February 27, 2012

Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and High Climate Sensitivity

A few months ago, we reported on a paper in the scientific literature (Schmittner et al. 2011) that concluded that there were only “vanishing probabilities” that the value of the earth’s climate sensitivity—the amount of global temperature change resulting from a doubling of the atmospheric carbon dioxide content—was above 3.2°C, and that a climate sensitivity exceeding 6°C was “implausible.” Now, a new paper has been published (Olson et al., 2012) that finds that the 95% confidence range for the value of the earth’s actual climate sensitivity extends only to a value as great as 4.9°C. This is yet another in an expanding list of papers that strongly suggest that that the IPCC entertainment of the possibility that the earth’s climate sensitivity is extremely high (say, greater than 5-6°C, is wrong).

As apocalyptic climate change lurks among high sensitivity values, these new findings virtually eliminate the places where it could be hiding—and relegate talk of apocalyptic climate change to that of Loch Ness monsters, big foot, and woolly mammoths in Siberia.


January 10, 2012

Will Replicated Global Warming Science Make Mann Go Ape?

About 10 years ago, December 20, 2002 to be exact, we published a paper titled “Revised 21st century temperature projections” in the journal Climate Research. We concluded:

Temperature projections for the 21st century made in the Third Assessment Report (TAR) of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) indicate a rise of 1.4 to 5.8°C for 1990–2100. However, several independent lines of evidence suggest that the projections at the upper end of this range are not well supported…. The constancy of these somewhat independent results encourages us to conclude that 21st century warming will be modest and near the low end of the IPCC TAR projections.

We examined several different avenues of determining the likely amount of global warming to come over the 21st century. One was an adjustment to climate models based on (then) new research appearing in the peer-reviewed journals that related to the strength of the carbon cycle feedbacks (less than previously determined), the warming effect of black carbon aerosols (greater than previously determined), and the magnitude of the climate sensitivity (lower than previous estimates). Another was an adjustment (downward) to the rate of the future build-up of atmospheric carbon dioxide that was guided by the character of the observed atmospheric CO2 increase (which had flattened out during the previous 25 years). And our third estimate of future warming was the most comprehensive, as it used the observed character of global temperature increase—an integrator of all processes acting upon it—to guide an adjustment to the temperature projections produced by a collection of climate models. All three avenues that we pursued led to somewhat similar estimates for the end-of- the-century temperature rise. Here is how we described our findings in paper’s Abstract:

Since the publication of the TAR, several findings have appeared in the scientific literature that challenge many of the assumptions that generated the TAR temperature range. Incorporating new findings on the radiative forcing of black carbon (BC) aerosols, the magnitude of the climate sensitivity, and the strength of the climate/carbon cycle feedbacks into a simple upwelling diffusion/energy balance model similar to the one that was used in the TAR, we find that the range of projected warming for the 1990–2100 period is reduced to 1.1–2.8°C. When we adjust the TAR emissions scenarios to include an atmospheric CO2 pathway that is based upon observed CO2 increases during the past 25 yr, we find a warming range of 1.5–2.6°C prior to the adjustments for the new findings. Factoring in these findings along with the adjusted CO2 pathway reduces the range to 1.0–1.6°C. And thirdly, a simple empirical adjustment to the average of a large family of models, based upon observed changes in temperature, yields a warming range of 1.3–3.0°C, with a central value of 1.9°C.

We thus concluded:

Our adjustments of the projected temperature trends for the 21st century all produce warming trends that cluster in the lower portion of the IPCC TAR range. Together, they result in a range of warming from 1990 to 2100 of 1.0 to 3.0°C, with a central value that averages 1.8°C across our analyses.

Little did we know at the time, but behind the scenes, our paper, the review process that resulted in its publication, the editor in charge of our submission, and the journal itself, were being derided by the sleazy crowd that revealed themselves in the notorious “Climategate” emails, first released in November, 2009. In fact, the publication of our paper was to serve as one of the central pillars that this goon squad used to attack on the integrity of the journal Climate Research and one of its editors, Chris de Freitas.

The initial complaint about our paper was raised back in 2003 shortly after its publication by Tom Wigley, of the US National Center for Atmospheric Research and University of Toronto’s L. D. Danny Harvey, who served as supposedly “anonymous” reviewers of the paper and who apparently had a less than favorable opinion about our work that they weren’t shy about spreading around. According to Australian climate scientist Barrie Pittock:

I heard second hand that Tom Wigley was very annoyed about a paper which gave very low projections of future warmings (I forget which paper, but it was in a recent issue [of Climate Research]) got through despite strong criticism from him as a reviewer.

So much for being anonymous.

The nature of Wigley and Harvey’s dissatisfaction was later made clear in a letter they sent to Chris de Freitas (the editor at Climate Research who oversaw our submission) and demanded to know the details of the review process that led to the publication of our paper over their recommendation for its rejection. Here is an excerpt from that letter:

Your decision that a paper judged totally unacceptable for publication should not require re-review is unprecedented in our experience. We therefore request that you forward to us copies of the authors responses to our criticisms, together with: (1) your reason for not sending these responses or the revised manuscript to us; (2) an explanation for your judgment that the revised paper should be published in the absence of our re-review; and (3) your reason for failing to follow accepted editorial procedures.

Wigley asked Harvey to distribute a copy of their letter of inquiry/complaint to a large number of individuals who were organizing some type of punitive action against Climate Research for publishing what they considered to be “bad” papers. Apparently, Dr. de Freitas responded to Wigley and Harvey’s demands with the following perfectly reasonable explanation:

The [Michaels et al. manuscript] was reviewed initially by five referees. … The other three referees, all reputable atmospheric scientists, agreed it should be published subject to minor revision. Even then I used a sixth person to help me decide. I took his advice and that of the three other referees and sent the [manuscript] back for revision. It was later accepted for publication. The refereeing process was more rigorous than usual.

This did little to appease to those wanting to discredit Climate Research (and prevent the publication of “skeptic” research) as evidenced by this email from Mike Mann to Tom Wigley and a long list of other influential climate scientists:

Dear Tom et al,

Thanks for comments–I see we’ve built up an impressive distribution list here!

Much like a server which has been compromised as a launching point for computer viruses, I fear that “Climate Research” has become a hopelessly compromised vehicle in the skeptics’ (can we find a better word?) disinformation campaign, and some of the discussion that I’ve seen (e.g. a potential threat of mass resignation among the legitimate members of the CR editorial board) seems, in my opinion, to have some potential merit.

This should be justified not on the basis of the publication of science we may not like of course, but based on the evidence (e.g. as provided by Tom and Danny Harvey and I’m sure there is much more) that a legitimate peer-review process has not been followed by at least one particular editor.

Mann went on to add “it was easy to make sure that the worst papers, perhaps including certain ones Tom refers to, didn’t see the light of the day at J. Climate.” This was because Mann was serving as an editor of the Journal of Climate and was indicating that he could control the content of accepted papers. But since Climate Research was beyond their direct control, it required a different route to content control. Thus pressure was brought to bear on the editors as well as on the publisher of the journal. And, they were willing to make things personal. For a more complete telling of the type and timeline of the pressure brought upon Chris de Freitas and Climate Research see this story put together from the Climategate emails by Anthony Watts over at Watts Up With That.

Now, let’s turn the wheels of time ahead 10 years, to January 10, 2012. Just published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters is a paper with this provocative title: “Improved constraints in 21st century warming derived using 160 years of temperature observations” by Nathan Gillett and colleagues from the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis of Environment Canada (not a group that anyone would confuse with the usual skeptics). An excerpt from the paper’s abstract provides the gist of the analysis:

Projections of 21st century warming may be derived by using regression-based methods to scale a model’s projected warming up or down according to whether it under- or over-predicts the response to anthropogenic forcings over the historical period. Here we apply such a method using near surface air temperature observations over the 1851–2010 period, historical simulations of the response to changing greenhouse gases, aerosols and natural forcings, and simulations of future climate change under the Representative Concentration Pathways from the second generation Canadian Earth System Model (CanESM2).

Or, to put it another way, Gillett et al. used the observed character of global temperature increase—an integrator of all processes acting upon it—to guide an adjustment to the temperature projections produced by a climate model. Sounds familiar!!

And what did they find? From the Abstract of Gillett et al.:

Our analysis also leads to a relatively low and tightly-constrained estimate of Transient Climate Response of 1.3–1.8°C, and relatively low projections of 21st-century warming under the Representative Concentration Pathways.

The Transient Climate Response is the temperature rise at the time of the doubling of the atmospheric CO2 concentration, which will most likely occur sometime in the latter decades of this century. Which means that results of Gillett et al. are in direct accordance with the results of Michaels et al. published 10 years prior and which played a central role in precipitating the wrath of the Climategate scientists upon us, Chris de Freitas and Climate Research.

Both the Gillett et al. (2012) and the Michaels et al. (2002) studies show that climate models are over-predicting the amount of warming that is a result of human changes to the constituents of the atmosphere, and that when they are constrained to conform to actual observations of the earth’s temperature progression, the models project much less future warming (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Dashed lines show the projected course of 21st century global temperature rise as projected by the latest version (CanESM2) of the Canadian coupled ocean‐atmosphere climate model for three different future emission scenarios (RCPs). Colored bars represent the range of model projections when constrained by past 160 years of observations. All uncertainty ranges are 5–95%. (figure adapted from Gillet et al., 2012: note the original figure included additional data not relevant to this discussion).

And a final word of advice to whoever was the editor at GRL that was responsible for overseeing the Gillett et al. publication—watch your back.


Gillett, N.P., et al., 2012. Improved constraints on 21st-century warming derived using 160 years of temperature observations. Geophysical Research Letters, 39, L01704, doi:10.1029/2011GL050226.

Michaels, P.J., et al., 2002. Revised 21st century temperature projections. Climate Research, 23, 1-9.

[01/11/12: This post has been updated to correct the spelling of Gillett.]

September 16, 2011

Riding to the Defense of Climate Models

As the observed rate of rise in the global average temperature continues to be much less than climate models project, there are a growing number of knights in shining armor, riding to the rescue of the damsel in distress (the damsel, of course, being the climate models). The rescue attempt generally employs two strategies, namely that 1) there is a bunch of stuff that has going on that the models couldn’t possibly have known about (so it is unfair to hold this against them), and 2) the climate models aren’t really doing that badly anyway.


September 8, 2011

More Evidence That Models Continue To Show Too Much Recent Warming

In our last World Climate Report article, we detailed a recent paper that showed that climate models which fail to account for the evolution of stratospheric aerosols (that is, reflective particles in the earth’s upper atmospheric) during the past decade or two project less warming than they would have had they included the influence of stratospheric aerosols in their calculations. This means that the discrepancy between the observed warming trend during the past 10-15 years (which is near zero) and climate model projections should be even larger than it appears (and it is already quite large).

Now comes along a new paper which hints at another reason why the climate models should actually be projecting more warming than they currently do—again, meaning that the models are faring even worse than it appears.


April 20, 2011

Climate Coup

We are pleased to announce the latest addition to our blogroll category of “Books”—that being Climate Coup: Global Warming’s Invasion of Our Government and Our Lives—a fine publication edited by our own Dr. Patrick J. Michaels.

Climate Coup is published by the Cato Institute and is available through Cato or through Amazon.

Here is how the Cato Institute describes Climate Coup:

Global warming alarmism is invading nearly every aspect of our society. Despite convincing evidence that climate change does not portend an apocalyptic future, children are inundated with that idea in schools. Poor countries shake down rich ones in the name of climate “justice.” Lawmakers try to impose tariffs and sanctions on nations that don’t agree with their environmental views. The military uses climate change as a reason to enlarge its budget. And courts are compelling the government to restrict the amount of energy we use and the way we use it.

Climate Coup provides an antidote to this, gathering together myth-breaking insights and data from a team of experts on the pervasive influence global warming alarmism is having on health, education, law, national defense, international development, trade, and academic publishing.

”Global warming’s reach has become ubiquitous,” writes the editor, Patrick Michaels. “This book documents how far unelected bureaucracies have pushed this issue into our lives.”

Each author details the width and depth of the impact global warming alarmism is having on his or her area of expertise. The coverage includes:

-How the Constitution’s limited government restraints have been torn away, allowing global warming policy to be dictated by the president.

-The deliberate abdication of legislative authority by Congress to further concentrate regulatory power in the executive and judicial branches.

-How outrageous exaggerations of global warming fuel budget expansion within the Defense Department.

-How students are subjected to forms of climate change education that are akin to social engineering.

-How trade policies do nothing about climate change but erode market freedoms.

-Ending the myth that global warming reduces the quality of life in developing countries.

-An examination of the unrealistic and unsupported public health claims made about global warming.

Climate Coup confronts the exaggerations, opportunism, and myths about global warming that are all too pervasively altering the shape of our lives and provides the tools and insights necessary to push back against the takeover.

Climate Coup is edited by Dr. Patrick Michaels, senior fellow in environmental studies at the Cato Institute. According to Cato, “Dr. Michaels is widely acknowledged by climate alarmists as today’s most effective synthesizer of the nonapocalyptic view of climate change. He is a distinguished senior fellow in the School of Public Policy at George Mason University and a past president of the American Association of State Climatologists. He has also authored multiple books on global warming, including Climate of Extremes: Global Warming Science They Don’t Want You to Know.”

Climate Coup includes individual chapters contributed by:

Roger Pilon
Evan Turgeon
Ross McKitrick
Ivan Eland
Sallie James
Indur M. Goklany
Robert E. Davis
Neal McCluskey

For those interested in hearing more about what Climate Coup is all about, the Cato Institute is hosting a Book Forum on Wednesday May 4, 2011. The Book Forum will be streamed on-line, and will feature speakers Richard Lindzen, Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology, MIT and Bob Ryan, Fellow and past president of the American Meteorological Society and meteorologist for WJLA / ABC 7 News. The discussion will be moderated by Patrick J. Michaels.

Be sure to tune in to see all the fun!

December 8, 2010

CO2-induced Vegetation Growth Slows Global Warming

Filed under: Adaptation, Climate Models, Plants

We are continually deluged with talk about positive feedbacks leading to even higher levels of global warming, but aside from the great water vapor debate, we rarely hear much about negative feedbacks which could act to slow the rate of temperature rise.

Well that is about to change.

A new study has identified a negative feedback between carbon dioxide-enhanced vegetative growth and global warming—the denser that vegetation becomes, the greater the cooling influence it has on any global temperature rise. The enhanced vegetation doesn’t offset all of the projected warming, but a sizeable chunk of it—13% globally, 20% over land areas, and more than 50% over the eastern United States. And this negative feedback is not included in current climate models.


November 17, 2010

Kracked Up Over Krakatoa: Models Have It All Wrong

Filed under: Climate Models

It was all the rage a few years back to claim that long ago volcanic eruptions—for instance Krakatoa in 1883—were still acting to mask a large fraction of the oceanic warming that should have occurred because of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions. The epitome of this argument was published in Nature magazine, by an all-star cast of scientists ever-eager to suggest that it is all our fault and then some. The authors included Tom Wigley, Ben Santer, Karl Taylor, Krishna AchutaRao, Jonathan Gregory, and lead author Peter Gleckler.

The accompanying Editors’ Summary of the 2006 Nature article by Gleckler et al. provides the gist:

The 1883 eruption of the volcano Krakatoa in Indonesia has echoed down the centuries in art and in legend. Now an analysis of a suite of 12 climate models shows that Krakatoa also made its presence felt well into the twentieth century in the form of reduced ocean warming and sea-level rise. The changes lasted much longer than was previously suspected and were sufficient to offset much of the ocean warming and sea-level rise caused by more recent human activities.

The IPCC incorporated this finding into their Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) to show that models better match the observed history of the increase in oceanic heat content and sea level rise from thermal expansion when modern (since 1880) volcanic eruptions were included along with anthropogenic forcings. The implication was two-fold; 1) the climate models were now able to closely match reality (so they should be considered reliable), and 2) the cooling from volcanoes was offsetting a large fraction of the influence of anthropogenic global warming (i.e. our influence was even worse than we thought).

Now, a new study comes along, performed by one of the et al.’s of the Gleckler study, that basically shows that the conclusions of that original paper were quite likely incorrect, because the climate models examined had been equilibrated to an improper set of “background” conditions—conditions unnaturally free of any and all volcanic eruptions.


February 1, 2010

What’s Happened to Global Warming?

One of the enduring pillars of the climate change issue is that the temperature of the Earth is increasing at an unprecedented rate … we’ve heard it a million times over the past few decades. However, it is well known that the temperature of the Earth has not increased over the past decade, and the lack of recent warming is now receiving serious consideration in the leading scientific journals. Two recent articles are of particular interest to us at World Climate Report.


April 30, 2009

What You Can(‘t) Do About Global Warming

We are always hearing about ways that you can “save the planet” from the perils of global warming—from riding your bicycle to work, to supporting the latest national greenhouse gas restriction limitations, and everything in between.

In virtually each and every case, advocates of these measures provide you with the amount of greenhouse gas emissions (primarily carbon dioxide) that will be saved by the particular action.

And if you want to figure this out for yourself, the web is full of CO2 calculators (just google “CO2 calculator”) which allow you to calculate your carbon footprint and how much it can be reduced by taking various conservations steps—all with an eye towards reducing global warming.

However, in absolutely zero of these cases are you told, or can you calculate, how much impact you are going to have on the actual climate itself. After all, CO2 emissions are not climate—they are gases. Climate is temperature and precipitation and storms and winds, etc. If the goal of the actions is to prevent global warming, then you shouldn’t really care a hoot about the amount of CO2 emissions that you are reducing, but instead, you want to know how much of the planet you are saving. How much anthropogenic climate change is being prevented by unplugging your cell phone charger, from biking to the park, or from slashing national carbon dioxide emissions?

Why do none of the CO2 calculators give you that most valuable piece of information? Why don’t the politicians, the EPA, and/or greenhouse gas reduction advocates tell you the bottom line?

How much global warming are we avoiding?

Embarrassingly for them, this information is readily available.


April 15, 2009

Climate Models: Better Clouds=Less Warming?

While all the attention has been focused on a paper by Warren Washington and colleagues that has just been accepted by the scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters (GRL), whose conclusions can perhaps best be summarized by “Yes, Virginia, there is something you (acting together with 7 billion of your closest friends) can do to lessen climate change,” another paper has been published by GRL that seems to argue that if climate models had a better handle on the true behavior of clouds, that they may project less warming than they do now.

So, perhaps Virginia, if you wait for the scientists to get things right, there may be less that you actually have to do in the first place (which is a good thing, because according to the Washington et al. results, you are way behind already).


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