Category Archives: Q & A on Climate Science

Q&A From A Group Of Retired NASA Personnel And Associates

I received a request from John Nielsen-Gammon to answer several questions that he passed on from retired NASA Personnal and Associates. I have reproduced the relevant parts below, as these may be of general interest.  The website of the NASA group can be found here [http://www.therightclimatestuff.com/]

On Mon, Nov 5, 2012 at 5:27 PM, John Nielsen-Gammon wrote:

Roger -

Hi!

I’m working with a group of retired NASA folks and associates who are taking an independent look at climate change.  They recently came across your climate blog manifesto, and I offered to pass a couple of questions along to you.  To wit:

1. When you say “humans are significantly altering the global climate”, what do you mean by significant?  More than nature?  Just enough to be detectable?  etc.

My Reply

Significant, as I intend it, means a clear detectable signal. For example, the increase of the atmospheric concentration CO2 at Mauna Loa resulting from fossil fuel activity is significant. Similarly, land use change has resulted in a clear signal of a change in the partitioning of the surface fluxes of heat and and moisture. Human input of aerosols have a well documented signal in the atmosphere and though surface deposition.
These are examples of a significant alteration of the global (and regional and local) climate by humans. There, are of course, many other examples.

2. Do you consider cloud and moisture feedbacks to fall into the human category or the natural category?

My Reply

To the extent that feedbacks are different due to human climate forcings, this part of the feedback is, of course, human caused. However, I do not know how to separate feedbacks from observations, although, of course, you can in models.

3. What are the other important human-associated climate forcings besides CO2?

For a short summary see my oral summary [http://pielkeclimatesci.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/pielke_oral_testimony.pdf] to a House Subcommittee.

My Reply

In that summary, in addition to the human radiative forcing of CO2 and a few other greenhouse gases, there are:

  • The influence of human-caused aerosols on regional (and global) radiative heating
  • The effect of aerosols on clouds and precipitation
  • The influence of aerosol deposition (e.g. soot; nitrogen) on climate
  • The effect of land cover/ land use on climate
  • The biogeochemical effect of added atmospheric CO2

I summarize this in more detail in several publications and public testimony. These include:

Pielke Sr., R., K. Beven, G. Brasseur, J. Calvert, M. Chahine, R. Dickerson, D. Entekhabi, E. Foufoula-Georgiou, H. Gupta, V. Gupta, W. Krajewski, E. Philip Krider, W. K.M. Lau, J. McDonnell,  W. Rossow,  J. Schaake, J. Smith, S. Sorooshian,  and E. Wood, 2009: Climate change: The need to consider human forcings besides greenhouse gases. Eos, Vol. 90, No. 45, 10 November 2009, 413. Copyright (2009) American Geophysical Union. http://pielkeclimatesci.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/r-354.pdf

Pielke Sr., R.A., A. Pitman, D. Niyogi, R. Mahmood, C. McAlpine, F. Hossain, K. Goldewijk, U. Nair, R. Betts, S. Fall, M. Reichstein, P. Kabat, and N. de Noblet-Ducoudré, 2011: Land use/land cover changes and climate: Modeling analysis and observational evidence. WIREs Clim Change 2011, 2:828–850. doi: 10.1002/wcc.144.

Pielke Sr., Roger A., 2008: A Broader View of the Role of Humans in the Climate System is Required In the Assessment of Costs and Benefits of Effective Climate Policy. Written Testimony for the Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality of the Committee on Energy and Commerce Hearing “Climate Change: Costs of Inaction” – Honorable Rick Boucher, Chairman. June 26, 2008, Washington, DC., 52 pp. http://pielkeclimatesci.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/testimony-written.pdf

See also the assessments

National Research Council, 2005: Radiative forcing of climate change: Expanding the concept and addressing uncertainties. Committee on Radiative Forcing Effects on Climate Change, Climate Research Committee, Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate, Division on Earth and Life Studies, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 208 pp. http://www.nap.edu/openbook/0309095069/html/

Kabat, P., Claussen, M., Dirmeyer, P.A., J.H.C. Gash, L. Bravo de Guenni, M. Meybeck, R.A. Pielke Sr., C.J. Vorosmarty, R.W.A. Hutjes, and S. Lutkemeier, Editors, 2004: Vegetation, water, humans and the climate: A new perspective on an interactive system. Springer, Berlin, Global Change – The IGBP Series, 566 pp. http://www.springer.com/earth+sciences/meteorology/book/978-3-540-42400-0

In the EOS article, we (a group of AGU Fellows) wrote

“In addition to greenhouse gas emissions, other first-order human climate forcings are important to understanding the future behavior of Earth’s climate. These forcings are spatially heterogeneous and include the effect of aerosols on clouds and associated precipitation [e.g., Rosenfeld et al., 2008], the infl uence of aerosol deposition (e.g., black carbon (soot) [Flanner et al. 2007] and reactive nitrogen [Galloway et al., 2004]), and the role of changes in land use/land cover [e.g., Takata et al., 2009]. Among their effects is their role in altering atmospheric and ocean circulation features away from what they would be in the natural climate system [NRC, 2005]. As with CO2, the lengths of time that they affect the climate are estimated to be on multidecadal time scales and longer.”

I also recommend these articles

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.  http://pielkeclimatesci.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/r-361.pdf

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. Extreme Events and Natural Hazards: The Complexity Perspective Geophysical Monograph Series 196 © 2012. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved. 10.1029/2011GM001086 http://pielkeclimatesci.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/r-3651.pdf

Let me know if you would like more. :-)

Let me know if they would like further feedback. They can review other papers of mine, besides what are listed below, on my research weblog – http://cires.colorado.edu/science/groups/pielke/pubs/

source of image

Comments Off

Filed under Q & A on Climate Science

Interview With James Wynn In The English Department At Carnegie Mellon University


I was invited to answer a set of questions motivated by Anthony Watt’s excellent surface temperature project [see www.surfacestations.org] project by James Wynn of the English Department at Carnegie Mellon University.  The website at the University includes the brief bio]

James Wynn has published articles on rhetoric, mathematics, and science in Rhetorica, Written Communication, and 19th Century Prose. His recent interests have been in rhetoric, science, mathematics and public policy with a focus on nuclear power. He is a founder and current director of the Pittsburgh Consortium for Rhetoric and Discourse Studies.

With his permission, I have reproduced the relevant part of our e-mail exchange below [my replies are in italics]

On Fri, 2 Nov 2012, James I Wynnwrote:

Professor Pielke,

I am an Associate Professor in the English Department at Carnegie Mellon University working on a book about citizen science. In my book I intend to include a chapter on the Surface Stations project. In the process of researching, I have been trying to get a sense about the development of the project and the peril and promise involved in citizen/scientist collaborations. I was wondering whether it might be possible for me to have a brief phone interview with you about your role in the project .

I really appreciate your taking the time to read and consider my request.

Sincerely,

James Wynn

James’s questions and my answers are below

Date: Fri, 2 Nov 2012 16:43:22 -0400
From: James I Wynn <jwynn@andrew.cmu.edu>
To: ‘Roger A Pielke Sr’ <pielkesr@ciresmail.colorado.edu>
Subject: RE: Interview Request for Citizen Science Book
Roger,
Here are my questions. I appreciate your taking the time to answer them.

All the Best,
James

1. To what extent and in what ways were you involved in developing the Surface Stations project? What persuaded you to get involved? Please provide some detail about your involvement and motivations.

The first part of this is question, of course, is more appropriate for Anthony Watts to answer.  With respect to my involvement, I have been 100% in support of what Anthony has successfully completed. My interest in this subject was reported, for example, in our papers

Hanamean, J.R. Jr., R.A. Pielke Sr., C.L. Castro, D.S. Ojima, B.C. Reed, and Z. Gao, 2003: Vegetation impacts on maximum and minimum temperatures in northeast Colorado. Meteorological Applications, 10, 203-215. http://pielkeclimatesci.files.wordpress.com/2009/10/r-254.pdf

Davey, C.A., and R.A. Pielke Sr., 2005: Microclimate exposures of surface-based weather stations – implications for the assessment of long-term temperature trends. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., Vol. 86, No. 4, 497–504. http://pielkeclimatesci.files.wordpress.com/2009/10/r-274.pdf

It took several years for this later paper to get through the review process since there was resistance to publish such a critique in the quality of station siting.

The resistance of NCDC, under Tom Karl, to questioning of siting quality is clearly illustrated in the attempt by Tom Karl, as Lead on the CCSP 1.1 report, to prevent the assessment of this siting issue as well as other issues on the spatial representativeness and accuracy of those data. This issue is summarized in my Public Comment

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. http://pielkeclimatesci.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/nr-143.pdf

Other papers followed which built on examining the issue of the value of land surface temperatures in diagnosing multi-decadal surace temperature changes. These include

Pielke Sr., R.A., T. Stohlgren, W. Parton, J. Moeny, N. Doesken, L. Schell, and K. Redmond, 2000: Spatial representativeness of temperature measurements from a single site. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 81, 826-830. http://pielkeclimatesci.files.wordpress.com/2009/10/r-221.pdf

Pielke Sr., R.A., T. Stohlgren, L. Schell, W. Parton, N. Doesken, K. Redmond, J. Moeny, T. McKee, and T.G.F. Kittel, 2002: Problems in evaluating regional and local trends in temperature: An example from eastern Colorado, USA. Int. J. Climatol., 22, 421-434. http://pielkeclimatesci.files.wordpress.com/2009/10/r-234.pdf

Pielke Sr., R.A. J. Nielsen-Gammon, C. Davey, J. Angel, O. Bliss, N. Doesken, M. Cai., S. Fall, D. Niyogi, K. Gallo, R. Hale, K.G. Hubbard, X. Lin, H. Li, and S. Raman, 2007: Documentation of uncertainties and biases associated with surface temperature measurement sites for climate change assessment. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 88:6, 913-928. http://pielkeclimatesci.files.wordpress.com/2009/10/r-318.pdf

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. http://pielkeclimatesci.files.wordpress.com/2009/10/r-321.pdf

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, 2009: Reply to comment by David E. Parker, Phil Jones, Thomas C. Peterson, and John Kennedy on “Unresolved issues with the assessment of multi-decadal global land surface temperature trends. J. Geophys. Res., 114, D05105, doi:10.1029/2008JD010938. http://pielkeclimatesci.files.wordpress.com/2009/10/r-321a.pdf

Jamiyansharav, K., D. Ojima, and R.A. Pielke Sr., 2006: Exposure characteristics of the Mongolian weather stations. Atmospheric Science Paper No. 779, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, 75 pp. http://pielkeclimatesci.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/nr-145.pdf

McNider, R.T., G.J. Steeneveld, B. Holtslag, R. Pielke Sr, S. Mackaro, A. Pour Biazar, J.T. Walters, U.S. Nair, and J.R. Christy, 2012: Response and sensitivity of the nocturnal boundary layer over land to added longwave radiative forcing. J. Geophys. Res., doi:10.1029/2012JD017578 http://pielkeclimatesci.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/r-371.pdf

Fall, S., A. Watts, J. Nielsen-Gammon, E. Jones, D. Niyogi, J. Christy, and R.A. Pielke Sr., 2011: Analysis of the impacts of station exposure on the U.S. Historical Climatology Network temperatures and temperature trends. J. Geophys. Res., 116, D14120, doi:10.1029/2010JD015146.Copyright (2011) American Geophysical Union. http://pielkeclimatesci.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/r-367.pdf

This last paper is the first formal  peer-reviewed paper resulting from the effective research collaboration with Anthony.

2.      Were you involved in the writing or editing of Watts’s report Is the U.S. Surface Temperature Record Reliable? (2009)? If you were, please provide some detail about your contributions to the document.

I did not directly work with Anthony on his excellent report

3.      To what degree, in your estimation, did Watt’s report offer an appropriate (fair/balanced) treatment of Surface Stations findings? What sorts of criticisms did it provoke in the scientific community? Please include only ones that might be considered reasonable.

Anthony’s work has had a major impact on NCDC. Not only was he invited to present a lecture at NCDC, but his work has been used by NCDC both in at least one of their published papers, and in removing poorly sited locations from their sata set. Anthony involved expertise in the climate community, including John Neilson-Gammon at Texas A&M who is Texas State Climatologist. I recommend you ask Anthony about this, including how NCDC inappropriately, in our view, used Anthony’s data.

In the BEST project, Richard Muller used Anthony’s siting data in this analysis. While I disagree with the conclusions claimed by Muller (he has grossly misinterpreted and overstated the BEST findings as I have documented in my weblog), the BEST use of Anthony’s data illustrates that the surface station project led by Anthony is a robust scientific endeavor.

4.      What challenges/resistance did you face personally/professionally because of your collaboration with Watts? What has motivated you to work with skeptical members of the public despite these challenges?

I disagree with the term “skeptics” as used in the climate discussion as I view it as pejorative.

I work with colleagues of all perspectives. Anthony Watts clearly has established himself as a respect scientific colleague.

There has been push back, however, because I have worked with those who do not accept the IPCC conclusions as scientifically complete. This has affected my funding, for example. However, it has not altered my ability to publish in the peer reviewed literature as many of my colleagues share my disagreements with significant aspects of the CCSP and IPCC reports. This shared view can be seen in the multi-authorship list of my publications on this subject. Another example directly related to the surface temperature siting issue is the paper

Mahmood, R., R.A. Pielke Sr., K.G. Hubbard, D. Niyogi, G. Bonan, P. Lawrence, B. Baker, R. McNider, C. McAlpine, A. Etter, S. Gameda, B. Qian, A. Carleton, A. Beltran-Przekurat, T. Chase, A.I. Quintanar, J.O. Adegoke, S. Vezhapparambu, G. Conner, S. Asefi, E. Sertel, D.R. Legates, Y. Wu, R. Hale, O.W. Frauenfeld, A. Watts, M. Shepherd, C. Mitra, V.G. Anantharaj, S. Fall,R. Lund, A. Nordfelt, P. Blanken, J. Du, H.-I. Chang, R. Leeper, U.S. Nair, S. Dobler, R. Deo, and J. Syktus, 2010: Impacts of land use land cover change on climate and future research priorities. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 91, 37–46, DOI: 10.1175/2009BAMS2769.1 http://pielkeclimatesci.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/r-323.pdf

I also recommend these weblog posts to provide examples of the difficulties and biases that are introduced when one deviates from the IPCC perspective

http://pielkeclimatesci.wordpress.com/2010/06/16/my-comments-on-questionnaire-on-ipcc-processes-and-procedures/

http://pielkeclimatesci.wordpress.com/2009/11/26/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-surface-temperature-trends/

5.      What role, in your opinion, should scientist play in engaging the public on issues of public controversy? To what extent do you believe your opinion is shared by other members/organizations in your field?

In answer to your second question, as one example, I solicited colleagues within the AGU who are Fellows to write an article that provides a more scientifically robust view than presented by the IPCC. This is just one example that illustrates that my views are shared by quite a few climate scientists. This article is

Pielke Sr., R., K. Beven, G. Brasseur, J. Calvert, M. Chahine, R. Dickerson, D. Entekhabi, E. Foufoula-Georgiou, H. Gupta, V. Gupta, W. Krajewski, E. Philip Krider, W. K.M. Lau, J. McDonnell, W. Rossow, J. Schaake, J. Smith, S. Sorooshian, and E. Wood, 2009: Climate change: The need to consider human forcings besides greenhouse gases. Eos, Vol. 90, No. 45, 10 November 2009, 413. Copyright (2009) American Geophysical Union. http://pielkeclimatesci.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/r-354.pdf

Other examples of the wider acceptance of my views are in the papers

McAlpine, C.A., W.F. Laurance, J.G. Ryan, L. Seabrook, J.I. Syktus, A.E. Etter, P.M. Fearnside, P. Dargusch, and R.A. Pielke Sr. 2010: More than CO2: A broader picture for managing climate change and variability to avoid ecosystem collapse. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 2:334-336, DOI10.1016/j.cosust.2010.10.001. http://pielkeclimatesci.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/r-355.pdf

Pielke Sr., R.A., A. Pitman, D. Niyogi, R. Mahmood, C. McAlpine, F. Hossain, K. Goldewijk, U. Nair, R. Betts, S. Fall, M. Reichstein, P. Kabat, and N. de Noblet-Ducoudré, 2011: Land use/land cover changes and climate: Modeling analysis and observational evidence. WIREs Clim Change 2011, 2:828–850. doi: 10.1002/wcc.144. http://pielkeclimatesci.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/r-369.pdf

In terms of how to involve scientists in working with policymakers, I recommend my son’s books

The Honest Broker

http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/publications/special/honest_broker/index.html

and

The Climate Fix

http://theclimatefix.com/

6.      If there are challenges/barriers to scientists’ engagement with the public, what sort of solutions, in your opinion, would improve current practices?

I recommend my son’s books which I have listed above.

I also have urged a reframing of the issue. This is summarized in our paper\

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. Extreme Events and Natural Hazards: The Complexity Perspective Geophysical Monograph Series 196 © 2012. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved. 10.1029/2011GM001086  http://pielkeclimatesci.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/r-3651.pdf

where we concluded that

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 those from 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 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). A contextual vulnerability assessment using the bottom-up, resource-based framework is a more inclusive approach for policy makers 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.

This summary below is also how I have been framing the climate science issue

The natural Earth’s climate system is highly nonlinear in which forcings and response are not necessarily proportional; thus change is often episodic and abrupt, rather than slow and gradual.  Climate has always changed over time.  As Earth’s population has grown, however, human climate forcings have become significant on the local, regional and global scales. These human forcings include greenhouse gas emissions, aerosol emissions and deposition [e.g., black carbon (soot) and reactive nitrogen], and changes in land use and land cover.  A number of these forcings are spatially heterogeneous and include the effect of aerosols on clouds and associated precipitation. Among their effects is their role in altering atmospheric and ocean circulation features away from what they would be in the natural climate system.  The greenhouse emissions and aerosol emissions, in particular, have resulted in changes to the global average radiative forcings. Most, if not all, of these human influences on regional and global climate will continue to be of concern during the coming decades. Changes in the global radiative forcings (global warming or cooling) are a subset of climate change

I followed up with

Hi James

Thanks!  I will plan to post later this week.  See below for my follow up.

Best Regards
Roger

James had a follow up request for clarification [again my replies are in italics]

On Sun, Nov 4, 2012 at 8:43 AM, James I Wynn <jwynn@andrew.cmu.edu> wrote:

Roger,

You have my permission to publish my questions and your answers. The book will take some time to finish so you needn’t worry about interfering with that.

I would also appreciate it if you could elaborate a bit on some of your answers to my questions.

  • In question three I asked about the appropriateness of the Surface Stations findings in the report Is the U.S. Surface Temperature Record Reliable? (2009). I wanted to get your perspective on whether the fact that in this report Watts jumps from the data about the stations to conclusions about their effect on temperature bias (p.16) to policy recommendations (p. 17) was something you were comfortable/uncomfortable with and/or something that opened the report up to critique from other members of the climate science community.

Anthony recommended the following

These findings lead me to make the following suggestions to NOAA/NCDC:

• An independently managed and comprehensive quality-control program should be implemented by NOAA/NWS to determine the best stations in the network.

• A pristine dataset should be produced from the best stations and then compared to the remainder of the USHCN network to quantify the total magnitude of bias.
• Users of the current USHCN data should be advised of the quality-control issues so that they may reexamine results derived from such data.

• NOAA should undertake a comprehensive effort to improve the siting of the stations and correct the temperature record for contamination that has been observed to occur during the past two decades.”

I agree with each. NCDC has done a poor job of quality controlling their network (and this is also true for many countries around the world whose data is used to create the GHCN). If it was not for Anthony, we would not have had any movement on this issue from NCDC.

Indeed, while I was State Climatologist for Colorado, we had a small contract to photograph USHCN sites in Colorado. We provided the photographs to NCDC (and, unfortunately did not retain copies). Later when we sought to obtain them we were refused. Anthony’s outstanding project leapfrogged over this bureaucratic roadblock.

  • You mention that you disagree with the term “skeptics” to refer to Watts or other people who challenge climate change. What term would you prefer to use instead?

I am not aware who disagrees that changes in climate occur. The term “climate change” is itself redundant. Climate is always changing; e.g. see my post

Excellent New Paper “The Climate Is Not What You Expect” By Lovejoy and Schertzer 2012

http://pielkeclimatesci.wordpress.com/2012/06/29/new-paper-the-climate-is-not-what-you-expect-by-lovejoy-and-schertzer-2012/

Anthony Watts is as much a part of the climate science community as are those who wrote the IPCC reports. It is just that those who wrote those reports consciously decided to exclude viewpoints such as Anthony’s. You can see my letter as to why I resigned from participation in the IPCC process in 1995 (and was never asked again).

My 1995 Resignation Letter From The IPCC
http://pielkeclimatesci.wordpress.com/2011/09/30/my-1995-resignation-letter-from-the-ipcc/

  • In answer to my fifth and sixth questions, your response seems to be that scientists can engage with the public by working with them at the local-level to assess the socio-economic effects of climate forcing. In the context of your work with Watts, however, there seems to be a broader national scope and the issue being addressed is the credibility of the science at the base of an important socio-political issue. This is not to suggest that your mission was to challenge the credibility of the institutions doing the science but to bring awareness and fill in holes in the scientific knowledge about temperature biases. So what I want to know is whether there are a broader set of roles for scientists. Also, when you answer about the challenges to working with the public your answer seems to explain the challenge of solving the problem of climate change rather than the challenges generally of working with the public. I am very much interested in the latter.

I endorse the policy approach recommended in my son’s book The Climate Fix.

Anthony’s work on the surface temperature data is an excellent example of applying the scientific method to a particular climate metric which is being used for policy applications.

His website Watts Up With That provides an effective venue for individuals from all perspectives to constructively discuss climate science more broadly and policy actions that are needed to deal with threats from climate and other environmental risks. This risks involve local, regional and global issues.

  • Finally, I wanted you to know that I have conducted a phone interview with Anthony about the project.

Thank you for confirming that.

source of image

Comments Off

Filed under Q & A on Climate Science

My Comment On “The Top American Science Questions: 2012″ On “Climate Change”

As announced on my son’s weblog post

Romney vs. Obama in the ScienceDebate

there is an informative set of Q&A between President Obama and Presidential candidate Mitt Romney that appeared in the  article [with the media sponsor Scientific American]

The Top American Science Questions: 2012

The question I am commenting on is

Climate Change.  The Earth’s climate is changing and there is concern about the potentially adverse effects of these changes on life on the planet. What is your position on cap-and-trade, carbon taxes, and other policies proposed to address global climate change—and what steps can we take to improve our ability to tackle challenges like climate change that cross national boundaries?

President Obama answered in part

Climate change is the one of the biggest issues of this generation, and we have to meet this challenge by driving smart policies that lead to greater growth in clean energy generation and result in a range of economic and social benefits….”

President Obama makes the mistake of equating climate change as being dominated by CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions. Readers of my weblog and my papers know that this is clearly a mistaken view of the role of humans in the climate system; e.g. see also the post by Chris Rapley who wrote

“I agree completely that human greenhouse gas emissions are only part of the climate change story, and that climate change is only a subset of the broader issue of human disturbance of the Earth system.”

and also

“….we have…left ourselves in the awkward position should policy makers address and deal with CO2 emissions of then having to say – “oh and by the way, there are these other issues too…”

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney answered in part

“I am not a scientist myself, but my best assessment of the data is that the world is getting warmer, that human activity contributes to that warming, and that policymakers should therefore consider the risk of negative consequences. However, there remains a lack of scientific consensus on the issue— on the extent of the warming, the extent of the human contribution, and the severity of the risk — and I believe we must support continued debate and investigation within the scientific community….

Economic growth and technological innovation, not economy-suppressing regulation, is the key to environmental protection in the long run. So I believe we should pursue what I call a “No Regrets” policy — steps that will lead to lower emissions, but that will benefit America regardless of whether the risks of global warming materialize and regardless of whether other nations take effective action. “

Mitt Romney clearly understands that the climate system is much more complicated than oversimplified by President Obama.

In my post in December 2011

Comment On The National Journal Article  “Heads In The Sand” By Coral Davenport – Its Not Just The Republicans But The Democrats Also

I commented on the viewpoints of the two political parties, which I summarized in the abstract [highlight added]

Many Republicans do not accept the current understanding of climate science. Democrats, however,  also have their “heads in the sand” with respect to the reality of the human role in the climate system. This polarization also illustrate how politicized climate science has become.

The three hypotheses of the human role in the climate system can be, with only a few exceptions, be summarized in terms of the political party.

1. the Republican Party view – Human influence on climate variability and change is of minimal importance, and natural causes dominate climate variations and changes on all time scales. In coming decades, the human influence will continue to be minimal

climate change  >> human caused effects including emissions of CO2 and a few other greenhouse

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

climate change = global warming = human emissions of CO2 and a few other greenhouse

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

climate change >>  global warming  > human caused effects > emissions of CO2 and a few other greenhouse

In order to develop a more robust discussion of climate science, there are two science questions, as a start, that I recommend be asked of members of both political parties

1. Is global warming (and cooling) a subset of climate change or does it dominate climate change?

2. What evidence exists that the multi-decadal global climate models can skillfully predict i) the real-world observed behaviour of large-scale atmospheric-ocean circulation features such as ENSO, the NAO, the PDO, ect. and ii) CHANGES in the statistics (patterning and in time) of these circulation features?

I recommended a Way-Forward

In our article

Pielke Sr., R., K.  Beven, G. Brasseur, J. Calvert, M. Chahine, R. Dickerson, D.  Entekhabi, E. Foufoula-Georgiou, H. Gupta, V. Gupta, W. Krajewski, E.  Philip Krider, W. K.M. Lau, J. McDonnell,  W. Rossow,  J. Schaake, J.  Smith, S. Sorooshian,  and E. Wood, 2009: Climate change: The need to consider human forcings besides greenhouse gases.   Eos, Vol. 90, No. 45, 10 November 2009, 413. Copyright (2009) American   Geophysical Union. http://pielkeclimatesci.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/r-354.pdf

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.”

Among the questions policymakers should ask include:

  • What is the sensitivity of this resource to changes in each of these key variables? (This may include but is not limited to, the sensitivity of the resource to climate variations and change on short (days); medium (seasons) and long (multi-decadal) time scales).
  • What changes (thresholds) in these key variables would have to occur to result in a negative (or positive) outcome for this resource?

In his answer, President Obama perpetuates the erroneously narrow view advocated by the Democratic Party. In contrast, Mitt Romney has moved from the different, but still mistaken perspective of climate science by the Republican Party to one that is in agreement with my viewpoint on our understanding of the climate system and the way to move forward to deal with climate issues. Using my terminology above, Mitt Romney has the Real World View of the climate issue.

If Mitt Romney’s perspective on other issues is as well-thought out as his views on climate, he is clearly the more qualified of the two candidates to be President. 

Comments Off

Filed under Climate Science Reporting, Q & A on Climate Science

Further Discussion With Zhongfeng Xu On The Value Of Dynamic Downscaling For Multi-Decadal Predictions

In the post

Question And Answer On The Value Of Dynamic Downscaling For Multi-Decadal Predictions

two colleagues of mine and I discussed the significance of their new paper

Xu, Zhongfeng and Zong-Liang Yang, 2012: An improved dynamical downscaling method with GCM bias corrections and its validation with 30 years of climate simulations. Journal of Climate 2012 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-12-00005.1

This post continues this discussion with  Zong-Liang Yang of the University of Texas in Austin and Zhongfeng Xu of the Institute of Atmospheric Physics of the Chinese Academy of Science.

Following is the comment by Zhongfeng, with my responses embedded.

Dear Roger,

Thank you for your interest to our paper.

In terms of your comments “their results show that they are not adding value to multi-decadal climate projections”. I think the comment is not accurate enough. We did not compare the climate changes simulated by IDD and TDD in the paper.

My Comment:

What you and Liang have very effectively documented are systematic errors in the observationally unconstrained model runs. You did not compare climate change, but you do show that the model results are biased. This bias is an impediment to skillful multi-decadal forecasts as it shows errors in the model physics and dynamics at that level. The elimination of these errors in the unconstrained runs is a necessary condition for skillful multi-decadal global model predictions.

Zhongfeng continues

So it’s too early to make conclusion whether IDD has adding value to climate change simulation.

My Response

To show skill, one has to show that changes in regional climate statistics between your control and your “future” are skillfully predicted. For model predictions in the coming decades, it is not enough to predict the same climate statistics, one must also skillfully predict changes to these statistics. Otherwise, the impact community could just as well use reanalyses.

Zhongfeng continues

 I guess it’s possible that IDD improves climate change projection when the GCM does a good job in producing climate change signals but producing a bad climatological means.

My Response

This cannot be correct. If the climatological means are in error, there are clearly problems in the model physics and dynamics. Also, what evidence do you have that the GCM does a good job in terms of multi-decadal predictions? [please see my post http://pielkeclimatesci.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/kevin-trenberth-is-correct-we-do-not-have-reliable-or-regional-predictions-of-climate/]

Zhongfeng continues

I will pay more attention to the IDD performance in climate change projection in our future study. I will keep you updated if we find some interesting results.

My Response

I look forward to learning more on your study. Thanks!

Zhongfeng continues

BTW: The IDD does significantly improve the projection of climatological mean. It’s still better than TDD which shows larger bias than IDD in projecting climatological means.

My Response

However, the global model multi-decadal predictions still are run with these biases. Even if you use IDD for the interior, the global model still has these errors meaning they have substantive physics and/or dynamic problems.

Zhongfeng’s comment

 Thank you for all your comments. They are very informative and make me thinking more about this dynamical downscaling study.  ^_^

My Reply 

I have also valued the discussion. I will add this as a weblog post follow-up. Your paper is a very important addition to the literature but the bottom line message is, in my view, documentation of why the impacts communities (e.g. for the IPCC assessments) should not be focusing on this methodology as bracketing the future of regional climates.

source of image

Comments Off

Filed under Climate Models, Debate Questions, Q & A on Climate Science

Question And Answer On The Value Of Dynamic Downscaling For Multi-Decadal Predictions

In response to 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.

and their paper

Xu, Zhongfeng and Zong-Liang Yang, 2012: An improved dynamical downscaling method with GCM bias corrections and its validation with 30 years of climate simulations. Journal of Climate 2012 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-12-00005.1

and my weblog post

Comments On The New Paper “An Improved Dynamical Downscaling Method With GCM Bias Corrections And Its Validation With 30 years Of Climate Simulations” By Xu and Yang 2012

I have had the following informative and constructive interaction with Zong-Liang Yang of the University of Texas in Austin and Zhongfeng Xu of the Institute of Atmospheric Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. My summary comment is at the send of the post.

Comment By Liang and Zhongfeng

“A more accurate regional projection of future climate is always useful for making decisions even the policymakers do not require them. In this paper we are trying to improve regional projections of future climate. This does not mean IDD can produce a 100% accurate projection. As a matter of fact, it is impossible to make a 100% accurate projection. However we still can make climate projections better. Our result shows IDD can better simulate the future climate mean states and extreme events than TDD.”

My Response:

I disagree. What you have shown are systematic errors in regional model simulations using a set of hindcast runs, which can be used to correct (adjust) simulation results for another subset. This is analogous to the Method of Model Output Statistics [MOS] and is certainly an appropriate approach. However, in a future run (after 2012), you are running the regional climate model with lateral boundary conditions and (interior nudging if used) which will have a different climatology of input. Those lateral boundary conditions will have systematic biases too, but likely will be different (but as you say there is no way to correct for from
observations).

Comment By Liang and Zhongfeng

Yes, there is no way to correct GCM biases in simulating climate change but we still can correct GCM systemic biases in simulating climatological means. A detailed discussion is as follows.

In the paper, we are trying to correct the systematic biases (which by no means represent all errors but only the biases in climatological mean and variance) in the GCM to prevent these systematic biases from being passed into the RCM through the LBC.

There are different biases between GCM simulations and the NCEP reanalysis, which can be reflected in the phase of interannual variations (e.g. the GCM simulates a positive anomaly but the NCEP shows a negative anomaly in a individual year), climate change (e.g. the GCM simulates a 0.1C/decade warming trend but the NCEP shows a 0.2C/decade warming trend), the climatological mean and the variance, and so on and so forth. Our bias correction method only corrects the climatological mean bias and variance bias because these are the GCM systemic biases and they usually do not change too much with time. Please refer to Fig. 1 in the paper. The differences in mean and variance between NNRP and the original GCM simulation do not change too much during the period of 1980-2010. We believed the conclusion remains the same if we plot the figure from 1950-2010. This means the GCM climatological mean bias and variance bias are generally time-independent. These biases could result from some parameterization schemes or something else. If a parameterization scheme tends to produce a negative bias in the current climate, then we have reason to believe it will produce a negative bias in the future climate. It is this type of biases we can correct. With regard to the biases such as the phase of interannual variation and climate change from the past to the future, we do not correct them because we do not know what would happen in the future. But we have the confidence to correct the climatological mean bias and the variance bias in the GCM. The GCM climatological mean bias over the future period is composed of the GCM systemic bias over the past period and the climate change bias (from the past to the future). While we only correct the former one in our current paper, our results show that the GCM climatological mean and variance bias corrections lead to a better downscaled mean climate and extreme event statistics relative to the traditional dynamical downscaling approach (TDD).

We would like to explain the GCM bias correction further through the following figure.

The black solid line represents the NNRP data – The blue solid line represents the original GCM simulation -The red solid line represents the bias corrected GCM simulation- The dotted lines represent the climatological means over the past (green shaded area) and the future periods, respectively.

The bias correction method proposed in the paper involves shifting (i.e., removing the climatological mean bias) and scaling (i.e., removing the variance bias) the original GCM simulation at each model grid. As we can see, the bias-corrected GCM has the same climatological mean as NNRP over the past period (red and black dotted line on the left). However, their climatological means may be different over the future period (red and black dotted line on the right). This difference results from the GCM biases in the climate change simulation (i.e. the difference between the past and the future mean climate), which can not be removed by our GCM bias correction method. Even so, for the future period, the difference between the red dotted line and the black dotted line is still smaller than the difference between the blue dotted line and the black dotted line because the GCM systemic bias in climatological mean has been removed. This means the bias corrected GCM is closer to NNRP over the “future” period than the original GCM simulation does. The improvement is mainly due to the GCM climatological mean bias correction. Note that the bias correction to the future GCM simulation does NOT need the NNRP data over the “future” period.

My Comment:

An even more serious issue is that simulating hindcast regional climate statistics is just one requirement. The regional climate model to have value beyond reanalyses [as well as for straightforward interpolation of the global model projection results onto a finer terrain and landscape map], must skillfully predict CHANGES in the regional climate statistics. This was not done in your paper.

Comment By Liang and Zhongfeng

We did not analyze the CHANGES simulated by the regional models because the GCM bias correction does not correct the CHANGES bias simulated by GCM. So it seems no reason we expect IDD can produce better CHANGES projection than TDD.

“In our study, we have 63-year NNRP data (1948-2010) and we also run CAM over the same period. Then we divided the 63-year into two periods: the ‘past’ (1948-1979) and the ‘future’ (1980-2010). We correct CAM biases of the future simulation based on the CAM past simulation and NNRP past data. In other words, we do NOT need future observations when correcting CAM future biases. The bias corrected CAM future simulation was used to drive WRF (i.e. the IDD experiment). The IDD experiment was compared with the WRF run driven by NNRP future data to assess the performance of IDD in simulating the future climate. In addition, the CAM bias corrections only correct the CAM climatological mean bias and the variance bias. The bias correction method retains the CAM simulated climate change from the past to the future plus the phase of interannual variation. We assume that the CAM systemic biases do not change over time when correcting CAM biases.

For climate projections, the future climate change may be more important than the future climatological means. Unfortunately, the CAM bias correction method can not correct CAM biases in simulating future climate change. Even so the IDD is still better than the TDD in regional projection of future climate.”

My Comment

If, as you say,

“Unfortunately, the CAM bias correction method can not correct CAM biases in simulating future climate change.”

what is the value of the approach in this context? That is the crux as to why they are needed by the impacts communities. How can it be presented as skillful?

Comment By Liang and Zhongfeng

 In terms of the value of the IDD we think there are at least two applications in which we can expect better downscaled climate: (1) regional projections of future climate; (2) sensitivity studies.

(1) Regional projections of future climate: As the paper showed, IDD is able to produce better climatological means and extreme event statistics relative to TDD although the GCM bias correction method can not remove all biases in GCM. Therefore IDD is able to provide more useful information than TDD in the impacts studies. Of course people care about the climate change more than the climatological means. However the climate change prediction is a very challenging and complicated issue. If someone can significantly improve the climate change prediction that would be a great contribution to the science community. We did not find a good way to improve the future climate change projection yet.

(2) Sensitivity studies: IDD can also be applied to downscale GCM sensitivity simulations. In this case the GCM bias correction should be considered in a different way. Namely the GCM control run is corresponding to the “past GCM simulation” in the paper and the GCM sensitivity run is corresponding to the “future GCM simulation” in the paper. The difference between the GCM control run and the sensitivity run is corresponding the “climate change (from the past to the future) simulated by GCM” in the paper. In this way the difference between various GCM simulations (control run and sensitivity run) can be retained and passed into RCM, and further impact the downscaled simulations.

My Comment

As I wrote in response to the first comment, the “future. (1980-2010)” must be able to predict that part of the results which involve CHANGES in the regional climate statistics. What fraction of your results “past” (1948-1979) and the “future” (1980-2010) involve changes in the regional statistics, and how well are they replicated based on the reanalyses?

Comment By Liang and Zhongfeng

We assess the IDD performance by comparing GCM-driven WRF simulation with reanalysis drive-simulation rather than comparing with NCEP reanalysis because they are in different resolutions. WRF simulation: 60km; NCEP2 reanalysis: 2.5 degree. We did not compare GCM-driven WRF simulation with NARR, either, because we want to isolate LBC influences. The difference between GCM-driven WRF simulation and NARR results from both the GCM and RCM biases. Two biases could appear in same sign or opposite sign. The opposite sign biases would offset each other then produces a correct simulation for the wrong reasons.

Except the increasing CO2 concentration in RCM, the climate change in RCM mainly comes from GCM in our simulation. So the climate changes in RCM strongly depends GCM simulation. If GCM is able to produce a good climate change simulation, the RCM is supposed to do a better job, too, vice versa.

We did not analyze the climate CHANGES in the regional statistics. We guess that the performance of IDD in simulating climate CHANGES is similar with TDD.

My Comment

On your comment

“In our paper, we corrected CAM biases of atmospheric variables such as air temperature and geopotential height. The bias correction method can also be applied to Type 4 dynamical downscaling only with SST bias correction being included as well.”

It would be valuable for you to expand on this approach, as I really feel your methodology has its real power for type 3 downscaling (i.e. seasonal prediction).

My Comment:

Since the global model is not adjusted outside the domain of the regional climate model, the systematic biases are continually being fed into the regional model in the future scenarios. How do you feel you handle this continual insertion of what are actually errors?”

Comment By Liang and Zhongfeng

We corrected GCM biases at each global model grid (including the areas both inside and outside the domain of regional climate model as well as the boundary regions of RCM). However, only the GCM data over the RCM boundary was used in the dynamical downscaling run since the GCM data was used as the lateral boundary condition(LBC) of RCM. The GCM data outside and inside the RCM domain do not impact RCM simulation. In future study, we will further employ spectral nudging in WRF. By doing this the bias corrected GCM data  inside the RCM domain will be fed into RCM as well. Hopefully the spectral nudging will reduce the RCM system biases in future climate dynamical downscaling. The combination of GCM bias correction and spectral nudging are expected to reduce both the GCM bias and RCM bias and in turn produce a downscaled simulation closer to observation. The numerical simulations with GCM bias correction and nudging had been finished and we are going to work on them shortly. Hope receive your comments as well in future.

Liang: please correct me if any response are wrong or you have different opinions.

My Final Comment

This is a very informative discussion by two outstanding climate scientists. Their method of adjusting for systematic biases in the global models is an important scientific contribution.

  • It first shows the level of error in the global  models even for the current climate.
  • It also provides a method to improve on long-term model predictions, particularly on the seasonal time scale.

However, in terms of multi-decadal climate projections (predictions), their results show that they are not adding value. They wrote that they do “not analyze the climate CHANGES in the regional statistics. We guess that the performance of IDD in simulating climate CHANGES is similar with TDD.”  While they list above under #1 that they are providing “regional projections of future climate”, if the model’s cannot be shown to accurately predict CHANGES in climate statistics,  they are not providing skillful projections to the impacts community.

Indeed, the impacts community should just go directly to the reanalyses for their climate statistics. They could insert arbitrary perturbations in that weather data (e.g. add 1C to summer temperatures, reduce summer rainfall by 10%, ect) in order to assess risk to the resource of interest to them.  Using model predictions for decades from now, which have no demonstrated skill at predicting changes in regional climate statistics, is misleading policymakers.

source of images (see and see)

Comments Off

Filed under Guest Weblogs, Q & A on Climate Science, Research Papers

E-Mail Interaction With Chris Colose Of The University Of Albany (SUNY)

Chris Colose of the University of Wisconsin  [Chris e-mailed this afternoon 2/24/2012] and said he is currently at the University of Albany (SUNY)]. Chris had  alerted me to a post that he presented on Skeptical Science titled

Tropical Thermostats and Global Warming

He invited me to participate there, but I declined based on my previous negative experience with the lack of open constructive debate at Skeptical Science. With Chris’s permission, I am posting below our exchange of e-mails and at the end he has answered a set of questions I posed to him. I appreciate his agreement to constructively interact even though we have quite substantive disagreements in views.

On Thu, 16 Feb 2012, Colose, Chris wrote:

Roger Pielke,

In response to the WUWT article (and your embracement of it) on the tropical thermostat see, http://skepticalscience.com/tropical_thermostat.html

In case you would like to contribute to the discussion…

Chris

I replied

 Hi Chris

Thank you for alerting me to their post. My experience with Skeptical Science (as I have documented extensively on my weblog) is they are not really interested in a constructive debate. I have given up trying with them.

I presented several papers that show evidence of self-regulation (each in the peer reviewed literature), and that is where the debate really needs to take place.

P.S. Skeptical Science never even responded to my request for their answers to these two questions:

1. Is global warming (and cooling) a subset of climate change or does    it dominate climate change?

2.  What evidence exists that the multi-decadal global climate models    can skillfully predict i) the real-world observed behaviour of    large-scale atmospheric-ocean circulation features such as ENSO, the    NAO, the PDO, ect. and ii) CHANGES in the statistics (patterning and    in time) of these circulation features?

I posted on this in

http://pielkeclimatesci.wordpress.com/2011/10/31/two-questions-to-skeptical-science-regarding-i-the-relation-of-global-warming-to-climate-change-and-ii-the-predictive-skill-of-multi-decadal-global-climate-models/

The questions would challenge them too much, I assume, so they have ignored them.

Roger

On Thu, 16 Feb 2012, Colose, Chris wrote:

Roger,

Please keep in mind that SkS is run by multiple authors, each of which have their own specific interests and topics of choice that they post on.  Personally I am not very active on the site, but I don’t have my own blog running anymore so it’s a good place for me to post an article if I feel inclined to do so.

The posts are largely voluntary, in which people submit what they feel are worthwhile articles for internal review and after suggestions/edits, it would get published. If someone seen your challenge, then they may have felt compelled to write on it (I’ve not seen any indication that they were aware of your post, but again, I’m inactive there for large intervals of time and don’t check the “authors only” forums frequently)…one of the moderators would be a better contact for this.  I personally am not really interested enough in inter-blog “challenges” of this sort.

All I intended to convey to you was my post on the Willis Eschenbach tropical thermostat, and your follow-up to it. And I would respond to comments in the form of discussion/debate on that article independently of how other authors would.

Chris

I responded with

Hi Chris

I was in direct contact with one of their contributors – Rob Honeycutt where we exchanged a number of e-mails. He said they would respond to my questions (this was months ago) and they never did. I had an extensive interchange with commenters and presenters on the weblog last year (these exchanges are summarized in detail on my website).

My conclusion of their weblog is that it is a place for the “convinced” to vent their views and, for some, disparage those who do not (e.g. see their small links on the upper left of their weblog home page – Christy Crocks. ect). To my knowledge, most people do not pay any attention to their weblog because of their tone and arrogance in some of their posts, and certainly in their comments.  Rob was cordial and we constructively interacted in our e-mail exchanges but this approach is not a general case for a number of others on that weblog.

Because of your interest (and your alerting me to your post), however, I will post on the self-regulation issue later next week on my weblog. It is actually quite easy to show this self-regulation exists, at least to some extent, if one accepts the IPCC radiative forcings as being reasonably accurate.

As a side issue, you might be interested in these several new papers of ours

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. http://pielkeclimatesci.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/r-365.pdf

Pielke Sr., R.A., and R.L. Wilby, 2012: Regional climate downscaling . what’s the point? Eos Forum. Jan 31 2012 issue http://pielkeclimatesci.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/r-361.pdf

Pielke Sr., R.A., A. Pitman, D. Niyogi, R. Mahmood, C. McAlpine, F. Hossain, K. Goldewijk, U. Nair, R. Betts, S. Fall, M. Reichstein, P. Kabat, and N. de Noblet-Ducoudré, 2011: Land use/land cover changes and climate: Modeling analysis and observational evidence. WIREs Clim Change 2011, 2:828.850. doi: 10.1002/wcc.144. http://pielkeclimatesci.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/r-369.pdf

I would also welcome your answers to the two questions posed in my earlier e-mail, which I would be glad to post on my weblog (and you can repost elsewhere as you see appropriate).

Best Regards

Roger

Then Chris resplied and I have posted it and my comments together (which I sent back to him) in the following (with very minor edits for formating). I have presented my comments with italics to better distinguish them from Chris’s comments.

Hi Chris

As promised, please see my replies below. Do I have your permission to post our e-mail exchanges?

Best Regards

Roger

Chris’s reply 

On Thu, 16 Feb 2012, Colose, Chris wrote:

Roger,

I appreciate your concern, and if I could run SkS it would probably be in a different fashion than they do now, but for the most part I think they try to be consistent with the general scientific literature (and I certainly try to do so in my posts, and to mention various viewpoints when it be relevant).

Chris

My Comment: The issue of “relevancy” is quite subjective and SkS clearly has an advocacy perspective.

Chris continues:

You’ll see that I mentioned many older articles relating to the tropical thermostat hypothesis, but the fact is that this is now an outdated concept in the literature, and the analysis of Eschenbach is certainly not “new” as you implied in your title. Even if some negative feedbacks exist to dampen climate sensitivity beneath the IPCC range, the ideas in the WUWT article (and going back to Ramanathan and Collins) would, if taken literally, mean temperatures in the tropics could not change much at all.  This has been shown by a number of papers to have no basis in physics.  The Sun and Zhang study sheds no light on this, and in fact their results may not even be highly applicable to future global warming (and actually there’s been a few CMIP5 models that do quite well with this problem).

My Comment- Please send the papers that refute the findings of Sun. Their results also directly relate to the multi-decadal climate prediction issue, as one has his results are on climate processes, which are an integral component of the longer term climate variability. You also did not even discuss the self regulation of the coldest arctic tropospheric temperatures that we discuss in the papers I alerted you to.

On showing that the radiative imbalance involves a negative feedback (which means there is a self regulation of this aspect of the climate system), if one accepts the net radiative forcing given in the Statement of Policymakers of the 2007 IPCC report, the actual observed radiative imbalance is significantly less.

I have discussed this issue often on my weblog; e.g. see

Climate Metric Reality Check #1 . The Sum Of Climate Forcings and Feedbacks Is Less Than The 2007 IPCC Best Estimate Of Human Climate Forcing Of Global Warming http://pielkeclimatesci.wordpress.com/2007/11/30/climate-metric-reality-check-1-the-sum-of-climate-forcings-and-feedbacks-is-less-than-the-2007-ipcc-best-estimate-of-human-climate-forcings/

Why We Need Estimates Of The Current Global Average Radiative Forcing http://pielkeclimatesci.wordpress.com/2008/01/04/why-we-need-estimates-of-the-current-global-average-radiative-forcing/

Chris continues:

Hurley and Galewsky 2010 showed that the ENSO humidity change tend to relate more to where air is dehydrated, owing to the dynamics, rather than changes in the temperature field (see also the Dessler and Wong paper on ENSO vs Global warming water vapor feedback simualtions)- you cannot make up your conclusion about what you think their results show for for future radiative-changes just because they have no data for it!.

My Comment: I am unclear what you are using these papers to show in terms of our discussion. Clearly, the Sun work is on a climate process, and he shows that the models are inaccurate in terms of how it is represented in the models. The real world, using ENSO events, has a limit on how warm the ocean SSTs become when cloud-precipitation-ocean feedbacks are included. It should come as no surprise that the IPCC type models do so badly; e.g. see

Stephens, G. L., T. L.Ecuyer, R. Forbes, A. Gettlemen, J..C. Golaz, A. Bodas.Salcedo, K. Suzuki, P. Gabriel, and J. Haynes (2010), Dreary state of precipitation in global models, J. Geophys. Res., 115, D24211, doi:10.1029/2010JD014532. http://europa.agu.org/?view=article&uri=/journals/jd/jd1024/2010JD014532/2010JD014532.xml&t=jd,2010,stephens

Chris continues:

You do not allow comments on your blog, and the subject in the WUWT article is pretty exhausted in the literature, so I seen no other appropriate venue for discussion than to invite you to SkS.  But evidently you tend to be just as biased as others in the papers you present and your interpretation of them, so there’s really no point in arguing how we like various blogs.

My Comment:  I did try to debate on SkS and found that the tone was inappropriate for such exchanges (and posted on this; e.g. see

Response To Skeptical Science On A Series Of Weblog Posts http://pielkeclimatesci.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/response-to-skeptical-science-on-a-series-of-weblog-posts/

Two Questions To Skeptical Science Regarding i) The Relation of Global Warming To Climate Change and ii) The Predictive Skill Of Multi-Decadal Global Climate Models http://pielkeclimatesci.wordpress.com/2011/10/31/two-questions-to-skeptical-science-regarding-i-the-relation-of-global-warming-to-climate-change-and-ii-the-predictive-skill-of-multi-decadal-global-climate-models/

The subject of the limit on the tropical SSTs is hardly a closed debate as illustrated by the Sun work as well as that of Stephens.

I also permit the presentation of alternative viewpoints on my weblog, and you certainly are invited to do that. I would then invite other climate scientists to respond is guest weblog posts.

Chris continues:

As far as your ‘challenge,’ I have let the rest of the SkS team know about it, so I will leave it to them to sort out who (if any) would like to do a post on it.  It’s really not of high interest to me.  Your first question has the obvious answer that global temperature is not the only thing important for the more broadly encompassing “climate change,” but I think it is a much more useful diagnostic than you do in that other variables (such as water vapor content, decrease in cold days, etc) follow suit with temperature anomalies, and most regions of the globe follow suit with the global-scale radiative forcing (with the usual caveat that there are heterogenities in how that response is distributed in space).

My Comment:  You avoided properly answering the first question. To rephrase, how do you define “climate forcings” and what are the first order human climate forcings that matter to society and the environment?

To provide a framework for you to respond, please let me know where you disagree with the fundings in our article

Pielke Sr., R., K. Beven, G. Brasseur, J. Calvert, M. Chahine, R. Dickerson, D. Entekhabi, E. Foufoula-Georgiou, H. Gupta, V. Gupta, W. Krajewski, E. Philip Krider, W. K.M. Lau, J. McDonnell,  W. Rossow,  J. Schaake, J. Smith, S. Sorooshian,  and E. Wood, 2009: Climate change: The need to consider human forcings besides greenhouse gases. Eos, Vol. 90, No. 45, 10 November 2009, 413. Copyright (2009) American Geophysical Union. http://pielkeclimatesci.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/r-354.pdf

Chris continues:

I appreciate that you have a number of minority views on the relative importance of forcings, or the useful diagnostics we should pursue to gauge the response, but you have not convinced me that they are correct (or at least not being looked at by a number of other groups).

My Comment:  Please show me where the IPCC discusses these other forcings in their 2007 Statement for Policymakers.

Chris continues:

On the second question, I do not have expertise concerning how models have evolved over time and how up-to-date CMIP5 generation models represent, quantitatively, the degree of internal variability observed in the climate system, or how that skill varies across the models.  My impression is that the question itself is rather broad; I appreciate most blogs talk about “models” as if the whole discipline were one giant monolith, and they could all be categorized as “useful” or “not useful” independent of the timescale, variable, and statistic of interest,. However, the fact is it would take a report to delve into the question you pose with any justice.  Similarly, it would take a while to convincingly caveat the relevance of this to, say, attribution or climate sensitivity issues that I suspect most non-specialists are interested in.  For instance, it is well recognized that ENSO projections on multi-decadal timescales in a higher CO2 world are all over the place, which is problematic, but unclear to me how that would relate to the subject of attribution or sensitivity.

My Comment:  The second question I asked

2.  What evidence exists that the multi-decadal global climate models can skillfully predict i) the real-world observed behaviour of    large-scale atmospheric-ocean circulation features such as ENSO, the    NAO, the PDO, ect. and ii) CHANGES in the statistics (patterning and    in time) of these circulation features?

is fundamental to almost everything the IPCC models must do if they want to provide forecasts to the impacts community that have skill. I am surprised that you have not delved into this issue. If I am correct, the money being spent on the multi-decadal IPCC-type forecasts for the impact community is not only a waste, but is misleading policymakers. If you are just blindly accepting their impact (regional/local) results as robust, than I see a major source of our disagreement.

I welcome articles from you that show the IPCC models have skill on the multi-decadal time periods. Until you (or others) do, all the IPCC-type models can tell us is that the climate system is sensitive to the addition of CO2, other greenhouse gases, aerosols and land use/land cover change. We do not need a multi-hundred million dollar modeling program to provide regional and local impact scenarios when the models have shown no skill at doing this on multi-decadal time scales (even when run in a hindcast mode).

I look forward to your responses.

Chris Replied

Roger (you may post this correspondence if you wish),

1) Whether there is or is not work refuting Sun is irrelevant.  My point is that you have over-reached and have overextended the conclusions of the Sun study, well beyond what is justified.  The conclusions in the blog post by Eschenbach (and earlier studies by Ramanthan and Collins for example) make a specific claim of a maximum SST independent of solar or greenhouse forcing.  The feedbacks to ENSO have no clear relation to this whatsoever. Third party readers can judge this for themselves.

My Comment:  Sun’s research is not claiming that SSTs are independent of solar or greenhouse forcing. What he does show is that when the SSTs warm or cool, there is a negative feedback due to clouds and precipitation which results in a movement back to the original SSTs.  This is a self regulation mechanism, and would be applicable to any change in the tropical ocean SSTs, at least in the Pacific.

2) I do not believe you understand the difference between a ‘radiative forcing’ and the modeled ‘radiative imbalance’ of Hansen.  These numbers are not directly comparable .

My Comment:  The radiative imbalance = the radiative forcing + the radiative feedback.  If the radiative imbalance is less than the radiative forcing, the radiative feedbacks must be negative.

3) I fully agree that models need improvement on regional-scale hydrologic variables.  Your pointing this out is just moving the goal posts to the other side of the field; please remember I e-mailed you about my response to the original Eschenbach blog post.

My Comment:  You failed to adequately answer the question. The multi-decadal climate model predictions fail to skillfully predict changes in regional climate statistics in hindcasts.  This is a necessary condition for them to have any credibility to skillfully predict regional impacts in coming decades due to the combined effect of natural and human climate forcings and feedbacks.  The goalposts have not been moved. The regional climate predictions have not even made the cut to properly play the game.

4) My version of a “climate forcing” is the same as the “radiative forcing” definition widely used in the literature, though I recognize (as does IPCC) that non-radiative influences exist with respect to land cover changes (i.e., changes in evapo-transpiration or roughness, which are typically of opposite sign as the albedo response, and have very small impact on global mean temperature, but large regional changes).  I would consider the “first order” climate forcings over the 20th century to be LLGHG’s (primarily CO2 and methane) as well as aerosols, in the sense that the time-evolution of global mean temperature in the last 50 years or so can be roughly accounted for by the evolution of these two components.  Regionally, this may not be true.

My Comment:  Your narrow view of climate forcing is untenable as we show in our article

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

As we show in that article, the focus on just CO2 and methane as the causes of climate change is a rejected hypothesis.  Indeed, if it was this simple, it would make the prediction of changes in the frequency of such societally important events such as droughts, floods and tropical cyclones much easier.

5) Once again, I defer you to a modeling expert on the precise details of how models capture various variables and statistics, over what timeframes they do better or worse, and how that usefulness varies across models.  I have only delved into this in a shallow manner, but your questions to me are rather broad, nor do I get a sense that the modeling community has sold their results as more certain than is warranted.

My Comment:   I urge you to explore this issue. If you are going to state that “the time-evolution of global mean temperature in the last 50 years or so can be roughly accounted for by the evolution of these two components”, you should  i) provide an explanation for the muted increase in global average temperatures over the past decade or so, and ii) how does this translate to the ability to skillfully predict changes in the frequency of extreme events?

Finally, thank you for constructively interacting on these issues. I hope you can challenge your thinking on this subject.

source of image

Comments Off

Filed under Guest Weblogs, Q & A on Climate Science

What Does “Climate Change” Mean? Does A Lack Of Preciseness In Its Definition Discourage Effective Discussion Of The Risks From Climate On Key Societal And Environmental Resources?

The term “climate change” is used by the media, funding agencies and in professional journals (e.g. see and see) but without a clear and adequate definition as to what this term means.  Here are a few definitions

1. Dictionary.com – climate change – a long-term change in the earth’s climate, especially a change due to an increase in the average atmospheric temperature: Melting glaciers imply that life in the Arctic is affected by climate change.

2.  The EPA -

Climate change is a problem that is affecting people and the environment. Greater energy efficiency and new technologies hold promise for reducing greenhouse gases and solving this global challenge. EPA’s website provides information on climate change for communities, individuals, businesses, states, localities and governments.

and from EPA FAQ

How are the terms climate change, global warming, and global change different?

The  term climate change is often used as if it means the same thing as the term  global warming. According to the National Academy of Sciences, however, “the  phrase ‘climate change’ is growing in preferred use to ‘global warming’ because  it helps convey that there are [other] changes in addition to rising  temperatures.” Climate change refers to any distinct change in measures of  climate lasting for a long period of time. In other words, “climate change”  means major changes in temperature, rainfall, snow, or wind patterns lasting  for decades or longer. Climate change may result from:

  • natural factors, such  as changes in the Sun’s energy or slow changes in the Earth’s orbit around the  Sun;
  • natural processes  within the climate system (e.g., changes in ocean circulation);
  • human activities that  change the atmosphere’s makeup (e.g, burning fossil fuels) and the land surface  (e.g., cutting down forests, planting trees, building developments in cities  and suburbs, etc.).

Global  warming is an average increase in temperatures near the Earth’s surface and in  the lowest layer of the atmosphere. Increases in temperatures in our Earth’s  atmosphere can contribute to changes in global climate patterns. Global warming  is probably the most talked about climate change we are experiencing, but is  just one of many changes along with precipitation levels, storm intensity, etc.  Global warming can be considered part of climate change along with changes in  precipitation, sea level, etc.

Global  change is a broad term that refers to changes in the global environment,  including climate change, ozone depletion, and land-use change.

3.  IPCC – Climate change

Climate change refers to a statistically significant variation in either the mean state of the climate or in its variability, persisting for an extended period (typically decades or longer). Climate change may be due to natural internal processes or external forcings, or to persistent anthropogenic changes in the composition of the atmosphere or in land use.
Note that the Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in its Article 1, defines “climate change” as:  “a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods”. The UNFCCC thus makes a distinction between “climate change” attributable to human activities altering the atmospheric composition, and “climate variability” attributable to natural causes.

These diverse definitions need to be more focused, if we are going to build an agreement among scientists, policymakers and the public as to what is meant when the term “climate change” is used.    In Chapter 6 in the book

Climate Fix - What Scientists and Politicians Won’t Tell You About Global Warming 2010 by Roger A. Pielke Jr. Basic Books

there is a very insightful discussion of the subject as to what is meant by the term “climate change” and the resulting confusion and misunderstandings when more than one definition is used.  As written on page 145 of Climate Fix, in relation to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change” definition,

“The IPCC adopts a broader definition of “climate change” that is more scientifically accurate. Claims that climate policy should be based on the work of the IPCC typically fail to recognize that the policy community has rejected the most fundamental statement of the IPCC on the issue – the very definition of “climate change”.

On Judy Curry’s weblog Climate Etc, she has reported on an article by Richard Betts in her post 2 perspectives on communicating climate science where Richard writes

But climate science is not a single-issue subject.  It is not carried out solely to see whether cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are needed or not.  A further and increasingly important issue is to understand the changes and variability we are seeing in order to help us live with the ever-changing weather and climate…..discussions need to move on from being anchored in the usual one-dimensional policy debate.

Both Judy and I agree 100% with Richard’s post.

I would like to add to this discussion here.  First, as I presented in my post

Recommended Definitions of “Global Warming” And “Climate Change”

Climate Change is any multi-decadal or longer alteration in one or more physical, chemical and/or biological components of the climate system…..Thus climate change includes, for example, changes in fauna and flora, snow cover, etc which persists for decades and longer. Climate variability can then be defined as changes which occur on shorter time periods.

In addition, when assessing the vulnerability of key resources (such as water resources, food, energy, human health and ecosystem function) with respect to climate (as well as the threat from all environmental and social risks) the questions we need to ask are, as presented 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.

1. Why is this resource important? How is it used? To what stakeholders is it valuable?

2. What are the key environmental and social variables that influence this resource?

3. What is the sensitivity of this resource to changes in each of these key variables? (This may include but is not limited to, the sensitivity of the resource to climate variations and change on short (days); medium (seasons) and long (multi-decadal) time scales).

4. What changes (thresholds) in these key variables would have to occur to result in a negative (or positive) outcome for this resource?

5. What are the best estimates of the probabilities for these changes to occur? What tools are available to quantify the effect of these changes? Can these estimates be skillfully predicted?

6. What actions (adaptation/mitigation) can be undertaken in order to minimize or eliminate the negative consequences of these changes (or to optimize a positive response)?

7. What are specific recommendations for policymakers and other stakeholders?

In this context, climate change is just one of a multitude of threats. Building a consensus among the diverse policy and political viewpoints based on the above 7 questions will be easier that continuing to force a one-dimensional view of climate change (either as narrowly defined by the UNFCCC) or more broadly by the IPCC) onto the policy and political communities.

source of image

Comments Off

Filed under Climate Science Op-Eds, Q & A on Climate Science