Monthly Archives: January 2010

Interesting News Article In Nature Titled “The Real Holes In Climate Science”

The is an interesting news article by Quirin Schiermeier in Nature titled

“The Real Holes In Climate Science”

This news summary contains both recognition (finally) of some the complications of assessing the role of humans in the climate system, but also continues to perpetuate misunderstandings of the latest science.

First, here are the main deficiencies in climate science (those parts of the text which I agree with) reprinted from the Nature article as excerpts;

1. “The sad truth of climate science is that the most crucial information is the least reliable. To plan for the future, people need to know how their local conditions will change, not how the average global temperature will climb. Yet researchers are still struggling to develop tools to accurately forecast climate changes for the twenty first century at the local and regional level.”

2. “….. Unfortunately, when it comes to precipitation, that is about all the models agree on. The different simulations used by the IPCC in its 2007 assessment offer wildly diverging pictures of snow and rainfall in the future ….. The situation is particularly bad for winter precipitation, generally the most important in replenishing water supplies. The IPCC simulations failed to provide any robust projection of how winter precipitation will change at the end of the current century for large parts of all continents.”

3. “Atmospheric aerosols — airborne liquid or solid particles — are a source of great uncertainty in climate science. Despite decades of intense research, scientists must still resort to using huge error bars when assessing how particles such as sulphates, black carbon, sea salt and dust affect temperature and rainfall.”

Each of these admissions move climate science further from the frequent claims that we hear that climate science issue is settled.

The article does, unfortunately perpetuate erroneous conclusions about the science. A number of these error are clearly stated in a section of the article “Enduring climate myths” on page 286 of the article. Several of the “myths” actually have substantive scientific evidence which refutes them, while others are not disputed by anyone.

Below I have commented on the “myths” ;

1. “Myth #1: “Climate models can’t provide useful information about the real world”.

I agree that climate models provide valuable insight into climate processes. I am aware of no one who concludes otherwise. Where there is disagreement is on their skill at regional and global averaged multi-decadal forecasts. Clearly, even the reporter concludes there is no regional skill on this time scale

2. Myth #2: “Global warming stopped ten years ago.”

Actually global warming, as measured by lower tropospheric temperatures; e.g. see Figure 7 in the RSS MSU data) has been close to zero at least since 2002, and by upper ocean heat content (see)  since 2003 (with other data such as Levitus showing since 2005 (see).

3. Myth #3: “Temperatures were higher in pre-industrial times”.

On this issue, I defer to experts who investigate proxy records.  However, the kludging together of proxy data with the instrument record has always been a dubious excercise since they do not measure the same climate metric. I have discussed the divergence issue with respect to proxy and instrument temperature data based on the research of colleagues (see and see)

4. Myth #4:”Temperature records taken in the lower atmosphere indicate that the globe is not warming”.

The link to the UAH MSU data (see bottom figures in this post) and the RSS MSU data (see Figure 7) show that since 2002, warming has not occurred, on average, over this time period.  Over the longer time period (since 1979) there has been warming. However, the failure by the reporter to recognize in the news article that this warming, at least for a few years, has stopped is obvious.

5. Myth #5: “A few degrees of warming are not a big deal.”

This is a vague statement.  For example, an increase in nighttime minimum temperatures of several degrees might even be beneficial for some agriculture locations, while such an increase in the maximum temperatures could result in major problems. The reporter refers to a global average  temperature warming, but without knowing how such an increase in temperatures were distributed regional and locally, and through the diurnal cycle, there is no way to know if it is a “big deal” or not. 

6. Myth #6: “Measured increases in temperature reflect the growth of cities around weather stations rather than global warming.”

This claim is refuted in several studies (e.g. see and see). In the first link, it is reported

“Across the (United States) as a whole, approximately 50 percent of the warming that has occurred since 1950 is due to land use changes (usually in the form of clearing forest for crops or cities) rather than to the emission of greenhouse gases,” Stone said. “Most large U.S. cities … are warming at more than twice the rate of the planet as a whole — a rate that is mostly attributable to land use change.”

The article is a step forward from other news summaries of climate science. However, it still perpetuates significant misunderstandings and erroneous conclusions about our actual understanding of the climate system.

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Comment On “AMS2010: Data Gaps And Errors May Have Masked Warming” By Olive Heffernan At The Weblog Climate Feedback

There is a post on the Nature website Climate Feedback by Olive Heffernan titled

AMS2010: Data gaps and errors may have masked warming

This is a remarkable post in that it fails to properly assess all of the data sources for climate system heat changes. Excerpts from the post read

“New analyses provide preliminary evidence that temperature data from the UK Met office may under-estimate recent warming. That’s the conclusion of a talk given here today by Chris Folland of the Met Office Hadley Centre. Folland says that there is a very good chance that there has been more warming over land and over the ocean in the past decade than suggested by conventional data sets, but he says that the issues with land and ocean data are entirely unrelated.’

“For land, the problem of underestimating warming stems from data gaps in the average monthly temperature data set of the Met Office Hadley Centre, known as HadCruT3. Temperatures over the past decade were recently re-analyzed using a european climate model by Adrian Simmons of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts in Reading, UK and colleagues, and are soon to be published in the Journal of Geophysical Research [subscription]. Simmons and colleagues compared air temperature and humidity data collected over the past decade by the Hadley Centre with re-analyzed data for the same period. Average warming over land was larger for the fully sampled re-analyzed data than for the HadCRUT3 temperature data. The difference between the data sets is particularly notable for northeast Canada, Greenland and nothern parts of Asia, areas which are warming particularly rapidly.”

If the land surface temperatures were actually warmer than have been sampled, this results in even more divergence between the surface temperature and lower tropospheric temperature trends which we quantified in

Klotzbach, P.J., R.A. Pielke Sr., R.A. Pielke Jr., J.R. Christy, and R.T. McNider, 2009: An alternative explanation for differential temperature trends at the surface and in the lower troposphere. J. Geophys. Res., 114, D21102, doi:10.1029/2009JD011841.

Chris Folland also ignored the unresolved issues and systematic biases that we identified in our paper

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.

The Heffernan weblog post further writes

“For the ocean data, it’s a different issue. John Kennedy of the Met Office and colleagues previously reported in Nature [subscription] that changes in the methods used to collect sea surface temperature (SST) data at the end of World War II caused problems in comparing pre- and post-war data. Now they have a new analysis (yet to be published) suggesting that smaller changes in data collection methods since the end of the war could also be significant.

Over the past 20 years, the primary source of SST data has changed from ships to ocean buoys. Because ships warm the water during data collection, there has been a drop in recorded SSTs since bouys,which are more accurate, became the main data source. So what could appear to be a relative cooling trend in SSTs over the past decade may actually just due to changes in errors in the data. Scientists are confident that the buoy data are more accurate because they compare favourably with reliable satellite data.”

The upper ocean heat data shows no appreciable warming in the upper ocean since at least 2005 (and perhaps since 2003) as I discussed in 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.

The satellite monitored surface temperatures similarly show a lack of warming over this time period; the current global sea surface temperature trends can be viewed at the GISS website (see) where for the period 2003 to 2009 on the annual average, there is a even negative trend in this time period for some latitude bands (see) [see also the land and ocean temperature changes figure in the section “Annual Mean Temperature Change for Land and Ocean in where a divergence between the land and ocean data trens in the last 10 years is quite distinct].

While, whether the trends are positive or negative from 2003 to 2009 does not refute a longer time global warming (which could, of course, recommence), statements by Chris Folland and John Kennedy that can be easily shown to conflict with even a cursory examination of the data, will result in a dismissal of their conclusions by objective climate scientists.

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Filed under Climate Change Metrics, Climate Science Misconceptions

Interview By Ray Taylor At OurClimate.Eu Titled “Copenhagen, Europe, Africa and a Vulnerability Paradigm”

Ray Taylor at of the Land-Atmosphere Resilience Initiative [ see and see also] conducted an interview of me titled

Copenhagen, Europe, Africa and a Vulnerability Paradigm

The article starts with

“RAY TAYLOR: Good morning Professor Pielke and thank you for agreeing to this interview for the European Union OurClimate portal.

What would your advice be to EU and African countries for the Copenhagen climate talks?

PROFESSOR ROGER PIELKE Sr: I recommend that the vulnerabilities, from a bottom-up, natural resources* perspective be identified, rather than starting with the inappropriate (and ineffective) narrow emphasis on carbon emissions. The vulnerability framework is more inclusive and will permit more effective policymaking.

There also needs to a recognition that climate change is much more than global warming. Even without global warming, humans are altering the climate system significantly.”

Read the rest of the interview here. As a clear message from the Haitian earthquake, there is a need to assess vulnerabilties of society to the entire spectrum of natural and human caused risks, and to develop policies to reduce these threats. The available financial and other resources need to be optimized in order to most effectively minimize these risks.

A focus on funding CO2 reductions which result in a reduction of funds for other actions, such as developing more earthquake resistant urban areas, is not a wise expenditure of financial resources.

Interested readers can view more of my perspective (and that of other AGU Fellows) in our article

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

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Reality Check On Science Magazine’s Claim That 2009 Was The Hottest Year on Record in Southern Hemisphere

There is an article in Science magazine on January 13 2010 titled

Exclusive: 2009 Hottest Year on Record in Southern Hemisphere by Eli Kintisch

It reads

The United States may be experiencing one of the coldest winters in decades, but things continue to heat up in the Southern Hemisphere. Science has obtained exclusive data from NASA that indicates that 2009 was the hottest year on record south of the Equator. The find adds to multiple lines of evidence showing that the 2000s were the warmest decade in the modern instrumental record.

Southern Hemisphere temperatures can serve as a trailing indicator of global warming, says NASA mathematician Reto Ruedy of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City, given that part of the globe is mostly water, which warms more slowly and with less variability than land. Ruedy says 2009 temperatures in the Southern Hemisphere were 0.49°C warmer than the period between 1951 and 1980, with an error of +/- 0.05°C.

That makes 2009 the warmest year on record in that hemisphere. That’s significant because the second-warmest year, 1998, saw the most severe recorded instance in the 20th century of El Niño, a cyclic warming event in the tropical Pacific. During El Niño events, heat is redistributed from deep water to the surface, which raises ocean temperatures and has widespread climatic effects. But last year was an El Niño year of medium strength, which Ruedy says might mean that the warmer temperatures also show global, long-term warming as well as the regional trend.

The data come a month after announcements by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and by the World Meterological Organization that the decade of the 2000s was warmer than the 1990s. (NOAA estimates that the decade was 0.54°C warmer than the 20th century average. The 1990s, by comparison, was 0.36°C warmer by their measure.)

Meanwhile, NOAA is expected to announce possible record highs in the tropics when it releases its final report on 2009 temperatures on Friday. “This is one of the coldest winters we’ve experienced in a while up here in the northern latitudes,” says Derek Arndt of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, North Carolina. “But we’re piling up a lot of heat in the tropics.”

However, their claim fails the reality check when even a cursory examination of the data (the “multiple lines of evidence“)  is made

For example, see


which I originally posted on January 8 2010. 

John Christy has also provided the Southern Hemisphere lower tropospheric MSU derived temperature anomalies and 2009 was the 4th warmest in the period 1979-2009:  The other years and their anomalies are 1998 (+0.41); 2002 (+0.30); 2005 (+0.24) and 2009 (+0.21). The anomaly of 1998 was almost twice the anomaly of 2009 in the Southern Hemisphere.  The RSS MSU anomalies are also in close agreement with the UAH MSU data that John has provided.

The Science article perpetuates the focus on an inappropriately narrow assessment of global (and hemispheric) warming.  This is misleading policymakers, and, with respect to Science magazine itself, is confirming that it is not presenting a balanced view of climate science.

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Example Of The Lack Of Due Diligence Of The IPCC As Has Been Reported By Benny Peiser At CCNet

Benny Peiser wrote the text below for the Daily Mail on January 18 2010 as reported on his e-mail list CCNet ( To subscribe send an e-mail to listserver [at]

“The IPCC review process has been shown on numerous occasions to lack transparency and due diligence. Its work is controlled by a tightly knit group of individuals who are completely convinced that they are right. As a result, conflicting data and evidence, even if published in peer reviewed journals, are regularly ignored, while exaggerated claims, even if contentious or not peer-reviewed, are often highlighted in IPCC reports. Not surprisingly, the IPCC has lost a lot of credibility in recent years. It is also losing the trust of more and more governments who are no longer following their advice – as the Copenhagen summit showed.’

   — Benny Peiser, Daily Mail, 18 January 2010″

To provide documentation on the failure of the 2007 WG1 IPCC report to provide due diligence in their climate assessment, I provided a list of peer reviewed papers in the appendix to my report

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

which were excluded from two chapters in the 2007 IPCC WG1 report.

I also posted on this issue in

Documentation Of IPCC WG1 Bias by Roger A. Pielke Sr. and Dallas Staley – Part I

Documentation Of IPCC WG1 Bias by Roger A. Pielke Sr. and Dallas Staley – Part II

Specifically, in Chapter 3 of the 2007 WG1 IPCC report which is titled “Observations: Surface and Atmospheric Climate Change”, the Coordinating Lead Authors were Kevin E. Trenberth (USA) and Philip D. Jones (UK), both of whom are, of course, involved in the CRU e-mails (e.g. see The Crutape Letters ). The Coordinating Lead Authors decided what was to be included in these chapters and what to exclude.

and in Chapter 8 of the 2007 WG1 IPCC report which is titled “Climate Models and Their Evaluation”, the Coordinating Lead Authors were David A. Randall (USA) and Richard A. Wood (UK).

The Coordinating Lead Authors in both chapters excluded available peer- reviewed papers which provide scientific evidence which conflicts with their conclusions in their chapters.

As the fall out from the CRU e-mails widens to include the IPCC reports, there is a need to assess and quantify the extent that these Coordinating Lead Authors (and those of other IPCC Chapters), excluded conflicting peer reviewed papers.  It is clear that in Chapters 3 and 8, this inappropriate behavior occurred with the result that a balanced scientific assessment of  climate observations and models was not achieved.

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National Academies Press Book “On Being A Scientist: Third Edition: 2009”

In response to my post

Professional Discourtesy By The National Climate Data Center On The Menne Et Al 2010 paper

I have alerted by Forrest M. Mims III to a National Academies Press book  titled

On Being a Scientist: Third Edition: 2009. ISBN-10: 0-309-11970-7 ISBN-13: 978-0-309-11970-2. 82 pages 

Excerpts from the book include

“……..researchers have an obligation to honor the trust that their colleagues place in them’. Science is a cumulative enterprise in which new research builds on previous results. If research results are inaccurate, other researchers will waste time and resources trying to replicate or extend those results. Irresponsible actions can impede an entire field of research or send it in a wrong direction, and progress in that field may slow. Imbedded in this trust is a responsibility of researchers to mentor the next generation who will build their work on the current research discoveries.” (page 2)

“Research is based on the same ethical values that apply in everyday life, including honesty, fairness, objectivity, openness, trustworthiness, and respect for others.” (page 3)

On treatment of data, the report writes on page 8

“Researchers who manipulate their data in ways that deceive others, even if the manipulation seems insignificant at the time, are violating both the basic values and widely accepted professional standards of science. Researchers draw conclusions based on their observations of nature. If data are altered to present a case that is stronger than the data warrant, researchers fail to fulfill all three of the obligations described at the beginning of this guide. They mislead their colleagues and potentially impede progress in their field or research. They undermine their own authority and trustworthiness as researchers. And they introduce information into the scientific record that could cause harm to the broader society, as when the dangers of a medical treatment are understated.”

Climate scientists, and the public and policymakers, would benefit by rigorously following the guidelines in this report.

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Recommended Reading – The Crutape Letters by Steven Mosher and Thomas W. Fuller

The first book on the released e-mails from CRU has been published.  It presents an important and informative discussion of the issues that have been illuminated by these e-mails. The book is

The Crutape Letters by Steven Mosher and Thomas W. Fuller, 2010. ISBN/EAN13: 1450512437 / 9781450512435

I recommend this book to the readers of my weblog. I also look forward to other books on this topic, such as one prepared by the Real Climate authors in which they refute or accept the findings reported in the The Crutape Letters.

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