Monthly Archives: March 2010

Comment On The Article “Recovery Of Upper Ocean Heat From Major Volcanic Eruptions” By Heckendorn Et Al 2010

There is quite an informative article in the January 2010 issue of the SPARC [stratospheric processes and their role in climate] Newsletter. The article is

P. Heckendorn, F. Arfeuille, D. Weisenstein, S. Brönnimann, T. Peter, 2010 “SPARC Volcano Workshop 8-9 July 2009, Zurich, Switzerland” SPARC 2010 Newsletter no34 January.

I have two comments on this informative meeting summary

In  Section “Part IV: Radiative, chemical and dynamical response to volcanic eruptions”, there is the text

“G.Stenchikov showed with CM2.1, the recent GFDL coupled climate model (Delworth et al., 2006), that the accumulated averaged volcanic ocean heat content anomaly reaches about 1023 J, and offsets about 1/3 of the anthropogenic warming. After the Tambora and Mt. Pinatubo eruptions, the heat content below 300 m was reduced for decades (see Figure 5). Deep ocean temperature, sea level, salinity, and MOC (meridional overturning circulation) have a relaxation time of several decades to a century. This suggests that the Tambora subsurface temperature and sea level perturbations could have lasted well into the 20th century.”

This multi-decadal climate system memory to the radiative forcing of a volcanic eruption is quite an important conclusion. This would, of course, also apply to all other types of radiative forcing.  Climate prediction is clearly an initial value problem as I wrote about in

Pielke, R.A., 1998: Climate prediction as an initial value problem. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 79, 2743-2746. 

My second comment is with respect to the clear evidence of a negative radiative feedback (i.e. an adjustment back to a zero anomaly) when the volcanic eruptions produce a cooling radiative forcing (see the two figures below). This is clearly seen in the two figures below from the Stenchikov et al study reported on above. The obvious question is whether this negative feedback, for example, is due to changes in cloud cover in response to the volcanic emissions, and if such a feedback also operates when there is a warming radiative forcing. 


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Comments on The Fox News Article By Joseph Abrams Titled “‘Archaic’ Network Provides Data Behind Global Warming Theory, Critics Say”

There was an interesting  news article on March 2 2010 titled

‘Archaic’ Network Provides Data Behind Global Warming Theory, Critics Say” By Joseph Abrams –

It reads

“Crucial data on the American climate, part of the basis for proposed trillion-dollar global warming legislation, is churned out by a 120-year-old weather system that has remained mostly unchanged since Benjamin Harrison was in the White House. 

The network measures surface temperature by tallying paper reports sent in by snail mail from volunteers whose data, according to critics, often resembles a hodgepodge of guesswork, mathematical interpolation and simple human error.

“It’s rather archaic,” said Anthony Watts, a meteorologist who since 2007 has been cataloging problems in the 1,218 weather stations that make up the Historical Climatology Network.

“When the network was put together in 1892, it was mercury thermometers and paper forms. Today it’s still much the same,” he said.

The network relies on volunteers in the 48 contiguous states to take daily readings of high and low temperatures and precipitation measured by sensors they keep by their homes and offices. They deliver that information to the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), which uses it to track changes in the climate.

Requirements aren’t very strict for volunteers: They need a modicum of training and decent vision in at least one eye to qualify. And they’re expected to take measurements seven days a week, 365 days a year.

That’s a recipe for trouble, says Watts, who told that less scrupulous members of the network often fail to collect the data when they go on vacation or are sick. He said one volunteer filled in missing data with local weather reports from the newspapers that stacked up while he was out of town.

Click here to see a well-filled form | Click here to see a form missing data

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Volunteers take their readings at different times of day, then round the temperatures to the nearest whole number and mark down their measurements on paper forms they mail in monthly to the NCDC headquarters in Ashville, N.C.

“You’ve got this kind of a ragtag network that’s reporting the numbers for our official climate readings,” said Watts, who found that 90 percent of the stations violated the government’s guidelines for where they may be located.

Watts believes that poor placement of temperature sensors has compromised the system’s data. Though they are supposed to be situated in empty clearings, many of the stations are potentially corrupted by their proximity to heat sources, including exhaust pipes, trash-burning barrels, chimneys, barbecue grills, seas of asphalt — and even a grave.

Once the data reaches the NCDC, climate scientists in Ashville digitize the numbers and check to make sure there are no large anomalies. The introduction of electronic weather gauges into the system in the 1980s was a much-needed update, but the new and improved gauges measure temperatures slightly differently and must be corrected to sync up with the overall historic data.

If numbers appear faulty or if more than nine days are missing from a single month’s tally, the whole month is thrown out, according to NCDC documents, and the Center uses a computer program to determine average temperatures at dozens of nearby stations to guess what the temperature would have been for the month at the unknown station.

The overall land temperature record produced by the NCDC is used by a number of top climate research centers, including the U.N.’s International Panel on Climate Change, NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, headed until recently by Phil Jones, who stepped down in the wake of the Climate-gate scandal.

What it boils down to, Watts says, is that some of the world’s top climate scientists have been crunching numbers that were altered by their immediate surroundings, rounded by volunteers, guessed at by the NCDC if there was insufficient data, then further adjusted to correct for “biases,” including the uneven times of day when measurements were taken — all ending up with a number that is 0.6 degrees warmer than the raw data, which Watts believes is itself suspect.

But scientists at the NCDC say the system is an indispensable tool for measuring local temperatures, and that its readings are buttressed by the consensus drawn from the 8,000 surface stations that make up the Cooperative Observer Program, the overall national system of which the 1,218 stations in the Historical Climatology Network are just a part.

“We use the rest of the COOP network to help calibrate,” said Jay Lawrimore, chief of the climate monitoring branch at NCDC. “It’s used to do quality control.”

NCDC climatologists carefully track temperature trends at local levels to ensure that the data submitted by volunteers is reliable, adjusting for the biases caused by the time of day when measurements are taken, for differences between old and new equipment, and to account for flukes that might be caused by poor siting.

The NCDC insists its adjusted numbers are an accurate representation of climatic reality, backed up by worldwide trends in air temperature, water temperature, glacier melt, plant flowering and other indicators of climate change.

“The signal appears to be robust, a reliable temperature signal,” said Lawrimore.

But Watts says that even a single step — the rounding of the daily temperature — creates a margin of error about as large as the entire global warming trend scientists are hoping to confirm.

It all could become moot within a decade, as the climate center’s outmoded Pony Express is currently being replaced with a screaming bullet train.

Lawrimore told that about 5 percent of the historical network has already been automated, but a far more important development has been the launching of the digitally run Climate Reference Network (CRN), a system of 114 stations that went fully online in 2008.

The CRN was carefully sited in fields around the country and automatically records daily climate data and transmits it at midnight local time, sending it by satellite and eliminating the snail-mail delay, the rounding of numbers and any elements of human error.

But that doesn’t mean the Historical Climate Network is going away, say NCDC scientists, who will continue to rely on its volunteers’ readings to gather climate data on the local level.

So don’t stable those ponies just yet.

My comment on this informative article is with respect to the statement by Jay Lawrimore that

The signal [from the cooperative observer site that has existed for over 100 years] appears to be robust, a reliable temperature signal,” said Lawrimore.

If this were true, there would be no need for the new Climate Reference Network! I challenged Tom Karl with this several years ago but he had no answer. The reality is that the introduction of the Climate Reference Network is tacit recognition that there are major problems with using the existing NCDC network to assess multi-decadal surface temperature trends. This supports Anthony Watt’s findings that are reported in this news article.

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A Comment On Judith Curry’s Interview In Discovery Magazine

There is an informative interview of Judith Curry in Discovery Magazine titled

Discover Interview It’s Gettin’ Hot in Here: The Big Battle Over Climate Science  [thanks to Bill DiPuccio for alerting us to the section I have highlighted below]

In Judy’s thoughtful interview responses she said

QUESTION: You’ve talked about potential distortions of temperature measurements from natural temperature cycles in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and from changes in the way land is used. How does that work?

JUDITH CURRY’S ANSWER: Land use changes the temperature quite a bit in complex ways—everything from cutting down forests or changing agriculture to building up cities and creating air pollution. All of these have big impacts on regional surface temperature, which isn’t always accounted for adequately, in my opinion. The other issue is these big ocean oscillations, like the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, and particularly, how these influenced temperatures in the latter half of the 20th century. I think there was a big bump at the end of the 20th century, especially starting in the mid-1990s. We got a big bump from going into the warm phase of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. The Pacific Decadal Oscillation was warm until about 2002. Now we’re in the cool phase. This is probably why we’ve seen a leveling-off [of global average temperatures] in the past five or so years. My point is that at the end of the 1980s and in the ’90s, both of the ocean oscillations were chiming in together to give some extra warmth.

Judy’s reply reinforces that we need a broader perspective on the climate issue, as we emphasized in

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.

This includes both the need to include land use/and cover change as a first order human climate forcing and the more significant role of natural atmospheric/ocean circulations in modulating the climate system.

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An Example Of Why A Global Average Temperature Anomaly Is Not An Effective Metric Of Climate

Roy Spencer and John Christy of the University of Alabama at Huntsville have reported in their Global Temperature Report that February 2010 was the 2nd warmest February in 32 years (e.g. see Roy’s summary). [UPDATE: Thanks to Phillip Gentry for providing this figure!]

Their spatial map of the anomalies, however, shows that most of the relative warmth was in a focused geographic area; see

The global average is  based on the summation of large areas of positive and negative temperature anomalies.

As I have reported before on my weblog; e.g. see

What is the Importance to Climate of Heterogeneous Spatial Trends in Tropospheric Temperatures?,

it is the regional tropospheric temperature anomalies that determine the locations of development and movement of weather systems [which are the actual determinants of such climate events as drought, floods, ect] not a global average temperature anomaly.

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The Unholy Alliance between Philips and the Greens – A Guest Weblog by Joost van Kasteren and Henk Tennekes

Holland is a miniature kingdom in the Northwest corner of Europe. Latitude 52 degrees north: as far north as the town of Red Deer in Alberta, Canada, midway between Calgary and Edmonton. Consequently in wintertime, our days are short and our nights are long. Our kids have their breakfast in artificial light. It dawns when they hike to school; twilight starts when they come back. They do their homework in the warm light of incandescent bulbs. Like we did …. and our parents.

Not for long anymore. An unholy alliance (discovered by Elsevier journalist Syp Wynia – see footnote) between a large multinational company and a multinational environmental organization succeeded in their lobby to phase out, and ultimately by 2012 forbid, the sale of incandescent bulbs, because of their low watt-to-lumen efficiency – not  only in the Netherlands but in the whole of the European Union. The multinational company wanted to develop a new market for products with a high profit margin, and the environmental multinational wanted to impress the citizens of Europe with the imminent catastrophe caused by anthropogenic climate change. That would also be of benefit to its battered public image.

Philips, the company involved, started in 1891 with the mass production of Edison lamps, at its home base, Eindhoven, Netherlands. There existed no international court of justice at the time, so they could infringe on US patent law with impunity. In the past 120 years it has expanded continuously, to become the multinational electronics giant it is today. Because nostalgia seldom agrees with the aims of private enterprise, Philips started lobbying to phase out the very product on which its original success is based. They started this campaign around the turn of the century, ten years ago.

Their line of thought is clear: banning incandescent bulbs creates an interesting market for new kinds of home lighting, such as “energy savers” (CFL’s, compact fluorescent lamps) and LED’s (light emitting diodes). The mark-up on these new products is substantially higher than that on old-fashioned incandescent bulbs. The rapid expansion of the lighting industry in China makes the profit margin on ordinary bulbs from factories in Europe smaller yet.  

At ACTION, a major discounter
Incandescents: $0.46 and up
CFL’s: 7 watts for $1.99
Softone CFL’s: 7 watts for $3.70
At ALBERT HEIN, our largest supermarket
Incandescents: $0.59 and up
Halogens, house label: $1.99 and up
Halogens, Philips: $3.99 and up
CFL’s, house label: $5.30 and up
CFL’s, Philips: $7.65 and up
Softone CFL’s, Philips: 12 watts for $10.45
LED’s, Philips: 5 watts for $21.99
Dimmable LED’s, Philips: 6 watts for $33.30

Energy savers (CFL’s) were introduced on the market in 1980, but they never succeeded in gaining wide acceptance from consumers. Notwithstanding their long life expectancy and reduced power consumption, most of us find their light unnatural, too “cold” as it were. On top of that, the early types were far too heavy. They also were slow starters and often did not fit in standard armatures. These days, warmer CFL’s are on the market, but they are twice as expensive as the earlier types. Multiple government campaigns, aimed at promoting the idea that energy savers contribute to the well-intentioned goal of reducing the energy consumption of households, failed to convince citizens.

The spectre of catastrophic climate change offered a new opportunity for the strategists and marketing specialists at Philips headquarters. They changed their marketing concept and jumped on the Global Warming band wagon. From that moment on, energy-saving bulbs could be put on the market as icons of responsibility toward climate change. This would give Philips a head start in the CFL end LED business. The competition would be left far behind by aggressive use of European patent law. That strategy fitted like a glove with that of the environmental movement. For them, ordinary light bulbs had become the ultimate symbol of energy waste and excessive CO2 emissions. Seeing the opportunity, Greenpeace immediately made a forward pass with the ball thrown by Philips’ pitchers. The incandescent bulb would serve as an ideal vehicle for ramming Global Warming down people’s throats. No abstract discussions about CO2-emissions any more: a ban on bulbs would suffice. Not unlike the misguided banning of DDT in the name of environmentalism, which leads to the loss of countless lives due to malaria.

Come to think of it, banning incandescent bulbs makes only marginal sense. The energy savings of CFL’s are small. They are somewhat more efficient when you take into account only the number of lumens per watt of electrical power, but they cost a lot more to produce. Also, their real life expectancy often is much less than the 7,000 hours promised in the ads. And don’t forget that they contain a few milligrams of mercury, which contaminates the environment when they are not disposed of properly. Most of them aren’t – a scary thought.

Is it fair to judge light bulbs on the efficiency with which they convert watts into lumens? The combined lobby from Big Business and Big Environment has attempted to convince us that old-fashioned bulbs waste a lot of energy. They ignore the inconvenient truth that the efficiency of common light bulbs is in fact a full 100%. All the “waste heat” helps to heat the house. In wintertime, when days are short and cold, every contribution to home heating is welcome. In summertime the days are long and there is hardly any need for artificial lights. The incandescent bulb may give only a little bit of light, but it also produces a lot of useful heating.  

There is yet another problem: the quality of the light produced by CFL’s and LED’s. Their light is unnatural; it is unsuitable for an atmosphere of coziness in living rooms, not to mention bedrooms. The directors of art museums in Europe worry a lot about this. The famous landscape paintings of Dutch Masters such as Rembrandt and Ruysdael lose their brilliance in the harsh lights that have to replace incandescent bulbs. For the next few years they can switch to high-intensity halogen bulbs, like we did in our homes. But those will be banned by 2016. In the struggle for attention (and for profit) no holds are barred. Everything is fair in war – love is not involved here.

In 2006, Dutch legislators caved in under the combined lobbying pressure by Philips and Greenpeace. A parliamentary majority in The Hague embraced the idea of banning incandescent bulbs and ordered the Dutch Environment Minister, Jacqueline Cramer, to lobby for an extension of the ban to all states in the European Union. That task proved simple enough. Top politicians in Europe, Germany’s Angela Merkel up front, deeply impressed by Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth, were only too eager to project an image of strength and will power concerning imagined threats to the planet. ”Save the Earth, ban the bulb” was an effective campaign strategy.

To make a long story short, it took less than one year to issue a binding European Union Edict ordering the phasing out of incandescent bulbs, starting with a ban on bulbs of 100 watts and more effective March 1, 2009, and leading to a complete ban of all incandescent lighting on September 1, 2012. The spin doctors at Philips headquarters have got it made. And if this scam backfires on them in consumer protests all over Europe, they can cover their backsides by claiming that politicians and the green movement are responsible, not they. 

Backfire it will. There exist no decent alternatives to incandescent light.  None.


Elsevier, the Dutch weekly, is the local equivalent of TIME magazine. On August 8, 2009 it ran a  revealing cover story by Syp Wynia, entitled “How war was declared against the incandescent bulb.” Other sources of information include an article by James Kanter in the New York Times of August 31, 2009 and many others, easily found by googling “incandescent bulbs” and “banned.”

Henk Tennekes is an aeronautical engineer. From 1965 to 1977 he was a professor of Aerospace Engineering at Penn State. He is co-author of A First Course in Turbulence (MIT Press, 1972 – still in print) and author of The Simple Science of Flight, recently (2009) released in a revised and expanded edition.  Joost van Kasteren is a senior writer on technology and science in Holland. He covers energy, housing, water management, agriculture, food technology, innovation, science policy, and related issues.

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Confirmation Of My Post Of January 17 2006 That The Extinction Of Frogs In Costa Rica Cannot Be Explained By Global Warming

On January 17 2006 I posted

Is the Report Linking the Extinction of Frogs with Global Warming a Scientifically Balanced Conclusion?

In 2006, I concluded that the Report was not balanced.

There is a new press release from The Earth Institute of Columbia University on March 1 2010 titled

El Niño and a Pathogen Killed Costa Rican Toad, Study Finds Challenges Evidence That Global Warming Was the Cause


[h/t to Watts Up With That] which provides further support for my perspective that the 2006 Report is in error.

The 2010 news release contains the text

“Scientists broadly agree that global warming may threaten the survival of many plant and animal species; but global warming did not kill the Monteverde golden toad, an often cited example of climate-triggered extinction, says a new study. The toad vanished from Costa Rica’s Pacific coastal-mountain cloud forest in the late 1980s, the apparent victim of a pathogen outbreak that has wiped out dozens of other amphibians in the Americas. Many researchers have linked outbreaks of the deadly chytrid fungus to climate change, but the new study asserts that the weather patterns, at Monteverde at least, were not out of the ordinary.”

As I wrote in my 2006 post

“[The] claim [of global warming] being the cause of the extinctions], however, is not scientifically sound as it does not explore the relative role of other reasons for the extinctions and loss of biodiversity. This is hardly how balanced scientific work should be performed.

As Tom Stohlgren has informed me (Dr. Stohlgren is an internationally respected ecologist who studies invasive plant species), chytrid fungus (an invasive disease) is by far the number one cause of amphibian decline in the world. According the ISI Web of knowledge, Dr. Stohlgren found that there are over 90 peer-reviewed publications on the role of chytrid disease in amphibian decline.

Possible reasons for the increase for the prevalence of chytrid disease and its role in the decline in frog populations include the effect on the local weather of landscape change in the region where the frogs live. We have shown in several papers that landscape change in Costa Rica has had a major effect on the climate of this region, including the rain forest. These papers are

Nair, U.S., R.O. Lawton, R.M. Welch, and R.A. Pielke Sr., 2003: Impact of land use on Costa Rican tropical montane cloud forests: 1. Sensitivity of cumulus cloud field characteristics to lowland deforestation. J. Geophys. Res. – Atmospheres, 108, 10.1029/2001JD001135.

Lawton, R.O., U.S. Nair, R.A. Pielke Sr., and R.M. Welch, 2001: Climatic impact of tropical lowland deforestation on nearby montane cloud forests. Science, 294, 584-587.

Ray, D.K., U.S. Nair, R.O. Lawton, R.M. Welch, and R.A. Pielke Sr., 2006: Impact of land use on Costa Rican tropical montane cloud forests. Sensitivity of orographic cloud formation to deforestation in the plains. J. Geophys. Res., 111, doi:10.1029/2005JD006096.

These studies, which the authors acknowledge in the Nature paper but do not accept their conclusions, indicate that a local human intervention is a major contributor to altering the immediate environment of the frogs. Since tropical landscape continues unabated (e.g. see Table 1 in Pielke Sr., R.A., J.O. Adegoke, T.N. Chase, C.H. Marshall, T. Matsui, and D. Niyogi, 2005: A new paradigm for assessing the role of agriculture in the climate system and in climate change. Agric. Forest Meteor., Special Issue, in press. ) this certainly must be affecting the viability of frog populations…….

We need to move beyond the over simplistic view of global warming as being the dominant cause of the demise of the frogs (or other enviromental threats). The spectrum of risks to frog population (their vulnerability), including global warming, need to be presented and assessed for their relative importance. This was not done in the Nature study. Moreover, reporters need to more objectively assess whether a paper was used to advance an agenda (in this case as clearly stated by the lead author), or is actually a balanced scientific study. We certainly should be concerned about declining populations of amphiphians, but we do not serve those who are seeking to alter this decline but focusing on just one possible environmental explanation.”

The new 2010 study does indeed show that the claim in the 2006 Nature news release , which is titled “Dead frogs linked to global warming”, that the study findings require that their findings “will ram home the global-warming message [that] [w]e have to reduce concentrations of greenhouse gases very soon if we are to avoid massive losses of biodiversity” is not based on an inclusive scientific assessment of the diversity of influences on biodiversity.

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A New 2010 Study “Ecosystem, Vegetation Affect Intensity Of Urban Heat Island Effect” By Mike Carlowicz

There is an important new article on the role of urban temperatures in the January-February 2010 issue of NASA’s The Earth Observer.

The 2010 article is on page 36-37 and is titled

Ecosystem, Vegetation Affect Intensity of Urban Heat Island Effect by Mike Carlowicz, ofNASA’s Earth Science News Team. The Earth Observer. Volume 22 Issue 1. pages 36-37.

Excerpts from the article are

“Goddard researchers including [Marc] Imhoff, Lahouari Bounoua, Ping Zhang, and Robert Wolfe presented their findings at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, CA on December 16.”

“When examining cities in arid and semi-arid regions —such as North Africa and the American Southwest—scientists found that they are only slightly warmer than surrounding areas in summer and sometimes cooler than surrounding areas in winter. In the U.S., the summertime urban heat island (UHI) for desert cities like Las Vegas was 0.83°F (0.46°C) lower than surrounding areas, compared to 18°F (10°C) higher for cities like Baltimore. Globally, the differences were not as large, with a summertime UHI of -0.38°F (-0.21°C) for desert cities compared to +6.8°F (+3.8°C) for cities in forested regions.”

“The open question is: do changes in land cover and urbanization affect global temperatures and climate?” Imhoff  [Marc Imhoff added. “Urbanization is perceived as a relatively small effect, and most climate models focus on how the oceans and atmosphere store and balance heat. Urban heat islands are a lot of small, local changes, but do they add up? Studies of the land input are still in early stages.”

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