Monthly Archives: August 2005

Is the Destruction from Hurricane Katrina due to Global Warming?

The catastrophic destruction that has occurred in the central Gulf coast of the United States due to Hurricane Katrina is occupying our thoughts. This calamity will consume enormous time and cost to recover from and to provide as much protection as possible from the inevitable next hurricane of this magnitude in this region and elsewhere. This is a sad time.

However, little time has passed before the disaster is being blamed by some of the media on global warming (see, for example, articles in The Belfast Telegraph and the Los Angeles Times. This narrow perspective completely misses the real reason for this disaster. As we, and others, have discussed (see Pielke, R.A. Sr., 2000: Discussion Forum: A broader perspective on climate change is needed and Pielke Jr. et al. 2005: Hurricanes and global warming), the significant risks are due to crossing thresholds in our vulnerability to environmental threats of all types. In this case, construction of towns on the immediate coastline and of a city below sea level (New Orleans) makes these regions particularly vulnerable to hurricanes. In the book,

Pielke, R.A., Jr. and R.A. Pielke, Sr., 1997: Hurricanes: Their nature and impacts on society. John Wiley and Sons, England, 279 pp.

the exposure of the coastal population to hurricanes in the eastern United States is clear (see Figure 2.8 (d) on page 52), with New Orleans clearly at risk. What this figure also shows is that other urban areas along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts have also become increasingly vulnerable as population grows, and, therefore, infrastructure development accelerates.

Even with respect to global warming, its reasons for occurring over the past several decades, while predominately due to humans (see our Climate Science post of August 29th), is not predominately due to the increase in the atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, nor is global warming the more significant way humans are altering the climate system (see our Climate Science post of July28th What is the Importance to Climate of Heterogeneous Spatial Trends in Tropospheric Temperatures?). The media have almost universally ignored an accurate description of the spectrum of human forcings on climate as presented in the National Research Council 2005 report.

Thus the advocates of blaming global warming erroneously assume that carbon dioxide emissions are the main cause of this disaster, but miss the other human caused global warming forcings that we summarized in our August 29th blog. They miss that other climate change effects, both due to natural and human- caused influences, such as atmospheric and ocean circulation changes due to spatially heterogeneous climate forcings such as landscape changes and aerosol emissions, have a greater effect than the relatively small magnitude of global warming that has actually been documented (see Pielke and Christy 2005)

The media fail to recognize that climate is complex and involves numerous natural and human climate forcings and feedbacks. To focus on the radiative warming forcing of carbon dioxide shows a complete misunderstanding of the climate system. We recommend they read the 2005 National Research Council report . They also need to understand that we cannot rely on even the complete description of climate change to understand our vulnerability to hurricanes and other weather events. We need to focus on an integrated assessment of the vulnerability of specific societal and environmental resources, (such as an urban center) to the entire spectrum of risks (see Table E.7 in Pielke, R.A. Sr., and L. Bravo de Guenni, 2004, for a summary of the vulnerability perspective as contrasted with using climate models to define risk).

Thus the answer to the question posed in this blog, is that we cannot attribute this disaster to global warming, or even climate change. It is a human-caused disaster resulting from decisions made as to where to locate our population and commerce, without enough protection to avoid inevitable catastrophic consequences.

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Is Phenology a Climate Metric? The Reason for a National Phenology Network

The answer is a definitive yes! Phenology is defined as “the study of natural phenomena that recur periodically, such as migration or blossoming, and their relation to climate and changes in season” (Webster’s New World dictionary, 3rd Edition). Last week I attended a meeting in Tucson where a Workshop, organized by Julio Betancourt of the University of Arizona and Mark Schwartz of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, was held to plan a National Phenology Network (NPN). The plan is to involve volunteers through the country to monitor a variety of plants, insects and birds and to transmit information on their phenological stage in real-time to be used by government and private agencies, as well as anyone interested in this aspect of our environment. The NPN also proposes to co-locate sites with the new National Weather Service (NWS) COOP Modernization locations (This NWS plan, developed under the direction of Professor Ken Crawford from the University of Oklahoma is described in NOAA’s NWS Cooperative Weather Observer website).

This new data source would complement those observations of temperature and precipitation data that have been collected, mostly by volunteers, for over a century in the United States, and which is the basis for much of our knowledge of long term trends in temperature and precipitation. The COOP Modernization is building onto this data set by adding real-time and automation to the collection of quality multi-decadal data.

The addition of phenology as part of our long term assessment will provide a valuable new set of climate metrics. The greening of the landscape in the spring, for example, has been shown to significantly affect the temperature rise as we enter the warm season (see Schwartz, M. D., 1994: Monitoring global change with phenology: The case for the spring green wave. Int. J. of Biometeorology). This greening, as it alters the heat and moisture fluxes into the atmosphere, and the surface reflectance of solar insolation, is not just a response to weather, but feedbacks to influence temperatures, precipitation and other atmospheric variables, such as shown in Eastman et al. (2001).

There are already effective phenology networks. The European Phenology Network, Canada’s Naturewatch program, The United Kingdom Phenology Network , and the Ruby-throated hummingbird spring migration provide excellent examples for a USA Phenology Network. Information that is monitored and analyzed on these sites provide valuable information on environmental variables that are significant components of the climate system (such as the greening of vegetation in the spring) and information on environmental resources (such as the humming birds) which are primarily responders to the climate.

This broadening of climate variables provides information we need to better understand the climate system as identified in the National Research Council Report (see Figure 1-1 in that report) where “fauna and flora” are explicitly recognized as climate variables. We will keep you updated as the NPN planning matures.

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An article in Science Times on Tuesday, August 23, about a climatologist’s resignation from a panel advising the Bush administration on temperature changes in the atmosphere mischaracterized his position on global warming. The scientist, Roger A. Pielke Sr. of Colorado State University, says that warming is caused mainly by human activities; he does not disagree with that widely held view. Where he differs with many peers is on the amount of warming from the accumulation of gases like carbon dioxide, as opposed to other factors; the reliability of temperature measurements on the Earth’s surface; and the value of computer projections that estimate future climate change.

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Response to Andy Revkin’s Science Question of August 26, 2005

“Is most of the observed warming over the last 50 years likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations”

On Global Warming:

There are natural explanations for global warming of which a change in the output of solar energy is a candidate. However, none of the published work has convinced me that this can explain much of the observed global warming over the last several decades. Volcanic emissions are another natural global forcing, and it is well known that they produce cooling, such as after the eruption of Mount Pintatubo, where in August of 1991 it was estimated as -4 Watts per meter squared. There have not been eruptions of that magnitude since, such that the absence of such major eruptions might permit greater absorbed solar radiation in the climate system than otherwise would occur. However, this absence of eruptions resulting in any positive radiative imbalance for a period of time well after a major volcanic emission has also not been shown to occur. This leaves anthropogenic emissions as a source for global warming.

There are multiple first-order anthropogenic contributors to global warming in addition to the well-mixed greenhouse gases. As identified by the IPCC (see their summary figure which is reproduced as ES-2 in Radiative Forcing of Climate Change: Expanding the Concept and Addressing Uncertainties ) the significant human-caused radiative forcings that produce warming that they recognized were the well-mixed greenhouse gases, tropospheric ozone and mineral dust, with a large uncertainty in the later forcing. This figure has been used to show that well-mixed greenhouse gases dominant the global warming signal. The figure does correctly state that most of the radiative forcings that they list have “a very low level of scientific understanding”, although this qualification is usually lost when references are made to the relative importance of the well-mixed greenhouse gases.

However, recent work has complicated the IPCC conclusion. First, the figure from the IPCC is not the current radiative imbalance from each of the forcings, but a difference since pre-industrial times. There is not a current well-mixed greenhouse gas forcing of 2.4 Watts per meter squared as given in that Figure. As I discussed in 2003 (see Pielke Sr., R.A., 2003: Heat storage within the Earth system. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 84, 331-335 ) only part of the radiative effect of the increase in the well-mixed greenhouse gases remains as part of the radiative imbalance from earlier years presumably has been adjusted for as the climate system has warmed over the past century.

Even within the well-mixed greenhouse gas forcings, there are new complications. Drew Shindell and colleagues, as reported in Pollution Online found that, “According to new calculations, the impacts of methane on climate warming may be double the standard amount attributed to the gas. The new interpretations reveal methane emissions may account for a third of the climate warming from well-mixed greenhouse gases between the 1750s and today. The IPCC report, which calculates methane’s affects once it exists in the atmosphere, states that methane increases in our atmosphere account for only about one sixth of the total effect of well-mixed greenhouse gases on warming.”

While this does not specifically address your question, it indicates that even the well mixed greenhouse gas contributions to the radiative imbalance are not as well understood as indicated in the IPCC figure.

With respect to other major global warming forcings, the National Research Council 2005 report has broken the indirect radiative forcing identified in Figure ES-2 into 6 categories of which two have global warming radiative forcing effects: the semi-indirect effect and the glaciation indirect effect, and one has an unknown global warming effect. The magnitude of their effects is uncertain.

Even the direct radiative effect from black carbon (BC) has been shown to be more complicated than summarized in the IPCC figure. For example, as reported in the National Research Council report,
“A portion of the direct solar beam is absorbed by the aerosol, and this atmospheric absorption leads to further reduction in solar radiation reaching the surface. As shown later, this shielding of the surface by BC is the dominant absorption term for anthropogenic aerosols with as little as 10 percent of BC. This absorption leads to a positive radiative forcing of the atmosphere and a negative radiative forcing of the surface.”
Also, from this report, “Black carbon emissions may have increased by a factor of two to four during the last 50 years (Novakov et al. 2003).” At the surface, the deposition of black carbon can also be a major global warming effect. As reported in the National Research Council report,

“Deposition of BC aerosols over snow-covered areas can result in changes to the surface albedo (Chylek et al. 1983). Further reductions in albedo occur due to the enhanced melting that accompanies the heating of absorbing soot particles in snow. Chylek et al. (1983) estimate this enhancement to be up to a factor of ten in the rate of melting. Recent model results indicate radiative forcings of +0.3 W m−2 in the Northern Hemisphere associated with albedo effects of soot on snow and ice (Hansen and Nazarenko 2004).”

There are also complex, poorly understood temporal changes in the albedo of the climate system which has a significant effect on global warming. A recent study by the CERES Science Team has added to the uncertainty associated with the contributions of climate forcings to global warming by finding that for the period 2000-2004, their assessment of the shortwave albedo decreased by 0.0015 which corresponds to an extra 0.5 Watts per meter squared of radiative imbalance according to their assessment.

Each of these global warming climate forcings make the percent attribution of well-mixed greenhouse to global warming a much more challenging problem than is implied by the IPCC figure reproduced in Radiative Forcing of Climate Change: Expanding the Concept and Addressing Uncertainties .

This is the basis for my conclusion that the observed global warming involves the integral effect of a diversity of positive and negative radiative climate forcings, and is not dominated by the well-mixed greenhouse gases. Whenever anyone makes the statement that the predominance of global warming is from the well-mixed greenhouse gases, or CO2 by itself, oversimplifies a much more complicated explanation for global warming. Indeed, it is the integrated effect of all of the climate forcings which determine whether we have anthropogenic global warming or cooling. It would be only fortuitous if these forcings balanced to zero. Thus, addressing the policy issues associated with global warming by the policy community is much more difficult due to the number of climate forcings which affect the heat budget of the climate system.

On Climate Change

To add even more complication, global warming is only one component of climate change. As discussed in our July 28th blog (What is the Importance to Climate of Heterogeneous Spatial Trends in Tropospheric Temperatures?), it is the alteration of atmospheric and ocean circulations as a result of the diversity of climate forcings which have a larger impact on the climate that we experience, than can be described by the metric of the total climate system heat change. The climate forcing of land-use/land-cover change is just one example of such a climate forcing. As shown in a a variety of papers (e.g. see Chase et al. 2000 and Chase et al. 2001 ), there are large regional changes in weather patterns due to landscape change as simulated in the models with implications on whether a region warms or cools, and becomes wetter or drier over time. This occurs despite little global average heat changes associated with land-use/land-cover change, since areas of cooling balance with areas with warming. We can see the importance of atmospheric circulation changes in hurricane tracks. Whether the USA is pummeled by landfalling hurricanes such as Katrina or recurves offshore depends on the regional tropospheric wind field not a global average metric.

Thus we limit the communication to policymakers if we use climate change as a synonym for global warming. Global warming is just one aspect of a much more complicated environmental issue.

Constructive science comments on this blog are welcome.

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Response to Andy Revkin

I very much appreciate your comment as this clears up our misunderstanding. I had come to respect your over 20 years of excellent coverage of climate science, so I was surprised by this one article. This clearly was an unfortunate
aberration resulting from miscommunication between both of us. I respect your professionalism for following up with your reply, as this demonstrates that you are an excellent journalist who admits mistakes and corrects them.

It is clear now that the misrepresentation of my views on climate change in the NY times article were entirely inadvertent. There was no political or other motive, which needs to be recognized by everyone. The politicizing of the disagreement on other blogs and in the media that has occurred is completely inappropriate and any derogatory personal characterizations by others from this event are abhorrent and have no place in this issue or associated with my blog in any way.

This unfortunate public exposure of our disagreement was not intended to initiate a firestorm of e-mails by others. Indeed, these exchanges compromise the focus on climate science, which is at the core of the weblog. Your response to my post is very constructive to move us forward.

Since the misunderstanding has been completely clarified, we will retain our exhanges on the blog, but all comments will be removed and no future comments accepted for these specific blogs. I look forward to moving forward and to continuing to read and learn from your articles.

You asked a few science questions and I will answer in a follow-up blog.

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Response From Andy Revkin, New York Times Reporter

Dear Dr. Pielke,

[you can post this if you like]

I only just learned today of your complaints about The New York Times story on your resignation from the CCSP troposphere trends committeee. I regret that you feel it misstated your stance on global warming and your reasons for stepping down.

I’m also sorry you felt you couldn’t discuss your criticisms directly with me, although I certainly don’t mind having you air them on your blog, as well. Our goal at The Times, more than ever, is to insure that our journalism, besides being accurate and timely, is interactive, responsive and transparent.

My sense is that some of the unavoidable limitations of daily journalism caused the story to fail to distill to your satisfaction a career’s worth of research and writing into a few words. This is always a challenge, but particularly so in your case becuase you have developed a valuable multi-disciplinary and nuanced view of the varied forces at play in the climate puzzle. If anyone got the impression I was lumping you with the so-called climate skeptics, or any other camp for that matter, that was certainly not my intent.

I will be writing more on the important question of how land use and greenhouse forcing may be affecting climate (in places like Costa Rican cloud forests, for example), and hope to draw on your expertise in a much more comprehensive way.

Some specifics: I was upset belatedly with my opening paragraph (but after story went to press) because I realized my intent was to refer to the dominant view that accumulating greenhouses gases were responsible for most of the recent global warming trend (not human causes more generally), as per the 2001 IPCC summary (…most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations”). Just for the record, would you characterize yourself as agreeing or disagreeing with that conclusion of the IPCC?

Returning to what appeared in print, in your critique of my story, you wrote: To state that I have “long disagreed..that global warming stems from human activity” is a completely erroneous characterization of my perspective.

But that’s not what I wrote. I included the word mainly, as in “global warming stems mainly from human activity.’’

My sense from your past statements on this is that there are significant uncertainties in assessing the relative contributions to global warming from changes in landscapes and greenhouse gases (and uncertainties created in what thermometers register because of land-use changes).

For example, in this Land Letter article from 4/1/2004, you were quoted as saying: “[Land use] makes climate a much more complicated issue than just trying to infer what happens due to influxes of carbon dioxide alone.”

If it is correct that you feel human influences are the dominant cause of global warming and I got that wrong, I regret it and will be sure that we promptly publish a correction.

As for my description of why you resigned, I focused on the reason you yourself cited first, both in your letter to Dr. Mahoney at NOAA and in our interview: that you were upset with what you said were your peers’ premature and improper public discussions of the CCSP process and the importance of the Science papers to that process.

My story also clearly conveyed what you told me was another critical issue: that the problems in the report-writing process arose because specialists were essentially in charge of a review of their own work.

As for the third reason – the substitution of an alternate text for the chapter you worked on — I was completely unaware of the competing draft until you brought it up in your blog and our interview.

That was not something I was able to confirm and write about because – as they always have – all the other authors preparing this troposphere report have declined to discuss the substance of the drafting process with me. As I reported back on Aug. 11 when the Science papers on the troposphere trends were published, the authors I interviewed, ranging from Christy to Santer, only discussed the process, not the substance.)

Please contact me directly and we can work out any next steps.

– Andy Revkin

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Each of the authors and the editor of the report are sincere and well-qualified scientists in their specific research area. Despite this collection of expertise, however, I had to resign for the following reasons:

1. There was an inappropriate narrowing of the focus of the CCSP charge to the committee in the report;

2. The circulation of an alternative version of Chapter 6, in which I was Convening Lead Author, in order to enforce this narrow view;

3. The premature reporting of selected versions from the report to the media and policymakers prior to its actual finalization and public release.

Chapter 6 that I was lead author on was titled “What measures can be taken to improve the understanding of observed changes?” The chapter was essentially rewritten independent of me, after I had just about reached a satisfactory text with most of the committee. This new draft was circulated to the committee where it was quickly adopted by a subset of the members, the editor and the editorial staff person. The rewrite reflected a highly restricted view of the CCSP charge to the committee. I will document the CCSP charge, and its history based on panel recommendations of an October 2003 meeting in my public comment.

By seeking to limit the scope of my chapter and the report, more generally, important scientific issues were overlooked or downplayed – e.g. describing and explaining recent regional trends in surface and tropospheric temperatures. In my view, the broader perspective captured by the actual charge to the committee would better serve both science and policy.

It is highly misleading to characterize me as a climate skeptic as certain members of the media have done. I have discussed this mischaracterization on my blog ( This seems to me an effort to put my views in a convenient box. I have consistently written on the complex nature of the Earth’s climate system, and the diverse types of anthropogenic climate forcings and significant human effect on climate. The climate system is complex enough to allow for a diversity of legitimate perspectives; scientific assessments should embrace and accommodate this diversity rather than impose a single perspective

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What is a “Teleconnection”? Why are Teleconnections Important in Climate Science?

Teleconnections are defined by the American Meteorological Society as:

“1. A linkage between weather changes occurring in widely separated regions of the globe. 2. A significant positive or negative correlation in the fluctuations of a field at widely separated points. Most commonly applied to variability on monthly and longer timescales, the name refers to the fact that such correlations suggest that information is propagating between the distant points through the atmosphere. “

This linkage can be accomplished by alterations of regional tropospheric temperatures which create changes in the large-scale pressure and wind fields, and/or by the advection of material from one region to another (such as from blowing dust or emissions of pollutants that are advected by the wind). The National Research Council report discusses teleconnections as related to radiative forcings.

Two recent papers provide examples of the teleconnection associated with alterations in regional tropospheric temperatures (see Lu, Riyu, and Buwen Dong, 2005. Impact of Atlantic sea surface temperature anomalies on the summer climate in the western North Pacific during 1997-1998. J. Geophys. Res. – Atm., 110, D16102, doi:10.1029/2004JD005676, August 19, 2005, and Wang, D., C. Wang, X. Yang, and J. Lu, 2005. Winter Northern Hemisphere surface air temperature variability associated with the Arctic Oscillation and North Atlantic Oscillation. Geophys. Res. Lett., 32, L16706, doi:10.1029/2005GL022952, August 20, 2005). This work further illustrates the importance of climate patterns in one region affecting the climate elsewhere through alterations in the large-scale pressure field. Work that Chris Castro of our research group has completed has also illustrated how sea surface temperature anomalies in the Pacific Ocean affect the summer rainfall patterns in western North America by teleconnections.

The acceptance of sea surface anomaly patterns as a surface climate forcing that affects the weather at large distances, of course, is an accepted teleconnection effect. Indeed, this teleconnection effect is why there are major global climate anomalies when an El Niño occurs.

The influence of spatially heterogeneous climate forcing by land-use/land-cover change and by aerosol clouds as they produce teleconnections, however, is less accepted by the climate community despite the clear parallel between climate forcing from sea surface temperature anomalies and these forms of climate forcing. Each of these climate forcings is spatially coherent, persist for long time periods, and significantly affect the fluxes of heat, moisture, and momentum into and out of the atmosphere. We discussed the role of spatially focused climate forcings in our July 28th blog “What is the Importance to Climate of Heterogeneous Spatial Trends in Tropospheric Temperatures”? The two new papers by Lu and Dong, and by Wang and colleagues clearly show that it is the regional variations of the climate system that exerts a major influence on the weather we experience. The focus of the climate community on global-averaged and zonally-averaged surface and tropospheric temperature changes is a distraction from what the dominant spatial scales of climate forcing are, as exemplified by these two new papers.

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Open Comment to Andy Revkin with Respect to your 23 August 2005 Article in the New York Times Regarding my Resignation from the CCSP Committee

The reference to my perspective and to the reasons I resigned from the Committee are mischaracterized and erroneous in the New York Times article (subscription required). One major reason that the Climate Science weblog was launched was to correct such mistaken communications. Anyone who has read my blogs will recognize that your article is inaccurate as to how it characterizes my perspective on human-caused climate change and on the reasons for my resignation from the CCSP Committee.

My comments on your article appear below.

NY Times Article: “A scientist who has long disagreed with the dominant view that global warming stems mainly from human activity has resigned from a panel that is completing a report for the Bush administration on temperature trends in the atmosphere.”

Pielke Sr. Response: The well documented increases of atmospheric concentration of CO2 are due to anthopogenic emissions of this gas. This comes from vehicles, industry, biomass burning and other sources of combustion. CO2 warms the Earth’s climate system radiatively (i.e. it is a global warming effect). As I wrote in the article “Heat storage within the Earth system” and as summarized in the 2005 National Research Council report “Radiative forcing of climate change: Expanding the concept and addressing uncertainties” of which I was a co-author, the Earth’s climate system has warmed, and human activities certainly have contributed. To state that I have “long disagreed..that global warming stems from human activity” is a completely erroneous characterization of my perspective.

NY Times Article: “Its main focus is to explore why thermometers at the Earth’s surface, especially in the tropics, have measured more warming than has been detected by satellites and weather balloons in the troposphere, the layer of the atmosphere up to where jetliners cruise.”

Pielke Sr. Response: Regardless of what some may claim, this focus is not the charge to the CCSP Committee as documented on the CCSP web page for this report, nor in the Asheville meeting that provided recommendations in the establishment of the Committee (see the Panel summaries). The Committee was supposed to investigate spatial as well as temporal trends of recent surface and tropospheric temperatures, which, in the last version that I saw, it failed to do. This will be clearly documented in my Public Comment. As the recent papers in Science attest, reconciling the globally averaged and tropical-zonally averaged surface and satellite temperature records is a closed issue, and one that I fully accept. It is the remaining issues that the Committee should be addressing but is not.

NY Times Article: “Pielke contends that changes in landscapes like the spread of agriculture and cities could explain many of the surface climate trends, while most climate experts now see a clear link to accumulating emissions of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide.”

Pielke Sr. Response: This is a completely bogus statement of my conclusions on climate. My perspective on climate forcings is described by the NRC Report that I co-authored in which a diversity of climate forcings including the radiative effect of added CO2 is involved. I have repeatedly written in the peer-reviewed literature (e.g. see Nonlinearities, feedbacks and critical thresholds within the Earth’s climate system) that climate prediction (and therefore attribution to specific climate forcings) is a daunting challenge since the climate system is nonlinear and chaotic. Landscape change is only one of a number of climate forcings. I can only assume that this statement is written out of an intentional attempt to mischaracterize my work or simply a failure to comprehend my various peer-reviewed papers on this subject.

NY Times Article: “Pielke said he decided to resign after three papers on the troposphere trends were published online on Aug. 11 by the journal Science. The papers said errors in satellite and balloon studies in the tropics explained why earlier analyses failed to find warming in the troposphere. Several authors of those papers, who are also authors of the coming government report, said at the time that the new findings would be discussed in the report. Pielke said those statements were an effort to influence the shape of the final report.”

Pielke Sr response: This is also erroneous. You made no mention of the inappropriate shadow version of the Chapter that I was Convening Lead Author on that you were aware of, nor that it was not the publication of the papers, but the repeated cherry-picking of information from the draft Report that were prematurely presented to the media and to the Senate Committee that were the issue. What can explain this fictional reporting?

While readers of our Climate Science blog will be provided a correction, the more general readers of the NY Times will be presented with an extremely biased and error-laden view of this issue. I am simply aghast at the major errors and mischaracterizations in this article. I’d welcome your response.


Roger A. Pielke Sr.

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Comment on My Resignation from the CCSP Committee “Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere- Steps for Understanding and Reconciling Differences”

There is a blog ( with the contribution entitled “What is the point of the CCSP Committee ‘Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere-Steps for Understanding and Reconciling Differences? “. In the blog, which is quite informative and well done, it summarizes my resignation as,

“And where does this leave RP Sr’s resignation? I don’t have a lot of sympathy for his POV, which appears to be the current discussion in the media based on the three Science Express articles misses the more significant issue of spatial trends in tropospheric temperature trends. This is just wrong, at least in terms of impact: the overwhelming issue, which caused the committee to be set up, was the difference in global average trends. It may not have been RP’s interest, which may be why he is so miffed, but it was everyone elses.”

What the post misses is that the specific charge to the CCSP Committee stated:

“Independently produced data sets that describe the four-dimensional temperature structure from the surface through the lower stratosphere provide different temperature trends……..This CCSP synthesis product will address the accuracy and consistency of these temperature records and outline steps necessary to reconcile differences between individual data sets.”

The use of the phrase “four-dimensional” means time and the three spatial dimensions. The assessment of global trends was only a part of the published charge to the Committee as reproduced above We need to also assess the three-dimensional structure of the temperature trends as well as upscale from the regional evaluations of the temperature structure to understand the global and zonally-averaged trends. Global and zonally averaged trends by themselves obscure the actual behavior of the climate system.

I will discuss this issue in more detail in the submission of my Public Comment to the CCSP Report, unless this view is accommodated in their final version.

Roger A. Pielke Sr.
Professor and State Climatologist
Department of Atmospheric Science
Colorado State University Fort Collins, Colorado 80523-1371

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