Category Archives: Guest Weblogs

How to Speak with Wisdom? Another Sermon by Henk Tennekes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Empathy, compassion, love.

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

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Guest Post #2 By Chick Keller

On March 1 2010, we posted

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

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

Following is his second thoughtful contribution.

Guest Post By Charles F. Keller

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Wind power Is No Solution To Anything” A Guest Weblog By Henk Tennekes

“Wind power Is No Solution To Anything”  By Henk Tennekes

Wind energy is an engineer’s nightmare. To begin with, the energy density of flowing air is miserably low. Therefore, you need a massive contraption to catch one Megawatt at best, and a thousand of these to equal a single gas- or coal-fired power plant. If you design them for a wind speed of 15 m/s, they are useless at wind speeds below10 m/s and extremely dangerous at 20 m/s, unless feathered in time. Remember, power is proportional to the CUBE of the wind speed. Old-fashioned Dutch windmills needed a two-man crew on 12-hour watch, seven days a week, because a runaway windmill first burns its bearings, then its hardwood gears, then the entire superstructure. This was the nightmare of millers everywhere in the ‘good’ old days. And what did these beautiful antiques deliver? Fifteen horsepower at best, in favorable winds, about what a power lawn mower does these days. No wonder the Dutch switched to steam-powered pumping stations as soon as they could, in the late nineteenth century.

Since the power generated by modern wind turbines is so unpredictable, conventional power plants have to serve as back-ups. Therefore, these run at far less than half power most of the time. That is terribly uneconomical – only at full power they have good thermal efficiency and minimal CO2 emissions per kWh delivered. Think also a moment of the cable networks needed: not only a fine-maze distribution network at the consumer end, but also one at the generator end. And what about servicing? How do you get a repair crew to a lonely hillside? Especially when you decided to put the wind park at sea? Use helicopters – now THAT is green …! 

For that matter, would you care to imagine what happens to rotor blades in freezing rain? Or how the efficiency of laminar-flow rotor blades decreases as bugs and dust accumulate on their leading edges?  Or what did happen in Germany more than once? German legislation gives wind power absolute priority, so all other forms of generating electricity have to back off when the wind starts blowing. This creates dangerous, almost uncontrollable instabilities in the high-voltage network. At those moments, power plant operators all over Europe sweat blood, almost literally. The synchronization of the system is also a scary job : alternating currents at 100,000 volts or more cannot be out of phase more than one degree or so, else circuit breakers pop everywhere and a brownout all over Europe starts.

One application might be attractive, though. Suppose you fill a water basin in the hills nearby using wind power when it blows, and turn the water turbines on when emergency power is needed for one reason or another (a power plant failure, a cold winter night).

Wind power is a green mirage of the worst kind. It looks green to simple souls, but it is a technical nightmare. Nowhere I have been, be it Holland, Denmark, Germany, France, or California, have I seen wind parks where all turbines were operating properly. Typically, 20% stand idle, out of commission, broken down. Use Google Videos to find examples of wind turbine crashes, start meditating, and reach your own conclusions.

Only a few years ago, I changed my opinion on nuclear power. Now I think it is the only sensible alternative for the next twenty or thirty years. France was smart enough many years ago : unlike the rest of Europe, it can supply its citizens and industries with electricity even if Putin pulls another of his mean tricks.

Why don’t politicians listen to engineers? Why do engineers cave in to politically inspired financing? Merely to join the green daydreaming? I am an engineer; I want to be proud of my profession.

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

Charles F. Keller – “Chick”, the retired Director of Los Alamos National Laboratory Branch of
University of California’s Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics (IGPP)  copied me on an e-mail that he sent out widely to Lawarence Livermore National Laboratory on January 25 2010. I appreciate that he shared with me this e-mail, as it provides his perspective on my weblog.  He has okayed me posting it here, and has also suggested, in a follow on e-mail to me (see the first e-mail text below), that we jointly write our impressions of the climate issue. He wrote in the follow up  

Finally, I got to thinking.  Is there a use for the two of us to write together–our impressions about important aspects of this problem–sort of Brooks and Shields like.  Those two agree on many important issues but see them from different points of view.  Hearing them bounce ideas off each other is very useful to many.  Perhaps we could do that?  It might be fun to try.”

I have accepted this opportunity for a constructive (much needed) dialog. I am pleased, that despite his concerns on the tone of my posts, that he concludes that much of what I write is correct. I suspect one area of agreement is that we both see considerable value in model simulations as process studies, while an area we disagree in is on the skill of these models to make multi-decadal climate predictions.

On Mon, 25 Jan 2010, Charles and Yvonne Keller wrote

“LANL folks,

I just looked over Roger’s website and was a bit dismayed.  So I thought I’d just react. Pretty much everything Roger says at it is correct [highlight added]. It’s the tone that seems not to be scientifically productive.  Are there things we still don’t understand about climate?  Yes. Does this mean we don’t understand enough to be concerned about AGHGs warming the planet?  Most climate scientists would say an emphatic No. Global temperatures haven’t warmed appreciably in the past 8 years (ya gotta ignore 1998 cuz it’s a big  ENSO spike not part of the trend). This is not so much evidence that modelers etc don’t know what they’re doing (it was actually predicted rather well before it happened) as it is a splendid chance to study aspects  of climate variability without “contamination” of the signal by ENSO and volcanos.  So what’s a scandal to Roger is a great opportunity to the working climate scientist.  Does this show that Judith Lean and David Rind have teased out solar forcing?  They show that the climate has been going up and down by about 0.1°C every 10-11 yrs. following the solar activity  cycle. If they are right, then all this still stand means is that, while AGHG warming is going up by about 0.1°C it’s been countered by the downturn from maximum (~2002 to minimum ~2008). That solar activity uncharacteristically has stayed at minimum for nearly a year longer than usual is yet another fascinating feature of the global temperature record.

However, it’s okay for Roger to call attention to this stillstand, because, if the Earth doesn’t warm a lot in the next decade, then we have evidence that climate change needs even further study. There a lots of other similar aspects of global climate change that Roger calls into question, which is fine.  But he always seems to do it from an adversarial point of view.  Do we have problems modeling clouds and aerosol forcing in the computer codes?  Sure.  Instead of being outraged at this, why not ask what are the fascinating improvements recently published that show we’re improving our treatment of both? ( An interesting one btw seems to show that aging aerosols all act pretty much alike as cloud condensation nuclei making the modeler’s job easier–Science 11  De. 2009, 326, Perspective: A New Look at Aging Aerosols”, 1493 and paper–“Evolution of > Organic Aerosols in the Atmospeher”  (some 70 authors), 1525.  Instead Roger seems to say we aren’t studying it and probably couldn’t improve it if we tried.

What about global and NH temperatures in the past 2,000 years?  It’s just not good  science to dismiss all this very careful work with — well I’m uncomfortable with the way they match proxy and instrumental data.  Here a careful read of the National Academy of Sciences PNAS paper in 2008  (see Mann et al. 2008) on the best work done to date on this is in order (as well as comparison with the  several other different and mostly independent treatments of the subject by other authors–bore hole results, Moberg’s wavelet combination of low and high frequency proxies, Lonnie Thompson’s mountain glacier work, etc). Pretty hard to just dismiss out of hand all these people and their rather similar results.

So it goes.  Read Roger’s articles.  Most seem to be trying to elicit more outrage than excitement at how climate science is progressing. Roger is a good friend and so I’m distressed that his considerable talents for asking the tough questions seem to be diluted by an adversarial tone. Perhaps in future he might balance his reporting. How about something really new and interesting that’s just come out.  A few years back I stumbled upon a new convective cloud treatment that resulted in the climate  code’s making a huge improvement in simulating the Madden-Julian Oscillation of low pressure from the Indian to Pacific oceans. (see my recent climate review in Springer’s SERRA).  Another paper got great improvement in MJO simply by use of finer horizontal zoning.  Why not talk about these efforts?

When you look, what you find is a large group of individual teams building  the edifice for understanding current warming brick by brick. The first floor is finished, but to see far, we need to continue on upwards.  Roger is contributing to this work.  Why not report on it more constructively all the while calling for a critical approach to this important but difficult topic?


Subsequent to his e-mail above, Chick and I agreed to exchange questions and answers. I have posted the  relevant part of our Feb 8 2010 e-mail exchanges below.


On Mon, 8 Feb 2010, Charles and Yvonne Keller wrote:


 Yes, your article in EOS seems well worthwhile discussing.

 As a start–a few questions.

*******Chick’s questions and my replies are combined together below*****

My text is in italics, Chick’s in regular font.

Hi Chick

On the first questions, see my replies below. My question for you is what do you agree with and what do you disagree with in our EOS article.

Best Regards


       1.  I think everyone agrees that the next important advance in climate
 change studies is regional climate simulation/prediction.  I believe many
 are asking IPCC to stress this next time.  Is this your understanding? 

Yes; the global average surface temperature or radiative imbalance tells us essentially nothing with respect to how regional climate is affected by human and natural climate forcings.

       2.  Much of what you are calling for in mitigation and adaption, I
 think, is the subject of IPCC’s Working Group III.  I haven’t looked at one
 of their reports in years, but don’t they deal with this?

This is a very important quesiton. One of the issues with respect to the IPCC reports is that they start from WG1 and work through WG2 and WG3 as derivatives of what the models predict. I have recommnended a bottom-up, resource-based vulnerability assessment as the starting point. The global climate model predictions are included in this bottom-up approach, but are not the driver of the assesment. I discuss this further in

and in

Pielke, R.A. Sr., and L. Bravo de Guenni, 2004: Conclusions. Chapter E.7 In: Vegetation, Water, Humans and the Climate: A New Perspective on an Interactive System. Global Change – The IGBP Series, P. Kabat et al., Eds., Springer, 537-538. [I have asked Dallas Staley, my research coordinator, to send you its pdf as it is not there now for some reason].
       3.  It is my understanding that IPCC’s now-criticized statement about
 Himalayan glacier melt was not in the scientific assessment (WG I). Rather
 it was in WG II, which I think deals with possible effects of global
 warming. To me, while I agree that their source documents left much to be
 desired, they were following your advice in pointing to possible changes due
 to climate change.  Is this your understanding?
The IPCC error in WG2 was a gaffe. My concern is on the exclusion of peer reviewed papers in WG1 as I documented in the Appendix

Pielke Sr., Roger A., 2008: A Broader View of the Role of Humans in the Climate System is Required In the Assessment of Costs and Benefits of Effective Climate Policy. Written Testimony for the Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality of the Committee on Energy and Commerce Hearing .Climate Change: Costs of Inaction. . Honorable Rick Boucher, Chairman. June 26, 2008, Washington, DC., 52pp.

 Once I understand where you are on these three points, I think we can have a
 good sharing of views on what you rightly point up as an important direction
 for the future.
The EOS article, as I mentioned above is an effective focal point for our discussion. We can break down our conclusions and recommendations and debate/agree from that as one option. Let me know.

FOLLOW-UP: Chick contacted me that he will send his further comments soon. I will post when available.

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Guest Post By Ben Herman “Conservation in Radiative Transfer Calculations”

Guest Post by Professor Ben Herman

 I was just reading over the question from  Dan Hughes on this  site dated Feb. 9, 2010. The question  asked whether instrumentation having sufficient spatial and temporal coverage and measurement accuracy will ever be available to validate the expected TOA  radiative energy balance.It was, as you stated on your blog,a very good question. A similar question could be raised with respect to theoretical calculations of the TOA outgoing irradiance.

 We are looking for effects to cause temperature trends on the order of 0.1 deg C per decade. I will limit the following discussion to the transfer of solar energy only. Years ago when we were developing our radiative transfer models, we required solar energy conservation from a model to within about 0.1%, with  no solar absorption by the atmosphere.

 To accomplish this degree of conservation required an angular grid of 108 angles, and an optical depth increment of 0.01 for the numerical integrations of the relevant equations. Since it was necessary to also include polarization to avoid errors of up 10%, this introduced a 4×4 matrix into the calculations, increasing the number of equations by a factor of 16.

 For a nominal optical depth of 0.1, this made 10 levels, so there was  a system of about 16,000 simultaneous,highly coupled equations to  solve.  We assessed the resulting degree of energy conservation by summing the outgoing irradiance at the top and bottom of the atmosphere with the incoming solar at the top. This was with  model that I would guess, and I stress the word guess, was much more accurate than what  they use in the climate models. Now, if we assume that there was an absorption of solar energy in addition to scattering, we could not assess the accuracy because the irradiances at the top and bottom no longer equal the incoming solar due to internal losses from absorption.

Now,this was with a flat atmosphere model. With a more realistic spherical atmosphere, for various reasons due to the complexity of the  model, it was very difficult to check for conservation of energy but undoubtedly, the conservation was not as good as with the simpler one dimensional flat atmosphere. We could check for programming errors in the spherical model by letting the radius of the sphere get very large (approximating a flat atmosphere) and comparing results to the flat atmosphere model. The agreement was very good but not exact (I can’t recall the deviations). The small differences between conservation and model results were due to numerical errors.The transfer equations must be solved numerically and this leads to the errors.

The above was for one wavelength. Now, to integrate over wavelength, other approximations are made which introduce additional errors. Other uncertainties due to the addition of aerosols with unknown composition, number density, shape effect, vertical profile, optical depth, complex index of refraction, etc have been well discussed and I will not go into that here. We have also assumed no clouds. The above applies just to the solution of the transfer equation, assuming all of the quantities  mentioned above are known. While all of these errors may be quite small (some are undoubtedly not small) are they small when trying to predict resulting temperature trends of 0.1 deg C/per decade as I stated above? I don’t know but they certainly cannot be dismissed without careful consideration. The equations are non-linear in optical depth so the trends themselves will also have errors if the irradiances are incorrect.

The above applies primarily to transfer in the solar spectrum. In the IR, where scattering (except by clouds and precipitation) can be ignored, the problem is less complex, but the integration over wavelength is still a major issue. Again, I will not go into that here, but I believe I have raised some questions which could be of importance in obtaining the accuracies required for climate change issues.

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Guest Weblog “The Enigma Of Biological Ice Nucleators” By Cindy E. Morris and David C. Sands

The Enigma Of Biological Ice Nucleators

Guest Post by Cindy E. Morris1,2 and David C. Sands2

 1INRA, Plant Pathology research unit, F-84140 Montfavet, France,

2Dept. Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology, 119 Plant Biosciences Bldg., Montana State University, Bozeman, MT 59717-3150, USA,

In the mid 1970’s several research groups discovered independently that the plant pathogenic bacterium Pseudomonas syringae was a very active ice nucleator (2, 5, 10).  Although other organisms have since been discovered to have ice nucleation activity, P. syringae and related bacteria still hold the title of producing ice nuclei active at the warmest temperatures observed in nature (up to -1° to -2°C).  As a plant epiphyte (surface colonizer) and pathogen, P. syringae inhabits principally the aerial parts of plants.  Hence, like other organisms that live on aerial plant surfaces these bacteria are readily disseminated by the wind.  So it is not surprising that this bacterium is transported up into clouds, as has been demonstrated by several different research teams (1, 9).  In the daily routine of plant pathologists, who care a great deal about modes of disease transmission, this is just another example of effective aerial dissemination accomplished by microbial cells with just the right aerodynamic properties to be trapped and propelled by air masses. Disease epidemiology and disease prediction are the natural confluence of biology with meteorology.

 For most organisms that produce ice nuclei, there is some apparent environmental impact and some selective advantage of this capacity.  Most organisms that produce ice nuclei, such as plants and insects, live in habitats where they regularly encounter sub zero temperatures.  In most cases, by inducing ice formation, these organisms avoid the damage that would be caused to their cells by ice that would otherwise form at much colder temperatures had they not induced the ice.  For bacteria, there are several hypotheses about the forces of nature that could be selecting for ice nucleation activity.  One hypothesis is that by inducing frost damage to the plants with which it lives, P. syringae gains access to nutrients (cellular contents of leaves) when the tissue is damaged.  A second hypothesis is that ice nucleation activity aids the bacterium in its dissemination by causing ice formation (and subsequently raindrops) in clouds thereby facilitating its escape from the atmosphere and its return to terrestrial habitats (7).  This dissemination hypothesis extends far beyond the realm of plant pathology because it suggests that micro-organisms could have some role in the physical processes that lead to precipitation (6).  This question has intrigued both microbiologists and atmosphere physicists alike. It would be very honest to state that the intrigue has been, over the past decades, counterbalanced by a sense of unease in both camps because of unfamiliarity with the evidence criteria expected in each field for hypothesis verification.

 In 2006 with funding from the European Science Foundation, we organized an exploratory workshop in Avignon France entitled “Microbiological Meteorology”.  This workshop brought together atmosphere physicists and chemists with microbiologists, agronomists and modelers in an effort to build bridges necessary to explore the potential interaction of micro-organisms with phenomena implicated in weather.  The final report from the workshop is at:  This workshop was followed by a session on “Biological Ice Nucleators in the Atmosphere” at the 2007 annual meeting of the Int. Union of Geophysics and Geodesy. In 2009 biologists were included for the first time at the International Conference on Nucleation and Atmospheric Aerosols.  These initial contacts have resulted in some exciting publications (3, 4, 8), the emergence of new interdisciplinary projects that address questions related to the potential role of biological ice nucleators in precipitation, in lively exchanges on our mailing list (contact C.E. Morris if you want your name added), the accumulation of resource information on our internet discussion forum ( and overwhelming interest by the media as exemplified by a recent BBC broadcast ( They have also re-enforced our impression that the question about the role of biological ice nucleators in precipitation is worth pursuing. 

 Yet, on the other hand we are confronted by interrogations about the real capacity of these biological particles to have significant impacts on the atmosphere given their low numbers (probably less than 10’s per m3 of air) relative to inert ice nucleators that are thousands of times more abundant.  It is not clear if ice nucleation that occurs at warm temperatures could lead to the formation of ice that could grow enough to fall out as precipitation or that could propagate through the multiplicative Hallett-Mossop process.  We are still in the stage of birthing and nurturing some risky research and of sticking our necks out to potentially be chopped in the long run. 

 The stakes are high.  Biological ice nucleators such as P. syringae are the products of agriculture in that they can be very abundant on crops.   Hence, one of the outcomes of this research could be a fuller understanding of how the plants in landscapes impact weather.  The research by Dr. Pielke and his colleagues and contemporaries clearly illustrate that plants affect rainfall.  Part of this impact might be assured by the biological ice nucleators that are part and parcel of the plants.  And, as the micro-flora of plants is determined in part by the genetic background of plants and their physiological state, this means that there could be coordinated efforts in plant breeding, agronomy and phytobacteriology for enhancing plant microflora to intensify their contribution to rainfall.  We wonder how to best tease out of the complex biosphere system the answers to questions about the raison d’être of biological ice nucleation and its environmental impacts and the extent to which this potential effect could be tweaked to offset the impacts of climate change.  We look forward to debate. 


1.   Amato, P., M. Parazols, M. Sancelme, P. Laj, G. Mailhot, and A.-M. Delort. 2007. Microorganisms isolated from the water phase of tropospheric clouds at the Puy de Dôme: major groups and growth abilities at low temperatures. FEMS Microbiol. Ecol. 59:242-254.

2.   Arny, D. C., S. E. Lindow, and C. D. Upper. 1976. Frost sensitivity of Zea mays increased by application of Pseudomonas syringae. Nature 262:282-284.

3.   Christner, B. C., C. E. Morris, C. M. Foreman, R. Cai, and D. C. Sands. 2008. Ubiquity of biological ice nucleators in snowfall. Science 319:1214.

4.   Christner, B. C., C. Rongman, C. E. Morris, K. S. McCarter, C. M. Foreman, M. L. Skidmore, S. N. Montross, and D. C. Sands. 2008. Geographic location, season, and precipitation chemistry influence on the abundance and activity of biological ice nucleators in rain and snow. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 105:18854–18859.

5.   Maki, L. R., E. L. Gaylan, M. M. Chang-Chien, and D. R. Caldwell. 1974. Ice nucleation induced by Pseudomonas syringae. Appl. Microbiol. 28:456-459.

6.   Morris, C. E., D. Georgakapolous, and D. C. Sands. 2004. Ice nucleation active bacteria and their potential role in precipitation. J. Phys. IV, France 121:87-103.

7.   Morris, C. E., D. C. Sands, B. A. Vinatzer, C. Glaux, C. Guilbaud, A. Buffière, S. Yan, H. Dominguez, and B. M. Thompson. 2008. The life history of the plant pathogen Pseudomonas syringae is linked to the water cycle. ISME Journal 2:321-334.

8.   Pratt, K. A., P. J. DeMott, J. R. French, Z. Wang, D. L. Westphal, A. J. Heymsfield, C. H. Twohy, A. J. Prenni, and K. A. Prather. 2009. In situ detection of biological particles in cloud ice-crystals. Nature Geosci.

9.   Sands, D. C., V. E. Langhans, A. L. Scharen, and G. de Smet. 1982. The association between bacteria and rain and possible resultant meteorological implications. J. Hungarian Meteorol. Serv. 86:148-152.

10. Upper, C. D., and G. Vali. 1995. The discovery of bacterial ice nucleation and its role in the injury of plants by frost., p. 29-41. In R. E. Lee, Jr., G. J. Warren, and L. V. Gusta (ed.), Biological Ice Nucleation and its Applications. APS Press, St. Paul.

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Henk Tennekes Resigns from Dutch Academy

UPDATE Feb 13 2010: There is a news article on his resignation (in Dutch) at

Henk Tennekes is well known to the visitors of our website. A few days ago, he told me that he submitted a letter of resignation to the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences on Saturday, January 23.  He wrote to me “I don’t want to remain a member of an organization that, like AMS and NAS, screws up science that badly.” The Dutch newspaper NRC-Handelsblad apparently got hold of a copy of the resignation letter and ran a News Flash on Saturday, January 30. In the letter to the Academy, Henk complains that he submitted the manuscript of his essay on Hermetic Jargon (which I am happy to reproduce here below, with his permission) to the Academy President at that time, Frits van Oostrom. The President, however, did not bother to respond.   The NRC news flash, translated by Henk himself at my request, reads:

Tennekes Quits

By Karel Knip

“I have had it. Farewell.”  With these words Henk Tennekes concludes his final letter to the Executive Board of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. He wrote his letter of resignation on January 23. A unique occurrence in the history of the Academy, which obtains its membership by co-optation. Normally, a member of the Academy loses his membership only when he dies. Tennekes is still alive.

For many years, Tennekes was director of research at KNMI. He also was a professor at the Pennsylvania State University and at the Free University in Amsterdam. In 1982 he became a member of the Academy. And now he steps out. “There is light out there” is the closing sentence of the essay “Hermetic Jargon” that he now gives a broader distribution.

Why quit? Is he mad about the global warming hype? Tennekes has often spoken up against alarmist language concerning the greenhouse effect and against the hubris of climatologists who pretend to know precisely what will happen to the climate in the future.

No, Tennekes uses the ultimate tool he has to object to the conflicts of interest within the Academy. It is supposed to be the highest independent scientific advisory body in the country, but at the same time it runs a number of research institutes, and has to lobby for their budgets. “That conflict of interest is breaking the wings of its advisory function,” he says. The Strategic Agenda of the Academy, currently being finalized, offers no hope for improvement.

Is that all? The essay “Hermetic Jargon” gives yet another impression. In it, he protests the inaccessibility of modern science, with its habit to restrict quality control (peer review) to the inner circles of each discipline. And he is annoyed by the dominant position of physics in the world of science. He wants to promote more dialogue between disciplines, but he discovered that the walls between them cannot be broken down. Stepping out is the final choice.

In response to our request Robbert Dijkgraaf, the current President of the Academy, states that the Academy regrets the departure, but respects it.

This picture will appear in the second printing of Simple Science of Flight by H. Tennekes, currently in press.

Hermetic Jargon

Farewell Message to the Dutch Academy

As soon as scientists and scholars from different disciplines talk to one another, confusion creeps in. In everyday language, words evoke clusters of associations, suggestions, hints and images. This is why an intelligent listener often needs only half a word. But the words that scientists use in their professional communications are usually safeguarded against unwanted associations. Within each separate discipline this helps to limit semantic confusion, but outsiders have no chance.

Disciplines are divided by their languages. Incomprehensible journal articles and oral presentations, ever-expanding university libraries, endless bickering over the appropriation of research funds, resources, and post-doc positions:  The Temple of Science has become a Tower of Babel. A Babylonian confusion of tongues has become the organizing principle. As soon as more than a couple dozen scientists unite around the same theme, another specialist journal is created, comprehensible only to the in-crowd. If this is science, I want to get off.

Many years ago, two members of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences tried to call attention to the problem. One was the leading art historian and Director of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Henk van Os, the other the retired methodologist of the social sciences, Adriaan de Groot. The two elderly gentlemen arranged a discussion meeting on the peer review system at Academy headquarters. Being an Academy member myself, I eagerly participated. In their introduction van Os and de Groot explained how all disciplines have a tendency to develop their own ‘hermetic jargon,’ the secret language that eliminates the risk of having to discuss the foundations of one’s discipline with the outside world.

Hermetic jargon: what a beautiful neologism! Hermetic: referring to airtight sealing, my Random House dictionary says. Words are at their best when they seed a whole cloud of meanings and associations. In this case my mind reacted instantly, grasping at such concepts as occult science, alchemy, and esoteric writing.  Esoteric, accessible to the initiated only, is the qualification given by the philosopher Lucian to some of Aristotle’s writings. Hermetic sealing was the standard laboratory practice of the alchemists. The net effect of hermetic jargon is that outsiders cannot argue with the high priests who wield the words. They can only accept the occult writings in awe.

Looking at the academic enterprise this way, I come across a lot of issues that bother me. The first that comes to mind is that hermetic jargon makes it impossible to conduct mature, scientific discussions of the paradigms, dogmas, and myths that drive each discipline. The claims of the mainstream physics community worldwide, for example, are outrageous. All science is Physics, period, is what these priests claim. All other disciplines, including chemistry, biology, engineering and the earth sciences, are mere derivatives. Physicists glorify their Nobel prizes without ever contemplating whether the Nobel prize system might be based on a nineteenth-century assessment of the world of science. Hermetic jargon is also a very effective means of excluding outsiders from negotiations for research funds. The system by which professional colleagues judge each other’s performance is called Peer Review. Only peers in the same discipline may pass judgment on their colleagues’ funding requests and on the quality of their papers. Only high-energy physicists are allowed to participate in debates concerning the funding of high-energy physics, only micrometeorologists are allowed to review micrometeorological manuscripts. This makes a lot of sense, of course, because outsiders are in no position to judge the intricate technical details of the measurements and calculations involved. But such judgment is only a necessary first step. The key challenge for a meaningful peer review system would be to make explicit the underlying paradigms, and to subject them to scholarly scrutiny. This, to me, should be the essence of the duty of a National Academy, and perforce of each Academician.

Chances for a mature dialogue will improve when hermetic jargon is taken for what it really is: a way to defend barriers. There are plenty of unresolved issues and dilemmas in the interstices between the disciplines. Almost nobody dares to take a peek, but Gregory Bateson, the originator of the Kantian idea that Mind and Nature form a Necessary Unity, did. Angels Fear is the title of the book his daughter Margaret compiled after he died. The subtitle of that beautiful but rather messy book is Towards an Epistemology of the Sacred. The term ‘sacred’ should not be construed as referring to theology, but to the central problem of all epistemology: how can we know anything, how can we evaluate, who are we to make judgments?  In Kant’s own words: “Reason suffers the fate of being troubled by questions which it cannot reject because they were brought up by reason itself, but which it cannot answer either because they are utterly beyond its capacities.”  Yes, only fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

In oral presentations, to give another example, it would behoove the speaker to speak openly about the questions looming behind the research successes, behind the never-ending propaganda for scientific progress. I myself tried this a few times, but to no avail. In my induction speech for the Academy, in January 1984, I introduced the limited predictability of the weather as a prime example of the uncertainties associated with the sensitive dependence of nonlinear systems to initial conditions and to mismatches between Nature and the models we use to compute its evolution. I told my audience that the prediction horizon, in 1950 estimated by John von Neumann at 30 days, in fact is only three days on average. I dwelt only a little on the implications of this for the myth of endless progress in science. Apparently, meteorology is approaching the no-man’s land between the unknown and the unknowable, I said. This was enough to alert the cognoscenti. The moment the discussion period following my lecture started, the famous astronomer Henk van de Hulst stood up from his chair in the front row and said: “Henk, that is a sermon, not a lecture. Sermons are not appropriate in this Hall.” And the President, David de Wied then,  closing the meeting and thanking me for my speech, said in front of the microphones: “Henk, I really don’t understand what you said, and I believe I don’t want to understand either.”

The two Academy members who had arranged the meeting on peer review apparently had concluded that voluntary changes in the peer review system were very unlikely. They opted for a direct confrontation. They proposed to amend the review system such that a number of colleagues outside the discipline concerned would have to participate in the evaluation of proposals for research funding and debates on the desired direction of research programs. Ask psychologists to look over the shoulders of meteorologists, involve theologians in the evaluation of astronomical long-term planning, let sociologists and engineers review each other’s  professional papers, and so on. As soon as you do that, hermetic jargon loses the rationale for its existence.

It shall come as no surprise that these thoughts were torpedoed the moment they reverberated through the august Academy assembly hall. Everyone knew instantly the very idea was a land mine under the science establishment. Nobody understood that the proposal was rather modest in the sense that bureaucrats, politicians, and taxpayers would be excluded, and that the proposal in fact could be construed as reinforcing the power of the scientific nomenclature. The current practice is that spokesmen for each discipline negotiate directly with bureaucrats in government agencies, and refuse to be drawn into evaluations of the claims of other disciplines.

So all hell broke loose, right there in the meeting, the scene suddenly similar to that in a typical Knesset session, with Academicians jumping up, shouting, and cursing. Within half an hour, the President of the Academy, Pieter Drenth this time, stepped in, stating ex cathedra that the current review system was functioning well enough, despite minor flaws. He closed the meeting, and the Executive Board of the Academy decided to abort the idea altogether.

Following in the footsteps of van Os and de Groot, I have tried to fantasize about the fierce battles that might result if their proposal were put into effect. The central myth of cosmology and astrophysics, for example, is that the human mind is more powerful than the Universe. Stephen Hawking writes: when we discover a theory that unifies gravity and quantum mechanics, we will (I shudder as I write this) “know the Mind of God.” Martin Rees, then the Astronomer Royal of the United Kingdom, wrote a book called Before the Beginning, subtitled Our Universe and Others. Indeed, it has become common in astronomy to talk about Multiple Universes, an oxymoron if I ever saw one. Unfortunately, mainstream theology continues to propagate a similar myth, i.e. the stupid idea that one can talk with insight, and write scholarly publications, about God himself. That, in my mind, is an unforgivable epistemological fallacy. Readers not versed in the Bible might find it useful to read the story of Moses stumbling into a psychedelic thorn bush in Exodus 3. Moses hears voices and asks: “please tell me your Name, so I can tell my people who sent me.”  The Voice answers: “I am whoever I want to be, that should be good enough for you.”  

Being an engineer myself, I would be delighted to participate in a debate between engineers and sociologists. In both cases, the interaction between the discipline and society is central to the field of inquiry. Take cell phones. The technology is straightforward, but the sociology is complex. Engineers are servants to society. Their work, which uses physics, chemistry, and countless other disciplines, ought to be analyzed by sociologists. I confess that I know no sociology to speak of, but I know enough about engineering to claim that something must be amiss if the best book on technology I know of is Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

As to my own position, I can illustrate that with another incident at the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. I was elected into the Academy in 1982, and assigned to a small group of scholars not bound to a specific discipline, the Free Section. This group was the envy of several others, because the much coveted expansion of disciplinary sections was hindered by our presence. There were 100 chairs in the Science Division at the time, and several other sections claimed to need more. The powers behind the scenes argued long enough for the Executive Board to cave in to the demands to eliminate the Free Section, and lodge its members into disciplines. I was tentatively assigned to the physics section, which did not appeal to me at all. So I wrote to the then President, Piet van Zandbergen, saying that one could imagine putting me in the Engineering Section because I was raised as an engineer, in the Physics Section because my area of expertise is turbulence theory, which is a branch of theoretical physics, and in Earth Sciences, because that would correspond to my current position. Instead, I wrote, I would prefer to be assigned to the Theology and Philosophy Section because of my growing interest in epistemology. The President, eager to avoid any written record of the nuisance I had created, called me one night by phone, saying: “Henk, philosophy belongs to the Arts and Humanities Division of the Academy. The division between them and the Science Division is laid down in our Charter. You cannot cross that Wall however much you want to. That Wall cannot be breached.”

But one can step outside. I did. There is light out there.

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Guest Post By Forrest M. Mims III “On Being A Scientist”

In response to my post

National Academies Press Book “On Being A Scientist: Third Edition: 2009

I have received the guest post below.

Guest Post By Forrest M. Mims III [ ;;;]

Ralph Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Science, is among those listed in the credit for “On Being a Scientist” (page vii). I enjoyed a pleasant conversation with Dr. Cicenone during the 50th Anniversary of the Global Carbon Dioxide Record Symposium in November 2007 in Hawaii, where he gave a keynote talk and where I spoke about the Mauna Loa Observatory book.

During a February 2007 interview with Bob Ryan, former president of the American Meteorological Society, Dr. Cicerone expressed his support for global warming science. The interview closed with a statement that very much conforms with the ideals expressed in “On Being a Scientist” and gives vigorous support to those who are attempting to raise the credibility of global warming science.


BR [Bob Ryan]: What’s the responsibility of the scientist today in this area of obviously political changes and policy? How do you separate the role of the scientist from the politician and the policy makers?

RC [Ralph Cicerone]: It is getting harder because what we need from scientists first and foremost is what we’ve always needed – that they have to be absolutely open-minded and tough-minded in evaluating the evidence and conducting experiments and doing calculations. They have to let the chips fall where they may. But what is making it harder is that as each of these fields of sciences becomes deeper and more specialized and more dependent on 20 years of learning before you can do anything, it makes it harder to communicate to the rest of us who are not specialists of what all these individuals know. So, we are actually asking scientists now, at least some of them, to do more than we asked of them in the past. We need rigorous, hard-nosed, extremely skeptical scientific attitude that is very independent-minded. On the other hand, we are asking them to communicate across all professions and across all livelihoods at the same time.

 BR: Quite a Challenge.

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A Guest Weblog By Will Alexander “Climategate Chaos”

The following is a guest weblog by Will Alexander [and thanks to Madhav L Khandekar for introducing us to Professor Alexander!].  As I have posted before, I encourage climate scientists with peer-reviewed papers on this subject to present their viewpoints as guest posts on my weblog. Following is his brief biographical sketch

WJR (Will) Alexander is Professor Emeritus of the Department of Civil Engineering of the University of Pretoria, South Africa, and Honorary Fellow of the South African Institution of Civil Engineering. He spent the past 35 years of his career actively involved in the development of water resource and flood analysis methods as well as in natural disaster mitigation studies. His interest in climate change arose from claims that it would have an adverse effect in these fields. In his subsequent studies of very large hydrometeorological data sets he was unable to detect any adverse human-related changes. He has written more than 200 papers, presentations and books on these subjects. []

Guest Welog By Will Alexander  Adelaide, Australia – Climategate chaos  Monday 7 December 2009

Google search for ‘Climategate’: Beginning of November: Nil   – 28 November: 10.4 million hits and rising – 6 December: 31.6 million and still rising!!!!

The international stakes are monumental. Never in the history of science has a single issue generated so much interest and controversy. Looking closer, never in the history of science has there been such a flagrant disregard for the fundamental requirements of scientific endeavour. These are clearly described in the UNESCO/ICSU Declaration on science and the use of scientific knowledge (1999). 

The following are passages from the declaration that are directly relevant to the climate change issue. The emphases are mine.

We seek active collaboration across all the fields of scientific endeavour, i.e. the natural sciences such as the physical, earth and biological sciences, the biomedical and engineering sciences, and the social and human sciences.

Today, there is need for a vigorous and informed democratic debate on the production and use of scientific knowledge…Greater interdisciplinary efforts, involving both natural and social sciences, are a prerequisite for dealing with ethical, social, cultural, environmental, gender, economic and health issues.

Scientists have a special responsibility for seeking to avert applications of science, which are ethically wrong or have adverse impact.

The practice of scientific research and the use of knowledge from that research should always aim at the welfare of humankind.

The social responsibility of scientists requires that they maintain high standards of scientific integrity and quality control, share their knowledge, communicate with the public and educate the younger generation.

There are obviously many scientists who are deeply disturbed by the climategate affair and its inevitable consequences on the image of science as an honourable profession. For example, this is what the UK Prime Minister is reported to have announced.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown led a chorus of condemnation against “flat-earth” climate change sceptics who have tried to derail the Copenhagen summit by casting doubt on the evidence for global warming.

As Shakespeare once wrote – herein lies the rub.

Surely, it is elementary high school science that in order to prove that A is a consequence of B, it is a fundamental requirement to demonstrate that B is not the consequence of C or D. In the case of global warming there is another possible cause. An obvious alternative to human causality is that the warming may be the consequence of changes in received solar energy and its poleward redistribution via the atmospheric and oceanic processes.

This possible linkage has been the subject of investigations in South Africa alone for more than 100 years, but completely ignored by the climate change scientists. They blithely maintain that the changes in received solar energy are too small to influence climate. However, they still have to explain what causes El Nino that everybody agrees has a large influence on climate. If it is not related to the effects of variations in solar activity what alternative explanation is there?

In 1889, more than 100 years ago, the Knysna forester D E Hutchins reported as follows in his book Cycles of drought and good seasons in South Africa.

This confirmation comes from the Cape Town Observatory. The returns for thirty years from the Cape Town Observatory show a close correspondence between sun-spots and temperatures the maximum of temperature lagging a year behind the minimum of sun-spots. (p17).

At Cape Town, the correspondence between the mean rainfall and mean sunspot frequency has long been an established fact. (p25).

For these reasons we ought to consider the Cape Town Observatory rainfall figures as of great importance to ourselves, an importance enhanced by the fact that they go back to the year 1842. For the three cycles comprised in the period 1842 to 1875 the mean annual rainfall at the Royal Observatory, Cape Town, was: –

During Minimum Sunspot years               21.05 inches.

   “       Intermediate     “                        23.59    “

   “       Maximum        “                          27.95    “

In 1970 the South African Commission of Enquiry into Water Matters recommended that research be undertaken on the possible solar influence on water resources.

Two days ago the UK Met Office buckled under public pressure. It announced plans to release, early next week, station temperature records for over one thousand of the stations that make up the global land surface temperature record. I can be of assistance. One of the records will be that of the South African weather station at Cape Agulhas. This is the southern tip of the African continent. It is far removed from urbanisation or other disturbing influences.

This is one of my early sketches. While there was an increase in temperature from 1918 to 1986 it was associated with increases in both solar activity and beneficial increases in widespread rainfall. This confirms Hutchin’s observations 100 years earlier. It negates the claim that temperature increases will have undesirable consequences and result in our planet becoming uninhabitable. 

Concurrent increases in sunspot activity, temperature and widespread rainfall. 

A more sophisticated and incontestable linkage is shown in the following figure from one of my early presentations.

Comparison of the characteristics of annual sunspot densities with corresponding characteristics of the annual flows in the Vaal River.

These two examples are a very small sample of our well documented studies on the solar linkage during the past thirty years. The linkage is unequivocal.

Despite a diligent analysis of a comprehensive hydroclimatic database of more than eleven thousand annual observations, we were unable to detect any trends or abnormalities in the data that could be attributed to human activities. Why are we vilified for our solidly based scientific endeavours? There can only be one reason. Our conscientious studies completely undermine the very basis of climate alarmism. There is abundant, well documented evidence demonstrating the solar connection, but none at all that supports human causality. We are not sceptics. We simply presented the facts based on thorough, prolonged studies. Our publications and reports are freely available. They include the data and analytical methodologies. 

Where do we go from here?

The millions of Google hits (about a million per day) confirm that there are thousands of scientists and others who share our concerns. The climate change scientists and their institutions have painted themselves into a corner from which there is no escape. If the investigations that are now underway confirm that global temperatures increased during the past century this is still a long way from proving human causality.

When the Met Office provides global temperature data do you think that they will provide concurrent rainfall data from the same stations? If not, then why not? If rainfall decreased synchronously with temperature increases this would provide undeniable proof of a linkage. Why did they not follow this route? Once again the answer is obvious. There is no scientifically believable linkage between temperature increases and rainfall decreases. Rising temperatures will increase the habitability of our planet and the welfare of its citizens.

Tactical error

The most recent development is that on 4 December Working Group 1 of the IPCC issued a statement that it firmly stands behind the conclusions reached in its 2007 assessment reports, “The key finding that the warming in the climate system is unequivocal.”  This is still a long way from proving human causality. The only proof that they can offer is manipulated deductions from limited tree ring measurements in remote areas of the globe that show that present global temperatures are higher than any experienced in the past thousands of years. Therefore the increases must be due to human activities. I repeat my question. Why did they not base their conclusions on solid analyses of rainfall and river flow measurements during the past 100 years?

Their statement also defends the integrity of the individual scientists involved in the climategate affair. I share the view that the individuals should not become the scapegoats for the scientifically corrupt system. I have personal experience of the extent to which climate alarmists are prepared to go to silence the opposition.

An unforeseen consequence of the working group’s proclaimed support for the individuals and their tactics in particular, now places the whole IPCC structure in the same boat. If the investigations confirm serious shortfalls in procedures used in the two institutions, then by its own admission, the same criticisms must apply to the IPCC itself.

WJRA.   7 December 2009

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A Suggested Approach To Reviews of Scientific Papers By Zbigniew W. Kundzewicz

Recommendation By Zbigniew W. Kundzewicz  Co-Editor of the Hydrological Sciences Journal On The Peer Review Publication Process. His brief summary biographical summary is

Zbigniew W. Kundzewicz, PhD, DSc is Professor of Earth Sciences, Deputy Director for Research, and Head of Laboratory of Climate and Water Resources in the Institute for Agricultural and Forest Environment, Polish Academy of Sciences, Poznan, Poland. He is also associated with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Potsdam, Germany. Co-Editor of a scientific periodical Hydrological Sciences Journal (Wallingford, Oxfordshire, UK). Member of the Advisory Board on the Environment (including Climate) of the European Union Seventh Framework Programme. Author of 328 scientific publications. He has been coordinating lead author in several IPCC publications. Principal research interests and expertise: extreme climate events, climate change impacts, hydrology and water resources, sustainable development.

Kundzewicz’s comments on a paper with widely divergent recommendations on its publication [ I have removed the specific name of the paper under review].

From Zbyszek Kundzewicz

Making decision on this paper is not easy. However, after lengthy considerations and discussions I wish to propose a solution.

Recently, I received an interesting personal letter from Stephen Schneider (founder and sole long-term editor of Climatic Change), who wrote ”When I get a paper that generates controversy and split reviewer advice, I look to be sure that it is mostly differing philosophy rather than technical errors that underlie the dispute.” In case of a paradigmatic dispute, Steve tends to accept a paper to generate debate but publishes it with a “springboard” (invited editorial) paper providing a discussion of the topic (rather than being a public criticism of the paper in question). I think that this is quite a good idea.

The paper by XXXXX and the so far review process unveiled clear communication gaps between climate and water communities and between climate-mainstream experts and climate skeptics. Referees from different camps look differently at the same picture. Results of the review largely depend on the camp and may span a broad range, from “excellent/accept” to “poor/reject”. Actually, there is nothing in between – either “excellent” or “poor”.

Climatologists and hydrologists speak different technical languages. A climatological referee mentions first and second kinds of climatic system predictability that belong to a standard toolbox in the climate community, being largely unknown in the water camp. Technicalities of the Hurst effect and Thiessen polygons (standard menu in hydrological sciences) do not ring the bell in the climate community. There are different disciplinary perspectives on validation / various standards / traditions in disciplines; different attitudes to models vs observations, point vs space?

Authors approach a central issue of considerable controversy. It is fuel to climate change skeptics (climatologists and hydrologists alike), but creating anger among the climate-mainstream camp.

Why not opening a broader debate. Wouldn’t it be possible to talk to each other and to try to bring the positions of the camps closer to each other, to specify a list of agreements and disagreements.

I suggest that this paper is published, together with a springboard discussion paper. I would not set on the idea of discussions. They may or may not come, but even if a discussion comes, it is temporally disconnected from the main paper published much earlier.

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