Guest Post By Chick Keller On The Content and Tone Of My Weblog

Charles F. Keller – “Chick”, the retired Director of Los Alamos National Laboratory Branch of
University of California’s Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics (IGPP)  copied me on an e-mail that he sent out widely to Lawarence Livermore National Laboratory on January 25 2010. I appreciate that he shared with me this e-mail, as it provides his perspective on my weblog.  He has okayed me posting it here, and has also suggested, in a follow on e-mail to me (see the first e-mail text below), that we jointly write our impressions of the climate issue. He wrote in the follow up  

Finally, I got to thinking.  Is there a use for the two of us to write together–our impressions about important aspects of this problem–sort of Brooks and Shields like.  Those two agree on many important issues but see them from different points of view.  Hearing them bounce ideas off each other is very useful to many.  Perhaps we could do that?  It might be fun to try.”

I have accepted this opportunity for a constructive (much needed) dialog. I am pleased, that despite his concerns on the tone of my posts, that he concludes that much of what I write is correct. I suspect one area of agreement is that we both see considerable value in model simulations as process studies, while an area we disagree in is on the skill of these models to make multi-decadal climate predictions.

On Mon, 25 Jan 2010, Charles and Yvonne Keller wrote

“LANL folks,

I just looked over Roger’s website and was a bit dismayed.  So I thought I’d just react. Pretty much everything Roger says at it is correct [highlight added]. It’s the tone that seems not to be scientifically productive.  Are there things we still don’t understand about climate?  Yes. Does this mean we don’t understand enough to be concerned about AGHGs warming the planet?  Most climate scientists would say an emphatic No. Global temperatures haven’t warmed appreciably in the past 8 years (ya gotta ignore 1998 cuz it’s a big  ENSO spike not part of the trend). This is not so much evidence that modelers etc don’t know what they’re doing (it was actually predicted rather well before it happened) as it is a splendid chance to study aspects  of climate variability without “contamination” of the signal by ENSO and volcanos.  So what’s a scandal to Roger is a great opportunity to the working climate scientist.  Does this show that Judith Lean and David Rind have teased out solar forcing?  They show that the climate has been going up and down by about 0.1°C every 10-11 yrs. following the solar activity  cycle. If they are right, then all this still stand means is that, while AGHG warming is going up by about 0.1°C it’s been countered by the downturn from maximum (~2002 to minimum ~2008). That solar activity uncharacteristically has stayed at minimum for nearly a year longer than usual is yet another fascinating feature of the global temperature record.

However, it’s okay for Roger to call attention to this stillstand, because, if the Earth doesn’t warm a lot in the next decade, then we have evidence that climate change needs even further study. There a lots of other similar aspects of global climate change that Roger calls into question, which is fine.  But he always seems to do it from an adversarial point of view.  Do we have problems modeling clouds and aerosol forcing in the computer codes?  Sure.  Instead of being outraged at this, why not ask what are the fascinating improvements recently published that show we’re improving our treatment of both? ( An interesting one btw seems to show that aging aerosols all act pretty much alike as cloud condensation nuclei making the modeler’s job easier–Science 11  De. 2009, 326, Perspective: A New Look at Aging Aerosols”, 1493 and paper–“Evolution of > Organic Aerosols in the Atmospeher”  (some 70 authors), 1525.  Instead Roger seems to say we aren’t studying it and probably couldn’t improve it if we tried.

What about global and NH temperatures in the past 2,000 years?  It’s just not good  science to dismiss all this very careful work with — well I’m uncomfortable with the way they match proxy and instrumental data.  Here a careful read of the National Academy of Sciences PNAS paper in 2008  (see Mann et al. 2008) on the best work done to date on this is in order (as well as comparison with the  several other different and mostly independent treatments of the subject by other authors–bore hole results, Moberg’s wavelet combination of low and high frequency proxies, Lonnie Thompson’s mountain glacier work, etc). Pretty hard to just dismiss out of hand all these people and their rather similar results.

So it goes.  Read Roger’s articles.  Most seem to be trying to elicit more outrage than excitement at how climate science is progressing. Roger is a good friend and so I’m distressed that his considerable talents for asking the tough questions seem to be diluted by an adversarial tone. Perhaps in future he might balance his reporting. How about something really new and interesting that’s just come out.  A few years back I stumbled upon a new convective cloud treatment that resulted in the climate  code’s making a huge improvement in simulating the Madden-Julian Oscillation of low pressure from the Indian to Pacific oceans. (see my recent climate review in Springer’s SERRA).  Another paper got great improvement in MJO simply by use of finer horizontal zoning.  Why not talk about these efforts?

When you look, what you find is a large group of individual teams building  the edifice for understanding current warming brick by brick. The first floor is finished, but to see far, we need to continue on upwards.  Roger is contributing to this work.  Why not report on it more constructively all the while calling for a critical approach to this important but difficult topic?


Subsequent to his e-mail above, Chick and I agreed to exchange questions and answers. I have posted the  relevant part of our Feb 8 2010 e-mail exchanges below.


On Mon, 8 Feb 2010, Charles and Yvonne Keller wrote:


 Yes, your article in EOS seems well worthwhile discussing.

 As a start–a few questions.

*******Chick’s questions and my replies are combined together below*****

My text is in italics, Chick’s in regular font.

Hi Chick

On the first questions, see my replies below. My question for you is what do you agree with and what do you disagree with in our EOS article.

Best Regards


       1.  I think everyone agrees that the next important advance in climate
 change studies is regional climate simulation/prediction.  I believe many
 are asking IPCC to stress this next time.  Is this your understanding? 

Yes; the global average surface temperature or radiative imbalance tells us essentially nothing with respect to how regional climate is affected by human and natural climate forcings.

       2.  Much of what you are calling for in mitigation and adaption, I
 think, is the subject of IPCC’s Working Group III.  I haven’t looked at one
 of their reports in years, but don’t they deal with this?

This is a very important quesiton. One of the issues with respect to the IPCC reports is that they start from WG1 and work through WG2 and WG3 as derivatives of what the models predict. I have recommnended a bottom-up, resource-based vulnerability assessment as the starting point. The global climate model predictions are included in this bottom-up approach, but are not the driver of the assesment. I discuss this further in

and in

Pielke, R.A. Sr., and L. Bravo de Guenni, 2004: Conclusions. Chapter E.7 In: Vegetation, Water, Humans and the Climate: A New Perspective on an Interactive System. Global Change – The IGBP Series, P. Kabat et al., Eds., Springer, 537-538. [I have asked Dallas Staley, my research coordinator, to send you its pdf as it is not there now for some reason].
       3.  It is my understanding that IPCC’s now-criticized statement about
 Himalayan glacier melt was not in the scientific assessment (WG I). Rather
 it was in WG II, which I think deals with possible effects of global
 warming. To me, while I agree that their source documents left much to be
 desired, they were following your advice in pointing to possible changes due
 to climate change.  Is this your understanding?
The IPCC error in WG2 was a gaffe. My concern is on the exclusion of peer reviewed papers in WG1 as I documented in the Appendix

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., 52pp.

 Once I understand where you are on these three points, I think we can have a
 good sharing of views on what you rightly point up as an important direction
 for the future.
The EOS article, as I mentioned above is an effective focal point for our discussion. We can break down our conclusions and recommendations and debate/agree from that as one option. Let me know.

FOLLOW-UP: Chick contacted me that he will send his further comments soon. I will post when available.

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