Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Climate of Fraud Part 2

Here’s a pair of letters that appeared in The Australian. First, one from me:
MARC Hendrickx (Letters, 17-18/10) alleges that Pen Hadow “had to be rescued in the Arctic in 2003 due to the extreme cold and excessive ice”. Hadow in fact had always planned to be airlifted off once he arrived at the Pole, and the only issue was that he started his solo walk from Canada to the North Pole late in the season, when a pick up was risky because the ice was breaking up.

If it’s impossible to support an argument without resorting to fabrication or ad hominem attack, you don’t have a case. Every global warming denial theory falls apart when examined against the evidence, so the denial cult has given up arguing the facts.

Here’s one they won’t like. Despite the fact that we are in the deepest solar minimum—the period of least solar activity in the solar cycle of the sun—in almost a century, temperatures remain close to record highs. Had the “it’s all the sun” crew been right, we should have seen temperatures close to 100-year lows over the past few years.

As for the actual state of the Arctic, Hadow is not the only authority who has Arctic summer sea ice disappearing in the next 20 to 30 years. Several papers and reports have backed this conclusion. I’ve been working in science for nearly 30 years, and I have yet to encounter a situation where wishful thinking overturns a theory, especially when that wishful thinking runs counter to well-established physics (as is the theory of greenhouse gas warming).

If there are genuine climate-change sceptics who have alternative theories that explain the facts better than the mainstream theory, let’s hear them by all means. That’s how science works. But if the accepted theory is right, we are running out of time fast. The alternative theories have all failed any reasonable scientific test, while the mainstream has held up pretty well against the most concerted political attack on any scientific theory since the Inquisition stopped burning scientists at the stake. It’s time to move on and start addressing the real problems.

Philip Machanick

Then, a day later, a response:
USING dubious observations to bolster a preferred hypothesis is not how science works. Philip Machanick (Letters, 20/10) is on thin ice when he suggests that the human-caused global warming scenario is the only plausible explanation for our recent climate history. There is a plethora of contradictory data.

Reconstructions of the solar intensity record for recent centuries, referred to by Machanick, are speculative. Prior to 1978 there were no direct observations from outside the atmosphere and estimates of changing intensity have been made from proxies, such as sun spot numbers. As reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, even the successive satellites have calibration uncertainty. It is therefore a matter of dispute as to whether or not we are in the deepest solar minimum in almost a century, as Machanick claims.

If melting of Arctic sea ice is to be taken as the canary in the coal mine for human-caused global warming, then there are relevant reputable data extending over hundreds of thousands of years from which to draw comfort. Oxygen isotope ratios from Greenland ice cores and pollen analysis from sea-bed sediment cores off southern Greenland independently show a consistent pattern.

Over the past half-million years the Arctic has oscillated through glacial cycles, each of about 100,000-year duration, and we are currently in a relatively warm interglacial phase. During each of the previous interglacials the Arctic was warmer than at present. The pollen and isotope records also suggest that the Arctic was warmer during the current interglacial between 4000 and 8000 years ago, when the carbon dioxide concentration was much less than now, and well before industrialisation.

William Kininmonth

Kininmoth is accusing me of gross misconceptions about how science works (note the bits I’ve highlighted). Heavy. I should return my PhD, and stop working as a researcher. Or, maybe I should do what a researcher does, and re-examine the evidence – starting from the pronouncements of Kininmoth himself. My original letter did not come out of nowhere: I was attempting to demonstrate how the data the denialists use directly contradicts the evidence. Well, here’s another Kininmonthian contribution from December 2008:

THE attempt by Professor Marvin Geller to discredit scientists who do not follow the climate alarmist agenda only highlights the inconsistencies of his case ("Professor sheds light for climate sceptics”, 4/12).

The evidence of solar influences on climate is well documented, especially the relationships established over many centuries of observations, that link sunspot numbers and cosmic ray activity to global temperature.

The lack of a creditable explanation for the relationships should be reason for more research, not dismissal of the mechanisms.

It is wrong to claim that the past few decades of warming cannot be explained without including human influences.

The error of his statement is obvious from his own explanation for the temperature peak of 1998 as a massive El Nino event. The El Nino is a temporary reduction of upwelling in the surface layer of the tropical Pacific Ocean that decreases the entrainment of cold subsurface water; the warmer tropical waters provide additional energy to warm the planet during an El Nino event.

Research by Michael McPhaden and Dongxiao Zhang, published in the journal Nature in 2002, identified a major and sustained reduction in Pacific Ocean upwelling and warmer ocean surface temperatures that became established in 1976.

This was at the beginning of the most recent global warming episode that the alarmists mistakenly attribute to human-caused carbon dioxide.

Interactions between the ocean and atmosphere, the two fluids that regulate Earth’s climate, are now widely recognised as contributing to climate variability on a range of timescales.

William Kininmonth

Note again my highlighting.

What was that again, about “Using dubious observations to bolster a preferred hypothesis”? Is that not a vaguely similar methodological flaw to changing your degree of support for the validity of a data set when it no longer supports your “preferred hypothesis”?

I could also dispute other points he makes, but this to me is sufficient. If you want to accuse others of unscientific practice, make sure your own approach is beyond reproach.


The WCC3 conference has downloads of speakers’ slides, and a voice recording. Latif’s talk (about a third of the way into the audio) is especially interesting since it has been so widely misreported. In particular, he addresses the need to get better resolution and accuracy for decadal predictions; this has somehow been interpreted as his saying that it will get cooler over the next two decades. If you want to get the best out of his talk, download Latif’s slides and follow them while listening to his part of the audio. I’ve posted a longer article elsewhere on how Latif has been misinterpreted.


Anonymous said...

Phiilip, It is indeed most amusing that Kininmonth chooses to characterise solar solar irradiance as either well documented and established or speculative and in dispute as it suits his argument.

You might want to point out that Kininmonth's citation of warmer temps 4000-8000 years ago refers to the Holocene Climate Optimum, which was the period of maximum warming resulting from combined Milankovitch orbital insolation forcing plus albedo and H2O + CO2 + CH4 greenhouse amplification feedbacks, and that global temps have actually been in slow decline ever since as orbital insolation forcing continues to decline--until the last century, that is. Natural levels of atmospheric CO2 and CH4 also should have declined in response, except that not only have they not, the increase has been steep and abrupt over the past century or so.
- Jim Eager

Digger said...

Hey Philip, keep up the good work! I suspect you are causing the denialists no end of consternation as they read their newspaper of choice (The Australian).

A colleague of mine went looking for variations in the length of the earth's day, caused by polar ice moving to the equator and increasing the earth's moment of inertia (and thus slowing it down), but couldn't find any. It turns out to be a complicated phenomena, with other factors at work. However there is an annual effect, which may be related to melting of polar ice (or may not...). Anyway, it might be a fruitful area of research.
John Brookes

Philip Machanick said...

Thanks for the comments. The Australian's letters blog is awash with personal attacks. If this is all they've got, bring it on.

Gail said...

Hi Philip, I'm actually responding to your comment at realclimate:

Lies aimed at school kids: this page, part of National Weather Service’s JetStream – Online School for Weather claims

In 1997, NASA reported global temperature measurements of the Earth’s lower atmosphere obtained from satellites revealed no definitive warming trend over the past two decades. In fact, the trend appeared to be a decrease in actual temperature. In 2007, NASA data showed that one-half of the ten warmest years occurred in the 1930’s with 1934 (tied with 2006) as the warmest years on record. (NASA data October 23, 2007 from

If you go to the data linked, it’s only for “Contiguous 48 U.S. Surface Air Temperature Anomaly”, which we know has not warmed that much. However it’s totally false to claim that that data represents “the Earth’s lower atmosphere”. I doubt even that the data they present is from satellites. It looks suspiciously similar to this data set which, as far as I know, is based on surface measurements. Possibly the version they have up is before one of the corrections that’s been reported.

Anyway all round this is pretty dodgy: false claims about the provenance of the data, and of what it represents. And why link to a copy of the data when the original is (a) publicly available and (b) subject to correction?

What’s happening? Have deniers infiltrated NWS or NOAA?

[Response: This is quite bad. I will investigate... - gavin]

Comment by Philip Machanick — 29 October 2009 @ 6:57 PM

Which is interesting to me. I don't want to sound like I have a tin foil hat but I have my suspicions about other government agencies as well. I think the Bushies still have trolls that are blocking the release of information.

For instance I have written everybody from federal to state EPA, DEP, Agriculture Dept, as well as NOAA, NASA etc. to get information about ethanol emissions and nobody will admit to tracking them let alone give access to the data.

Sometimes I wonder if they really know how bad it is and don't want to induce panic buying in the grocery stores and food hoarding.

If you hear anything further from Gavin or elsewhere and you remember to, please let me know!

Gail in New Jersey

Philip Machanick said...

Gail, I posted an email I sent to the NOAA webmaster at RealClimate. Watch for a for it to clear moderation somewhere around here:

Enough others are onto this that it seems unlikely not to get fixed; the bigger question is how something so totally wrong got up in the first place. It's not even competent denial. It's so riddled with errors that you don't have to try very hard to take it apart.

Eduardo Ferreyra said...

You people really have not a clue, isn’t it? Have you ever seen latest SST temperature data and related graphs from NOAA or Have you seen that, in spite of the present El Niño conditions developing waters off Peruvian coasts are actually cooling severely? Look those cooling waters off the South American coasts east of Argentina. Just take a look and tell us why this doesn’t go against AGW hypothesis:

Have you seen data about ACE (accumulated Cyclonic Energy) from Ryan Maue in Florida University? Just for a change try to see some real science:

Have you noticed that ACE is at its lowest point in 30 years –an all time low. Hurricanes have virtually disappeared from Earth, contradicting you and Al Gore addiction to catastrophes. You and friends have jumped aboard the climate-solar connection denialist bandwagon. And you call sceptics deniers when they present hard evidence!

Philip Machanick said...

Eduardo, thank you for sharing your opinions. The question of tropical storms is still a relatively open one, and the exact nature of the redistribution of energy between atmosphere and oceans still needs work. However none of that changes the basic radiative-convective energy transport in the atmosphere, which is ultimately the mechanism that regulates temperature. More at MIT.

Digger said...

Thanks Eduardo. The graphs of cyclonic activity against time are most interesting. I'm not sure they prove your point, but thanks again. I love seeing the work of anyone who has gone to the trouble of investigating something in detail, and Ryan Maue seems to have done that.

Christopher Fotis said...

But there is no global warming, not according to NASA's satellite data. NASA posted this on their web site in Oct 07. Doesn't this prove AGW is not happening - not that the onus ever should have been on the skeptics?

"Unlike the surface-based temperatures, global temperature measurements of the Earth's lower atmosphere obtained from satellites reveal no definitive warming trend over the past two decades. The slight trend that is in the data actually appears to be downward. The largest fluctuations in the satellite temperature data are not from any man-made activity, but from natural phenomena such as large volcanic eruptions from Mt. Pinatubo, and from El Niño. So the programs which model global warming in a computer say the temperature of the Earth's lower atmosphere should be going up markedly, but actual measurements of the temperature of the lower atmosphere reveal no such pronounced activity."

Philip Machanick said...

Christopher, I'd appreciate it if you would post links. The text you are quoting is from appear to be from a 1997 article, not 2007. Spencer and Christy had errors in their analysis that were corrected in 2005. Their current data (for which you can find links here) is not that different in its overall trend to everyone else's.

Please note that the title of this series of articles is "climate of fraud". Please don't contribute by posting lies. Happy to correct if you have a better source.

Also please note that I turned on moderation for older articles to cut spam so don't expect your posts to go up fast on older articles such as this one.

Christopher Fotis said...

Sorry, Phillip, I misread the year. It was an honest mistake. Thanks for pointing it out.