Monthly Archives: March 2009

Open Letter By The Cato Institute On Climate Science

There is a letter to the President published by the Cato Institute that headlines [thanks to ICECAPand Dr. Patrick J. Michaels to alerting us to it];

“Few challenges facing America and the world are more urgent than combating climate change.The science is beyond dispute and the facts are clear.” — PRESIDENT-ELECT BARACK OBAMA, NOVEMBER 19 , 2008
With all due respect Mr. President, that is not true

The letter is signed by over 100 scientists.

 Climate Science wants to comment on the specific statements of science in the letter which is reproduced below:

“We, the undersigned scientists, maintain that the case for alarm regarding climate change is grossly overstated. Surface temperature changes over the past century have been episodic and modest and there has been no net global warming for over a decade now.1,2 After controlling for population growth and property values, there has been no increase in damages from severe weather-related events.3 The computer models forecasting rapid temperature change abjectly fail to explain recent climate behavior.4 Mr. President, your characterization of the scientific facts regarding climate change and the degree of certainty informing the scientific debate is simply incorrect.”

Comments by Climate Science

  • “Surface temperature changes over the past century have been episodic and modest and there has been no net global warming for over a decade now.”

This is correct using the global average surface temperature. An effective analysis of this issue has been presented at the weblog However, using the global average upper ocean heat content changes, the warming in the 1990s and early 2000s ended in 2003, so the more rigourous metric for global warming indicated “no net global warming” for 6 years.

  • After controlling for population growth and property values, there has been no increase in damages from severe weather-related events.

This is a correct statement which has been extensively discussed and summarized at; see also Chapter 2 in  Pielke, R.A., Jr. and R.A. Pielke, Sr., 1997: Hurricanes: Their nature and impacts on society.

  • The computer models forecasting rapid temperature change abjectly fail to explain recent climate behavior.

This is a robust conclusion both on the global scale (e.g. see) and on the regional scale (e.g see and see).

The dismissive response on Real Climate and on Grist to this letter do not provide the objective scientific rebuttal to these science claims. This is unfortunate and is misleading policymakers, but, as we have learned and reported many times on at Climate Science and elsewhere (e.g. see and see), this is the way the IPCC and CCSP community deals with solid science that disagrees with their perspective.

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New Paper In Press “Intercomparison, Interpretation, and Assessment Of Spring Phenology In North America Estimated From Remote Sensing For 1982 To 2006″ By White et al.2009

There is a very interesting paper in press that updates our understanding of spring pheonology in North America. There have been statements that spring leaf out has become earlier in recent years (e.g. see page 77 in CCSP, 2009). This claim appears to be incorrect. The paper is

 White, M.A., K.M. de Beurs, K. Didan, D.W. Inouye, A.D. Richardson, O.P. Jensen, J. O’Keefe, G. Zhang, R.R. Nemani, W.J.D. van Leeuwen, J.F. Brown, A. de Wit, M. Schaepman, X. Lin, M. Dettinger, A. Bailey, J. Kimball, M.D. Schwartz, D.D. Baldocchi, J.T. Lee, W.K. Lauenroth. Intercomparison, interpretation, and assessment of spring phenology in North America estimated from remote sensing for 1982 to 2006. Global Change Biology (in press).

The abtstract reads

“Shifts in the timing of spring phenology are a central feature of global change research. Long-term observations of plant phenology have been used to track vegetation responses to climate variability but are often limited to particular species and locations and may not represent synoptic patterns. Satellite remote sensing is instead used for continental to global monitoring. Although numerous methods exist to extract phenological timing, in particular start-of-spring (SOS), from time series of reflectance data, a comprehensive intercomparison and interpretation of SOS methods has not been conducted. Here, we assess 10 SOS methods for North America between 1982 and 2006. The techniques include consistent inputs from the 8 km Global Inventory Modeling and Mapping Studies Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer NDVIg dataset, independent data for snow cover, soil thaw, lake ice dynamics, spring streamflow timing, over 16 000 individual measurements of ground-based phenology, and two temperature-driven models of spring phenology. Compared with an ensemble of the 10 SOS methods, we found that individual methods differed in average day-of-year estimates by  +/- 60 days and in standard deviation by +/- 20 days. The ability of the satellite methods to retrieve SOS estimates was highest in northern latitudes and lowest in arid, tropical, and Mediterranean ecoregions. The ordinal rank of SOS methods varied geographically, as did the relationships between SOS estimates and the cryospheric/hydrologic metrics. Compared with ground observations, SOS estimates were related to the first leaf and first flowers expanding phenological stages. We found no evidence for time trends in spring arrival from ground- or model-based data; using an ensemble estimate from two methods that were more closely related to ground observations than other methods, SOS trends could be detected for only 12% of North America and were divided between trends towards both earlier and later spring.”

The conclusion of the paper states in part

“Trend estimates from the SOS methods as well as measured and modeled plant phenology strongly suggest either no or very geographically limited trends towards earlier spring arrival, although we caution that, for an event such as SOS with high interannual variability, a 25-year SOS record is short for detecting robust trends. Increased greenhouse warming since the late 20th century would seem to argue for increased, not decreased, shifts in spring during our study period, indicating that processes such as succession, changes in community structure, land management, or disturbance may be more important than previously recognized. Seasonal temperature changes may also be linked to a trend reversal in SOS in the early 1990s.”

The finding, with the cavaet that the record is still relatively short, that any early leaf out is, at best, geographically limited, raises questions on claims that spring has been arriving earlier.

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An Example Of The Misuse Of The Publication Process “Model Ensemble Estimates of Climate Change Impacts on UK Seasonal Precipitation Extremes” by Fowler and Ekström 2009

There is a new paper that illustrates (as just one example) the recent approach of publishing papers in the peer reviewed literature in which the results cannot be verified. This is not science, but is presented to policymakers as if it is. The paper is

 H. J. Fowler, M. Ekström (2009). Multi-model ensemble estimates of climate change impacts on UK seasonal precipitation extremes. International Journal of Climatology DOI: 10.1002/joc.1827

The abstract reads

“Thirteen regional climate model (RCM) integrations from the Prediction of Regional Scenarios and Uncertainties for Defining European Climate change risks and Effects (PRUDENCE) ensemble are used together with extreme value analysis to assess changes to seasonal precipitation extremes in nine UK rainfall regions by 2070-2100 under the SRES A2 emissions scenario. Model weights are based on similarities between observed and modelled UK extreme precipitation calculated for a combination of (1) spatial characteristics: the semi-variogram parameters sill and range, and (2) the discrepancy in the regional median seasonal maxima. These weights are used to combine individual RCM bootstrap samples to provide multi-model ensemble estimates of percent change in the return value magnitudes of regional extremes. The contribution of global climate model (GCM) and RCM combinations to model structural uncertainty is also investigated. The multi-model ensembles project increases across the UK in winter, spring and autumn extreme precipitation; although there is uncertainty in the absolute magnitude of increases, these range from 5 to 30% depending upon region and season. In summer, model predictions span the zero change line, although there is low confidence due to poor model performance. RCM performance is shown to be highly variable; extremes are well simulated in winter and very poorly simulated in summer. The ensemble distributions are wider (projections are more uncertain) for shorter duration extremes (e.g. 1 day) and higher return periods (e.g. 25 year). There are rather limited differences in the weighted and unweighted multi-model ensembles, perhaps a consequence of the lack of model independence between ensemble members. The largest contribution to uncertainty in the multi-model ensembles comes from the lateral boundary conditions used by RCMs included in the ensemble. Therefore, the uncertainty bounds shown here are conservative despite the relatively large number of RCMs contributing to the multi-model ensemble distribution.”

Since there is no way to validate their model results for the time period 2070-2100 and the IPCC models have not even demonstrated skill in predicting regional climate extremes for the current climate, the results in the Fowler and Ekström are just hypotheses. It is a disppointing statement of climate science that hypotheses, which have not been tested, are presented as papers in the literature.

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A New Paper “Climate, Hydrology, Energy, Water: Recognizing Uncertainty And Seeking Sustainability” by Koutsoyiannis Et Al. 2009

There is a new important paper that recognizes that a multi-dimensional approach to addressing the human disturbance of the environment (including the climate) is needed. It is

Koutsoyiannis, D., Makropoulos, C., Langousis, A., Baki, S., Efstratiadis, A., Christofides, A., Karavokiros, G., and Mamassis, N.: HESS Opinions: “Climate, hydrology, energy, water: recognizing uncertainty and seeking sustainability“, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 13, 247-257, 2009.

HESSD is the Discussion companion of Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS), the official peer-reviewed hydrological journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU).  See more information on this paper at their website.
The abstract reads 
 “Since 1990 extensive funds have been spent on research in climate change. Although Earth Sciences, including climatology and hydrology, have benefited significantly, progress has proved incommensurate with the effort and funds, perhaps because these disciplines were perceived as “tools” subservient to the needs of the climate change enterprise rather than autonomous sciences. At the same time, research was misleadingly focused more on the “symptom”, i.e. the emission of greenhouse gases, than on the “illness”, i.e. the unsustainability of fossil fuel-based energy production. Unless energy saving and use of renewable resources become the norm, there is a real risk of severe socioeconomic crisis in the not-too-distant future. A framework for drastic paradigm change is needed, in which water plays a central role, due to its unique link to all forms of renewable energy, from production (hydro and wave power) to storage (for time-varying wind and solar sources), to biofuel production (irrigation). The extended role of water should be considered in parallel to its other uses, domestic, agricultural and industrial. Hydrology, the science of water on Earth, must move towards this new paradigm by radically rethinking its fundamentals, which are unjustifiably trapped in the 19th-century myths of deterministic theories and the zeal to eliminate uncertainty. Guidance is offered by modern statistical and quantum physics, which reveal the intrinsic character of uncertainty/entropy in nature, thus advancing towards a new understanding and modelling of physical processes, which is central to the effective use of renewable energy and water resources.”

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Is This Science? EPA’s Plan To Regulate CO2 Claiming It Endangers The Public’s Health and Welfare

The Washington Post published an article on March 24 2009 by Juliet Eilperin entitled “EPA Presses Obama To Regulate Warming Under Clean Air Act” in which is is written

“The Environmental Protection Agency’s new leadership, in a step toward confronting global warming, submitted a finding that will force the White House to decide whether to limit greenhouse gas emissions under the nearly 40-year-old Clean Air Act. Under that law, EPA’s conclusion — that such emissions are pollutants that endanger the public’s health and welfare — could trigger a broad regulatory process affecting much of the U.S. economy as well as the nation’s future environmental trajectory.”

While the added greenhouse gas emissions (does the EPA also include water vapor?) are a climate forcing,  the news article specifically refers to public health. This is an absurd claim, as none of the well-mixed greenhouse gases are threats to health at the concentrations that are in the atmosphere or will be in the atmosphere far into the future.

If the EPA wants to seek to regulate climate, let them be honest and discuss all of the human climate forcings, as discussed, for example, in

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.

 Another excerpt from the Washington Post article reads

“Daniel J. Weiss, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, said the EPA’s proposal would allow the administration to tackle climate change if Congress does not limit carbon emissions through legislation. He added that even if the EPA were forced to regulate greenhouse gases, it would target emissions from coal-fired power plants and then vehicles — which combined account for about half of the nation’s global-warming pollution — before requiring smaller operations to apply for new emissions permits.”

The statement “smaller operations” could include almost all activities that humans do; e.g. see

 A Carbon Tax For Animal Emissions – More Unintended Consequences Of Carbon Policy In The Guise Of Climate Policy

The EPA’s plan “to regulate warming” is a circumvention of science in order to promote a political agenda. Serious negative environmental, economic and social effects are going to occur as a result of the inappropriately narrow and ineffective EPA focus on greenhouse gas emissions as the currency for a wide range of climate effects.



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New Paper On Ocean Heat Content Changes By Craig Loehle

There is a new paper titled “Cooling of the global ocean since 2003″ by Craig Loehle which has appeared in Energy & Environment Vol. 20, No. 1&2, 2009.

The abstract reads

“Ocean heat content data from 2003 to 2008 (4.5 years) were evaluated for trend. A trend plus periodic (annual cycle) model fit with R**2 = 0.85. The linear component of the model showed a trend of -0.35 (±0.2) x 10**22 Joules per year. The result is consistent with other data showing a lack of warming over the past few years.”

This paper, which was completed independently of my paper

Pielke Sr., R.A., 2008: A broader view of the role of humans in the climate system. Physics Today, 61, Vol. 11, 54-55

further confirms the lack of upper ocean warming that has occurred in recent years.

While the analysis presented in my paper, that was completed by Josh Willis, indicates the uncertainties are too large to definitively conclude that there has been cooling, the lack of warming in both papers are in conflict with the predictions of the global climate models as reported, for example, in the Climate Science weblog

Update On A Comparison Of Upper Ocean Heat Content Changes With The GISS Model Predictions


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A New Paper Has Appeared “Urbanization Effects In Large-Scale Temperature Records, With An Emphasis On China” By Jones et al. 2008

A new paper has appeared which provides further discussion of an issue (urban effects), as well as the existing bais,  with respect to the accurate calculation of multi-decadal global surface temperature trends (and thanks to ICECAP and Warwick Hughes for alerting us to the paper).  The article is

 Jones, P. D., D. H. Lister, and Q. Li (2008), Urbanization effects in large-scale temperature records, with an emphasis on China,J. Geophys. Res., 113, D16122, doi:10.1029/2008JD009916.

The abstract reads

“Global surface temperature trends, based on land and marine data, show warming of about 0.8°C over the last 100 years. This rate of warming is sometimes questioned because of the existence of well-known Urban Heat Islands (UHIs). We show examples of the UHIs at London and Vienna, where city center sites are warmer than surrounding rural locations. Both of these UHIs however do not contribute to warming trends over the 20th century because the influences of the cities on surface temperatures have not changed over this time. In the main part of the paper, for China, we compare a new homogenized station data set with gridded temperature products and attempt to assess possible urban influences using sea surface temperature (SST) data sets for the area east of the Chinese mainland. We show that all the land-based data sets for China agree exceptionally well and that their residual warming compared to the SST series since 1951 is relatively small compared to the large-scale warming. Urban-related warming over China is shown to be about 0.1°C decade-1 over the period 1951-2004, with true climatic warming accounting for 0.81°C over this period. “

and the conclusion reads

“In this paper we have considered two different and clearly distinct issues: the size of possible UHIs in two European cities and the possible influence from urban-related factors in large-scale temperature trends. With the first issue, there is a clear UHI influence in temperature records from centrally-located sites in London and Vienna of 1.5° and 0.3°C, respectively. The effect of this excess warmth (due to the city being there) however is irrelevant to temperature trends, for the periods studied. With data expressed as anomalies from 1961 to 90, trends for the city center and rural locations are very similar, so in this form the anomalies can be used in gridded temperature products (such as CRUTEM3v). These results only apply to these two cities, and clearly any effect on other cities can only be judged through similar analyses comparing city center and rural temperature time series.

In the main part of the paper, we assessed the effect of the second of the two issues on temperature records from China. We first compared recently homogenized temperature series [from Li and Li, 2007] with earlier work undertaken by Jones et al. [1990] and showed that the homogeneity assessments have no impact on average ‘Eastern Chinese’ temperature series developed from the 42 sites used in 1990 (see Figure 6). We then compared two “China” averages [CHINA-LI from Li and Li, 2007, and from the gridded data, CRUTEM3v, Brohan et al., 2006]. All series essentially show the same trends and interannual variability. We conclude from this that when sufficient temperature series are averaged over a relatively large area, the effect of homogeneity adjustments is negligible (see Figure 7). We caution that such a conclusion is only relevant for this one application. In order to produce detailed spatial patterns of temperature change (and almost all other possible applications) it is essential to adjust, where necessary, station temperature series for homogeneity.

 Finally, we assessed the Chinese data for the second issue (possible urban-related warming). This is difficult in China, as there are few specifically designated rural sites. Instead, we used SST data from the seas to the east of China, as we can guarantee that these data are unaffected by urban-related warming. We admit that SST is a poor surrogate for a “rural” network and, a priori, expect the land data sets to warm with respect to the SST series. We show trends of temperature by season for three different periods (1951-2004, 1954-1983 and 1981-2004). The two land series do warm relative to the SST over the periods from 1951 and 1954, but this mostly occurs during the mid-1970s. Over the most recent period (1981-2004), when economic development and growth have been most rapid, the SST series warms very slightly relative to the two “China” land series. Taking the annual data for the longest period (1951-2004) implies a relative warming of the land relative to the SST series of about 0.1°C decade-1 in agreement with the recent Ren et al. [2008] study. Allowing for this urban-related warming component (in CRUTEM3v) still leaves a warming over China of 0.81°C over the 1951-2004 period and 1.13°C between 1981 and 2004.

This paper bends over backwards to argue for the retention of general warming over China, despite finding evidence that landscape change (in this case, urbanization) alters long term trends.  What is really surprising and disappointing, is that the authors chose to ignore the range of issues with the surface temperature data set that we have presented in several papers; for example

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

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


Lin, X., R.A. Pielke Sr., K.G. Hubbard, K.C. Crawford, M. A. Shafer, and T. Matsui, 2007: An examination of 1997-2007 surface layer temperature trends at two heights in Oklahoma.Geophys. Res. Letts., 34, L24705, doi:10.1029/2007GL031652.

Somehow, the authors must conclude that since they responded to two of the eight issues that we raised in our 2007 JGR paper in their Comment

Parker, D. E., P. Jones, T. C. Peterson, and J. Kennedy, 2009: Comment on Unresolved issues with the assessment of multidecadal global land surface temperature trends. by Roger A. Pielke Sr. et al.,J. Geophys. Res., 114, D05104, doi:10.1029/2008JD010450,

that they can just ignore the other issues that we documented, as well as not even comment on the two issues that they disputed in our 2007 JGR paper. The exchange of perspectives, as given in the Parker et al 2009 Comment, is admirable and is the proper scientific method. However, ignoring these issues in the new Jones et al 2009 paper clearly illustrates a remaining disappointing lack of scientific balance in their articles.

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