October 5, 2012

A Classic Tale of Global Warming Alarmism

Filed under: Antarctic, Arctic, Polar

In his New York Times “Green” blog article “Running the Numbers on Antarctic Sea IceTimes reporter Justin Gillis generates a new index of sea ice melt that hypes the loss of Arctic sea ice relative to the gains in Antarctic sea ice. As you’ll see below, perhaps a more appropriate title would have been “Torturing the Data on Antarctic Sea Ice.”


September 26, 2012

More Evidence Against a Methane Time Bomb

Over at Watts Up With That, Anthony Watts has highlighted a recent press release from the German Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel announcing the preliminary findings from an expedition this summer to the Greenland Sea (off the coast of Spitzbergen). The expedition on the German research vessel the Maria S. Merian was aimed at investigating the release of methane from the seafloor—one of the many potential apocalyptic positive feedback pathways which lead from an initial warming instigated by anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Watts drew attention to the press release because the researchers were reporting that contrary to expectations, the release of methane from the seabed was found not to be a recent phenomenon (i.e., a result of global warming), but instead that many of the gas outlets had been active for long before local ocean temperatures have been rising.

According to the press release:

Above all the fear that the gas emanation is a consequence of the current rising sea temperature does not seem to apply.

And also, although the full details from the expedition’s data collections will not be known for several months, the scientists suggested that

[T]he observed gas emanations are probably not caused by human influence.


September 21, 2012

Agriculture: Tropical Cyclones are Welcome Visitors

When talk turns to tropical cyclones—hurricanes and their weaker siblings—the topic usually becomes winds, waves, and destruction. Or an exchange of war stories, like vacations cancelled, or harrowing tales from the beachfront lines. In some circles, anthropogenic climate change may enter the conversation.

But rarely does the discussion turn to the benefits of tropical cyclones.

For example, tropical cyclones often deliver widespread drought-busting rainfall during the crucial late-summer period when field crops are maturing. Across the Southeastern U.S., where most fields are non-irrigated, crops such as corn, soybeans, peanuts, tobacco, and hay benefit from tropical cyclone precipitation. From east Texas along the coast to Maryland, non-irrigated crops, like those above, combine to bring in a good ten billion dollars per year. While this economic activity is not all ascribable to tropical cyclone precipitation, neither is such precipitation inconsequential. (more…)

September 10, 2012

Sea Level Acceleration: Not so Fast

Filed under: Sea Level Rise

Sea level rise is a topic that we frequently focus on because of all the gross environmental alterations which may result from anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, it is perhaps the only one which could lead to conditions unexperienced by modern societies. A swift (or accelerating) sea level rise sustained for multiple decades and/or centuries would pose challenges for many coastal locations, including major cities around the world—challenges that would have to be met in some manner to avoid inundation of valuable assets. However, as we often point out, observational evidence on the rate of sea level rise is reassuring, because the current rate of sea level rise from global warming lies far beneath the rates associated with catastrophe. While some alarmists project sea level rise of between 1 to 6 meters (3 to 20 feet) by the end of this century, currently sea level is only inching up at a rate of about 20 to 30 centimeters per hundred years (or about 7 to 11 inches of additional rise by the year 2100)—a rate some 3-4 times below the low end of the alarmist spectrum, and a whopping 20 to 30 times beneath the high end.


August 14, 2012

Hansen Is Wrong

Filed under: Droughts, Precipitation

In his recent press blitz, NASA’s James Hansen tries to tie extreme weather events, such the current drought affecting much of the central U.S., to anthropogenic global warming. But the real world argues otherwise.

Hansen is quite adept at timing global warming pronouncements with extreme weather events. Recall that it was during a similar hot, dry period back in the summer of 1988 that Hansen first testified to Congress that global warming from human greenhouse gas emissions was impacting current weather events—testimony which many credit as giving rise to the global-warming-is-going-to-be-bad movement. But then, as now, the tie-in between weather events and human changes to the atmospheric greenhouse effect is tenuous at best, and tie-ins to specific events are ill-supported and ill-advised. In the best case, the anthropogenic emissions-driven rise in global temperatures has a small ancillary impact on a specific extreme weather event, but in the vast majority of the cases, its role is nugatory and undetectable.


August 2, 2012

Earth’s Carbon Sink Still Strong and Growing

Filed under: Adaptation, Plants

As is widespread and common knowledge, higher atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels are beneficial to plants making them grow faster and larger, in addition to enhancing them in virtually every other way. For an immersion in the subject of plants and carbon dioxide, check out the website PlantsNeedCO2.org and revel in the good news concerning higher atmospheric CO2 levels.

This growth enhancement has led to the earth’s plants taking an increasing amount of CO2 from the atmosphere and turning it into biomass where carbon is stored for days to hundreds of years (this mechanism accounts for a significant portion of the earth’s land-based carbon sink). It seems the more CO2 we pump into the atmosphere, the more CO2 that plants take out to enhance their growth.

The oceans also take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and can store it for long periods of time (thousands of years). And it appears that this ocean carbon sink is also expanding as we emit more CO2 into the atmosphere.

Together, the land and ocean carbon sinks have been pretty much keeping up with the increasing anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions. Consequently, the percentage of CO2 injected into the atmosphere from human activities that remains in the atmosphere has remained pretty much constant for the last 50 years—according to just-published research in the journal Nature—despite ever increasing anthropogenic CO2 emissions.


July 26, 2012

Wild Speculation on Climate and Polar Bears

Filed under: Adaptation, Animals, Polar

Here is another big one from PNAS.

For those who don’t know, PNAS stands for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and it has gained the unfortunate reputation for publishing scientific research articles that regularly get knocked out of the park within hours of their release. The lack of rigor stems from its rather unique “peer-review” process in which National Academy members can submit articles for publication that the authors themselves have had “peer-reviewed”—that is, they passed the article by a couple of friends of theirs for comments. It’s more like “pal review.”

It is hard to imagine many papers being rejected under this system, although it can happen. For example, a contributed article by National Academy member Dr. Richard Lindzen that argued that the climate sensitivity to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions isn’t as large as commonly thought was rejected by the PNAS editor in change, overruling the recommendations of the reviewers chosen by Lindzen. But such occurrences are quite rare.

Instead, papers with rather speculative conclusions can be regularly found in the pages of PNAS as we have documented on several occasions (see here and here for example).

A new paper has just appeared which should be added to this list in the form of a contribution by National Academy foreign associate and molecular biologist Dr. Luis Herrera-Estrella on the subject of polar bears, evolution, and climate influences.


July 24, 2012

Illiteracy at NASA

Filed under: Arctic, Polar

Apparently NASA should start distributing dictionaries to the authors of its press releases.

Here is the title of the July 24, 2012 NASA press release reporting on recent ice melt across the surface of Greenland:

“Satellites See Unprecedented Greenland Ice Sheet Surface Melt”

And here is a quote from within the release:

“Ice cores from Summit show that melting events of this type occur about once every 150 years on average. With the last one happening in 1889, this event is right on time,” says Lora Koenig, a Goddard glaciologist and a member of the research team analyzing the satellite data.

Now, according to our version of Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, “unprecedented” is defined as:

“having no precedent: NOVEL, UNEXAMPLED”

Dictionary.com concurs:

“without previous instance; never before known or experienced; unexampled or unparalleled: an unprecedented event.”

So, while it may be meteorologically interesting that a series of high pressure ridges had passed over Greenland this summer with largest and warmest of these parking over the island for a few days in mid-July and raising the temperature to near the melting point of ice all the way up to the summit of Greenland’s ice cap—it is not a type of event which is unique. Rare perhaps, but not unprecedented.

But, apparently, when it comes to hyping anthropogenic global warming (or at least the inference thereto), redefining English words in order to garner more attention is a perfectly acceptable practice.

Which brings to mind this oldy but goody from the late Stephen Schneider:

On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but — which means that we must include all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands, and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we’d like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change. To do that we need to get some broadbased support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This ‘double ethical bind’ we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both.

At NASA, apparently being honest is not considered as being the most effective.

July 13, 2012

The Heat Was On—Before Urbanization and Greenhouse Gases

Sure is hot out! And what better time for a paper to appear in the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology describing the construction of the “all-time” records for various types of weather extremes for each of the 50 United States plus Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The paper details efforts of the U.S. State Climate Extremes Committee (SCEC) established by the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) and led by Dr. Karsten Shein. Basically, the SCEC dusted off old records and found other new sources. So now we have “new and improved” data (available here) for the value, the date and the location of the all-time high and low temperature, greatest 24-hr precipitation, greatest 24-hr snowfall and greatest snowdepth for 50 states and two territories. The statewide record extremes have been updated through 2011 and are subject to continuous updating.

This paper is an interesting read for those who perseverate on climate history and how it is constructed from a variety of observations both made from “official” (federal) observing stations as well as those deemed reliable from “non-official” observations (such as 12-oz soda bottles or credible “amateur” observer accounts). The new effort resulted in “the revision of 40 percent of the values” contained in the old dataset at NCDC and “underscored both the necessity of manual quality assurance methods as well as the importance of continued climate monitoring and data rescue activities to ensure that potential record values are not overlooked.”

It also is useful for putting the recent heat wave in perspective. Despite the 24/7 caterwauling, only two new state records—South Carolina and Georgia—are currently under investigation. And, looking carefully at Shein et al. dataset, there appears to be a remarkable lack of all-time records in recent years. This is particularly striking given the increasing urbanization of the U.S. and the consequent “non climatic” warming that creeps into previously pristine records. Everything else being equal—and with no warming from increased greenhouse gases—most statewide records should be in or near big cities. But they aren’t.


July 11, 2012

What’s to Blame for the Rains on the Plains?

Filed under: Precipitation

The reigning myth has it that climate change from anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is supposed to increase intense precipitation. But a slew of research now points to other causes for this. As a result, assessments of climate change, such as the one used by the EPA in support of its 2009 Endangerment Finding (which is required to justify proposed GHG emissions limits for U.S. power plants), may be wrong when they primarily blame changed rain intensity on GHGs.

Here is an example of how this plays out across the Heartland of the United States.


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