A highlight of recent research supporting the climate realist perspective #3

I have come across a scientific paper published recently, which supports the climate realist perspective, and thought it of such significance that I should share it here, in my new climate realist paper update series.

The paper in question has been published in Tellus A, a scientific journal published by the International Meteorological Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. It addresses what has been a topic of discussion in the climate debate for quite some time now: global temperature records. Climate skeptics have made some valid arguments criticizing the global surface temperature record (arguing, for example, that the records are contaminated by urbanization and land use-change effects) and supporting the global tropospheric temperature record, while climate alarmists have also made valid points defending the global surface temperature record and criticizing the global tropospheric temperature record.

Before I begin on the content of the paper, though, I shall give some background knowledge about global temperature records. The global surface temperature record is really three global surface temperature datasets, comprised of those produced by the Hadley Center in conjunction with the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (HadCRUT4), NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISTEMP), and NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (a combination of GHCN-M and ICOADS). Likewise, the global tropospheric temperature record is actually two datasets, comprised of those produced by the University of Alabama-Huntsville (UAH) and Remote Sensing Systems (RSS).

As a last note before I address the paper itself, it may interest the reader that one of the authors, Dr. Lennart Bengtsson, whom I listed as a skeptical scientist, joined the Academic Advisory Council of the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), widely considered a skeptic organization, in early 2014. However, he soon left because many in the climate science community pressured him to do so. In my opinion, this shows the current terrible dysfunction in this debate: that someone would fear for his health and safety simply because he joined a group that promotes a minority view! It is absolutely despicable, and as Dr. Bengtsson points out, somewhat similar to Senator Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist reign of terror in the early 1950s.

Anyways, the paper points out that global surface temperatures show a large discrepancy between land and ocean trends, and that global tropospheric temperature datasets do not. In addition, it argues that surface ocean temperature trends are similar to tropospheric trends. This is highly important to realize, as it implies that the satellite (tropospheric) datasets may, in at least some ways, be more reliable than surface temperature datasets. This notion has been criticized vociferously by alarmists because satellite trends are less than that of surface trends, but those doing the criticizing may fail to realize this. The paper later argues this:

It is therefore suggested to use either the more robust tropospheric temperature or ocean surface temperature in studies of climate sensitivity.

This is quite a statement, and one that deserves consideration, certainly more consderation than it currently gets, especially since there is additional evidence to be at least slightly skeptical of the proposed accuracy of surface temperature datasets (see below).

Climate models projected that the troposphere should warm faster than the surface, and yet the opposite has happened. In 2004, climate scientists argued that there was an extremely low chance of temperatures at the surface continuing to warm much faster than in the troposphere, and yet that is what happened. Therefore, something must be contaminating either dataset, and since the above paper (and others; I am planning a similar list of papers in the future) makes a compelling argument for contamination of the surface datasets, the satellite temperature record may be more reliable, at least in some aspects, than the surface temperature record.

(A further implication of this study is that climate sensitivity studies’ estimates of climate sensitivity (the temperature change to a doubling of CO2) may be biased too high. This in turn may mean the alarm over global warming should be at least slightly diminished.)

In conclusion, this new paper (with a familiar author) argues that global land surface temperature trends (and thus global surface temperature trends) may be biased too high, and that global tropospheric and ocean trends (which are lower) are more robust and should be used in climate sensitivity studies.

Some remarks on a recent paper in Nature and clouds

A new paper has been released in Nature, entitled Evidence for climate change in the satellite cloud record (press release here), which talks about cloud property variations induced by human-caused global warming. It argues that primarily because of humans and recovery from the volcanic eruptions of El Chichon and Pinatubo in 1982 and 1991 (which cooled the earth), clouds are moving higher up in the atmosphere and toward the poles. This, according to the press release, exacerbates warming further, serving as a positive feedback to the human warming. These results would also confirm the predictions of cloud behaviors in climate models, which would make those models more reliable.

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Global temperature responses to a CO2 doubling if the iris hypothesis (a negative cloud feedback) isn’t and is considered in climate model simulations. From Mauritsen and Stevens 2015 supplementary information.

While this paper’s arguments may all be sound (and it’s likely that there are certain positive feedbacks from clouds), evidence also exists for negative feedbacks from clouds. In my opinion, the feedback from clouds is probably not very strongly negative or positive, because of the various possible responses to global warming. I plan to do some lists on these topics in the future but in the meantime, here are some papers on negative feedbacks and clouds:

Mauritsen and Stevens 2015 argues that if the iris hypothesis is included in climate models they can be closer reconciled with reality.

Cho et al. 2012 argues that warming produces a reduction in  clouds in the Pacific warm pool which allows more OLR (outgoing longwave radiation) to escape to space, cooling the region.

Laken and Palle 2012 argues that certain SAM (Southern Annular Mode) events which are expected to increase with further human-caused warming can produce increases in cloudiness that cool South America.

Spencer et al. 2007 argues that the transition to the warm and rainy season in the tropics brings an increase in OLR due to decreases in ice clouds, supporting the iris hypothesis.

In addition, if some of the trends in the paper result from recovery from volcanoes, then the human effect may be lower than thought.

A highlight of recent research supporting the climate realist perspective #2

I have come across three scientific papers published recently, all of which support the climate realist perspective, and thought them of such significance that I should share them here, in my climate realist paper update series.

Seemingly with every passing week, I see more and more papers supporting the climate realist perspective. Many such studies can be found in the lists of significant papers on this blog (most papers on such lists support the climate realist perspective), but since some don’t have a list yet or won’t in the future, I will report on at least some of them in blog posts. Just this week, for example, I have seen recent research arguing for national climate change driven by direct thermal emissions from energy consumption, (related to the urban heat island effect, press release here)

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Energy consumption (heat output) versus national climate change of Japan and the United Kingdom. Note that energy consumption seems to predict national climate change better than the CMIP5 climate models. From Murray and Heggie 2016.

a natural cause of recent cooling in the North Atlantic (press release here), and a strong reduction in atmospheric blocking (which causes cold outbreaks like the episode in early 2014with future warming. All of these support the climate realist perspective, since climate realists accept that the urban heat island effect has a significant warming effect on the climate, the thermohaline circulation is not shutting down because of human-caused warming, and cold outbreaks will not get worse and more frequent with further warming.

Why the Arctic’s methane isn’t a catastrophic time bomb waiting to happen

There has been much concern over the possibility of a powerful positive feedback from melting arctic ice (caused by human warming of the arctic), in this case the rapid release of massive quantities of methane from below the surface into the atmosphere. Since methane is a very potent greenhouse gas, this would amplify the warming significantly and possibly cause dangerous, runaway climate change. This idea is supported by what I think is a minority view in the scientific literature, with many papers arguing against such alarm. Despite this, papers like this made waves in the media with claims of $60 trillion damages from the “methane time bomb”, as it has become known. Such claims are very unlikely, and were disputed hotly in the journal in which they were published. Furthermore, papers that do not even cite Whiteman et al. 2013 point to a less threatening situation. I will cover them here.

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First is Near-surface permafrost degradation: How severe during the 21st century? This paper argues that a massive release of methane from melting arctic permafrost is dubious.

Second is Ancient Permafrost and a Future, Warmer Arctic. This paper reports that permafrost in subarctic Canada has survived interglacial periods which were warmer and lasted longer than the present one. This would imply that, at least to a certain degree of warming, much arctic permafrost will survive.

Third is Shrub expansion may reduce summer permafrost thaw in Siberian tundra. This paper argues that arctic shrub growth, which is expected with warming, may partially offset future permafrost thawing.

Fourth is Fluxes and fate of dissolved methane released at the seafloor at the landward limit of the gas hydrate stability zone offshore western Svalbard. This paper argues than most methane released from the seabed in Svalbard does not reach the atmosphere, preventing it from contributing to warming. There is a press release for the paper here.

Fifth is Extensive release of methane from Arctic seabed west of Svalbard during summer 2014 does not influence the atmosphere. This paper’s conclusions are similar to the fourth’s: that most methane being released from the Svalbard seabed does not reach the atmosphere. There is a press release for the paper here.

Sixth is No significant increase in long-term CH 4 emissions on North Slope of Alaska despite significant increase in air temperature. This paper argues that despite a significant increase in air temperature on the North Slope of Alaska, there has not been a significant increase in methane emissions. This means, they argue, that the arctic may not contribute significantly to methane emissions in the future if they continue at this trajectory. There is a press release for the paper here.

Seventh is Over-estimating climate warming-induced methane gas escape from the seafloor by neglecting multi-phase flow dynamics. This paper argues that by neglecting dynamics of seafloor methane, analyses can overestimate by orders of magnitude the amount of methane that will escape to the surface and provide a positive feedback.

So, in conclusion, though melting arctic ice may emit some methane into the atmosphere, the effect most likely will not be highly significant and virtually certainly not catastrophic.

Some remarks on the recent record warmth

UPDATE: The global temperature seems to have been taking quite a hit over the past two months, as it fell rapidly from April to May, and from May to June (this is according to UAH satellite data, RSS data is not yet public at the time of writing). This raises the interesting possibility of 2016 not being the warmest year on record in the satellite data, because it probably will be in surface temperatures.

Let me first say that if humans were the only input on the climate system, then we would probably see a steady warming and every month and year would be a new record. That global temperatures have been rising is not a

surprise to me. However, the climate system isn’t linear and we are definitely not the only factor. That being said, I believe that human-caused global warming will not manifest itself (and hasn’t) as sudden, enormous jumps in temperature. It is more likely, in my opinion, to be represented as a steady warming of the climate system from human input of greenhouse gases, urbanization, land use change, etc. The idea that human-induced climate change is responsible for temperature jumps like those above is absurd. I don’t think that

without human influence we’d be seeing a temperature increase like the one above, but claiming that humans are responsible for this kind of a jump is ridiculous, especially when we have seen jumps like this in the past precisely during an El Nino event, such as during the El Nino of 1997-1998, which was (as is this current one) one of the strongest such events on record. So, while humans are definitely responsible for a significant part of the warming we’re seeing and have seen in the past 150 years and because of humans we will experience more record temperatures, El Nino is the dominant cause of this temperature jump. In addition, if there hadn’t been an El Nino over the past two years, the earth may have cooled due to the combined effect of various natural effects, such as low solar activity and declining PDO and AMO. This is not to say that natural forces will always overwhelm human warming, but over multiyear and even longer periods, natural variability (which is still very poorly understood) can cancel or even reverse the human-caused warming.

A highlight of recent research supporting the climate realist perspective #1

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The cloud chamber at CLOUD’s location in CERN.

I have come across four scientific papers published recently, all of which support the climate realist perspective, and thought them of such significance that I should share them here, in my climate realist paper update series.

The CLOUD experiment at CERN has come out with four new, important papers (though the fourth wasn’t officially published by CLOUD, it had many authors from it), three of which were published in Nature journals. I will go over each of them and their importance for the cosmic-ray climate connection here. (I also thought this would be a good time to write a post like this seeing as I’m starting on the list of significant papers on the cosmic-ray climate connection.)

The first paper, The role of low-volatility organic compounds in initial particle growth in the atmosphere (a press release covers papers one, two, and four here), has been published in Nature. It examines how organic particle formation takes place and the role of particle volatility in it. Its implications are that oxidized organic particles formed by cosmic rays (see second paper) can grow large enough to serve as cloud seeds.

The second paper, Ion-induced nucleation of pure biogenic particles, has also been published in Nature. It finds that ions produced by galactic cosmic rays can significantly influence the formation rate of the oxidized particles talked about above, from 1 to 2 orders of magnitude, and that because of this, in unpolluted areas, cosmic rays may play a large role in cloud formation, because the particle clusters that have been stabilized by cosmic rays can grow large enough to serve as cloud seeds (see the first paper). In addition, aerosol particles produced by cosmic rays make clouds brighter and more long-lived, cooling the earth even more. This is highly important (and favorable) for Henrik Svensmark’s theory about cosmic rays, clouds, and climate, as well as for climate sensitivity and future climate projections. However, because cosmic rays affect sulfuric acid-driven particle growth less than biogenic particle-driven growth and we’ve been emitting it into the atmosphere, cosmic rays have less of an effect now than they used to. As well as this, it means that the pre-industrial atmosphere may’ve been cloudier than previously believed, and that because of this, climate sensitivity and projections should be revised slightly downward. This is because climate models assume humans have offset quite a bit of warming by forming clouds through emission of sulfuric acid, which is though to be the main gas responsible for aerosol particle formation. However, if there were more clouds in the pre-industrial atmosphere then we have formed less clouds and offset less warming than scientists have thought.

The third paper, The effect of acid–base clustering and ions on the growth of atmospheric nano-particles (press release which covers it and the second paper here), has been published in Nature Communications. It finds that increasing ions (as well as other things) will increase nanoparticle growth rates where sulfuric acid (as opposed to biogenic particles from trees) is driving particle formation. This may lead to those particles becoming larger and forming more cloud seeds and thus clouds. This lends even more support to Svensmark’s theory. A press release covers this paper as well as the second paper.

The fourth paper, New particle formation in the free troposphere: A question of chemistry and timing, has been published in Science. It essentially confirms that the findings of the first two papers are taking place in the real atmosphere, not just a cloud chamber. While this paper too is supportive of Svensmark’s theory, it also adds that:

Neutral nucleation is more than 10 times faster than ion-induced nucleation

So, in conclusion, cosmic rays significantly influence a possible mode of cloud formation that dominated in the past, and the pre-industrial climate may have been cloudier than previously thought, so climate sensitivity and projections of future climate change may need to be adjusted to be lower (though these last two are only implied in the papers). Interestingly, the English-language media has not reported very widely on the cosmic ray aspect of these papers (and the third was hardly talked about at all), though I think they are very important in regards to the Svensmark hypothesis and that the public should know this.

Furthermore, these results and my conclusions from them bolster and are bolstered by previous results of the CLOUD experiment, see Duplissy et al. 2010 and Kirkby et al. 2011. In my opinion, already the CLOUD experiment has essentially confirmed the Svensmark hypothesis: that there is a significant effect of galactic cosmic rays on clouds and climate.

For more information on these papers, see here and here. For more information about the cosmic-ray climate connection, see here.

A welcome voice in the climate wars: Richard Muller

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Dr. Richard Muller, professor of physics at University of California Berkeley

Though, as with most in this issue, I don’t agree with him on everything, his perspective is very welcome to me, as it should be to climate realists. The man of which I speak is Dr. Richard Muller, who recently answered a question that didn’t seem like it would yield such a reasonable answer: How many climate change denialists are there in the US? The question and Dr. Muller’s answer were posted on HuffPost Green. Dr. Muller’s answer is quoted in excerpts below.

He starts off with good points on the fact that though he believes humans are the primary contributor to recent warming, he could also argue that extreme weather (e.g., hurricanes and tornadoes) isn’t increasing.

The number of climate change deniers in the US depends on what you mean by “denier”. I, for example, am not only convinced that global warming is real, and caused by humans, but I can make a compelling case that it is so, and I spend a substantial part of my time talking to those who don’t accept that. I don’t publicize the list of people I have convinced, but you would likely recognize some of the names.

 

On the other hand, I might be listed as a “climate change denier” because I also can show that hurricanes are not increasing (as many alarmists claim), neither are tornados, and droughts and floods are not becoming more common.

He then goes on to list his personal defining of types of people in this debate.

Alarmists. They pay little attention to the details of the science. They are “unconvincibles.” They say the danger is imminent, so scare tactics are both necessary and appropriate, especially to counter the deniers. They implicitly assume that all global warming and human-caused global warming are identical.

 

Exaggerators. They know the science but exaggerate for the public good. They feel the public doesn’t find an 0.64°C change threatening, so they have to cherry-pick and distort a little—for a good cause.

 

Warmists. These people stick to the science. They may not know the answer to every complaint of the skeptics, but they have grown to trust the scientists who work on the issues. They are convinced the danger is serious and imminent.

 

Lukewarmists. They, too, stick to the science. They recognize there is a danger but feel it is uncertain. We should do something, but it can be measured. We have time.

 

Skeptics. They know the science but are bothered by the exaggerators, and they point to serious flaws in the theory and data analysis. They get annoyed when the warmists ignore their complaints, many of which are valid. This group includes auditors, scientists who carefully check the analysis of others.

 

Deniers. They pay little attention to the details of the science. They are “unconvincibles.” They consider the alarmists’ proposals dangerous threats to our economy, so exaggerations are both necessary and appropriate to counter them.

I am probably closest to being a “lukewarmist”. So would I be placed in the category of denier?

Like Muller, I would describe myself as closest to a lukewarmist if given the choices on that list.

So, brava to Dr. Muller for taking on the shrill cries of some on both sides of the aisle with a reasoned analysis of the types of people taking part in discourse on this issue.