Monthly Archives: February 2012

Biological Aerosol Particles Are A Larger Climate Forcing Than Considered By The IPCC – A New Paper “Primary Biological Aerosol Particles In The Atmosphere: A Review” By Després Et al 2012

I was alerted to this new paper by M. Andreae. It presents evidence of yet another climate forcing which has not been adequately examined in the IPCC reports. It makes understanding climate processes even more difficult. The new paper is

Després, V. R., Huffman, J. A., Burrows, S. M., Hoose, C., Safatov, A. S., Buryak, G., Fröhlich-Nowoisky, J., Elbert, W., Andreae, M. O., Pöschl, U., and Jaenicke, R., Primary biological aerosol particles in the atmosphere: a review: Tellus, 64, 1-58, 2012.

The abstract reads [highlight added]

Atmospheric aerosol particles of biological origin are a very diverse group of biological materials and structures, including microorganisms, dispersal units, fragments and excretions of biological organisms. In recent years, the impact of biological aerosol particles on atmospheric processes has been studied with increasing intensity, and a wealth of new information and insights has been gained. This review outlines the current knowledge on major categories of primary biological aerosol particles (PBAP): bacteria and archaea, fungal spores and fragments, pollen, viruses, algae and cyanobacteria, biological crusts and lichens and others like plant or animal fragments and detritus. We give an overview of sampling methods and physical, chemical and biological techniques for PBAP analysis (cultivation, microscopy, DNA/RNA analysis, chemical tracers, optical and mass spectrometry, etc.). Moreover, we address and summarise the current understanding and open questions concerning the influence of PBAP on the atmosphere and climate, i.e. their optical properties and their ability to act as ice nuclei (IN) or cloud condensation nuclei (CCN). We suggest that the following research activities should be pursued in future studies of atmospheric biological aerosol particles: (1) develop efficient and reliable analytical techniques for the identification and quantification of PBAP; (2) apply advanced and standardised techniques to determine the abundance and diversity of PBAP and their seasonal variation at regional and global scales (atmospheric biogeography); (3) determine the emission rates, optical properties, IN and CCN activity of PBAP in field measurements and laboratory experiments; (4) use field and laboratory data to constrain numerical models of atmospheric transport, transformation and climate effects of PBAP.”

Key extracts from this paper include

“[the] global average number concentrations of biological particles have often been assumed to be insignificant compared to non-biological material and have thus not typically been considered for widespread measurements or included in global climate models. The Third Assessment Report (TAR) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2001, for example, listed the global source strength of primary biological aerosol particles to be only 56 Tg/yr, in contrast to 3340 Tg/yr for sea salt and 2150 Tg/yr for mineral dust listed in the same report (Penner et al., 2001). Furthermore, the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC in 2007 stated that these estimates had not been refined, and primary biological particles were not mentioned in the contribution of Working Group I (Physical Science Basis) to the overall report (IPCC 2007b). PBAP concentrations have been estimated by other researchers (e.g. Matthias- Maser and Jaenicke, 1995) as comprising a much higher percentage of total atmospheric aerosol volume, however, and so important discrepancies exist.”

Recently, several investigations have suggested that biological particles can have a substantial influence on clouds and precipitation and thus may influence the hydrological cycle and climate at least on regional scales (e.g. Andreae and Rosenfeld, 2008; Prenni et al., 2009; Poschl et al., 2010).”

“The absorption and scattering of radiation by aerosol particles are important physical properties that influence regional and global radiation budgets. Better understanding of the effect that natural aerosols have on the atmosphere is necessary to constrain effects that anthropogenic influence may have on global climate. Because PBAP can be a major fraction of aerosol number and surface area in certain locations, it is possible that they may also affect climate forcing both directly (by absorbing or scattering radiation) and indirectly (through cloud processes). Certain fungal spores and other PBAP classes can be highly coloured and absorbing, which may increase their direct influence on the surrounding atmosphere (e.g. Adams et al., 1968; Troutt and Levetin, 2001). However, there have been very few studies estimating the direct effect of PBAP on climate, in part because geographically or temporally comprehensive PBAP measurements are not yet available. A theoretical description of the interaction between electromagnetic radiation and PBAP is difficult because the Mie theory is only valid for spheres, and thus many biological aerosol particles cannot be well described (Bohren and Huffman, 1983).”

One of the main influences of PBAP on climate and atmosphere is through the capability of certain PBAP to function as excellent ice nuclei. Future research should thus concentrate on the determination of actual emission rates and optical properties of PBAP and to link results from laboratory experiments concerning the IN ability of PBAP to atmospheric measurements.”

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Filed under Climate Change Forcings & Feedbacks

An Example Of The Reasons That Skillful Multi-Decadal Predictions Of Climate Change Has Not Been Achieved – “Long Tails In Regional Surface Temperature Probability Distributions With Implications For Extremes Under Global Warming” By Ruff and Neelin 2012

The recognition that the models need to skillfully predict changes in the statistics of climate variables (and they have not in hindcasts), if properly recognized by the IPCC impacts assessment group, would have major implications. So far they have mostly ignored this issue when seeking to convince people as to why the multi-decadal regional and global modal predictions should be considered robust.

Jos de Laat has alerted us to a new paper which addresses part of this issue. While the article contains the usual acceptance of the multi-decadal model predictions as robust, their paper actually illustrates why the models have so far not passed this test. The models have not passed this test. The paper is

Ruff, T. W., and J. D. Neelin (2012), Long tails in regional surface temperature probability distributions with implications for extremes under global warming, Geophys. Res. Lett., 39, L04704, doi:10.1029/2011GL050610.

The abstract reads [highlight added]

“Prior work has shown that probability distributions of column water vapor and several passive tropospheric chemical tracers exhibit longer-than-Gaussian (approximately exponential) tails. The tracer-advection prototypes explaining the formation of these long-tailed distributions motivate
exploration of observed surface temperature distributions for non-Gaussian tails. Stations with long records in various climate regimes in the National Climatic Data Center Global Surface Summary of Day observations are used to examine tail characteristics for daily average, maximum and minimum surface temperature probability distributions. Each is examined for departures from a Gaussian fit to the core (here approximated as the portion of the distribution exceeding 30% of the maximum). While the core conforms to Gaussian for most distributions, roughly half the cases exhibit non-Gaussian tails in both winter and summer seasons. Most of these are asymmetric, with a long, roughly exponential, tail on only one side. The shape of the tail has substantial implications for potential changes in extreme event occurrences under global warming. Here the change in the probability of exceeding a given threshold temperature is quantified in the simplest case of a shift in the present-day observed distribution. Surface temperature distributions with long tails have a much smaller change in threshold exceedances (smaller increases for high-side and smaller decreases for low-side exceedances relative to exceedances in current climate) under a given warming than do near-Gaussian distributions. This implies that models used to estimate changes in extreme event occurrences due to global warming should be verified regionally for accuracy of simulations of probability distribution tails.”

The conclusion of the paper has the text

“The sensitive dependence of tail characteristics on regional effects noted here suggests that it will be (i) useful to understand the physical mechanisms that produce them (including the observed asymmetry, and the sources of regional dependence); and (ii) essential to verify whether high-resolution models accurately reproduce observed tail characteristics for any region for which an assessment of extreme events is being conducted. A model that has an error in the nature of the tail, e.g., erroneously produces a Gaussian rather than a long tail under current climate for a particular region, will likely have serious errors in quantitatively predicting the increase in exceedances under future climate.”

As we wrote in our article

Pielke Sr., R.A., and R.L. Wilby, 2012: Regional climate downscaling – what’s the point? Eos Forum,  93, No. 5, 52-53, doi:10.1029/2012EO050008.

“….for regional downscaling (and global) models to add value (beyond what is available to the impacts community via the historical, recent paleorecord and a worst case sequence of days), they must be able to skillfully predict changes in regional weather statistics in response to human climate forcings. This is a greater challenge than even skillfully simulating current weather statistics.”

The new Ruff and Neelin 2012 provide support for this conclusion.

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Bob Tisdale’s Book “If the IPCC was Selling Global Warming as a Product, Would the FTC Stop Their Deceptive Ads?”

Bob Tisdale has published a book based on his insightful weblog posts, titled and available from

If the IPCC was Selling Global Warming as a Product, Would the FTC Stop Their Deceptive Ads?

His book is discussed at Watts Up With That and on Bob’s weblog.

I have a copy of his book and recommend it. Even if you do not agree with some (or even all) of his findings, he has provided information as to how to access the original data in order to do your own analysis in Chapter 9 titled

Basic Instructions for Downloading Climate Data and Creating Graphs

We need more such competent scientific presentations where the authors present details as to how to access the raw data, in this case by using the KNMI Climate Explorer, as well as to complete analyses using that data such as Bob has done. I also encourage Bob to pursue submitting his work to peer-reviewed journals.

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Guest Post By Madhav Khandekar – “Record Grain Yield Estimated By Indian PM For 2011/12”

Madhav Khandekar requested posting the following information on Indian agriculture

Record Grain Yield estimated by Indian PM for 2011/12 by Madhav Khandekar

India’s PM Mr Manmohan Singh announced in New Delhi on February 20th that India expects a record grain yield of about 250 Million tonnes for the agricultural year 2011/12. The PM was addressing the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the ICAR-Indian Centre for Agricultural Research, a Government funded research center which has provided innovative techniques in recent years in helping boost agricultural products across the breadth and depth of India.  As the news item further states ‘ Indian agriculturists have also boosted production of fruits, vegetables, milk and cotton  in this year. The production of pulses (beans and related proteins) has also gone up by 18 Million tonnes”

It may be noted that India is primarily a “vegetarian country” with a large majority of people eating mostly vegetarian food, with inclusion of occasional meat products like chicken, lamb/goat or beef. Coastal regions like the State of Kerala in southwest and Bengal in east are “fish-eaters’, mostly ‘fresh-water’ fish in Bengal and salt-water ( sea) fish in Kerala.

The record grain yield may be attributed to well-distributed Monsoon (June-September) rains, two years in a row 2010 and 2011. It may be recalled that the 2009 Monsoon season was a severe drought, primarily due to the El Niño in the equatorial Pacific. The drought was also exacerbated due to other factors like heavier Eurasian winter snow cover and unfavourable positioning of the IOD-Indian Ocean Dipole in the equatorial Indian Ocean (Francis & Gadgil, Current Science, 2009). In contrast, the ongoing La Niña since early 2010 and a favorable positioning of IOD for 2011 has led to well-distributed rains in the last two monsoon seasons. Also increased winter rains in the northwest ( more frequent WD-Western Disturbances, mid-latitude low pressure systems percolating through Himalayan Passes in the west) region of Punjab has helped improved winter wheat yields in recent years.

In summary, well-distributed rains due to prevailing La Niña and favorable IOD has helped produce record grain, fruit and vegetable yield for India for 2011/12. The IPCC science has not adequately analyzed impact of well-distributed (summer and winter) rains on grain fruit and vegetable yield, especially in the monsoonal climate of south Asia.

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Filed under Guest Weblogs, Vulnerability Paradigm

E-Mail Interaction With Chris Colose Of The University Of Albany (SUNY)

Chris Colose of the University of Wisconsin  [Chris e-mailed this afternoon 2/24/2012] and said he is currently at the University of Albany (SUNY)]. Chris had  alerted me to a post that he presented on Skeptical Science titled

Tropical Thermostats and Global Warming

He invited me to participate there, but I declined based on my previous negative experience with the lack of open constructive debate at Skeptical Science. With Chris’s permission, I am posting below our exchange of e-mails and at the end he has answered a set of questions I posed to him. I appreciate his agreement to constructively interact even though we have quite substantive disagreements in views.

On Thu, 16 Feb 2012, Colose, Chris wrote:

Roger Pielke,

In response to the WUWT article (and your embracement of it) on the tropical thermostat see,

In case you would like to contribute to the discussion…


I replied

 Hi Chris

Thank you for alerting me to their post. My experience with Skeptical Science (as I have documented extensively on my weblog) is they are not really interested in a constructive debate. I have given up trying with them.

I presented several papers that show evidence of self-regulation (each in the peer reviewed literature), and that is where the debate really needs to take place.

P.S. Skeptical Science never even responded to my request for their answers to these two questions:

1. Is global warming (and cooling) a subset of climate change or does    it dominate climate change?

2.  What evidence exists that the multi-decadal global climate models    can skillfully predict i) the real-world observed behaviour of    large-scale atmospheric-ocean circulation features such as ENSO, the    NAO, the PDO, ect. and ii) CHANGES in the statistics (patterning and    in time) of these circulation features?

I posted on this in

The questions would challenge them too much, I assume, so they have ignored them.


On Thu, 16 Feb 2012, Colose, Chris wrote:


Please keep in mind that SkS is run by multiple authors, each of which have their own specific interests and topics of choice that they post on.  Personally I am not very active on the site, but I don’t have my own blog running anymore so it’s a good place for me to post an article if I feel inclined to do so.

The posts are largely voluntary, in which people submit what they feel are worthwhile articles for internal review and after suggestions/edits, it would get published. If someone seen your challenge, then they may have felt compelled to write on it (I’ve not seen any indication that they were aware of your post, but again, I’m inactive there for large intervals of time and don’t check the “authors only” forums frequently)…one of the moderators would be a better contact for this.  I personally am not really interested enough in inter-blog “challenges” of this sort.

All I intended to convey to you was my post on the Willis Eschenbach tropical thermostat, and your follow-up to it. And I would respond to comments in the form of discussion/debate on that article independently of how other authors would.


I responded with

Hi Chris

I was in direct contact with one of their contributors – Rob Honeycutt where we exchanged a number of e-mails. He said they would respond to my questions (this was months ago) and they never did. I had an extensive interchange with commenters and presenters on the weblog last year (these exchanges are summarized in detail on my website).

My conclusion of their weblog is that it is a place for the “convinced” to vent their views and, for some, disparage those who do not (e.g. see their small links on the upper left of their weblog home page – Christy Crocks. ect). To my knowledge, most people do not pay any attention to their weblog because of their tone and arrogance in some of their posts, and certainly in their comments.  Rob was cordial and we constructively interacted in our e-mail exchanges but this approach is not a general case for a number of others on that weblog.

Because of your interest (and your alerting me to your post), however, I will post on the self-regulation issue later next week on my weblog. It is actually quite easy to show this self-regulation exists, at least to some extent, if one accepts the IPCC radiative forcings as being reasonably accurate.

As a side issue, you might be interested in these several new papers of ours

Pielke Sr., R.A., R. Wilby, D. Niyogi, F. Hossain, K. Dairuku, J. Adegoke, G. Kallos, T. Seastedt, and K. Suding, 2012: Dealing with complexity and extreme events using a bottom-up, resource-based vulnerability perspective. AGU Monograph on Complexity and Extreme Events in Geosciences, in press.

Pielke Sr., R.A., and R.L. Wilby, 2012: Regional climate downscaling . what’s the point? Eos Forum. Jan 31 2012 issue

Pielke Sr., R.A., A. Pitman, D. Niyogi, R. Mahmood, C. McAlpine, F. Hossain, K. Goldewijk, U. Nair, R. Betts, S. Fall, M. Reichstein, P. Kabat, and N. de Noblet-Ducoudré, 2011: Land use/land cover changes and climate: Modeling analysis and observational evidence. WIREs Clim Change 2011, 2:828.850. doi: 10.1002/wcc.144.

I would also welcome your answers to the two questions posed in my earlier e-mail, which I would be glad to post on my weblog (and you can repost elsewhere as you see appropriate).

Best Regards


Then Chris resplied and I have posted it and my comments together (which I sent back to him) in the following (with very minor edits for formating). I have presented my comments with italics to better distinguish them from Chris’s comments.

Hi Chris

As promised, please see my replies below. Do I have your permission to post our e-mail exchanges?

Best Regards


Chris’s reply 

On Thu, 16 Feb 2012, Colose, Chris wrote:


I appreciate your concern, and if I could run SkS it would probably be in a different fashion than they do now, but for the most part I think they try to be consistent with the general scientific literature (and I certainly try to do so in my posts, and to mention various viewpoints when it be relevant).


My Comment: The issue of “relevancy” is quite subjective and SkS clearly has an advocacy perspective.

Chris continues:

You’ll see that I mentioned many older articles relating to the tropical thermostat hypothesis, but the fact is that this is now an outdated concept in the literature, and the analysis of Eschenbach is certainly not “new” as you implied in your title. Even if some negative feedbacks exist to dampen climate sensitivity beneath the IPCC range, the ideas in the WUWT article (and going back to Ramanathan and Collins) would, if taken literally, mean temperatures in the tropics could not change much at all.  This has been shown by a number of papers to have no basis in physics.  The Sun and Zhang study sheds no light on this, and in fact their results may not even be highly applicable to future global warming (and actually there’s been a few CMIP5 models that do quite well with this problem).

My CommentPlease send the papers that refute the findings of Sun. Their results also directly relate to the multi-decadal climate prediction issue, as one has his results are on climate processes, which are an integral component of the longer term climate variability. You also did not even discuss the self regulation of the coldest arctic tropospheric temperatures that we discuss in the papers I alerted you to.

On showing that the radiative imbalance involves a negative feedback (which means there is a self regulation of this aspect of the climate system), if one accepts the net radiative forcing given in the Statement of Policymakers of the 2007 IPCC report, the actual observed radiative imbalance is significantly less.

I have discussed this issue often on my weblog; e.g. see

Climate Metric Reality Check #1 . The Sum Of Climate Forcings and Feedbacks Is Less Than The 2007 IPCC Best Estimate Of Human Climate Forcing Of Global Warming

Why We Need Estimates Of The Current Global Average Radiative Forcing

Chris continues:

Hurley and Galewsky 2010 showed that the ENSO humidity change tend to relate more to where air is dehydrated, owing to the dynamics, rather than changes in the temperature field (see also the Dessler and Wong paper on ENSO vs Global warming water vapor feedback simualtions)- you cannot make up your conclusion about what you think their results show for for future radiative-changes just because they have no data for it!.

My Comment: I am unclear what you are using these papers to show in terms of our discussion. Clearly, the Sun work is on a climate process, and he shows that the models are inaccurate in terms of how it is represented in the models. The real world, using ENSO events, has a limit on how warm the ocean SSTs become when cloud-precipitation-ocean feedbacks are included. It should come as no surprise that the IPCC type models do so badly; e.g. see

Stephens, G. L., T. L.Ecuyer, R. Forbes, A. Gettlemen, J..C. Golaz, A. Bodas.Salcedo, K. Suzuki, P. Gabriel, and J. Haynes (2010), Dreary state of precipitation in global models, J. Geophys. Res., 115, D24211, doi:10.1029/2010JD014532.,2010,stephens

Chris continues:

You do not allow comments on your blog, and the subject in the WUWT article is pretty exhausted in the literature, so I seen no other appropriate venue for discussion than to invite you to SkS.  But evidently you tend to be just as biased as others in the papers you present and your interpretation of them, so there’s really no point in arguing how we like various blogs.

My Comment:  I did try to debate on SkS and found that the tone was inappropriate for such exchanges (and posted on this; e.g. see

Response To Skeptical Science On A Series Of Weblog Posts

Two Questions To Skeptical Science Regarding i) The Relation of Global Warming To Climate Change and ii) The Predictive Skill Of Multi-Decadal Global Climate Models

The subject of the limit on the tropical SSTs is hardly a closed debate as illustrated by the Sun work as well as that of Stephens.

I also permit the presentation of alternative viewpoints on my weblog, and you certainly are invited to do that. I would then invite other climate scientists to respond is guest weblog posts.

Chris continues:

As far as your ‘challenge,’ I have let the rest of the SkS team know about it, so I will leave it to them to sort out who (if any) would like to do a post on it.  It’s really not of high interest to me.  Your first question has the obvious answer that global temperature is not the only thing important for the more broadly encompassing “climate change,” but I think it is a much more useful diagnostic than you do in that other variables (such as water vapor content, decrease in cold days, etc) follow suit with temperature anomalies, and most regions of the globe follow suit with the global-scale radiative forcing (with the usual caveat that there are heterogenities in how that response is distributed in space).

My Comment:  You avoided properly answering the first question. To rephrase, how do you define “climate forcings” and what are the first order human climate forcings that matter to society and the environment?

To provide a framework for you to respond, please let me know where you disagree with the fundings 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.

Chris continues:

I appreciate that you have a number of minority views on the relative importance of forcings, or the useful diagnostics we should pursue to gauge the response, but you have not convinced me that they are correct (or at least not being looked at by a number of other groups).

My Comment:  Please show me where the IPCC discusses these other forcings in their 2007 Statement for Policymakers.

Chris continues:

On the second question, I do not have expertise concerning how models have evolved over time and how up-to-date CMIP5 generation models represent, quantitatively, the degree of internal variability observed in the climate system, or how that skill varies across the models.  My impression is that the question itself is rather broad; I appreciate most blogs talk about “models” as if the whole discipline were one giant monolith, and they could all be categorized as “useful” or “not useful” independent of the timescale, variable, and statistic of interest,. However, the fact is it would take a report to delve into the question you pose with any justice.  Similarly, it would take a while to convincingly caveat the relevance of this to, say, attribution or climate sensitivity issues that I suspect most non-specialists are interested in.  For instance, it is well recognized that ENSO projections on multi-decadal timescales in a higher CO2 world are all over the place, which is problematic, but unclear to me how that would relate to the subject of attribution or sensitivity.

My Comment:  The second question I asked

2.  What evidence exists that the multi-decadal global climate models can skillfully predict i) the real-world observed behaviour of    large-scale atmospheric-ocean circulation features such as ENSO, the    NAO, the PDO, ect. and ii) CHANGES in the statistics (patterning and    in time) of these circulation features?

is fundamental to almost everything the IPCC models must do if they want to provide forecasts to the impacts community that have skill. I am surprised that you have not delved into this issue. If I am correct, the money being spent on the multi-decadal IPCC-type forecasts for the impact community is not only a waste, but is misleading policymakers. If you are just blindly accepting their impact (regional/local) results as robust, than I see a major source of our disagreement.

I welcome articles from you that show the IPCC models have skill on the multi-decadal time periods. Until you (or others) do, all the IPCC-type models can tell us is that the climate system is sensitive to the addition of CO2, other greenhouse gases, aerosols and land use/land cover change. We do not need a multi-hundred million dollar modeling program to provide regional and local impact scenarios when the models have shown no skill at doing this on multi-decadal time scales (even when run in a hindcast mode).

I look forward to your responses.

Chris Replied

Roger (you may post this correspondence if you wish),

1) Whether there is or is not work refuting Sun is irrelevant.  My point is that you have over-reached and have overextended the conclusions of the Sun study, well beyond what is justified.  The conclusions in the blog post by Eschenbach (and earlier studies by Ramanthan and Collins for example) make a specific claim of a maximum SST independent of solar or greenhouse forcing.  The feedbacks to ENSO have no clear relation to this whatsoever. Third party readers can judge this for themselves.

My Comment:  Sun’s research is not claiming that SSTs are independent of solar or greenhouse forcing. What he does show is that when the SSTs warm or cool, there is a negative feedback due to clouds and precipitation which results in a movement back to the original SSTs.  This is a self regulation mechanism, and would be applicable to any change in the tropical ocean SSTs, at least in the Pacific.

2) I do not believe you understand the difference between a ‘radiative forcing’ and the modeled ‘radiative imbalance’ of Hansen.  These numbers are not directly comparable .

My Comment:  The radiative imbalance = the radiative forcing + the radiative feedback.  If the radiative imbalance is less than the radiative forcing, the radiative feedbacks must be negative.

3) I fully agree that models need improvement on regional-scale hydrologic variables.  Your pointing this out is just moving the goal posts to the other side of the field; please remember I e-mailed you about my response to the original Eschenbach blog post.

My Comment:  You failed to adequately answer the question. The multi-decadal climate model predictions fail to skillfully predict changes in regional climate statistics in hindcasts.  This is a necessary condition for them to have any credibility to skillfully predict regional impacts in coming decades due to the combined effect of natural and human climate forcings and feedbacks.  The goalposts have not been moved. The regional climate predictions have not even made the cut to properly play the game.

4) My version of a “climate forcing” is the same as the “radiative forcing” definition widely used in the literature, though I recognize (as does IPCC) that non-radiative influences exist with respect to land cover changes (i.e., changes in evapo-transpiration or roughness, which are typically of opposite sign as the albedo response, and have very small impact on global mean temperature, but large regional changes).  I would consider the “first order” climate forcings over the 20th century to be LLGHG’s (primarily CO2 and methane) as well as aerosols, in the sense that the time-evolution of global mean temperature in the last 50 years or so can be roughly accounted for by the evolution of these two components.  Regionally, this may not be true.

My Comment:  Your narrow view of climate forcing is untenable as we show 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.

As we show in that article, the focus on just CO2 and methane as the causes of climate change is a rejected hypothesis.  Indeed, if it was this simple, it would make the prediction of changes in the frequency of such societally important events such as droughts, floods and tropical cyclones much easier.

5) Once again, I defer you to a modeling expert on the precise details of how models capture various variables and statistics, over what timeframes they do better or worse, and how that usefulness varies across models.  I have only delved into this in a shallow manner, but your questions to me are rather broad, nor do I get a sense that the modeling community has sold their results as more certain than is warranted.

My Comment:   I urge you to explore this issue. If you are going to state that “the time-evolution of global mean temperature in the last 50 years or so can be roughly accounted for by the evolution of these two components”, you should  i) provide an explanation for the muted increase in global average temperatures over the past decade or so, and ii) how does this translate to the ability to skillfully predict changes in the frequency of extreme events?

Finally, thank you for constructively interacting on these issues. I hope you can challenge your thinking on this subject.

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Filed under Guest Weblogs, Q & A on Climate Science

A Proposal “Comparison Of GHCN Temperature Anomalies And Trends With Long Term Fluxnet Temperature Anomalies And Trends”

We [Markus Reichstein and I] have been unsucessful in obtaining funding for the proposal below, so I have posted to encourage others to pursue it. It builds on the issue of station siting quality that we discuss in 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.,  116, D14120, doi:10.1029/2010JD015146.Copyright (2011) American Geophysical Union.

A Proposal 

The comparison of GHCN temperature anomalies and trends with long term Fluxnet temperature anomalies and trends

The Global Historical Climate Reference Network [GHCN] is the foundation for the land portion of the annual average multi-decadal global surface temperature trends [; Peterson et al 1998; Karl et al, 2006]. This temperature data is assumed to be robust with respect to assessing anomalies and long term trends, as reported, for example, by Parker (2004).

However, there have been questions raised with respect to the existence of systematic biases in the data due to the local landscape around the observing sies, as well as a need to attribute what fraction of the anomalies and long term trends are due to added CO2 and other greenhouse gases, aerosols and landscape change [e.g. Mahmood et al 2010].

This need to further examine the quantitative robustness of this land surface temperature data was highlighted at the 2010 Exeter meeting –  Surface temperature datasets for the 21st Century . For example, Matt Menne, Claude Williams and Jay Lawrimore reported that

“[GHCN Monthly]Version 2 [was] released in 1997….but without station histories for stations outside the USA)”


“Undocumented changes [in the USHCN] can be as prevalent as documented changes even when extensive (digitized) metadata are available”.

There is also a growing divergence between multi-decadal lower tropospheric temperature trends and surface temperature trends [Klotzbach et al, 2009, 2010), a  need to simultaneously assess long term temperature and humidity trends (i.e. moist enthalpy; e.g. see Fall et al, 2010), and of the determination of specific landscape in which the temperature measurements are made and how this effects the absolute humidity and dry bulb temperature (e.g. see Fall et al 2009).

This debate is overviewed in Pielke et al (2007,2009) and Parker et al (2009). At FLUXNET sites a recent related study has shown the contrasting behavior of forest and grassland sites in terms of radiative, sensible and latent energy fluxes during heatwaves (Teuling et al. 2010). This study also showed the potential of remote sensing (e.g. land surface temperatures) in this context.

The fundamental questions include:

  • What is the role of the local landscape in the immediate vicinity of the GHCN sites on long term temperature trends? Fall et al (2010) has found that poorly sited locations in the USA (i.e. those that are not representative of the larger scale region) have biases in averaged maximum and minimum temperatures and in diurnal range.
  • What is the importance of anomalies and multi-decadal trends in absolute humidity on the anomalies and multi-decadal trends in the dry bulb temperature?  Pielke et al 2004 discussed how the same trends in heat (moist enthalpy) can be accommodated by a variety of different trends in humidity and temperature.  Land use-land cover change clearly can influence both.
  • What is the role of landscape type on temperature (and moist enthalpy) on anomalies and long term trends? Diffenbaugh et al 2009, for example, found statistically significant cooling in areas of the Great Plains where crop/mixed farming has replaced short grass, areas of the Midwest and southern Texas where crop/mixed farming has replaced interrupted forest, and areas of the western United States containing irrigated crops.

The long term measurements at the Fluxnet sites provide an opportunity to assess the quantitative the spatial representiveness of anomalies and long term trends in sites within the GHCN network that are close to Fluxnet sites. At the FLUXNET sites air temperature and humidity are measured together with energy and carbon fluxes in the boundary layer above the vegetation canopy at half-hourly time-step. In the most recent standardized collection, the La-Thuille 2007 data set, there are around 950 site-years containing observations from a total of 253 sites (documented and available subject to specific use-policies at The FLUXNET network has the highest density of sites in Europe and North America, but data from all other continents are available as well. Information on the exact instrument and configuration for temperature and humidity measurements is not generally available. External data which is available to characterize the landscape context include images from Google at a maximum of five resolutions (at some remote sites the highest resolution is not available) (Reichstein pers comm.), Visual Earth ( and MODIS cutouts (ORNL DAAC). Some sites but not many also have webcams installed, but those are not in the current data set.

Figure 1:  Distribution of FLUXNET sites within the LaThuile database (A) in geographical space, (B) in simplified climate space. In (A) maps colors code mean annual temperature (CRU) according to legend. Grey are area which are not covered by FLUXNET sites in terms of climate space (climate space distance threshold). In (A) and (B) symbol represent land cover classes as in the legend of (B) . (from Reichstein et al. in prep.)

Our proposal is to compare the anomalies and long term trends in dry bulb temperature and absolute humidity at the Fluxnet sites with GHCN measurements of these quantities sites that are in the vicinity of the Fluxnet locations. The sensible, latent and radiative fluxes at the Fluxnet sites can be used to explain the observed anomalies and trends.

Among the research questions are:

  • Are there statistically different anomalies and trends between the Fluxnet and GHCN nearly collocated sites? Do they occur predominantly during specific synoptic situations?
  • If so, what is the reason for the differences? Can a landscape type component be used to explain some or all of the differences?

Photographs of the GHCN sites that are used for these comparisons need to be obtained, as has been completed for the USHCN (see Watts, 2009).


Diffenbaugh, N. S., 2009:Influence of modern land cover on the climate of the United States. Climate Dynamics. DOI 10.1007/s00382-009-0566-z

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.

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.

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.,  116, D14120, doi:10.1029/2010JD015146.Copyright (2011) American Geophysical Union.

Thomas R. Karl, Susan J. Hassol, Christopher D. Miller, and William L. Murray, editors, 2006. Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere: Steps for Understanding and Reconciling Differences. A Report by the Climate Change Science Program and the Subcommittee on Global Change Research, Washington, DC.

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:10.1029/2009JD01365

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

Parker, D. E. (2004), Climate: Large-scale warming is not urban, Nature, 432, 290(18 November 2004); doi:10.1038/432290a.

Parker, D. E., P. Jones, T. C. Peterson, and J. Kennedy (2009), Comment on ‘Unresolved Issues with the Assessment of Multi-Decadal Global Land Surface Temperature Trends’ by Roger A. Pielke, Sr. et al., J. Geophys. Res., doi:10.1029/2008JD010450

Reichstein, M., Papale, D., Baldocchi, D. et al. (in prep). A new global harmonized eddy covariance data set from FLUXNET: uncertainties, limitations and robust global patterns

Teuling A.J., Seneviratne S.I., Stöckli R., Reichstein M., Moors E., Ciais P., Luyssaert S., van den Hurk B., Ammann C., Bernhofer C., Dellwik E., Gianelle D., Gielen B., Grünwald T., Klumpp K., Montagnani L., Moureaux C., Sottocornola M. & Wohlfahrt G. (2010) Contrasting response of European forest and grassland energy exchange to heatwaves. Nature Geoscience, doi:10.1038/ngeo950

Thomas C. Peterson, Russell Vose, Richard Schmoyer, Vyachevslav Razuvaëv, 1998:  Global historical climatology network (GHCN) quality control of monthly temperature data DOI: 10.1002/(SICI)1097-0088(199809)18:11<1169::AID-JOC309>3.0.CO;2-U

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

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.

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.

Watts, A. 2009: Is the U.S. Surface Temperature Record Reliable? 28 pages, March 2009 The Heartland Institute.

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A Climate Science Post On September 4 2011 Involving Peter Gleick

On September 4 2011 I posted

Hatchet Job On John Christy and Roy Spencer By Kevin Trenberth, John Abraham and Peter Gleick

I have reposted below since the recent behavior (e.g. see) of Peter Gleick, co-founder and president of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security in Oakland, California,  involving the Heartland Institute is just another example of the often vitriolic and unseemly behavior by some to discredit what are appropriate alternative viewpoints on the climate issue.  Unfortunately, the action towards the Heartland Institute displayed by Peter Gleick is just another example of an attitude of a significant number of individuals in the leadership of the climate science community.

Original Post of September 4 2011

There is an opinion article at Daily Climate that perpetuates serious misunderstandings regarding the research of Roy Spencer and John Christy. It also is an inappropriate (and unwarranted) person attack on their professional integrity. Since I have first hand information on this issue, I am using my weblog to document the lack of professional decorum by Keven Trenberth, John Abraham and Peter Gleick.

The inappropriate article I am referring to is

Opinion: The damaging impact of Roy Spencer’s science

published on the Daily Climate on September 2 2011. The article is by Kevin Trenberth, John Abraham, and Peter Gleick.

Their headline reads

In his bid to cast doubts on the seriousness of climate change, University of Alabama’s Roy Spencer creates a media splash but claims a journal’s editor-in-chief.

The science doesn’t hold up.

I am reproducing the text of the article below with my comments inserted.

The text of their article starts with [highlights added]

The widely publicized paper by Roy Spencer and Danny Braswell, published in the journal Remote Sensing in July, has seen a number of follow-ups and repercussions.

Unfortunately this is not the first time the science conducted by Roy Spencer and colleagues has been found lacking. The latest came Friday in a remarkable development, when the journal’s editor-in-chief, Wolfgang Wagner, submitted his resignation and apologized for the paper.

As we noted on when the paper was published, the hype surrounding Spencer’s and Braswell’s paper was impressive; unfortunately the paper itself was not. Remote Sensing is a fine journal for geographers, but it does not deal much with atmospheric and climate science, and it is evident that this paper did not get an adequate peer review. It should have received an honest vetting.

My Comment:

The claim that a journal on remote sensing, which publishes paper on the climate system “but…does not deal much with atmospheric and climate science”, is not climate science is obviously incorrect.  This trivialization of the journal in this manner illustrates the inappropriately narrow view of the climate system by the authors.  That the paper “should have received an honest vetting”, I assume means that they or their close colleagues should have reviewed it (and presumably recommended rejection).

The Trenberth et al text continues

Friday that truth became apparent. Kevin Trenberth received a personal note of apology from both the editor-in-chief and the publisher of Remote Sensing. Wagner took this unusual and admirable step after becoming aware of the paper’s serious flaws. By resigning publicly in an editorial posted online, Wagner hopes that at least some of this damage can be undone.

My Comment:

My son has posted on this (see). I agree; for Kevin Trenberth to receive an apology is quite bizarre.

Their text continues

Unfortunately this is not the first time the science conducted by Roy Spencer and colleagues has been found lacking.

Spencer, a University of Alabama, Huntsville, climatologist, and his colleagues have a history of making serious technical errors in their effort to cast doubt on the seriousness of climate change. Their errors date to the mid-1990s, when their satellite temperature record reportedly showed the lower atmosphere was cooling. As obvious and serious errors in that analysis were made public, Spencer and Christy were forced to revise their work several times and, not surprisingly, their findings agree better with those of other scientists around the world: the atmosphere is warming.

My Comment:

This statement of the history is a fabrication and is an ad hominem attack.  The errors in their analysis were all minor and were identified as soon as found. Such corrections are a normal part of the scientific process as exemplified recently in the finding of a substantial error in the ERA-40 reanalysis;

Screen, James A., Ian Simmonds, 2011: Erroneous Arctic Temperature Trends in the ERA-40 Reanalysis: A Closer Look. J. Climate, 24, 2620–2627. doi: 10.1175/2010JCLI4054.1.

My direct experience with the UAH-MSU data analysis has been over more than a decade. I will share two examples here of the rigor with which they assess and correct, when needed, their analyses.

First, at one of the  CCSP 1.1 committee meetings that I attended  [for the report Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere: Steps for Understanding and Reconciling Differences (in Chicago)],  an error was brought to the attention of Roy Spencer and John Christy by the lead investigators of the RSS MSU project (Mears and Wentz).

The venue at which this error was brought up (in our committee meeting) was a clear attempt to discredit John and Roy’s research as we sat around the table. Roy found a fix within a few minutes, and concluded it was minor. This fix was implemented when he returned to Alabama.

When I saw how this “exposure” of an error was presented (in front of all of us, instead of in private via e-mail or phone call), I became convinced that a major goal of this committee (under the leadership of Tom Karl) was to discredit them. I told John this at a break right after this occurred. At a later meeting (in December 2008),

Protecting The IPCC Turf – There Are No Independent Climate Assessments Of The IPCC WG1 Report Funded And Sanctioned By The NSF, NASA Or The NRC.

I explicitly saw Tom Karl disparage the Christy and Spencer research.

In order to further examine the robustness of the Christy and Spencer analyses, in 2006 I asked Professor Ben Herman, who is an internationally well-respect expert in atmospheric remote sensing, to examine the Christy and Spencer UAH MSU  and the Wentz and Mears RSS MSU data analyses.   He worked with a student to do this and completed the following study

Randall, R. M., and B. M. Herman (2007), Using Limited Time Period Trends as a Means to Determine Attribution of Discrepancies in Microwave Sounding Unit Derived Tropospheric Temperature Time Series, J. Geophys. Res., doi:10.1029/2007JD008864

which includes the finding that

“Comparison of MSU data with the reduced Radiosonde Atmospheric Temperature Products for Assessing Climate radiosonde data set indicates that RSS’s method (use of climate model) of determining diurnal effects is likely overestimating the correction in the LT channel. Diurnal correction signatures still exist in the RSS LT time series and are likely affecting the long-term trend with a warm bias.”

The robustness of the UAH MSU [the Christy and Spencer analysis] is summarized in the text

“Figure 5 shows that 10-year trends center on the mid-1994’s through 10 year trends centered on the mid-1995’s indicates the RSS−Sonde trends are significantly different from zero where the Sonde−UAH trends are not. In addition, for 10-year trends centered on late-1999 through 10- years trend centered on early 2000 the RSS−Sonde trends are significantly different from zero where Sonde−UAH are marginally not. Another key feature in the RSS−Sonde series is the rapid departure in trend magnitude from trends centered on 1995 through trends centered on late-1999 where the Sonde−UAH magnitude in trends is nearly constant. These features are consistent with the diurnal correction signatures previously discussed. These findings [in] the RSS method for creating the diurnal correction (use of a climate model) is [the] cause for discrepancies between RSS and UAH databases in the LT channel.”

The latest Trenberth et al article is a continuation of this ad hominem effort to discredit John Christy and Roy Spencer.

The Trenberth et al article continues

Over the years, Spencer and Christy developed a reputation for making serial mistakes that other scientists have been forced to uncover. Last Thursday, for instance, the Journal of Geophysical Research – Atmospheres published a study led by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory climate scientist Ben Santer. Their findings showed that Christy erred in claiming that recent atmospheric temperature trends are not replicated in models.

This trend continues: On Tuesday the journal Geophysical Research Letters will publish a peer-reviewed study by Texas A&M University atmospheric scientist Andrew Dessler that undermines Spencer’s arguments about the role of clouds in the Earth’s energy budget.

We only wish the media would cover these scientific discoveries with similar vigor and enthusiasm that they displayed in tackling Spencer’s now-discredited findings.

My Comment:

Roy Spencer is hardly discredited because there are papers that disagree with his analysis and conclusions.  This will sort itself out in the peer-reviewed literature after he has an opportunity to respond with a follow on paper, and/or a Comment/Reply exchange.  Similarly, John Christy can respond to the Santer et al paper that is referred to in the Trenberth et al article.

What is disturbing, however, in the Trenberth et al article is its tone and disparagement of two outstanding scientists. Instead of addressing the science issues, they resort to statements such as Spencer and Christy making “serial mistakes”.  This is truly a hatchet job and will only further polarize the climate science debate

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New Paper “Ocean Heat Content And Earth’s Radiation Imbalance II. Relation To Climate Shifts” By Douglass And Knox 2012

I am pleased to announce a very important new paper which effectively uses the ocean heat data analyses to assess shifts in the Earth’s radiation imbalance. The paper is

D.H. Douglass, R.S. Knox, 2012: Ocean heat content and Earth’s radiation imbalance. II. Relation to climate shifts. Physics Letters A. [see the full paper on David’s website here]

The abstract reads

“In an earlier study of ocean heat content (OHC) we showed that Earth’s empirically implied radiation imbalance has undergone abrupt changes. Other studies have identified additional such climate shifts since 1950. The shifts can be correlated with features in recently updated OHC data. The implied radiation imbalance may possibly alternate in sign at dates close to the climate shifts. The most recent shifts occurred during 2001–2002 and 2008–2009. The implied radiation imbalance between these dates, in the direction of ocean heat loss, was −0.03 ± 0.06 W/m2, with  possible systematic error of [−0.00,+0.09] W/m2.”

The conclusion has the text

“….we emphasize the importance of recognizing climate shifts. In particular, it is unsound to calculate a slope across a climate shift. The paper of Lyman et al. [14] is a case in point. These authors reported a radiative imbalance of 0.63 ± 0.28 W/m2 over the period 1993–2008. This was based on an oversimplified interpretation of the data. The OHC data they considered has a steep slope from 1993 to about 2001–2002, after which there is, in their words, a “flattening”, which is identified in the present Letter as the result of the climate shift of 2001–2002. Thus, their estimate of radiation imbalance has little meaning because their slope spans the associated discontinuity……

Since 2002 the implied radiation imbalance is close to zero. The “pause” or “hiatus” in OHC on which this is based has been recognized numerous times in the recent literature, but its implications for the concept of “missing energy” and the theoretical predictions of radiation imbalance have almost never been brought out.”

This paper is an important much-needed assessment of the climate system, and illustrates, for example, the inadequacies of using linear trends over multi-decadal time periods, as well as the value of using ocean heat data as the metric to assess global average radiative imbalance. I recommend the entire paper be read.

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The Misuse Of The Scientific Method – A Nature Geoscienes Article “Changes In Hail And Flood Risk In High-Resolution Simulations Over Colorado’s Mountains” By Mahoney Et Al 2012

Recently, there were two articles in Nature Geosciences which concluded, based on multi-decadal climate model predictions, that there would not be hail in Colorado by the end of the current century. This study illustrates the misuse of the scientific method where a top-down multi-decadal climate prediction, which has shown no skill at predicting changes in hail statistics in hindcasts, is used to make forecasts decades from now.

Yet Nature Climate Change elected to publish such an untested paper. This research is another example of the epidemic of papers that purport to to be science but are actually just exercises with the models. Nature Climate Change, instead of presenting sound scientific research, apparently publishes anything that promotes their particular agenda in climate science.

The authors (and Nature Climate Change] ignore the fundamental limitations on this top-down, regional downscaled approach that we summarize in our article

Pielke Sr., R.A., and R.L. Wilby, 2011: Regional climate downscaling – what’s the point? EOS. January 31 2012 pages 52-53

The Mahoney et al Nature – Cliamte Change study is yet another example of the waste of money that I have discussed, for example, in my post

The Huge Waste Of Research Money In Providing Multi-Decadal Climate Projections For The New IPCC Report

The Mahoney etl al 2012 Nature Climate Change paper is

Kelly Mahoney, Michael A. Alexander, Gregory Thompson, Joseph J. Barsugli and James D. Scott, 2012: Changes in hail and flood risk in high-resolution simulations over Colorado’s mountains. Nature Climate Change. 10 January 2012 | DOI: 10.1038/NCLIMATE1344

with the abstract [highlight added]

“The effect of a warming climate on hailstorm frequency and intensity is largely unknown. Global climate models have too coarse resolution to simulate hailstorms explicitly; thus it is unclear if a warmer climate will change hailstorm frequency and intensity, and if so, whether such event will become more likely through intensified thunderstorms or less likely owing to overall warmer conditions. Here we investigate hail generation and maintenance for warm-season extreme precipitation events in Colorado, USA, for both present-day and projected future climates using high-resolution model simulations capable of resolving hailstorms. Most simulations indicate a near-elimination of hail at the surface in future simulations for this region, despite more intense future storms and significantly larger amounts of hail generated in-cloud. An increase in the height of the environmental melting level due to climate warming is found to be the primary reason for the disappearance of surface hail, as the warmer atmosphere increases the melting of frozen precipitation. A decrease in future surface hail at high-elevation locations may imply potential changes in both hail damage and flood risk.”

The authors conclude with the text

“For stakeholders and decision-makers trying to plan and prepare for potential changes, these results represent a step towards an improved understanding of the potential for climate change effects on extreme weather events. To optimize the utility of these findings, further research is underway to address a larger spectrum of future climate change scenarios and the sensitivity to model microphysics, and also to evaluate how findings in the in the Colorado Rocky Mountains compare to other geographic regions.”

The paper was highlighted in the journal  and discussed in the article

Walsh, Kevin, 2012: Climate science: A future Colorado without hail. Nature Climate ChangeVolume:2,Pages:78–79Year published:(2012)DOI:doi:10.1038/nclimate1396

which includes the text

“Writing in Nature Climate Change, Mahoney and co-workers present an investigation into changes in hail incidence and intensity in a hailstorm hotspot — the Colorado Rocky Mountains in the United States. They find that although it is likely that the intensity of hailstorms will increase in a warmer world, the climate may warm to a level where almost all hail formed over Colorado melts before it reaches the ground.”

“Mahoney and co-workers use a numerical atmospheric model that has a horizontal resolution fine enough to simulate thunderstorms directly, and represents precipitation processes with sufficient sophistication to produce hail. They ‘nest’ this model within a coarser resolution regional climate model, which is itself nested within a global climate model, to simulate the largest summer precipitation events in Colorado for both current (1971–2000) and possible future (2041–2070) climate conditions.”

The caveats to the study are relegated to the end of his article where Walsh writes

In all numerical modelling studies of this kind, confidence in such a prediction is improved if the model in question is able to skilfully simulate the current climate, and in this study there remains some room for improvement. The simulated freezing level in this study is higher than observed, and so all other things being equal, this would mean that their simulated hailstones would be more likely to melt in the current climate than occurs in reality. Add the additional warmth due to climate change and the stones would be even more likely to melt. Thus the prediction that summer hail will largely disappear from Colorado in the future may be overstated. To improve confidence in this result, it will need to be confirmed using other modelling systems and for other locations with similar climates.”

Walsh’s reporting the problem with their simulation of the current climate is refreshing. However, Walsh also writes that “[t]o improve confidence in this result, it will need to be confirmed using other modelling systems and for other locations with similar climates.”  He seems to ignore that you cannot test a model result with other models! Only real world observations can be used for such a test.

That the study has such a limitation in even predicting the current climate should have been a red flag to the Editor of Nature Climate Change. This article should not  have been published IF the goal of this journal is to be a credible professional resource instead of a tabloid magazine that publishes articles, regardless of scientific merit, just because they are sensational and promote their particular view of the climate science issue.

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An NRC Study “A National Strategy for Advancing Climate Modeling” – A Missed Opportunity

There is an NRC project underway that is titled
The Statement of Tasks is reproduced below [highlight added[
Statement of Task

Climate models are the foundation for understanding and projecting climate and climate-related changes and are thus critical tools for supporting climate-related decision making.  This study will develop a strategy for improving the nation’s capability to accurately simulate climate and related Earth system changes on decadal to centennial timescales.  The committee’s report is envisioned as a high level analysis, providing a strategic framework to guide progress in the nation’s climate modeling enterprise over the next 10-20 years.  Specifically, the committee will:

1. Engage key stakeholders in a discussion of the status and future of climate modeling in the United States over the next decade and beyond, with an emphasis on decade to century timescales and local to global resolution.  This discussion should include both the modeling and user communities, broadly defined, and should focus on the strengths and challenges of current modeling approaches, including their usefulness to decision making, the observations and research activities needed to support model development and validation, and potential new directions in all of these spheres.

2. Describe the existing landscape of domestic and international climate modeling efforts, including approaches being used in research and operational settings, new approaches being planned or discussed, and the relative strengths and challenges of the various approaches, with an emphasis on models with decade to century timescales and local to global resolution.

3. Discuss, in broad terms, the observational, basic and applied research, infrastructure, and other requirements of current and possible future climate modeling efforts, and develop a strategic approach for identifying the priority observations, research, and decision support activities that would lead to the greatest improvements in our understanding and ability to monitor, model, and respond to climate change on local to global space scales and decade to century timescales.

4. Provide recommendations for developing a comprehensive and integrated national strategy for climate modeling over the next decade (i.e., 2011-2020) and beyond. This advice should include discussion of different modeling approaches (including the relationship between decadal-to-centennial scale modeling with modeling activities at other timescales); priority observations, research activities, and infrastructure for supporting model development; and how all of these efforts can be made most useful for decision making in this decade and beyond.

Examples of the types of strategic questions to be addressed include:  What is the appropriate balance between improving resolution and adding complexity as computing power improves?  What are the advantages and disadvantages of different approaches to projecting regional climate change (e.g., embedded regional models, statistical downscaling, etc.)?  What are the benefits and tradeoffs associated with multi-model versus unified modeling frameworks?  What opportunities might exist to develop better interfaces and integration between Earth system models and models of human systems?  What observations and process studies are needed to initialize climate predictions on both regional and global scales, advance our understanding of relevant physical processes and mechanisms, and validate model results?  What critical infrastructure constraints, including high performance computing and personnel issues, currently limit model development and use?  What steps can be taken to improve the communication of climate model results (e.g., presentation of uncertainties) and ensure that the climate modeling enterprise remains relevant to decision making?  What modeling approaches and activities are likely to provide the most value for the investments required?

The membership of this committee has internationally well-respected scientists on it. However, while they are tasked to

Engage key stakeholders in a discussion of the status and future of climate modeling in the United States over the next decade and beyond, with an emphasis on decade to century timescales and local to global resolution.”


develop a strategic approach for identifying the priority observations, research, and decision support activities that would lead to the greatest improvements in our understanding and ability to monitor, model, and respond to climate change on local to global space scales and decade to century timescales”

there are no stakeholders on the Panel!  Instead of taking advantage of this opportunity to outline a robust way forward to reduce the risks to key (as specified by the stakeholders) societal and environmental resources, this Panel perpetuates the top-down global climate model dominated approach to provide information to the impacts community.  However, we we presented in our article

Pielke Sr., R.A., R. Wilby, D. Niyogi, F. Hossain, K. Dairuku, J. Adegoke, G. Kallos, T. Seastedt, and K. Suding, 2012: Dealing  with complexity and extreme events using a bottom-up, resource-based  vulnerability perspective. AGU Monograph on Complexity and  Extreme Events in Geosciences, in press

the IPCC top-down approach has not shown any skill at predicting multi-decadal changes in the climate statistics on regional and local scales. As we wrote in that article, the bottom-up (i.e. non-multi-decadal climate model prediction based) contextual approach

is a more inclusive way of assessing risks, including from climate variability and climate change than using the outcome vulnerability approach adopted by the IPCC. A contextual vulnerability assessment, using the bottom-up, resource-based framework is a more inclusive approach for policymakers to adopt effective mitigation and adaptation methodologies to deal with the complexity of the spectrum of social and environmental extreme events that will occur in the coming decades, as the range of threats are assessed, beyond just the focus on CO2 and a few other greenhouse gases as emphasized in the IPCC assessments.”

We also have summarized the fundamental deficiencies of the regional downscaling of multi-decadal climate predictions in our EOS Forum article

Pielke Sr., R.A., and R.L. Wilby, 2011: Regional climate downscaling – what’s the point? Eos Forum. January 31 2012

The members of the panel are [and I have noted who are also current IPCC authors]

1. Dr. Chris Bretherton – (Chair)  University of Washington  Current IPCC Author

Chris Bretherton is currently a Professor in the University of Washington Departments of Atmospheric Science and Applied
Mathematics, where he teaches classes on weather, atmospheric turbulence and cumulus convection, tropical meteorology, geophysical fluid dynamics, numerical methods, and classical analysis of ODEs and PDEs. He directs the University of Washington Program on Climate Change, which organizes graduate courses, seminars, a summer institute, and research on climate science and its relevance to our society and future. His group developed the parameterizations of shallow cumulus convection used in the cutting-edge versions of two leading US climate models, the National Center for Atmospheric Research Community Atmosphere Model, version 5 (CAM5), and the Geophysical Fluid
Dynamics Laboratory Atmosphere Model, version 3 (AM3). They also developed the turbulence parameterization used in CAM5, and have versions of both schemes for the Weather Research and Forecast (WRF) regional modeling system.

2. Dr. Venkatramani Balaji Princeton University

V. Balaji heads the Modeling Systems Group serving developers of Earth System models at GFDL and Princeton University. With a background in physics and climate science, he has become an expert in the area of parallel computing and scientific infrastructure,
providing high-level programming interfaces for expressing parallelism in scientific algorithms. He has pioneered the use of frameworks (such as the Flexible Modeling System: FMS, as well as community standards such as ESMF and PRISM) allowing the construction of climate models out of independently developed components sharing a technical architecture; and of curators (FMS Runtime Environment FRE) for the execution of complex workflows to manage the complete climate modeling process. The Earth System Curator (US) and Metafor (EU) projects, in which he plays a key role, have developed the use of a common information model which allows the execution of complex scientific queries on model data archives. V. Balaji plays advisory roles on NSF, NOAA and DOE review panels, including the recent series of exascale workshops. He is a
sought-after speaker and lecturer and is committed to provide training in the use of climate models in developing nations, leading workshops to advanced students and researchers in South Africa and India.

3. Dr. Thomas L. Delworth Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory

Thomas L. Delworth is a Research Scientist and group leader in the Climate Change, Variability and Prediction Group at NOAA’s GFDL.
His research is largely focused around decadal to centennial climate variability and change through the synthesis of climate models and observational data. On these time scales the behavior of the climate system is a mixture of natural variability combined with the response of the climate system to changing radiative forcing induced by changing greenhouse gases and aerosols. Understanding the natural variability of the climate system on decadal scales is critical to their ability to detect climate change, and to understand the processes responsible for observed change from the global to the regional scale.

4. Dr. Robert E. Dickinson The University of Texas at Austin

Robert E. Dickinson joined the Department of Geological Sciences in August of 2008. For the previous 9 years, he was Professor of Atmospheric Sciences and held the Georgia Power/ Georgia Research Alliance Chair at the Georgia Institute of Technology, the 9 years before that he was Professor of Atmospheric Sciences and Regents Professor at the University of Arizona, and for the previous 22 years a Senior Scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. He was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 1988, to the U.S. National Academy of Engineering in 2002, and a foreign member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2006. His research interests are in climate modeling, climate variability and change, aerosols, the hydrological cycle and droughts, land surface processes, the terrestrial carbon cycle, and the application of remote sensing data to modeling of land surface processes.

5. Dr. James A. Edmonds –  Joint Global Change Research Institute –  Current IPCC Author

James Edmonds is a Chief Scientist and Laboratory Fellow at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s Joint Global Change Research Institute, a collaboration with the University of Maryland at College Park. His research in the areas of long-term, global, energy, technology, economy, and climate change spans three decades, producing several books, numerous scientific papers and countless presentations. He is one of the pioneers in the field of integrated assessment modeling of climate change. His principal research focus is the role of energy technology in addressing climate change. He is the Chief Scientist for the Integrated Assessment Research Program in the Office of Science at the U.S. Department of Energy. He has been an active participant in all of the major assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

6. Dr. James S. Famiglietti University of California, Irvine

James S. Famiglietti holds a joint faculty appointment in Earth System Science and in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California, Irvine, where he is the Founding Director of the system-wide UC Center for Hydrologic Modeling. He holds a B.S. in Geology from Tufts University, an M.S. in Hydrology from the University of Arizona, and an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering and Operations Research from Princeton University. He completed his postdoctoral studies in hydrology and climate system modeling at Princeton and at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Before joining the faculty at UCI in 2001, Dr. Famiglietti was an Assistant and Associate Professor in the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin, and was the Associate Director of the UT Environmental Science Institute. He is the past Chair of the Board of the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, Inc. (CUAHSI), and past Editor-in-Chief of Geophysical Research Letters. His research concerns the role of hydrology in the coupled Earth system. Areas of activity include the continued development of the hydrologic components of climate models; climate system modeling for studies of land-ocean-atmosphere-human interaction; and remote sensing of the terrestrial and global water cycles, including groundwater depletion and freshwater availability. Famiglietti is currently leading the Community Hydrologic Modeling Platform (CHyMP) effort to accelerate the development of hydrological models for use in addressing national and international priorities related to water, food, economic, climate, and national security.

7. Dr. Inez Y. Fung University of California, Berkeley

Inez Fung is a Professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Science and the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. Since 2005, she has also been a Founding Co- Director of the Berkeley Institute of the Environment. Inez Fung has been studying climate change for the last 20 years. She is a principal architect of large-scale mathematical modeling approaches and numerical models to represent the geographic and temporal variations of sources and sinks of CO2, dust and other trace substances around the globe. Dr. Fung’s recent work in climate modeling predicts the co-evolution of CO2 and climate and concludes that the diminishing capacities of the land and oceans to store carbon act to accelerate global warming. Inez Fung received her S.B. in Applied Mathematics and her Sc.D. in Meteorology from MIT. She joined the Berkeley faculty in 1998 as the first Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor in the Physical Sciences and the founding Director of the Berkeley Atmospheric Sciences Center.

8. Dr. James J. Hack Oak Ridge National Laboratory

James J. Hack directs the National Center for Computational Sciences (NCCS), a leadership computing facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory supporting transformational science. He identifies major high performance computing needs from scientific and hardware perspectives and puts forth strategies to meet those needs as machines evolve to the petascale, able to carry out a quadrillion calculations per second. An atmospheric scientist, Hack also leads ORNL’s Climate Change Initiative. Dr. Hack became a research staff member at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center, where he worked on the design and evaluation of highperformance computing architectures. In 1984 he moved to the National Center for Atmospheric Research, a National Science Foundation-sponsored center, where his roles included Senior Scientist, head of the Climate Modeling Section, and Deputy Director of the Climate and Global Dynamics Division. He was one of the principal developers of the climate model that ran on NCCS supercomputers to provide more than one-third of the simulation data jointly contributed by the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation to the most recent assessment report of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the group that shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore.

9. Dr. James W. Hurrell  Current IPCC Author

National Center for Atmospheric Research James (Jim) W. Hurrell is Senior Scientist in the Climate and Global Dynamics Division of the Earth System Laboratory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). NCAR is a federally funded research and development center that works with partners at universities and researchers to explore and understand the atmosphere and its interactions with the sun, the oceans, the
biosphere, and human society. Jim joined NCAR after earning his doctorate in atmospheric science from Purdue University. Jim’s research has centered on empirical and modeling studies and diagnostic analyses to better understand climate, climate variability and climate change. Jim has been involved in assessment activities of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the U.S. Global Change Research Program. Jim has been extensively involved in the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) on Climate Variability and Predictability (CLIVAR), including roles as cochair of the Scientific Steering Group (SSG) of both U.S. and International CLIVAR and membership on several other CLIVAR panels. His current position at NCAR is Chief Scientist of the Community Earth System Model (CESM). Jim has given testimony
on climate change issues for congressional subcommittees and has received numerous prestigious honors and awards in his field of atmospheric science.

10. Dr. Daniel J. Jacob   Harvard University – Current IPCC Author

Daniel J. Jacob is a Professor of atmospheric chemistry and environmental engineering at Harvard University. The goal of his research is to understand the chemical composition of the atmosphere, its perturbation by human activity, and the implications for climate change and life on Earth. His approaches include global modeling of atmospheric chemistry and climate, aircraft measurement campaigns, satellite data retrievals, and analyses of atmospheric observations.

11.  Dr. James L. Kinter, III Center for Ocean-Land-Atmospher Studies

James L. Kinter is Director of the Center for Ocean-Land- Atmosphere Studies (COLA) where he manages all aspects of basic and applied climate research conducted by the Center. Dr. Kinter’s research includes studies of climate predictability on seasonal and longer time scales. Of particular interest in his research are prospects for prediction of El Niño and the extratropical response to tropical sea surface temperature anomalies using high-resolution coupled general circulation models of the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans and land surface. Dr. Kinter is also an Associate Professor in the Climate Dynamics Ph.D. Program and the Atmospheric, Oceanic and Earth Sciences department at George Mason University, where he has responsibilities for curriculum development and teaching undergraduate and graduate courses on climate change, as well as advising Ph.D. students. After earning his doctorate in geophysical fluid dynamics at Princeton University in 1984, Dr. Kinter served as a National Research Council Associate at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and as a faculty member of the University of Maryland (teaching faculty 1984-1987; research faculty 1987-1993) prior to joining COLA. Dr. Kinter has served on many national review panels
for both scientific research programs and supercomputing programs for computational climate modeling.

12. Dr. Lai-Yung R. Leung Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

L. Ruby Leung is a recognized leader in modeling regional climate and the hydrological cycle. Her research focuses on understanding and modeling of regional climate variability and change, land-atmosphere interactions, orographic processes, and aerosol effects on the water cycle. She has led important efforts in defining research priorities and needs in regional climate modeling and coordinated community efforts to develop capability in community mesoscale models to simulate regional climate. Her research on climate change and aerosol effects has been featured in Science, Popular Science, Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio, and many major newspapers. Her research crosses scientific disciplines to advance the state of the art in predicting climate change and its regional impacts.

13. Dr. Shawn Marshall  University of Calgary

Shawn Marshall joined University of Calgary’s Department of Geography in January 2000, following Ph.D. and Postdoctoral research at the University of British Columbia (UBC). Since earning a B.A.Sc. in Engineering Physics at the University of Toronto he has been on a progressively geographical path, with Ph.D. work in Geophysics and Postdoctoral work in UBC´s Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences. His research interests are in glacier and ice sheet dynamics, ice-climate interactions, and paleoclimatology.

14. Dr. Linda O. Mearns  National Center for Atmospheric Research Current IPCC Author

Linda O. Mearns is Director of the Weather and Climate Impacts Assessment Science Program (WCIASP), Head of the Regional Integrated Sciences Collective (RISC) within the Institute for Mathematics Applied to Geosciences (IMAGe), and Senior Scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado. She served as Director of the Institute for the Study of Society and Environment (ISSE) for three years ending in April 2008. She holds a Ph.D. in Geography/Climatology from UCLA. She has performed research and published mainly in the areas of climate change scenario formation, quantifying uncertainties, and climate change impacts on agro-ecosystems. She has particularly worked extensively with regional climate models. She has been an author in the IPCC Climate Change 1995, 2001, and 2007 Assessments regarding climate variability, impacts of climate change on agriculture, regional projections of climate change, climate scenarios, and uncertainty in future projections of climate change. For the Fifth Assessment Report (due out in 2013) she is a lead author of Chapter 21 on Regions in WG2. She leads the multiagency supported North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Program (NARCCAP), which is providing multiple highresolution climate change scenarios for the North American impacts community. She has been a member of the National Research Council Climate Research Committee (CRC), the NAS Panel on Adaptation of the America’s Climate Choices Program, and is currently a member of the Human Dimensions of Global Change (HDGC) Committee. She was made a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society in January 2006.

15. Dr. Richard B. Rood University of Michigan

Richard B. Rood is currently a Professor of atmopheric, oceanic and space sciences at the University of Michigan. His current physical climate
research is focused on bridging the study of weather and climate. He is funded by NASA to study dynamical features as objects and to develop new methods for analyzing climate models. He is also funded by the Department of Energy to study sub-scale mixing processes in climate models. In addition, he has funding to study urban heat waves, human heat health warning systems, and how to govern open source / open innovation communities. He is a co-investigator on Michigan’s NOAA-funded Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments Center.

16. Dr. Larry L. Smarr University of California, San Diego

Larry Smarr is the founding Director of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2), a UC San
Diego/UC Irvine partnership, and holds the Harry E. Gruber professorship in Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) at UCSD’s Jacobs School. At Calit2, Smarr has continued to drive major developments in information infrastructure– including the Internet, Web, scientific visualization, virtual reality, and global telepresence–begun during his previous 15 years as founding Director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA). Smarr served as principal investigator on NSF’s OptIPuter project and currently is principal investigator of the Moore Foundation’s CAMERA project and co-principal investigator on NSF’s GreenLight project.

17. Dr. Wieslaw Maslowski U.S. Naval Postgraduate School

Wieslaw Maslowski is a research professor of oceanography at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA. Dr. Maslowski’s research interests include polar oceanography and sea ice; regional ocean, sea-ice and climate modeling and prediction; mesoscale processes in the ocean and sea ice and their interaction with and impact on general ocean circulation, climate change and climate variability; ocean-ice sheet and air-sea-ice interactions and feedbacks. He is currently leading a DOE-supported research program to develop a Regional Arctic System Model (RASM). Dr. Maslowski earned his Ph.D. from the University of Alaska in 1994.

This is an impressive list of scientists. But they clearly have a vested interest in continuing to focus on the top-down global climate model approach to assessing risks that society and the environment may face in the coming decades. They have failed to consider the issue from the perspective of the stakeholders.

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