Monthly Archives: May 2011

Guest Post In “The Beginning Was The Confusion” By Angelo Rubino

Today we are fortunate to have a post by Angelo Rubino of the University of Venice. His publications can be viewed here.

In The Beginning Was The Confusion By Angelo Rubino

In the paper

Angelo Rubino, 2011: What will a new generation of world climate research and computing facilities bring to climate long-term predictions? Theoretical and Applied Climatology. DOI: 10.1007/s00704-011-0448-2Online First™

I present a critical discussion which embraces the crucial aspects of the communication between climate scientists and lay persons, of the role confusing statements may exert on possible advancements in climate research, and of scientific priorities in climate science.

I start distinguishing between different applications of climate models and identifying confusing uses of the words “prediction” and “projection” in recent discussions on climate modeling.

In my opinion, increasing model resolution and complexity, although undoubtedly helpful for many applications related to a deeper understanding of the complex climate system and to substantial improvement of short-term forecasts, is not destined… tackle the impossibility of predicting prominent climate forcings and to facilitate result comparisons against observations.

Finally, I discuss possible alternative resource allocations, including a different employment policy for climate scientists.

A few years ago, in an essay appeared in the BAMS, Mishchenko et al. (2007) stated that

“The analysis by Hansen et al. (2005)… indicates that the current uncertainties in the TSI and aerosol forcings are so large that they preclude meaningful climate model evaluation by comparison with observed global temperature change”.

The natural consequence of this statement should have been the (at least temporary) end of the discussion on climate projections, predictions, and the possibility of carrying out climate crucial experiments by means of numerical modelling.

Indeed, each result referring to the solution of a prognostic equation can be technically named prediction, in the sense that future values of the model variables are calculated starting from previous ones. However, as far as the specific task of numerical modeling (i.e., problem solving), but also the communication with lay persons is concerned, the word prediction possesses a particular meaning. In other words, the sense (the utility) of a prediction is to predict, verifiably, future events.

It is also obvious that, if a model is not (yet) able to perform predictions in this sense, it will be operatively useless to increase uncertainties by perturbing model conditions (obscurum per obscurium…) and hence, operatively, such perturbations should follow and not precede or substitute predictions.

Also, numerical climate simulations are and remain process studies, at least until new discoveries will definitively clarify still uncomprehended climate dynamics, clearly indicate magnitude and variability of climate forcings. and allow one to impose accurate initial conditions to the models. They are and will be important, fundamental and necessary for deepening our knowledge on the complexity of the climate system: process studies.

However, instead of disappearing from the zoo of climate nomenclature, the words “prediction”, “projection”, “forecast” etc. seem to recur with increasing frequency in the dedicated literature as well as in the media, while, as recently indicated by Bray and von Storch (2009), a considerable part of the scientists working with climate models seems not to be aware of the difference between the meaning of the word “prediction” (or “forecast”) and the word “projection”.

This is certainly to be excused. A certain touch of subjectivism seems to be inherent in the discussion since the beginning, as, for instance, the glossary of the IPCC third assessment report (2001) states that

 “A climate prediction or climate forecast is the result of an attempt to produce a most likely description or estimate of the actual evolution of the climate in the future, e.g. at seasonal, interannual or long-term time scales”,


“…projections are distinguished from climate predictions in order to emphasize that climate projections depend upon the emission/concentration/radiative forcing scenario used, which are based on assumptions, concerning, e.g., future socio-economic and technological developments, that may or may not be realized, and are therefore subject to substantial uncertainty”.

The difference would be thus a matter of emphasis. Radiative forcing based on assumptions concerning human developments, which may or may not be realized, is, in the opinion of some climate scientists, substantially different from radiative forcing based on assumptions concerning volcanic eruptions or solar activity, which may or may not be realized.

A matter of taste, which seems to suggest to some climate scientists to rapidly move ahead:

 “It is both necessary and possible to revolutionize climate prediction”

 to meet societal needs like those aimed at achieving

 “accurate and reliable estimates of changes in the probability of regional weather variations to develop science-based adaptation and mitigation strategies” (Shukla et al. 2010),

 and at providing

“improved projections, predictions, and monitoring of multidecadal global to regional climate and coupled Earth system changes, including estimates of the frequency and intensity of regional extremes, their impacts and improved information on the assumptions, confidence, and uncertainty of all estimates…”

 as well as

 “improved early warning of famine, water shortages, pestilence, and disease in developing nations and the promotion of social and economic development in a changing climate…” (Shapiro et al. 2010).

 The confusion is remarkable.

The costs of the announced revolution? Maybe a few billion $ for a 5 year project would suffice…

But is the goal to be achieved?

In point of fact, in March 2010, the UK Met Office decided to stop issuing a seasonal forecast for the UK four times a year. Instead, a monthly outlook, updated on a weekly basis, will be published. In an official note – see, the Met Office explained that

“…although we can identify general patterns of weather, the science does not exist to allow an exact forecast beyond five days, or to absolutely promise a certain type of weather…”

I am thus convinced that the relevance of these topics and the possible confusion deriving from rather contrasting statements (sometimes even expressed by the same scientists, maybe also depending on the different arguments to be emphasized…) and different meanings given to the same words deserve a large discussion on epistemological aspects of climate science and on resources allocations.

It is possible, in fact, that climate research will profit from the proposed institution of a few multinational, very large centres for climate prediction devoted at producing long-term forecasts. As a possible intermediate task, however, I propose to

a) Concentrate energies, using part of the supercomputer resources already available for climate simulations, on a Interdisciplinary multi-year, large, multinational pilot modelling project aimed at predicting a complete ENSO cycle (IMMENSO);

b) Reconciling in situ and remote sensing measurements by initiating a truly open source, independent, major international project for the reassessment of global temperatures;

c) Deepen our knowledge of the circulation and of the distribution and variability of abyssal as well as Arctic and Antarctic water masses;


d) Implement a new employment policy for climate scientists.

As a concluding remark I also note that

Organization is important…But, in science, organization can also easily degenerate into hierarchization and conformism if not sustained by freedom. In the past, periods of strict control on research did not always correspond to expansive phases for science, and, often, fundamental developments and new discoveries arrived from personalities who were (and felt) profoundly free.


Mishchenko MI , Cairns B, Hansen JE , Travis LD , Kopp G, Schueler CF , Fafaul BA, Hooker RJ , Maring HB , Itchkawich T (2010) Accurate Monitoring of Terrestrial Aerosols and Total Solar Irradiance: Introducing the Glory Mission Bul. Amer Meteor Soc 88: 677–691.

Bray D, von Storch H (2009) ‘Prediction’ or ‘projection’? The nomenclature of climate science. Sci Commun 30: 534–543.

Shukla J, Palmer TN, Hagedorn R, Hoskins B, Kinter J, Marotzke J, Miller M, Slingo J (2010) Climate prediction from weeks to decades in the 21st century: towards a new generation of world climate research and computing facilities for climate prediction. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 91: 1407–1412.

Shapiro MA, Shukla J, Brunet G, Nobre C, Béland M, Dole R, Trenberth K, Anthes R, Asrar G, Barrie L, Bougeault P, Brasseur G, Burridge D, Busalacchi A, Caughey J, Chen D, Church J, Enomoto T, Hoskins B, Hov Ø, Laing A, Le Treut H, Marotzke J, McBean G, Meehl G, Miller M, Mills B, Mitchell J, Moncrieff M, Nakazawa T, Olafsson H, Palmer T, Parsons D, Rogers D, Simmons A, Troccoli A, Toth Z, Uccellini L, Velden C, Wallace JM (2010) An earth-system prediction initiative for the twenty-first century. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 91: 1377–1388.

source of image

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Filed under Climate Science Reporting, Guest Weblogs

Fall, Winter, And Spring Northern Hemisphere Snow Cover Extent From The Rutgers University Global Snow Lab

There is an excellent, very informative presentation of Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent and long term trends and variability up to 2010 (Spring and Fall) and 2011 (Winter) from the Rutgers University Global Snow Lab

As concluded in the 2007 IPCC WG1 report

“……..snow cover [has] declined on average in both hemispheres. “

The reality of the snow cover trends is more complex, however, as clearly illustrated in the figures presented below. Only the spring shows a decline, and, even then,  its decline is dominated by the period prior to 1990.


source of top image in post [for January 2011]

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Filed under Climate Change Metrics

Interesting Late Season 2011 Ski Conditions At Aspen Colorado

 Courtesy Photo/Aspen Daily News
A group of travelers dig out a wet slide blocking the road on Independence Pass, east of the summit. The road was blocked for about 20 minutes. It was the second slide encountered in a quarter of a mile [source of image]

I am going to post on the unuusal late 2010-2011 snow pack and water in an upcoming weblog post. In preparing that post, the news article of May 29 2011 from the Aspen Daily News is worth reading –

Summer skiing surprise

Excerpts read

“Heavy snows spoil weekend holiday plans in the West,” read an Associated Press headline blasted across the nation Saturday morning.

“Don’t tell that to the estimated 1,700 or so folks who rode the Silver Queen Gondola Saturday to make turns on the 71-inch base that still lingers at the top of Aspen Mountain, which reopened this weekend to the delight of skiers and snowboarders. With 25 runs and 136 acres of skiing in the offering, conditions resembled late March more than late May, at least at the top of the mountain.”

“Amazing fact of the year: The base at the top of Aspen Mountain is larger than it was when the ski area shut down for the winter season on April 10, and is about double what it was on New Year’s. It wasn’t the biggest winter ever in terms of snow accumulation, but one could say it had a long tail, with one of the coldest and wettest springs on record.”

“This year marks the third time in the last 20 or so years that Aspen Mountain opened for an early-summer second helping of skiing. The previous two times were in 2008 and 1995.”

This article  highlights the very late spring this year in this part of the USA.

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Filed under Climate Change Forcings & Feedbacks, Climate Change Metrics

Comment And Recommendation On Bill Ruddiman’s View Of Early Human Effects On Climate

Real Climate had an interesting post by Bill Rudiman on April 15 2011 titled

An Emerging View on Early Land Use

Excerpts from his post include [highlight added]

Historical data on land use extending back some 2000 years exists for two regions — Europe and China. In a 2009 paper, Jed Kaplan and colleagues reported evidence showing nearly complete deforestation in Europe at mid-range population densities, but very little additional clearance at higher densities. Embedded in this historical relationship was a trend from much greater per-capita clearance 2000 years ago to much smaller values in recent centuries. Similarly, a Holocene special-issue paper by Ruddiman and colleagues pointed to a pioneering study of early agriculture in China published in 1937 by J. L. Buck. Paired with reasonably well-constrained population estimates that extend back to the Han dynasty 2000 years ago, these data show a 4-fold decrease in per-capita land area cultivated in China from that time until the 1800′s.”


“……an in-press paper by Fuller and colleagues on ‘The contribution of rice agriculture and livestock pastoralism to prehistoric methane levels: an archeological assessment’ assembled archeological evidence from hundreds of well-dated sites showing the spread of irrigated rice across southern Asia between 5000 and 1000 years ago. Based on modern regional relationships, they assumed that rice farming in each region subsequently filled in with the log of population density. Combining the first arrival of rice and the subsequent infilling, Fuller and colleagues projected the progressive increase in the total area of southern Asia devoted to irrigated rice.

Their estimate showed a rising exponential trend in total area that reached more than 35% of the modern value by 1000 years ago, even though the population in the rice-growing areas of Asia at that time was only 5-6% of modern levels. This mismatch again indicates much greater per-capita land use early in the historical era than in later pre-industrial time.”

This recognition of major human landscape change thousands of years ago documents yet again why we need a broader perspective of its role within the climate system.

However, what is very puzzling about Ruddiman’s post is that he does not discuss the role of concurrent effects on the water and energy fluxes and effects on weather and other aspects of climate.  This includes the regional change in surface albedo, but also the effects on the net radiation received at the surface and its partitioning between sensible and latent heat fluxes. This need to consider the water and energy effects of landscape change on climate, in addition to the effects on the carbon,  and other trace constituent budgets, is discussed, as just a few examples, in

Pielke Sr., R.A., 2001: Influence of the spatial distribution of vegetation and soils on the prediction of cumulus convective rainfall. Rev. Geophys., 39, 151-177.

Pielke, R.A. Sr., J. Adegoke, A. Beltran-Przekurat, C.A. Hiemstra, J. Lin, U.S. Nair, D. Niyogi, and T.E. Nobis, 2007: An overview of regional land use and land cover impacts on rainfall. Tellus B, 59, 587-601.


Mahmood, R., R.A. Pielke Sr., K.G. Hubbard, D. Niyogi, G. Bonan, P. Lawrence, B. Baker, R. McNider, C. McAlpine, A. Etter, S. Gameda, B. Qian, A. Carleton, A. Beltran-Przekurat, T. Chase, A.I. Quintanar, J.O. Adegoke, S. Vezhapparambu, G. Conner, S. Asefi, E. Sertel, D.R. Legates, Y. Wu, R. Hale, O.W. Frauenfeld, A. Watts, M. Shepherd, C. Mitra, V.G. Anantharaj, S. Fall,R. Lund, A. Nordfelt, P. Blanken, J. Du, H.-I. Chang, R. Leeper, U.S. Nair, S. Dobler, R. Deo, and J. Syktus, 2010: Impacts of land use land cover change on climate and future research priorities. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 91, 37–46, DOI: 10.1175/2009BAMS2769.1

The abstract of the Pielke 2001 paper reads

“This paper uses published work to demonstrate the link between surface moisture and heat fluxes and cumulus convective rainfall. The Earth’s surface role with respect to the surface energy and moisture budgets is examined. Changes in land surface properties are shown to influence the heat and moisture fluxes within the planetary boundary layer, convective available potential energy, and other measures of the deep cumulus cloud activity. The spatial structure of the surface heating, as influenced by landscape patterning, produces focused regions for deep cumulonimbus convection. In the tropics, and during midlatitude summers, deep cumulus convection has apparently been significantly altered as a result of landscape changes. These alterations in cumulus convection teleconnect to higher latitudes, which significantly alters the weather in those regions. The effect of tropical deforestation is most clearly defined in the winter hemisphere. In the context of climate, landscape processes are shown to be as much a part the climate system as are atmospheric processes.”

The Ruddiman analysis needs to be extended to include other effects of early landscape conversion besides that of the  greenhouse gas radiative effects.

source of image – Deforestation in Yunnan Province, China

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Filed under Climate Change Forcings & Feedbacks

My Experiences With A Lack Of Proper Diligence And Bias In The NSF Review Process For Climate Proposals

Recently, I requested information from NSF under the Freedom of Information Act regarding how my recent proposals on the effect of landscape processes on climate were handled. The reason for this request is given below.  My experiences, however, may be of more general interest particularly in light of Judy Curry’s post of May 25, 2011

Freedom of Information

and the ABC news investigative report

Shrimp on a Treadmill Among Research Items Skewered in New Report – Sen. Tom Coburn criticizes National Science Foundation’ use of tax dollars.

 I also have recommendations for the NSF to improve the process. As a preface, my research program has benefited by decades of NSF support. It is only in the last few years, unfortunately, as the climate issue has become so politicized that serious issues have developed in the objectivity of NSF with respect to funding climate studies. Those who manage funding of climate research at the NSF, unfortunately, seem to have become politicized just as much as most other areas of climate science.

This is a long post, so I have summarized the major experiences and findings here:

  • NSF does not retain a record of e-mail communications
  • NSF is cavalier in terms of the length of time proposals are under review.
  • NSF has decided to emphasize climate modeling and of funding multi-decadal climate predictions, at the expense of research which can be tested against real-world observations.
  • NSF penalizes scientists who criticize their performance.

My recommendations include:

  • Guarantee that the review process be completed within 6 months [my most recent land use and climate proposal was not even sent out for review until 10 months after its receipt!)
  • Retain all e-mail communications indefinitely (NSF staff can routinely delete e-mails, such that there is no record to check their accountability)
  • Require external independent assessments, by a subset of scientists who are outside of the NSF, of the reviews and manager decisions, including names of referees. This review should be on all accepted and rejected proposals ( as documented in the NSF letter at the end of this post, since they were so late sending out for review, they simply relied on referees of an earlier (rejected) proposal; this is laziness at best).

My concerns regarding the review process are similar to those reported in

McKitrick, Ross R. (2011) “Bias in the Peer Review Process: A Cautionary and Personal Account” in Climate Coup, Patrick J. Michaels ed., Cato Inst. Washington DC

and Toby Carlson as reported in the posts

Guest Post “Crisis in Academic Funding” By Toby N. Carlson

Perceptive Article On The Sad State Of Research Funding By Toby N. Carlson

where, with respect to funding agencies (of which NSF is a major one), Toby wrote

“They are bureaucracies that promote top-down science to suit political and administrative ends.”

In my post

Comments On Numerical Modeling As The New Climate Science Paradigm

Dick Lindzen is quoted

“In brief, we have the new paradigm where simulation and programs have replaced theory and observation, where government largely determines the nature of scientific activity, and where the primary role of professional societies is the lobbying of the government for special advantage.”

I have posted on the inadequacies in the NSF review process of climate proposals in

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

Is The NSF Funding Process Working Correctly?

As I wrote in the second post above (on June 11 2011)

“I …. have a proposal still under consideration that was submitted on May 13 2009 (an NSF-accomplishment based proposal) but only sent out for review in late March 2010! “

That particular proposal, in the NSF pipeline for over 10 months before even being sent out for review was ultimately rejected.

Since that time, I was informed in a confidential communication that NSF conducted an internal review of whether I was being treated “fairly”. Their conclusion, in this star chamber type of review, was that I was treated fairly [no surprise there]. However, I was also informed via a second very credible confidential source that I would never again be funded by the NSF due to my weblog. I have no way to know if this action would actually occur [since I do have one non-climate project funded by the NSF], the message that was transferred to me is very chilling. It is that unless you follow the NSF management position on climate, you will not be funded in this area (or in the future, perhaps not at all).

Upon being told this confidential information,  I requested copies of e-mails and other information relevant to the internal review through the Freedom of Information Act. I have reproduced several of these e-mails below.

Date: Mon, 21 Feb 2011 11:31:17 -0700 (MST)

Jensen, Leslie Subject: RE: NSF FOIA Request 2-17-11.pdf – Adobe Acrobat Professional

Dear Ms. Jensen

We have completed the documentation of my FOI request, but have not heard back from you. Please confirm its receipt and what the next step is. I would like to move forward to NSF revealing what was involved with the internal review.


Roger A. Pielke, Sr.,

On Mon, 21 Feb 2011, Jensen, Leslie A. wrote:

Dear Sir: we have received your Privacy Act identity form and we have 20  working days to respond to your request.


Leslie A. Jensen
FOIA/Privacy Act Officer
FOIA Public Liaison
Office of the General Counsel
National Science Foundation

Followed by

On Tue, 22 Feb 2011, Jensen, Leslie A. wrote:

Dr. Pielke:

Please provide me with the grant number associated with the records that
you wish to receive?  Thank you.

Leslie Jensen

I replied

Date: Tue, 22 Feb 2011 06:12:51 -0700 (MST)
Subject: RE: NSF FOIA Request 2-17-11.pdf – Adobe Acrobat Professional
Dear Ms. Jensen

We have no grant numbers as the projects were not funded.

The issue is that I have been critical of their handling of the review process on several of my proposals in the last few years, and also on the focus of NSF funding on climate. According to a confidential source, in response the critiques I completed on my weblog, they performed an internal review to assess whether I was treated fairly or not. From my source, they concluded I was treated “fairly”.  I have also recently been informed from a confidential source that they object to my weblog comments and this is why I have not been funded.

My FOI request is for information including e-mails, and any other communications, on this internal review. My e-mails to Jay Fein and Tim Killen on this matter have been unanswered.

My weblog posts on the NSF review process (both on my proposals and their process) include

I would be glad to share with you my e-mails to Jay Fein and Tim Killen if you feel this would be needed.


Roger A. Pielke, Sr.,

Ms. Jensen replied

On Tue, 22 Feb 2011, Jensen, Leslie A. wrote:

Dr. Pielke:

If your proposals received review – they were given a number – even if they were declined – that is the NSF process.  I need those numbers to do a proper search for records.

Thank You.

I replied

Subject: RE: NSF FOIA Request 2-17-11.pdf – Adobe Acrobat Professional
Dear Ms. Jensen
Here are the rejected proposals

EAR 943628 “Collaborative Research: Sensitivity of weather and climate in the Eastern United States to historical land-cover changes since European settlement

AGS 940582 “The Role of Landscape Change in Central and Southern Florida on Weather and Climate”

AGS 840826 “Sensitivity of Weather and Climate in the Eastern United States to Historical Land-Cover Changes Since European Settlement.

Please let me know if you need anything further.

Roger A. Pielke Sr.

I then received a packet of e-mails from Leslie Jensen who is the FOIA Privacy Act Officer in the Office of the General Counsel of the National Science Foundation.   She sent me mostly copies of e-mails that I had sent and that were sent to me! Except for several e-mails where Tim Killen, who recused himself due to his association with the University of Colorado, there was only one with significant information that was not already in my e-mails. That e-mail is reproduced below, and I will comment on it after the image.

However, I followed up with Ms. Jensen requesting further information

Date: Fri, 15 Apr 2011 06:22:19 -0600 (MDT)
Subject: RE: NSF FOIA Request 2-1-11

Dear Ms. Jensen

I have rec’d the packet after being forwarded from the University. It is almost all a set of e-mails that I had sent and their replies to me plus reviews which I had also seen. Only a few others were provided.

There are e-mails to NSF that I had sent that were not included, however. That by itself is a concern, since it implies a rather cursory approach to following the FOIA request was made.

She replied

Date: Fri, 15 Apr 2011 08:35:43 -0400
From: “Jensen, Leslie A.” <xxxxxx>
Subject: RE: NSF FOIA Request 2-1-11

Dear Sir:

If you can provide me with additional direction I would be happy to do another search.  If there were emails from you in the privacy act protected grant file I would not necessarily re-send to you – for efficiency purposes only – no hidden agenda on my part.  If you wish – I will have the entire grant file printed and sent to you.

I followed up with the e-mail below

Dear Ms. Jensen

Thank you for your quick reply.

I am also interested in e-mails within NSF from Thomas Torgersen, Walter Robinson and Jay Fein regarding interactions with me over the past 5 years. For example, there was a meeting with Ben Herman, Tom Chase, and I with Jay Fein, Walter Robinson and others several years ago at the NSF which must have had internal e-mail communications regarding our visit arranged through Jay Fein.

Ben Herman, Tom Chase and I met at the NSF because we felt (and still feel) our proposals have been handled inappropriately.

My weblog post

Is The NSF Funding Process Working Correctly?

documents a subset of my concerns regarding the NSF process including interactions with Thomas Torgersen.

My concern was heightened in the last few months as I have been informed of issues through two sources [who want to remain confidential}.

One source informed me that I was internally reviewed to determine if I was being handled fairly (they concluded I was). Another source stated that I would no longer be funded at the NSF because of my weblog (presumably my criticisms of the NSF review process).

I cannot confirm the accuracy of these claims (and I was told through second persons each time). Nonetheless, if there is an opportunity through the FOIA process to determine if this information is correct or not, I would like to find out, as the sources are credible individuals.

Thank you for your time is looking into this issue.

She replied

On Fri, 15 Apr 2011, Jensen, Leslie A. wrote:
Dear Sir:

A proper search has been accomplished for all named individuals.  Email is  not a permanent record and meetings from several years ago would be deleted.  The Foundation’s email retention policy is repeated below:


Exchange Server: Most users have their mail delivered to their Exchange  Server mailbox. If you haven’t done anything special, that is where your  mail is delivered and stored. In Outlook your mailbox is the folder that  includes your name in the folder name (top folder in your Folder List). The  Exchange Servers are backed up to tape nightly, and the tapes are retained  for 14 days, then destroyed. Exchange Server has a feature that allows you  to recover deleted messages (even after the trash is emptied). That feature  is set to retain deleted messages for 5 days. When these features are combined, it means that 19 days after you delete a message and empty the  trash, nobody can recover it.


With regard to your concern over improper handling of proposals NSF has a  reconsideration policy: In  addition, I am providing the link to NSF’s Office of the Inspector General
(OIG):  The FOIA is only a records process.  Your claims of improper procedures/policies would be handled  outside of my office

My responding e-mail to her reads

Date: Fri, 15 Apr 2011 15:30:23 -0600 (MDT)
Subject: RE: NSF FOIA Request 2-1-11

Dear Ms. Jensen

This is quite surprising and disappointing. The deletion of such information appears to conflict with the intent of the FOIA, as I had understood it.

I have requested reconsideration of a proposal, as reported in the weblog post I sent you. The absence of e-mail documentation of how my appeal was handled was notably absent in the information that you sent to me in my FOIA request.

It appears that the FOIA as applied by NSF is essentially worthless.

The letter below, which was the one item that provided new information that the program manager has “drawn pretty heavily on reviewers of the two previous proposals” [which were rejected by the NSF] certainly suggests a lack of diligence and objectivity in completing the review process.

Thus, my experience with the climate related section of the NSF is that they have decided to control not only the quality of the science (which is an appropriate activity, of course), but also to limit what perspectives scientists have on climate (which is inappropriate).

My recommendations to help remedy the lack of diligence and  biases at the NSF in climate science and include:

  • Guarantee that the review process be completed within 6 months.
  • Retain all e-mail communications indefinitely
  • Require external independent assessments of the review process including names of referees by a subset of scientists who are outside of the NSF. This review should be on all accepted and rejected proposals.

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Filed under Advocacy Masking As Science

New Paper “Econometrics And The Science Of Climate Change” By Tim Curtin

Tim Curtin has shared with us a new paper that has been accepted. It is

Econometrics and the Science of Climate Change

This has been accepted by the Economic Society of Australia for its annual conference, which this year will be in Canberra (ANU) from 11th to 14th July.

The paper includes the text

“This chapter has produced statistical and econometric analysis showing that the mainstream science of climate change has been too focussed on a single supposed causative agent, carbon dioxide emissions (about 30 GtCO2 p.a), to the serious neglect of the much larger volumes of anthropogenic water vapour produced by the combustion of hydrocarbon fuels, both by direct creation of water vapour in the combustion process (18 GtH2O p.a.), and by the much larger volume of steam created by the power generation process (300 GtH2O). It is true that individual injections of water vapour to the atmosphere have a short residence time there before descending as precipitation (Kelly, 2010), but increases in the average level of [H2O] over a year remain significant.’

“The implications of full accounting for the radiative forcing attributable to anthropogenic water vapour are confounding. On the one hand, it is conceivable that it has been unwittingly included in the radiative forcing ascribed to rising [CO2e], while on the other it may be an addition to that forcing, which would mean that temperature projections are being understated. Alternatively, it may be that the forcing ascribed to positive feedbacks from rising evaporation due to the observed annual global temperature increase of 0.007C p.a., which raises the IPCC‟s projected temperature increase from a doubling of [CO2e] to 3C from the 1C due to [CO2e] alone, despite lack of evidence for this effect, should be reassigned to anthropogenic water vapour.”

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Filed under Climate Change Forcings & Feedbacks, Research Papers

New Paper “A Model Investigation Of Aerosol-Induced Changes In Boreal Winter Extratropical Circulation” By Ming Et Al 2011

This is the second paper in Yi Ming’s study of the role of aerosols in altering major atmospheric circulation features. The first paper is discussed in my post

New Paper “A Model Investigation Of Aerosol-Induced Changes In Tropical Circulation” By Ming and Ramaswamy 2011

The second paper is

Yi Ming and V. Ramaswamy and Gang Chen, 2011. A Model Investigation of Aerosol-induced Changes in Boreal Winter Extratropical Circulation. J of Climate (in press).

The abstract read (emphasis added)

“We examine the key characteristics of the boreal winter extratropical circulation changes in response to anthropogenic aerosols, simulated with a coupled atmosphere-slab ocean general circulation model. The zonal-mean response [to aerosols] features a pronounced equatorward shift of the Northern Hemisphere subtropical jet owing to the mid-latitude aerosol cooling. The circulation changes also show strong zonal asymmetry. In particular, the cooling is more concentrated over the North Pacific than over the North Atlantic despite similar regional forcings. With the help of an idealized model, we demonstrate that the zonally asymmetrical response is linked tightly to the stationary Rossby waves excited by the anomalous diabatic heating over the tropical East Pacific. The altered wave pattern leads to a southeastward shift of the Aleutian low (and associated changes in winds and precipitation), while leaving the North Atlantic circulation relatively unchanged. Despite the rich circulation changes, the variations in the extratropical meridional latent heat transport are controlled strongly by the dependence of atmospheric moisture content on temperature. This suggests that one can project reliably the changes in extratropical zonal mean precipitation solely from the global-mean temperature change, even without a good knowledge of the detailed circulation changes caused by aerosols. On the other hand, such knowledge is indispensable for understanding zonally asymmetrical (regional) precipitation changes.”

Excerpts from the conclusions reads

Maximum aerosol forcing is centered over the NH low and mid-latitudes. During the boreal winter, the strong local aerosol forcing influences many of the key characteristics of the vigorous extratropical circulation by causing local cooling mainly over the source regions. Such a cooling enhances the meridional temperature gradient equatorward of the NH subtropical jet, but weakens it poleward. The end result is an equatorward shift of the jet.”


“….the detailed spatial pattern of the aerosol-induced tropical circulation change….. plays a critical role in determining the extratropical response by altering stationary Rossby waves.”

[source of image]

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The Selective Bias Of NOAA’s National Climate Data Center (NCDC) With Respect To The Analysis And Interpretation Of Multi-Decadal Land Surface Temperature Trends Under The Leadership Of Tom Karl and Tom Peterson

I have posted on the science of our paper

Fall, S., A. Watts, J. Nielsen-Gammon, E. Jones, D. Niyogi, J. Christy, and R.A. Pielke Sr., 2011: Analysis of the impacts of station exposure on the U.S. Historical Climatology Network temperatures and temperature trends. J. Geophys. Res., in press. Copyright (2011) American Geophysical Union

in the post

A Summary Of Our New Paper “Analysis Of The Impacts Of Station Exposure On The U.S. Historical Climatology Network Temperatures and Temperature Trends” By Fall Et Al 2011

John Neilsen Gammon and Anthony Watts have excellent posts on our paper also; see, for example,

Something for Everyone: Fall et al. 2011

Fall et al. 2011: The Statistics

Fall et al. 2011: What We Learned About the Climate

According to the best-sited stations, the diurnal temperature range in the lower 48 states has no century-scale trend.

Today, I want to summarize the clear bias of NOAA’s National Climate Data Center under the leadership of Tom Karl and Tom Peterson on the research we have completed on the remaining uncertainties and systematic biases in the multi-decadal surface temperature analyses that are used by the IPCC and others in the quantification of global warming. Tom Karl is Director of the NOAA’s National Climate Data Center [NCDC], and Tom Peterson works for Tom Karl and has a leadership role in the analysis and interpretation of long term surface temperature data trends and anomalies.

The origin of the Fall et al 2011 study has roots in the paper

Davey, C.A., and R.A. Pielke Sr., 2005: Microclimate exposures of surface-based weather stations – implications for the assessment of long-term temperature trends. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., Vol. 86, No. 4, 497–504.

This study was part of the reason Anthony Watts launched his world-class study of the siting quality of the US climate reference network (USHCN). His outstanding (unfunded!) leadership on this project cannot be overstated.

Our Fall et al 2011 paper is one more illustration of the failure of NCDC, under the leadership of Tom Karl and Tom Peterson, to consider perspectives on the collection, analysis, and interpretation of the multi-decadal surface temperature record that differ from their view. It remains a real puzzlement to me why colleagues, who are personable on an individual level and who have published important science papers, become arrogant (e.g. see) and biased when they assume a leadership position.

That they failed in this leadership is documented, in depth, 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 Of Surface Temperature Trends

Since NCDC did not want to examine the robustness of their analyses with respect the issues that were raised when I was a member of the 2005 CCSP report, I invited a number of colleagues to participate in research papers to examine these issues. I have listed these papers below this paragraph. 

NCDC scientists, however, have failed to respond in the peer reviewed literature to the science issues that we raise in our papers with the limited exception of the Menne et al 2010 paper (see and see for how poorly NCDC handled this). Ignoring these science issues does not make them disappear!

Our papers [and I have listed associated papers and blog posts from my weblog where others have responded] on the multi-decadal surface temperature data issue include, for example,

1. General papers

Pielke Sr., R.A., T. Stohlgren, W. Parton, J. Moeny, N. Doesken, L. Schell, and K. Redmond, 2000: Spatial representativeness of temperature measurements from a single site. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 81, 826-830.

Pielke Sr., R.A. J. Nielsen-Gammon, C. Davey, J. Angel, O. Bliss, N. Doesken, M. Cai., S.  Fall, D. Niyogi, K. Gallo, R. Hale, K.G. Hubbard, X. Lin, H. Li, and S. Raman, 2007: Documentation of uncertainties and biases associated with surface temperature measurement sites for climate change assessment. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 88:6, 913-928.

Pielke Sr., R.A., T. Stohlgren, L. Schell, W. Parton, N. Doesken, K. Redmond, J. Moeny, T. McKee, and T.G.F. Kittel, 2002: Problems in evaluating regional and local trends in temperature: An example from eastern Colorado, USA. Int. J. Climatol., 22, 421-434.

 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.

Parker, D. E., P. Jones, T. C. Peterson, and J. Kennedy, 2009: Comment on Unresolved issues with the assessment of multidecadal global land surface temperature trends. by Roger A. Pielke Sr. et al.,J. Geophys. Res., 114, D05104, doi:10.1029/2008JD010450.

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, 2009: Reply to comment by David E. Parker, Phil Jones, Thomas C. Peterson, and John Kennedy on “Unresolved issues with the assessment of multi-decadal global land surface temperature trends. J. Geophys. Res., 114, D05105, doi:10.1029/2008JD010938

2. Dependence of temperature trends on wind speeds and height above the surface

Pielke Sr., R.A., and T. Matsui, 2005: Should light wind and windy nights have the same temperature trends at individual levels even if the boundary layer averaged heat content change is the same? Geophys. Res. Letts., 32, No. 21, L21813, 10.1029/2005GL024407.

Lin, X., R.A. Pielke Sr., K.G. Hubbard, K.C. Crawford, M. A. Shafer, and T. Matsui, 2007: An examination of 1997-2007 surface layer temperature trends at two heights in Oklahoma. Geophys. Res. Letts., 34, L24705, doi:10.1029/2007GL031652. (see Urs Neu correction based on error in the Lin et al paper and the consequences for our conclusions on this weblog post

Steeneveld, G.J., A.A.M. Holtslag, R.T. McNider, and R.A Pielke Sr, 2011: Screen level temperature increase due to higher atmospheric carbon dioxide in calm and windy nights revisited. J. Geophys. Res., 116, D02122, doi:10.1029/2010JD014612.

3. Spatial representativeness of the surface sites

Hanamean, J.R. Jr., R.A. Pielke Sr., C.L. Castro, D.S. Ojima, B.C. Reed, and Z. Gao, 2003: Vegetation impacts on maximum and minimum temperatures in northeast Colorado. Meteorological Applications, 10, 203-215.

 Montandon, L.M., S. Fall, R.A. Pielke Sr., and D. Niyogi, 2011: Distribution of landscape types in the Global Historical Climatology Network. Earth Interactions, 15:6, doi: 10.1175/2010EI371

4. Divergence in time of the surface and lower tropospheric temperature trends

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

Klotzbach, P.J., R.A. Pielke Sr., R.A. Pielke Jr., J.R. Christy, and R.T. McNider, 2010: Correction to: “An alternative explanation for differential temperature trends at the surface and in the lower troposphere. J. Geophys. Res., 114, D21102, doi:10.1029/2009JD011841″, J. Geophys. Res., 115, D1, doi:10.1029/2009JD013655.

5. Effect of concurrent trends of absolute humidty on dry bulb temperature trends

Pielke Sr., R.A., C. Davey, and J. Morgan, 2004: Assessing “global warming” with surface heat content. Eos, 85, No. 21, 210-211

Davey, C.A., R.A. Pielke Sr., and K.P. Gallo, 2006: Differences between near-surface equivalent temperature and temperature trends for the eastern United States – Equivalent temperature as an alternative measure of heat content. Global and Planetary Change, 54, 19–32.

Fall, S., N. Diffenbaugh, D. Niyogi, R.A. Pielke Sr., and G. Rochon, 2010: Temperature and equivalent temperature over the United States (1979 – 2005). Int. J. Climatol., DOI: 10.1002/joc.2094.

6.Role of mesoscale and larger land use/land cover change on the multi-decadal surface temperature trends; 

 Marshall, C.H. Jr., R.A. Pielke Sr., L.T. Steyaert, and D.A. Willard, 2004: The impact of anthropogenic land-cover change on the Florida peninsula sea breezes and warm season sensible weather. Mon. Wea. Rev., 132, 28-52.

Marshall, C.H. Jr., R.A. Pielke Sr., and L.T. Steyaert, 2003: Crop freezes and land-use change in Florida. Nature, 426, 29-30.

Marshall, C.H., R.A. Pielke Sr., and L.T. Steyaert, 2004: Has the conversion of natural wetlands to agricultural land increased the incidence and severity of damaging freezes in south Florida? Mon. Wea. Rev., 132, 2243-2258.

Fall, S., D. Niyogi, A. Gluhovsky, R. A. Pielke Sr., E. Kalnay, and G. Rochon, 2009: Impacts of land use land cover on temperature trends over the continental United States: Assessment using the North American Regional Reanalysis. Int. J. Climatol., DOI: 10.1002/joc.1996.

NCDC, under the leadership of Tom Karl and Tom Peterson, has ignored  studies such as these. More importantly, the significance of our findings with respect to the level of confidence we should have in the robustness of their analyses, and the accuracy of their reports on temperature anomalies and trends, are misleading the public, government and the rest of the climate science community. 

I invite them to start fresh, and work with us, on the issues we have raised on the analysis and interpretation of the USHCN data.

Source of  image

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Intriguing New Paper “Climate Sensitivity To Changes In Ocean Heat Transport” By Barreiro Et Al 2011

We have been alerted to an intriguing new paper that further illustrates the complexity of the climate system (h/t to Geoff Smith). It is

Marcelo Barreiro, Annalisa Cherchi and Simona Masina, 2011: Climate sensitivity to changes in ocean heat transport. J of Climate. doi: 10.1175/JCLI-D-10-05029.1 [in press]

The abstract reads [highlight added]

Using an atmospheric general circulation model coupled to a slab ocean we  study the effect of ocean heat transport (OHT) on climate prescribing OHT from zero to two times the present-day values. In agreement with previous studies an increase in OHT from zero to present-day conditions warms the climate by decreasing the albedo due to reduced sea-ice extent and marine stratus cloud cover and by increasing the greenhouse effect through a moistening of the atmosphere. However, when the OHT is further increased the solution becomes highly dependent on a positive radiative feedback between tropical low clouds and sea surface temperature. We found that the strength of the low clouds-SST feedback combined with the model design may produce solutions that are globally colder than the Control mainly due to an unrealistically strong equatorial cooling. Excluding those cases, results indicate that the climate warms only if the OHT increase does not exceed more than 10% of the present-day value in the case of a strong cloud-SST feedback and more than 25% when this feedback is weak. Larger OHT increases lead to a cold state where low clouds cover most of the deep tropics increasing the tropical albedo and drying the atmosphere. This suggests that the present-day climate is close to a state where the OHT maximizes its warming effect on climate and pose doubts about the possibility that greater OHT in the past may have induced significantly warmer climates than that of today.”

The paper starts with the informative text

“The oceans absorb heat mainly in the tropical regions where cold water upwells to the surface and lose it in high latitudes where cold and dry winds blow over warm currents during winter time. This implies a net heat transport by the oceanic circulation from the equator to the polar regions that contributes to remove the surplus of heat received in the tropics. Averaged over long times the ocean must gain and lose equal amounts of heat in order to maintain a steady state. The oceanic heat transport is largest in the tropical region and becomes very small poleward of 45° (Trenberth and Caron 2001).”

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New Paper “A Model Investigation Of Aerosol-Induced Changes In Tropical Circulation” By Ming and Ramaswamy 2011

In our paper

Matsui, T., and R.A. Pielke Sr., 2006: Measurement-based estimation of the spatial gradient of aerosol radiative forcing. Geophys. Res. Letts., 33, L11813, doi:10.1029/2006GL025974

we reported that the heterogeneous character of aerosol forcing (in terms of the horizontal pressure gradient force) of atmospheric circulations was significantly larger than from the more homogeneous forcing from added greenhouse gases.

There is an important new model process study paper which confirms our finding, and examines this effect in more detail. It is

Yi Ming and V. Ramaswamy, 2011. A Model Investigation of Aerosol-induced Changes in Tropical Circulation. J of Climate (in press)

with the abstract (highlight added)

We study how anthropogenic aerosols, alone or in conjunction with radiatively active gases, affect the tropical circulation with an atmosphere/mixed layer ocean general circulation model. Aerosol-induced cooling gives rise to a substantial increase in the overall strength of the tropical circulation, a robust outcome consistent with a thermodynamical scaling argument. Owing to the interhemispheric asymmetry in aerosol forcing, the zonal-mean and zonally asymmetrical components of the tropical circulation respond differently. The Hadley circulation weakens in the Northern Hemisphere, but strengthens in the Southern Hemisphere. The resulting northward cross-equatorial moist static energy flux compensates partly for the aerosol radiative cooling in the Northern Hemisphere. In contrast, the less restricted zonally asymmetrical circulation does not show sensitivity to the spatial structure of aerosols, and strengthens in both hemispheres. Our results also point to the possible role of aerosols in driving the observed reduction in the equatorial sea level pressure gradient. These circulation changes have profound implications for the hydrological cycle. We find that aerosols alone make the subtropical dry zones in both hemispheres wetter, as the local hydrological response is controlled thermodynamically by atmospheric moisture content. The deep tropical rainfall undergoes a dynamically induced southward shift, a robust pattern consistent with the adjustments in the zonal-mean circulation and in the meridional moist static energy transport. Less certain is the magnitude of the shift. The nonlinearity exhibited by the combined hydrological response to aerosols and radiatively active gases is dynamical in nature.”

The paper starts with the text

“Although much remains to be done to gain a more definitive understanding of the climate effects of aerosols (radiative and microphysical alike) (e.g., Forster et al. 2007), it has been widely accepted that aerosol cooling “masked”, on the global scale, a considerable fraction of greenhouse gas warming since the preindustrial times (e.g., Hegerl et al. 2007). Unlike well mixed greenhouse gases, the spatial distributions of aerosols are highly non-uniform owing to inhomogeneous emission sources and short lifetimes (on the order of days).This basic recognition leads one to speculate that aerosols may be more capable of altering atmosphericand oceanic circulation, especially on the regional scale, than greenhouse gases.”

The excellent Ming and Ramaswamy paper also support our conclusion in

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

that the IPCC hypothesis

“Although the natural causes of climate variations and changes are undoubtedly important, the human influences are significant and are dominated by the emissions into the atmosphere of greenhouse gases, the most important of which is CO2. The adverse impact of these gases on regional and global climate constitutes the primary climate issue for the coming decades”

should be rejected. The only hypothesis that is scientifically robust is

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.

As we wrote in our paper

“In addition to greenhouse gas emissions, other first-order human climate forcings are important to understanding the future behavior of Earth’s climate. These forcings are spatially heterogeneous and include the effect of aerosols on clouds and associated precipitation [e.g., Rosenfeld et al., 2008]…..”

With the new Ming and Ramaswamy paper, we are even more confident of our findings reported in the Pielke et al 2009 EOS paper.

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