Global warming a hoax no longer

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

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 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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267. DocBen
2:23 AM GMT on May 16, 2006
A quote from geochemist Wally Broecker (1990):

"The inhabitants of planet earth are quietly conducting a gigantic experiment. So vast and so sweeping will be the impacts of this experiment that, were it brought before any responsible council for approval, it would be firmly rejected as having potentially dangerous consequences. Yet the experiment goes on ... "

Today's CO2 levels are as much higher than a 'normal' interglacial as an interglacial is higher than a glacial period.
Member Since: May 16, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 103
266. DocBen
2:13 AM GMT on May 16, 2006
Thanks for the thread! I think one big problem we have had with this and other issues (e.g. Ozone) is that so much scientific writing is done with qualifiers and in passive voice. This gives great action fiction wroters like Inhofe's "expert" (sic) an opening. Most people do not like nor understand out typical dry writing style.

Dr. Masters, perhaps you could give us all an overview of the implications of entry into a "super-interglacial" era for rainfall patterns etc. In particular, what happens with the tropical high at the convergence of the Ferrel and Hadley cells. As I understand the recent history (million years or so) the desert areas are more intense during interglacials than during a glacial period. Can that be extrapolated to a super-interglacial? What are the implications for areas around 40 degreee latitude?
Member Since: May 16, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 103
265. pussinboots
7:46 PM GMT on May 10, 2006
Dr. Masters,

It would be nice if you would disallow (or shrink) images in the comments that are larger than typical screen width. Your blog entry is very difficult to read due to the world water temperature images posted by lightning10.

Thanks for your consideration. Your blog & site are fantastic!
Member Since: February 11, 2003 Posts: 0 Comments: 3
264. TampaSteve
4:55 PM GMT on May 09, 2006
Yes, there may actually be global warming, but we don't know what, if any, impact our industrialized and technological civilization is having on global warming and the climate in general. Would these changes still be happening if humans didn't exist? We can't know for sure, because we don't have a duplicate Earth to use as a control group.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 1 Comments: 97
262. RL3AO
12:23 PM GMT on May 08, 2006
yep, looks like a TD in the west pacific. JTWC has a formation alert for it.

261. ForecasterColby
11:30 AM GMT on May 08, 2006
True, but not for long. The low ITCZ shear is moving north, I'd go with the others here and say ~ 2 weeks.
260. taco2me61
1:43 AM GMT on May 08, 2006
Well I noticed that there is a lot of sheer out there on the Pacific and the Atlantic, so we will be clear for a while longer...

Although the Pacific Hurricane Season does start in a little more than a week from now....

Member Since: July 7, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 3653
259. louastu
1:30 AM GMT on May 08, 2006
The invest in the Western Pacific is looking pretty good.
258. ForecasterColby
1:25 AM GMT on May 08, 2006
Wave not looking quite as healthy tonight - tomorrow morning is what'll really matter, though.
257. taco2me61
1:19 AM GMT on May 08, 2006

I also say the 15th thru the 18th will be the first storm of the Atlantic Season...
Member Since: July 7, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 3653
256. Snowfire
12:34 AM GMT on May 08, 2006
Here is the QuikScat on the wavelet near Panama:

The front to its north is still driving it south, last time I looked. If the front stalls, it might have a chance
Member Since: June 29, 2005 Posts: 24 Comments: 315
254. ProgressivePulse
10:55 PM GMT on May 07, 2006
June 15th
Member Since: August 19, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 6928
253. Inyo
10:16 PM GMT on May 07, 2006
i still say, compared to other factors, La Nina isnt doing much now.
Member Since: September 3, 2002 Posts: 42 Comments: 932
252. ForecasterColby
8:00 PM GMT on May 07, 2006
Whirlwind, we had one a few years ago. I have 2002 in my head, but I'm not sure. It's typical La Nina year weather.
251. ForecasterColby
7:47 PM GMT on May 07, 2006
The shear is to it's NE, but is moving off to the NE as well. At the moment, the system isn't moving, so I'd say it has a fairly decent shot.
250. StormJunkie
7:37 PM GMT on May 07, 2006
Understood Colby, but it can not go any where with out running in to shear or land correct? And the shear is on the outer edges of where it is trying to form.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 18190
249. ForecasterColby
7:36 PM GMT on May 07, 2006
NOGAPS has a tropical cyclone located right on top of that convection...TD1 out of nowhere!?

248. whirlwind
7:34 PM GMT on May 07, 2006
For all you peeps in FL:

How long has it been since we have had a fire advisory like this before? Its been so so dry here. Just like they say, a very dry season usually means an active hurricane season.
247. ForecasterColby
7:30 PM GMT on May 07, 2006
Uh, Junkie, the shear is near zero over that. Probably won't stay that way for too long, but certainly worth keeping an eye on.
246. Trouper415
6:59 PM GMT on May 07, 2006
Nicely said ScienceCop.

Everyone have a good one.
Member Since: September 22, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 725
245. StormJunkie
6:28 PM GMT on May 07, 2006
Good to see you St. It has been awhile. Check out my blog and the site. Let me know what you think.

Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 18190
244. StormJunkie
6:26 PM GMT on May 07, 2006
Shear is too high cyclone. especially if it moves a little N.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 18190
241. Inyo
6:13 PM GMT on May 07, 2006
Posted By: RL3AO at 10:22 PM CDT on May 06, 2006.
Who cares about the EPac. 95% off the storms move away from land. With the Atlantic, it's completely opposite.

Exactly! E-pac storms almost never hurt anyone, aside from an odd Baja landfall. All they do is circle around and look cool on sattelite, give the surfers in California something to do, and give a needed shot of moisture to Arizona every now and then. If you'd rather see a strong atlantic season with thousands of people being made homeless or killed, you are a sicko!

and remember... e-pac storms work pretty much the same way.. they offer the opportunity for learning about hurricanes, without killing anyone.

also you are crazy if you are implying that 95% of atlantic hurricanes hit land. Clearly that is not true, plenty of them recurve harmlessly into the Atlantic and never touch land.

Obviously we need to watch the atlantic season more closely, since it has the potential to do so much damage. But the E-pac systems are just as amazing, and much less likely to cause us problems.

Member Since: September 3, 2002 Posts: 42 Comments: 932
240. StormJunkie
6:02 PM GMT on May 07, 2006
Amen Stellar.

Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 18190
239. StellarCyclone
5:50 PM GMT on May 07, 2006
All this can be discussed without politics. Hurricanes will be here soon and they don't care whether you're republican, democratic, liberal, green, etc. Let's focus on why we're here - an interest in weather, specifically tropical systems.
238. franck
5:40 PM GMT on May 07, 2006

The engine of world global warming is the military industrial complex centered primarily in the US, so an argument can be made against any leader whose primary motivation is to promote it. And whether leadership in Washington is even cognizant of this is doubtful, which makes the scenario scary indeed. Sort of like a leader who sits on the largest nuclear aresenal in the world and is not able pronounce the word nuclear.
Member Since: August 30, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 1150
237. ForecasterColby
4:17 PM GMT on May 07, 2006
*sigh* *withdraws again from the hotbutton issue*
236. StormJunkie
3:56 PM GMT on May 07, 2006
Don't get me wrong I know Bush has his problems, but I had to laugh when wannabe tried to blame global warming on him. Along with the other stuff you spew wannabe.

Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 18190
235. StormJunkie
3:53 PM GMT on May 07, 2006
Why do you want to start wannabe? The fact is that you fall in to the left wing trap of believing any thing they say in order to support your political views, so I think you have no right to chime in on this. Why don't you go back to blaming global warming on Bush. Drop your political agenda and lets all try to look at the scientific facts.

Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 18190
234. ForecasterColby
3:48 PM GMT on May 07, 2006
Heh - since when do we trust Congress?
233. weatherwannabe
3:36 PM GMT on May 07, 2006
It's a truth vs falsity issue, not a political issue. However, some parts of the modern GOP have aligned with propganda and untruths. As a distinctive group, those of us that follow and believe scientifc truths without allowing political biases rule our lives, have had the responsibility of defending science and its truths from people like you, StormJunkie et al. PS, the earth is round. Enjoy your Sunday.
232. Snowfire
2:08 PM GMT on May 07, 2006
The Crichton affair has a precedent in American politics. A few decades ago, there was much public hand-wringing about the state of the American Farmer (you know the archetype I mean). In an effort to portray what it was like to run a farm household, whom do you think was called to testify before Congress? A real farmer's wife? Nope. It was Sissy Spacek, who had portrayed such a character in a movie.
Member Since: June 29, 2005 Posts: 24 Comments: 315
231. Barefootontherocks
1:36 PM GMT on May 07, 2006
Enjoyed your review of
Michael Crichton's "State of Fear."
Many more good links on
that page as well. How the heck does
Crichton rate a hot seat in Congress
testifying on climate change?

One could not pluck a flower without
troubling a star. --Loren Eiseley
Member Since: April 29, 2006 Posts: 173 Comments: 22104
230. StormJunkie
1:01 PM GMT on May 07, 2006
That is a little scary, I think cyclone actually believes most of the stuff he says.

Anywho if you have any links you think would be a good fit for the sight then let me know in my blog. Also leave and other feedback you may have. Still looking for more video. There is already a short clip of weatherboyfsu's Wilma footage, check it out at

Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 18190
229. ForecasterColby
4:37 AM GMT on May 07, 2006
Cyclone, I laugh at the pure stupidity of your last post. You just posted something that BLATANTLY SAYS YOU'RE WRONG...good greif!
228. RL3AO
3:24 AM GMT on May 07, 2006
Who cares about the EPac. 95% off the storms move away from land. With the Atlantic, it's completely opposite.
226. Inyo
3:05 AM GMT on May 07, 2006
i just dont buy the sun thing. Yes, the sun varies in intensity but i havent seen any credible, scientific data that points to the sun being a major part in climate change. The earth IS naturally warming but i don't think this is much because of the sun, but because of other, poorly understood factors.

You can stick a fork in La Nina. It's DONE! Sorry, those of you wishing for /dreading more atlantic hurricanes. I dont think it will be much of a factor either way. I do think the eastern pacific will be below average at least for the start of the season, beacuse that area is cold right now
Member Since: September 3, 2002 Posts: 42 Comments: 932
223. turtlehurricane
12:49 AM GMT on May 07, 2006
i have updated my blog
Member Since: July 22, 2005 Posts: 227 Comments: 469
222. ScienceCop
12:47 AM GMT on May 07, 2006

Jupiter got hit by a big mother asteroid, the explosions themselves were as big as the Earth, just recently. When something much less than that happened last time on Earth it burned down the world and changed the climate for millions of years. It nearly killed much of higher life on land, and finished off the dinosaurs. Jupiter's climate will be purturbed for hundreds of thousands of years, swamping out all other possible natural variations.

The sun radiation intensity (warming) has been very very little. The reports of "global warming" on Mars and Pluto as proof that the Sun is at fault for Global Warming on Earth fail to account for why thirty other worlds and moons are not warming. If the sun is the main reason, then ALL the planets have to show warming.

If the sun was at fault it would be far worse for mankind, as we could do SOMETHING about man-made warming, but we can do NOTHING about solar warming. It's a good thing that the records going back 100 years show very little variation in solar radiation.

On the other hand Mars and Pluto have more "greenhouse gases" than Earth does. If a tiny bit of extra sunlight causes major warming on Mars with an atmosphere mostly made of CO2 than we should learn from that to keep CO2 levels from increasing in our air.

Neither Mars nor Pluto have thick protective gas envelopes to stop many high energy radiation particles from penetrating to surface like Earth does -- one cannot compare these worlds as if they would react identically to Earth to any input changes. It is equivilent to science frauds to make definitive statements about other planets with so little actual data. Nobody has visited these worlds, and instruments have only recently started building the records of facts of things we may be somewhat sure of about some of the other planets.
As can be seen in the table below, Mars' atmosphere is much less than Earth's and Venus', and it exerts a pressure of only 0.000636 bars at the surface. Its composition is nearly all CO2; the rest is approximately:
* CO2: 95.32%
* N2: 2.7%
* Ar: 1.6%
* O2: 0.13%
* CO: 0.08%
* H2O: 0.021%
* NO: 0.01%
* Ne: 0.00025%
* HDO: 0.000085%
* Kr: 0.00003%
* Xe: 0.000008%
Atmosphere of Mars
Not such a bad place to visit, and you couldn't live there.
Mars has a thin atmosphere:

Here is a comparison of the atmospheric composition of Earth and Venus and Mars. I list the number of molecules per m2 of surface area of the planet in each planet's atmosphere relative to the total number of molecules per m2 in Earth's atmosphere.

Earth Venus Mars
N2 0.79 2 3 x 10-4
O2 0.20 < 0.001 10-7
Ar 0.01 0.005 2 x 10-4
CO2 0.0003 64 0.009
H2O ~ 0.02 ~ 0.01 ~10-6

Total 1.00 90 0.01

H2O 3 km 0.5 mm small
+ vapor

(A technical note: This is based on a pressure ratio of 0.0056/1,
a surface gravity ratio of 0.38/1.0, and a mass per molecule
ratio of 1.5/1.0 for Mars/Earth.)

Note that Mars has more carbon dioxide in its atmosphere than does Earth, but Mars has a lot less of everything else.

Pluto has very thin atmosphere with a surface pressure 100,000 times less than that on Earth. It is composed of 98% nitrogen and small amounts of methane and carbon monoxide much like the atmosphere of Neptune's moon Triton.

Pluto's atmosphere gradually freezes and collects on the surface as the planet moves away from the Sun. Yet, interestingly, observations have shown that between 1989, when Pluto was at perihelion, and 2002, the atmospheric pressure increased threefold. The explanation probably has to do with the fact that materials take time to warm up and cool off, which is why the hottest part of the day on Earth, for example, is usually around 2 or 3 p.m. rather than local noon, when sunlight is the most intense. The fact that Pluto's atmosphere is still building up rather than freezing out, as many scientists expected, is good news from the standpoint of what the New Horizons probe, launched toward Pluto in 2006, might learn of the ninth world.
220. ForecasterColby
11:27 PM GMT on May 06, 2006
Yes, the NW Gulf in particular is much hotter.
218. StormJunkie
11:21 PM GMT on May 06, 2006
I second that Myles. I think it is evident to most everyone that there is too much shear for anything to develop right now. I think the real question behind this discussion is can we predict periods of higher and lower shear in the Atlantic based on El Nina La Nino/ssts.

Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 18190
217. HurricaneMyles
11:15 PM GMT on May 06, 2006
Ahhh....I'm confused. There was no bickering, fighting, or anyting like that. We're simply discussing the current SST compared to last year and MichealSTL asked about ENSO conditions last year. I dont think anyone is expecting anything to develop right now.
Member Since: January 12, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 827

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