Global warming a hoax no longer

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 12:44 PM GMT on May 05, 2006

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Are the climate models that form the foundation of greenhouse warming predictions fundamentally flawed? That has been the argument of some scientists and "greenhouse skeptics" over the past few decades. The main issue has been the inability of the climate models to reproduce the relatively low amount of warming observed by satellites and weather balloon instruments in the troposphere (the lower portion of the atmosphere that extends up to elevations of about 40,000 feet.) This discrepancy was a prime argument Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) used in his famed 2003 speech when he referred to the threat of catastrophic global warming as the "greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people." Greenhouse skeptic S. Fred Singer, who has probably more Congressional testimony about global warming under his belt than any other scientist, headlines his website with the quote, "Computer models forecast rapidly rising global temperatures, but data from weather satellites and balloon instruments show no warming whatsoever. Nevertheless, these same unreliable computer models underpin the Global Climate Treaty." Michael Crichton also used the tropospheric warming discrepancy to give climate models a bad rap in his State of Fear novel. (Incredibily, Crichton--a science fiction writer--was summoned by Sen. Inhofe in September of 2005 to testify before Congress on the issue of climate change.) However, the arguments of these global warming skeptics were dealt a major blow with the issuance this week of a press release by NOAA's Climate Change Science Program refuting their main argument.



The Climate Change Science Program study, which was commissioned by the Bush Administration in 2002 to help answer unresolved questions on climate, found that it was the measurements, not the models, that were in error. Their report, issued on Wednesday, stated, "there is no longer a discrepancy in the rate of global average temperature increase for the surface compared with higher levels in the atmosphere." They cautioned, however, that discrepancies still existed in some regions, particularly the tropics. Greenhouse skeptics will undoubtedly point to this smaller remaining discrepancy as evidence that climate models cannot be trusted, but the authors of the report thought it more likely that the measurements were flawed. Chief Editor Dr. Thomas Karl, director of NOAA's National Climatic Data Center, concluded in the report: "Discrepancies between the data sets and the models have been reduced and our understanding of observed climate changes and their causes have increased. The evidence continues to support a substantial human impact on global temperature increases."

The satellite measurements that were found to be in error were taken beginning in 1978 by Microwave Sounding Units (MSU) operating on NOAA polar-orbiting satellites. According to a description of the MSU data available on the web site where the data is archived,

"The instruments in the MSU series were intended for day to day operational use in weather forecasting and thus are not calibrated to the precision needed for climate studies. A climate quality dataset can be extracted from their measurements only by careful intercalibration of the nine distinct MSU instruments."

Dr. John Christy of the University of Alabama, Huntsville, made a series of efforts to perform the careful intercalibration needed beginning in the 1990s, and for over a decade successfully defended his conclusion that the MSU instruments were showing a much lower level of tropospheric warming than what climate models predicted. Christy was probably the most quoted scientist by the "greenhouse skeptics" during that period, and testified numerous times before Congress about his findings. However, a series of papers published in 2004 and 2005 showed that the satellite intercalibration methods used by Christy were incorrect, and Christy publicly credited the authors of the new studies with finding a real source of error. Christy is also one of the co-authors on the Climate Change Science Program study.

So can we trust the climate models now? That will remain a matter of debate, but now we know that these models have successfully performed at least one major prediction that their detractors thought was wrong. With the climate models validated by the collapse of the greenhouse skeptics' main argument against them, it is apparent that their predictions of possible catastrophic climate change are no hoax and need to be taken seriously.

For further reading: The Economist printed a easy to understand article in August 2005 summarizing the new research exposing the satellite and weather balloon measurement errors, and realclimate.org has a more technical discussion.

I'll be back next week to talk about the demise of La Nina, and other factors that may affect the coming hurricane season.

Jeff Masters

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167. Trouper415
6:38 AM GMT on May 06, 2006
For all those who say that Global Warming will bring out better change such as Antarctica and Greenland becomming liveable landmasses....Who wants to live somewhere where its 24 hours of sunlight one time of the year, and 24 hours of darkness the other? Doesnt sound like much fun.
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166. Califonia
6:32 AM GMT on May 06, 2006

Posted By: rwwhot at 12:09 AM CDT on May 06, 2006.

Basically, I'm curious if there are plateaus that follow temp, or whether they run out of ice before the temp returns to 22C.



Yes. The ice disappears.

Ice ages last only a few million years.

Most of the time this planet has no ice. That is the normal condition for Planet Earth.

165. Trouper415
5:58 AM GMT on May 06, 2006
Check out how much the waters have warmed in the gulf stream and gulf in the last week.

May 2
http://fermi.jhuapl.edu/avhrr/gm/averages/06may/gm_06may02_0146_multi.png

May 6
http://fermi.jhuapl.edu/avhrr/gm/averages/06may/gm_06may06_0154_multi.png

GIANTS IN 06
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164. SafeInTexas
5:49 AM GMT on May 06, 2006
Things are really firing up here in Texas tonight! Reports of 4.25" hail, and over 10 tornado reports so far. Injuries reported

Radar
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163. rwwhot
12:09 AM CDT on May 06, 2006
I said only what I said. The fact that you're trying to divert attention to another issue is telling.

Sea Level rise does have benefits, Antarctica and greenland become available land masses, the quantity of productive continental shelf shallow water ocean would increase quite a bit, etc.

I just asked if you have a chart that tacks in sea level with those other two curves. Basically, I'm curious if there are plateaus that follow temp, or whether they run out of ice before the temp returns to 22C.


OTOH, I wouldn't hold your breath on watching for something. That signal is currently being vastly overwhelmed by effects of channelization and erosion, and for the human eyeball, just the effects of moon and wind driven tides make visualizing the changes from small overall sea level rise nearly impossible. I mean really, when the wind alone can drop the level of Galveston bay a foot, how is someone supposed to see the effects of a 1 inch rise in sea level?
Member Since: September 20, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 3
160. Califonia
4:34 AM GMT on May 06, 2006

Posted By: rwwhot at 10:55 PM CDT on May 05, 2006.

California, I love your chart, but something that is missing really peaks my curiousity as a result of its ommission.

Sea Level.


Not "my" chart... heheheheh

I assume you refer to the amount of land that will be lost...

Actually when glaciers retreat, we have massive gains in the amount of fresh new land available for use.

You have read about the millions of acres being freed up presently from retreating glaciers, and at the same time you can see we certainly haven't lost any significant amount of coastal land as all that water has been released into the oceans.

This is purely a guess, but it seems like we might be gaining 10,000 acres for every coastal acre lost? Maybe 100,000 acres? Just guessing. Actually, still waiting to see a coastal acre lost to sea level rise...
159. Califonia
4:26 AM GMT on May 06, 2006

Posted By: ForecasterColby at 4:15 AM GMT on May 06, 2006.

*looks at graph* So, before the climate goes nuts and kills us all, we'd have to hit CO2 levels that are at least, what, 21x the current levels?



You will notice even at those levels there's no runaway greenhouse effect.

158. rwwhot
11:20 PM CDT on May 05, 2006
Colby, I know California doesn't share this opinion, but look at just the little slices before the big upticks, To me, the graph suggests that it only takes a modest time-local increase in CO2 to send the Earth's temp back up to its equilibrium temperature.

Man is currently forcing a time-local increase in CO2.

On the other hand, to suggest that returning to the equilibrium temp will "kill us all" is rediculous. Nasty, hideous, catastrophic... sure. Extinction, or even cessation of technological civilization... not a chance.
Member Since: September 20, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 3
157. rwwhot
10:55 PM CDT on May 05, 2006
California, I love your chart, but something that is missing really peaks my curiousity as a result of its ommission.

Sea Level.

Tack sea level on there. Global ice cover would also be an interesting tack on as well, but Sea Level is the real clincher.

I don't think there is anything wrong with suggesting that the planet has usually been much warmer that it currently is; we recognize it from fossils of clearly tropical plants in latitudes we know aren't tropical now. We also know that from fossils that sea levels have been, and in fact, usually have been quite a bit higher than they are now.

The question you have to ask yourself, is humanity as a whole technically advanced enough for us to be content having the global oceans rise back up to their steady state level.
Member Since: September 20, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 3
156. ForecasterColby
4:15 AM GMT on May 06, 2006
*looks at graph* So, before the climate goes nuts and kills us all, we'd have to hit CO2 levels that are at least, what, 21x the current levels?

Riiiight.
155. snowboy
3:52 AM GMT on May 06, 2006
Califonia, there is natural variation in the earth's climate, which was all there had ever been until a few thousand years ago, and since then there is an increasing level of unnatural (ie. human induced) change in the earth's climate.

At first, it was only microclimates and local climates that we managed to affect (eg. when a forest was burned down or cleared).

Later regional climates were changed by deforestation (eg. the Greek and Roman empires deforested lands all around the Mediterranean, and in many places like much of Greece and Yugoslavia the soil eroded, the forests never came back, and the regional climate changed for good).

Now in the last decades, we are putting so much crap in the form of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere (and clearing so much of the world's forests and draining so many wetlands) that we risk ruining the optimal climatic conditions which currently prevail on the planet.

The unnatural (human-induced) changes are accelerating, and every passing month brings more evidence. I'll be curious to see what it takes to bring you around.
Member Since: September 21, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 2555
152. StormJunkie
3:30 AM GMT on May 06, 2006
Thanks Snow.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16874
151. Califonia
3:28 AM GMT on May 06, 2006

Posted By: RL3AO at 9:15 PM CDT on May 05, 2006.

according to that graph, were in the middle of an ice age, or am I missing something?



You are correct. We're in the middle of an ice age. Temperatures and CO2 levels are nearly as low as they get on this planet.

About every 100,000 years we have an "interglacial period" where it warms up just a little and the ice retreats.

They last usually 15,000 to 20,000 years, then the ice comes back down for another 80,000 or so years.

The current interglacial period started about 18,000 years ago. That's how long we've had "global warming".

150. snowboy
3:27 AM GMT on May 06, 2006
hey SJ, cool site - just checked it out. and thanks for the SST links
Member Since: September 21, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 2555
144. StormJunkie
2:47 AM GMT on May 06, 2006
Sorry bout the oversized pick ya'll. I think this is what david was trying for.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16874
143. StormJunkie
2:45 AM GMT on May 06, 2006
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16874
141. snowski
2:37 AM GMT on May 06, 2006
Pecos1680 said:

"Solar activity is a significant contributor to global warming.

I took some monthly sunspot data dating back to the 1700's, ran a moving average filter on it to reduce the 11-year periodicity, and produced a chart that shows an unprecedented increase in solar activity since the mid-20th century. I compared this with a NASA global warming chart covering the last 50 years and found a significant correlation."

Scott, would you please post these charts on the blog so I can look at them.
140. StormJunkie
2:33 AM GMT on May 06, 2006
Look at how the gulf has warmed in the las three days.

5-1-06

5-4-06

Notice the warming in the Carib also.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16874
138. RL3AO
2:18 AM GMT on May 06, 2006
according to that graph, were in the middle of an ice age, or am I missing something?
135. ForecasterColby
1:55 AM GMT on May 06, 2006
How very odd, I think it's because of the blog comment's HTML filter. If you scroll up a bit to my second comment above this one, notice that the 'report as' is a link. Click it to get the article, though it requires subscription.
134. ForecasterColby
1:53 AM GMT on May 06, 2006
a href="http://ams.allenpress.com/amsonline/?request=get-abstract&doi=10.1175/1520-0450(1978)0172.0CO;2">Hmmm
132. Califonia
1:39 AM GMT on May 06, 2006




131. ForecasterColby
1:36 AM GMT on May 06, 2006
You didn't put the lesser-than sign at the beginning.
130. Snowfire
1:02 AM GMT on May 06, 2006
Posted By: pt100 at 9:57 PM GMT on May 05, 2006.

The panels are able to generate enough energy to run stoves, geysers,....

So now we can put Old Faithful on solar power, I take it?
Member Since: June 29, 2005 Posts: 24 Comments: 311
126. rmh9903
12:29 AM GMT on May 06, 2006
Has anyone looked in to "heat soaking" as a possible addtion to global warming? What I call heat soaking is the fact that large major cities keep and reflect back at night much of the heat occured during the day? Could it be a factor? Also could we by replacing what nature destroyes in terms of replacing and repairing beaches be affecting tidal flows? We know that nature since the start of time has reshaped the coast lines over and over. I believe we do not help this earth by all the things we are doing but maybe some of the things stated above could be making it worse?? Just my thoughts....
123. rwwhot
11:48 PM GMT on May 05, 2006
Mysticdog... As I said, its not a question of fair or not. It is absolutely unfair. However, fair and truth are rarely comingled, and what is truth is that a date set cap that does not bind the US, India, and China to the same date will *never* become law in any way, shape, or form, in the US.

Now, if you don't actually want the US to be part of a climate protection protocol, thats fine, this makes a great rallying point and fundraising issue for the greens, and who knows, maybe thirty years from now, the greens will be able to overtake and displace the democratic party for leadership of the left.. But I wouldn't count on it.

This is one of those instances where you can have either progress, or principle, but you can't get both.
Member Since: September 20, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 3
122. pt100
11:25 PM GMT on May 05, 2006
gtg, sleep tight
121. StormJunkie
11:24 PM GMT on May 05, 2006
Just a heads up for anyone intrested. We are about to have some decent storms roll through the Charleston SC area. Check out live local weather info at Stormjunkie.com
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16874
120. pt100
11:18 PM GMT on May 05, 2006
Nice, i just read the whole thing
119. kerneld
11:12 PM GMT on May 05, 2006
Sorry, this page has the links to the mp3 etc on it.
118. pt100
11:04 PM GMT on May 05, 2006
I rest my (dutch) case..
117. kerneld
10:56 PM GMT on May 05, 2006
Here are Transcript and mp3/... links to a radio show on Australia's ABC Radio National show on sustainable energy in Australia which I found very interesting. Radio National has some great podcasts.

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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