Yearly Archives: 2009

Q & A Is Global Warming The Same As Climate Change?

Today’s question:  “Is Global Warming The Same As Climate Change?

The answer is clearly NO.

We continue, however,  to see the use of climate change and global warming used interchangeably (e.g. see).  This is presumably based on the narrow, and scientifically flawed, perspective advocated in policy statements as this (see)

“Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver. “

However, as documented in the EOS article

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

“……. the natural causes of climate variations and changes are undoubtedly important, [but also] the human influences are significant and involve a diverse range of first- order climate forcings, including, but not limited to, the human input of carbon dioxide (CO2). Most, if not all, of these human infl uences on regional and global climate will continue to be of concern during the coming decades.”

I have posted on the need to broaden the science assessment for years, with examples of my posts on this topic

Is Global Warming the Same as Climate Change?

What is Climate? Why Does it Matter How We Define Climate?

What is Climate Change?

Is There a Human Effect on the Climate System?

What Are The Major Recommendations of the 2005 National Research Council Report Entitled Radiative Forcing of Climate Change: Expanding The Concept And Addressing Uncertainties?

The bottom line message is that climate change involves much more than global warming or cooling. When the two terms are used interchangeably it shows either a lack of knowledge or a deliberate attempt to mislead policymakers and the public.

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Filed under Climate Change Forcings & Feedbacks, Climate Science Misconceptions

Comment On Tom Karl’s Interview In The Washington Post

There is an interview of Tom Karl, Director of the National Climate Data Center titled Global warming: What the science tells us. His responses repeat his advocacy position that he has presented in other venues.

However, I want to highlight what one of his answers which is quite a dishonest response.

The question and answer are

Silver Spring, Md.: Hello,

“Many people imply that the CRU temperature data are the exclusive or principal basis for climate change predictions. Please identify some key studies that do not rely heavily on CRU data, and their conclusions. Thanks.”

Thomas R. Karl: Hi there – thanks for the question. In fact, there are other global temperature datasets that are calculated by other institutions. For example, NASA calculates an independent global temperature dataset, as does NOAA (here at National Climatic Data Center). The analysis techniques for each of these datasets are all independent of each other and yet they all come to the same conclusion: that global warming is unequivocal….”

This is a dishonest answer and Tom Karl knows it. The NASA data set and the CRU data sets are not independent of the NCDC data set.

I have discussed the interdependence of the data sets in recent posts (e.g. see and see ).

Tom Karl has  even conveniently ignored the text from the CCSP 1.1. report [of which Tom Karl was the Chief Editor!];  i.e.

In the report “Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere: Steps for Understanding and Reconciling Differences Final Report, Synthesis and Assessment Product 1.1” on page 32 it is written

“The global surface air temperature data sets used in this report are to a large extent based on data readily exchanged internationally, e.g., through CLIMAT reports and the WMO publication Monthly Climatic Data for the World. Commercial and other considerations prevent a fuller exchange, though the United States may be better represented than many other areas. In this report, we present three global surface climate records, created from available data by NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies [GISS], NOAA National Climatic Data Center [NCDC], and the cooperative project of the U.K. Hadley Centre and the Climate Research Unit [CRU]of the University of East Anglia (HadCRUT2v).”

These three analyses are led by Tom Karl (NCDC), Jim Hansen (GISS) and Phil Jones (CRU).

The differences between the three global surface temperatures  that occur are a result of the analysis methodology as used by each of the three groups…… This is further explained on page  48 of the CCSP report where it is written with respect to the surface temperature data (as well as the other temperature data sets) that

“The data sets are distinguished from one another by differences in the details of their construction.”

On page 50 it is written

“Currently, there are three main groups creating global analyses of surface temperature (see Table 3.1), differing in the choice of available data that are utilized as well as the manner in which these data are synthesized.”


“Since the three chosen data sets utilize many of the same raw observations, there is a degree of interdependence.”

The chapter then states on page 51 that

“While there are fundamental differences in the methodology used to create the surface data sets, the differing techniques with the same data produce almost the same results (Vose et al., 2005a). The small differences in deductions about climate change derived from the surface data sets are likely to be due mostly to differences in construction methodology and global averaging procedures.”

and thus, to no surprise,  it is concluded that

“Examination of the three global surface temperature anomaly time series (TS) from 1958 to the present shown in Figure 3.1 reveals that the three time series have a very high level of agreement.”

There are also other major unresolved issues with the surface data sets of NCDC, NASA and CRU which Tom Karl continues to ignore; e.g. see

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


Recommended Reading Of An Article By Joe D’Aleo On The Lack Of Quality Of The Long Term Surface Temperature Trend Data Set Over Land

Tom Karl has a serious conflict of interest, as I have documented in these posts

Do The CRU E-Mails Provide Further Documentation Of A Conflict Of Interest In The Preparation Of A CCSP Climate Assessment Report?

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

He also keeps showing his lack of knowledge of climate science; e.g. see

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

Tom Karl has clearly demonstrated that he is an advocate and is presenting  erroneous information on the robustness of the surface temperature data record as a metric to assess multi-decadal surface temperature trends. We need a new Director of the National Climate Data Center who will provide policymakers with an accurate balanced monitoring of the climate system.

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Filed under Bias In News Media Reports, Climate Science Misconceptions

Another Paper On Soot In The Himalayas “Black Carbon Aerosols And The Third Polar Ice Cap” By Menon Et Al 2009

There is another paper on the role of soot in the climate system in the Himalayas (thanks to Jos de Laat for alerting us to it!).  The paper is

S. Menon, D. Koch, G. Beig, S. Sahu, J. Fasullo, and D. Orlikowski, 2009:Black carbon aerosols and the third polar ice cap. Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 9, 26593-26625, 2009 © Author(s) 2009. This work is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

The abstract reads

“Recent thinning of glaciers over the Himalayas (sometimes referred to as the third polar region) have raised concern on future water supplies since these glaciers supply water to large river systems that support millions of people inhabiting the surrounding areas. Black carbon (BC) aerosols, released from incomplete combustion, have been increasingly implicated as causing large changes in the hydrology and radiative forcing over Asia and its deposition on snow is thought to increase snow melt. In India BC from biofuel combustion is highly prevalent and compared to other regions, BC aerosol amounts are high. Here, we quantify the impact of BC aerosols on snow cover and precipitation from 1990 to 2010 over the Indian subcontinental region using two different BC emission inventories. New estimates indicate that Indian BC from coal and biofuel are large and transport is expected to expand rapidly in coming years. We show that over the Himalayas, from 1990 to 2000, simulated snow/ice cover decreases by ~0.9% due to aerosols. The contribution of the enhanced Indian BC to this decline is ~30%, similar to that simulated for 2000 to 2010. Spatial patterns of modeled changes in snow cover and precipitation are similar to observations (from 1990 to 2000), and are mainly obtained with the newer BC estimates.”

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Filed under Climate Change Forcings & Feedbacks, Research Papers

New Editorial “Land-Use/Land-Cover Change And Its Impacts” By Niyogi Et Al 2009

There is an editorial in a new issue of Boundary Layer Meteorology by three internationally well respected climate scientists that supports the need to include landscape change in the assessment of climate. The article concludes with the text

“Based on the results from these articles we call for a more deliberate inclusion of LULCC and its impacts in future weather, climate, and climate change related studies.”

 The editorial is

Dev Niyogi , Rezaul Mahmood and Jimmy O. Adegoke, 2009: Land-Use/Land-Cover Change and Its Impacts on Weather and Climate. Boundary Layer Meteorology. Volume 133, Number 3 / December, 2009. DOI 10.1007/s10546-009-9437-8

The editorial reads

Land-use and land-cover changes (LULCC) significantly affect weather and climate as is well documented in the scientific literature. These impacts include changes in air temperature, precipitation, atmospheric moisture content, energy fluxes, and mesoscale and potentially large-scale circulations. Recently, the United States National Research Council (2005) highlighted the importance of LULCC and recommended the broadening of the climate-change issue to include land-use/land-cover processes as an important climate forcing. The report noted that, “Regional variations in radiative forcing may have important regional and global climatic implications that are not resolved by the concept of global mean radiative forcing. Tropospheric aerosols and landscape changes have particularly heterogeneous forcings. To date, there have been only limited studies of regional radiative forcing and response. Indeed, it is not clear how best to diagnose a regional forcing and response in the observational record; regional forcings can lead to global climate responses, while global forcings can be associated with regional climate responses. Regional diabatic heating can also cause atmospheric teleconnections that influence regional climate thousands of kilometres away from the point of forcing. Improving societally relevant projections of regional climate impacts will require a better understanding of the magnitudes of regional forcings and the associated climate responses.”  Therefore, it is critical that we further investigate and understand the impacts of LULCC on weather and climate predictability.

In this context, an National Science Foundation (NSF) funded workshop was organized in Boulder, Colorado, USA in 2007 to further highlight the importance of LULCC, to present results of new research in LULCC, and to discuss the challenges of the monitoring and modelling of LULCC at various temporal and spatial scales. The articles included in this special issue of Boundary-Layer Meteorology are based on several of the presentations at the Boulder workshop. Urbanization represents one of the most extensive changes to the natural landscape. Urbanization produces urban heat islands, modifies mesoscale and regional-scale precipitation and atmospheric circulation patterns and, obviously, surface energy balance. The Balogun et al. article investigates modifications to energy fluxes in a unique ‘exurban’ environment due to recent LULCC in the Kansas City area. In this article the ‘exurban’ area is defined by ‘extensive, open vegetated types typical of low-density residential areas that have been newly converted from rural land use’. They found that energy balance for the exurban area of a large metropolitan region was more similar to rural areas than older suburbs with mature trees. It is an important finding and the study provides valuable data relevant to understanding the impacts of urban sprawl in humid mid-latitude environments.

Land-surface heterogeneity produces significant variability in energy fluxes over various spatial scales. LULCC further modifies these variabilities, and the quantification of these spatial variabilities of fluxes is essential for a better understanding of the impacts of LULCC. The article by Alfieri et al. addresses this issue. They tested four different methods and assessed their accuracy in quantifying spatial variability of surface fluxes by using data from the 2002 International H2O (IHOP) Project. Their results should be valuable in the future for quantifying the impacts of LULCC on the spatial variability of surface fluxes from different sensors.

Interactions between the synoptic scale and mesoscale have been a topic of interest for many decades. It is possible that the mesoscale influence on synoptic-scale systems is dominated by mesoscale land-surface features and their influence on surface processes. Again, LULCC can further enhance or mute the impacts of these processes. Frequently we use models to investigate these interactions across scales to investigate the impacts of LULCC on atmospheric phenomena. However, a challenge in these simulations includes, inter alia, representative land-surface data (which influences quantification of land-surface processes) and the performance of data assimilation techniques. The article by Vindokumar et al. addresses these research issues. They tested several data assimilation schemes to determine their relative performance in the simulation of a monsoon depression. They found that mesoscale surface processes affected rainfall, and that improved representation of land-surface processes leads to more realistic simulation by the model. In short, this article addresses a key point related to the precision of simulations when we investigate the impacts of LULCC on weather and climate. Furthermore, LULCC has been shown in previous studies to modify mesoscale circulations and potentially affect the dispersion of various airborne gaseous and particulate matters. Wu et al. is an important addition to the literature on this topic. Their study demonstrates how land-surface heterogeneity (including topography, vegetation, and soil moisture) could modify mesoscale atmospheric dispersion.

Overall, the articles included in this special section address some pressing research issues related to the study of LULCC and its impacts on weather and climate. Based on the results from these articles we call for a more deliberate inclusion of LULCC and its impacts in future weather, climate, and climate change related studies.

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Filed under Climate Change Forcings & Feedbacks, Climate Science Op-Eds

Comment On EPA Response To Reviewer Comments On Ocean Heat Content

The EPA has published their response to reviewer comments in Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for Greenhouse Gases under the Clean Air Act

I am going to respond to one of their responses below (from the EPA url page)

EPA Summary of Comment (3-8):

Several commenters (3187.4, 7031, 9877) argue that the recent plateau in ocean heat content (from 2003 to 2008) suggests anthropogenic warming is not occurring because it indicates that the climate system is not accumulating heat. The lack of heat accumulation, they state, demonstrates a failure of the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis to account for natural climate variability, especially as it relates to ocean cycles. They claim that the recent trends in ocean heat content suggest the Earth’s energy budget is not out of balance owing to GHGs, in contrast to the findings of Hansen et al. (2005).

EPA Response (3-8):

We have reviewed the assessment literature in light of these comments and disagree with the assertions made by commenters. Just as temperature will not necessarily increase monotonically with increases in GHGs (per response 3-6) neither will ocean heat content on short time scales. Many of the same factors that influence global surface temperature in addition to GHG forcing will also result in short-term variability in ocean heat content such as aerosol emissions (anthropogenic and/or volcanic), solar forcing, and internal variability in the climate system. EPA does not suggest that GHGs are the only factors that would influence the global energy budget, and hence ocean heat content. EPA agrees that internal variability likely plays an important role in the interannual and interdecadal variability of ocean heat content, as indicated by IPCC (Bindoff et al., 2007). But as noted in Volume 2 of the Response to Comments document, the long-term trend in ocean heat content is indisputably upward, which is what we would expect given the anthropogenic heating from GHGs. The IPCC notes that ocean heat content is a critical variable for detecting the effects of the observed increase in GHGs in the Earth’s atmosphere and for resolving the Earth’s overall energy balance (Bindoff et al., 2007)

Several commenters (3187.4, 7031, 9877) argue that the recent plateau in ocean heat content (from 2003 to 2008) suggests anthropogenic warming is not occurring because it indicates that the climate system is not accumulating heat. The lack of heat accumulation, they state, demonstrates a failure of the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis to account for natural climate variability, especially as it relates to ocean cycles. They claim that the recent trends in ocean heat content suggest the Earth’s energy budget is not out of balance owing to GHGs, in contrast to the findings of Hansen et al. (2005).

Though the commenters refer to a recent plateau in ocean heat content, there are published papers which find the opposite, as mentioned in Volume 2 of the Response to Comments document. In fact, this work (von Schuckmann et al., 2009) indicates the global ocean accumulated (between the surface and 2,000 meter depth) 0.77 (plus or minus 0.11) watts per square meter of heat between 2003 and 2008, which is roughly consistent with the 0.86 (plus or minus 0.12) watts per square meter of heat (between the surface and 750 meter depth) accumulated between 1993 and 2003 as documented in Willis et al. (2004); and Hansen et al. (2005). These studies suggest the ocean has and continues to accumulate heat, contributing to an overall imbalance in the Earth’s energy budget, as further documented in two other recent studies by Trenberth et al. (2009) analyzing the period March 2000 to May 2004 and Murphy et al. (2009) (analyzing the period 1950–2004).

We have added the following text on this topic to Section 4(f) of the final TSD on this topic:

The thermal expansion of sea water is an indicator of increasing ocean heat content. Ocean heat content is also a critical variable for detecting the effects of the observed increase in GHGs in the Earth’s atmosphere and for resolving the Earth’s overall energy balance (Bindoff et al., 2007). For the period 1955 to 2005, Bindoff et al. (2007) analyze multiple time series of ocean heat content and find an overall increase, while noting interannual and inter-decadal variations. NOAA’s report State of the Climate in 2008 (Peterson and Baringer, 2009), which incorporates data through 2008, finds “large” increases in global ocean heat content since the 1950s and notes that over the last several years, ocean heat content has reached consistently higher values than for all prior times in the record.

Thus, the TSD’s summary of the current state of the science on ocean heat content as reflected in the underlying assessment literature is reasonable and sound.

There are major misinterpretations in the EPA response:

An essential test of  model performance is a direct comparison with observations. I have discussed in several posts (see and see) the inability of Jim Hansen’s GISS model  to accurately predict the accumulation of heat in the upper ocean over the last several years.

I  do agree that the conclusion in Hansen et al. 2005 that the “Earth is now absorbing 0.85 ± Watts per meter squared more energy from the Sun than it is emitting to space” is well supported by their modeling results for the ten years or so ending in 2003.

However, in their paper

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,

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.” 

In the response by Jim Hansen to a comment by Christy and Pielke Sr   Hansen wrote me with respect to their GISS model predictions that

“Our simulated 1993-2003 heat storage rate was 0.6 W/m2 in the upper 750 m of the ocean.”

He further writes

“The decadal mean planetary energy imbalance, 0.75 W/m2, includes heat storage in the deeper ocean and energy used to melt ice and warm the air and land. 0.85 W/m2 is the imbalance at the end of the decade.”

Thus, the best estimate value of 0.60 Watts per meter squared given in Hansen et al can be used to calculate the accumulation of  heat  in Joules that Jim Hansen predicted in the upper ocean data from 2003 to the present.

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  ~0 Joules (estimated) 
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 6.86 * 10**22 Joules more heat in the upper 700 meters of the global ocean at the end of 2009 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 three years. This requires a heating rate over the next 3 years into the upper 700 meters of the ocean of 3.27* 10**22 Joules per year, which corresponds to a radiative imbalance of ~+2.0 Watts per square meter.

This rate of heating would have to be about 3 1/3 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 still relatively short, the question should be asked by the EPA 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 EPA failed to discuss this discrepancy between observations and the model predictions. Despite what they wrote, the climate system, as represented by the upper ocean heat content, has not been accumulating heat over the last 6 years or so. Based on the GISS model predictions, there should be approximately 6.86 * 10** 22 Joules more heat in the upper 700 meters of the global ocean at the end of 2009 than were present at the beginning of 2003.

Finally, the EPA is selective (i.e. biased) in terms of what they presented in the justification for their findings. They did not discuss or refute, for example, the conclusions with respect to ocean heat content changes reported in

Douglass, D.H. and R. Knox, 2009: Ocean heat content and Earth’s radiation imbalance. Physics letters A

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

The EPA Findings perpetuate the culture of ignoring peer-reviewed scientific results which is exemplified in the released CRU e-mails.

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Q & A Is The Human Addition Of Carbon Dioxide The Primary Human Climate Forcing?

Today, I am going to start a series of Q&A posts with respect to the climate issue. The first question is

 Is The Human Addition Of Carbon Dioxide The Primary Human Climate Forcing?

This is the focus of the Copenhagen meeting. The clear answer, based on a wide range of peer-reviewed papers is NO.

The human addition of carbon dioxide is an important climate forcing, as I have posted on previously (e.g. see) but it is not the only important forcing and does not appear to even be the most important (e.g. see our paper Matsui and Pielke, 2006 with respect to aerosols where the forcing of wind circulations from the heterogenous spatial distribution of human caused aerosols was around 6oX greater than that of the radiative effect of CO2).

As I wrote in the post

Is The Human Input Of CO2 A First Order Climate Forcing?

Thus, while I agree that the human addition of CO2 is a first order climate forcing, the claims that it is the primary human climate forcing is not supported by the science. This means that attempts to “control” the climate system, and to prevent a “dangerous intervention” into the climate system by humans that focuses just on CO2 and a few other greenhouse gases will necessarily be significantly incomplete, unless all of the other first order climate forcings are considered.

 Moreover, as I have written on extensively, climate change is much more than global warming and cooling (e.g. see  and see).  Human caused climate change can occur even in the absence of global warming (such as from land use change).  This makes attempts to mitigate climate change a much more daunting problem than assuming that all we need to do is control the human emissions of CO2 from fossil fuel combustion into the atmosphere.

Thus the Copenhagen COP15 meeting is only addressing a relatively small portion of the issue of how human climate forcings influences society and the environment.

Moreover, natural climate variability and change in the past, even without significant human intervention., has played a major role in society; e.g see

Meko, D., C. A. Woodhouse, C. A. Baisan, T. Knight, J. J. Lukas, M. K. Hughes, and M. W. Salzer (2007), Medieval drought in the upper Colorado River Basin, Geophys. Res. Lett., 34, L10705, doi:10.1029/2007GL029988


Rial, J., R.A. Pielke Sr., M. Beniston, M. Claussen, J. Canadell, P. Cox, H. Held, N. de Noblet-Ducoudre, R. Prinn, J. Reynolds, and J.D. Salas, 2004: Nonlinearities, feedbacks and critical thresholds within the Earth’s climate system. Climatic Change, 65, 11-38.

We need a robust and effective set of comprehensive policies to address adaptation and mitigation to the entire spectrum of human- and natural- caused climate change and variability, such my son has proposed (e.g. see the end portion of the text in his post of October 30, 2009).  The Copenhagen COP15 completely fails in this requirement.

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Comments On A New Paper “Strong Alpine Glacier Melt In The 1940s Due To Enhanced Solar radiation” By Huss Et Al 2009

There is a new paper

Huss, M., M. Funk, and A. Ohmura (2009), Strong Alpine glacier melt in the 1940s due to enhanced solar radiation, Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L23501, doi:10.1029/2009GL040789

with the abstract

“A 94-year time series of annual glacier melt at four high elevation sites in the European Alps is used to investigate the effect of global dimming and brightening of solar radiation on glacier mass balance. Snow and ice melt was stronger in the 1940s than in recent years, in spite of significantly higher air temperatures in the present decade. An inner Alpine radiation record shows that in the 1940s global shortwave radiation over the summer months was 8% above the long-term average and significantly higher than today, favoring rapid glacier mass loss. Dimming of solar radiation from the 1950s until the 1980s is in line with reduced melt rates and advancing glaciers.”

Excerpts from the paper read

“The drivers for these long-term variations cannot be detected based on the available data sets as they do not resolve all components of the energy balance. ……We therefore caution against using classical temperature-index models calibrated in the past for projecting snow and ice melt in glaciological and hydrological studies and to calculate future sea level rise.

“Our data sets provide evidence that the extraordinary melt rates in the 1940s can be attributed to enhanced solar radiation in summertime. Models for past and future glacier changes should take into account the effect of decadal radiation variations as they significantly alter the relationship between glacier melt and air temperature.”

This is yet another study that documents the inability to properly describe the climate system when it is oversimplified  by focusing on just the metric  of surface air temperature anomalies.  The higher Alpine glacier melt in the 1940s, also provides evidence that this climate event is not primarily caused by a long-term trend in the global warming (or cooling).

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Filed under Climate Change Metrics, Research Papers

Recommended Reading Of An Article By Joe D’Aleo On The Lack Of Quality Of The Long Term Surface Temperature Trend Data Set Over Land

There is an excellent article by Joseph D’Aleo at Pajamas Media titled

 “Climategate: Something’s Rotten in Denmark … and East Anglia, Asheville, and New York City (PJM Exclusive)”.

 It very effectively summarizes a number of major issues with the quality of the land portion of the long-term surface temperature trend record that was used in the 2007 IPCC report, and is being assumed as robust at the current Copenhagen meeting.

I recommend this article for anyone who wants to see how really bad this temperature data  is with respect to its application to the quantitative assessment of long-term surface temperature trends.

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Filed under Climate Change Metrics, Climate Science Reporting

Comments On A New Paper “A Strong Bout Of Natural Cooling in 2008” By Perlwitz Et Al 2009

There is a new paper

Perlwitz, J., M. Hoerling, J. Eischeid, T. Xu, and A. Kumar (2009), A strong bout of natural cooling in 2008, Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L23706, doi:10.1029/2009GL041188

with a remarkably convoluted way to rationalize recent cooling in North America so that it conforms with the IPCC perspective of global warming.

The  abstract reads

“A precipitous drop in North American temperature in 2008, commingled with a decade-long fall in global mean temperatures, are generating opinions contrary to the inferences drawn from the science of climate change. We use an extensive suite of model simulations and appraise factors contributing to 2008 temperature conditions over North America. We demonstrate that the anthropogenic impact in 2008 was to warm the region’s temperatures, but that it was overwhelmed by a particularly strong bout of naturally-induced cooling resulting from the continent’s sensitivity to widespread coolness of the tropical and northeastern Pacific sea surface temperatures. The implication is that the pace of North American warming is likely to resume in coming years, and that climate is unlikely embarking upon a prolonged cooling.”

Excerpts from the paper read

Our appraisal of the natural SST conditions in the Nino 4 region, with anomalies of about 1.1 K suggests a condition colder than any in the instrumental record since 1871…..We illustrated that North America would have experienced considerably colder temperatures just due to the impact of such natural ocean variability alone, and that the simultaneous presence of anthropogenic warming reduced the severity of cooling.

“This, and similar recent attribution studies of observed climate events [Stott et al., 2004; Hoerling et al., 2007; Easterling and Wehner, 2009] are important in ensuring that natural variability, when occurring, is not misunderstood to indicate that climate change is either not happening or that it is happening more intensely than the true human influence. In our diagnosis of 2008, the absence of North American warming was shown not to be evidence for an absence of anthropogenic forcing, but only that the impact of the latter was balanced by strong natural cooling. Considering the nature of both the 2008 NA temperature anomalies and the natural ocean variability that reflected a transitory interannual condition, we can expect that the 2008 coolness is unlikely to be part of a prolonged cooling trend in NA temperature in future years.”

This paper is an amazing example of ignoring the obvious. None of the models anticipated this record cooling in the Nino 4 region.  These sea surface temperatures are very much a part of the real climate system, which the IPCC claims can be skillfully predicted decades into the future.

Yet, the model simulations (which themselves are just hypotheses; e.g. see)  are being used to claim that this cooling is just a short-term blip on a long-term upward trend.

The authors, of course, may be correct that the warming will recommence and continue into the future. However, while they did not intend this message, what they have shown convincingly is that natural climate variations exceed what the IPCC models can skillfully simulate. This should give pause to anyone who claims that these models are skillful predictions of the climate in the coming decades.

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News Release On Soot Effects On Climate In The Himalayas – Its Larger Than the Forcing From The Human Input Of CO2

UPDATE: December 16 2009  Sean Artman has asked an excellent question as to how a “local” effect such as the soot can raise questions on the overall effect of CO2 on the global climate. My response is below:

Dear Mr. Artman

 The study that they presented has several implications:

1. The attribution of most of the warming in this region (i.e. it is certainly regional not “local” as is written since it covers tens thousands of square kilometers) which has been credited to added CO2 and other well-mixed greenhouse gases is not correct. A significant fraction of the warming is from the soot.

2. The heating of the atmosphere from the soot (by solar absorption and decrease in long wave loss to space) results in alterations of pressure fields, and thus wind circulations. This effect will communicate through the pressure field to long distances from this region (e.g. see our paper

Matsui, T., and R.A. Pielke Sr., 2006: Measurement-based estimation of the spatial gradient of aerosol radiative forcing. Geophys. Res. Letts., 33, L11813, doi:10.1029/2006GL025974

on this subject.

3. The effect of soot is not limited to this region. It has been implicated in Arctic warming also; e.g. see
where it is written

  “…..on snow.even at concentrations below five parts per billion.such
  dark carbon triggers melting, and may be responsible for as much as 94
  percent of Arctic warming.”


There is a news release that indicates the major effect of soot on the climate, including glaciers, in the Himalayas (thanks to Charles Martin for alerting us to this!).  The news release dated December 14 2009  is

New Study Turns Up the Heat on Soot’s Role in Himalayan Warming

Excerpts from the news article are

“……the new research, by NASA’s William Lau and collaborators, reinforces with detailed numerical analysis what earlier studies suggest: that soot and dust contribute as much (or more) to atmospheric warming in the Himalayas as greenhouse gases. This warming fuels the melting of glaciers and could threaten fresh water resources in a region that is home to more than a billion people.”

“The Indo-Gangetic plain, one of the most fertile and densely populated areas on Earth, has become a hotspot for emissions of black carbon……. Winds push thick clouds of black carbon and dust, which absorb heat from sunlight, toward the base of the Himalayas where they accumulate, rise, and drive a “heat pump” that affects the region’s climate.”

“Over areas of the Himalayas, the rate of warming is more than five times faster than warming globally,” said William Lau, head of atmospheric sciences at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “Based on the differences it’s not difficult to conclude that greenhouse gases are not the sole agents of change in this region. There’s a localized phenomenon at play.”

“He has produced new evidence suggesting that an “elevated heat pump” process is fueling the loss of ice, driven by airborne dust and soot particles absorbing the sun’s heat and warming the local atmosphere and land surface. A related modeling study by Lau and colleagues has been submitted to Environmental Research Letters for publication.”

“……said Lau. “We need to add another topic to the climate dialogue.”

This news study reinforces the conclusion that a broader perspective of the role of humans in the climate system is needed, and that the radiative effect of CO2 may not the dominate human role as concluded by the IPCC report and as being discussed in Copenhagen.

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