OH OH! REDUX
issues back, we apprised you of the big press hooha over changes in
atmospheric concentrations of the hydroxyl radical OH. MIT's Ronald
Prinn and colleagues determined that, after OH levels rose throughout
the 1980s, they dropped markedly through the end of the century. Because
it's so reactive, hydroxyl is difficult to measure in the atmosphere.
In fact, OH is highly reactive with the greenhouse gases including methane, sulfur dioxide, and carbon monoxide, acting to remove those
compounds from the atmosphere. Where does the blame lie for causing OH
to decline? That's right: Humans.
to Reuters' coverage of Prinn's paper:
cause of the fluctuation is unclear, the researchers said. But because
the decrease in the global concentration of OH is driven by changes in
the northern hemisphere—where most of the world's industrialization
and emission of human-made gases takes place—the findings likely stem
from manmade rather than natural causes.
we should note, was published in Science,
one of the world's premiere scientific journals. The editors of Science
deemed this work to be of such profound importance that, in the first
week of May, they released it early on-line, as you may recall, via an
outlet called "Sciencexpress" that selects papers whose "timeliness and importance"
merit early release. "Additional editorial changes in the text and
figures may appear in the print version," they caution.
for the manmade connection was very clear in the Sciencexpress abstract that appeared a few weeks ago:
of these observations shows that OH levels in the southern hemisphere
are on average about 14±35 percent higher than in the northern
hemisphere, and global average OH levels rose 15±22 percent between
1979 and 1989 and then subsequently decreased to levels in 2000 about 10±24
percent below 1979 values.
pointed out (WCR, Vol.
6, No. 18, 5/28/01), because of the imprecision of the measurements,
that study is meaningless: 14±35 percent translates into a range of +49
percent to –21 percent. In other words, it's not clear if OH levels
are higher or lower in the Southern Hemisphere. Furthermore, the authors
don't know if global OH levels even rose (the range is +37 percent to
–7 percent). That means that the change in OH levels is not
statistically different from zero. End of non-story.
apparently Prinn is an avid reader of World
Climate Report. The non-"xpress"
version of the paper just came out. Aside from the occasional addition
of a comma or change in capitalization and a slight rearrangement of a
few sentences in the conclusion, the papers are identical—with
one exception. Here's the new abstract:
of these observations shows that global OH levels were growing between
1978 and 1988, but the growth rate was decreasing at a rate of 0.23±0.18%
so that OH levels began declining after 1988. Overall, the global
average OH trend between 1978 and 2000 was –0.64±0.60% year–1.
Statistical significance! Instead of talking about the nonsignificant
differences between hemispheres, they now focus on the rate of change of
the global OH trend. Suddenly, something that only one month ago was
evidence that humans are defiling the atmosphere now is no longer
abstract-worthy—instead, it's relegated to the body of the text,
where it will remain forever hidden.
of the paper is, for all practical purposes, identical between the two
versions. The science is the same. The analysis is the same. But the
non–statistically significant OH rise from 1979 to 1989 (15±22
percent) and decline from 1989 to 2000 (10±24 percent) is now a
significant overall decline of
–0.64±0.60 percent per year.
the New York Times got it
right. In their May 4 coverage of the Sciencexpress release, reporter Andrew Revkin noted:
in atmospheric chemistry who were not involved in the study...emphasized
the difficulties in measuring something that comes and goes so quickly
and varies mile by mile. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone, an atmospheric chemist
and chancellor of the University of California at Irvine, said he
doubted there was a way to confirm that the hydroxyl radicals were
exhibiting wide swings.
the wide swings in the paper's abstract was far easier.
Prinn, R.G., et
al., 2001. Evidence for substantial variations of atmospheric hydroxyl
radicals in the past two decades, Science,
GCM at Large!
a reason those TV psychics run a banner across their ads that says,
"For entertainment purposes only." They know their predictions are
hardly the basis for making major life decisions. Most so-called
psychics can't accurately "read" your past or present, so you'd
hardly trust them to predict your future, right? The same is true for
the general circulation models.
thought for years that GCM output should come with a warning label
attached. Finally, an Australian science agency (or at least its legal
advisors) has admitted what we've known for a long time. CSIRO, in a
spiffy little brochure entitled "Climate Change: Projections for
Australia," leads the reader through the usual laundry list of global
warming rhetoric: Rising sea levels, temperatures, number of days with
extreme summer temperatures, and so on.
brochure closes with the following disclaimer:
projections are based on results from computer models that involve
simplifications of real physical processes that are not fully
understood. Accordingly, no responsibility will be accepted by CSIRO for
the accuracy of the projections inferred from this brochure or for any
person's interpretations, deductions, conclusions or actions in
reliance on this information.
global warming alarmists have virtually nothing to support their cause except
these models, there is really no climate change debate without them. We
therefore propose the following warning label for all future GCM
climate model is to be used for political purposes only. Its creators
are not responsible for any scientific inferences made from the data,
nor is model output designed for comparisons with actual observations
under any circumstances. Output from this model may be compared only
with output from other models. This model is incapable of simulating
tropical storms, El Niños, La Niñas, clouds, thunderstorms, cyclones,
anticyclones, fronts, or other natural phenomena responsible for the
earth's climate. Inferences about these factors are permissible,
however, to the extent that they support the stated primary goal.
change: Projections for Australia, 2001, 8pp. (www.dar.csiro.au/publications/projections2001.pdf)