Monthly Archives: March 2010

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.

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

Filed under Climate Change Forcings & Feedbacks, Climate Change Metrics, Uncategorized

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.

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

Filed under Guest Weblogs

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.

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

Filed under Climate Science Misconceptions

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.”

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

Filed under Climate Change Metrics, Research Papers

How to Speak with Wisdom? Another Sermon by Henk Tennekes

Dear friends in the blogosphere, I have another sermon on my shelves that you may want to listen to. In 1993, IPCC chairman Bert Bolin was invited to the Netherlands to give a speech on risk assessment in the climate system. Wim Hutter, the director of NWO (the Dutch NSF), asked me to write a speech that would challenge the technological optimism Professor Bolin was expected to promote. My mind jumped at this opportunity. With the help of several people in the humanities and the social sciences, including Professor Kazuko Tsurumi, the famous Japanese sociologist, and Mary Catherine Bateson, the daughter of Gregory Bateson and co-author of Angels Fear, I wrote the text that follows. It is abbreviated; click here for the full text.

In the middle of the summer of 1993 I dug up a young white birch tree growing along nearby railroad tracks, and planted it in my front yard. I did my very best to minimize damage to the tree’s root system, digging a circle with a three-foot diameter. Within an hour I had completed the transfer, but the tree had already gone into a state of shock: all its leaves were wilting, in a desperate attempt to minimize evaporative water loss. But within a day the little tree had completed its risk assessment and had started implementing a rational risk management program. Water flow into the lower branches was restored, except for their very tips, because new growth was deemed irresponsible for the time being. In the upper branches most leaves were allowed to die, except for a strategic few that were needed to maintain a trickle flow of fluids, which would prevent irreversible damage to the circulation system.

I must admit I helped a little, by providing a generous supply of tap water. And when I went overseas a month later, the neighbors took over and made sure the tree was never short of water. In any case, after a few weeks the worst of the damage I had inflicted on the root system had been repaired, and the tree started piecewise restoration of full circulation to the upper branches. It had lost two-thirds of its leaves and a few branches, but at the end of the summer it had enough energy and willpower to spare to develop some new leaf growth. Later that fall it was still photosynthesizing in the little light remaining before winter. It dealt in an intelligent way with the man-made calamity it had to suffer. Intelligence is obviously not the exclusive prerogative of university-trained humans engaging in rational discourse.

It is only a small step from the survival strategy of uprooted birch trees to climate change caused by anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions. Global warming is often portrayed as a potential calamity to the biosphere. I tend to agree with that point of view. Fortunately, the biosphere responds in a clear, unequivocal way to the increasing level of carbon dioxide in the air. A few years ago, even NASA, not the greenest of US agencies, had to admit that our planet is greening. The United Plant Life Federation of our planet apparently did perform a thorough risk assessment, and has decided to make optimal use of the increased level of its principal atmospheric nutrient. As usual, we humans are too stupid or too preoccupied to notice. But how do plants decide on anything when they cannot talk about it? Should Homo sapiens, in his infinite wisdom, interfere and take the lead because the biosphere is deemed incapable of rationally solving its own problems? What exactly is the difference between ecological intelligence and verbal intelligence, and how can we talk intelligently about something that may turn out to be inaccessible to words?

The first problem one encounters when contemplating man-made risks to the planetary ecosystem is that our thoughts have to be expressed in words. But language happens to be a rather clumsy tool for the study of the kind of intelligence possessed by organisms and ecosystems. On the surface, my story about the little birch tree is just a story. It uses metaphors and figures of speech to allude to self-healing powers that I do not really understand. I am not a biologist, and I do not know the mechanics of the many subsystems involved in the damage-control apparatus of trees, but even if I knew all of the details, the true nature of their self-healing potential would still remain a mystery to me. I would be better equipped to help the tree in repairing the damage I had inflicted, but ultimately I would still be talking, with all the limitations inherent in that particular mode of expressing intelligence.

Let me illustrate these thoughts with a concrete example, one that needs to be introduced for other reasons as well. The words “chaos” and “order” appear to be diametrically opposed, as distinct as light and dark or black and white. But the study of deterministic chaos has made it abundantly clear that chaos and order are nearly indistinguishable. Chaos is the potential for order; order can maintain itself only if it has the potential for chaos. Only chaotic systems can create order of their own accord; only chaotic systems can be self-organizing. All self-organizing systems, including the little birch tree I talked about, continuously operate on the razor’s edge between chaos and order. If we emphasize the polarity between the words chaos and order, we make life unnecessarily difficult for ourselves, because we have to invent contorted arguments to acknowledge that these words are merely two ways of expressing the same idea.

The relation between chaos and order is relevant here because the planetary ecosystem is presumably chaotic, too. If it weren’t, it couldn’t respond to changing circumstances of its own making. Because it is chaotic, the prospects for accurate numerical predictions extending far into the future are poor. The prediction horizon of climate models is finite. It bothers me no end that we have no reliable ways of estimating it. Can the calculations be trusted, even as few as ten or twenty years into the future? And what are we going to do if it turns out that the predictive performance of climate models remains limited, notwithstanding future increases in scientific sophistication and computing capacity? This has already happened in weather forecasting; why should it not happen to climate predictions?

If predictive skills concerning self-organizing, chaotic systems are limited in principle, and I suspect they are, the conventional mode of discourse of science, its way of speaking about reality, will have to be revised. If scientists are unwilling to assign value and meaning, they will disqualify themselves. The climate research community speaks rather too glibly of narrowing the scientific uncertainties, but if that turns out to be impossible, the psychological uncertainties will broaden. A powerful psychological mechanism underlying the seemingly endless escalation of research is fear, the fear of having to change the foundations of the scientific enterprise. But if global climate change remains unpredictable, science will have to do just that. It will have to find other ways of participating in the ecological dialogue, it will have to develop other modes of discourse, it will have to learn to speak another language.

What kind of language might that be?  In order to pave the way for a rational ecological debate, we will have to develop a grammar that fits the issue. We have to learn the syntax and semantics needed to talk about ecosystems, the rules for the construction of valid ecological arguments and those for assigning meaning and significance. We humans have to express our own logic in words, whether we want to or not. And because we do, we have to accept the idiosyncrasies of the language games we play, their tendency to limit the scope of the discourse, their uncanny ability to hide the value systems on which they are based. It is for this reason that I now propose to speak of ecological grammar. This choice of terms helps to remind us that we need to talk, not because words are eminently suitable for ecological discourse, but because we have no other universally accepted mode of communication.

Grammar tells us how to construct sentences and how to assign meaning, eco­grammar tells us how to construct ecological argumentation and how to lay the foundation for a meaningful dialogue. I will proceed to give you a rough outline of what may someday become a textbook of eco­grammar. Because I am wandering in unexplored, virgin territory, it is impossible to be definitive or comprehensive at this time. I am navigating in darkness, not even knowing for sure which compass guides me. Please bear with me: how can I communicate without talking?

The rulebook of eco-grammar begins with the observation that any grammar without appropriate semantics is an empty shell. Eco-grammar cannot be limited to matters of syntax only. This may seem a gratuitous observation, but it is not. The prevailing dogma of the scientific orthodoxy, its quintessential metaphysical foundation, is that science can restrict itself to matters of syntax only, that semantics is irrelevant. Science deals with the computable; it has systematically replaced the desire to understand with the expansion of its capacity to compute and manipulate. The scientific orthodoxy maintains the naive hypothesis that we can obtain knowledge that is independent of the metaphors we use to codify it. It is not at all surprising that scientists in all disciplines have embraced the rapid expansion of computer power as if their lives depend on it. The a priori commitment of science is that things must be quantified in order to be understood. But there are many aspects of the world that cannot be quantified. In order to get to grips with them we must use a different grammar, a qualitative grammar that includes a commitment to caring about the environment.

This brings me to another metaphor that clouds the ecological debate. In certain quarters, man is seen as the steward of nature, divinely appointed to use his intelligence to make sure that the errant practices of his charges are kept under control. This metaphor is in flagrant contradiction with the facts, which show that Homo sapiens has done more damage to the planet than any other species, easily equaling the damage inflicted by ice ages. The stewardship metaphor attributes superior intelligence to the human mind. This, I submit, shows reckless disregard for the wisdom of my little birch tree. The idea that we are smarter than the biosphere is stupid and conceited.

The next chapter of the textbook I have in mind deal with ecological syntax, the basic rules for constructing valid ecological argumentation. One of these is the feedback rule, which states that the conclusions of a chain of reasoning should be used to verify the assumptions embodied in the starting point, and should lead to a reformulation of the premises when necessary. The argument that additional freeway construction solves traffic congestion ignores the many levels at which ecosystems employ feedback loops. Freeway construction does not solve anything, generally speaking; it merely induces changes in the locations where people work and live. All ecological reasoning is circular, or circulatory if you will, like your bloodstream or the hydrological cycle of our planet. Don’t be afraid of vicious circles; they are beneficial if they help you change your preconceptions.

The last and by far the most difficult chapter of my eco-grammar textbook deals with the need to develop a syntax in which subject and object are united in a reciprocal, complementary relationship. At this moment I have only vague ideas on how this goal might be reached, but I don’t mind sharing why I feel this issue is the key to a proper understanding of ecology. We have become accustomed to a nearly absolute separation between mind and body, between subject and object, between culture and nature, between rulers and subjects, between government and the people. We pretend our mind is an immaterial entity that can make the material world intelligible by rational analysis.

To some extent that may be true, but it doesn’t help us one bit when we engage in ecological discourse. If you don’t believe me, try running your body, your personal physiology, from your brain. Try to calculate the potassium level in your blood, write a computer program for your liver and kidneys, attempt to give orders to your heart. If you think you can, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Our brains are an ecological luxury, not a necessity. Unless we call our brains to order, they live in a fantasy world, a virtual reality of their own making where they continue to pretend they know better. The overconfident use of supercomputers in climate modeling makes this worse yet. Supercomputers produce virtual reality generated by the virtual reality in climate modelers’ minds. Global warming is a product of Virtual Reality – Squared.

Coming to the end of my sermon now, I will switch gears and tell you a story about a little birch tree. You’ve heard the story before, but now it has become a fairy tale:

Once upon a time there was a little birch tree, living in the woods along the railroad tracks. It was minding its own business, making lots of pretty little leaves, and polishing its bark to make it shine white someday. But one day a human came, cut around its roots, and heaved it out of the soil. The little tree was terrified. It had suffered a lot of damage. The wind had often told stories about humans being clumsy and stupid, but the tree had never realized it was this bad. Humans talk about risk assessment and damage control, but most of the time they don’t know what they are talking about. Anyway, the little tree was put into a car. It was severely wounded and scared to death. All its roots were exposed. It thought it would surely die.

But then a miracle happened. The little tree was put in a carefully prepared hole in its tormentor’s front yard. A large drainage pipe was sticking out of the soil to provide an abundant supply of water. In all its misery the tree realized that the clumsy human cared. And it was not just the person that had transplanted it that seemed to care. The entire neighborhood did. All the neighbors stopped by, some of them even twice a day, to encourage the little tree as it tried to cope with the calamity. Feeling their support, the wounded tree found the courage to fight for its life. But for their empathy, it surely would have given up.

We humans are clumsy and stupid. We talk too much. We do a lot of damage, even if we mean well. We need empathy to make up for that defect. For humans, empathy is not a moral luxury but an ecological necessity.

Empathy, compassion, love.

This illustration comes from the recently published revised and expanded edition of The Simple Science of Flight by H. Tennekes.

Comments Off on How to Speak with Wisdom? Another Sermon by Henk Tennekes

Filed under Guest Weblogs

Response To Chick Keller’s Guest Post #2

Chick Keller posted his perspective on the climate issue with respect to our 2009 EOS article in his guest post

Guest Post #2 By Chick Keller

I find there is quite a bit that we agree on. For example, we both accept that the human addition of CO2 is a first order climate forcing. However, we differ on aerosols and land use/land cover change. In our EOS article, we concluded that these are also first order climate forcings and that

“As with CO2, the lengths of time that they affect the climate are estimated to be on multidecadal time scales and longer.”

Our disagreement may be due to what we use to define a first order climate forcing. I offer a definition here:

A first-order climate forcing is one that has a significant effect is altering major global circulation features such as ENSO, the PDO,  and the NAO.  It is these circulation features that determine our weather patterns on all time periods, rather than the magnitude of the global average surface temperature trend.

Chick agrees with me on the importance of ENSO, for example, as he wrote in his guest post.

I discuss the importance of heterogenous climate forcings due to aerosols and land use/land cover in one of my first posts in 2005 on on my weblog;  see

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

This is why the diabatic heating patterns from the human input of  aerosols and from land use/land cover change represent a first order climate forcing.

On another issue, Chick has,  misstated the role I see of the oceans within the climate system. He wrote in yesterday’s post

“However, Roger has not dealt sufficiently with what I consider a really large problem, that of understanding and simulating the many pathways of energy within the climate system.  Especially Roger ignores the oceans with their great heat capacity and their ability to strongly modify atmospheric behavior.”

This is inaccurate as I have published on this topic; e.g. see

Pielke Sr., R.A., 2003: Heat storage within the Earth system. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 84, 331-335

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


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 wrote

“Even an elementary description of Earth’s climate system must deal with the fact that it is composed of the above subsystems all interconnected and open, allowing fluxes of mass, energy and momentum from and to each other…”

I look forward to continuing this constructive dialog with Chick where we can each clarify our perspectives on the climate issue.

Comments Off on Response To Chick Keller’s Guest Post #2

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

Movie Screening “Sizzle: A Global Warming Comedy” At The University Of Colorado At Boulder This Evening

This announcement was circulated at the University of Colorado at Boulder. If anyone attends, please let us know how we can view this movie. I have no idea of the value of this movie but the announcement below is intriguing.

FREE PUBLIC SCREENING at the University of Colorado at Boulder

Wednesday, MARCH 10

SIZZLE: A GLOBAL WARMING COMEDY Wednesday, March 10 at 7 p.m. Muenzinger Auditorium
Free and Open to the Public Though a fan of Al Gore?s An Inconvenient Truth, [Randy] Olson was dismayed by its strategy of ignoring global warming skeptics as well as its lack of actual scientists.  In SIZZLE, Olson combines testimony of both skeptics and climate scientists, including two locals:  Dr. Jerry Meehl, of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, and Dr. Bill Gray, a Professor Emeritus at Colorado State University.

Comments Off on Movie Screening “Sizzle: A Global Warming Comedy” At The University Of Colorado At Boulder This Evening

Filed under Climate Science Reporting

Guest Post #2 By Chick Keller

On March 1 2010, we posted

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

Chick, as indicated at the bottom of the above post, has agreed to continue this constructive dialog between us. I will respond in a follow on post tomorrow. Thank you Chick for this interaction.  

Following is his second thoughtful contribution.

Guest Post By Charles F. Keller

Perhaps the best way to characterize Roger’s EOS piece is to recognize that, with the publication of IPCC’s 4AR ,we reached the “end of the beginning” (with respects to Winston Churchill’s great speech).  That is, we had looked at the major global forcings and come to the firm conclusion that humans were causing warming of the planet mainly by their emissions of so-called greenhouse gases with CO2 as the major one.  This is what I will call the “first order” conclusion and it includes understanding of major positive feedbacks such as additional water vapor as well as complications from emission of a variety of aerosols which both cool and warm the atmosphere. Data and computer models were now good enough to allow us to predict the response of large areas of the planet to these forcings in the next half century.  Having written this, the IPCC’s authors now will need to turn their attention to the likely much more difficult question of how to respond to this apparent problem of a warming planet with resulting decreased soil moisture the consequences, which could be disastrous for large areas of the planet.  But society’s response has been that it now needs predictions of behavior on a decadal time scale and at regional spatial scales.  To do this scientists must now include what I will call second order forcings–those that act over shorter time and spatial scales. Among these are the effects of aerosols and their effects on clouds.  Other such forcings of course will include the effects of land use changes (not only in albedo, but in moisture content, plant loading, etc.)

       Roger’s EOS article considers three alternatives: 1, 2a and 2b.  He discards the first and moves to 2a  as a more accurate statement of our conclusions than 2b.  This is a different way of describing the situation I describe above, for conclusion 2b results from first order, global, long-term forcings while 2a asks us to include the above second order, short term, regional forcings.

Roger says IPCC concentrated too much on the 2b version.  I agree but I don’t criticize because it was very important to settle the long-term, global question first.  In doing this 4AR did not ignore second order forcings and its working group II has dealt with many of the problems Roger mentions.  And so I see Roger’s position not  as criticism of what’s been done.  Rather it is a call, which many of us recognize, to move on to these next difficult problems. Indeed to make decadal predictions on regional scales will require understanding of second order forcings.

Roger makes a good case for the need to understand the role of diverse human-generated aerosols, both in their forcing of the earth’s radiation budget and their effects on cloudiness and precipitation(see his references to Rosenfeld et al, 2008, Flanner et al, 2007, and others). Indeed much of regional weather will be strongly affected by these.

However, Roger has not dealt sufficiently with what I consider a really large problem, that of understanding and simulating the many pathways of energy within the climate system.  Especially Roger ignores the oceans with their great heat capacity and their ability to strongly modify atmospheric behavior. One of the great challenges of the next decade will be to understand oscillations of heat within the oceans.  We have already experienced dramatic heat and cold waves across Europe that resulted largely from heat anomalies in the Indian Ocean. ENSO dominates much of the Earth’s weather especially when it affects the Walker Cell.  But what drives ENSO or the other oscillations will be a subject for much future research.  Indeed these oscillations may be far more important to decadal weather than aerosols.  Along these lines it might be well to mention a seminal paper on energy balance by Kevin Trenberth et al.

Another possible problem for decadal climate is the increasing evidence that solar activity changes cause second order, indirect forcings in addition to changes in insolation.  If Judith Lean and David Rind are correct that the 10-11 year solar activity cycle causes global temperature to vary by as much as 0.1°C (insolation changes can only cause about half of that), then some other indirect solar forcings must be at play.  Several have been suggested–among them: stratospheric responses to relatively large UV changes,  enhancement of ENSO activity, etc.  Here it is of interest to note that the prolonged and abnormally low levels of solar activity in the past few years may allow us to tease out which, if any, of these indirect effect are at work.  Whether or not Lean and Rind’s work is correct, the recent level temperature record may also allow better understanding of decadal and multi-decadal ocean oscillations such as PDO, AMO, NAO, and others.

On the policy side of his writing Roger calls for a broader consideration of “complementary policies ” that would reduce other unwanted human-generated forcings.  Here he echoes recommendations by Jim Hansen and others who call for reduction of other gases/particulates instead of just concentrating on CO2. However, since CO2 is the major contributor to global warming, I would have to support strong measures to curb its emission, while also working to reduce these other lesser forcings.  And I think most scientists would  agree with Roger’s call for a broader approach.  (A note here–Roger mentions in passing that climate is subject to abrupt changes.  While this is demonstrably true during deeply cold glacial times, it has been apparently less so during the warmer Holocene suggesting that abrupt climate change is associated with large changes in ice amounts not present in the past few thousand years. A possible exception to this is potential for large ice melt in Antarctica.)

Roger’s call for substituting  risk assessment methods for improving our understanding of climate change is beyond my expertise and so I must rely on others to comment.  But I do agree, that lacking adequate ability to do regional decadal forecasting, society will be forced to make decisions based on such methodologies.

In conclusion, Roger’s EOS Forum is not too different from the general understanding of the climate community.  We have seen the “end of the beginning”.  Now we must take on the even-more-difficult tasks of pushing towards the beginning of the end of our studies.

Comments Off on Guest Post #2 By Chick Keller

Filed under Climate Change Forcings & Feedbacks, Guest Weblogs

“The Notoriously Unpredictable Monsoon” by Madhav Khandekar

There is an informative article by Madhav Khandekar on the prediction of the monsoon. It is

Khandekar, M., 2009: The Notoriously Unpredictable Monsoon, CMOS Bulletin SCMO Vol.37, No.6

The article starts with the text

“The Indian Monsoon and by extension the Asian Monsoon which impact about 4 billion people (70% of world’s humanity) today is perhaps the most complex feature of the earth’s climate system. Climate models have achieved only a limited success so far in simulating many features of this complex system.”

Other excerpts read

“Despite significant advances in Monsoon meteorology, predicting onset and overall intensity and distribution of Monsoon rainfall during the four summer months (June- September) is still a daunting task and considerable research efforts are needed at present to improve predictability of Indian/Asian Monsoon. Since the Indian/Asian Monsoon system transfers sufficient energy across the entire climate system, any future projection of earth’s climate must include an improved modelling of the Monsoon system than what is available at present.”

“Accurate simulation and prediction of Monsoon rains with a lead time of few weeks to few months still remains an intractable problem in climate science.”

This excellent and well presented article by Madhav is worth reading.

Comments Off on “The Notoriously Unpredictable Monsoon” by Madhav Khandekar

Filed under Climate Models, Research Papers

Peter Benkendorff comments on Wolshansky 2005 Thesis

I presented a post of February 10 2010 titled

An Important Study On The Role Of Station Siting On Surface Temperatures – “Effects Of Simulated Grazing On Soil Temperature, Moisture, And Respiration On A Shortgrass Steppe In Northeastern Colorado” By Jennifer Wolchansky

I received a comment by Peter Benkendorff which requested Jennifer Wolchansky and Peter Blanken to reply to. The Comment and Reply are reproduced with their permission below.


Sent: Monday, February 22, 2010 2:52 PM

Subject: paper by Jennifer Wolshansky


It is disappointing that you do not allow comments and questions on posts at your website.

I found the paper by Jennifer Wolshansky somewhat narrow and lacking comprehensive measurement and data collection. It maybe that there is additional data which has not been presented or analysed. Peer review can mean nothing if the reviewers have only a very narrow and/or limited knowledge of the subject. In the case of climate assessment, there are multiple disciplines involved and there are no experts. Open review on the internet should allow a range of experts in their field to have an input. People with a knowledge of sampling, measurement, statistical analysis as well as sciences and technology (engineering, geology etc) can make a useful contribution.

It is a pity that Jennifer and her supervisor did not look more widely at references especially at foreign language references but I suppose that is a trait of US and UK researchers who think that English speakers are the font of all wisdom.

It is suggested that Jennifer Wolshansky and her supervisor Peter Blanken should read W Kreutz, 1941 “Kohlensauregehalt der unteren luftschichten in Abhagigkeit von Wittererungsfaktoren”, Angewandte Botanik XX111 pp89-116. In this are the results of 120 daily measurements of an array of climate data taken over 1.5 years. The interesting things are the CO2 measurements at ground level and different heights from the ground, and measurements of temperature, pressure, rainfall, wind speed, humidity, radiant energy and observations on cloud cover. That is what I would call comprehensive experimentation. One should measure everything possible and even then in retrospect it will be sometimes found that some important environmental factor has been omitted which will compromise any conclusion.

It is suggested that you should also look at Kreutz’s paper in the way that radiation leads temperature and temperature leads CO2. If one understands heat and mass transfer that is perfectly logical. Also, interesting is the level of CO2 which has been brought back to a background level by Massen F and Beck E-G, 2009 “Accurate Estimation of Background CO2 level from near ground measurements at non-mixed environments” Clima 2009 Hamburg Germany using measured wind speeds.

It is my view, as a chemical engineer familiar with heat transfer (conduction, convection, phase change and radiation), that the word “forcing” used by “climate” scientists is wrong and misleading. In text books on heat transfer the word “forced” in relation to convective heat transfer refers to liquid or gas motion (eg wind) as distinct from “natural” convection. The driver of heat transfer is temperature difference. There can be no heat transfer (apart from nuclear breakdown), and that includes evaporation, if the temperature of the source and receiver are the same. Do the believers in AGW who mention “forcing” really understand heat and mass transfer?

I am very surprised (other than, possibly chemical engineers are not involved in atmospheric studies) that there should be no mention of Prandtl, Nusselt, Grashof, Reynolds etc dimensionless numbers in any of the papers concerned with climate.


Peter Benkendorff BE(chem) MBA FAusIMM FAiE

Buderim 4556 Australia


Date: Fri, 26 Feb 2010 05:53:30 -0700

From: Jen Wolchansky


Thanks for taking the time to read and review my thesis.  I agree with you – an open review allows for unlimited input that can contribute to the advancement of climate science.

In response to your comment, the plots were estimated to have [a] certain percent of bare ground –  these were definitely approximations, as we could not create an exact fraction of bare ground. A grid layer in Photoshop was used to best estimate the fractions.  The soil temperature and moisture probes were calibrated and tested before they were used in the study.  Table 3.1 lists other measurements taken to measure the CO2 flux.  All of this comprised a hefty bit of measurement/data collection.  The thesis includes all data collection/analysis involved in the study.

The thesis was completed in 2005, so inclusion of the analysis from Massen F and Beck E-G (2009) was not feasible.  Additionally, I did not think about using studies in foreign languages.  I don’t think that is necessarily a reflection of English speakers thinking they are the most advanced/wise; instead it was an effort that was overlooked or not considered. Perhaps this observation can help graduate students today to expand their studies and knowledge base.

In reviewing my thesis, I searched for where the word ‘forcing’ was used.  The word ‘force’ was used when discussing ‘anthropogenic forces’ on the environment.  In this sense, I used the word to mean man-made stresses or effects. Perhaps I should have used those synonyms instead.

Again, I appreciate your comments.



Comments Off on Peter Benkendorff comments on Wolshansky 2005 Thesis

Filed under Climate Change Forcings & Feedbacks, Climate Change Metrics