TLM | July 13, 2012 at 9:54 am | Reply
Inevitably, because the internet is a largely US based phenomenon (particularly the Blogosphere), there is huge concentration on one unusual event in a relatively small part of one continent. Climate records are broken all the time and everywhere simply because we only have about 60 years of reliable data. At the moment in the UK we are suffering record levels of rainfall and low temperatures this summer. As far as I know nobody is seriously arguing that this is due to “global cooling” despite the predictable jokes in the pub.
The big argument is not about “New England” warming or “Old England” cooling it is about “Global” warming. Currently it looks like June and July are going to be pretty unremarkable in context looking at the whole globe.
Yes, records are broken all the time, and if this were just a war of “hottest ever” vs “coldest ever” it would be ridiculous. But there are two aspects which you have not addressed: the number and severity of record-breaking events.
I’m really not surprised that England shows low temperatures this summer — it’s a small region (much smaller than the USA) and they show greater variation, and indeed records are broken all the time. But I ask you: has England just had its coldest 12-month time span on record? Its coldest 6-month time span on record? One of Anthony Watts’ favorite comments is along the lines of “coldest March in 40 years!!!” He rarely (if ever) says “coldest March ever.” Is one of the cold months there in England the coldest on record? Did it break the old record by nearly 2F (1.1C) such as happened in March in Wisconsin? Is it anywhere near as record-shattering as the Moscow heat wave of 2010? Have the U.K. meteorological agencies referred to it as a “once in a thousand years” cold wave? That’s what you need to compare, since the Russian meteorological agency called their heat wave a “once in a thousand years” event.
You can always dig up cold events and even cold records, but sorry — your cold records just don’t stack up to the hot records being set, this last March in much of the USA, last summer in Texas and Oklahoma, 2010 in Russia, 2009 in south Australia. There’s a qualitative difference.
And if you look at the number of broken records — not just during the heat wave, but all this year in the USA, all last year, the years before that. This isn’t a “hot day” vs “cold day” argument, it’s a statistical property of the data record and there’s peer-reviewed research to back it up. Since the 2000s hot records have outnumbered cold 2 to 1. This year in the USA, that ratio is 10 to 1. There’s a quantitative difference. A big one.
So no, your “records are broken all the time” argument doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.
If you follow this blog regularly, you’ll also know that I have been one of the foremost advocates of emphasizing the trend over the fluctuations. But there comes a time when the extremes become so extreme, and happen so often, that they don’t just deserve mention, they have a noticeable — and too often, destructive — impact on human society. Welcome to the rest of our lives.
I have been reading the scientific literature since the last IPCC report as well as following many blogs both pro and anti and I just hold my hands up in despair.
I particularly dislike the tone of the comments on certain blogs where slagging of the other commentators seems to be more important than finding the truth, and I am afraid WUWT and this one are two of the worst. Both sides suffer from very bad cases of cognitive bias, always dismissing out of hand any argument that goes against their “belief system”.
I’m certainly willing to “slag” other commentators (I assume that’s British slang). What I don’t do is what Anthony Watts does — publish misinformation that can easily be disproven in order to do so. Like his SPPI paper with Joe D’Aleo which used faulty analysis to accuse scientists of outright fraud — but which I (and half a dozen other bloggers) easily showed wrong. When he does that, that’s when I “slag” him.
I don’t just “give ’em hell.” I give ’em the truth — they think it’s hell.
So what do we actually know?
1. The globe has warmed by about 0.5c since the first decade of the 20th Century, slightly more going back to 1850 if you extrapolate the very sparse data we had then over the whole globe.
No. The globe has warmed by about 0.8C (1.4F) since the first decade of the 20th century — 60% higher than your claim. Perhaps one of the reasons you understate global warming is that you have been misiniformed.
2. The ice cap is melting and summer snow in the NH is disappearing.
3. CO2 is a greenhouse gas that helps keep the atmosphere warm and the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is rising due to man burning fossil fuels.
Some scientists have very reasonably linked points 1 and 2 to point 3 and are making great efforts to prove the linkage. Others have postulated very high sensitivty in this linkage which would lead to a global catastrophe. Actually, what few people understand is that the high sensitivity is not to CO2, it is to warming. Warming causes more warming, and cooling causes more cooling, whatever the forcing (CO2, the sun, volcanoes).
However, as far as I am aware, very few real scientists in the field are making the same great effort to disprove the linkage or the high sensitivity, and that is very, very bad for the science.
At the moment the very vital sceptical process is being left to amateurs and deluded deniers on blogs.
You should learn more about the history of global warming (I recommend Spencer Weart’s work). That happened in the early 20th century, and in the 1960s and 1970s and 1980s and even the 1990s. And yes, it’s still happening today although at a much reduced level.
Why the reduced effort, you wonder? Because the evidence is so strong. That’s how science works. Perhaps you’d like to complain about how few scientists are working their asses off to disprove the link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer.
When quantum mechanics was first proposed everybody went out of their way to try and prove it was wrong. And many scientists were slightly disappointed when the Higgs Boson was found, as disproving the Standard Theory would have been much more fun than proving it. So much so that they are demanding a 5 sigma proof! Climate scientist can only dream of such certainty.
The “5-sigma” issue has been discussed here before, more than once. In terms of the actual confidence level that can be ascribed to results it is not 5-sigma, because “sigma” refers to individual events rather testing the hypothesis. If you observe a hundred thousand events, which are deliberately selected to find what you’re looking for, then you’re gonna get some 4-sigma results just by accident, Higgs boson or no. In such a case, 4-sigma doesn’t mean anything like a p-value of 3 * 10^(-5). It means you need to adjust your statistics. Which is what the physicists do.
From where I sit there seems to be a gradully building body of evidence that the global troposphere temperature might not be quite as sensitive to warming as we first thought – the main item of evidence being that since 2000 the global temperature has not been following the track predicted by the early models despite a much faster rise in CO2 levels than predicted.
And yes, I have read your paper that it is all down to La Nina and volcanoes, and it is a good addition to the argument, but it is by no means proof – certainly not to 5 sigma!
It’s “only” 3-sigma. As I said earlier, the “5-sigma” requirement isn’t right. And let me ask you in all seriousness: if I told you that a train was speeding toward your own children but I could only prove it to 3-sigma, would you say, “I’ll wait until you get 5-sigma before telling them to get off the railroad tracks”?
That’s what’s at stake. Really.
And by the way — which “early models” are you talking about? What were their uncertainty levels? Were the forcing scenarios of those models realistic? What statistical analysis can you point to demonstrating significant departure between prediction and observation? Do any of those results attain the 5-sigma level?
But where are the peer reviewed papers arguing the contrary position? Why are all the scientists so afraid to test these theories really hard?
I’m afraid you’ve indulged in a bit of “slagging” yourself. Climate scientists are not “afraid” to test their theories really hard. That’s what they spend most of their time doing.
If global warming reverses, stops or even slows down then I am very worried this will discredit the scientific process irrevocably. Do you really want Watts, Spencer and Lindzen to be the only ones to have been on the correct side of the argument?
I’ll bet I can surprise you with this answer. Yes. If it turns out that I have been wrong all along, and they are totally right that global warming is “no problem,” no one will be better pleased than I.
Roy Spencer and Lindzen are minnows in the field and tainted by political and religious bias. Watts is an irrelevence whose argument is ruined by the crackpots and amateurs he allows to post articles on his site. We need real scientists doing real, challenging and absolutely vital, sceptical science. Scientists need to stop being afraid of being wrong!
You need to revise your beliefs about what climate scientists have been doing. You especially need to realize what it is that they’re really afraid of. It’s not fear of being wrong. It’s dreadful fear of being right.