Monthly Archives: May 2009

Comments On New Federal Vehicle Car Fuel Mileage Standard Of 35.5 MPG

SECOND UPDATE: See the May 20 2009 article by Jayne O’Donnell and James R. Healey in USA Today titled

“Safety could suffer if we boost mileage by making cars smaller”

Updated pm May 19 for clarity at the beginning of the first sentence of the paragraph below the bullets

Today, President Obama is announcing the establishment of a new car fuel mileage standard of 35.5 miles per gallon ( see Automakers, Obama announce mileage, pollution plan by Ken Thomas and Philip Elliot).  Their article includes the new framework for this standard where they report

“Historically, the program was a fleet average,” said Browner, who headed the EPA during the Clinton administration. “What we’re doing here is proposing standards for every category of car.”

 This increase in the standard could be achieved by one or more of the following:

  • technology could improve the efficiency of the combustion process
  • technology could provide/permit the use of alternative energy sources such as hybrid and electric engines
  • vehicles could be made smaller and/or lighter

The first approach would use the current type of combustion engine and make it even more efficient than it is at present. The second method reduces tailpipe emissions of the combution products from the vehicle, although the emissions from the source of the energy (i.e. power plants) needs to be included in the assessment of mileage. The third approach could use lighter materials to build the cars and/or they could be made smaller.

I agree that the technology improvements in the first two bullets would be a win-win for both the environment and for the reduction of the import of foreign energy sources, and should be achievable without a reduction in safety.

However, if the approach is just to make cars smaller and/or lighter, the potential increase in injuries and deaths as a result makes this a poor approach; e.g. see

Another Example Of An Environmental Tradeoff – Reduced CO2 Emissions And Lower Fuel Cost Versus Personal Safety

Congress should require that the fuel standard not be achieved by simply reducing the size and/or weight of cars, but through technology improvements.

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Filed under Climate Change Regulations, Climate Science Op-Eds, RA Pielke Sr. Position Statements

Comments On A New Paper “Global Ocean Heat Content 1955–2008 In Light Of Recently Revealed Instrumentation Problems” By Levitus Et Al. 2009

Thanks to Anders Vallard for alerting us to this paper.

Levitus S., J. I. Antonov, T. P. Boyer, R. A. Locarnini, H. E. Garcia, A. V. Mishonov (2009), Global ocean heat content 1955–2008 in light of recently revealed instrumentation problems,Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L07608, doi:10.1029/2008GL037155.

The abstract reads

“We provide estimates of the warming of the world ocean for 1955–2008 based on historical data not previously available, additional modern data, correcting for instrumental biases of bathythermograph data, and correcting or excluding some Argo float data. The strong interdecadal variability of global ocean heat content reported previously by us is reduced in magnitude but the linear trend in ocean heat content remain
similar to our earlier estimate.”

This paper is, of course, directly related to the recent guest weblog on Climate Science

Have Changes In Ocean Heat Falsified The Global Warming Hypothesis? – A Guest Weblog by William DiPuccio

Climate Science has a few comments regarding the new Levitus et al. paper:

First, while they report on the longer term trend of upper ocean warming, which everyone agrees did occur, they are silent on the lack of recent warming, which was discussed in the 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

and on the weblog

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

Their plot of upper ocean heat content over time, which illustrates large multi-annual variations in trend back to 1955, is presented at, and is reproduced below.

Secondly, the authors did not covert their heat accumulation into Watts per meter squared.  This can straightforwardly be completed for each year. Since 2004 in the Levitus et al analysis given above, the global average radiative imbalance is close to zero which deviates significantly from

Hansen, J., L. Nazarenko, R. Ruedy, Mki. Sato, J. Willis, A. Del Genio, D. Koch, A. Lacis, K. Lo, S. Menon, T. Novakov, Ju. Perlwitz, G. Russell, G.A. Schmidt, and N. Tausnev, 2005: Earth’s energy imbalance: Confirmation and implications. Science, 308, 1431-1435, doi:10.1126/science.1110252

where they wrote

“Our climate model, driven mainly by increasing human-made greenhouse gases and aerosols among other forcings, calculates that Earth is now absorbing 0.85±0.15 W/m2 more energy from the Sun than it is emitting to space. This imbalance is confirmed by precise measurements of increasing ocean heat content over the past 10 years.”

Since 2004, this imbalance has not occurred. The longer this lack of radiative heating occurs, the lower will become the multi-decadal trend of radiative forcing diagnosed by fitting a linear trend in the Levitus et al data starting in 1955. Of course, if the heating resumes, than this lack of recent warming will attract less attention among the climate community. Until (and if) it does start warming again, however, there needs to be an explanation for this recent behaviour of the climate system.

Levitus et al do correctly recognize that

“Because of the importance of OHC as a major component of earth’s heat balance it needs to be accurately monitored. Analyses using independent data types such as those provided by Dickey et al. [2008] are important in evaluating OHC estimates.”

From the weblog Update On A Comparison Of Upper Ocean Heat Content Changes With The GISS Model Predictions, I wrote

“The observed best estimates of the observed heating and the Hansen et al. prediction in Joules in the upper 700m of the ocean are given below:

OBSERVED BEST ESTIMATE OF ACCUMULATION Of JOULES [assuming a baseline of zero at the end of 2002].

2003 ~0 Joules
2004 ~0 Joules
2005 ~0 Joules
2006 ~0 Joules
2007 ~0 Joules
2008 ~0 Joules
2009 —— 
2010 —— 
2011 —— 
2012 ——     

HANSEN PREDICTION OF The ACCUMULATION OF JOULES [ at a rate of 0.60 Watts per meter squared] assuming a baseline of zero at the end of 2002].

2003 ~0.98 * 10** 22 Joules
2004 ~1.96 * 10** 22 Joules
2005 ~2.94 * 10** 22 Joules
2006 ~3.92 * 10** 22 Joules
2007 ~4.90 * 10** 22 Joules
2008 ~5.88 * 10** 22 Joules
2009 ~6.86 * 10** 22 Joules
2010 ~7.84 * 10** 22 Joules
2011 ~8.82 * 10** 22 Joules
2012 ~9.80 * 10** 22 Joules

Thus, according to the GISS model predictions, there should be approximately 5.88 * 10**22 Joules more heat in the upper 700 meters of the global ocean at the end of 2008 than were present at the beginning of 2003.

For the observations to come into agreement with the GISS model prediction by the end of 2012, for example, there would have to be an accumulation 9.8 * 10** 22 Joules of heat over just the next four years. This requires a heating rate over the next 4 years into the upper 700 meters of the ocean of 2.45 * 10**22 Joules per year, which corresponds to a radiative imbalance of ~1.50 Watts per square meter.

This rate of heating would have to be about 2 1/2 times higher than the 0.60 Watts per meter squared that Jim Hansen reported for the period 1993 to 2003.

While the time period for this discrepancy with the GISS model is relatively short, the question should be asked as to the number of years required to reject this model as having global warming predictive skill, if this large difference between the observations and the GISS model persists.”

The new Levitus et al. 2009 paper, while not discussing this issue, further confirms that global warming, using upper ocean heat content as the metric,  has stopped, at least for now. Moreover, the rate of heating in the last 5 years falls significantly below the amount of heating predicted by the  IPCC models, as shown in the above figure.

Finally, they do cite an approach to assess ocean heating and cooling, which should be updated to the present (it is only to 2005 in the paper below). The paper is

Dickey, J. O., S. L. Marcus, and J. K. Willis (2008), Ocean cooling: Constraints from changes in Earth’s dynamic oblateness (J2) and altimetry, Geophys. Res. Lett., 35, L18608, doi:10.1029/2008GL035115.

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Filed under Climate Change Metrics

News Report Interviewing John Christy Of The University Of Alabama At Huntsville

There was an informative news article on April 14 2009 at by Jon Birger that is worth reading. It is “What if global-warming fears are overblown?”. It has an interview with the internationally well-respected climate scientist Dr. John Christy of the University of Alabama at Huntsville. Dr. Christy is the Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science and Director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

The CNN article is worth reading, as this is an excellent example of the type of media coverage we need more of.

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Comments On The EPA “Proposed Endangerment And Cause Or Contribute Findings For Greenhouse Gases Under The Clean Air Act”

I have generally supported most EPA actions which have been designed to support environmental improvement. These regulations have resulted in much cleaner water and air quality over the past several decades; e.g. see

National Research Council, 2003: Managing carbon monoxide pollution in meteorological and topographical problem areas. The National Academies Press, Washington, DC, 196 pp.

However, the EPA Endangerment Findings for CO2 as a climate forcing falls far outside of the boundary of the type of regulations that this agency should be seeking.

The EPA on April 17, 2009 released this finding in “Proposed Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for Greenhouse Gases under the Clean Air Act”.  

This report is a clearly biased presentation of the science which continues to use the same reports (IPCC and CCSP) to promote a particular political viewpoint on climate (and energy) policy).

The text includes the statements

“The Administrator signed a proposal with two distinct findings regarding greenhouse gases under section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act:


“The Administrator is proposing to find that the current and projected concentrations of the mix of six key greenhouse gases—carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6)—in the atmosphere threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations. This is referred to as the endangerment finding.

The Administrator is further proposing to find that the combined emissions of CO2, CH4, N2O, and HFCs from new motor vehicles and motor vehicle engines contribute to the atmospheric concentrations of these key greenhouse gases and hence to the threat of climate change. This is referred to as the cause or contribute finding.”

As Climate Science has shown in the past; e.g. see

New Plans To Regulate CO2 As A Pollutant

Comments On The Plan To Declare Carbon Dioxide as a Dangerous Pollutant

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

Will Climate Effects Trump Health Effects In Air Quality Regulations?

Supreme Court Rules That The EPA Can Regulate CO2 Emissions

Science Issues Related To The Lawsuit To The Supreme Court As To Whether CO2 is a Pollutant

the “cause” for their endangerment finding can cover any human caused climate forcing. For just one example, the paragraph above could be rewritten as

The Administrator is further proposing to find that the combined emissions of CO2 and CH4 from agriculture contribute to the atmospheric concentrations of these key greenhouse gases and hence to the threat of climate change. This is referred to as the cause or contribute finding.”

The EPA, by expanding its authority to be able to regulate for climate, will have enormous power to regulate all aspects of society. The seriousness of this grasp for power, using “science” as the tool, needs to be widely communicated and debated.

Further information is given at “Overview of EPA’s Proposed Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for Greenhouse Gases under the Clean Air Act”, where it includes the information

 “After a thorough examination of the scientific evidence on the causes and impacts of current and future climate change, as well as other effects of greenhouse gases, the Administrator concludes that the science compellingly supports a positive endangerment finding for both public health and welfare. In her decision, the Administrator relied heavily upon the major findings and conclusions from recent assessments of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”

“The Administrator is proposing this endangerment finding after considering both observed and projected future effects of climate change, key uncertainties, and the full range of risks and impacts to public health and welfare occurring within the United States. The scientific evidence concerning risks and impacts occurring outside the United States, including risks and impacts that can affect people in the United States, provides further support for this proposed endangerment finding.”

What these statements tell us is that their finding includes results from multi-decadal climate predictions, which have never shown regional predictive skill, including any ability to predict past major weather events such as droughts!

Nevertheless, they make claims with respect to the climate risks as if these are certain, despite the absence of skill in predicting them for the 20th century. They claim that

 “The effects of climate change observed to date and projected to occur in the future include, but are not limited to, more frequent and intense heat waves, more severe wildfires, degraded air quality, more heavy downpours and flooding, increased drought, greater sea level rise, more intense storms, harm to water resources, harm to agriculture, and harm to wildlife and ecosystems. The Administrator considers these impacts to be effects on public health and welfare within the meaning of the Clean Air Act.”

In the document “Frequently Asked Questions on the Proposed Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for Greenhouse Gases”, they have the Q&A

 “On what science was the proposed Endangerment Finding based?

“The Administrator relied heavily on existing, peer-reviewed scientific literature. In particular, she relied on reports and conclusions from the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, the National Research Council, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change because they represent the current state of knowledge on climate change science, vulnerabilities, and impacts. These studies are authored by leading scientific experts and underwent multiple layers of peer review, including, in many cases, review and acceptance by government agencies.”

As documented in

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.

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.

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

the conflict of interest (with most of the same individuals leading the reports) is easy to see; i.e. the Federal (non-EPA) expert reviewers for the EPA Endangerment findings (see “Technical Support Document for the Proposed Findings”) are

Virginia Burkett, USGS; Phil DeCola; NASA (on detail to OSTP); William Emanuel, NASA; Anne Grambsch, EPA; Jerry Hatfield, USDA; Anthony Janetos; DOE Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; Linda Joyce, USDA Forest Service; Thomas Karl, NOAA; Michael McGeehin, CDC; Gavin Schmidt, NASA; Susan Solomon, NOAA; Thomas Wilbanks, DOE Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

In conclusion, the EPA Endangerment findings is the culmination of a several year effort for a small group of climate scientists and others to use their positions as lead authors on the IPCC, CCSP and NRC reports to promote a political agenda.

Now that their efforts have reached the federal policy decision level, Climate Science urges that there be an independent commission of climate scientists who can evaluate the assement process that led to the EPA findings as well as the climate science upon which it is constructed.




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Filed under Climate Change Regulations, Climate Science Misconceptions, RA Pielke Sr. Position Statements

New Paper “Satellite-based Modeling Of Transpiration And Evaporation Of Grasslands And Croplands In The Southern Great Plains By Alfieri Et Al 2009

We have a new paper which provides further insight into land-atmosphere interactions.

It is

Alfieri, J., Xiao, X., Niyogi, D., Pielke, Sr., R. A., Chen, F., LeMone, M. A., 2009: Satellite-based modeling of transpiration and evaporation of grasslands and croplands in the Southern Great Plains, USA. Global and Planetary Change. 67, 78.86

The abstract reads

“Data from the 2002 International H2O Project (IHOP_2002), which was conducted during May and June 2002 in the Southern Great Plains of the United States, was used to validate a remote sensing-based Vegetation Transpiration Model (VTM). The VTM is based on the linkage between transpiration and photosynthesis, and has been successfully tested over forest landscapes. This study is the first evaluation of the VTM model over grasslands. Since grasslands represent a significant proportion of the Earth’s terrestrial surface, this research marks an important step toward applying a satellite-based transpiration model over a landscape that plays a critical role in numerous biogeochemical cycles on both regional and global scales. Comparison of the model output with observer transpiration showed the VTM tended to overestimate transpiration under sparely vegetated conditions and overestimate transpiration when the vegetation was full. These results indicate that explicitly incorporating the effects of LAI into the VTM could improve model estimates of transpiration; they also underscore the importance of soil evaporation in grassland environments and consequently the need for a companion soil evaporation model that works with the VTM.”

As we write in the Introduction

“Evapotranspiration (ET), the combined transport of moisture from the land surface to the atmosphere by soil evaporation and vegetation transpiration (TR), is a fundamental process linking numerous hydrologic, atmospheric, and ecological processes. Globally, nearly two-thirds of the precipitations that falls over land is returned to the atmosphere via ET (Baumgartner and Reichel,1975); thus, ET is clearly an important component of the water cycle and hydrologic processes. Furthermore, as an integral component of the surface energy budget, ET is also linked to a variety of atmospheric processes (Pielke et al., 1998, 2007) ranging from the development of mesoscale circulation patterns (Hanesaik et al., 2004; Raddatz, 2007) to the evolution of the atmospheric boundary layer (LeMone et al., 2002, 2007a) and the development of convective storms (Pielke, 2001). The TR component of ET is closely connected to many ecological and biogeochemical processes ranging from nitrogen cycling (Schulze et al., 1994) to carbon uptake through photosynthesis (Farquhar and Sharkey, 1982).”

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Filed under Climate Change Forcings & Feedbacks, Research Papers

A New Paper “The Coupled Aerosol And Tracer Transport Model To The Brazilian Developments On the Regional Atmospheric Modeling System (CATT-BRAMS) – Part 1: Model Description and Evaluation By Freitas et al. 2009

There is a new paper which uses the Regional Atmospheric Modeling System (RAMS) that was developed by our research group; see

Pielke, R.A., W.R. Cotton, R.L. Walko, C.J. Tremback, W.A. Lyons, L.D. Grasso, M.E. Nicholls, M.D. Moran, D.A. Wesley, T.J. Lee, and J.H. Copeland, 1992: A comprehensive meteorological modeling system — RAMS. Meteor. Atmos. Phys., 49, 69-91.

Cotton, W.R., R.A. Pielke Sr., R.L. Walko, G.E. Liston, C. Tremback, H. Jiang, R.L. McAnelly, J.Y. Harrington, M.E. Nicholls, G.G. Carrio, and J.P. McFadden, 2003: RAMS 2001: Current status and future directions. Meteor. Atmos. Phys., 82, 5-29.

The new paper, which is used to investigate one of the first order climate forcings (aerosols), is 

Freitas, S. R., Longo, K. M., Silva-Dias, M. A. F., Chatfield, R., Silva-Dias, P., Artaxo, P., Andreae, M. O., Grell, G., Rodrigues, L. F., Fazenda, A., and Panetta, J., 2009: The Coupled Aerosol and Tracer Transport model to the Brazilian developments on the Regional Atmospheric Modeling System (CATT-BRAMS). Part 1: Model description and evaluation: Atmos. Chem. Phys., 9, 2843.

The abstract reads

“We introduce the Coupled Aerosol and Tracer Transport model to the Brazilian developments on the Regional Atmospheric Modeling System (CATT-BRAMS). CATT-BRAMS is an on-line transport model fully consistent with the simulated atmospheric dynamics. Emission sources from biomass burning and urban-industrial-vehicular activities for trace gases and from biomass burning aerosol particles are obtained from several published datasets and remote sensing information. The tracer and aerosol mass concentration prognostics include the effects of sub-grid scale turbulence in the planetary boundary layer, convective transport by shallow and deep moist convection, wet and dry deposition, and plume rise associated with vegetation fires in addition to the grid scale transport. The radiation parameterization takes into account the interaction between the simulated biomass burning aerosol particles and short and long wave radiation. The atmospheric model BRAMS is based on the Regional Atmospheric Modeling System (RAMS), with several improvements associated with cumulus convection representation, soil moisture initialization and surface scheme tuned for the tropics, among others. In this paper the CATT-BRAMS model is used to simulate carbon monoxide and particulate material (PM2.5) surface fluxes and atmospheric transport during the 2002 LBA field campaigns, conducted during the transition from the dry to wet season in the southwest Amazon Basin. Model evaluation is addressed with comparisons between model results and near surface, radiosondes and airborne measurements performed during the field campaign, as well as remote sensing derived products. We show the matching of emissions strengths to observed carbon monoxide in the LBA campaign. A relatively good comparison to the MOPITT data, in spite of the fact that MOPITT a priori assumptions imply several difficulties, is also obtained.”

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Filed under Climate Change Forcings & Feedbacks, Research Papers

Comments On The New Paper “The United States Historical Climatology Network Monthly Temperature Data – Version 2 By Menne Et Al 2009

There is a new paper on the latest version of the United States Historical Climatololgy Network (USHCN). This data is used to monitor and report on surface air temperature trends in the United States. The paper is

Matthew J. Menne, Claude N. Williams, Jr. and Russell S. Vose, 2009: The United States Historical Climatology Network Monthly Temperature Data – Version 2. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (in press). [url for a copy of the paper added thanks and h/t to Steve McIntyre and RomanM on Climate Audit].

The abstract reads

“In support of climate monitoring and assessments, NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center has developed an improved version of the U.S. Historical Climatology Network temperature dataset (U.S. HCN version 2). In this paper, the U.S. HCN version 2 temperature data are described in detail, with a focus on the quality-assured data sources and the systematic bias adjustments. The bias adjustments are discussed in the context of their impact on U.S. temperature trends from 1895-2007 and in terms of the differences between version 2 and its widely used predecessor (now referred to as U.S. HCN version 1). Evidence suggests that the collective impact of changes in observation practice at U.S. HCN stations is systematic and of the same order of magnitude as the background climate signal. For this reason, bias adjustments are essential to reducing the uncertainty in U.S. climate trends. The largest biases in the HCN are shown to be associated with changes to the time of observation and with the widespread changeover from liquid-in-glass thermometers to the maximum minimum temperature sensor (MMTS). With respect to version 1, version 2 trends in maximum temperatures are similar while minimum temperature trends are somewhat smaller because of an apparent over correction in version 1 for the MMTS instrument change, and because of the systematic impact of undocumented station changes, which were not addressed version 1.”

I was invited to review this paper, and to the authors credit, they did make some adjustments to their paper in their revision. Unfortunately, however, they did not adequately discuss a number of remaining bias and uncertainty issues with the U.S. HCN version 2 data.

The United States Historical Climatology Network Monthly Temperature Data – Version 2 still contains significant biases.

 My second review of their paper is reproduced below.

Review By Roger A. Pielke Sr. of Menne et al 2009.

Dear Melissa and Chet

I have reviewed the responses to the reviews of the Menne et al paper, and, while they are clearly excellent scientists, and have provided further useful information, unfortunately, they still did not adequately respond to several of the issues that have been raised. I have summarized these issues below:

1. With respect to the degree of uncertainty associated with the homogenization procedure, they misunderstood the comment. The issue is that in the creation of each adjustment [time-of-observation bias, change of instrument], there is a regression relationship that is used to create these adjustments. These regression relationships have an r-squared associated with them as well as a standard deviation. These deviations arise from the adjustment regression evaluation. These values need to be provided (standard deviations, r-squared) for each formula that they use.

Their statement that

“Based on this assessment, the uncertainty in the U.S. average temperature anomaly in the homogenized (version 2) dataset is small for any given year but contributes to an uncertainty to the trends of about (0.004°C)”

is not the correct (complete) uncertainty analysis.


i) With respect to their recognition of the pivotal work of Anthony Watt, while they are clear on this contribution in their response; i.e.

“Nevertheless, we have now also added a citation acknowledging the work of Anthony Watts whose web site is mentioned by the reviewer. Note that we have met personally with Mr. Watts to discuss our homogenization approach and his considerable efforts in documenting the siting characteristics of the HCN are to be commended. Moreover, it would seem that the impetus for modernizing the HCN has come largely as a reaction to his work. “

the text itself is much more muted on this. The above text should, appropriately, be added to the paper.

Also, the authors bypassed the need to provide the existing photographic documentation (as a url) for each site used in their study. They can clearly link in their paper to the website for this documentation. Ignoring this source of information in their paper is inappropriate.

ii) On the authors’ response that

“Moreover, it does not necessarily follow that poorly sited stations will experience trends that disagree with well-sited stations simply as a function of microclimate differences, especially during intervals in which both sites are stable. Conversely, the trends between two well-sited stations may differ because of minor changes to the local environment or even because of meso-scale changes to the environment of one or both stations..”

they are making an unsubstantiated assumption on the “stability” of well-sited and poorly-sited stations. What documentation do that have that determines when “both sites are stable”? As has been clearly shown on Anthony Watt’s website, it is unlikely that any of the poorly sited locations have time invariant microclimates.

Indeed, despite their claim that

“We have documented the impact of station changes in the HCN on calculations of U.S. temperature trends and argue that homogenized data are the only way to estimate the climate signal at the surface (which can be important in normals calculations etc) for the full historical record “

is not correct. Without photographs of each site (which now exists for many of them), they have not adequately documented each station.

iii) The authors are misunderstanding the significance of the Lin et al paper. They state

“Moreover, the homogenized HCN minimum temperature data can be thought of as a fixed network (fixed in both location and height). Therefore, the mix of station heights can be viewed as constant throughout the period of record and therefore as providing estimates of a fixed sampling network albeit at 1.5 and 2m (not at the 9m for which differences in trends were found in Oklahoma). Therefore, these referenced papers do not add uncertainty to the HCN minimum temperature trends per se. “

First, as clearly documented on the Anthony Watts website, many of the observing sites are not at the same height above the ground (i.e. not at 1.5m or 2m). Thus, particularly for the minimum temperatures, which vary more with height near the ground, the height matters in patching all of the data together to create long term temperature trends. Even more significant is that the trend will be different if the measurements are at different heights. For example, if there has been overall long term warming in the lower atmosphere, the trends of the minimum temperature at 2m will be significantly larger than when it is measured at 4m (or other higher level). Including minimum temperature trends together will result in an overstatement of the actual warming.

The authors need to discuss this issue. Preliminary analyses have suggested that this warm bias can overstate the reported warming trend by tenths of a degree C.

iv) While the authors seek to exclude themselves from attribution; i.e.

“Our goal is not to attribute the cause of temperature trends in the U.S. HCN, but to produce time series that are more generally free of artificial bias.”

they need to include a discussion of land use/land cover change effects on long term temperature trends, which now has a rich literature. The authors are correct that there are biases associated with non-climatic and microclimate effects in the immediate vicinity of the observation sites (which they refer to as “artificial bias”), and real effects such as local and regional landscape change. However, they need to discuss this issue more completely than they do in their paper, since, as I am sure the Editors are aware, this data is being used to promote the perspective that the radiative effect of the well-mixed greenhouse gases (i.e. “global warming”) is the predominate reason for the positive temperature trends in the USA.

iv) The neglect of using a complementary data analysis (the NARR) because it only begins in 1979 is not appropriate. The more recent years in the HCN analyses would provide an effective cross-comparison. Also, even if the NARR does not separate maximum and minimum temperatures, the comparison could still be completed using the mean temperature trends.

Their statement that

” Given these complications, we argue that a general comparison of the HCN trends to one of the reanalysis products is inappropriate for this manuscript (which is already long by BAMS standards)”

therefore, is not supportable as part of any assessment of the robustness of the trends that they compute. The length issue is clearly not a justifiable reason to exclude this analysis.

In summary, the authors should include the following:

1. In their section “Bias caused by changes to the time of observation”

the regression relationship used in

“…the predictive skill of the Karl et al. (1986) approach to estimating the TOB was confirmed using hourly data from 500 stations over the period 1965-2001 (whereas the approach was originally developed using data from 79 stations over the period 1957-64)”

should be explicitly included with the value of explained variance (i.e. the r-squared value) and standard deviation, rather than referring the reader to an earlier paper. This uncertainty in the adjustment process has been neglected in presenting the trend values with its +/- values.

2. In their section “Bias associated with other changes in observation practice”

the same need to present the regression relationship that is used to adjust the temperatures due to instrument changes; i.e. from

“Quayle et al. (1991) concluded that this transition led to an average drop in maximum temperatures of about 0.4°C and to an average rise in minimum temperatures of 0.3°C for sites with no coincident station relocation.”

What is the r-squared and the standard deviation from which these “averages” were obtained?

3. With respect to “Bias associated with urbanization and nonstandard siting”,

as discussed earlier in this e-mail, the link to the photographs for each site needs to be included and citation to Anthony Watt’s work on this subject more appropriately highlighted.

On the application of “In contrast, no specific urban correction is applied in HCN version 2”, this conclusion conflicts with quite a number of urban-rural studies. They assume “that adjustments for undocumented changepoints in version 2 appear to account for much of the changes addressed by the Karl et al. (1988) UHI correction used in version 1.”

The use of text that concludes that this adjustment process “appear” to account for the urban correction of Karl et al (1988) indicates even some uneasiness by the authors on this issue. They need more text as to why they assume their adjustment can accommodate such urban effects. Moreover, the urban correction in Karl et al is also based on a regression assessment with an explained variance and standard deviation; the same data Karl used should be applied to ascertain if the new “undocumented changepoint adjustment” can reproduce the Karl et al results.

The authors clearly recognize this limitation also in their paragraph that starts with

“It is important to note, however, that while the pairwise algorithm uses a trend identification process to discriminate between gradual and sudden changes, trend inhomogenieties in the HCN are not actually removed with a trend adjustment..

and ends with

“This makes it difficult to robustly identify the true interval of a trend inhomogeneity (Menne and Williams 2008).”

Yet, despite this clear serious limitation of the ability to quantify long term temperature trends in tenths of a degree C with uncertainties, they present such precise quantitative trends; e.g.

“0.071°and 0.077°C dec-1, respectively” (on page 15).

They also write that

“…there appears to be little evidence of a positive bias in HCN trends caused by the UHI or other local changes”

which ignores detailed local studies that clearly show positive temperature biases; e.g.

Brooks, Ashley Victoria. M.S., Purdue University, May, 2007. Assessment of the Spatiotemporal Impacts of Land Use Land Cover Change on the Historical Climate Network Temperature Trends in Indiana.

Christy, J.R., W.B. Norris, K. Redmond, and K.P. Gallo, 2006, Methodology and results of calculating Central California surface temperature trends: Evidence of human-induced climate change?, J. Climate, 19, 548-563.

Hale, R. C., K. P. Gallo, and T. R. Loveland (2008), Influences of specific land use/land cover conversions on climatological normals of near-surface temperature, J. Geophys. Res., 113, D14113, doi:10.1029/2007JD009548.

4. On the claim that

“However, from a climate change perspective, the primary concern is not so much the absolute measurement bias of a particular site, but rather the changes in that bias over time, which the TOB and pairwise adjustments effectively address (Vose et al. 2003; Menne and Williams 2008) subject to the sensitivity of the changepoint tests themselves.”

this is a circular argument. While I agree it is the changes in bias over time that matter most, without an independent assessment, there is no way for the authors to objectively conclude that their adjustment procedure captures these changes of bias in time.

Their statment that

“Instead, the impact of station changes and non-standard instrument exposure on temperature trends must be determined via a systematic evaluation of the observations themselves (Peterson 2006).”

is fundamentally incomplete. The assessment of the impact “of station changes and non-standard instrument exposure on temperature trends” must be assessed from the actual station location and its changes over time! To rely on the observations to extract this information is clearly circular reasoning.

As a result of these issues, their section “Temperature trends in U.S. HCN” overstate the confidence that should be given to the quantitative values of the trends and the statistical uncertainty in their values.

If this paper is published, the issues raised in this review need to be more objectively and completely presented. It should not be accepted until they do this.

I would be glad to provide further elaboration on the subjects I have presented in this review of their revised paper, if requested.

Best Regards

Roger A. Pielke Sr.

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Filed under Climate Change Metrics

Interview of Roger A. Pielke Sr. On The Website “The Reef Tank”

I was interviewed for the website The Reef Tank (see). I appreciated the opportunity to present the broader perspective on environmental issues including climate, which is so often missing in other communications on this subject.

The interview is titled “Roger That! Reef Tanks and Climate Research”

The full interview reads

It’s true that when I first decided to speak to Dr. Roger A. Pielke, Sr., it was for matters of climate.  I knew that he was a respected climate scientist who researched the effects of climate change on all forms of life. 

But things got even more interesting when I learned he could add past saltwater aquarium owner to the mix.   Upon being alerted to The Reef Tank blog, he made sure to point out this fact.

And so, the two of us had a plethora of topics to talk about.  How to maintain a saltwater tank, how to be a marine conservationist and aquarium owner, and of course, how exactly does climate change affect marine life and what does the media have to say about it? 

All these topics found below.

For more on Dr. Pielke’s vast climate change research, visit his ClimateSci blog here.

Tell me about yourself and your past and current research situation.

I was a Professor in Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University for 25 years, and for the last few years, have been a Senior Research Scientist at the University of Colorado in Boulder. I was also State Climatologist for Colorado and President of the American Association of State Climatologists. My research has been on weather and climate.  

You said you once owned a saltwater aquarium? Describe the time.  What was that like and was it worth it to you?

When I was a child, I had a fresh water 10 gallon aquarium. More recently, in the 1980s, after a trip to Hawaii, I became very interested in the very colorful salt water marine life that I saw there, and purchased a 20 gallon salt water aquarium. While the challenges of maintain the aquarium were greater than with the fresh water aquarium, the rewards were worth it!  I continue to snorkel, and have scuba dived, and I really enjoyed the ability to bring some of the salt water ocean experience home.  

What’s one bit of advice you would give newbie saltwater hobbyists?

I suggest starting modestly, with a limited number of fish and not too large of an aquarium. A 20 gallon size is a good choice for first timers. Then, if you are able, a larger aquarium with larger fish would be a worthy goal.

What would be your ideal saltwater aquarium situation?

I would enjoy living very near one of the major public or private salt water aquariums. I visit them whenever I can.  I recently visited Sea World in Orlando, for example, and enjoyed their aquarium where you travel (on a moving sidewalk) underneath the marine life which include sharks and barracudas. Their porpoise, killer whale and manatee exhibits are also excellent.

You also study climate change, which if you studied alongside marine life would probably entail you to be a marine conservationist.  Can someone be an aquarium hobbyist and still be considered a marine conservationist?

Certainly; if the habitat is properly set up, the educational (and often research activities) associated with being an aquarium hobbyist can help others better appreciate the need to preserve our natural marine environment.

What do you study within climate change?

We have investigated a wide variety of issues, including the role of land use change on the climate system. We have examined how this climate forcing, as well as a wide range of others, including nitrogen deposition, atmospheric aerosols, and, of course, carbon dioxide alter the environment. I discuss this in testimony I presented last year to Congress [see here].

How is your research helping to relieve the situation or at least spread awareness of it?

Our research has shown that the focus on just carbon dioxide as the dominate human climate forcing is too narrow. We have found that natural variations are still quite important, and moreover, the human influence is significant, but it involves a diverse range of first-order climate forcings, including, but not limited to the human input of CO2. These other forcings, such as land use change and from atmospheric pollution aerosols, may have a greater effect on our climate than the effects that have been claimed for CO2.

In your opinion, how does climate change affect marine life? What are the ramifications?

Climate has always been variable and marine life has learned to adjust to this variability. Humans are now also altering the climate. However, most research so far suggests that other human disturbances have a much greater effect than human caused climate change, including river pollution into the sea, dredging, and toxic dumping in the oceans.  We need to better quantify each of these threats in order to best plan on how to protect marine life.

You’ve mentioned on your blog that the media is biased when presenting climate science? How are they biased and do you consider them biased when they present the effects and issues of climate change on marine life?

Yes; the public has not been given a balanced view on the range of climate and other environmental issues. The focus on carbon dioxide is preventing more valuable policy actions to protect marine life and other environmental resources, since the emphasis on carbon controls will divert funds from these other issues.

What can we do to spread awareness of our dire climate situation and help our marine world?

I recommend that we first identify what is the spectrum of risks to the marine world. We would then be in a better position to develop policies to reduce these risks. From our research, while climate variability and longer term change are certainly important concerns, other threats to marine life are more serious.  We need to develop and implement effective responses to these threats in order to better protect the marine world.  

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Filed under Climate Science Reporting

Paper Titled “Regimes Or Cycles In Tropical Cyclone Activity In The North Atlantic” By Aberson 2009

The January 2009 issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society had the very informative article

Aberson, Sim D.: 2009: Regimes or Cycles in Tropical Cyclone Activity in the North Atlantic.  Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society Volume 90, Issue 1 (January 2009) pp. 39–43 DOI: 10.1175/2008BAMS2549.1

The abstract reads

” A cautionary tale in which previously published results are shown to be invalid due to the
lack of statistical analyses in the original work.”

Text from this paper includes

“Kinsmen (1957) wrote, ‘the job of a scientist is to invent a story which accounts for a set of observations and then decide how likely the story is.’ In his 1957 work, ‘Proper and improper use of statistics in geophysics,’ he emphasized the role of the correct use of statistics in this decision. However, statistics
continue to be misused or altogether neglected in the refereed literature, with the inevitable result of misleading or erroneous conclusions.”

“Though the results of HW07 [Holland, G. J., and P. J. Webster, 2007: Heightened tropical cyclone activity in the North Atlantic: Natural variability or climate trend? Philos. Trans. Roy. Soc. London, 365A, 2695–2716] are unlikely to be correct, this does not necessarily suggest that the alternative hypothesis—that the time series shows a cyclical pattern—is correct. The time series only has two full oscillations and is too short to test the likelihood that it is a cycle. Unfortunately, even if the data were completely accurate, decades may pass before the series is long enough to make any definitive statements on this topic. Nevertheless, the clear need for timely scientific results should not be a reason for shortcuts in the scientific process; correct statistical analyses must be performed to determine the likelihood that the hypothesis tested is valid.”

This paper informs us that i) natural variations in climate metrics are quite large and ii) the non-temporal homogeneity of the climate data can result in the misinterpretation of statistical results.

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Filed under Climate Change Metrics, Research Papers

A New Paper “A Continent Under Stress: Interactions, Feedbacks And Risks Associated With Impact Of Modified Land Cover On Australia’s Climate” By McAlpine Et Al 2009

The research group led by Clive McAlpine of the University of Queensland is one of the most preeminent climate science research groups in the world.

Climate Science has already weblogged recently on one of their papers (see), and another outstanding contribution is listed below which documents even more the major role of landscape change on climate. The paper is

McAlpine, C.A., J. Syktus, J.G. Ryan, R.C. Deo, G.M. McKeon, H.A. McGowan, and S.R. Phinn, 2009:A continent under stress: interactions, feedbacks and risks associated with impact of modified land cover on Australia’s Climate. Global Change Biology, in press. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2009.01939.x

The abstract reads

“Global climate change is the major and most urgent global environmental issue. Australia is already experiencing climate change as evidenced by higher temperatures and more frequent and severe droughts. These impacts are compounded by increasing land use pressures on natural resources and native ecosystems. This paper provides a synthesis of the interactions, feedbacks and risks of natural climate variability, climate change and land use/land cover change (LUCC) impacting on the Australian continent and how they vary regionally. We review evidence of climate change and underlying processes resulting from interactions between global warming caused by increased concentration of atmospheric greenhouse gases and modification of the land surface. The consequences of ignoring the effect of LUCC on current and future droughts in Australia could have catastrophic consequences for the nation’s environment, economy and communities. We highlight the need for more integrated, long-term and adaptive policies and regional natural resource management strategies that restore the beneficial feedbacks between native vegetation cover and local-regional climate, to help ameliorate the impact of global warming.”

With respect to the policy implications of their analysis, they write

“The evidence provided here can be considered in the wider context of policy decisions affecting Australian land use and land cover. It provides a basis for including LUCC in climate risk management analyses by documenting the previously ignored feedback of the land surface on regional climate. Such analyses is useful to inform policy development in terms of balancing the beneficial effects of increased deep-rooted woody vegetation cover (in terms of climate, salinity risk, resilience, biodiversity, carbon storage) against higher costs (in terms of loss of land available for agriculture and human settlement).”

In their conclusions, they summarize their major points in the following text

“A number of lessons can be drawn from this paper that have wider implications beyond Australia:

1. The current global climate change agenda needs to recognize that climate change is a multidimensional issue, and that LUCC must be included in global and regional strategies to effectively mitigate climate change (sensu Feddema et al., 2005; Pielke, 2005).

2. A coordinated research effort is required to address the multidimensionality of climate change, including the role of LUCC and its dynamic interaction with increased concentrations of anthropogenic greenhouse gases. This requires evaluating: (i) the capacity of reforestation to ameliorate the impact of climate change at a regional scale; and (ii) if so, how much vegetation is required and where it should be located?

3. Reducing deforestation in the tropics and subtropics needs to be a global priority. This requires a strong and coordinated global and regional effort through a combination of regulatory frameworks and well constructed carbon markets to halt deforestation and actively facilitate reforestation. This would have additional benefits for a wide array of ecosystem services that underpin environmental sustainability.”

This paper is recommended to anyone who wants to learn that landscape changes are a first order climate forcing, and that a focus on reducing vulnerability to the entire spectrum of environmental variability and change (and not just the effects of increased atmospheric concentrations of CO2) is very much needed.


Comments Off on A New Paper “A Continent Under Stress: Interactions, Feedbacks And Risks Associated With Impact Of Modified Land Cover On Australia’s Climate” By McAlpine Et Al 2009

Filed under Climate Change Forcings & Feedbacks, Research Papers, Vulnerability Paradigm