Record CO2 levels

A variety of stories have come in recently (or at least fairly recently – I’m a bit behind the times, and it was a heavy weekend, wot with E getting chickenpox and the central heating failing) about CO2 levels, e.g. Sharp rise in CO2 levels recorded from the BBC. This turns out to source at a NOAA release, which has a nice pic but I can’t find the data for 2005, only up to 2004. Also note that is “global” avg; just Mauna Loa is here.

Anyway, the point I was going to make was that this could have been better titled; CO2 levels are now at a record (though not at Mauna Loa, because of the annual cycle…) but are pretty much on the long-term trend line; by eye, about 2-and-a-bit ppmv over the last 4 years.

BTW, did you know that 23rd March is World Met Day?

The CCSP report endgame: Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere: Steps for Understanding and Reconciling Differences

So… where to start? Back in the dim and distant days of a year or so ago, or back to the TAR, there was a problem: temperature trends at the surface and upper atmosphere were incompatible with how the models said they should relate: the models said the upper trends should be larger, obs said otherwise. As it happened (see here and here) the models (and the surface record) ended up triumphant (to somewhat oversell it); and the upper air obs got revised.

But in between the recognition of the problem and its resolution, the CCSP decided to convene a panel to look at the problem and see how it might be resolved. But the CCSP was slow and cumbersome, and has only just got round to releasing the third draft (to be fair, it was probably in the course of working for this report that Mears and Wentz found the big error in S+C’s MSU dataset). I haven’t read the report yet, but I’m guessing from RP Sr’s dislike of it (and his response of dissing the authors) that it will come to the obvious conclusions. Oh all right, I’ll read some of the abstract:

Previously reported discrepancies between the amount of warming near the surface and higher in the atmosphere have been used to challenge the validity of climate models and the reality of human-induced global warming. Specifically, surface data showed substantial global-average warming, while early versions of satellite data showed little or no warming above the surface. There is no longer evidence of such a discrepancy. This is an important revision to and update of the conclusions of earlier reports from the U.S. National Research Council and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

I suspect thats as far as most people will get, since most people don’t need to know any more. And from the exec summary: This difference between models and observations may arise from errors that are common to all models, from errors in the observational data sets, or from a combination of these factors. The second explanation is favored, but the issue is still open. Which seems fair enough, but you can see why some people would be unhappy.

But the most fun can be had from reading the list of commenters and then the comments themselves, together with the responses. Those from Douglass are funny, and the responders blow him away. For example:

Douglas ES-8, P13, L262-3, Quote from report: “Since 1979, due to the considerable disagreements between tropospheric data sets, it is not clear whether the troposphere has warmed more than or less than the surface.” Comment: Not true. Do Thorne and Free agree? Response: This is true. It is the considered opinion of the expert author team. Thorne is a member of this team, and, of course, he agrees. Free, who has been consulted at numerous times by the author team and who has participated in some of the meetings of the team, also agrees.

Note that the responders don’t seem to have troubled themselves to spell Douglass correctly. Douglass wrote some stuff with Singer – e.g. Altitude dependence of atmospheric temperature trends: Climate models versus observation which actually got published by GRL. Speaking of Singer, he too commented, and he too has embarassed himself and gets blown away:

Singer ES-17, P18 line 357-364: We don’t see any evidence for the claimed anthropogenic influence in the climate record. The “fingerprint” results claimed in IPCC-SAR have been discredited. Response: The reviewer does not identify “we”? There is a vast literature on fingerprint studies, much of which is reviewed in Chapter 5. None of this literature has been discredited.

Elsewhere, Singer gets “Bottom line: The Reviewer’s unsupported assertion is incorrect.” Oh Lordy, and *then* he goes on about ozone again: “[Singer:] The observed stratospheric temp decrease is difficult to explain by ozone depletion… Response: Again, the Reviewer simply makes unsupported assertions.”

Trenberth also fares somewhat badly in the responses to his comments (for the exec summary; his detailed comments on the chapters look to have been accepted; and his comments on chapter 5 were: “This chapter is pretty good but I only skimmed it” which drew: “Response: Thanks! No change required.”), but for different reasons. E.g. T says The UAH record has once again been revised but the new T2LT values are at odds with surface temperature trends. Chapter 4 falls short in not presenting maps of this difference. Accordingly, this dataset ought to also be discounted. Given the UAH algorithm that is designed to minimize trends, this dataset ought to be given lower weight, but no commentary appears on this issue. Throwing out UAH (ie, Spencer and Christy) would remove most of the niggles that remain, but given the panel that wasn’t likely (later on we find The question of which satellite dataset is the most accurate… is still an open question subject to several different points of view that were represented on the author team.

Sci.env’s own Eric S also comments; as does Haroon Kheshgi, ExxonMobil Research & Engineering Company (which is a bit of fun in itself: I thought Exxon has sworn off actual climate research: it certainly seems very reluctant to talk about it). HK ends up arguing against the use of “strong” in terms of attribution,

MacCracken has a good general comment Overall, from a purely scientific perspective, this assessment provides a very well done scientific overview of the topic. However, this draft does seem to underplay the significance of the most recent papers in helping to resolve the key issues under investigation, specifically in identifying why some of the datasets developed over recent years are very likely to have flaws. which is also my perspective, though I probably couldn’t justify it.

Oooooohhh and it gets better: In that the CCSP assessments are intended to provide information for policymakers [given that they are said to be in response to the relevant section of the US Global Change Research Act], this draft of this assessment seems to me seriously deficient in providing a historical perspective of this issue and a critical evaluation of past claims that have been made about the supposed accuracy of the early versions of the datasets and what the available data were purported to indicate about scientific understanding of climate change. For more than a decade, some of the datasets have been purported to be highly accurate and to indicate that the model simulations must have serious shortcomings. This report shows that those claims, which were made not only in the scientific community but were picked up and loudly exclaimed by some politicians and a number of industrial organizations, were based on a seriously flawed analysis because of flaws in the satellite record. I would urge that, at the least, a table or an appendix be added that gives a timeline of the history of the corrections that have had to be made to the satellite record and that indicates the past claims that should therefore be discounted (and that the IPCC rightly did not accept at the time–leading to some misdirected criticism of their careful approach). By golly there’s good stuff in there! This open commenting is wonderful.

RP Sr rides his usual hobby horses of regional change and ocean heat content, and gets ignored. After a bit more, they clearly get bored with him when he gets on to the “first order” stuff: Quite frankly, the Reviewer’s position on this issue borders on the ludicrous.

But to finish on a happy note, Trenberth says (of chapter 6) Amen to most of this. This is the most important chapter in the whole document. Chapter 6 is dominated by the Met Office (hurrah!) and is called “What measures can be taken to improve our understanding of observed changes?” Well, maybe in another post…

[Update, on a sadder note. RP has completely “jumped the shark” on this one (is that the right expression?). Anyway, he has not one but two more posts on this, and says:

From the abstract, it is clear the removal of an inconvenient data disagreement (the differences in the surface and tropospheric temperature trends) was THE reason for the Committee and the Report. The scientific issues that I raised in my Public Comment were glossed over or ignored, and the conflict of interest issue with respect to the Committee was completely ignored.

If we re-write this somewhat, to replace “removal” with “investigation” or “reconciliation” then the response to the above is “Duh! Of course it was”. The title of the report, “Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere: Steps for Understanding and Reconciling Differences” is just a teensy hint, no?]

Wikipedia and the Economist

The Economist has a survey on Open-source business (subs req). The usual suspects – apache, linux – come up, and of course so does wikipedia. And naturally enough (since this is a pile of econ journos who know b*gg*r all about wiki) they make the traditional mistakes…

  • Saying that the George Bush article is edit-locked. It isn’t. Go visit it and confirm that for yourself; check the edit history to see that it has been unlocked for a while (though I think it was semi-protected (i.e. no anon edits) for a bit).
  • Misunderstanding policies: A blunt new policy was promulgated: “Don’t be a dick.”. Well, [[WP:DICK]] does exit (though its really a meta: page) but its more a statement of principles than a policy.
  • Misunderstanding the who can edit: Wikipedia changed its rules so that only registered users can edit existing entries, and new contributors must wait a few days before they can start new ones.. This is obviously false, as an attempt to edit while not logged in, or a glance at a page history, will confirm. The true bit is that anon users can’t start new pages.

The good point about wiki is that false info can be removed and corrected. How long will it be before the Economist corrects its mistakes?

Only in America…

Sorry folks, its time for the silly and offensive post! Many years ago, there was a Steve Bell carton, sometime around the Iran-Contra stuff I think, showing a panel of generals or stuff with names like “Peentangler” and the protagonist saying “the thing I really like about America is that you can succeed no matter how silly your name is!”. Which is actually a good idea, when you stop and think about it.

Why do I bring this up? Because (via Chris Mooney I discover that there is a senator called “Crapo”! Doesn’t “cr*p” mean the same in the US? Seems odd to me. While I’m on this, someone at work had a german colleague called “Fahrtleiter”, and if you wonder why thats funny try typing it into google and see what it suggets. And when I told my wife this, she mentioned that she has a C book at work by someone called “Bumgardner”, which is presumably a regrettable translation of “Baumgartner”. Which reminds me that my father had a colleague at the bank called Harry Baum, who rejoiced in the nickname “Hairy Bum”. Ah, english public school humour, we lead the world.

UK fuel prices

Whenever people ask me about the possibility of us running out of fossil fuels, I usually reply that I’m no expert on oil reservoirs but that there are markets out there that are, and if we were going to run out the price should have been rising rapidly. That probably still true, despite oil prices staying high – according to the FT they have managed to fall to $63.55 a barrel (Brent crude).

More interesting for the UK is the story of our gas prices. Just recently there was a four-fold spike in gas prices (although the spike itself is not much bigger than the brief spike in mid-november); due to a combination of various things: a cold winter, us building an extension, a fire on an important storage platform, and odd problems in importing more from Europe (prices here are significantly higher than there; there is a nice big pipeline under the sea; but the markets are so murky and opaque its near-impossible to find out exactly why they are selling the stuff on the continent instead of making twice the money flogging it to us). This lead to a warning of possible supply interruptions for business customers – apparently large businesses get a somewhat lower gas price, in exchange for a clause in the contract that they are first in line for cuts should they be needed to keep domestic supplies (and therefore votes…) flowing.

All this is down to us running out of North Sea Gas. According to a nice graph in the Grauniad print edition (sadly not in the online one) we are going from supplying 90% of our needs from the North Sea in 2004/5 to about 10% predicted in 2012/13, although that also factors in a near doubling of use by then (actually the graph is a bit confusing so I’d better not over-interpret it). This also includes an increasing percentage of power coming from gas power stations; at some point it might seem a bit silly to be burning large quantities of the stuff for power then having to import it from Russia.

Two new blogs & misc

ClimateScienceWatch is Promoting integrity in the use of climate science in government. But you know that because you read Chris Mooney. Lots of interesting politics-type stuff there. In Inhofe stuff is fun. I must post on the NAS stuff sometime.

So I pass quickly onto the second, which is more about the science than the politics: A Few Things Ill Considered by Coby Beck. Coby has being doing an excellent job on sci.env for quite a while, displaying a remarkable patience in explaining the obvious to skeptics again and again. His site is a great reference for some of the more obvious FAQ’s on global warming related stuff. Many of his posts ref back to RealClimate posts. Providing a basic resourcefor climate science was part of RC was for. RC has a faq section too, but perhaps not so well organised at present. Does he have a section on Betting on global warming, though?

For those not in the habit of reading Prometheus, this post is worth a read, about signals of climate change in disaster statistics. And his point #1 may help clear up confusion in some peoples minds. I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but I’ve been fighting Rogers Good Fight in wikipedia recently… probably best shown here.

Meanwhile, miscellany: BBC R4 news at 10 pm says “the concentration of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide is reported to have increased to 381 ppmv” or something like that. They said it very slowly and carefully: you could tell they didn’t have a clue what this stuff they were reading off the autocue meant.

Talking about global warming and wikipedia

I was invited to give a talk to CHASE – Cambridge Hi-tech Association of Small Enterprises – nice people even if they haven’t quite got round to updating their web site yet 🙂 The subject was to be global warming – no problem – and wikipedia. The later I’ve never tried talking about, and found it a bit of a puzzle as to what they wanted and what to say. The talk-in-two-halves is here, and to buff up my rather tarnished open-source credentials I’ve put it up as a .sxi only. As you can see, the GW bit is only slightly altered from before (apart from a dramatic and startling new paper by Lachlan-Cope and Connolley on tropical teleconnections to Antarctica, which I didn’t include, there is little that needs updating). As usual, I only had time to talk a little about the various common objections: this time audience reaction picked “The Day After Tomorrow Will Not Happen”. People love these pseudo-paradoxical things far too much.

But on to the wiki bits. I tried “how many people have used wiki” – most people put their hands up; “how many have edited” – quite a few; maybe 1/3 – 1/2; “how many have an account – only 3 I think. One of the questions they were interested in was “can we get our commercial stuff on?” though not phrased quite so nakedly. The answer is commerical objects are allowed, if notable, but having yourself deleted (or even just voted on) for non-notability can be painful. After that I moved on to the structure that makes wiki work, which was also to their commerical interests, since creation and understanding of online communities is a bit of a thing. The exciting details of admins, RFC, Mediation and a deep understanding of the Arbcomm I leave to some other post.

The best bit was questions-and-wine afterwards, because the questions were very good, the most informed I’ve ever had. Many focussing on sea level rise (since we live in and near the fens) and one person in particualr thanking me for reassuring him that sea level rise wouldn’t be as big as he had been lead to believe elsehwhere.

Oh, and this is nice but not at all relevant: http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-exc1.htm.

Various titbits from Nature

Some of these links are to Nature, and they require subscriptions. Sorry. If its any consolation, I can’t read them fro home either – I have them stcked up in tabs and need to get rid of them… They’re from Nature 440, 2 March 2006, if you’re looking for the paper copy.

This one: Alternative energy plan criticized is sad-but-funny: Their worries were highlighted last week by events at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado, the Department of Energy’s main research centre for energy sources such as solar, wind and ethanol. Just days after being laid off, 32 NREL staff were reinstated when it emerged that Bush was going to visit the lab during a tour to promote his focus on alternative energy. Todd Arbetter (a newcomer to BAS from Colorado) wrote to his local paper (free subs req): So when the president lays out his plans for renewable energy, I wonder what he has to say about his lack of support of climate change research.

It reminds me of the way institutions in the UK that are going to be visited by the Mrs Quin get their toilets spruced up for the Royal Wee.

More seriously, Toshiba goes nuclear tells us that Toshiba agreed last month to pay US$5.4 billion for Westinghouse Electric, the Japanese manufacturer placed a hefty bet that nuclear power is on the verge of a global comeback. Interesting indeed. The entrails read in the UK suggest the govt is keen on New Nukes, though the most recent report came out against: Don’t build nuclear plants, green advisers tell Blair.

And lastly, A Silent Spring for climate change? in the Books and Arts section. Its a review by David Reay of two recent books, and is looking for… what the question suggests. But there is so much info out there now, I can’t see how one more book can possibly have the impact SS had.

Oops, and laster-than-lastly, the one I forgot: ‘Shadow’ debate on climate looks beyond Kyoto Politicians, business and development leaders have launched their own dialogue… Frustrated by the slow pace of government action, the group plans to shadow the formal United Nations negotiations on a successor to the Kyoto agreement… The group includes lawmakers from the G8 industrial nations, as well as India, China, Brazil, Mexico, Spain, Australia and South Africa. No representative of the US Congress was present at the 24 February launch, although the effort’s organizers say they hope to have significant US participation… Margaret Beckett … hoped the discussions would “encourage more free thinking” than formal negotiations….

Give us back our crown jewels

So says The Grauniad. Its talking about public access to publicly collected data in the UK. As near as I can determine, in the US most govt-collected data is in theory and in practice freely available to citizens. In the UK this is very definitely not true: the most obvious example is the Ordnance Survey, which collects mapping data. Instead of being what it should be – a government body funded to collect, organise and disseminate mapping data, it is a psuedo-commerical organisation with revenue targets to meet by selling data, mostly straight back to other government bodies. Other examples are photos (including those from BAS :-() and scientific papers.

The Grauniad argues, and I agree, that attempting to “commercialise” these things is stupid: the goverment doesn’t run businesses well, and anyway the revenue made from selling the products is probably far less that the extra economic growth (including more taxes…) that would occur if the data were just available. Not to mention that a whole pile of red tape could suddenly be axed.

That article is, apparently, the start of a Campaign: hopefully it will succeed.

[Updates: the Grauniad now has a blog about this and a web page. Both have appallingly bad web design, which is a bit odd]