Richard Somerville is a professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, and the science director of Climate Communication, a nonprofit project based in Boulder, Colorado. Susan Joy Hassol, who works with climate scientists to communicate what they know to policymakers and the public, is the director of Climate Communication.

The abstract reads

It is urgent that climate scientists improve the ways they convey their findings to a poorly informed and often indifferent public

The article starts with the text

Over the past half century, the powerful new science of climate and climate change has come into being. Research during that period has settled a fundamental climate question that had challenged scientists since the 19th century: Will human beings, by adding carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases to the atmosphere, significantly affect climate? The answer, debated for decades, is now known to be yes. Scientists now understand clearly that humankind is no longer a passive spectator at the great pageant of climate change. They have established that the climate is indeed warming and that human activities are the main cause. Every year brings thousands more research papers containing new knowledge of the many aspects of climate change.
The text contains statements that deliberately obscure the actual complexity of the climate issue. They write
Americans are also unaware of the strength of the scientific consensus. At least 97% of climate researchers most actively publishing in the field agree that climate change is occurring and that it is primarily human-induced.
My Comment: The statement that “climate change is occurring” is trivial to show. No credible climate scientist is going to disagree that climate changes and that there is a human role. The fundamental error made by the authors (as with the Sherwood article that I posted on last week), is their assumption of the dominance of added CO2 and a few other greenhouse gases in climate change.
The authors present reasons for the “confusion” on the public and others accepting their view of climate science. They write [highlight added]
There are many reasons for the large-scale public confusion. (See the article by Steven Sherwood on page 39.) Acceptance of the science of climate change appears to track with the strength of the economy. In difficult times, people seem more likely to reject the science. That may be because they believe that policies for addressing the problem might harm the economy. And perhaps people can only worry about so many things at a time.
A second major factor is the well-organized and well-funded disinformation campaign that has been waged against climate science for decades. As documented in numerous books, the campaign seeks to sow doubts about the science. Motivations for that campaign range from ideological to financial. Some fear that policies to address climate change will limit individual freedoms and the free market. Some in the oil and coal industries fear for their short-term profits. Among the purveyors of the disinformation are public-relations masters who have succeeded in crafting simple, clear messages and delivering them repeatedly. The public’s failure to perceive the scientific consensus seems to reflect the success of that campaign.
It helps the disinformation campaign that a small number of climate scientists disagree with the widely accepted central findings of the field. That there are a few dissenters is not surprising; all areas of science have outliers. But the mainstream scientific conclusion that climate change is occurring and is mostly human-induced has been endorsed by professional societies and science academies worldwide.
A third factor is widespread scientific illiteracy, which is related to the fact that people trust and believe those with whom they share cultural values and worldviews. Opinion leaders who espouse the notion that global warming is a hoax are, for some people, trusted messengers. A fifth factor is that for most of human history, people have seen weather as the province of God, and some simply cannot accept the idea that humans could affect it. We still call weather disasters “acts of God.”
Yet another factor is the way the media handle the topic. They often portray climate change as a controversy, presenting the opposing sides as equally credible. The current crisis in journalism has also resulted in fewer experienced reporters with the requisite expertise, which leads to coverage that can be inept and misleading.
My Comment:  The authors use a disinformation approach to present their view. They write “the mainstream scientific conclusion that climate change is occurring and is mostly human-inducedwhen what they really mean is that their view is that “climate change is occurring and is mostly human-induced CAUSED BY THE ADDITION OF CO2 AND A FEW OTHER GREENHOUSE GASES”.   They deliberately confuse this statement.  This is NOT a viewpoint accepted by 97% of climate scientists!
 Also, they use the term “opposing sides” when it reality there is a continuum of viewpoints on the climate issue. It is these viewpoints that need to be reported.  
The article concludes with the text
The science tells us that meeting the policy goals requires urgent action. But given the limited public understanding, the need for scientists to communicate better also becomes urgent. Many scientists have expressed interest in communicating climate change science. Workshops aimed at improving those communication skills are increasingly popular at professional-society meetings and other venues.
We must find ways to help the public realize that not acting is also making a choice, one that commits future generations to serious impacts. Messages that may invoke fear or dismay—as projections of future climate under business-as-usual scenarios often do—are better received if they also include hopeful components. Thus we can improve the chances that the public will hear and accept the science if we include positive messages about our ability to solve the problem. We can explain, for example, that it’s not too late to avoid the worst; lower emissions will mean reduced climate change and less severe impacts. We can point out that addressing climate change wisely will yield benefits to the economy and the quality of life. We can explain, as figure 5 shows, that acting sooner would be less disruptive than acting later. Let us rise to the challenge of helping the public understand that science can illuminate the choices we face.
My Comment: This article is a tutorial on advocacy of a perspective on policy that really should not be in a journal such as Physics Today. It is an example of a set of individuals using an article (not an op-ed) in a professional science journal to promote their particular views on policy. 

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Response From Nicola Scafetta On His New Paper on Astronomical Oscillations and Climate Oscillations.

Roger A Pielke Sr asked me to respond to a comment sent to him by Gerhard Kramm of the University of Alaska on my recent paper

N. Scafetta, “A shared frequency set between the historical mid-latitude aurora records and the global surface temperature” Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics, in press. DOI: 10.1016/j.jastp.2011.10.013.

Kramm’s final argument is that “Since the sunspot number may be considered as an indication for the sun’s activity, this weak correlation does not notably support Scafetta’s hypothesis.”

I believe that Dr. Kramm may be not really familiar with the topics addressed in my paper. The issue is complex and I will try to respond, but only a detailed study of my papers and of the relevant scientific literature can fully satisfy an interested reader.

In brief, Dr. Kramm argument is based on a total solar irradiance model based on the sunspot number record proposed by Schneider and Mass in 1975, that is 36 years ago! This proxy reconstruction claims that solar activity is practically constant plus a 11-year cycle. Because such a reconstruction does not resemble the temperature record in any way, Kramm concluded that it does not support Scafetta’s hypothesis.

I fully agree with Kramm that the solar irradiance reconstruction proposed by Schneider and Mass in 1975 does not support my hypothesis. However, Kramm did not appear to have realized that the solar irradiance reconstruction proposed by Schneider and Mass in 1975 is considered today to be severely obsolete.

Reconstructing the past total solar irradiance is not an easy task: there exists only proxy reconstructions not direct measurements. What people today know is that the sunspot record by alone is not an accurate representation of the solar activity and of the heliosphere dynamics.

The figure below shows some of the total solar irradiance reconstructions proposed during the last 15 years. Other records exist.

Figure:  Several proposed total solar irradiance (TSI) proxy reconstructions. (From top to bottom: Hoyt and Schatten, 1997; Lean, 2000; Wang et al., 2005; Krivova et al., 2007.)

As it is evident from the figure, different models have produced different solar irradiance reconstructions. And all of them differ from Schneider and Mass’ model adopted by Kramm to criticize my paper.

Even the total solar irradiance records obtained with satellite measurements are not certain. At least two possible reconstructions have been proposed: the PMOD (top) and the ACRIM (bottom) TSI satellite composites.


In my past papers I have analyzed the relation between some of the above reconstructions and the climate records in great details and what I got, for example in

N. Scafetta, “Empirical analysis of the solar contribution to global mean air surface temperature change,” Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics 71 1916–1923 (2009), doi:10.1016/j.jastp.2009.07.007.

is summarized in the following figure


The figure shows the climate signature of the solar component alone against a reconstruction of the climate since 1600. Since 1980 I am adopting TSI reconstructions based on ACRIM and PMOD. The matching with the climate records is quite good for 400 years which includes the last 40 years if we use the ACRIM TSI composite. The temperature, though, presents an additional 0.2-0.3 oC warming that is probably the real net anthropogenic contribution (GHG+Aerosol+UHI+LUC+errors in combining the temperature records, etc) since 1900.

The figure above shows that the climate is mostly regulated by solar changes. However, the matching is not absolutely precise. The reason, in my opinion, is that the TSI proxy reconstructions proposed are not sufficiently accurate yet and there may be additional natural forcings.

So, in my more recent papers I have studied the oscillations of the solar system regulated by planetary orbits which very likely are the first cause external forcings acting on the sun and the heliosphere. Very likely, the Sun and the heliosphere oscillate in the same way and the Earth’s system will likely resonate with those oscillations too.

In my recent paper

N. Scafetta, “Empirical evidence for a celestial origin of the climate oscillations and its implications”. Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics 72, 951–970 (2010), doi:10.1016/j.jastp.2010.04.015

I address the above issues and I found that indeed the climate system is characterized by the same oscillations found in the astronomical oscillation driven by planetary and lunar harmonics with major periods at 9, 10-10.5, 20 and 60 years.

In my latest paper

N. Scafetta, “A shared frequency set between the historical mid-latitude aurora records and the global surface temperature” Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics, in press. DOI: 10.1016/j.jastp.2011.10.013

I show that also the mid-latitude historical aurora records since 1700 are characterized by the same frequencies of the climate system and of the planetary system with major periods of 9, 10-10.5, 20 and 60 years. The mid-latitude historical aurora records represent a direct observation of what was happening in the ionosphere and give us an information complementary to the one that can be deduced from the sunspot record alone. The mid-latitude auroras from Europe and Asia, together with other available records from North America and Iceland reveal an interesting oscillating dynamics: Northern and Southern aurora records, which should be understood relative to the magnetic north pole not the geographical one, present a complementary 60 year cycle, for example, that matches the 60-year cycle observed in the temperature as suggested in the figure below


Figure:   (A) The 60 year cyclical modulation of the global surface temperature obtained by detrending this record of its upward trend shown in Fig.1. The temperature record has been filtered with a 8-year moving average. Note that detrending a linear or parabolic trend does not significantly deform a 60-year wave on a160-year record, which contains about 2.5 of these cycles, because first and second order polynomials are sufficiently orthogonal to a record containing at least two full cycles.  On the contrary, detrending higher order polynomials would deform a 60-year modulation on a 160-year record and would be inappropriate. (B) Aurora records from the Catalogue of Polar Aurora <55N in the Period 1000–1900 from 1700 to 1900 (Krivsky and Pejml, 1988). (B) Also depicts the catalog referring to the aurora observations from the Faroes Islands from 1872 to 1966. Both temperature and aurora records show a synchronized 60-year cyclical modulation as proven by the fact that the 60-year periodic harmonic functions superimposed to both records is the same. This 60-year cycle is in phase with the 60–61 year cycle associated to Jupiter and Saturn: see Figs.6 and 7.

Silverman (1992),

for example, showed the 60-year cycle complimentary pattern in the Faroes and Iceland aurora records in this figure.


 Where the 60-year cycle in the Faroes is negative correlated to the 60 year cycle in the temperature while the 60-year cycle in Iceland is positive correlated to the 60 year cycle in the temperature from 1880 to 1940. The same complementary dynamics exists between the mid-latitude European/Asian auroras (which are explicitly studied in my paper) and the American New England auroras (which occupy a northern region relative to the magnetic north pole despite their geographical latitude) for the 1800-1900 period.

This dynamics suggests harmonic changes in the physical properties of the magnetosphere and ionosphere, and upper atmosphere in general, that appear to be directly linked to astronomical oscillations. That may also suggest a change in the magnetosphere/ionosphere sensitivity to incoming cosmic ray flux, which can regulate the cloud system. Thus, my paper shows that a complex astronomical harmonic forcings of the upper atmosphere very likely exists and very likely alters the electric properties of the atmosphere which are known to be able to regulate the cloud system as discussed by Tinsley and Svensmark.

My hypothesis is that the Earth’s albedo is likely oscillating with the same frequencies that we found in the solar system and the temperature at the surface cannot but follow those oscillations too. In the paper, I show that such hypothesis fits the records that we have showing cycles in the cloud system and in the solar dimming and brightening patterns, also from an energetic point of view.

For example a recent paper by Soon et al. (Variation in surface air temperature of China during the 20th century ASTP 2011, showed  a very good correlation between the 60-year cycle in the temperature record (in this specific case referring to China) and the sunshine duration cover in Japan, which may be due to a cloud cover oscillation.


Figure:  Annual mean China-wide surface air temperature time series by Wang et al. (2001, 2004)  from 1880 to 2004 correlated with the Japanese sunshine duration of Stanhill and Cohen (2008) from 1890 to 2002 (from Soon et al. 2011).

Other references referring to cloud and sunshine oscillations are in my paper which presents a 60-year cycle.

In fact, in my paper I have argued that small oscillations of the albedo equal to 1-2% may induce climate oscillations compatible with the observations.

The final result of my paper is summarized in the following figure


Figure:  Astronomical harmonic constituent model reconstruction and forecast of the global surface temperature.(A) Four years moving average of the global surface temperature against the climate reconstructions obtained by using the function F1(t)+P1(t) to fit the period 1850–2010 (black solid) and the period 1950–2010(dash),and the function F2(t)+P2(t)  to fit he period1850–1950(dots). (B) The functions P1(t)  and P2(t) represent the periodic modulation of the temperature reproduced by the celestial model based on the five aurora major decadal and multidecadal frequencies. The arrows indicate the local decadal maxima where the good matching between the data patterns and the models is observed. Note that in both figures the three model curves almost coincide for more than 200 years and well reconstruct and forecast the temperature oscillations.

The figure clearly shows that my harmonic model based on astronomical/lunar cycles, which is depicted in full in B, can reconstruct and forecast with a good accuracy the observed climate oscillations. For example, in B the harmonic model is calibrated during the period 1850-1950 and then it is shows to forecast the climate oscillations (in red) observed from 1950 to 2011. The model is also calibrated during the period 1950-2011 and it is shown to forecast the climate oscillations from 1850 to 1950. The upward trend in A in part produced by the longer solar trending as shown in a figure above and has not been added to the harmonic model yet. Indeed, by looking at the forecasting results in the above figure B I need to say that they perform far better than the IPCC general circulation models, which have never succeeded in forecasting anything.

Of course, I do not claim that my last papers respond to all questions and all related issues. On the contrary, many issues emerge and remain unexplained. This is perfectly normal in science, which is full of mysteries that wait to be explained. Also, my harmonic model may require other frequencies, for example the ocean tides are currently predicted with 35-40 harmonic constituents, while I used only four frequencies in my current model.

However, the merit of my present work, I believe, is to stress the importance of the natural variability of the climate, which has been mostly ignored by the IPCC 2007 modeling, and to show that climate variability is made of an important harmonic component very likely linked to astronomical oscillations and, therefore, the climate can in principle be forecast within a certain limit.

Also an anthropogenic component appears to be present, of course, but because the IPCC models do not reproduce the climate natural variability, those models have significantly overestimated the anthropogenic component by a very large factor between 2 and 4, as explained in my papers. This indirectly implies that the IPCC warming projections for the 21st century need to be reduced by a corresponding large factor. Moreover for the next 30 year the climate may remain steady instead of warming at the rate of 2.3 oC/century as predicted by the IPCC. Longer forecasts may require the addition of longer cycles not yet included in the current work. 

About the criticism of Dr. Kramm based on Schneider and Mass work in 1975, that is a 36-year old work, I cannot but stress that it is based on a severely poor understanding of the present knowledge. Indeed, Dr. Kramm does not seem to have spent much time reading the relevant scientific literature since 1975 and, in particular, my papers with their numerous references. It is evident that it is inappropriate criticize a work without even reading it or trying to become familiar with its topics and arguments which go far beyond the sunspot number record alone. But, apparently, not everybody understands such an elementary logic.

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“The Times They Are A-Changin”

There is a refreshing weblog post by Bill Hooke announced on the AMS website [h/t to Joe Daleo]. Hopefully, this means that the AMS will start moving away from its predominent focus on multi-decadal global climate models as the mechanism to assess climate and other environmental and social threats in the coming years.


in reference to this blog from William Hook:

Bills’ post includes the insightful comments

“First, we should remember that the Earth does its business through extreme events and always has…..Extremes are not suspensions of the normal order; they are its fulfillment.”
“Second, these extremes, like all nonlinear phenomena (forgive the lapse into pointy-headedness), are always integrating events”.
“Third, social change matters more to what extreme events and disasters portend for our future than does climate change”

These views are supportive what we present in our paper

Pielke Sr., R.A., R. Wilby, D. Niyogi, F. Hossain, K. Dairuku, J. Adegoke, G. Kallos, T. Seastedt, and K. Suding, 2011: Dealing with complexity and extreme events using a bottom-up, resource-based vulnerability perspective. AGU Monograph on Complexity and Extreme Events in Geosciences, in press

where our abstract reads

We discuss the adoption of a bottom-up, resource–based vulnerability approach in evaluating the effect of climate and other environmental and societal threats to societally critical resources. This vulnerability concept requires the determination of the major threats to local and regional water, food, energy, human health, and ecosystem function resources from extreme events including climate, but also from other social and environmental issues. After these threats are identified for each resource, then the relative risks can be compared with other risks in order to adopt optimal preferred mitigation/adaptation strategies.

This is a more inclusive way of assessing risks, including from climate variability and climate change than using the outcome vulnerability approach adopted by the IPCC. A contextual vulnerability assessment, using the bottom-up, resource-based framework is a more inclusive approach for policymakers to adopt effective mitigation and adaptation methodologies to deal with the complexity of the spectrum of social and environmental extreme events that will occur in the coming decades, as the range of threats are assessed, beyond just the focus on CO2 and a few other greenhouse gases as emphasized in the IPCC assessments.

source of image

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Announcement Of New Paper “Importance Of Background Climate In Determining Impact Of Land-Cover Change On Regional Climate” By Pitman Et Al 2011

Andy Pitman and Clive McAlpine have alerted us to a new modeling study paper that has just appeared. It is

A. J. Pitman, F. B. Avila, G. Abramowitz, Y. P.Wang, S. J. Phipps and N. de Noblet-Ducoudré, 2011: Importance of background climate in determining impact of land-cover change on regional climate. Nature Climate Change.: 20 November 2011 | DOI: 10.1038/NCLIMATE1294

The abstract reads [highlight added]

Humans have modified the Earth’s climate through emissions of greenhouse gases and through land-use and land-cover change (LULCC). Increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere warm the mid-latitudes more than the tropics, in part owing to a reduced snow–albedo feedback as snow cover decreases. Higher concentration of carbon dioxide also increases precipitation in many regions, as a result of an intensification of the hydrological cycle. The biophysical effects of LULCC since pre-industrial times have probably cooled temperate and boreal regions and warmed some tropical regions3. Here we use a climate model to show that how snow and rainfall change under increased greenhouse gases dominates how LULCC affects regional temperature. Increased greenhouse-gas-driven changes in snow and rainfall affect the snow–albedo feedback and the supply of water, which in turn limits evaporation. These changes largely control the net impact of LULCC on regional climate. Our results show that capturing whether future biophysical changes due to LULCC warm or cool a specific region therefore requires an accurate simulation of changes in snow cover and rainfall geographically coincident with regions of LULCC. This is a challenge to current climate models, but also provides potential for further improving detection and attribution methods.

The paper is another contribution to examining the role of land use/land cover change on the climate system. I have just a few comments. First, they write that

“….global-scale future LULCC is probably small when compared with past changes’.

In the tropical regions, and perhaps in the boreal forests, the assumption of a small direct icrease in area of human land management of the climate system in the coming decades is not likely correct (e.g. see). In the tropical humid forests, deforestation such as in the Congo and in the Amazon are likely, unfortunately, to still  occur as population continues to grow. In semi-arid regions such as the Sahel, overgrazing is likely to expand. The boreal forest is vulnerable to not only logging, but the removal of large areas of trees by human caused fires.

My second comment is on the role of irrigation (and its areal coverage) which will also likely grow as populations demand more cropland (e.g. see). Some irrigated large areas actually use fossil water (i.e. mined from aquifers where the water has accumulated centuries ago).

Their paper concludes with the text

The need to correctly locate changes in rainfall, temperature and snow over regions of intense LULCC presents a significant challenge for climate models. The capacity of climate models to capture the background regional climate depends in part on the horizontal resolution of the model. A rigorous assessment  the relationship between climate model resolution and region simulation skill is lacking. Although finer spatial resolutions may improve global-scale simulations, how fine a model needs to be to enable reliable co-location of changes in rainfall and temperature with LULCC is unknown. Most climate models also lack many processes that might affect how LULCC affects precipitation and associated processes (see Supplementary Information). Further, there is emerging evidence that coupled ocean models are required in LULCC experiments, because these amplify the perturbation and enable effects to be captured distant from the perturbation. This suggests that, although the large-scale signal from LULCC on future climates is probably known, much higher-resolution fully coupled model simulations need to be conducted to build confidence in how LULCC interacts with a changing climate at regional scales. Our use of a coarse resolution model and fixed SSTs probably affects many aspects of our results and we are not suggesting that we have necessarily co-located changes due to CO2 with LULCC correctly. However, our main conclusion that changes in rainfall and snow caused by increases in CO2 dominate how LULCC affects climate, thereby necessitating climate models to correctly locate changes in rainfall and temperature relative to LULCC, is very probably robust.

The authors are, in my view, too optimistic regarding the skill of the large-scale multi-decadal global climate models, as has been reported frequently on my weblog (e.g. see).  Thus, their claim that “the large-scale signal from LULCC on future climates is probably known” is conjecture, as is their statement that the main conclusion that changes in rainfall and snow caused by increases in CO2 dominate how LULCC affects climate, thereby necessitating climate models to correctly locate changes in rainfall and temperature relative to LULCC, is very probably robust”. 

The dominance of CO2, that they present in their paper, remains a hypothesis. For example, they  do not include the natural and human inputs of aerosols from industrial and vehicular emissions, and also aerosols (e.g. mineral dust) from land degradation as affected by land management and land use/land cover change.  Aerosols have a diverse range of effects on the climate system even at global scales (e.g. see and see) which include major effects on precipitation processes.

Nonetheless, despite while there is an overconfidence in their conclusions,  this paper adds to our understanding of the role of land use/land cover in the climate system.

source of image

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Comment By Gerhard Kramm On Nicola Scafetta’s Paper “A Shared Frequency Set Between The Historical Mid-Latitude Aurora Records And The Global Surface Temperature”

In response to the post

New Paper “A Shared Frequency Set Between The Historical Mid-Latitude Aurora Records And The Global Surface Temperature” By N. Scafetta 2011

Gerhard Kramm of the Univeristy of Alaska sent the following e-mail which I have reproduced below with his permission. I am asking Nicola to respond in a separate post.

Date: Fri, 18 Nov 2011 16:44:38 -0900
From: Gerhard Kramm To: Roger A Pielke Sr  Subject: Your comments on Scafetta’s paper

Dear Roger,

With respect to your comments on Scafetta’s paper, I would like to send a diagram to you that I created two years ago. It shows the solar constant (blue line) computed with Eq. (1) by Schneider and Mass (1975). S & M mentioned that Kondratyev and Nicolsky used this formula which is, obviously, attributed to Angstroem, where the sunspot numbers of the Solar Influences Data Analysis Center (SIDC) at the Royal Observatory of Belgium were used (see attachment). Obviously, if the sunspot numbers become too large the solar constant is decreasing. This seems to be reasonable because the sunspots are much colder than their surroundings. Unfortunately, I found not enough background material about Angstroem’s empirical formula.

The diagram also shows the globally averaged near-surface temperature (HadCRUT3, red line). It seems to me that the temperature is correlated with the minimum values of the computed solar constant, but the amount of the correlation coefficient is small. Since the sunspot number may be considered as an indication for the sun’s activity, this weak correlation does not notably support Scafetta’s hypothesis.

Best regards


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