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Climate Science


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  • 10-Apr-10 Holes in Climate Science
  • 15-Aug-09 Some Unsettled Problems in Climate Science
  • 08-Aug-09 What Caused the PETM (Paleocene-Eocene Temperature Maximum)
  • 13-Jun-09 Climate Sensitivity (CS), Negative Feedback (NF), and all that
  • 04-Apr-09 On Causes and Mechanisms of the 1500-Year Climate Cycles
  • SCIENCE EDITORIAL #11-2010
    (in TWTW Apr 10, 2010)

    S. Fred Singer, Chairman and President , Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)

    Holes in Climate Science

    Apr 10, 2010

    A recent News Feature in 2010 Nature [pp 284-287] discusses what it calls "The Real Holes in Climate Science." The problem is that it misses the "real holes" and therefore echoes the IPCC mantra that warming in the last thirty years is anthropogenic.

    The author, Quirin Schiermeier, bases his views on the 'RealClimate' blog and some of its authors. Needless to say, he has not talked to any climate skeptics. To give a better view of his bias: In his opinion, the leaked CRU emails do not challenge the scientific consensus on climate change but only show rude behavior and verbal faux pas. The holes he identifies are the conventional ones:
  • Regional climate prediction - although this does not stop alarmists from attempting to publish such predictions that promote catastrophic futures
  • Precipitation - everyone would agree that this is a real hole in climate science -- difficult to fill until we understand better the formation of clouds
  • Aerosols - even the IPCC admits there are huge errors when assessing particles such as sulfates, black carbon, sea salt and dust, all of which have different optical properties and can also produce indirect effects on clouds
  • The tree ring controversy: QS brings back the hockeystick and blithely ignores the fact that it has been thoroughly discredited. He still insists that the 20th century is unusual in terms of temperature rise. He asserts that the emails that mention hide the decline and Mike's Nature trick merely refer to the divergence issue between tree ring data and instrument data. He says that "many scientists are tired of the criticisms" - perhaps because they have run out of excuses.

    He finally quotes Susan Solomon, the former co-chair of the IPCC 2007 Science Team, as claiming that "multiple lines of evidence support AGW" - without listing any.

    QS tries to dispose of what he calls Enduring climate myths [by skeptics] - which all happen to be facts:
  • Climate models cannot provide useful information about the real world
  • Global warming stopped ten years ago
  • Temperatures were higher in pre-industrial times
  • Temperature records taken in the lower atmosphere indicate that the globe is not warming
  • A few degrees of warming are not a big deal
  • Measured increases in temperature reflect the growth of cities around weather stations rather than global warming

    But the real holes in climate science are these facts, never mentioned by QS or by the IPCC:
  • The absence of 'fingerprint' data that would indicate a substantial warming from CO2
  • The absence of data for positive feedbacks that might amplify the effects of greenhouse gases like CO2
  • The empirical evidence that shows the control of climate fluctuations on a decadal scale by solar activity by way of cosmic rays.

    View The Week That Was in which this editorial appeared.

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    SEPP Science Editorial #25-2009
    (in TWTW Aug 15, 2009)

    S. Fred Singer, Chairman and President , Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)

    Some Unsettled Problems in Climate Science

    Aug 15, 2009

    This presentation is directed primarily towards scientists who have some familiarity with climate problems.

    Our aim is to show

    (1) that the "science is NOT settled"

    (2) that NIPCC is in every sense as competent as IPCC

    (3) that we need help in solving some sticky problems

    (4) that continued but targeted research support is essential

    My most recent seminar talk was at the NOAA Research Center in Boulder, CO, on July 31, a Friday afternoon. More than 200 crowded into the lecture room and discussions continued long after my lecture - some still ongoing by e-mail.

    • How goes the dispute about Climate Sensitivity? Is it 3 degC for a doubling of CO2 (IPCC) or 0.3 (NIPCC)
    • Is WV and cloud feedback positive or negative? and how can the right data give the answer
    • How much of 20th century warming is anthropogenic? nearly all (IPCC) or an insignificant percentage (NIPCC)
    • Can solar activity explain decadal-scale climate changes? Or internal atmosphere-ocean oscillations - or both?
    • How much energy does GH radiation impart to SeaSfcTemp? since downwelling IR cannot penetrate beyond a thin skin of water
    • Why the debate about CO2 residence time Is it 5 years, 50-100 years, or millennia?
    • Is there really a temperature increase "in the pipeline"? Will warming continue after GH gases are stabilized?
    • Why such disagreement about Sea Level Rise? Year 2100 estimates vary greatly: 600cm (Hansen), 1200cm (Weaver), 14-53cm (IPCC-2007), or only 18 cm (Singer)?

      View The Week That Was in which this editorial appeared.

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      SEPP Science Editorial #24-2009
      (in TWTW Aug 8, 2009)

      S. Fred Singer, Chairman and President , Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)

      What Caused the PETM (Paleocene-Eocene Temperature Maximum)

      Aug 8, 2009

      One of the striking features of the thermal history of the earth is the unusually rapid and strong warming about 55 million years ago, termed the PETM. It was recently again discussed in a paper by Zebee et al in Nature Geoscience online: 13 July 2009 | doi:10.1038/ngeo578

      The paper brought great joy and jubilation to both climate skeptics and climate alarmists. Skeptics latched on to the authors' statement that GH models could not explain the rapid temperature rise in relation to the observed rise of CO2. Alarmists, on the other hand, warned that such rapid and strong temperature excursions might even be possible today unless we restrain CO2 emissions.

      Of course, it is difficult to be certain about the direction of cause-effect from a correlation of temperature and CO2, since the data lack adequate time resolution. It might therefore be appropriate to develop a different hypothesis, which happens to make use of two papers I already published (in 1971 and 1988). Many authors seem to accept that the cause of the temperature rise was the rapid release of methane trapped in clathrates in ocean sediments, which then was oxidized to CO2. The problem with this simple idea is there may not be sufficient oxygen, particularly in the deep ocean, to accomplish this chemical transformation. This will be particularly true if large bursts of methane are released in bubbles that travel rapidly to the sea surface.

      Once in the atmosphere, methane released in these large quantities could survive for a long time, simply by depleting the available hydroxyl (OH) radicals, which exist only in minute concentrations in the steady state. As a consequence, not only would this methane exert a strong GH effect, but large amounts of methane could percolate into the stratosphere, and there be photolyzed by solar ultraviolet radiation to eventually form both water vapor and CO2, and contribute to destruction of ozone ("Stratospheric Water Vapour Increase Due to Human Activities." Nature 233:543-547. 1971).

      These large amounts of water vapor released into the normally dry stratosphere can lead to important consequences, including the formation of cirrus clouds (consisting of ice particles) in the vicinity of the cold tropopause. Tabulated physical measurements give us the "complex refractive index" of water and ice. Therefore, a direct calculation based on Mie theory can provide the optical properties of the cirrus cloud cover (Re-Analysis of the Nuclear Winter Phenomenon. Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics 38:228- 239. 1988).

      If the cloud cover is very thick, it could exhibit an appreciable optical albedo. But my analysis shows that as the cloud thins, it retains a large infrared opacity, sufficient to cut off any thermal radiation from the earth's surface in the IR window of the atmosphere (8-12 microns). Such a GH effect is quite powerful for warming the global climate; it depends, of course, also on the areal coverage of the cirrus cloud. It might be strong enough to enhance the warming of the earth and therefore accelerate a further release of methane from the ocean, a kind of positive feedback that could explain the observed large temperature increase. But so far all of this is simply hypothesis and speculation. Some obvious questions remain:

    • How to test this hypothesis? One would expect to find some evidence concerning anoxic effects in the ocean, including a die-off of marine organisms. The CO2 increase observed could partly be caused by a degassing of a warming ocean.
    • And could such an effect happen now? Not likely. We have to remember that temperatures near the P-E boundary had been unusually high for long periods of time. In fact, the earth was completely ice-free, including also the polar regions. This is quite different from the present situation. Further, nothing of the sort has happened during the much warmer (compared to today) Holocene Temperature Optimum, 8000-5000 years ago.

      View The Week That Was in which this editorial appeared.

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      SEPP Science Editorial #17-2009
      (in TWTW Jun 13, 2009)

      S. Fred Singer, Chairman and President , Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)

      Climate Sensitivity (CS), Negative Feedback (NF), and all that

      Jun 13, 2009

      Based on empirical evidence, various researchers have concluded that CS is much smaller than the modelderived values quoted by the IPCC. Some of the empirical studies compare observed temperature trends over time with IPCC values [Schwartz, Monckton, etc]; others [Douglass, Singer, NIPCC] compare observed and modeled patterns of temperature trends ("fingerprints")'

      CS is conventionally defined as the equilibrium temp rise caused by a doubled forcing of GH gases; it is often taken to be just a doubling of CO2 levels. The "canonical" CS values of the IPCC range from 1.5 to 4.5 C, with a median of 3.0 C. Many model calculations show higher values, depending on assumptions about cloud parameters; for example, Stainforth et al [2005] quote as high as 11.5 C. The empirical values for CS are all well below the IPCC's; some are 0.5 C or even less, corresponding to a trend of Global Mean Sfc Temp (GMST) of only about 0.05 C/decade and a tropical troposphere trend of about 0.1 C/decade. These trends are at or below the limit of detection, because of the interfering effects of aerosol emissions (both natural and anthropogenic), volcanic eruptions, El NiƱos and other, less dramatic atmosphere-ocean interactions.

      The "fingerprint" method can only conclude that anthropogenic effects are not detected [NIPCC], and yields no values for CS - only an upper limit of perhaps 0.3 C, an order of magnitude smaller than the IPCC's median value.

      How to account for the huge discrepancy between IPCC and NIPCC? In principle, one can invoke natural forcings, both external (solar) and internal, as well as aerosols that affect the optical properties of the atmosphere. It is tempting, however, to first investigate the possibility of negative feedbacks within the climate system itself, principally the various effects of water in the atmosphere.

      Atmospheric water can occur in three different forms: as a gas -- water vapor (WV), as liquid cloud droplets, and as solid ice particles. In principle, one can measure the climate effects of each component, as we shall discuss below.

      1. Liquid: The negative feedback effects of water droplets are easiest to visualize [Singer WSJ 1988]. As the oceans warm, increased evaporation can increase cloudiness, increasing optical albedo, and reducing the incidence of solar radiation at the surface - thus reducing any warming caused by increasing GH gases. But measuring such an albedo change is difficult, requiring accuracies of a fraction of a percent and exceptional stability over a number of years. 2. WV: Models all assume a constant relative humidity with altitude; thus WV in the cold upper troposphere (UT) will radiate at a low temperature and contribute little to OLR (outgoing long-wave radiation), with the remainder therefore coming from the warm surface. (Total OLR is fixed and must equal absorbed solar energy.) However, if atmospheric processes manage to achieve a drying of the UT (as GH gases increase) [Ellsaesser, Gray, Lindzen], then WV will radiate at the higher temperature of the boundary layer, contribute the bulk of the OLR, and leave less IR emission from the surface.

      Satellite measurements, such as by the AIRS instrument, can resolve the WV bands in the OLR and determine the source temperature. Data would be required versus latitude, and over a number of years. 3. Ice: Convective activity in the tropics can transport moisture to heights near the tropopause where ice crystals would form cirrus clouds, often invisible but having strong absorption properties over the entire effective IR region. A reduction of the area covered by cirrus (iris effect - Lindzen) would permit more escape of IR from the surface and thus produce a cooling -- a negative feedback.

      Again, AIRS data could obtain the necessary confirming data by observing long-term trends. NF is not a sure thing; aerosols and/or natural forcings can reduce and even overcome GH warming. At present, one cannot tell which of the possible NF effects is dominant; but the right kind of data could help settle the issue. Establishing the magnitude of NF would independently confirm the low values of CS.

      View The Week That Was in which this editorial appeared.

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      SEPP Science Editorial #11-2009
      (in TWTW Apr 4, 2009)

      S. Fred Singer, Chairman and President , Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)

      On Causes and Mechanisms of the 1500-Year Climate Cycles

      Apr 4, 2009

      The existence of a (roughly) 1500-year climate cycle of abrupt warming and cooling, first noted in Greenland ice cores by Dansgaard and Oeschger, is well established from a multitude of geological data [Singer and Avery. Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1500 Years. Rowman & Littlefield Publ. 2007]. The cycle appears to extend into the Holocene and can account for the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) and Little Ice Age (LIA) [Loehle and Singer 2009]. Its synchronicity seems to be preserved. Early on, Bond [2001] suggested a solar cause; but we do not know of any solar phenomenon with such a period. Nor do we know the mechanism by which the Sun could cause such abrupt climate changes.

      In view of the fairly precise timing of the cycle, we speculate that purely internal oscillations of the oceanatmosphere system are unlikely to be the principal or only cause. We also note that the amplitude of D-O events was much larger during the period of glaciation than during the current warm period of the Holocene. We therefore favor a quasi-periodic internal oscillation synchronized by a solar trigger; the mechanism resembles "stochastic resonance." This would also account for the occurrence of missing cycles. As to the actual mechanism, we favor changes in solar activity modulating the energy spectrum of Galactic Cosmic Rays [Singer 1958] and thereby the flux of GCR impinging on the Earth's atmosphere. The most reasonable way this could affect the climate is by changes in cloudiness [Svensmark 2007]. The large amplitude of the D-O events suggests a positive feedback, perhaps a greenhouse effect, ultimately limited by a negative feedback inherent in the atmosphere-ocean system. Although many puzzles still remain, the observations suggest that large-amplitude abrupt changes become less likely in a warmer climate [NRC 2002].

      Why is that?

      (1) One reason might be that a colder ocean mixed-layer contains more dissolved CO2 and therefore releases more CO2 into the atmosphere when warmed - compared to a warmer Holocene ocean.

      (2) Further, this released CO2 produces a stronger GH forcing when added to the low CO2 levels of the ice ages -- because of the well-accepted logarithmic dependence of CO2 forcing on CO2 concentration.

      (3) Even more important, the ice-age atmosphere is extremely dry; there is little evaporation from the cold ocean surface and ice cover. Hence there will be little or no 'negative feedback' from WV or from clouds. (I am assuming here that such a feedback exists now -- reducing the GH effects of CO2). So one can see the full GH effect of CO2.

      (4) Finally, we don't see "run-away warming" because the amount of CO2 released from the mixed layer is limited. (At much higher temperatures, of course, the 'thermostat' effect of Ramanathan would operate.)

      View The Week That Was in which this editorial appeared.

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