Monthly Archives: June 2010

Excellent Summary Of The NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) Forecast For A La Niña Later This Summer

There is an excellent summary of NOAA CPC forecast of an pending La Niña and its interrelationship with other regional atmospheric-ocean circulation features on the website of the National Weather Service Office in Grand Forks North Dakota. It is

CPC Issues a La Nina Watch

The NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) has issued a La Niña Watch for the upcoming late summer and fall season. La Niña refers to the periodic cooling of ocean surface temperatures in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific that occurs every 3 to 5 years or so. La Niña represents the cool phase of the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, and is sometimes referred to as a Pacific cold episode. La Niña originally referred to an annual cooling of ocean waters off the west coast of Peru and Ecuador. Similarly, El Niño refers to the large-scale ocean-atmosphere climate phenomenon linked to a periodic warming in sea-surface temperatures across the central and east-central equatorial Pacific (between approximately the date line and 120 W). El Niño represents the warm phase of the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, and is sometimes referred to as a Pacific warm episode. El Niño originally referred to an annual warming of sea-surface temperatures along the west coast of tropical South America.

Both El Niño or La Niña produce changes in Pacific Ocean temperatures, which affect the patterns of tropical rainfall from Indonesia to the west coast of South America. These changes in tropical rainfall affect weather patterns throughout the world. (Click to read more on how El Niño and La Niña change tropical rainfall patterns.

Typically, La Niña produces a cooler and wetter winter season across the northern plains. However, every La Niña and every El Niño interacts with other large scale atmospheric patterns including the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), the Arctic Oscillation (AO), North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) as well as several others. These other climate signals can diminish or exaggerate the impact a La Niña or El Niño has on our weather. For example, the 2009/2010 El Niño reached moderate intensity, yet the overall winter season in portions of the northern plains was cooler and slightly wetter than average.

As I have emphasized many time on my weblog and in research papers, it is the regional atmospheric-ocean circulations that are a dominate influence on climate variability and change. Until the IPCC multi-decadal global climate models can skillfully predict the variations and change in these circulations on a multi-decadal time scale, policymakers and others should be very skeptical in their use as definitive skillful forecasts.

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Filed under Climate Change Forcings & Feedbacks

New Paper That Documents The Role Of Regional Circulations In Climate

There is a new paper which further documents the major role of regional circulation features on weather and climate. It is

Kossin, J. P., S. J. Camargo, and M. Sitkowski, 2010: Climate modulation of North Atlantic hurricane tracks. J. Climate, 23, 3057-3076

The abstract reads

“The variability of North Atlantic tropical storm and hurricane tracks, and its relationship to climate variability, is explored. Tracks from the North Atlantic hurricane database for the period 1950–2007 are objectively separated into four groups using a cluster technique that has been previously applied to tropical cyclones in other ocean basins. The four clusters form zonal and meridional separations of the tracks. The meridional separation largely captures the separation between tropical and more baroclinic systems, while the zonal separation segregates Gulf of Mexico and Cape Verde storms. General climatologies of the seasonality, intensity, landfall probability, and historical destructiveness of each cluster are documented, and relationships between cluster membership and climate variability across a broad spectrum of time scales are identified.

Composites, with respect to cluster membership, of sea surface temperature and other environmental fields show that regional and remote modes of climate variability modulate the cluster members in substantially differing ways and further demonstrate that factors such as El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), Atlantic meridional mode (AMM), North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), and Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) have varying intrabasin influences on North Atlantic tropical storms and hurricanes. Relationships with African easterly waves are also considered. The AMM and ENSO are found to most strongly modulate the deep tropical systems, while the MJO most strongly modulates Gulf of Mexico storms and the NAO most strongly modulates storms that form to the north and west of their Cape Verde counterparts and closer to the NAO centers of action.

Different clusters also contribute differently to the observed trends in North Atlantic storm frequency and may be related to intrabasin differences in sea surface temperature trends. Frequency trends are dominated by the deep tropical systems, which account for most of the major hurricanes and overall power dissipation. Contrarily, there are no discernable trends in the frequency of Gulf of Mexico storms, which account for the majority of landfalling storms. When the proportion that each cluster contributes to overall frequency is considered, there are clear shifts between the deep tropical systems and the more baroclinic systems. A shift toward proportionally more deep tropical systems began in the early to mid-1980s more than 10 years before the 1995 North Atlantic hurricane season, which is generally used to mark the beginning of the present period of heightened activity.”

The documentation of the major role that

“factors such as El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), Atlantic meridional mode (AMM), North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), and Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) have varying intrabasin influences on North Atlantic tropical storms and hurricanes”

closely fits with the conclusions I have reported  in my past posts; e.g. see

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

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Filed under Climate Change Forcings & Feedbacks, Climate Change Metrics, Research Papers

My Comments For The InterAcademy Council Review of the IPCC

Below is my response to a set of questions from the InterAcademy Council Review of the IPCC – An evaluation of the procedures and processes of the InterGovernmental Panel on Climate Change (see)

What role(s), if any, have you played in any of the IPCC assessment processes?

I have had a long experience with the IPCC assessment process starting in about 1992.
As I have written on in papers and on weblog posts, which I will list some of below, the IPCC involves a top down management of the chapters. The 2007 Statement for Policymakers is a narrowly focused summary which was used to promote the perspective of climate variability and change of the organizers and leadership of the IPCC assessments.

Below I have listed some of my experiences and documentation of the IPCC process.

For the 1992 Supplement to the 1990 IPCC Report,
Climate Change 1992 – The Supplementary Report to The IPCC Scientific Assessment JT Houghton, BA Callander and SK Varney (Eds)
Cambridge University Press, UK. pp 205,

I was asked to review several Chapters of the draft. I made a number of suggestions, including the need to introduce the role of land use/land cover change as an important regional and global climate forcing. My input was totally ignored without any response.

In the 1995 IPCC Report; see

IPCC 1995 Climate Change. WMO/UNEP Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Second Assessment Report. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge,

I was invited to be a contributing coauthor on the chapter on regional climate. Again, I prepared detailed input for the Report, and again all of my comments were ignored without even a rebuttal. At that point, I concluded that the IPCC Reports were actually intended to be advocacy documents designed to produce particular policy actions, but not as a true and honest assessment of the understanding of the climate system.

As a result of this second refusal to include peer reviewed scientific information, I called the IPCC and resigned from any further involvement in this clearly biased assessment process.

I was not invited to contribute to the more recent IPCC reports.

Shortly thereafter (in ~1995), I was asked to serve on an International- Geosphere-Biosphere Programme Committee (BAHC). I told them that my views were being ignored by the IPCC, however, I was informed that this was the reason that I was invited.

The subsequent process and the ultimate completion of a book entitled

“Kabat, P., Claussen, M., Dirmeyer, P.A., J.H.C. Gash, L. Bravo de Guenni, M. Meybeck, R.A. Pielke Sr., C.J. Vorosmarty, R.W.A. Hutjes, and S. Lutkemeier, Editors, 2004: Vegetation, water, humans and the climate: A new perspective on an interactive system. Springer, Berlin, Global Change – The IGBP Series, 566 pp.

demonstrated that balanced climate assessments can be developed.

This “new perspective” was not properly presented in the 2007 IPCC report.

I was subsequently invited to write an article for the IGBP Newletter in 2004 which summarized this broader view;
Pielke, R.A. Sr., 2004: Discussion Forum: A broader perspective on climate change is needed. IGBP Newsletter, 59, 16-19.

The recognition of the need for a more inclusive, comprehensive assessment of climate continued with a 2005 National Research Council report

National Research Council, 2005: Radiative forcing of climate change: Expanding the concept and addressing uncertainties. Committee on Radiative Forcing Effects on Climate Change, Climate Research Committee, Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate, Division on Earth and Life Studies, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 208 pp.,

which I participated on.

We concluded that
“Despite all these advantages, the traditional global mean TOA radiative forcing concept has some important limitations, which have come increasingly to light over the past decade. The concept is inadequate for some forcing agents, such as absorbing aerosols and land-use changes, that may have regional climate impacts much greater than would be predicted from TOA radiative forcing. Also, it diagnoses only one measure of climate change—global mean surface temperature response—while offering little information on regional climate change or precipitation. These limitations can be addressed by expanding the radiative forcing concept and through the introduction of additional forcing metrics. In particular, the concept needs to be extended to account for (1) the vertical structure of radiative forcing, (2) regional variability in radiative forcing, and (3) nonradiative forcing. A new metric to account for the vertical structure of radiative forcing is recommended below. Understanding of regional and nonradiative forcings is too premature to recommend specific metrics at this time. Instead, the committee identifies specific research needs to improve quantification and understanding of these forcings.”

Despite the wide diversity of views on the Committee which wrote this report, all viewpoints were accommodated and the findings and recommendations from the Report represent what can be accomplished when reports are prepared as inclusive assessment documents rather than advocacy statements.

The 2005 NRC report conclusions were essentially ignored in the 2007 IPCC assessment.

I also wrote several articles on the limitations of the IPCC assessment process; i.e.

Pielke Sr., R.A., 2002: Overlooked issues in the U.S. National Climate and IPCC assessments. Climatic Change, 52, 1-11.

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.

In this later multi-authored paper in which each author is an AGU Fellow we wrote with respect to the 2007 IPCC assessment that

“The evidence predominantly suggests that humans are significantly altering the global environment, and thus climate, in a variety of diverse ways beyond the effects of human emissions of greenhouse gases, including CO2. Unfortunately, the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment did not sufficiently acknowledge the importance of these other human climate forcings in altering regional and global climate and their effects on predictability at the regional scale. It also placed too much emphasis on average global forcing from a limited set of human climate forcings. Further, it devised a mitigation strategy based on global model predictions. although aerosols were considered as a global average forcing, their local effects were neglected (e.g., biomass burning, dust from land use/land cover management and change, soot from inefficient combustion).”

The summary of my experience with the IPCC is that it is managed with particular outputs in place before the assessments are even started. The Lead Authors have almost complete control with respect to what is accepted in their Chapter, and what is ignored.

The IPCC is actually a relatively small group of individuals who are using the IPCC process to control what policymakers and the public learn about climate on multi-decadal time scales.

2. What are your views on the strengths and weaknesses of the following steps in the IPCC assessment process?  Do you have any recommendations for improvement?

  1. Scoping and identification of policy questions
  2. Election of bureau including working group chairs
  3. Selection of lead authors
  4. Writing of working group reports
  5. Review processes
  6. Preparation of the Synthesis report, including the Summary for Policy Makers
  7. Adoption of report by the IPCC plenary
  8. Preparation of any special reports

Without new scientists leading the IPCC process as LAs and CLAs who are not assessing their own research work, the next IPCC report is doomed to continue to be completed by an oligarchy that is using its privileged position to advocate for a particular perspective on the role of humans within the climate system which conforms with their published research.

The next IPCC report will not be a balanced assessment, but continue to be real conflict of interest with policy advocacy in the guise of a scientific framework.

3.  What is your opinion on the way in which the full range of scientific views is handled?

The 2007 IPCC report failed to be inclusive in its assessement.

I documented biases in the WG1 2007 IPCC report in testimony to a subcommittee of the US House of Representatives;

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.

In the testimony I included an appendix which shows the cherrypicking in the chapters in the 2007 IPCC WG1 report by documenting what peer reviewed papers were ignored.

For example, in order to evaluate the IPCC’s claim to be comprehensive, we cross-compared IPCC WG1 references on near-surface air temperature trends with peer-reviewed citations. We selected only papers that appeared before about May 2006 so they were readily available to the IPCC Lead authors.

What we found were that peer reviewed papers that conflicted with the robustness of the surface air temperature trends were ignored in the 2007 IPCC WG1 assessment.

The IPCC WG1  Report clearly cherrypicked information on the robustness of the land near-surface air temperature to bolster their advocacy of a particular perspective on the role of humans within the climate system. As a result, policymakers and the public have been given a false (or at best an incomplete) assessment of the multi-decadal global average near-surface air temperature trends.

I have an example of an even more egregious exclusion of scientific viewpoints [with respect to the CCSP 1.1 report which was used in the 2007 IPCC assessment] which I docummented in detail in .

Pielke Sr., Roger A., 2005: Public Comment on CCSP Report “Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere: Steps for Understanding and Reconciling Differences”. 88 pp including appendices.


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

As I report in my Public Comment

“The process for completing the CCSP Report excluded valid scientific perspectives under the charge of the Committee. The Editor of the Report systematically excluded a range of views on the issue of understanding and reconciling lower atmospheric temperature trends. The Executive Summary of the CCSP Report ignores critical scientific issues and makes unbalanced conclusions concerning our current understanding of temperature trends.”


“The process that produced the report was highly political, with the Editor taking the lead in suppressing my perspectives, most egregiously demonstrated by the last-minute substitution of a new Chapter 6 for the one I had carefully led preparation of and on which I was close to reaching a final consensus. Anyone interested in the production of comprehensive assessments of climate science should be troubled by the process which I document below in great detail that led to the replacement of the Chapter that I was serving as Convening Lead Author.”

The 2007 IPCC WG1 assessment failed to include the full range of peer reviewed papers on climate science.

4. Given the intergovernmental nature of IPCC, what are your views on the role of governments in the entire process?

Governments are necessarily political which is one of the reasons the climate issue has become so polarized and assessment committees have been chosen to perpetuate a particular perspective.

5.  Given that IPCC assessments consider a vast amount of literature, what are your views and suggestions for improvement on the sources of data and the comprehensiveness of the literature used, including non-peer-reviewed literature?
See #3 and #9
6.  What are your views and suggestions regarding the characterization and handling of uncertainty in each of the working group reports and the synthesis report?
See #3 and #9
7. What is your view of how IPCC handles data quality assurance and quality control and identification and rectification of errors, including those discovered after publication?
See #3 and #9
8.  What is your view of how IPCC communicates with the media and general public, and suggestions for improving it?
See #3 and #9
9. Comment on the sustainability of the IPCC assessment model. Do you have any suggestions for an alternative process?
Future assessment Committees need to appoint members with a diversity of views and who do not have a significant conflict of interest with respect to their own work. Such Committees should be chaired by individuals committed to the presentation of a diversity of perspectives and unwilling to engage in tactics to enforce a narrow perspective. Any such committee should be charged with summarizing all relevant literature, even if inconvenient, or which presents a view not held by certain members of the Committee.
10. Do you have any suggestions for improvements in the IPCC management, secretariat, and/or funding structure to support an assessment of this scale?
See #3 and #9
11.  Any other comments
Thank you for the opportunity to respond. I launched my weblog in July 2005 in response to the serious limitations in the climate science community as a result of the IPCC and CCSP assessments.

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Filed under Climate Science Reporting

World Cup and Snow?

There is an interesting possibility of snow on Friday in Captown on Friday; see

World Cup Fans May Be Treated to Snowfall

Read more:

See also

Big chill about to hit World Cup visitors

This article by Angelique Serrao starts with

“For those who thought they were cold at the Kick-Off Celebration Concert last week, you haven’t felt anything yet.

While tourists from those colder climates up north might laugh at squeamish Joburgers, even they are advised to pack a warm jacket in the coming week.

Temperatures are set to plummet from a high of 19degC yesterday to a maximum of 10C today.

The SA Weather Service has forecast that the rest of the week won’t get much warmer and those heading to Pretoria to watch the South Africa versus Uruguay match tomorrow might be faced with a minimum of -3degC.

The SA Weather Service has warned of very cold conditions, although no snow is forecast in Joburg. Snow could fall in the Free State and Northern Cape.”

This cold and perhaps wet (snowy?) weather is a good mix of weather (climate) and soccer!

Readers who want to view the official forecasts for South Africa can obtain from


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Filed under Extreme Weather

Important New Committee Workshop On “Global Change and Extreme Hydrologic Events: Testing Conventional Wisdom”

There is finally movement by the National Academies to broaden out the assessment of the role of climate variability and change with respect to other significant risks from other environmental and social threats. This is seen in the Committee that has been assembled for

A Workshop on Global Change and Extreme Hydrologic Events: Testing Conventional Wisdom

The Workshop was held in January 2010 to discuss this broader perspective and the agenda can be read at Meeting Information.

Not all of the talks represent a broader view but others do. Some of the broader topics highlighted at this meeting were

A Process-Based “Bottom-Up” Approach for Addressing Changing Flood-Climate Relationships [Katie Hirschboeck University of Arizona]

The Ghost of Flooding Past, Present, and Future [Harry Lins U.S. Geological Survey]

Breaking the Hydro-Illogical Cycle: the Status of Drought Risk Management in the U.S. [by Mike Hayes National Center for Drought Mitigation]

The specific breakout sessions is where the broader view becomes particularly evident. The specific question posed that has this much-needed view is

To what degree do other factors beyond climatic forcings regulate the extreme nature of floods, specifically, land cover change including urbanization, the spread of impervious surfaces and loss of wetlands, and engineering works, which can both regulate (e.g., flood control dams) or amplify (e.g., stream channelization)?

Research into the above question is very much needed as we emphasized 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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Filed under Climate Science Meetings

Erroneous Statement By Peter A. Stott And Peter W. Thorne In Nature Titled “How Best To Log Local Temperatures?”

An article has appeared in Nature  on May 13 2010 titled

Peter A. Stott and Peter W. Thorne, 2010: How best to log local temperatures? Nature. doi:10.1038/465158a, page 158 [thanks to Joe Daleo for alterting us to this]

which perpetuates the myth that the surface temperature data sets are independent from each other.

The authors know better but have decided to mislead the Editors and readers of Nature.

They write

“In the late twentieth century scientists were faced with a very basic question: is global climate changing? They stepped up to that challenge by establishing three independent data sets of monthly global average temperatures. Those data sets, despite using different source data and methods of analysis, all agree that the world has warmed by about 0.75 °C since the start of the twentieth century (specifically, the three estimates are 0.80, 0.74 and 0.78 °C from 1901–2009).”

This is deliberately erroneous as one of the authors of this article (Peter Thorne) is an author of a CCSP report with a different conclusion. With just limited exceptions, the surface temperature data sets do not use different sources of data and are, therefore, not independent.

As I wrote in one of my posts

An Erroneous Statement Made By Phil Jones To The Media On The Independence Of The Global Surface Temperature Trend Analyses Of CRU, GISS And NCDC

In the report “Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere: Steps for Understanding and Reconciling Differences Final Report, Synthesis and Assessment Product 1.1” [a report in which Peter Thorne is one of the authors] on page 32 it is written [text from the CCSP report is in italics]

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

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

The differences between the three global surface temperatures  that occur are a result of the analysis methodology as used by each of the three groups. They are not “completely independent”. This is further explained on page  48 of the CCSP report where it is written with respect to the surface temperature data (as well as the other temperature data sets) that

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

On page 50 it is written

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


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

The chapter then states on page 51 that

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

and thus, to no surprise,  it is concluded that

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

Moreover, as we reported 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 raw surface temperature data from which all of the different global surface temperature trend analyses are derived are essentially the same. The best estimate that has been reported is that 90–95% of the raw data in each of the analyses is the same (P. Jones, personal communication, 2003).”

Peter Stott and Peter Thorne have deliberately misled the readership of Nature in order to give the impression that three data analyses collaborate corroborate their analyzed trends, while in reality the three surface temperature data sets are closely related.

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Filed under Climate Change Metrics, Climate Science Misconceptions

NSF Decision On Our Request For Reconsideration Of A Rejected NSF Proposal On The Role Of Land Use Change In The Climate System

On May 18 2010 I posted on a proposal to NSF that was highly rated each time it was submitted, but was rejected each of the three times it was submitted after further revisions were made. 

The May post is

Is The NSF Funding Process Working Correctly?

The NSF mission reads

The National Science Foundation Act of 1950 (Public Law 81-507) set forth NSF’s mission and purpose:

To promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense….

The Act authorized and directed NSF to initiate and support:

  • basic scientific research and research fundamental to the engineering process,
  • programs to strengthen scientific and engineering research potential,
  •  science and engineering education programs at all levels and in all the various fields of science and engineering,
  • programs that provide a source of information for policy formulation,
  • and other activities to promote these ends.

Over the years, NSF’s statutory authority has been modified in a number of significant ways. In 1968, authority to support applied research was added to the Organic Act. In 1980, The Science and Engineering Equal Opportunities Act gave NSF standing authority to support activities to improve the participation of women and minorities in science and engineering. Another major change occurred in 1986, when engineering was accorded equal status with science in the Organic Act.

NSF has always dedicated itself to providing the leadership and vision needed to keep the words and ideas embedded in its mission statement fresh and up-to-date. Even in today’s rapidly changing environment, NSF’s core purpose resonates clearly in everything it does: promoting achievement and progress in science and engineering and enhancing the potential for research and education to contribute to the Nation. While NSF’s vision of the future and the mechanisms it uses to carry out its charges have evolved significantly over the last four decades, its ultimate mission remains the same.

The title and Project Summary of our rejected proposal is

“Collaborative Research: Sensitivity of Weather and Climate in the Eastern United States to Historical Land-Cover Changes since European Settlement”

with the Project Summary

“The Earth’s weather and climate is strongly influenced by the properties of the underlying surface. Much of the solar energy that drives the atmosphere first interacts with the land or sea surface. Over land regions this interaction is modulated by surface characteristics such as albedo, aerodynamic roughness length, leaf area index (LAI), etc. As these characteristics change, either from anthropogenic or natural land-cover disturbances, the amount of energy reaching the atmosphere from the land surface, and thus weather and climate, is expected to change. The goal of this project is to determine the sensitivity of weather and climate to historical land-cover changes in the eastern United States since the arrival of European settlers. Regional Atmospheric Modeling System (RAMS) coupled with the Simple Biosphere (SiB) model, SiB-RAMS, will be used to perform a series of one-year ensemble simulations over the eastern United States with the present-day and several past land-cover distributions. The land-cover distributions will be based on the new Reconstructed Historical Land Cover and Biophysical Parameter Dataset developed by Steyaert and Knox (2008). The influence of the land-cover changes on temperature and precipitation will be examined and compared with that expected from CO2-induced climate change (IPCC 2007). The seasonality of the changes in precipitation and temperature due to land-cover change will be explored. Also, the relative importance of each land-cover biophysical parameter to the total simulated change in temperature and precipitation will be assessed.”

We have presented the letter from the Deputy Assistant Director regarding our request for reconsideration.

This letter is quite informative as it is a cursory, pro forma response without any detail. What it confirms is that program managers have considerable latitude in decision-making and can eliminate well reviewed projects if they differ from their priorities. The program managers decide what is “basic scientific research and research fundamental to the engineering process” rather than relying on the reviewers to determine this [of course, they can also select known biased reviewers if they want to reject a proposal].

Since the level of ratings of our proposal were high, the reason for the rejection is based on the program managers concluding that the role of land use change in the climate system is not a high research priority.  Also, despite the NSF requirement listed their mission statement “to support activities to improve the participation of women and minorities in science and engineering”,  the fact that woman (Dr. Lixin Lu) was the PI on the project was not discussed in the reconsideration.

My recommendation to improve the process, which I presented in my May post is

  • present ALL proposal abstracts, anonymous reviews of both accepted and rejected proposals and program managers decision letters (or e-mails) on-line for public access
  • present the date of submission and final acceptance (or rejection) of the proposal.
  • I also recommend they make easily available the list of all of the reviewers used during the year within each NSF program office.

    NSF program managers have considerable ability to slant research that they fund with insufficent transparency of the review process. This has become quite a problem in the climate science area where, as one example, in recent years they have elected to fund climate predictions decades into the future (e.g. see which was funded in part by the NSF; I will discuss specific examples of such funded projects by the NSF in a future post).

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    Filed under Climate Proposal Review Process

    InterAcademy Council [IAC] Review Of The IPCC – Input By Marcel Crok

    The InterAcademy Council Review Of The IPCC is performing an evaluation of the procedures and process of the InterGovernmental Panel on Climate Change and is soliciting public comments by July 1 2010.  I plan to submit comments and encourage readers of my weblog who are climate scientists to also provide input to them. The online IAC Review Panel questionnaire is available on-line here.  Next week, the IAC will meet in Montreal Canada. The members of the IAC are listed here.

    Below, with permission, I have posted the  insightful comments provided by Marcel Crok.

    Questionnaire on IPCC Processes and Procedures Input by Marcel Crok

    Marcel Crok

    1. What role(s), if any, have you played in any of the IPCC assessment processes?

    None; As a science journalist I interviewed a lot of climate scientists from all sides of the spectrum, from strong believers to strong sceptics  and everything in between.

    2. What are your views on the strengths and weaknesses of the following steps in the IPCC assessment process?  Do you have any recommendations for improvement?

    a. Scoping and identification of policy questions
    A crucial question is whether the focus of IPCC was wrong from the start by focusing purely on the potential role of man-made global warming. We need science historians to figure that out. The growing  certainty in the four IPCC reports that CO2 is the main culprit reflects more the demand for a clear answer from policy makers than the advancement of the scientific evidence for the role of CO2, in my opinion.

    b. Election of bureau including working group chairs
    Working group chairs are always strong believers in the AGW hypothesis. This will have impact on the supposed neutrality of the assessment. There should be more balance in the choice of these chairs.

    c. Selection of lead authors

    Here the inclusion of scientists with different perspectives is even more important. John Christy was the only outspoken sceptic who contributed to WG1 of AR4, but only as a contributing author. Without having scientists with different perspectives in the lead author teams, the danger of scientists confirming their own beliefs is very real.

    A second big problem is that lead authors are promoting their own work in the chapters and are often asked to give an ‘objective’ opinion about controversies in which they themselves are involved. A clear example of this in AR4 is Phil Jones who promotes his HadCrut3 graph meanwhile ignoring literature (Michaels/McKitrick 2004, 2006) that raises serious questions about the reliability of this graph. A second example is Briffa as lead author of chapter 3, where he, as a member of the Hockey Team, defends the hockey stick, and ignores the divergence problem (i.e. the fact that his temperature reconstruction based on tree rings is going down after 1960).

    A third problem is that IPCC didn’t seem to take resignations of authors, like Paul Reiter and Chris Landsea, very serious. They are both quite critical about the relation between AGW and malaria and hurricanes respectively. It’s highly disturbing when such well-recognized experts are so disappointed by the process that they resign, but IPCC did nothing at all to investigate this or to make clear to the world what happened exactly.

    d. Writing of working group reports

    See e.

    e. Review processes

    As scientists with criticism about aspects of the AGW hypothesis are not in the lead author teams, their role is limited to that of the expert reviewers. So how the lead authors deal with comments on the first and second draft is crucial for the final outcome. It’s a big improvement that all comments and reactions of the lead authors have been made public during and after the publication of AR4. However, reading the comments and the reactions of the authors, one can only get the impression that most of the lead authors are completely unwilling to let criticism on the AGW hypothesis through to the final report. Look for comments by McIntyre and McKitrick on chapter 3 and 6. So, in principle the process is fine and quite transparent, but in practice it fails for the simple reason that lead authors are unwilling to accept criticism on their own work and views.

    Finally, the role of the review editors is very important. IPCC procedures state: “where significant differences of opinion on scientific issues remain, such differences are described in an annex to the Report.” When their reports were finally made public after requests from David Holland (see it turned out that 25 of the 26 review editors of WG1 signed a standard form letter. Only one, John Mitchell of chapter 6, sent in some comments. None of the review editors felt it necessary that differences of opinion should be described in an annex. Given the substantial criticism from expert reviewers this can only mean that the editors are fully on the side of the lead authors. Again, a lack of balance in the choice of these people leads to a less objective assessment than promoted by the IPCC itself.

    f. Preparation of the Synthesis report, including the Summary for Policy Makers

    It’s unfortunate that the SPM is released before the report itself. Journalists have to accept claims in the SPM without having access to the full report. This is strange and would not be accepted in other fields, let alone in industry.

    g. Adoption of report by the IPCC plenary

    IPCC could be much more open towards the media in that stage. As far as I know all final meetings are closed for the media. Slightly off topic: in 2009 I wanted to attend a WG1 meeting of IPCC lead authors on Hawaii. I asked Susan Solomon by email, but the request was refused. Later an IPCC lead author told me this is just for practical reasons. They don’t want these meetings to be too big. But given the recent criticism about IPCC, more openness in this regard should be a step forward. Holding closed meetings gives the impression – that we also get from the climategate emails – that IPCC authors are discussing tactics how to deal with ‘the sceptics’ instead of just doing the job the best they can.

    h. Preparation of any special reports

    No opinion

    3. What is your opinion on the way in which the full range of scientific views is handled?

    This is in my opinion one of the biggest failures of the IPCC reports. There are currently more than a handful of hypotheses around in the literature to explain the recent warming. Some of this literature is mentioned in the IPCC reports, but only to be dismissed immediately. It should be a high priority for IPCC to form a separate team of really independent scientists (senior scientists from other fields) to make an inventory of the alternative views that are described in the literature. In the next assessment report there should be much more attention for these alternative hypotheses. To mention a few:
    1) The role of clouds and water vapor as negative feedback instead of positive (Lindzen, Spencer)
    2) The role of oceans (ENSO, PDO, AMO etc.) (Spencer, Swanson/Tsonis, Compo/Sardeshmukh)
    3) The role of the sun which itself has different sub-hypotheses:
    3a Based on Total Solar Radiation (Scafetta, Soon)
    3b Based on the role of UV in the stratosphere (Van Loon/Labitzke)
    3c Based on the relation between Cosmic Rays and clouds (Svensmark/Christensen, Veizer/Shaviv)
    4) the role of other human forcings than CO2, e.g land use changes, soot and nitrogen deposition, the biogeochemical effect of CO2. In this respect I should mention this interesting essay by Roger Pielke sr and a large group of scientists:

    They mention three hypotheses of which only one can be true. Their preferred hypothesis is hypothesis 2a: Although the natural causes of climate variations and changes are undoubtedly important, the human influences are significant and involve a diverse range of first-order climate forcings, including, but not limited to, the human input of carbon dioxide (CO2). Most, if not all, of these human influences on regional and global climate will continue to be of concern during the coming decades. If true this is crucial information for policy makers, because it means that a focus on CO2 only will never lead to effective policy decisions.

    4. Given the intergovernmental nature of IPCC, what are your views on the role of governments in the entire process?

    Governments are trusting the IPCC far too much. The IPCC reports have a monopoly position. This is acceptable when enough checks and balances are incorporated in the production of the reports. There are no real checks and balances however, not in the meaning these terms have in the industry. The IPCC is relying on the peer review of journals, but as every scientist know, this is an easy to pass filter, especially when an article confirms the current paradigm.

    Also, IPCC has no rules for data archiving and sharing. This resulted in Phil Jones not making his raw temperature data available, even when  critics asked for this data via FOI requests. IPCC nevertheless uses these data as one of the basic pillars in their global warming edifice.

    Thirdly, IPCC has no rules for conflicts of interest. Lead authors can work for industry or environmental organizations. The chairman of the IPCC can work for banks and even emission trading firms without breaking IPCC rules. In any other field this would be highly disturbing but so far governments haven’t paid attention to this in the IPCC.

    5. Given that IPCC assessments consider a vast amount of literature, what are your views and suggestions for improvement on the sources of data and the comprehensiveness of the literature used, including non-peer-reviewed literature?

    My answer is limited to WG1. Instead of trying to be complete, this report should focus much more on the really crucial issues: What are the natural and anthropogenic forcings that influence the climate, what are the relevant feedbacks? How can we decide whether feedbacks are positive or negative? How good are the models? Which models are the best and for what reasons? Many of these crucial issues are now buried deep inside the report instead of highlighted in the summary. Progress would be much faster if supporters of AGW and sceptics would be forced to sit together at the table and discuss where the consensus is and where the discrepancy. This worked when the satellite temperature of Spencer and Christy were challenged by Mears and Wentz; it worked when hurricane specialists sat around the table to come up with a consensus statement.

    6. What are your views and suggestions regarding the characterization and handling of uncertainty in each of the working group reports and the synthesis report?

    The currently used terminology (likelihood) is misleading. A claim like it’s very likely (90% certainty) that recent warming was due to anthropogenic greenhouse gases gives a false sense of certainty. This 90% is not based on statistical calculations but on expert judgement, but few people outside IPCC realise this.

    7. What is your view of how IPCC handles data quality assurance and quality control and identification and rectification of errors, including those discovered after publication?

    As I said in answer to question 4, IPCC should pay much more attention to data availability, quality and control. They could simply require that when articles are mentioned in the report, data and source code should be archived. It’s impossible for lead authors to check all the data themselves. This is not necessary however. They should focus first on data on which important claims are based, like the global average temperature, the hockey stick, cloud data, water vapor data etc.

    It should be possible to rectify errors after publication. The problem is that errors are often subjective. McKitrick (of Michaels/McKitrick 2004 and 2006) and De Laat (of De Laat/Maurellis 2004/2006) were very disappointed by the way IPCC misrepresented their work in chapter 3. What was written in the final report was not even in the second draft, so it was not reviewed at all. After the publication of AR4 De Laat and McKitrick had no means to correct the misrepresentation of their work. It’s not directly obvious how one can prevent this. It should be possible, however, for scientists to complain to IPCC when they feel their work is misrepresented.

    8. What is your view of how IPCC communicates with the media and general public, and suggestions for improving it?

    As I wrote earlier, in my opinion IPCC should be more open to the media. I see no reason why WG1 meetings or other meetings should be closed for journalists. This conflicts with their supposed open and transparent process.

    9. Comment on the sustainability of the IPCC assessment model. Do you have any suggestions for an alternative process?

    I don’t think the current approach will be sustainable, especially now when more and more journalists and policy makers are beginning to realize that the process is much more one sided than they thought.

    As an alternative I like the proposal of John Christy to start a Wiki-IPCC. Small and balanced teams of scientists working together on the crucial topics I mentioned before. This has the advantage that they can update their consensus statement whenever there are important developments in the observations or in the scientific literature.

    10. Do you have any suggestions for improvements in the IPCC management, secretariat, and/or funding structure to support an assessment of this scale?

    The IPCC is officially policy neutral. However in their public statements both the chairman and the secretary make clear policy suggestions all the time. In terms of Roger Pielke jr, is the IPCC an honest broker or an issue advocate? In my opinion they should operate as an honest broker, but as this moment they are clearly an issue advocate.

    The scale of the assessment should be reduced. Given the huge uncertainties in WG1, a lot of the information in WG2 and WG3 is pure speculation. WG1 should focus more on the crucial issues, and the size of the WG2 and WG3 reports could be greatly reduced.

    11.  Any other comments

    I hope the IAC review panel will listen to all parties in the debate, i.e. including well informed critics like McIntyre, McKitrick, Pielke sr etc. So far I am pleased by the openness of the IAC review panel. I would encourage the panel to make all the information they acquire (submissions, interviews, documents) available on their website.

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    Update On Two Hypotheses With Respect To Lower Tropospheric Temperature Anomalies

    On July 16, 2009 I posted the following

    Comments On The Current Record Global Average Lower TroposphereTemperatures

    The post reads

    In the last couple of weeks, the onset of the El Niño, that was discussed in my weblog on July 11 2009 would appear to be a possible explanation for the sudden increase in lower tropospheric temperatures to a record level (e.g. see the latest tropospheric temperature data at Daily Earth Temperatures from Satellite). This sudden warming is also discussed on other websites (see and see).

    The current and recent anomalies at 500 mb (as representative of the tropospheric temperatures) are provided by the excellent NOAA analyses at

    The location for the sudden warming (in the global average tropospheric temperatures as reported from the AMSU data) at 500 mb in the Northern Hemisphere is not obvious, however, except perhaps for a large area with weak positive anomalies in the lower latitudes. There is some warming in the El Niño area, but it is relatively small.  In the lower latitude eastern hemisphere In the southern hemisphere, there is a strong warm anomaly near Antarctica. Maybe that is part of the reason for major region for the large positive AMSU temperature value.

    This record event is an effective test of two hypotheses.

    Hypothesis #1: Roy Spencer’s  hypothesis on the role of circulation patterns in global warming (e.g. see) might explain most or all of the current anomaly since it clearly is spatially very variable, and its onset was so sudden. If the lower atmosphere cools again to its long-term average or lower, this would support Roy’s viewpoint.[see Roy’s June 6 2010 update on this in his post Warming in Last 50 Years Predicted by Natural Climate Cycles].

    Hypothesis #2:  Alternatively, if the large anomaly persists, it will support the claims by the IPCC and others (e.g. see Cool Spells Normal in Warming World) that well-mixed greenhouse gas warming is the dominate climate forcing in the coming decades and is again causing global warming after the interruption of the last few years. [As discussed in in my 2006 presentation at the SORCE meeting – Regional and Global Climate Forcings (see slide 12) contributions to global warming also occurs from other human forcings including methane, tropospheric ozone,  black carbon and other aerosols, but the IPCC emphasis has been on carbon dioxide].

    Only time will tell which is correct, however, we now have short term information to test the two hypotheses. The results of this real world test will certainly influence my viewpoint on climate science.

    Since the warm anomalies persist (e.g. see and see; Fig 7),  the coming months are key to determining which of the two hypotheses with respect to global warming and cooling can be rejected. If we move into a La Niña without a corresponding cooling of the lower troposphere, it would support the rejection of hypothesis #1.  However, if the lower troposphere cools, in terms of anomalies, to at or below the long-term average, this would support the rejection of hypothesis #2.

    Of course, the two hypotheses do not cover all of the possibilities. If the warm anomalies persist, this could be due primarily to other human climate forcings besides carbon dioxide, such as black carbon. However, this would still indicate hypothesis #1 should be rejected.

    I will again revisit this topic in a few months.

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    Filed under Climate Change Forcings & Feedbacks

    Guest Post By Bruce Hall

    Guest Post By Bruce Hall of Hall of Record

    Dr. Pielke has kindly offered me the opportunity to address a basic issue regarding the difficulty in holding meaningful discussions with regard to climate change based on an email exchange I had with a person who agreed with my conclusions, but was uncomfortable with my methodology.

    The following statement was part of a recent email I received:

    I have just ‘stumbled’ upon your fascinating page and have been reading about the U.S. extreme temperatures. I do not challenge the numbers but I do think their description can be a bit misleading. You list the temperatures as monthly when, in fact, they are single day extremes for a given month. The true monthly temperature extremes (record highs or lows) are the average of the readings taken during a given month. I have downloaded the NCDC-NOAA state-by-state database and the monthly highs and lows are almost always different. Neither figures support a warming in the contiguous US.

    Three years ago, I published an analysis of U.S. all-time monthly temperature extremes by state from NOAA data and then updated it again in 2009.  The worksheets are available as Excel files here:

    Extreme Temperatures By State – Database and Analysis [Excel 2007 File]

    This material provides a somewhat different perspective of the U.S. climate over the past 14 decades than popularly shown.

    Most of us are comfortable with the idea that average temperatures accurately reflect weather.  We like to know that the average normal for July is 74° and for January it is 27°.  It gives us a sense of understand.  The idea of using extremes as a measure makes us uncomfortable.  What do we really learn from a statement that the July high temperature record was 113° and the record low temperature for January was minus 37°?  In terms of simple expectations, averages are more comfortable than extremes.  We can’t plan for extremes.  We don’t purchase a wardrobe for extremes.

    Nevertheless, when it comes to climate, I propose that averages… as we derive them… are fraught with problems, not the least of which is the practice of changing historical data to “fix” changing conditions.  An average fails to give insight into variation; what is the temperature range upon which the average is derived?  For example, average temperatures could increase in these scenarios:

    In the case of high and low average temperatures increasing, one would expect to see more frequent high temperature records… a basic assumption of global warming. In the case of only low average temperatures increasing, one might question why. Indeed, Anthony Watts has done an extensive study of weather stations across the United States and concluded that a large part of the problem stems from poor station siting and encroachment of urban areas around weather stations… “lows tonight in the upper 50s… cooler in the outlying areas.”

    Certainly some cyclical warming occurred after the 1970s, but the record of new high temperature extremes shows that … whatever the derived averages … there was no significant climate change versus past cyclical warm periods.

    My response to the email was:

    While I understand how one can find fault with calling the records “monthly” as opposed to daily, the data are for the highest and lowest all-time recorded temperatures for each month for each state since 1880. They are records of extremes as opposed to calculated or derived averages.

    While this may not satisfy some, I believe it has specific advantages over averages.

    1. The data are not adjusted. They are recognized as valid by NOAA and have not been “corrected” by interpolation with data from other weather station data.

    2. They represent the climate “boundaries” for statewide geographies. A record either stands on it’s own or is replaced by a subsequent reading that ties or exceeds it.

    3. It allows testing of the tenet that global warming necessarily results it an increased frequency of temperature extremes. 

    While one can argue that US records are a small fraction of earth’s geography coverage, they represent the most consistent sampling for the past 130 years.

    My conclusions from this exercise were that:

    1. The last two decades were warm, but not abnormally so.

    2. The 1930s were significantly warmer over a wider geography.

    3. The last decade was unusually berift of temperature extremes, with low temperature extremes occurring in the NE US.

    From the January, 2009 update:

     For further reading concerning the problem of framing discussions about climate change, see this:

    How Are We To Measure Global Warming

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    Filed under Climate Change Metrics, Guest Weblogs