Scientific Perspectives on the Greenhouse Problem?

DSC_5719-jns-cover So: “Scientific Perspectives on the Greenhouse Problem” by Jastrow, Nierenberg and Seitz, published by the Marshall Institute, has turned up. Now I have to read it. I got mine from abebooks, if you’re interested.

One thing to note is that it was published in 1990, and so has access to IPCC ’90: they explicity acknowledge this in the preface, and ref it in chapter 1. I’m expecting that to be relevant, excuse-wise.

Preface: largely neutral; small “skeptic” slant due to over-emphasis of uncertainties.

Chapter 1 – reliability of the predictions

DSC_5720-jns-p8-9 All is going fairly sanely until Bang! Suddenly, on p8/9, an outbreak of pencil-up-the-nose madness: they present the picture I’ve inlined, and the text “The changes during the last ten years in the predictions of sea level rise form an interesting pattern… The downward trend is shown in Figure 1.” Even if those 3 data points were honest (and they aren’t) the curve-fitting they have done is invalid. But the data points aren’t honest, they are:

* 1979: 25 over 150 years
* 1985: 3 in an unspecified time period
* 1989: 1 in 50 years

Clearly, the very least you could possibly do would be to reduce these to the same time period. Using the time-base of 1979, that would mean trebling 1 to 3 for the 1989 point (which would then make it no change since the 1985 point, badly denting their theory. Assuming the 1985 point is a vaguely comparable timeframe). But that isn’t good enough either: SLR isn’t usually linear in these projections, it gets faster into the future as the world warms. So their data use here is so blatantly dishonest I’m astonished at their brass necks.

But that is not all, oh no that is not all. The 1979 25 foot value is from Schneider and Chen. I don’t have access to that, but happily it is referenced by the IPCC AR4 thus: Near-total deglaciation would eventually lead to a sea-level rise of around 7 m and 5 m (***) from Greenland and the WAIS, respectively, with wide-ranging consequences including a reconfiguration of coastlines worldwide and inundation of low-lying areas, particularly river deltas (Schneider and Chen, 1980; Revelle, 1983; Tol et al., 2006; Vaughan, 2007). So, as you would expect: the 25 foot value is assuming deglaciation of the WAIS and Greenland and is not comparable to a value projected to 2050 only which would have assumed little or no contribution from these sources. This too is dishonest, although less blatant, since it is slightly harder to spot.

And their third point of dishonesty over this figure is their omission of any number of other estimates. For example, the Nierenberg report (1983; gosh, I wonder if any of them had ever heard of that?) guesses 70 cm (~2.2 feet) in 100 years – but adding that in would have spoiled their beautiful smooth curve. And IPCC ’90 gives 66 cm for B-a-u, in 1990, so using just those two points would have been flat from 1983 to 1990. Which really wasn’t what they wanted to see.

And after that we’re back to sanity: probably over-emphsises uncertainty (a phrase I’m clearly going to need a lot, so abbreviated to OEU) at the expense of what was known, but compared to the outbreak of madness above, it is much better.

Chapter 2. Clouds and the greenhouse problem

By contrast, I can’t see anything mad in this chapter. Again, it OEU but apart from that seems OK.

Chapter 3. Greenhouse forecasts compared with observations

As you’d expect, this suffers from the same problems as Jastrow, Nierenberg and Seitz vs Hansen and so is unsalvagable (the Energy article is from 1991, and the book from 1990, so presumably came first; either way, for some reason they were sufficiently proud of this drivel to want to re-publish it, which is amazing). There is some other stuff in that chapter, but I don’t think it is interesting, other than perhaps to note that they quote D V Hoyt as the source of the assertion that NH aerosols haven’t been increasing. This allows them to rather casually dismiss aerosols as a possible cause of the 1940-1970 cooling, as they put it. IPCC ’90 (to which JNS had access, remember) cites a number of studies for the increase in aerosol (section 1.8.1). JNS just use Hoyt, which is to say Hoyt, D. V., 1979. Atmospheric transmission from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory pyrheliometric measurements from 1923 to 1957. J. Geophys. Res., 84, 5018-5028, errm, and I think you can see the problems there. So, once again, selective use of the wrong sources whilst ignoring the right sources wins the day, hurrah.

I think that is enough for one day. If my strength doesn’t fail me, I may manage to press on a bit further tmorrow.

[Update: well, there is more but it is much the same. So I’ll leave it at that.]

Jastrow, Nierenberg and Seitz vs Hansen

Right, the previous thread has spilled off a discussion of Jastrow, Nierenberg and Seitz and their representation of a Hansen et al. figure. I have the feeling that the JNS paper may have appeared in multiple places, but the one I have access to is:


There is a lot wrong with that abstract (culminating in the once-traditional but now discarded over-reliance on the S+C satllite record) but the bit that is of immeadiate interest (because it figures in the previous discussion) is their take on figure 5 from Hansen et al. Which is:


And which they “reproduce” as:


The “2” after “Hansen et al.” is a ref to the 1981 Science paper, so we really are talking about the same thing. They don’t say which figure, but it has to be fig. 5 (but see-also below the fold).

So, is their reproduction fair?


[Update, and post pulled to top (original publication date 2010/08/26) to show it: I’ve now discovered something vaguely interesting, in reading the “original” Nierenberg report, chapter 5 (which I never got to in my “book club” series). That is, their fig 5.8. Which is – ta da – the Hansen 1980 figure, panel (a) only: ie, just the CO2. But it is a faithful reproduction of the original – same obs, same start and end times, and the model line isn’t shifted downwards. So my guess would be that JNS got their fig from the Nierenberg report, rather than going back to the original. That doesn’t excuse them, of course. But it interesting that fig 5 of the Nierenberg report makes similar claims to JNS: it notes that the figure doesn’t match the temperature record very well (der, of course it doesn’t), and it fails to note, in that section, the other panels of the Hansen figure. So, who wrote chapter 5? Gunter Weller, James Baker, W Lawrence Gates, Michael MacCraken, Syukuro Manabe, Thomas Vonder Haar. I don’t know all of them, but at the very least Manabe and MacCracken cannot possibly be called “skeptics”. So how did that figure and discussion got into a chapter with their names on? Aha, because that section is about CO2 asa causal factor. They go on to reproduce the other panels of Hansen’s figure, including the combination-of-all-factors panel. So chapter 5 is OK; but JNS isn’t.

Also: I knew I’d seen and discussed this fig before: and the answer turns out to be Chez Eli – where else? But it was nearly 2 years ago.]
Continue reading “Jastrow, Nierenberg and Seitz vs Hansen”

Solar power across the Sahara

If you read SEWOTHA (which I highly recommend you to do; and read the book, not just the blog, which has gone a bit quiet recently) you’ll discover the idea that the only really viable way of getting *all* our energy needs in a sustainable way is from solar power plants in the hot deserts – in the case of Yorp, North Africa / Sahara; in the case of the Americas, the hot dry bit in the middle whatever it is called (they are due to the Hadley circulation, so pretty well everyone has one not too far away).

Anyway, someone else has now noticed the idea and Science has a piece on it, mostly paywalled. Sounds good to me – what is the point in putting solar cells in wet cloudy northern latitudes when the same cells will work so much better further south? Oh, the transport and political problems. Well, we’ll get round them somehow. Or maybe we’ll just move there. Who wants to live in Cambridge anyway?

Desertec, one of the world’s most ambitious multinational efforts to scale up renewable energy, aims to build solar and other renewable power projects across North Africa and the Middle East capable of producing 500 gigawatts of electricity and so meet 15% of Europe’s energy needs by 2050. Planners predict it will cost {euro}400 billion or more to cover tens of thousands of square kilometers of desert with solar collectors and wind turbines, connected by thousands of kilometers of power cables. The project–which backers compare to the Apollo space program–has yet to generate a single kilowatt. But it has attracted an impressive roster of political and industrial supporters in Europe and North Africa. Still, analysts say Desertec faces an array of daunting challenges, from finding ready cash to overcoming thorny political and security issues.

Desertec have a website, of course, and a Q+A section that (naturally) I haven’t read.


* Sustainable Energy – without the hot air?

Round in circles with Accelerated warming of the Southern Ocean and its impacts on the hydrological cycle and sea ice?

Accelerated warming of the Southern Ocean and its impacts on the hydrological cycle and sea ice? refers, as does Curry’s comments in the comments. I suspect we’re now at the going-round-in-circles stage, but it is probably worth one more spin.

Curry begins rather gracelessly:

William, all of these issues were discussed ad nauseum over at WUWT, on three threads. These are certainly valid questions, but not particularly interesting ones IMO, which is why I was not motivated to answer them until repeatedly queried (including email) about them.

The WUWT thread(s) are sprawling and generally far from the point, and (when I last looked) failed to cover the important issues in any meanginful or focussed way. And contrary to the impression that Curry is giving, I certainly wasn’t badgering her by email.

Below, I’ve put in Curry’s comment, which is essentially my original bullet-listed “major errors” together with her replies. Note that the “bullet-list” isn’t in the original post: I only added that in the comments when Curry, well, pretty well wouldn’t read the post and reply; it needed to be condensed to that before she would reply. Or, put another way, there is more in the original post that she hasn’t replied to (there is an entire section “Looking at the paper – models” that she has ignored). And I don’t think her replies below are substantive: instead they are evasive. In a sense this is what you’d expect: she is busy, the paper has been published, she can’t afford to admit to any real flaws in it.

1) you use data from 1950-1978 that is clearly meaningless.

Reread the 2nd para of the introduction. The problem with the data is acknowledged. The data from 1950-1978 is not meaningless. There is data in the region during these periods. Missing data in the two SST data sets is filled in by an EOF analysis. The two different SST analyses give reasonable agreement in the period post 1950 (they diverge sharply prior to 1950). Our analysis of the trend is broadly consistent with other assessments of the temperature trend that are cited in the introduction.

This won’t do. It is no good waffling about the EOF analysis filling in the data; it is absolutely clear from the zonal averge plots that WE provides (which in turn simply reflect what everyone, including Curry, knows full well) that before 1978 the data isn’t usable over large regions.

2) this data contaminates the entire (obs) analysis.

The obs analysis is a minor part of the paper, intended to compare with the model simulations that were the main source of data used in the analysis. The whole issue of filling in missing ocean obs using an EOS analysis is definitely troublesome, particularly prior to 1950. In fact it makes me really queasy about the “unequivocal” confidence of the IPCC. William, let me know if you are prepared to throw out both the baby and the bath water on this one.

This is now attack-as-defence: yes, her analysis may well be junk, but in that case so is the IPCC’s, ha ha. Again, this won’t do. The issue is her paper (though if anyone wants to raise the IPCC temperature records, I’m happy to do so, but not here: it is a red herring). Calling the obs analysis a “minor part” of the paper is an evasion, and notice how she has skipped the essential point: does she agree that the missing data contaminates the entire analysis? We don’t know because she won’t say. I think that Curry is not very familiar with EOF analysis, so genuinely doesn’t know the answer. Which would be fair enough, had she simply answered “don’t know”.

3) the hypothesis that you put forward is not novel.

We cite the Zhang 2007 paper that describes a different mechanism that is not inconsistent with ours, but does not include the atmospheric hydrological cycle. I probably read the Manabe et al. paper back in the 1990’s, but didn’t recall it as we were writing this paper. Did any of you (other than Grumbine) actually read the Manabe paper? There is one statement in the Manabe paper that is relevant: ” the reduction in surface salinity resulting from the increase of freshwater supply at the oceanic surface is mainly responsible for the weaker convective activity in the G integration.” This statement is made in a paragraph discussing the deep ocean convection in the Southern Ocean. Manabe doesn’t discuss the increasing sea ice extent in this context. Grumbine connected the dots in the Manabe et al. paper and came up with generally the same idea we did (we came up with the idea via a different route), and describes it in a half sentence. So, our hypothesis is not put forward per se in the Manabe et al. paper. I occasionally check in at Grumbine’s site, didn’t spot his post on the Antarctic sea ice. Note, the Zhang paper did not cite the Manabe paper either; it just doesn’t say much about the Antarctic sea ice.

Since I’ve crit her above for failing to say don’t-know when appropriate: no, I haven’t read the Manabe paper properly. I think her defence, above, is possible but rather weak, and amounts to half admitting the criticism (They mention increasing snowfall in the context of oceanic deep convection but not in the context of sea ice in a comment lower down pretty well admits it). Eli is less kind. In way, I don’t care too much about this issue, as it has no impact on the correctness of the results: it is just part of the general malaise of carelessness.

[Update: I really should ahve read the paper rather than taking Curry’s word for the contents. This is yet another example of her carelessness. As Lazar points out in the comments there is far more. The claim for novelty in LC looks very weak indeed now -W]

4) you could have used an extra decades worth of obs data.

The purpose of the obs data was to demonstrate the consistency of the 20th century climate model simulations with the observations. Data from 2000-2010 would not have helped here, since the AR4 climate model simulations do not extend past 2000.

This is evasion / wrong. Using 2000-2010 would have given an extra decades worth of good observations. The C20C simulations end in 2000, of course, but patching them onto the 21st century simulations is quite reasonable.

5) there is no justification for the EOF analysis.

EOF analysis is basically a filtering technique. You can conduct an analysis with the original data, or with filtered data. The latter can clarify the signal. In this particular paper, the EOF analysis didn’t filter all that much. If the study had been conducted with the original data, it would have been more easily understood by a broader audience. The use of EOFs arguably complicated the analysis, but did not in any way compromise the analysis. Jiping Liu prefers to use EOF analysis; I do not. I think I’ve convinced him not to use the EOFs in future papers unless there is a clear advantage that outweighs the addition of the complexity.

I think what this is saying is that yes, using the EOFs was a mistake, so that is good. I could have used a better word than “justified”, or I could have explained it better. What I meant was that there was no justification in the paper for using EOFs. It is just done, with absolutely no hint as to why it is a good idea. Had they attempted to write down why it was a good idea, they might have realised that actually it wasn’t. Also, I don’t think that “You can conduct an analysis with the original data, or with filtered data” is correct here. EOF was their data-reduction technique. They could, instead, have used take-the-trends as their technique. But either way, you can’t use the original data, because (obviously) there is too much of it. You always need some data reduction. Take-the-trends would have the advantage of not corrupting the rest of the field.


Its friday, time for some lighter stuff.

* Cameron (not, not the Borkeback one) won’t debate Morano, and Morano is happy to crow. All good knockabout fun, and Cameron ends up looking like a fool, but who cares? He is a film director.

* RC notes this appalling error by the Black Helicopter Gang: “I wonder if you’ve seen this terrible description of the greenhouse effect on a UNFCCC background page?
It actually says that incoming solar energy is ‘reflected’ by the planet’s surface ‘in the form of a calmer, more slow-moving type of energy called infrared radiation. … Infrared radiation is carried slowly aloft by air currents, and its eventual escape into space is delayed by greenhouse gases'”

* Were you wondering if Energy and Environment was a high-quality journal or not? You could always Ask Curry

* And now for something completely different: a useful link: Eric Wolff on ice cores.

* An idea for dealing with silly comments. I may well do this next for the next gem that comes in.

* I was a bit ratty about when it first came out. But it seems to have got better since – there are now some white papers and a moderated blog (Zomg! Censorship! Ah shaddap). Anyway, Steve Easterbrook writes Data Challenges in Creating a new Surface Temperature Record about them, so this is my chance to give them a few more eyeballs.

* How’s my sea icing?

* A lovely picture, coutesy of MONGO. Its a thunderstorm anvil, not a nuclear explostion, in case you’re wondering.

* In memory of Carlos the Jackal

* Late bonus: Rajendra Pachauri bribes, bullies newpaper

* Oh, and did I link to Eduardo ripping up McShane and Wyner before?

Nierenberg vs Oreskes, round 2 (or maybe 3; I lose track)

Back in 2008, I examined the Oreskes vs Nierenberg affair and concluded that Nicolas Nierenberg was correct and Oreskes was wrong. And then NN capped that by actually writing stuff up into a paper, published in July of this year: Early Climate Change Consensus at the National Academy: The Origins and Making of Changing Climate.

And (I missed this at the time I think), Nature published a letter from Nierenberg, Tschinkel & Tschinkel, titled “An independent thinker, willing to say what he thought”:

We object to the inaccurate and misleading characterization of William Nierenberg by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway (Nature 465, 686-687; 2010). Their claim that the peer-review panel chaired by Nierenberg “played down the severity of acid rain” is a contradiction of the panel report itself…

which was a reply to Oreskes earlier opinion piece puffing her book. And so now Oreskes has a reply to the reply in which she says:

William Nierenberg’s relatives disagree with our description of his role in the acid-rain debate in the early 1980s (Nature 466, 435; 2010). But their supporting evidence is a quote from The New York Times that is based on an interim report on acid rain, not on the final one. We maintain that Nierenberg worked with the White House Office of Science and Technology to weaken the final report on acid rain (Nature 465, 686-687; 2010), despite the consensus of the peer-review panel — articulated in the interim report — that acid rain was a serious threat. Historical documents from the White House and from Nierenberg’s own papers in the archives of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (for details, see N. Oreskes and E. M. Conway Merchants of Doubt; Bloomsbury Press, 2010) show how this was accomplished, and reveal the concern of other panel members when they discovered what had happened.

Oh dear, it is all too compicated. Where does the truth lie? I can’t check Oreskes assertions at all, without tedious library searches. For myself, until the matter is clearly settled, I’m going to trust NN on this: because he has clearly demonstrated errors by Oreskes in the matter of Nierenberg before, where she has wilfully misrepresented reality to fit her agenda. He says (pers. comm.)

The final version of the report was largely irrelevant since the interim report published a year earlier already made headlines with the recommendation for immediate action… All of this was made further irrelevant by the fact that the completely unmodified version of the report was leaked prior to publication. Nierenberg was quoted on numerous occasions as calling for action on acid rain, and he never changed his view.


This story is all getting tangled, so here is an attempt to put at least my posts into order:

* [Sept 2008] Nierenberg
* [Sept 2008] Book club: Nierenberg. Part I: introduction
* [Sept 2008] Book club: Nierenberg. Part II: Future CO2
* [Sept 2008] JASON arrives
* [Nov 2008] Nierenberg, chapter 3 and 4
* [Nov 2008] Nierenberg, concluded: Oreskes is wrong
* [July 2010] Well write a bloody paper about it, then
* [Aug 2010] This post
* [Aug 2010] Jastrow, Nierenberg and Seitz vs Hansen

I find it hard enough to keep my own posts in order, let alone anyone else’s, but: if you think *your* post deserves to fit into the list above, please mail/comment and if I agree I’ll add it.

* Brian Angliss at Scholars and Rogues has what I’d regard as an unduly favourable “review” of Merchants of Doubt: the problem is that he has failed to pick up any of the problems I’ve noted above, and has clearly taken Oreskes word for stuff. For all I know she is good for everything but the above, but that doesn’t seem entirely likely.
* is NN’s viewpoint.

And if you want to watch WN speaking, here he is (the content isn’t very interesting – std type of skeptic stuff around 1999 – calls Spencer and Christy’s stuff a “perfact thermometer” for example; spends a long time playing down the CO2 residence time; TOPEX/Poseidon sees no SLR).
Continue reading “Nierenberg vs Oreskes, round 2 (or maybe 3; I lose track)”

Accelerated warming of the Southern Ocean and its impacts on the hydrological cycle and sea ice?

Yes, the review you’ve all been waiting for. Before I start, let me point out that this has been discussed by WE at WUWT, who has pointed out the obvious problem. It has also been mentioned by KK, though that appears to be more of a meta-discussion about the paper’s reception rather than the paper itself.

[Note: follow-up here.]

To quote KK:

But back to the show. One commenter at WUWT, noting the negative reaction to Judith, gives her a backhanded compliment when he writes: I have to applaud Judith Curry on having the guts to present her paper in the boxing ring of climate blogs where the wild and ignorant rule. but also these that think unbiased and try to address problems in creative ways. I just hope she was not counting on any mercy here. Here’s Judith’s devastating parry: I don’t want your stinkin’ mercy, I’m just lookin’ for some evidence of sentient thought.

Having read through the comments, I don’t think she got any (in the comments). Which is a good time to remind you of my comment policy, which will be strictly applied if needed. In particular, there are plenty of other venues for you to discuss motives, if you want to. This thread is to discuss the science.

Incidentally, because no-one has heard of Liu, everyone is calling this “Curry’s paper” or whatever. Which is wrong. It is Liu and Curry. I’ll call it LC in the sequel, for short.
Continue reading “Accelerated warming of the Southern Ocean and its impacts on the hydrological cycle and sea ice?”