Category Archives: Bias In News Media Reports

News Report “NASA: Sudden Massive Melt in Greenland” – My Comments On This Media Hype

source of image: Greenland Summit Station - the plot is of temperatures at the top of the Greenland icecap for the last 30 days.

The current webcam image from this location can be viewed here.

There is a news report by Seth Borenstein titled

NASA: Sudden Massive Melt in Greenland

which reads in part [headline added]

Nearly all of Greenland’s massive ice sheet suddenly started melting a bit this month, a freak event that surprised scientists.

The ice melt area went from 40 percent of the ice sheet to 97 percent in four days, according to NASA. Until now, the most extensive melt seen by satellites in the past three decades was about 55 percent.

Wagner said researchers don’t know how much of Greenland’s ice melted, but it seems to be freezing again.

Summer in Greenland has been freakishly warm so far. That’s because of frequent high pressure systems that have parked over the island, bringing warm clear weather that melts ice and snow, explained University of Georgia climatologist Thomas Mote.

He and others say it’s similar to the high pressure systems that have parked over the American Midwest bringing record-breaking warmth and drought’

The news headline, in particular, is an example of media hype. There was no “massive melt“. The term “massive” implies that the melt involved large masses of the Greenland icecap. They could have written Sudden Extensive, Short-Term Surface Melting On the Greenland Icecap“, but instead chose to overstate what is a short-term weather event. Melting of surface ice occurs in Greenland whenever there are relatively warm surface air temperatures, as shown in the plot from Summit Station at the top of this post, and sunny skies, as reported by Thomas Mote in Seth’s article.  Almost anytime, sublimation (direct transfer from ice to water vapor) occurs.

There has been widespread media reporting of this melting (e.g. Fox News, MSNBC), but the real news story is the overstatement of this weather event by the media (and some scientists at NASA).  The headline is the biased part of the article, which Seth may not have much control on, but, regardless, this biased misleading headline needs to be identified.

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Cherrypicking – A Comment On The Atlantic Article “Now This Is Interesting: A Climate Prediction From 1981″ By James Fallows

This week, I received an e-mail from a respected colleague who wrote

Hi all, Simply put — a more convincing case could not be made. This should be front page news.

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/04/now-this-is-interesting-a-climate-prediction-from-1981/255658/

There is always room for doubt, and alternate hypotheses, and science allows one to be wrong — but this case is made with one simple figure.

The article referred to is

Now This Is Interesting: A Climate Prediction From 1981

by James Fallows of the Atlantic and the figure is at the top of this post.

If the observed surface temperature data used in the figure in which this claim is made is correct, but also so is the measurement of lower tropospheric temperatures (such as from MSU RSS and MSU UAH), than Hansen’s forecast for the surface temperatures would be correct, but for the wrong reason. If the warming were due to added CO2 and other greenhouse gases, the lower tropospheric temperatures would have warmed at least as much.

However, the latest available global average lower tropospheric temperature anomaly (see) is only +0.11 C above the 30 year average.  Over this time period, the Hansen figure shows an expected change anomaly of ~+0.5c.

The trend has also been essentially flat since 2002. The Hansen figure indicates the current change since 2002 should be almost +0.2C.

These discrepancies clearly show the Atlantic article did not objectively look into the Hansen prediction.

The lower tropospheric temperature anomaly analyses, therefore, need to also be compared with the Hansen model predictions. That was not done for the article. These two real-world analyses are reproduced below for the period of record.

[source of image]

source of image -  figure 7 top

The reply to my colleague on this article is

If one wants a convincing figure to show that there should be concern about adding CO2 into the atmosphere, we only need the Mauna Loa Observatory data.

However, the Hansen plot, being presented as convincingly showing that the response to this added CO2 is a more-or-less global warming is disingenuous. The surface temperature data have a warm bias as we documented in our papers

Klotzbach, P.J., R.A. Pielke Sr., R.A. Pielke Jr., J.R. Christy, and R.T. McNider, 2009: An alternative explanation for differential temperature trends at the surface and in the lower troposphere. J. Geophys. Res., 114, D21102, doi:10.1029/2009JD011841.

Klotzbach, P.J., R.A. Pielke Sr., R.A. Pielke Jr., J.R. Christy, and R.T. McNider, 2010: Correction to: “An alternative explanation for differential temperature trends at the surface and in the lower troposphere. J. Geophys. Res., 114, D21102, doi:10.1029/2009JD011841″, J. Geophys. Res., 115, D1, doi:10.1029/2009JD013655.

Even more important, the lower troposphere does not show the same trend, particularly in the last 10 years.

[see Figure 7 top in http://www.ssmi.com/msu/msu_data_description.html]

Neither does the upper ocean heat content changes; e.g. see

D.H. Douglass, R.S. Knox, 2012: Ocean heat content and Earth.s radiation imbalance. II. Relation to climate shifts. Physics Letters A. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.physleta.2012.02.027

R. S. Knox, David H. Douglass 2010: Recent energy balance of Earth International. Journal of Geosciences, 2010, vol. 1, no. 3 (November). doi:10.4236/ijg2010.00000.

The latest upper ocean anomaly analysis can be seen in the figure below from NOAA PMEL;

In terms of sea surface temperatures, look at http://www.osdpd.noaa.gov/data/sst/anomaly/2012/anomnight.4.9.2012.gif

which shows a complex pattern of both warm and cool anomalies, but little long-term trend.

The Atlantic article is quite deficient in presenting all of the real world data.

The conclusion is that the Atlantic article by  James Fallows an incomplete and biased news report.

source of image at top of post

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Another Physics Today Advocacy Article – This Time By Jane Lubchenco And Tom Karl

The publication Physics Today seems to have chosen to publish op-eds, posing as regular articles, on the climate science issue. These articles have included

Steven Sherwood, 2011: Science controversies past and present. Physics Today. October 2011. ISSN: 0031-9228

which I posted on in

Comments On The Physics Today Article “Science Controversies Past and Present” By Steve Sherwood

and

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

which I posted on in

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

Those two articles presented a biased viewpoint on the climate issue, and, while they certainly have a right to express their viewpoints, a publication such as Physics Today is, in my view, an inappropriate venue unless the articles are specifically listed as “op-eds”. With respect to the Sherwood 2011 article, I concluded that

Is is disappointing that this article appeared as a “feature article” rather than an opinion piece in Physics Today or elsewhere. It is yet another example of using a scientific journal to advocate a particular perspective on the climate change issue and to disparage those with whom they disagree.

As I wrote with respect to the Sommerville and Hassol 2011 article

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.

There is a new addition to the advocacy publication of articles by Physics Today. It is

Lubchenco, Jane  and Thomas R. Karl, 2012: Predicting and managing extreme weather events. Physics Today. Volume 65/ Issue 3. http://dx.doi.org/10.1063/PT.3.1475

[see also my son's post regarding aspects of this article in his post An Embarassment of Riches]

The abstract of this article reads

Earth’s climate is warming, and destructive weather is growing more prevalent. Coping with the changes will require collaborative science, forward-thinking policy, and an informed public.

The article starts with the text [highlight added]

This is a challenging time for the US and for US science. The economy, though it is beginning to show some positive signs, is still in bad shape. Extraordinary numbers of Americans are without jobs. The public holds a record-low opinion of government. The integrity of the scientific process is being questioned, and pressure to reduce federal spending is fierce.

The irony is that the demand for services provided by agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is at an all-time high and growing. Our ability to deliver those services depends in part on our scientific enterprise. One significant reason why demand for services is growing is the increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.

They also write

We at NOAA were able to predict most of the weather- and climate-related extreme events, but our capacity to continue to do so is seriously threatened by downward pressure on our budgets.

I agree that the National Weather Service has done an excellent job at predicting short-term extreme weather events, but NOAA has not achieved any skill at longer range extreme events such as claimed in their use of the terminology “climate-related extreme events”. 

The  Lubchenco and  Karl article continues

Our scientists contribute extensively to the National Climate Assessment  and other national and international assessments of the state of the science regarding extreme events. They consider spatial scales from regional to global and project climate out to the end of this century and beyond.

My Comment:  The NOAA scientists may claim they “consider spatial scales from regional to global and project climate out to the end of this century and beyond” but no skill at the prediction of changes in climate statistics has been shown by NOAA on time scales longer than about a season into the future.

The Lubchenco and Karl article erroneously write

Figure 1 shows the yearly averages of climate variables that the United Nations has deemed essential for characterizing Earth’s climate. Of them, ocean heat content, sea level, specific humidity, and surface temperatures are all going up. Snow cover, glacial mass, and sea ice are trending down. All of those trends are consistent with a warming climate.

The authors must have blinders on with respect to real world trends of these climate metrics. They have cherry-picked the data to report in their article and are wrong on several of them:

  • Ocean heat content  since about 2002, as diagnosed by the values in the upper 700m, is nearly flat (e.g. see Douglas and Knox, 2012)
  • Specific humidity (atmospheric water vapor content) has not been increasing (e.g. see Isaac and van Wijngaarden 2012; Mimms III 2012)
  • Snow cover has not been decreasing (e.g. see  the Rutgers Snow Lab)
  • While Arctic sea ice extent has decreased (e.g. see  the Cryosphere Today) Antarctic sea ice extent has not (e.g. see the Cryosphere Today).

While surfce temperatures may be rising according to their analyses (based on data with systematic biases; e.g. see Pielke et al 2007; Klotzbach et al 2009), the lower tropospheric temperature trends over at least the last 10 years have had little if any warming (e.g. see RSS and UAH).

Lubchenco and  Karl article write in their section at the end of the article titled “The path forward“.

An overarching challenge is to focus modeling efforts on extreme events and other phenomena of particular societal interest and to model those phenomena at the time scales most relevant to decision making. For example, the seasonal time scale is particularly important to agricultural and water managers, who need to plan the allocation of their resources months ahead of time. The decadal time scale is critical for infrastructure planners, construction managers, and some insurance adjusters. All of those decision makers need accurate estimates of climate 10–30 years in advance.

My Comment: The statement that  “[all] of those decision makers need accurate estimates of climate 10–30 years in advance” ignores the reality of what stakeholders actually needThey have failed to provide the specific type of information that these decision makers actually need as we report in our article

Pielke Sr., R.A., R. Wilby, D. Niyogi, F. Hossain, K. Dairuku, J. Adegoke, G. Kallos, T. Seastedt, and K. Suding, 2012: 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.

The Lubchenco and Karl article also fails to recognize that there is NO skill at predicting changes in climate statistics on the time scale of years and decades as we conclude in our article

Pielke Sr., R.A., and R.L. Wilby, 2012: Regional climate downscaling – what’s the point? Eos Forum,  93, No. 5, 52-53, doi:10.1029/2012EO050008.

Decision makers are being misled by the Lubchenco and Karl article.

The final part of the Lubchenco and Karl article is their editorial on why we need to financially support NOAA.

What’s likely down the road on the weather–climate front? By all measures, we can expect more warming, an amplified cycle of evaporation and precipitation, more extreme weather, and more wild swings in weather. Preparing our country to deal with that future will require two things: critical environmental intelligence and a nation of informed citizens, communities, businesses, and emergency managers who know how to use that intelligence.

The article claims that they want to provide us with “environmental intelligence”.  If that is their goal, they certainly have missed the target. What is needed is a more informed approach to the climate issue than presented by Lubchenco and Karl in this article. Physics Today also should explicitly list such publications as op-eds rather than permit them to masquerade as regular articles.

source of Tom Karl image
source of jane lubchenco image

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A Climate Science Post On September 4 2011 Involving Peter Gleick

On September 4 2011 I posted

Hatchet Job On John Christy and Roy Spencer By Kevin Trenberth, John Abraham and Peter Gleick

I have reposted below since the recent behavior (e.g. see) of Peter Gleick, co-founder and president of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security in Oakland, California,  involving the Heartland Institute is just another example of the often vitriolic and unseemly behavior by some to discredit what are appropriate alternative viewpoints on the climate issue.  Unfortunately, the action towards the Heartland Institute displayed by Peter Gleick is just another example of an attitude of a significant number of individuals in the leadership of the climate science community.

Original Post of September 4 2011

There is an opinion article at Daily Climate that perpetuates serious misunderstandings regarding the research of Roy Spencer and John Christy. It also is an inappropriate (and unwarranted) person attack on their professional integrity. Since I have first hand information on this issue, I am using my weblog to document the lack of professional decorum by Keven Trenberth, John Abraham and Peter Gleick.

The inappropriate article I am referring to is

Opinion: The damaging impact of Roy Spencer’s science

published on the Daily Climate on September 2 2011. The article is by Kevin Trenberth, John Abraham, and Peter Gleick.

Their headline reads

In his bid to cast doubts on the seriousness of climate change, University of Alabama’s Roy Spencer creates a media splash but claims a journal’s editor-in-chief.

The science doesn’t hold up.

I am reproducing the text of the article below with my comments inserted.

The text of their article starts with [highlights added]

The widely publicized paper by Roy Spencer and Danny Braswell, published in the journal Remote Sensing in July, has seen a number of follow-ups and repercussions.

Unfortunately this is not the first time the science conducted by Roy Spencer and colleagues has been found lacking. The latest came Friday in a remarkable development, when the journal’s editor-in-chief, Wolfgang Wagner, submitted his resignation and apologized for the paper.

As we noted on RealClimate.org when the paper was published, the hype surrounding Spencer’s and Braswell’s paper was impressive; unfortunately the paper itself was not. Remote Sensing is a fine journal for geographers, but it does not deal much with atmospheric and climate science, and it is evident that this paper did not get an adequate peer review. It should have received an honest vetting.

My Comment:

The claim that a journal on remote sensing, which publishes paper on the climate system “but…does not deal much with atmospheric and climate science”, is not climate science is obviously incorrect.  This trivialization of the journal in this manner illustrates the inappropriately narrow view of the climate system by the authors.  That the paper “should have received an honest vetting”, I assume means that they or their close colleagues should have reviewed it (and presumably recommended rejection).

The Trenberth et al text continues

Friday that truth became apparent. Kevin Trenberth received a personal note of apology from both the editor-in-chief and the publisher of Remote Sensing. Wagner took this unusual and admirable step after becoming aware of the paper’s serious flaws. By resigning publicly in an editorial posted online, Wagner hopes that at least some of this damage can be undone.

My Comment:

My son has posted on this (see). I agree; for Kevin Trenberth to receive an apology is quite bizarre.

Their text continues

Unfortunately this is not the first time the science conducted by Roy Spencer and colleagues has been found lacking.

Spencer, a University of Alabama, Huntsville, climatologist, and his colleagues have a history of making serious technical errors in their effort to cast doubt on the seriousness of climate change. Their errors date to the mid-1990s, when their satellite temperature record reportedly showed the lower atmosphere was cooling. As obvious and serious errors in that analysis were made public, Spencer and Christy were forced to revise their work several times and, not surprisingly, their findings agree better with those of other scientists around the world: the atmosphere is warming.

My Comment:

This statement of the history is a fabrication and is an ad hominem attack.  The errors in their analysis were all minor and were identified as soon as found. Such corrections are a normal part of the scientific process as exemplified recently in the finding of a substantial error in the ERA-40 reanalysis;

Screen, James A., Ian Simmonds, 2011: Erroneous Arctic Temperature Trends in the ERA-40 Reanalysis: A Closer Look. J. Climate, 24, 2620–2627. doi: 10.1175/2010JCLI4054.1.

My direct experience with the UAH-MSU data analysis has been over more than a decade. I will share two examples here of the rigor with which they assess and correct, when needed, their analyses.

First, at one of the  CCSP 1.1 committee meetings that I attended  [for the report Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere: Steps for Understanding and Reconciling Differences (in Chicago)],  an error was brought to the attention of Roy Spencer and John Christy by the lead investigators of the RSS MSU project (Mears and Wentz).

The venue at which this error was brought up (in our committee meeting) was a clear attempt to discredit John and Roy’s research as we sat around the table. Roy found a fix within a few minutes, and concluded it was minor. This fix was implemented when he returned to Alabama.

When I saw how this “exposure” of an error was presented (in front of all of us, instead of in private via e-mail or phone call), I became convinced that a major goal of this committee (under the leadership of Tom Karl) was to discredit them. I told John this at a break right after this occurred. At a later meeting (in December 2008),

Protecting The IPCC Turf – There Are No Independent Climate Assessments Of The IPCC WG1 Report Funded And Sanctioned By The NSF, NASA Or The NRC.

I explicitly saw Tom Karl disparage the Christy and Spencer research.

In order to further examine the robustness of the Christy and Spencer analyses, in 2006 I asked Professor Ben Herman, who is an internationally well-respect expert in atmospheric remote sensing, to examine the Christy and Spencer UAH MSU  and the Wentz and Mears RSS MSU data analyses.   He worked with a student to do this and completed the following study

Randall, R. M., and B. M. Herman (2007), Using Limited Time Period Trends as a Means to Determine Attribution of Discrepancies in Microwave Sounding Unit Derived Tropospheric Temperature Time Series, J. Geophys. Res., doi:10.1029/2007JD008864

which includes the finding that

“Comparison of MSU data with the reduced Radiosonde Atmospheric Temperature Products for Assessing Climate radiosonde data set indicates that RSS’s method (use of climate model) of determining diurnal effects is likely overestimating the correction in the LT channel. Diurnal correction signatures still exist in the RSS LT time series and are likely affecting the long-term trend with a warm bias.”

The robustness of the UAH MSU [the Christy and Spencer analysis] is summarized in the text

“Figure 5 shows that 10-year trends center on the mid-1994’s through 10 year trends centered on the mid-1995’s indicates the RSS−Sonde trends are significantly different from zero where the Sonde−UAH trends are not. In addition, for 10-year trends centered on late-1999 through 10- years trend centered on early 2000 the RSS−Sonde trends are significantly different from zero where Sonde−UAH are marginally not. Another key feature in the RSS−Sonde series is the rapid departure in trend magnitude from trends centered on 1995 through trends centered on late-1999 where the Sonde−UAH magnitude in trends is nearly constant. These features are consistent with the diurnal correction signatures previously discussed. These findings [in] the RSS method for creating the diurnal correction (use of a climate model) is [the] cause for discrepancies between RSS and UAH databases in the LT channel.”

The latest Trenberth et al article is a continuation of this ad hominem effort to discredit John Christy and Roy Spencer.

The Trenberth et al article continues

Over the years, Spencer and Christy developed a reputation for making serial mistakes that other scientists have been forced to uncover. Last Thursday, for instance, the Journal of Geophysical Research – Atmospheres published a study led by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory climate scientist Ben Santer. Their findings showed that Christy erred in claiming that recent atmospheric temperature trends are not replicated in models.

This trend continues: On Tuesday the journal Geophysical Research Letters will publish a peer-reviewed study by Texas A&M University atmospheric scientist Andrew Dessler that undermines Spencer’s arguments about the role of clouds in the Earth’s energy budget.

We only wish the media would cover these scientific discoveries with similar vigor and enthusiasm that they displayed in tackling Spencer’s now-discredited findings.

My Comment:

Roy Spencer is hardly discredited because there are papers that disagree with his analysis and conclusions.  This will sort itself out in the peer-reviewed literature after he has an opportunity to respond with a follow on paper, and/or a Comment/Reply exchange.  Similarly, John Christy can respond to the Santer et al paper that is referred to in the Trenberth et al article.

What is disturbing, however, in the Trenberth et al article is its tone and disparagement of two outstanding scientists. Instead of addressing the science issues, they resort to statements such as Spencer and Christy making “serial mistakes”.  This is truly a hatchet job and will only further polarize the climate science debate

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Hatchet Job On John Christy and Roy Spencer By Kevin Trenberth, John Abraham and Peter Gleick

There is an opinion article at Daily Climate that perpetuates serious misunderstandings regarding the research of Roy Spencer and John Christy. It also is an inappropriate (and unwarranted) person attack on their professional integrity. Since I have first hand information on this issue, I am using my weblog to document the lack of professional decorum by Keven Trenberth, John Abraham and Peter Gleick.

The inappropriate article I am referring to is

Opinion: The damaging impact of Roy Spencer’s science

published on the Daily Climate on September 2 2011. The article is by Kevin Trenberth, John Abraham, and Peter Gleick.

Their headline reads

In his bid to cast doubts on the seriousness of climate change, University of Alabama’s Roy Spencer creates a media splash but claims a journal’s editor-in-chief.

The science doesn’t hold up.

I am reproducing the text of the article below with my comments inserted.

The text of their article starts with [highlights added]

The widely publicized paper by Roy Spencer and Danny Braswell, published in the journal Remote Sensing in July, has seen a number of follow-ups and repercussions.

Unfortunately this is not the first time the science conducted by Roy Spencer and colleagues has been found lacking. The latest came Friday in a remarkable development, when the journal’s editor-in-chief, Wolfgang Wagner, submitted his resignation and apologized for the paper.

As we noted on RealClimate.org when the paper was published, the hype surrounding Spencer’s and Braswell’s paper was impressive; unfortunately the paper itself was not. Remote Sensing is a fine journal for geographers, but it does not deal much with atmospheric and climate science, and it is evident that this paper did not get an adequate peer review. It should have received an honest vetting.

My Comment:

The claim that a journal on remote sensing, which publishes paper on the climate system “but…does not deal much with atmospheric and climate science”, is not climate science is obviously incorrect.  This trivialization of the journal in this manner illustrates the inappropriately narrow view of the climate system by the authors.  That the paper “should have received an honest vetting”, I assume means that they or their close colleagues should have reviewed it (and presumably recommended rejection).

The Trenberth et al text continues

Friday that truth became apparent. Kevin Trenberth received a personal note of apology from both the editor-in-chief and the publisher of Remote Sensing. Wagner took this unusual and admirable step after becoming aware of the paper’s serious flaws. By resigning publicly in an editorial posted online, Wagner hopes that at least some of this damage can be undone.

My Comment:

My son has posted on this (see). I agree; for Kevin Trenberth to receive an apology is quite bizarre.

Their text continues

Unfortunately this is not the first time the science conducted by Roy Spencer and colleagues has been found lacking.

Spencer, a University of Alabama, Huntsville, climatologist, and his colleagues have a history of making serious technical errors in their effort to cast doubt on the seriousness of climate change. Their errors date to the mid-1990s, when their satellite temperature record reportedly showed the lower atmosphere was cooling. As obvious and serious errors in that analysis were made public, Spencer and Christy were forced to revise their work several times and, not surprisingly, their findings agree better with those of other scientists around the world: the atmosphere is warming.

My Comment:

This statement of the history is a fabrication and is an ad hominem attack.  The errors in their analysis were all minor and were identified as soon as found. Such corrections are a normal part of the scientific process as exemplified recently in the finding of a substantial error in the ERA-40 reanalysis;

Screen, James A., Ian Simmonds, 2011: Erroneous Arctic Temperature Trends in the ERA-40 Reanalysis: A Closer Look. J. Climate, 24, 2620–2627. doi: 10.1175/2010JCLI4054.1.

My direct experience with the UAH-MSU data analysis has been over more than a decade. I will share two examples here of the rigor with which they assess and correct, when needed, their analyses. 

First, at one of the  CCSP 1.1 committee meetings that I attended  [for the report Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere: Steps for Understanding and Reconciling Differences (in Chicago)],  an error was brought to the attention of Roy Spencer and John Christy by the lead investigators of the RSS MSU project (Mears and Wentz).

The venue at which this error was brought up (in our committee meeting) was a clear attempt to discredit John and Roy’s research as we sat around the table. Roy found a fix within a few minutes, and concluded it was minor. This fix was implemented when he returned to Alabama.

When I saw how this “exposure” of an error was presented (in front of all of us, instead of in private via e-mail or phone call), I became convinced that a major goal of this committee (under the leadership of Tom Karl) was to discredit them. I told John this at a break right after this occurred. At a later meeting (in December 2008),

Protecting The IPCC Turf – There Are No Independent Climate Assessments Of The IPCC WG1 Report Funded And Sanctioned By The NSF, NASA Or The NRC.

I explicitly saw Tom Karl disparage the Christy and Spencer research.

In order to further examine the robustness of the Christy and Spencer analyses, in 2006 I asked Professor Ben Herman, who is an internationally well-respect expert in atmospheric remote sensing, to examine the Christy and Spencer UAH MSU  and the Wentz and Mears RSS MSU data analyses.   He worked with a student to do this and completed the following study

Randall, R. M., and B. M. Herman (2007), Using Limited Time Period Trends as a Means to Determine Attribution of Discrepancies in Microwave Sounding Unit Derived Tropospheric Temperature Time Series, J. Geophys. Res., doi:10.1029/2007JD008864

which includes the finding that

“Comparison of MSU data with the reduced Radiosonde Atmospheric Temperature Products for Assessing Climate radiosonde data set indicates that RSS’s method (use of climate model) of determining diurnal effects is likely overestimating the correction in the LT channel. Diurnal correction signatures still exist in the RSS LT time series and are likely affecting the long-term trend with a warm bias.”

The robustness of the UAH MSU [the Christy and Spencer analysis] is summarized in the text

“Figure 5 shows that 10-year trends center on the mid-1994’s through 10 year trends centered on the mid-1995’s indicates the RSS−Sonde trends are significantly different from zero where the Sonde−UAH trends are not. In addition, for 10-year trends centered on late-1999 through 10- years trend centered on early 2000 the RSS−Sonde trends are significantly different from zero where Sonde−UAH are marginally not. Another key feature in the RSS−Sonde series is the rapid departure in trend magnitude from trends centered on 1995 through trends centered on late-1999 where the Sonde−UAH magnitude in trends is nearly constant. These features are consistent with the diurnal correction signatures previously discussed. These findings [in] the RSS method for creating the diurnal correction (use of a climate model) is [the] cause for discrepancies between RSS and UAH databases in the LT channel.”

The latest Trenberth et al article is a continuation of this ad hominem effort to discredit John Christy and Roy Spencer.  

The Trenberth et al article continues

Over the years, Spencer and Christy developed a reputation for making serial mistakes that other scientists have been forced to uncover. Last Thursday, for instance, the Journal of Geophysical Research – Atmospheres published a study led by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory climate scientist Ben Santer. Their findings showed that Christy erred in claiming that recent atmospheric temperature trends are not replicated in models.

This trend continues: On Tuesday the journal Geophysical Research Letters will publish a peer-reviewed study by Texas A&M University atmospheric scientist Andrew Dessler that undermines Spencer’s arguments about the role of clouds in the Earth’s energy budget.

We only wish the media would cover these scientific discoveries with similar vigor and enthusiasm that they displayed in tackling Spencer’s now-discredited findings.

My Comment:

Roy Spencer is hardly discredited because there are papers that disagree with his analysis and conclusions.  This will sort itself out in the peer-reviewed literature after he has an opportunity to respond with a follow on paper, and/or a Comment/Reply exchange.  Similarly, John Christy can respond to the Santer et al paper that is referred to in the Trenberth et al article.

What is disturbing, however, in the Trenberth et al article is its tone and disparagement of two outstanding scientists. Instead of addressing the science issues, they resort to statements such as Spencer and Christy making “serial mistakes”.  This is truly a hatchet job and will only further polarize the climate science debate

source of image

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Continued Bias Reporting On The Climate System By Tom Karl and Peter Thorne

Update: June 30 2011 The complete BAMS paper is available from

Blunden, J., D. S. Arndt, and M. O. Baringer, Eds., 2011: State of the Climate in 2010. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 92 (6), S1-S266.

*************************************************

Today (6/29/2011), there were news articles concerning the state of the climate system; e.g. see  the Associated Press news release in the Washington Post

Climate change study: More than 300 months since the planets temperature was below average

The news article refers to the 2010 climate summary that will be published in a Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society article. The article will undoubtedly include informative information on the climate. 

However, the news article itself erroneously reports on the actual state of the climate, as can easily be shown simply by extracting current analyses from the web.  Two of the prominent individuals quoted in the news report are Tom Karl and Peter Thorne. They make the following claims

“The indicators show unequivocally that the world continues to warm,” Thomas R. Karl, director of the National Climatic Data Center, said in releasing the annual State of the Climate report for 2010.”

“There is a clear and unmistakable signal from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans,” added Peter Thorne of the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites, North Carolina State University.”

“Carbon dioxide increased by 2.60 parts per million in the atmosphere in 2010, which is more than the average annual increase seen from 1980-2010, Karl added. Carbon dioxide is the major greenhouse gas accumulating in the air that atmospheric scientists blame for warming the climate.”

Karl is correct on the increase in carbon dioxide, but, otherwise,  he and Peter Thorne are not honestly presenting  the actual state of the climate system.  They focus on the surface temperature data, which as, we have reported on in peer-reviewed papers, has major unresolved uncertainties and includes a systematic warm bias; e.g. see

Pielke Sr., R.A., C. Davey, D. Niyogi, S. Fall, J. Steinweg-Woods, K. Hubbard, X. Lin, M. Cai, Y.-K. Lim, H. Li, J. Nielsen-Gammon, K. Gallo, R. Hale, R. Mahmood, S. Foster, R.T. McNider, and P. Blanken, 2007: Unresolved issues with the assessment of multi-decadal global land surface temperature trends. J. Geophys. Res., 112, D24S08, doi:10.1029/2006JD008229.

Klotzbach, P.J., R.A. Pielke Sr., R.A. Pielke Jr., J.R. Christy, and R.T. McNider, 2009: An alternative explanation for differential temperature trends at the surface and in the lower troposphere. J. Geophys. Res., 114, D21102, doi:10.1029/2009JD011841.

The climate system has not warmed since about 2003 either in the upper ocean or in the lower troposphere as shown in the three figures below.

Tom Karl is wrong in his first quote  - The indicators DO NOT show unequivocally that the world continues to warm. This warming has stalled, at least for now, since about 2003. Peter Thorne is misrepresenting the actual data when he erroneously reports that (assuming he means ‘unequivocal warming’)  “There is a clear and unmistakable signal from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans”.

Global Ocean Heat Content 1955-present

Second, the lower troposphere (from both the RSS and UAH MSU data)  also do NOT SHOW unequivocally that the world continues to warm! Indeed, warming has also stalled since about 2002.

Channel TLT Trend Comparison

Figure caption: Global  average (70 south to 82.5 north) lower tropospheric temperatures (from RSS)

Figure caption: Global  average (70 south to 82.5 north) lower tropospheric temperatures (from UAH)

It should not be surprising that Tom Karl and Peter Thorne are not honestly reporting the actual state of the climate system, which involves a much more complex signal in response to human and natural climate forcings and feedbacks, than they report on; e.g. see

Christy, J.R., B. Herman, R. Pielke, Sr., P. Klotzbach, R.T. McNider, J.J. Hnilo, R.W. Spencer, T. Chase and D. Douglass, 2010: What do observational datasets say about modeled tropospheric temperature trends since 1979?  Remote Sensing, 2(9), 2148-2169.

Previous documentation of the biases and efforts to manage the information provided to policymakers by Tom Karl and Peter Thorne includes the following examples

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

The Selective Bias Of NOAA’s National Climate Data Center (NCDC) With Respect To The Analysis And Interpretation Of Multi-Decadal Land Surface Temperature Trends Under The Leadership Of Tom Karl and Tom Peterson

Erroneous Climate Science Statement By Tom Karl, Director Of The National Climate Data Center And President Of The American Meteorological Society

E-mail Documentation Of The Successful Attempt By Thomas Karl Director Of the U.S. National Climate Data Center To Suppress Biases and Uncertainties In the Assessment Of Surface Temperature Trends

Erroneous Statement By Peter A. Stott And Peter W. Thorne In Nature Titled “How Best To Log Local Temperatures?”

It is disappointing that the media do not properly question the claims made by Tom Karl and Peter Thorne. They are presenting a biased report on the actual state of the climate system.

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Erroneous News Reporting On The Eastern Heat Wave As It Relates To Climate

Figure caption: June 8 2011 (evening EDT) middle tropospheric 500 hPa height anomalies [which are proportional to lower tropospheric temperature anomalies] with higher heights being warmer and lower heights cooler than the long term average. The source of this figure is from http://www.rap.ucar.edu/weather/model/gfs000hr_500_del.gif.

The anomalies of the tropospheric 500 hPa heights associated with the heat wave in the eastern USA show that this  is clearly NOT an unusual event in terms of tropospheric temperatures.  This NOAA analysis places the current heat wave in its proper perspective. It is a regional event, NOT a global event, and not even extreme with respect to the troposphere [the effect of urbanization on the surface temperatures, likely explains the record temperatures].

There has, however, been considerable hype and erroneous statements regarding the current USA east coast heat wave. For example,  the Daily Mail has a story by Mark Duell  headlined

Unbearable heat, plummeting temperatures and a hurricane on the way: America’s freaky weather continues

that has the text

“America’s extraordinary weather continued this week as much of the country sweltered in a record-breaking heatwave, while temperatures were expected suddenly to drop in places and a hurricane threatened to strike from the Pacific Ocean.”

The statement that “much of the country sweltered in a record-breaking heatwave” is a clear example of the misinformation presented in such “news” reports. Much if the USA is actually cooler or near the long term average temperatures for this time of year.

ABC News, in their report by Bill McGuire on June 8 2011

Killer Heat Wave Moves to Northeast, MidAtlantic

wrote regarding

“……a new study published in the journal Climate Change today by Stanford scientists finds that large areas of the globe will warm up so quickly that even the coolest summers will be hotter than the hottest summers of the past 50 years. “

The  ABC News article includes the text

“A study in this month’s issue of the journal Climatic Change predicts that much of the Northern Hemisphere is likely to experience an irreversible rise in summer temperatures within the next 20 to 60 years. The culprit, Stanford University scientists claim, is rising atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations.”

“No need to wait long, the researchers said, because the heat is already here.”

“We find that the most immediate increase in extreme seasonal heat occurs in the tropics, with up to 70 percent of seasons in the early 21st century (2010-2039) exceeding the late-20th century maximum,” the authors wrote.”

The figure below from Roy Spencer’s weblog illustrates that the global average temperature anomaly is actually close to the long-term average.  To relate the current heat wave in the eastern USA (or the fires in the southwest) to global warming is scientifically flawed.

The use of the eastern USA heat wave to claim evidence of an effect of global warming (when the lower troposphere is near its long-term average) is a clear example of the erroneous and misleading communication of climate science by the Stanford study. That study and the news reports are presenting misleading and erroneous information to policymakers and the public. The record heat wave surface temperatures, rather than being due to added greenhouse gases, may be due to the effect of the urban heat island in the eastern USA.

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Comment On The CBS News Article “Is Extreme Weather a Result of Global Warming?”

Update: January 27 2011 – Mike Smith also has an excellent discussion of media misinformation regarding recent extreme weather in his post on his weblog Meterological Musings

NBC Global Warming Nonsense
 

**************************

There is a news article by CBS titled (h/t to Marc Morano)

Is Extreme Weather a Result of Global Warming?

Excerpts read

In the past year, every continent except Antarctica has seen record-breaking floods. Rains submerged one-fifth of Pakistan, a thousand-year deluge swamped Nashville and storms just north of Rio caused the deadliest landslides Brazil has ever seen.

 Southern France and northern Australia had floods, too. Sri Lanka, South Africa, the list goes on.

 And while no single weather event can be linked definitively to global climate change, a growing number of scientists say these extreme events represent the face of a warming world.

 “Any one of these events is remarkable,” said Jay Gulledge, senior scientist for the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. “But all of this taken together could not happen without the extra heat that’s in the ocean. It defies common sense to overlook that link.”

That link works more or less like this. Concentrations of greenhouse gases are the highest the earth has seen in 15 million years. These gases trap heat, warming both the air and the oceans. Warmer oceans give off more moisture, and a warmer atmosphere can hold more of it in suspension. The more moisture in the air, the more powerful storms tend to grow. When these supercharged weather systems hit land, they don’t just turn into rain or snow, they become cyclones, blizzards and floods.

 “There is a lot of tropical moisture in the atmosphere that is getting transported over very long distances and is dropping out in various places around the world in dramatic fashion,” Gulledge said.

and

“Weather like this matches the predictions of numerous recent climate studies. In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change noted that severe droughts and heavy rains were already on the rise in many parts of the world, and linked them to the surge in greenhouse gases. A study published last year by the National Academy of Sciences predicted an increase in heavy rainfall of somewhere between 3 and 10 percent for every Celsius degree of warming. Each additional degree would also cause the amount of area burned by wildfires in North America to double or quadruple, according to the same report.”

What does the actual data say.

The current sea surface temperature anomaly (which is the interface where ocean heat interfaces with the atmosphere) is presented below [from http://www.osdpd.noaa.gov/data/sst/anomaly/2011/anomnight.1.24.2011.gif].

The most recent global average lower tropospheric temperature anomaly is given below [from http://www.remss.com/msu/msu_data_description.html]

Channel TLT Trend Comparison Ch

From University of Alabama at Huntsville Lower Tropospheric Temperatures for 2010 and December 2010

The water vapor anomalies, unfortunately, are not routinely, updated and made available to us. Nevertheless, papers such as

Randel, B. et al, 2004: Interannual Changes of Stratospheric Water Vapor and Correlations with Tropical Tropopause Temperatures. Journal of Atmospheric Sciences. 2133-2148

where the abstract reads [highlight added]

“Interannual variations of stratospheric water vapor over 1992–2003 are studied using Halogen Occultation Experiment (HALOE) satellite measurements. Interannual anomalies in water vapor with an approximate 2-yr periodicity are evident near the tropical tropopause, and these propagate vertically and latitudinally with the mean stratospheric transport circulation (in a manner analogous to the seasonal ‘‘tape recorder’’). Unusually low water vapor anomalies are observed in the lower stratosphere for 2001–03. These interannual anomalies are also observed in Arctic lower-stratospheric water vapor measurements by the Polar Ozone and Aerosol Measurement (POAM) satellite instrument during 1998–2003. Comparisons of the HALOE data with balloon measurements of lower-stratospheric water vapor at Boulder, Colorado (408N), show partial agreement for seasonal and interannual changes during 1992–2002, but decadal increases observed in the balloon measurements for this period are not observed in HALOE data. Interannual changes in HALOE water vapor are well correlated with anomalies in tropical tropopause temperatures. The approximate 2-yr periodicity is attributable to tropopause temperature changes associated with the quasi-biennial oscillation and El Niño–Southern Oscillation.”

and

Susan Solomon, Karen Rosenlof, Robert Portmann, John Daniel, Sean Davis, Todd Sanford, Gian-Kasper Plattner, 2010: Contributions of Stratospheric Water Vapor to Decadal Changes in the Rate of
Global Warming. http://www.sciencexpress.org / 28 January 2010 / Page 1 / 10.1126/science.1182488 (see)

where the abstract reads [highlighting added]

Stratospheric water vapor concentrations decreased by about 10% after the year 2000. Here we show that this acted to slow the rate of increase in global surface temperature over 2000-2009 by about 25% compared to that which would have occurred due only to carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. More limited data suggest that stratospheric water vapor probably increased between 1980 and 2000, which would have enhanced the decadal rate of surface warming during the 1990s by about 30% compared to estimates neglecting this change. These findings show that stratospheric water vapor represents an important driver of decadal global surface climate change.”

The NASA water vapor dataset would help further diagnose the global atmospheric water vapor issue, but, as discussed in

Statement By Vonder Haar Et Al 2010 on Using Existing [NASA Water Vapor] NVAP Dataset (1988 – 2001) for Trends,

while a preliminary study showed a  (1988-1999) decrease in global atmospheric water vapor (see), an updated accurate NVAP data analysis will only be available in 2012 or 2013!

The available data shows that sea surface temperature anomalies show large spatial variations, including large areas of cooler than average conditions, the lower tropospheric temperature anomaly is only slightly warmer than the long-term average (and shows no statistically significant trend since 1998), and the global water vapor anomalies, to the extent we can determine from recent data, shows that it has not increased significantly in recent years. The tropical sea surface temperatures also show large areas of cooler than average conditions.

The conclusions in the CBS news article and the statements by those interviewed failed to examine the actual current values of key climate metrics.

My Recommendations are:

1. Make the latest global average sea surface temperature anomalies available along with the spatial map.

2. Make the latest global average sea surface temperature anomalies available along with the spatial map.

3. Make the latest global tropospheric and lower stratospheric water vapor anomalies available along with the spatial map.

With this information, claims such as made by CBS, and those who were interviewed, could be quickly confirmed or refuted.

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Recommend Reading By Judy Curry On The IPCC Assessment Process

There is a post today by Judy Curry

Reversing the direction of the positive feedback loop

that very clearly and effectively summarizes how the IPCC process and a set of climate scientists have compromised the scientific process. Judy’s discussion fits closely with my experience as to how the events have unfolded.

Among her insightful statements are

“…..the policy cart was put before the scientific horse, justified by the precautionary principle.  Once the UNFCCC treaty was a done deal, the IPCC and its scientific conclusions were set on a track to become a self fulfilling prophecy.”

 “National and international science programs were funded to support the IPCC objectives”

“So were the scientists innocent victims and pawns in all this?  Were they just hardworking scientists doing their best to address the impossible expectations of the policy makers?  Well, many of them were.  However, at the heart of the IPCC is a cadre of scientists whose careers have been made by the IPCC.  These scientists have used the IPCC to jump the normal meritocracy process by which scientists achieve influence over the politics of science and policy.  Not only has this brought some relatively unknown, inexperienced  and possibly dubious people into positions of influence, but these people become vested in protecting the IPCC, which has become central to their own career and legitimizes playing power politics with their expertise.”

I recommend reading the her entire post.

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Comment On A Washington Post Editorial “The Truth About Global Warming” – Another Media Disconnect

There is an editorial today in the Washington Post titled “The truth about global warming” which illustrates the failure of the author of this editorial to properly investigate claims in the NOAA report regarding the climate system. This is yet another media disconnect with the real world. I am discussing just one of their erroneous claims here.

 The article writes

“If the land surface records were systematically flawed and the globe had not really warmed, then it would be almost impossible to explain the concurrent changes in this wide range of indicators produced by many independent groups,” the report said.”

With respect to the land surface temperature record [which is the primary metric used to diagnose global warming by NOAA],  the different groups (e.g. NASA, NCDC, CRU) analyze starting from mostly the same raw data.  We have reported on this in peer-reviewed papers (e.g. see) and on this weblog (e.g. see and see).

As Phil Jones himself has reported (see Section 7)

“The raw surface temperature data from which all of the different global surface temperature trend analyses are derived are essentially the same. The best estimate that has been reported is that 90–95% of the raw data in each of the analyses is the same (P. Jones, personal communication, 2003).”

It is widely agreed that there has been warming of the climate system, as is more appropriately monitored by the changes in upper ocean heat content (see, see and see). However, the quantitative value of this warming as measured by the global and land surface temperature trends from different groups are NOT independent from each other. Indeed, there is peer reviewed research that indicates an overstatement of the magnitude of the warming as a result of a warm bias in the land surface temperature record;

Klotzbach, P.J., R.A. Pielke Sr., R.A. Pielke Jr., J.R. Christy, and R.T. McNider, 2009: An alternative explanation for differential temperature trends at the surface and in the lower troposphere. J. Geophys. Res., 114, D21102, doi:10.1029/2009JD011841.

Klotzbach, P.J., R.A. Pielke Sr., R.A. Pielke Jr., J.R. Christy, and R.T. McNider, 2010: Correction to: “An alternative explanation for differential temperature trends at the surface and in the lower troposphere. J. Geophys. Res., 114, D21102, doi:10.1029/2009JD011841″, J. Geophys. Res., 115, D1, doi:10.1029/2009JD013655

The NOAA report is in error in their claim and the Washington Post editorial swallowed this claim without a proper investigation of its validity. 

I will have a post on the other claims in the NOAA report in an upcoming post.

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