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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wondering Willis Eschenbach has gone nuts about volcanoes at WUWT

Sou | 8:19 PM Go to the first of 12 comments. Add a comment

Wondering Willis Eschenbach has a new article at WUWT (archived here). It's not at all clear what he is wondering about this time. He's ostensibly writing about an icelandic volcano that began erupting on June 8, 1783 and continued until Feb. 1784. His article is full of contradictions and false claims. It's more evidence that Willis has gone around the twist. He says of the volcano:

It is claimed to have caused a very cold winter in 1783-1784

No, Willis - the scientists you cite say the complete opposite

The problem is that he doesn't say who claims that. The only scientific paper he cites is D’Arrigo et al (2011), which doesn't make any such claim. In fact, that team is arguing that the very cold winter of 1783-84 was not connected to the Laki eruption. From the abstract:
Data sources and model simulations support our hypothesis that a combined negative NAO‐ENSO warm phase was the dominant cause of the anomalous winter of 1783–1784, and that these events likely resulted from natural variability unconnected to Laki. 

"Unconnected to Laki" is what they wrote. So what is Willis going on about? It's a very mixed up article by Willis. He's been getting increasingly ratty (erratic) of late. Denialism isn't good for one's mental health is my guess. Cognitive dissonance causes brain farts.

Anyway, Willis has put up lots and lots of pictures that I think are meant to be temperature records from different parts of the world. Why he's done that he doesn't say very clearly but I think he's trying to argue that the winter of 1783-84 wasn't all that cold.

The paper he refers to states:
Following closely on the heels of this anomalous summer, the 1783–1784 winter was extremely cold and snowy around the circum‐North Atlantic. European temperatures were ∼2°C below average for the late 1700s, and it was among the coldest winters in central England [Manley, 1974] (Figure S1). Iceland was ∼5°C colder than normal, with the longest period of sea ice ever recorded [Wood, 1992]. Cold, frozen soils, icebound watercourses and high snow levels were documented across Europe [Brazdil et al., 2010]. Brief warmings brought some respite from the cold but also flooding from snowmelt. Long European temperature records (Figure S1) show that this winter was one of the more severe in the past 500 years [e.g., Brazdil et al., 2010].

It doesn't claim that it was the coldest winter ever. Just that it was much colder than average around the North Atlantic. That it was one of the more severe winters of the past 500 years. And that it came after an anomalously warm summer in many parts of Europe. In the summary, D'Arrigo states:
We have tested the hypothesis that negative‐NAO‐El Niño conditions, as in 2009–2010, can explain winter 1783–1784 conditions, without attributing them to Laki. Our paleoindex had the 2nd highest value of the past 600 years in 1783–1784, with the most severe in 2009–2010. Conditions were thus more likely due to the rare occurrence of these events, neither of which can be clearly linked to Laki. Our results suggest that Franklin and others may have been mistaken in attributing winter conditions in 1783–1784 mainly to Laki or another eruption, rather than unforced variability. Similarly, conditions during the 2009–2010 winter likely resulted from natural NAO‐ENSO variability, not tied to greenhouse gas forcing.

It was a very cold winter in Central England

D'Arrigo et al refers to the December to March temperatures, so I did my own chart of HadCET. Here's the result. The average for the period December 1783 to March 1784 was only 1.46C, and was the third lowest temperature since 1700. So I'd say that d'Arrigo et al were correct and that Willis Eschenbach doesn't know what he's talking about. The data show the opposite to what Willis is trying to claim.

Data source: HadCET.

Willis is very wrong about the impact of volcanoes on surface temperature

Willis goes on to write some utter rubbish. He claims:
My point is simple. We have been told a story all of our lives about how volcanic eruptions have large, widespread, and long-lasting effects on the global weather. It turns out that this was a scientific urban legend. In fact, the effects are small, localized, and short-lived.

He's wrong again. The impact of a volcano on global surface temperatures depends on a number of factors. The size of the eruption is one thing. The type and amount of material ejected is another. And another factor is where the volcano is located. If it's located in the tropics it will have a much greater impact globally than if it's located in the high latitudes. That's because of what happens to all the stuff that comes out of the volcano. The material from tropical volcanoes will spread far and wide. The material from a volcano in Iceland, by contrast, will tend to just hang around the high latitudes so it will have much less impact on global surface temperatures.

Willis has built a giant strawman. First he pretends that the paper he cites says the complete opposite to what it says. Next he claims scientists claim things about volcanoes that no scientist would ever claim. For example, even the impact of the very large tropical eruption of Pinatubo, which was substantial, was not all that easy to extract from the noise of year to year weather.

Has Willis Eschenbach gone completely bonkers?

Today's article is more evidence that Willis has lost it. He's gone bonkers. He's picked up on the fact that denialists have nothing. That global warming is real and is happening now. That ice is melting. That oceans are getting much hotter. That surface temperatures are hitting record highs. That seas are rising. The facts have conspired against him and he's gone around the twist. Today's article is only one in the past few days that suggests he's lost his marbles - there's also this one from the other day where he denies the greenhouse effect; and this one where he fabricates nonsense about sea levels. All from the past few days.

That's what denialism will end up doing to a lot of people, probably. It will send them stark staring mad.

From the WUWT comments

The fake sceptics at WUWT lap up Willis' dross. Most of them probably don't have a clue about what he's saying. Some of them might, but they don't question it. Others probably know he's making up stuff out of thin air, and don't care. As long as he rejects science. That's all they care about.

intrepid_wanders is one such fake sceptic. Treating Willis' nonsense as if it is fact.
November 18, 2014 at 8:16 pm
What is interesting is the range of from summer to winter during “the event”. It seems to get a couple of degrees warmer in the summer of 1783(?) but not significant. Winter has no significance what so ever.

Curious George asks a curious question
November 18, 2014 at 8:10 pm
Just curious .. BEST does adjustments (maybe not that far back). Did you use raw data or adjusted data?

Morley Sutter writes something inane:
November 18, 2014 at 8:14 pm
Thank you Willis. You demonstrate that data is all important in science. Models, conclusions, opinions etc. without data simply are dross.

Willis Eschenbach thinks that temperatures from actual thermometers are, umm, temperatures from actual thermometers which are different somehow from temperatures from actual thermometers - or something...
November 18, 2014 at 11:59 pm
Not true, Don. These are actual records from actual thermometers. So yes, the graph does in fact reflect the reality. As you point out, a world temperature average graph is just that, an average.
But these are actual observations.

Can I stop now? Deniers are becoming weirder and weirder every day.

D'Arrigo, Rosanne, Richard Seager, Jason E. Smerdon, Allegra N. LeGrande, and Edward R. Cook. "The anomalous winter of 1783–1784: Was the Laki eruption or an analog of the 2009–2010 winter to blame?." Geophysical Research Letters 38, no. 5 (2011). doi:10.1029/2011GL046696


  1. One note only. The Holuhraun eruption that has been going on for the past months has surpassed Laki's 1783-84 eruptions in terms of lava volume and spread.

    1. And something else (forget 'one note only' again), there was nothing special with winter 2009-10. It was a warm winter hemispheric wide of course. It was nowhere near record. It just featured cold spots over areas where people live. One has to go back mere decennia to find not only single winters but groups in succession of three or four that were MUCH worse in same areas of US and Europe.

      "Deniers are becoming weirder and weirder every day." - true and reassuring. But I find some real problems within bona fide climatology too, and one of them is a number of research groups are overstating the 2008-2013 NH winters in a way I just can't understand. Perhaps being 47 years old and remembering what climate used to be already puts me in this predicament.

      Meantime this week's Arctic blast in the US really is something. It will make a lasting impression like the overcompensating record heat elsewhere will not (Alaska and the Barentsz Sea are far away and very tiny etc).

    2. How does Holuhraun match up in terms of sulphur dioxide? As I understand it that has the major impact as it causes global dimming. Which, of course, has little effect in winter when there's not much sunlight anyway. Summers see the real impact.

    3. It has to be injected into the stratosphere to do that. This requires either explosive volcanism or an equatorial location which allows the sulphate aerosol to be carried aloft by the Brewer-Dobson circulation.

    4. Laki was high in sulphur and went on for eight months (replenishing the sulphate clouds as they rained out) so it seems to have had at least a regional impact on the next couple of summers.

  2. I guess that the fans of short term noise must struggle once in a while when the noise is operating in the same direction as the long term trend. But we can rest assured that deniers will be back to normal eventually with 'no significant warming since 2015'. Meanwhile they can pass the time with stuff like this: anything rather than face reality.

  3. Sou says:

    That's what denialism will end up doing to a lot of people, probably. It will send them stark staring mad.

    Madder. But yes, I agree. I occasionally point this out to them too. Doesn't go down well.

  4. Hi. Love this blog and the work Sue does.... I wonder if its possible to have a comment regarding this article at ABC environement regarding David Ridley's GRL Paper ?
    Thanks in Advance Billy t Mt

    1. Yes, I'd like to write about it. I'm a bit flat out over the next day or so - so don't hold your breath. I did notice the paper lists a "who's who" of authors from around the world. It looks to be a paper that carries some weight.

      I've put out a request, but in case I've no luck, if anyone can email me a copy I'd be grateful. (sou at hotwhopper dot com.)

    2. Billy t

      Ridley builds on previous work (eg. Vernier et al. 2011 - Vernier is a co-author of R14) suggesting that negative forcing from volcanic aerosols has been underestimated. This isn't a single-cause explanation for the slowdown in the rate of surface warming over the last decade but it may be a larger contributing factor than previously thought.

      Needless to say, the deniers are categorising this as another "excuse" for the "pause" (that isn't). They have to, since they are engaged in hard-core physics denial and R14 is further evidence that the climate system is moderately sensitive to changes in radiative forcing.

    3. thanks BBD, I have asked ABC environment for attribution for the story - the article just says AFP - but it also claimed that 1998 was the hottest year on record. I posted a link to NOAA disputing that. but my post hasn't appeared yet. And BBD (and the other excellent sensible posters here) for your tireless efforts you also put in combating the ceaseless "teh stupid". BtM

    4. Oh yes, that's where I saw the 1998 claim. I thought it looked odd. I believe the article is just a copy of the AGU press release, which can be got here:

      I assume a journo / press officer at AGU prepared it.


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