Scroll To Top

Saturday, May 31, 2014

The world domination ultra-paranoid conspiracy theory at WUWT

Sou | 4:50 PM Go to the first of 58 comments. Add a comment

Anthony Watts has posted another "world domination" conspiracy theory at WUWT (archived here, latest here). This time it's not been written by the uber-conspiracy nutter Tim Ball or the paranoid conspiracy theorist Alec Rawls. This one is by the potty peer and birther conspiracy theorist, Christopher Monckton.

Christopher Monckton is attacking Prince Charles for suggesting that, in preparation for the UN climate summit in Paris to be held in December 2015:

"Over the next 18 months, and bearing in mind the urgency of the situation confronting us, the world faces what is probably the last effective window of opportunity to vacate the insidious lure of the 'last chance saloon' in order to agree an ambitious, equitable and far-sighted multilateral settlement in the context of the post-2015 sustainable development goals and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change," he said.

Notice Charles' words - agreement, multi-lateral and sustainable development. He isn't talking about anyone taking over the world. He is saying that all 193 UN member nations have to work together to resolve a global problem. They have to put aside political differences and come up with a workable solution to mitigate global warming.

Christopher probably thinks he's on a winner attacking Prince Charles, who has some nutty ideas of his own. Which is nuttier - Christopher's "cure for AIDS" or Charles' homeopathy? Christopher's "birtherism" and "hitler" accusations or Charles' proposing we act on scientific advice?

If you're on the home page, click here to read on...

Allies in Denial: Roy Spencer joins the Heartland mob at WUWT

Sou | 7:48 AM Go to the first of 17 comments. Add a comment

Roy Spencer has joined the Heartland mob rejecting scientific evidence. He's written an article with Joe Bast of all people (archived here). I wonder what's in it for him? Remember when he called his fellow scientists Nazis? Now he's joined up with the denier crowd who compared everyone who accepts mainstream science with mass murderers.  That's the same mob who upset the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

What a nong! Thing is, he and his mate Joe list a number of papers that have shown that the overwhelming proportion of scientific papers that attribute a cause to global warming show that it's being caused by humans. To counteract proper science, he wheels out a dumb paper coauthored by the potty peer as "evidence".

Do you want to know how many scientific papers attribute global warming to causes other than humans? Well, in the past 20 years or so, the Cook study showed that of the 11,944 papers published between 1991 and 2011 there were 4014 that expressed a position on global warming.  Of these 4014, 3896 papers or 97.1% endorsed human-caused global warming, 78 or 1.9% disputed it and 40 or 1.0% indicated the cause was 'uncertain'.

You wouldn't know that if you only read WUWT. But then if you only read WUWT you'd probably think that global warming is caused by Russian steampipes and that the world is about to plunge into an ice age and that killing off mammals would be a good solution to stopping the global warming, which isn't happening but if it is it's caused by insects.

How long will it be before Roy Spencer starts arguing that burning fossil fuels doesn't release carbon dioxide? He's already explained how he fudged the charts he fudged, now he's snuggling up to Heartland, it's no big step to greenhouse effect denial.

From the WUWT comments

Latitude is typical of denier illogic and wants to be able to reject science in peace, without anyone pointing out the overwhelming consensus - and says:
May 30, 2014 at 2:18 pm
What amazes me the most… that most people don’t think claiming something like that….is as lame as I think it is
If the science was “robust”…they wouldn’t have to claim anything….and they wouldn’t

Latitude probably thinks that pointing out that mainstream science shows that evolution is real only prove it's a myth.

From Anthony Watts, alarmist

Anthony Watts added his two bobs worth of alarmism, writing that shifting to clean energy will "cripple our economy". It's much more likely climate change will do that if we don't start shifting to clean energy in earnest soon:
There’s just one problem – aside from the fact that this assertion [Sou: that most scientists accept mainstream climate science] is being used to help justify policies and regulations that are closing down fossil fuel power plants and crippling our economy. The claim is completely bogus. As Heartland Institute president Joe Bast and climate scientist Roy Spencer make clear in this article, the papers used to create and perpetuate the 97% claim are seriously and fundamentally flawed. The alleged consensus simply does not exist; much less does it represent anything remotely approaching 97%.

Ha ha ha. Anthony thinks that most climate scientists don't accept climate science. He puts his faith in an anti-science lobby group and a wacky scientist who reckons his god will save him from all natural disasters (but not economic failures). Anthony reckons it's "bogus" to say that scientists accept science. What a nutter! I wonder what proportion of climate scientists he thinks do accept climate science? What does he think the rest of them do - dog astrology?

Cook, John, Dana Nuccitelli, Sarah A. Green, Mark Richardson, Bärbel Winkler, Rob Painting, Robert Way, Peter Jacobs, and Andrew Skuce. "Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature." Environmental Research Letters 8, no. 2 (2013): 024024. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/8/2/024024

Australia caused a mass extinction...

Sou | 6:04 AM One comment so far. Add a comment

History has a habit of repeating itself. Today Australia continues to burn coal like it was going out of fashion and it digs it all up and ships it off so that other countries can do the same. However this isn't the first time Australia has contributed to a mass extinction.

I came across an article in about a new paper in the journal Geology that shows that Australia caused a mass extinction in the past. The long ago past. Around five hundred and ten million years ago if you want to be precise - or as precise as one can be when talking about events as long ago as that.

From the press release:

A Curtin University researcher has shown that ancient volcanic eruptions in Australia 510 million years ago significantly affected the climate, causing the first known mass extinction in the history of complex life.
Published in the journal Geology, Associate Professor Fred Jourdan from Curtin's Department of Applied Geology, along with colleagues from several Australian and international institutions, used radioactive dating techniques to precisely measure the age of the eruptions of the Kalkarindji volcanic province -- where lavas covered an area of more than 2 million square kilometres in the Northern Territory and Western Australia.
Dr Jourdan and his team were able to prove the volcanic province occurred at the same time as the Early-Middle Cambrian extinction from 510-511 million years ago -- the first extinction to wipe out complex multicellular life.
Earth was a bit different back then.  At that time Australia would have been part of Gondwana and there wasn't anyone around to take notes. The messages about what happened were written into the landscape by the events themselves. If you want to visualise the size of two million square kilometres, think Western Australia, which is 2.5 million square km. Or think three times the size of Texas, which is nearly 0.7 million square km. That was some volcanic complex.

What happened was that the climate oscillated a lot, cooling with all the sulphur dioxide and warming with all the CO2 and CH4. Lots of species disappeared never to be seen again, except maybe in fossils.

More from
"We calculated a near perfect chronological correlation between large volcanic province eruptions, climate shifts and mass extinctions over the history of life during the last 550 million years, with only one chance over 20 billion that this correlation is just a coincidence," Dr Jourdan said.
Dr Jourdan said the rapid oscillations of the climate produced by volcanic eruptions made it difficult for various species to adapt, ultimately resulting in their demise. He also stressed the importance of this research to better understand our current environment.
"To comprehend the long-term climatic and biological effects of the massive injections of gas in the atmosphere by modern society, we need to recognise how climate, oceans and ecosytems were affected in the past," he said.

About the Kalkarindji continental flood basalt province

I came across this earlier paper by Linda Glass and David Phillips, that looks as if they named the Kalkarindji province and also made the link with the Early Cambrian extinction event. It was published in 2006 in the same journal. (David Phillips was a coauthor of the new paper, too.) Here is the abstract:
Extensive basaltic volcanism (>106 km2) occurred across northern and western-central Australia during Cambrian time. The basalts are geochemically distinctive, having unusually uniform elevated incompatible element signatures (high Th/U, La/Sm, Rb/Ba) that are atypical of most other continental flood basalt provinces. Individual volcanic and intrusive suites previously assigned to local stratigraphic units are shown to share a common parental magma.
This vast Cambrian igneous province is here named the Kalkarindji continental flood basalt province, Australia's oldest and largest Phanerozoic large igneous province. High-precision 40Ar/39Ar analyses of plagioclase feldspar separates from basalt flows yield ages of 508 ± 2 Ma and 505 ± 2 Ma (2σ), indistinguishable from previous U-Pb zircon ages for related dolerites.
These ages indicate that basaltic volcanism coincided with the Early-Middle Cambrian boundary and suggest a temporal link between eruption of the Kalkarindji basalts and the end-Early Cambrian (early Toyonian) faunal mass extinction event.

There aren't any comments from WUWT because the news article hasn't appeared there - or not yet anyway.  Anthony's too busy reblogging denier nonsense.  More on that later. I figured it might be nice to write about science for a change.

F. Jourdan, K. Hodges, B. Sell, U. Schaltegger, M. T. D. Wingate, L. Z. Evins, U. Soderlund, P. W. Haines, D. Phillips, T. Blenkinsop. "High-precision dating of the Kalkarindji large igneous province, Australia, and synchrony with the Early-Middle Cambrian (Stage 4-5) extinction." Geology, 2014; 42 (6): 543 DOI: 10.1130/G35434.1

Glass, Linda M., and David Phillips. "The Kalkarindji continental flood basalt province: A new Cambrian large igneous province in Australia with possible links to faunal extinctions." Geology 34, no. 6 (2006): 461-464. doi: 10.1130/G22122.1.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The peers at WUWT give a guest the thumbs down

Sou | 10:21 PM Go to the first of 2 comments. Add a comment

Sheesh, Anthony's gone into book publishing at WUWT. He's posted up a Frankenstein of an article by William McClenney (archived here). It starts with an abstract unlike any you'll read in a scientific journal, but fits with the mould of denier blogs:

Abstract: I used to think there was only one known substitute for intelligence – stupidity. I have since realized that I left out evil (see Hitler et al). I have also come to the conclusion that the difference between confidence and arrogance is competence. Keep those thoughts in mind as we take a tour de force through the peer-reviewed literature regarding the climatic “madhouse” also known as glacial inception. It would be one thing if we were to become concerned about Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW), say in the middle of an interglacial. It’s quite another altogether to get all worked-up over it at a probable end extreme interglacial.

William follows this with an "author's note" in which he tells his readers that before they ask any questions relating to his latest monstrosity, they need to read three other WUWT monstrosities he's written, dating back over four years or so (to 2010).

William punishes WUWT readers with 16,457 words interspersed with multiple unreadable jpeg files of other documents each having lots more words and a few charts, plus he treats WUWT with a zillion hyperlinks, bold italics and underlines.

The number of words above this paragraph is 224, so William's "guest essay" is more than 73 times longer than the above. It's equivalent to more than 30 pages of a Microsoft Word document in Times Roman font size 12. And that's without all his jpeg files and hyperlinked articles. Add in the other three articles that William mandates as pre-reading and you've got 52 pages and 25,585 words plus multiple jpeg files with lots more words and charts. That would make William's required reading in total well over 100 times longer than this article. Not a bad effort for Anthony's pseudo-science blog.

It's only another "ice age" article

Did I read William's four articles? Good lord no. It was much more illuminating to do a word count:) I agree with Alan Robertson (see below).  I barely skimmed one or two sentences. I got more from the comments. I gather that William took an inordinate amount of words to speculate something quite simple and quite wrong, namely that CO2 emissions are staving off an imminent ice age. (The world isn't due to ice up for around 50,000 years even without global warming.)

Thumbs down!

A lot of WUWT readers gave William's abomination the thumbs down. What it goes to show is that some WUWT deniers are a bit smarter than some of the guest essayists at WUWT.  Which is not really something worth boasting about.

From the WUWT comments

Gary says:
May 29, 2014 at 11:59 am
The “abstract” is not one. This could use a real summary of the main points and conclusions right up front that encourages me to read this mile long piece.

Alan Robertson says:
May 29, 2014 at 12:16 pm
Life’s too short… 

lsvalgaard says:
May 29, 2014 at 12:49 pm
The piece fails the ‘elevator test’. What is the bottom line? [you have 10 seconds to explain it]

milodonharlani says:
May 29, 2014 at 1:08 pm
I too would welcome a brief summary of the points the author hopes to make & support by his citations. 

Bob says:
May 29, 2014 at 1:17 pm
I have a headache. Maybe I will read this another day. 

Henry Bowman says:
May 29, 2014 at 2:50 pm
It is a real travesty that the author goes to the trouble to write this essay, but chooses to use absolutely horrible and virtually unreadable graphic illustrations, all due to the use of the of (low-quality) jpeg image format. Why bother postig the images at all if they are unreadable? Please learn to use PNG format for images that are not continuous-tone. jpeg format is designed for photographs are works nicely for such. The use of jpeg format for line drawings seems to be a particular problem with WUWT, for whatever reason. 

Jimbo says:
May 29, 2014 at 2:51 pm
Loooong pieces like this need a proper

M Simon says:
May 29, 2014 at 4:10 pm
Too long? Well, I got about half way through it. 

Michael Moon says (excerpt):
May 29, 2014 at 4:31 pm
When did you become a book publisher?
[REPLY: No idea what you are talking about -A

 u.k.(us) says:
May 29, 2014 at 5:13 pm
Maybe it’s just me, but when Godwin’s law is proven in the second sentence……
……..I only scrolled through the rest, looking for the conclusion.
All I got was a bunch of quotes.
Stupid is a strong word, use it sparingly.

RoHa says:
May 29, 2014 at 6:07 pm
My brain hurts, Brian. Lots of wriggly lines. Lots of hard words. Lots of sciencey stuff.
But no answer to the key question.
Are we doomed from fire or ice? 

John Andrews says:
May 29, 2014 at 8:50 pm
Too long. 

A few people made an attempt to wade through. Mark and two Cats got as far as the "abstract" and, quoting some passages, says:
May 29, 2014 at 12:18 pm
“I used to think there was only one known substitute for intelligence – stupidity. I have since realized that left out evil (see Hitler et al).”
Evil is a substitute for intelligence? Does that mean that morality is too?
Also, it seems to me that evil does not preclude intelligence. Lotsa evil-cum-intelligent people throughout history.
“I have also come to the conclusion that the difference between confidence and arrogance is competence. ”
I have know people who are both competent and arrogant. Competence does not automatically confer humility. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Denier dolts at WUWT with the meme: "It's happened before..."

Sou | 12:27 AM Go to the first of 9 comments. Add a comment

There are not many denier memes (it takes more than conspiracy ideation and stunted world view for a fertile imagination). One of them is the "it's happened before" meme.

This is a strange one for deniers to adopt for themselves when you think about it. The fact that events may have happened in the past under a given set of circumstances provides rich clues about what we can expect in the future under not dissimilar circumstances.

Today Anthony Watts has copied and pasted a press release about carbon buried under loess in soils in parts of the USA. Anthony wrote:

The next time somebody says wildfires in the USA are “unprecedented” show them this. Buried fossil soils found to be awash in carbon
I'm yet to hear someone say that wildfires in the USA are unprecedented in the sense that they've only been known to occur in recent times. Are they becoming more common?   Though it's likely, that's probably still an open question.  Wildfires have multiple causes and analysis is confounded by changes to fire management as well as all the changes we've made to our environment, particularly these past several decades. Is the risk getting greater with global warming? Indubitably. Especially in fire-prone states as temperatures rise. Where I live we are likely to get more frequent catastrophic fire danger days as time goes on and that is the case these past few years.

Abrupt climate change and the consequences

The paper itself is by Erika Marin-Spiotta and colleagues and has been published in Nature Climate Change. It's about how deep soils contain bands of carbon-heavy layers. These have been attributed to wildfires burning in times past when there was rapid warming. Hence the irony of deniers pointing to the paper as if to say there's nothing to worry about.  These carbon layers were often buried under huge amounts of loess, which is dust that got deposited, largely from ground up rocks etc after deglaciation. From the press release and the abstract, it looks as if there was a time when there were lots of awful dust storms plus massive wildfires all happening around the same time - over centuries or decades rather than over millenia. That wouldn't be something to look forward to at all.

This is from the abstract:
Buried soils contain large reservoirs of organic carbon at depths that are not typically included in regional and global soil carbon inventories1. One such palaeosol, the Brady soil of southwestern Nebraska, USA, is buried under six metres of loess. The Brady soil developed at the land surface on the late-Pleistocene-aged Peoria Loess in a period of warmth and wetness during which dunefields and dust sources across the region were stabilized. Abrupt climate change in the early Holocene led to increased loess deposition that buried the soil. 

Here's an extract from about the paper:
"There is a lot of carbon at depths where nobody is measuring," says Erika Marin-Spiotta, a University of Wisconsin-Madison assistant professor of geography and the lead author of the new study. "It was assumed that there was little carbon in deeper soils. Most studies are done in only the top 30 centimeters. Our study is showing that we are potentially grossly underestimating carbon in soils."
The soil studied by Marin-Spiotta and her colleagues, known as the Brady soil, formed between 15,000 and 13,500 years ago in what is now Nebraska, Kansas and other parts of the Great Plains. It lies up to six-and-a- half meters below the present-day surface and was buried by a vast accumulation of windborne dust known as loess beginning about 10,000 years ago, when the glaciers that covered much of North America began to retreat.
The region where the Brady soil formed was not glaciated, but underwent radical change as the Northern Hemisphere's retreating glaciers sparked an abrupt shift in climate, including changes in vegetation and a regime of wildfire that contributed to carbon sequestration as the soil was rapidly buried by accumulating loess.
...The deeply buried soil studied by Marin-Spiotta, Mason and their colleagues, a one-meter-thick ribbon of dark soil far below the modern surface, is a time capsule of a past environment, the researchers explain. It provides a snapshot of an environment undergoing significant change due to a shifting climate. The retreat of the glaciers signaled a warming world, and likely contributed to a changing environment by setting the stage for an increased regime of wildfire.
"The world was getting warmer during the time the Brady soil formed," says Mason. "Warm-season prairie grasses were increasing and their expansion on the landscape was almost certainly related to rising temperatures."
The retreat of the glaciers also set in motion an era when loess began to cover large swaths of the ancient landscape. Essentially dust, loess deposits can be thick -- more than 50 meters deep in parts of the Midwestern United States and areas of China. It blankets large areas, covering hundreds of square kilometers in meters of sediment.

From the WUWT comments

Despite being primed by Anthony Watts to respond along the lines of "it's happened before", the WUWT-ers weren't all obedient and responded with various different denierisms.

cnxtim doesn't bother with the article at all and simply spouts denier drivel and says:
May 27, 2014 at 3:07 pm
This scientific research is the stuff that is expected of all Universes. And of course there is a cost associated with keeping these institutions open for business. However, the ridiculously excessive funding of CAGW scare mongers has to be stopped before it destroys the very society it is designed to improve.

MJPenny is maybe not aware of just how much carbon is in the biosphere and says:
May 27, 2014 at 3:51 pm
So if the Brady soil formed 13,500 to 15,000 years ago and this sequestered a significnt amount of carbon, what were the atmospheric CO2 concentrations before and after this period? If there was no significant drop in CO2 then the carbon sequestered is insignificant and this study is just for additional CAGW hype. 

Scarface is a denier of the fearful paranoid conspiracy theorising kind and says:
May 27, 2014 at 4:07 pm
Could or couldn’t, that’s the question! Could or will, might or should, may or doesn’t, who knows! Settled science, yet no answers, only questions and suggestions. Meanwhile nothing happens, maybe it’s time to move on to some real problems, like hunger, malaria, childlabour, poverty.
But who am I kidding, this whole scam is about fear and control. Let’s burn the food, let’s ruin the economies, let’s make everybodies life as miserable as possible, while people believe it’s for their own good. What a world.

Philip Bradley decides that the scientists got things topsy turvy and it looks as if he thinks that more fires started all by themselves in the absence of climate change, but at least he's thinking about the complexity of interactions and feedbacks when he says:
May 27, 2014 at 4:15 pm
The retreat of the glaciers signaled a warming world, and likely contributed to a changing environment by setting the stage for an increased regime of wildfire.
“The world was getting warmer during the time the Brady soil formed,” says Mason. “Warm-season prairie grasses were increasing and their expansion on the landscape was almost certainly related to rising temperatures.”
I think the cause and effect were the other way around. Increasing fires (particularly peat fires which can burn for years) deposited black carbon on the glaciers, reducing albedo and triggering net melt. Falling sea levels from ice accumulation dried out coastal swamps sufficiently that fires could take hold. 

Louis decides to extrapolate way beyond what any of the researchers said or implied. He is attempting reductio ad absurdum but instead builds a strawman:
May 27, 2014 at 4:56 pm
Oh no! Fossil organic carbon could be a potential contributor to climate change “as humans increasingly disturb landscapes through a variety of activities…”

In other words humans, you must stop all activities that might disturb landscapes – no farming, no mining, no drilling, no new housing developments, and certainly no underground atomic bomb testing. I assume they will want us all to crowd into existing urban areas and leave all other landscapes untouched. But if the countryside is not being farmed, how will the urban areas get food, by eating their dead? Perhaps, that’s also part of the plan. If most of us starve to death, all the better because there will be less stress on mother Gaia.

Gary Pearse is another signed up member of the scientific illiterati, preferring to mock rather than learn and says:
May 27, 2014 at 6:01 pm
So changing climate was a feature of 13 millennia ago. Let’s see, what is the real take home here? Ah yes, wildfires sequester carbon for thousands of years and we get double the bang for the buck because new greenery has to grow using up more carbon. Let ‘er burn baby burn and then grow baby grow. Gee we got to get those Nebraska farmers to stop planting grain down 50 meters. It could disturb the sequestered carbon. 

Joel O'Bryan confuses coal seams from a hundred million years ago or more, with much younger carbon layers from 13,000 or so years ago. and says:
May 27, 2014 at 7:05 pm
Rich sources of carbon deeply buried… who knew?
Tell that to a coal miner, the laughter might temporarily make him forget about the unemployment line Obama wants to put him in.

pyromancer76 is another avowed member of the illiterati and says:
May 27, 2014 at 7:06 pm
Anthony, I don’t know if I want to continue reading. These ridiculous studies that put forth such little science — is it worth it? I don’t know. This is the first time I quit and said to myself this article is not worth my time. Is it worth yours? Of course, I can’t answer that and I know that holding these ridiculous studies (using my/yours/our tax-payer dollars to do so) up to ridicule is probably important…..but…..I’ve had it. I want science, or the hard work to follow a hypothesis, or, I don’t know. I DON’T WANT THIS. I will quit reading. Thanks. Just letting you know.

Let's finish with Anthony Watts himself declaring his membership of the scientific illiterati. I figure he's disappointed that more people didn't toe the line with his "it's happened before" meme and instead branched of in different denier directions. Anthony Watts says:
May 27, 2014 at 7:18 pm
Yes I know, its like reading “science for dolts”. OTOH, if I (and readers like you) don’t point out how absurd some of these things are, who will?
I published this one because it actually showed that large wildfires are not uncommon. In the age of fire suppression, we’ve built a cocoon of inexperience. – Anthony 

I wrote the main article before reading this comment of Anthony's. He has confirmed what I wrote. He was writing it as a denier meme "it's happened before". The bonus is that his comment shows that he is himself a fully paid up member of the scientific illiterati.  It's sometimes hard to know if he's just plain dumb or if he's pandering to the stupid in his readers. From what I've seen over the past year or so it's a bit of both.

Erika Marin-Spiotta, Nina T. Chaopricha, Alain F. Plante, Aaron F. Diefendorf, Carsten W. Mueller, A. Stuart Grandy, Joseph A. Mason. "Long-term stabilization of deep soil carbon by fire and burial during early Holocene climate change". Nature Geoscience, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/ngeo2169

Bushfire weather in Southeast Australia: recent trends and projected climate change impacts. Melbourne, Australia: Bushfire CRC, 2007.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Denier weirdness: A howler from Anthony Watts at WUWT

Sou | 4:21 PM Go to the first of 39 comments. Add a comment

Anthony Watts has written a Quote of the Week. It's what he regards as a "howler". He wrote a headline (archived here):
Quote of the week: a howler from the World Meteorological Organization – what warming?
And this is what he thought was a howler from this WMO press release. He wrote:
Gosh, you’d think they’d check the data before issuing a statement like this (press release follows).
It [CO2] was responsible for 85% of the increase in radiative forcing – the warming effect on our climate – over the decade 2002-2012. Between 1990 and 2013 there was a 34% increase in radiative forcing because of greenhouse gases, according to the latest figures from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
But, the temperature data tells an entirely different story, look at this plot of all global temperature metrics and trends from 2002-2012 – there’s no warming to be seen! 
Anthony goes an posts some monthly temperature charts from 2002 onwards. He doesn't put up anything like this one though:
Data Source: NASA GISS
Anthony's chosen career is to misrepresent climate science. Mostly he does it by posting idiotic pseudo-science by his "guests", interspersed with really dumb articles by Anthony himself. This article by Anthony falls into the latter category. You'd have thought he'd have learnt by now. Does he really expect that normal people will mistakenly think science denier Anthony Watts knows more about climate than the World Meteorological Organisation?

Anthony is probably assuming that all the extra energy should be displayed as a hotter surface or atmosphere. Yet less than three per cent of the energy goes into heating the atmosphere. Most of it (around 90%) goes into heating the oceans, with some into melting ice, evaporating water and heating the land.

Here is a chart you'll have seen before to illustrate just how much heat is accumulating because we're using the air as a rubbish tip:


From the WUWT comments

Anthony Watts loses his cool with Nick Stokes, who had the same reaction as I did. Dumbo Anthony goes all out as a paranoid conspiracy theorist, accusing Nick of being a paid troll. Nick Stokes says:
May 26, 2014 at 9:02 pm“Gosh, you’d think they’d check the data”
What data? They are simply making a perfectly valid statement about CO2 increase and the forcings. You can measure and talk about CO2 concentration without getting into temperature issues.
REPLY: Oh, bullshit, you left out this part: “the warming effect on our climate – over the decade 2002-2012″. Nick Go obfuscate the truth someplace else. Now I’m SURE you are a paid troll. – Anthony

Does this mean that Anthony has finally banned Nick? He's been a thorn in Anthony's side for years. Rarely getting ruffled. Almost never responding to all the flames that get thrown his way. Has Anthony finally decided to rid WUWT forever of any reason and normality and go for pure 100% nuttery?

Anthony wasn't happy to leave it at that. He added a comment to one from the unholy zealot Janice Moore who says:
May 26, 2014 at 9:05 pm
Hey, Anthony! Great minds, heh, heh.
REPLY: Yeah, Nick either can’t help himself, as his many years of working for CSIRO has produced an institutionalized reaction to anything contrary to the monthly newsletter, or he’s simply paid to come here and sow obfuscation. Given he’s often one of the earliest commenters for anything contrary to his world view, I expect he has a trigger mechanism setup to alert him so he can derail threads early on with his particular brand of diversion.
Bottom line: increased CO2 forcing with no resulting increase in temperature, means no warming, and WMO believes there was warming. Bad science, just PR – no cookie. – Anthony

David says:
May 26, 2014 at 9:09 pm
Between 1990 and 2013 there was a 34% increase in radiative forcing because of greenhouse gases…
How is that possible? Water vapor is the primary ‘greenhouse’ gas and I don’t think it’s atmospheric concentration changed much. And CO2 levels only increased about 10%.
So where does the 34% number come from?

Michael 2 says:
May 26, 2014 at 9:15 pm
I comprehend Mr. Stokes comment — but if an increase in a forcing is NOT producing an increase in temperature, then somewhere exists a cooling effect that is balancing the forcing such that the “net” is mostly unchanging. It’s not just that the heat is hiding in oceans, something must be exerting a cooling effect, and it may well be the very same CO2 at high altitude whose increased abundance means more radiation into space.
Or something like that. I’ll let the scientists figure it out BUT the claim was global WARMING, not global FORCING.

nc says wistfully, perhaps not realising that probably more than 100% of the warming is from human factors:
May 26, 2014 at 9:28 pm
Did they differentiate between natural and anthropogenic c02 levels? That always seems to be left out. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Gearing up for a hotter world at WUWT

Sou | 12:49 PM Go to the first of 13 comments. Add a comment

Over at WUWT the deniers are taking a deep breath and preparing themselves for a hotter year this year. Werner Brozek (Edited By Just The Facts) has a new article (archived here), warning WUWT-ers that if temperatures keep going along the lines of April, then this year could be up there with 2010 and 2005 as the hottest year on record - and this is before any El Niño has been declared.

It's a bit early to make any predictions. GISTemp for the first four months is trailing 2010 but has crept above 2005, as you can see from the chart below.

Data Source: NASA GISTemp

Werner's also observed what I noticed, that there have been a lot of new adjustments to GISTemp recently. Not just for the past twelve months but going back further in time. I haven't seen any explanation on the GISTemp website for the most recent changes yet. I expect it will come as they are usually quite diligent in giving explanations.

Some people are querying the changes as a conspiracy to make earlier records colder so that later records look warmer. However more recent records have been adjusted downwards and older records adjusted upwards. That will puzzle WUWT-ers no end. (If they follow the recursive fury pattern I expect they'll try to amend the conspiracy theory while keeping it to "nefarious intent" but it's hard to see how.)

Below is a chart showing the adjustments over time as the net adjustment for the year. I've compared the latest GISTemp data with that from the end of 2013, subtracting the older anomalies from the newer. That is, a positive value means that the latest GISTemp data has been adjusted up and a negative value means the data has been revised down.

You can see that most of the upward adjustments have been in earlier years, while in later years the anomalies have been adjusted down. All but a few this decade have a net effect of only 0.01 degrees in any year.

Data Source: NASA GISTemp

As for this year, April was a hot month and it looks to me that May has been a tad warm in some parts of the world. If El Niño emerges then that will only add to the trend.

From the WUWT comments

Scott Basinger gets it topsy turvy and says:
May 25, 2014 at 6:15 pm
Adjust the past down, adjust the present up. Look, a trend!

wbrozek says:
May 25, 2014 at 6:26 pm
Latitude says: May 25, 2014 at 6:08 pm
Thank you!
I can understand that there could possibly be good reasons why things could be adjusted from a hundred years ago, but why would 2010 be adjusted in the last 4 months? And why would the all time record month of January 2007 go down from 0.94 to 0.92 over the last 4 months?

Late arrival of data can lead to adjustments. But this looks to be more than that. Either GISTemp has had a big spring clean or the algorithm has been modified. Maybe I'll ask Gavin Schmidt.

Bill H says:
May 25, 2014 at 6:44 pm
One hundredth of a degree C… What instrument is so carefully calibrated and placed around the world so quickly that we are talking this small a change?
The more observations the better the precision can be. That's statistics.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Denier weirdness: Wondering Willis Eschenbach has a touch of the sun at WUWT...

Sou | 3:51 PM Go to the first of 10 comments. Add a comment

Wondering Willis Eschenbach has a touch of the sun**. He is wondering if the sun can affect the temperature on Earth (archived here). He's been analysing the surface temperature to see if he can detect the effect of the solar cycle.

Now everyone here knows that the solar cycle does have a small impact on the amount of energy reaching the surface. The latest IPCC AR5 WG1 report states on page TS-21:

Satellite observations of total solar irradiance (TSI) changes since 1978 show quasi-periodic cyclical variation with a period of roughly 11 years. Longer-term forcing is typically estimated by comparison of solar minima (during which variability is least). This gives a RF change of –0.04 [–0.08 to 0.00] W m–2 between the most recent (2008) minimum and the 1986 minimum. There is some diversity in the estimated trends of the composites of various satellite data, however. Secular trends of TSI before the start of satellite observations rely on a number of indirect proxies. The best estimate of RF from TSI changes over the industrial era is 0.05 [0.00 to 0.10] W m–2 (medium confidence), which includes greater RF up to around 1980 and then a small downward trend. 
And elsewhere in section 5-8 :
Typical changes measured over an 11-year solar cycle are 0.1% for TSI and up to several percent for the ultra-violet (UV) part of SSI (see Section 8.4).

Willis can't find the signal because it's so tiny it's buried in the noise and he doesn't take out the other factors affecting surface temperature. (Nor would he read science. He prefers to try to figure things out for himself, which is why he gets into such a mess.)

Willis is a Gaia fan

Willis holds to a Gaia-style hypothesis, which he sets out as:
Which of course leads to the obvious question … why no sign of the 11-year solar cycles?
I hold that this shows that the temperature of the system is relatively insensitive to changes in forcing. This, of course, is rank heresy to the current scientific climate paradigm, which holds that ceteris paribus, changes in temperature are a linear function of changes in forcing. I disagree. I say that the temperature of the planet is set by a dynamic thermoregulatory system composed of emergent phenomena that only appear when the surface gets hotter than a certain temperature threshold. These emergent phenomena maintain the temperature of the globe within narrow bounds (e.g. ± 0.3°C over the 20th Century), despite changes in volcanoes, despite changes in aerosols, despite changes in GHGs, despite changes in forcing of all kinds. The regulatory system responds to temperature, not to forcing.
And I say that because of the existence of these thermoregulatory systems, the 11-year variations in the sun’s UV and magnetism and brightness, as well as the volcanic variations and other forcing variations … well, they make little difference.
Which is a circular argument. Willis doesn't say what causes the temperature change in the first place. In fact he's arguing that the earth is insensitive to forcing. Which would mean that there would be very little change in temperature and the earth would never get to any of his temperature thresholds.

Wild swings and roundabouts

But that's not what I'm writing about.  You may remember that Willis has often said (wrongly of course) that the surface temperature has varied by ± 0.3°C over the 20th Century and he's repeated that nonsense again today. He's never said where he's dug up that silliness from.  Here is a chart to show how wrong he is. The surface temperature just keeps on going up and up and up. It's not varying by ± 0.3°C at all:

Data sourceNASA GISS

What's two degrees among friends?

Today Willis wrote the following:
The earth’s temperature swings on the order of 6°C peak to peak over the course of a year. Why would it not respond over an 11-year period?

Then he changed his mind (without admitting to it) and wrote something different:
Despite the presence of the “near-infinite heat sinks” of the ocean and outer space, the global temperature changes by 4°C or so over the course of the year. And the hemispheres swing much more than that, 6°C for the southern hemisphere and a 13°C swing for the northern hemisphere.
 Heck, what's two degrees Celsius between friends at WUWT :)

[I've deleted some text here because, as Arthur pointed out I did some analysis using monthly anomalies, not monthly temperatures, which of course wouldn't show up actual differences over the year. How dumb is that! The above point still stands. Sou.]

From the WUWT comments

There is an awful lot of nonsense in the comments as you can imagine.  However, the first comment is from a rational human being.  Nick Stokes is the first cab off the rank and corrects just one of Willis' errors in the quote and says:
May 24, 2014 at 1:46 pm
“I hold that this shows that the temperature of the system is relatively insensitive to changes in forcing. This, of course, is rank heresy to the current scientific climate paradigm, which holds that ceteris paribus, changes in temperature are a linear function of changes in forcing." 
The standard climate science view is not that the climate is insensitive to changes in solar forcing, but that no significant changes have happened. That, while the sun is indeed the energy source, it is a very steady source. So no stability mechanism need be postulated.
Adding quickly:
OK, I can hear the protests – I mean no big oscillations in solar output in the period Willis is looking at.

To which Willis Eschenbach weirdly responds (extract - removed Nick's comment):
May 24, 2014 at 2:03 pm
Dear heavens, save me from pettifogging lawyers. Nick, the standard view is exactly what I said it was—that changes in temperature are a linear function of the changes in forcing. If you don’t understand that, read up on the supposed “climate sensitivity”. It has nothing to do with the sun at all. w.
What is Willis on about - does he not regard the sun as a forcing? That would be truly weird. Nick Stokes can't figure him out either, from the look of it, and says:
May 24, 2014 at 2:25 pm
Willis Eschenbach says: May 24, 2014 at 2:03 pm “Dear heavens, save me from pettifogging lawyers.”
No pettifog here. Your proposition is that a lack of sunspot cycle in the data supports a “dynamic thermoregulatory system”. I say that there was no significant change in forcing in the first place, so lack of observed response does not support thermoregulation.

Blue Sky says:
May 24, 2014 at 2:34 pm
Willis Eschenbach creates a straw man and than destroys it. Stick a feather in his hat.

You'll enjoy this comment. RoHa says, quoting Willis:
May 24, 2014 at 6:35 pm
“Unfortunately, the dang facts got in the way again”
They often do. I’ve told you before,you should leave those things alone and stick to pure speculation.

Roy Spencer doesn't bother pointing out that Willis' whole article is about chasing a phantom, but is enjoying the to and fro and says:
May 24, 2014 at 2:45 pm
Willis, I’m always happy to see someone other than myself pi$$ off a bunch of people. :-)

Because the topic is the sun, Lief Svalgaard joins in from time to time as usual. At one point he says:
May 24, 2014 at 5:25 pm
DaveR says: May 24, 2014 at 5:13 pm Put another way…. because the earth climate is not responding to the 11-year sunspot cycle (which we know is creating variable energy output) there must be some equally offsetting effect in the interface between the two systems.
No, the more likely reason is simply that the variation of the energy output is too small to have any significant effect.

Roy UK begs Willis to give him a clue as to what is causing the remarkably rapid rise in global temperature and says:
May 24, 2014 at 3:14 pm
So its not the sun. And it ain’t CO2. What in the world is it? C’mon Willis give us a clue…
Or is it just something that we should not worry about?

Louis has a bright idea to counteract nonsense like CO2 or Milankovitch forcings and says cosmic dust caused the ice ages:
May 24, 2014 at 6:36 pmIf it isn’t Sun cycles that cause changes to the climate, what other causes could there be?
Astronomers say we are currently located inside a low-density zone that is about 10 times lower in neutral atoms than the average of 0.5 atoms/cc elsewhere in the Milky Way on average. So what effect would there be if the solar system passed through a denser medium, such as an interstellar cloud? Could a higher-density zone block some sunlight from reaching Earth or have some other effect?
After a search, I found the following comment at
“When the solar system enters such a cloud, the first thing that will happen will be that the magnetic field of the Sun, which now extends perhaps 100 AU from the Sun and 2-3 times the orbit of Pluto, will be compressed back into the inner solar system depending on the density of the medium that the Sun encounters. When this happens, the Earth may be laid bare to an increased cosmic ray bombardment.”
Could passing through a cosmic dust cloud have caused ice ages in the past? If increased cosmic rays cause more clouds, couldn’t that cause cooling and possibly account for past ice ages? I have no idea one way or the other. I’m just throwing it out there because I haven’t seen any mention of such a possibility.

Our old mate, Roger Sowell talks about it being "prudent to act" (though Roger admits he knows bugger all) - and prepare for the ice age that cometh! (extracts):
May 24, 2014 at 4:12 pm
I agree that “it’s the evidence, stupid.” But, it is not the 11-year cycle that is the evidence of interest. the long-term solar cycles, of which we know very little, are the subject of interest, at least to me. They may or may not be regular cycles.
It is well-known that climate gets very cold when the sunspots disappear for decades on end. We have, as far as I know, no proven, accepted causal mechanism why the absence of sunspots causes the Earth to cool. There is the cloud and cosmic ray hypothesis, with cosmic rays modulated by the sun’s magnetic field.
Do we actually need a proven, causal mechanism before it is prudent to act?...
...In my May, 2012 speech to the chemical engineers in Southern California, I made the point that we have excellent correlations over hundreds of years that show weak sunspot cycles produce global cooling. ...

Mick draws an analogy and says:
May 24, 2014 at 3:59 pm
Willis, You can’t see the 100Hz AC if you stick a thermometer in the chicken soup coking on the hot-plate.
This doesn’t mean there is no oscillation of incoming energy, but the thermal inertia is acting as a low-pass filter…..
Also…. 0.5deg Celsius variation is significant for us humans, for our comfort. But looking at it in absolute terms, not much different between 300K or 300.5K ..about as much as in the Sun’s delta TSI ….me think.
(I hope my English is comprehensible enough…. apologize if it’s not, spell check struggle to understand my accent)

sabretruthtiger quoted Christopher Monckton (who joined the fray and opposed Willis), and sensibly, if somewhat incompletely, says that the sun (and volcanoes) would of course cause natural variation in climate (excerpt):
May 24, 2014 at 4:06 pm
...Nicely put, Mr Eschenbach put in his place somewhat.
Honestly there can surely be no other cause of natural variability other than the sun, it, along with axial tilt/proximity cycles can be the only causes of variability once electromagnetic and volcanic earth-based anomalies are discounted as the system is heat driven.
But what do I know, I’m not a climate scientist, Mr Eschenbach it would be extremely helpful if you could respond to Monckton’s assertions and give us an alternative to what drives natural variability.

There is a lot of nonsense in the comments, which you can read here, if you've nothing better to do.

** I couldn't find this on the internet, but in my part of the world having a "touch of the sun" means that a person has temporarily lost his marbles :D

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The WattMeter: Reading the mood at WUWT

Sou | 4:50 PM Go to the first of 21 comments. Add a comment

This is fun. You might have noticed an addition to the sidebar. A computer wizz has sent me a link to a gizmo or WUWT-idjit or, more formally, a WattMeter. They are word clouds reflecting the content of comments at WUWT. They are automatically updated daily.

Here are some larger versions. The first is a measure of the mood of WUWT in general for the day.


The next one is meter of WUWT ideology and political mood, also reflecting the mood of the day.

Source: CruelClimate

And there's a third one that is a cumulative version over the time of the second one above, since the word cloud was first created.


Larry Hamlin blunders down under in Antarctica

Sou | 12:16 AM Go to the first of 3 comments. Add a comment

The rapid increase in the loss of ice in West Antarctica is really eating the heart out of Anthony Watts and his band of science deniers at WUWT. After, what is it, five articles in as many days?  Now there's a sixth (archived here). A shouty rant by Larry Hamlin who is really, really scared by global warming, going by his two latest articles.

You may remember this one from yesterday, where poor Larry was so terrified of the risk of wildfires he could scarcely restrain himself. Well, today it's the ice that's got him quaking in his boots. He's let forth on an article by Damian Carrington in the UK Guardian, which reports on a new study showing that Antarctic ice is disappearing twice as fast as it was a few years ago. (Larry was so overcome by fear that he could only manage a broken link to the article).

This is a bit long, so if you're on the home page, click here to read more...

Friday, May 23, 2014

CO2 Downunder: The greening of Anthony Watts and his greenhouse effect deniers

Sou | 2:05 PM Go to the first of 7 comments. Add a comment

Update -- see below.

Anthony Watts has an article up (archived here) about a new paper in Nature, except he doesn't know what he's writing about (as usual). His headline was:

Unsettled science: New study challenges the consensus on CO2 regulation – modeled CO2 projections exaggerated

No, Anthony. Modeled CO2 projections aren't exaggerated.

WUWT conspiracy nutters thrive with high CO2

Anthony's opening line was not only wrong, it was pure conspiracy ideation:
I’m really quite surprised to find this paper in Nature, especially when it makes claims so counter to the consensus that model projections are essentially a map of the future climate.

That's feeding the paranoia of the nutters at WUWT, who think that journals filter out science that doesn't support a consensus.  The opposite is true. Journals, particularly high profile journals like Nature, prefer papers that buck the consensus, that make headlines, that help promote the journal.  This paper doesn't buck any consensus in any real way. Instead it probes the detail and adds more knowledge.

Fact is, Anthony is getting his (dis)information from another denier website. Not a wise thing to do if you are interested in science, which Anthony isn't. He's a science disinformer so naturally rather than interpret the science, he interprets interpretations of science disinformers :)

Floods led to massive plant growth in semi-arid regions

Anthony got the paper right up to a point. What the large team of researchers found was that the record floods in Australia boosted vegetation so much that it sucked up a lot of carbon from the atmosphere.  As the abstract states (my paras and bold italics):
We use a terrestrial biogeochemical model, atmospheric carbon dioxide inversion and global carbon budget accounting methods to investigate the evolution of the terrestrial carbon sink over the past 30 years, with a focus on the underlying mechanisms responsible for the exceptionally large land carbon sink reported in 2011 (ref. 2). 
Here we show that our three terrestrial carbon sink estimates are in good agreement and support the finding of a 2011 record land carbon sink. Surprisingly, we find that the global carbon sink anomaly was driven by growth of semi-arid vegetation in the Southern Hemisphere, with almost 60 per cent of carbon uptake attributed to Australian ecosystems, where prevalent La Niña conditions caused up to six consecutive seasons of increased precipitation.
In addition, since 1981, a six per cent expansion of vegetation cover over Australia was associated with a fourfold increase in the sensitivity of continental net carbon uptake to precipitation.
Our findings suggest that the higher turnover rates of carbon pools in semi-arid biomes are an increasingly important driver of global carbon cycle inter-annual variability and that tropical rainforests may become less relevant drivers in the future. More research is needed to identify to what extent the carbon stocks accumulated during wet years are vulnerable to rapid decomposition or loss through fire in subsequent years.

What happened in Australia

Australia's long term average precipitation over the period 1900 to 2009 was 453 mm. In 2010 it was 703 mm and in 2011 it was 708 mm. That's a lot more rain. That made those two years combined the wettest since records began in 1900 and is attributed to La Niña, which also brought above average rain to southern Africa and northern South America. The rain was extra heavy, even for La Niña, because of global warming. The seas are hotter so more water is evaporating.  As reported at The Conversation, GRACE satellites estimated a decrease in ocean water mass of 1.8 trillion tonnes, with water shifted from the oceans to land. Sea levels dropped by a massive 5 mm.

Here is an illustration of what happened to the vegetation:

Modelled carbon uptake of the Australian landscape in December 2009 (before) compared with the start of the big wet in December 2010 (after). Adapted from Source: The Conversation.

Semi-arid regions vs tropical rainforests as carbon sinks

Thing is, conventional wisdom holds that it's tropical rainforests that are the most important carbon sink and will continue to be so. However this new research shows that semi-arid regions may become increasingly important as carbon sinks if events such as those described above occur more often. Semi-arid regions represent around 40% of the world's land surface.

A roller coaster of carbon shifts?

Australia as you know is also prone to drought and bushfires. Australia is the second driest continent on earth, after Antarctica. Any person who lives up the bush will tell you that the worst fire risk comes after a "good season". Lush vegetation dries out and fires take hold. What that does is unleash all that carbon that's been taken up by the extra growth and returns it to the atmosphere.

During the big wet, there weren't so many fires. It wasn't just Queensland that got wet, half of my own home state was under water for much of the 2011 summer. Much of Central Australia was virtually a giant lake. Western Australia had huge floods as well. The authors state that fire emissions were suppressed by about 30%, which "contributed even further to the continent's greening".

The good news of this carbon sink is tempered by the bad. In wet seasons there will probably continue to be a lot more carbon stored in new vegetation and in the soil. However with the projected climate change across much of Australia, it's likely that there will be more droughts and fires, which will result in all that carbon going back into the atmosphere. It won't stay locked up.

The interesting thing buried in the detail of the article at The Conversation, is that Australia has been greening more since the 1980s, not all with a good outcome (note the expansion of invasive species). The authors write:
In addition to the unprecedented vegetation greening of Australia during 2010 and 2011, we also observe a greening trend over the continent since 1980s, particularly during the months of the Australian autumn (March, April, and May).
That has happened for a number of reasons, including increased continental rainfall over the past few decades; plants growing in an atmosphere with increasing carbon dioxide using water more efficiently; and changes in land management such as fire suppression, expansion of invasive species, and changes in livestock grazing that have led to more woodland.

There have been previous studies that show that the increased carbon dioxide in the air is leading to more growth in Australia's native flora (as elsewhere in the world), particular in the arid regions. I wrote about this research on my slumbering Sou from Bundangawoolarangeera blog.

Where Anthony Watts gets it wrong - a short-lived sink

Of course Anthony Watts misrepresents the science. He isn't even aware of the paper itself. He only linked to an article in Nature about the paper calling it "a new paper". And he missed out completely on showing the article in The Conversation by two of the paper's authors.

Anthony wrote (my bold italics):
The authors find links between the land CO2 sink in these semi-arid ecosystems “are currently missing from many major climate models.” In addition, they find that land sinks for CO2 are keeping up with the increase in CO2 emissions, thus modeled projections of exponential increases of CO2 in the future are likely exaggerated.

Obviously Anthony is wrong when he claims that land sinks are keeping up with the increase in CO2 emissions, otherwise atmospheric CO2 wouldn't be above 400 ppm or rising at 3 ppm a year, like it is. It's simple arithmetic. While it is quite possible/probable that some climate models don't provide for CO2 sinks in semi-arid regions during big wets like the recent ones in Australia, I don't know where Anthony got his bit about exaggeration from either. It's not in the page he published from the Nature article about the paper (by Daniel B. Metcalfe). He probably got it from his denier blog source or maybe he just made it up. What the authors say at the Conversation is that the large uptake of carbon in 2011 was likely short-lived, because there was a rapid decline in the sink strength in 2012. So that suggests that Anthony is wrong as usual.

More volatility in CO2 levels

The ramifications of the research are that there is likely to be a lot more volatility in CO2 levels. Vegetation in semi-arid regions isn't like that in tropical rainforests.  The latter store carbon in hardwoods, which can lock it up for centuries. By contrast, in semi-arid regions carbon is stored in grasses and shrubs, which are relatively short-lived and prone to fire and drought, which quickly releases the carbon back into the atmosphere.  The authors say:
Increasingly, semi-arid regions are driving variability in how much carbon dioxide remains in the Earth’s atmosphere each year. And that has major implications for the long-term, including whether future climate change will slow down or accelerate further.

There's not very much information about the carbon budget in arid and semi-arid regions and I expect this research will lead to more. It could be that climate change will accelerate a lot, or proceed more slowly. I won't be betting on the latter until there's a lot more information.


There is an excellent FAQ on this topic, prepared by the researchers.

From the WUWT comments

As usual, deniers at WUWT only like stuff that they think supports their ideology. Being fake sceptics, they don't check facts for themselves.  Also, the greenhouse effect deniers are out in force, suggesting that Anthony is rapidly losing faith with more rational, intelligent fake sceptics (if there is such a beast). Maybe Anthony's readership is shrinking to the utter nutters:

RayG is a greenhouse effect denier who refuses to read science. He stopped reading at the first hurdle, and says:
May 22, 2014 at 11:14 am
I stopped reading at the assertion that in the first sentence that CO2 is the main driver of global climate change. I also note that there are no citations to support this claim.

hunter is another greenhouse effect denier and says:
May 22, 2014 at 11:18 am
While the assertion that CO2 is *the* climate thermostat is dubious, at least this article is exploring one of the significant failings of the current CO2 obsession.

Latitude says:
May 22, 2014 at 11:23 am
Well, I mean really….
who was stupid enough in the first place to think an additional 2 ppm/yr would overwhelm the system

Dave says:
May 22, 2014 at 11:41 am
RayG says: I stopped reading at the assertion that in the first sentence that CO2 is the main driver of global climate change. I also note that there are no citations to support this claim.
Obama said it’s a fact. So it’s gotta be true, right? 

Londo says:
May 22, 2014 at 11:43 am
“I stopped reading at the assertion that in the first sentence that CO2 is the main driver of global climate change. I also note that there are no citations to support this claim.”
Perhaps that was the price to pay to get the paper through toll gate known as peer review. If there is one unsupported claim that you probably can publish in any climate journal that’s probably it.

Rhoda R says:
May 22, 2014 at 11:44 am
RayG says:
Ray, it may be that that statement was the only way that this study could have been published. I suspect that if the man-made, developed countries driver for C02 is shot down there will be much less interest in government funding of AGW research. 

Michael Gersh isn't just a greenhouse effect denier, he doesn't even accept basic chemistry, that burning hydrocarbon releases CO2 and says:
May 22, 2014 at 11:48 am
As many of the actual scientists who have been espousing the “CO2 as Devil” meme walk away from the bad science, this paper tries to reveal that humanity may not even be the cause of higher CO2 concentrations. Those to whom Warmism is a religion will pretend not to notice.

Eliza is hopeful that it's one of the nails in the coffin and figures if climate science gets the chop then the world will magically stop warming. She says:
May 22, 2014 at 12:23 pm
Its probably a discrete “first” way out for NATURE so none of the big AGW shots notice. Its a climb down and we will be seeing more and more of this until the “norm” will in fact be the skeptic position, The whole AGW scam will only completely disappear when the funding dries out. For example, it is highly unlikely that Labor if they win the next election in Australia will pick it up again since Abbot has basically cut off all funding for AGW research and propaganda.

José Tomás says:
May 22, 2014 at 2:43 pm
Nature and other papers have obviously noticed that CAGW has no future (they are not idiots), but you cannot backtrack and save face at the same time.
So, expect lip service paid to CAGW for a long time, even while published articles go in the opposite direction. 

pokerguy says:
May 22, 2014 at 11:10 am
Can’t speak to the particulars, but seemingly excellent news that this paper has seen the light of day in the current repressive atmosphere. Is it possible things are changing a bit?

agfosterjr says:
May 22, 2014 at 12:52 pm
We see little mention of the Andean Altiplano, where possibly the growth of some species is limited more by CO2 scarcity (partial pressure) than by temperature or rainfall. Current interpretation of mud cores from Lake Titicaca indicates no certain history of Holocene forestation, but oddly enough, introduced eucalyptus (from Australia, of course) has no trouble growing at 4000 meters. It has been in the region for over a century, and is used for firewood and pole wood. If I were concerned with carbon capture I would plant lots of trees up high.
Of course eucalyptus introduces the potential for forest fires, as we have seen in Oakland and recently in Valparaiso. –AGF
This little curiosity caught my attention, not just because agfosterjr seemed to think that aforesting the tiny percentage of the world's land above 4,000 metres would make a huge difference to CO2, but because of his comment about eucalypts. When I looked it up I came across this article from 1999 that stated: The most abundant tree specie is eucalyptus. Growth and development of eucalyptus in the Altiplano is very slow, due to the adversity of the environment such as constant frost and prolonged period without precipitation. So it looks as if eucalyptus growth is retarded by cold and dry conditions.  According to the paper, the trees grow (very slowly) as spindly shrubs. Cold is the main thing stopping trees growing above the treeline generally.  (I guess that means the treeline will rise with global warming.) In the Andean Altiplano, lack of water doesn't help either.

David Ball fails arithmetic

A lot of comments were generated after David Ball failed arithmetic. David Ball, is a chip off the old block,  and says:
May 22, 2014 at 11:47 am
As Don Easterbrook pointed out (do not recall the thread), a change from 300ppm to 400ppm is NOT a 30% increase in Co2, as alarmists constantly shout.

No, David, it's a 33% increase. The increase from preindustrial 280 ppm to 400 ppm is a 43% increase in atmospheric CO2. When he's corrected by Scott Scarborough, David doubles down on his arithmetic failure. David Ball says:
May 22, 2014 at 12:28 pm
Firstly, have the courage to address me directly. Secondly, go back to math class.
The clue is ppm. Get a clue:
Various other commenters weighed in, all supporting Scott Scarborough. David Ball retorts with his weird arithmetic, which has nothing to do with his original claim. What he's calculated isn't the amount of increase in CO2 (which has increased by more than 40%), he's talking about the change in CO2 as a percentage of the total atmosphere - going from 0.03% to 0.04%:
May 22, 2014 at 2:41 pm
The difference is 0.0001, which, expressed as a percentage is 0.01%.

What a nutter. Typical of the denialati David Ball is not just very confused about what it is that he's calculating, he's doing a fairly standard version of "how can a trace gas keep the world warm". His dad is a greenhouse effect denier, too, and co-author of the "sky dragon slayers" book - among other things.

Benjamin Poulter, David Frank, Philippe Ciais, Ranga B. Myneni, Niels Andela, Jian Bi, Gregoire Broquet, Josep G. Canadell, Frederic Chevallier, Yi Y. Liu, Steven W. Running, Stephen Sitch & Guido R. van der Werf, "Contribution of semi-arid ecosystems to interannual variability of the global carbon cycle." Nature (2014) doi:10.1038/nature13376

Daniel B. Metcalfe, "Climate science: A sink down under." Nature (2014) doi:10.1038/nature13341

Donohue, R. J., M. L. Roderick, T. R. McVicar, and G. D. Farquhar (2013), "Impact of CO2 fertilization on maximum foliage cover across the globe's warm, arid environments", Geophys. Res. Lett., 40, doi:10.1002/grl.50563.

Roberto Quiroz and Sassan Saatchi, (1999) "Mapping Aquatic and Agricultural Vegetation of Altiplano Using Spaceborne Radar Imagery",  from JPL-NASA website.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

What you are witnessing @wattsupwiththat is denialism in action, with Tom Sheahen

Sou | 4:19 PM Go to the first of 11 comments. Add a comment

Anthony Watts has now written not one, not two, not three, not four but at least five articles protesting the melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet. I've commented on two of those, here and here.

His latest is from a chap called Tom Sheahen, who rejects science because of his politics. He signs every denier manifesto he can lay his hand on. Yes, he's one of the 100 people who signed a CATO document formally rejecting science. Tom's also signed his name to other utter nuttery, telling the US Supreme Court that:

CO2 is not in any sense an unwanted by-product of the production of useful energy. Rather, the combustion of carbon based fuels to produce CO2, and the capture of the energy released by that process, is the whole idea....

Tom Sheahen gives a lesson in denier-speak

Tom's article is mainly one in which he translates normal language into "denier-speak". It's mostly a lot of vague arm-waving gobbledygook, though not as gobbledy or gooky as one of Anthony Watts' other darlings, Tim Ball. After explaining what people really mean in denier-speak, at one stage Tom writes:
Elected officials striving to be responsive to their constituents’ concerns are often pressured by advocacy groups who have latched onto an incorrect interpretation of words. Scientists are sometimes guilty of riding a bandwagon that formed when the public misunderstood and exaggerated their original meaning; perhaps it’s convenient, prestigious and financially advantageous to let that confusion continue uncorrected. The effect snowballs and leads to new laws being passed, with expensive new regulations. Years later, with nothing accomplished, people ask “Oh, is that what you really meant?” Then the blame game begins, after much taxpayer money went down the drain unnecessarily.

That's not a bad lesson in denier speak. It's got just the right tinge of conspiracy ideation and nefarious intent. Tom doesn't give any examples of new laws and expensive new regulations that have sent money down the drain unnecessarily, needless to say. It's all denier theatre.

The above paragraph, you'll have noticed, embodies the unwritten assumption that all deniers are so stupid that they don't understand the purpose of particular laws and regulations. In fact Tom makes that assumption (that deniers are stupid) more than once. Elsewhere he writes:
  • The word “average” is easily misunderstood. 
  • In the absence of quotation marks, italics or capitals, ordinary citizens have no idea that the controversy is rooted in radically different meanings of the same words.

I expect now Anthony Watts will try to remember to put all controversial phrases in italics or between inverted commas, like Christopher Monckton does, so his dumb deniers will be know they must be translated into denier-speak. Will he be more precise in his use of "average" I wonder and specify whether he is referring to the mean or the mode or the median?

Tom Sheahen takes his deniers to Antarctica

Given that Tom's formally declared his allegiance to science denial it's a bit odd that he writes about geology - and then goes on to write about Antarctic ice. (Tom's name is also spelt as Tom Sheahan or Tom Sheehan in different places but it's the same chap AFAIK.)

What Tom's doing is having another shot at soothing the scaredy cats at WUWT. He's carefully explaining to them that terms used by geologists may have a different meaning to those same words used in general conversation.  The words he picks are time-related.

This is what Tom wrote:
Q. On TV I saw that the ice in Antarctica is collapsing, and that will raise sea level and inundate cities. Others reports say this will take thousands of years. How serious is the problem?
What you are witnessing here is a result of confusion between the public perception of the ordinary meaning of words, and the very special definitions used in scientific discourse.

Geologists deal with changes in the earth that occur over epochs of millions of years. Anything that happens in less than 10,000 years is “sudden,” and something happening in only 1,000 years is “instantaneous.” To geologists, the word “collapse” is appropriate for a 10,000 year process.
Tom apparently rejects the recent science that shows that parts of the West Antarctic ice sheet (WAIS) are slipping into the sea very quickly. He claims:
A hot-topic in the media these days has to do with the West Antarctic Ice Shelf (WAIS), a region comprising about 8% of the ice covering Antarctica. Within that region, there are two glaciers that are sliding down to the sea at a steady pace, as glaciers always do. They comprise about 10% of the WAIS, less than 1% of Antarctic ice. This descent has been in progress for several thousand years, and is neither new nor man-caused. It will go on for a few thousand more, after which they’ll be gone. In the parlance of geology, those two glaciers are collapsing.
If that doesn’t sound to you like your usual meaning of the word “collapse,” you’re absolutely right. It’s a specialized geological term.
Unfortunately, the major media overlook the distinction of meanings, and then make the further generalization from two specific glaciers to the entire WAIS, and moreover to Antarctica in general. Scientists who point out the small actual glacier size (and volume of ice) are brushed aside in the rush to get a headline or a flamboyant sound byte that will keep the viewers tuned in. Words like unavoidable collapse carry a sense of foreboding.
There is so much wrong with what Tom wrote that I won't bother with a listed rebuttal. Instead I'll point out that the melt of West Antarctica is happening. Not at a steady pace but at an accelerating pace. Not over 10,000 years but right now. And the West Antarctic ice sheet will add up to four metres (or more) to sea level when it's melted. The glaciers flowing into the Amundsen Sea alone will add a metre to sea level worldwide.

The groundline is moving back at nearly 2 km a year. Yes, that's right. Eric Rignot and colleagues have reported that over the nineteen years from 1992 to 2011:
  • Pine Island Glacier retreated 31 km at its center - that's 1,632 metres a year on average.
  • Thwaites Glacier retreated 14 km along its fast-flow core - that's 737 metres a year on average.
  • Haynes Glacier retreated 10 km along its flanks - that's 526 metres a year on average.
  • Smith/Kohler glaciers retreated the most, 35 km along its ice plain - that's 1,842 metres a year on average.

I haven't yet written about the other paper that hit the headlines at the same time as the Rignot paper. The second paper is by Ian Joughin, Benjamin E. Smith and Brooke Medley and was published in Science last week (16 May). Like Rignot14, they were studying the ice sheet in the Amundsen Sea Embayment, in particular the Thwaites and Haynes Glaciers. Here is a map, courtesy of . If you click to enlarge the image, you can see Thwaites next to Pine Island on the Amundsen Sea.


What the scientists found was that the collapse of WAIS has already begun. In the paper, when they refer to Thwaites Glacier they are also including Haynes Glacier and together they contribute almost half the ice losses to the Amundsen Sea (52 Gt/year of the 105Gt/year measured as at 2007).

The thing is that once Thwaites goes, so does most of the West Antarctic ice sheet from that area, which will eventually raise sea levels by anything up to four metres or so.

As reported in
The good news is that while the word "collapse" implies a sudden change, the fastest scenario is 200 years, and the longest is more than 1,000 years. The bad news is that such a collapse may be inevitable.
"Previously, when we saw thinning we didn't necessarily know whether the glacier could slow down later, spontaneously or through some feedback," Joughin said. "In our model simulations it looks like all the feedbacks tend to point toward it actually accelerating over time; there's no real stabilizing mechanism we can see."

What is apparently happening is that the warmer Circumpolar Deep Water (CDW) is thinning the ice that's on the continental shelf around Antarctica, which means that the glaciers aren't being held back to the same extent any more. From the paper:
Currently, elevated melt rates on the Amundsen Coast are largely driven by increased transport of warm CDW onto the continental shelf rather than by direct warming of the CDW (6). If the conditions responsible for this transport abate, melting should lessen. Thus, we simulated 100 years of high melt (m = 3 and 4) followed by reduced melt (m = 1) for the remainder of the simulation (Fig. 3B). Although the reduction in melt slowed the rate of loss, at the end of these 250-year simulations, losses were substantially greater relative to the sustained m = 1 simulation.
Eric Rignot explains this in an article in The Guardian (well worth reading - h/t idunno):
...Ocean heat is pushed by the westerly winds and the westerlies have changed around Antarctica in response to climate warming and the depletion of the ozone. The stronger winds are caused by a world warming faster than a cooling Antarctica. Stronger westerlies push more subsurface warm waters poleward to melt the glaciers, and push surface waters northward.

The rapid collapse threshold - 1 mm/year of sea level rise

On the issue of how long this will take, the research suggests it could happen after a couple of centuries and probably in less than a thousand years. Which isn't all that long even on human time scales. And once she goes, she goes quickly. From the paper:
When simulated losses exceed 1 mm/year of sle [sea level equivalent], much greater losses generally follow within a few years. Using our basin-scale model, however, such rapid collapse is difficult to model, especially because interaction with other basins becomes increasingly important. Thus, we take 1 mm/year of sle to be a threshold that, once crossed, marks the onset of rapid (decades) collapse as the grounding line reaches the deepest regions of the marine basin. In our 250-year simulations, only the highest-melt, weak-margin simulation reaches this critical threshold. Therefore, we have extended the remaining simulations to determine when this threshold is reached (fig. S2 and Table 1). For all but the lowest-melt simulations (m = 0.5), the onset of rapid collapse begins within a millennium. 

So what we need to watch for is the amount of loss a year. That's not all. The paper has some provisos.
An important feature of our numerical simulations is that they reveal a strong sensitivity to mechanical and/or rheological weakening of the margins, which can accelerate the rate of collapse by decades to centuries. Thus, future models will require careful treatment of shear margins to accurately project sea-level rise. Our simulations also assume that there is no retreat of the ice-shelf front. Full or partial ice-shelf collapse should produce more rapid retreat than we have simulated. In addition, we have not modeled ocean-driven melt that extends immediately upstream of the grounding line, which could also accelerate retreat.

That means, the ice could melt sooner rather than later.  I'm thinking that it will be very important to keep a close watch on what is happening in West Antarctica over coming decades (and centuries).

There's 7 metres more waiting in East Antarctica

Eric Rignot warns that it's not just West Antarctica that's going to hit us with all this extra seawater. There's a marine glacier, Totten Glacier, in East Antarctica that will add seven metres (23 feet) to global sea level. He doesn't give a time frame but writes:
There is also a bigger picture than West Antarctica. The Amundsen sea sector is not the only vulnerable part of the continent. East Antarctica includes marine-based sectors that hold more ice. One of them, Totten glacier, holds the equivalent of seven metres of global sea level.
Controlling climate warming may ultimately make a difference not only about how fast West Antarctic ice will melt to sea, but also whether other parts of Antarctica will take their turn. Several "candidates" are lined up, and we seem to have figured a way to push them out of equilibrium even before warming of air temperature is strong enough to melt snow and ice at the surface.
Unabated climate warming of several degrees over the next century is likely to speed up the collapse of West Antarctica, but it could also trigger irreversible retreat of marine-based sectors of East Antarctica. Whether we should do something about it is simply a matter of common sense. And the time to act is now; Antarctica is not waiting for us.

What is the threshold for denialism?

One thing that I wonder, when I read papers like these two (Rignot14 and Joughin14) and then go across to WUWT to read how strongly they protest the facts, is why? Why do they pretend that ice doesn't melt as it warms? I mean, given all the caveats, this could mean a rapid rise in sea level within their lifetime, and easily within their children's lifetime. They can't all be 90 years old and childless. They can't all care so little about the future of human society. What is it that drives them to such an imbecilic reaction to strong warnings? There must come a day when deniers reach a threshold of fact that will be impossible to reject (leaving aside the certifiable nutters).

From the WUWT comments

emsnews is an ice age comether and he's wrong. Even a grand minimum won't stop global warming. emsnews says:
May 21, 2014 at 4:14 pm
Except if this is the beginning of another Maunder Minimum due to the sun, those glaciers won’t be suddenly or slowly melting into the ocean. Quite the opposite.

cnxtim copies and pastes the usual irrelevant, meaningless denier slogans and says:
May 21, 2014 at 4:53 pm
All this scaremongering is inexorably delivering the CAGW flock into the “chicken little idiot’ brigade in the eyes of the GP – and good riddance to them and their public purse budgets.

Frank K. is scared shitless but not about global warming or rising seas. He's a denier of the paranoid conspiracy persuasion and says:
May 21, 2014 at 5:02 pm
To add to what others have said, it is quite clear to me that the misuse of scientific press releases for political gain is deliberate. Global warming (or climate change, disruption, …whatever) has NEVER been about science, but rather a means to fundamentally change (and destroy) our ways of life. And the left wing, progressive zealots will not cease until their mission is acomplished. 

george e. conant is overwhelmed by Tom's generosity in telling him not to be scared by Yahoo News items about hottest Aprils and global warming and rising seas, so much so that he can't help shouting:
May 21, 2014 at 5:11 pm
This may be off topic a wee bit BUT, I just scrolled through the Yahoo News Feed… OH MY GAWD, one article after another about Global Warming , all bad, all catastrophic , some already mentioned in these comments … I am seeing a ramping up of the Alarmism to levels just unbelievable. David Suzuki now demanding that politicians who are Climate Deniers should be (need to be) LOCKED UP… The Antarctic collapsing, Hottest April Globally , on and on …. WOW. And Thank you Dr. Sheahen, excellent article. 

LogosWrench is another one who proves Tom's assumption about deniers and says:
May 21, 2014 at 5:19 pm
Now add to that our intellectual waste lands known as universities that teach words have no meaning apart from what the hearer desires. So there you go. Cooling is caused by warming and other such nonsense.

noloctd is a nasty as well as stupid denier who laughs aloud at the difficult legacy he's leaving his (presumably) nephew and says:
May 21, 2014 at 5:49 pm
A liberal family member has assured me that a Maunder Minimum like event will have NO effect this time because there is 400 PPM of CO2 in the atmosphere. He’s a soon to be grad student in something social sciency, but insists that he knows all about geology and the other sciences. He is convinced to the point of obsessive worry that humans are the cause of all climate change and that Antarctica will melt in his lifetime and innundate a good portion of the dry land, not just the coasts.
Alas, I can’t laugh too loudly as he’s family after all. 

Oh, a real live normal rational person slipped in a comment. Chris says:
May 21, 2014 at 7:31 pm
Dr. Sheahen said” Within that region, there are two glaciers that are sliding down to the sea at a steady pace, as glaciers always do.
The “steady” pace has doubled from the 80 billion tons/year in the 2005-2010 time period to 160 billion tons/year during the latest measurements. I wouldn’t call that a steady pace, I’d call it a rapidly increasing pace. 

The deniers did have a bit of trouble with the meaning of the word "average". So Tom's assumption about deniers was proven again. There were several comments, with various people explaining what different "averages" mean, for example, swifty is correct when saying:
May 21, 2014 at 9:27 pm
The midpoint of a range, when listed in ascending or descending order, yes, it is called the median. 

I suppose since they are still debating grade school arithmetic, there isn't much reason to hope deniers will understand the intricacies of a melting cryosphere.

E. Rignot, J. Mouginot, M. Morlighem, H. Seroussi, B. Scheuchl. "Widespread, rapid grounding line retreat of Pine Island, Thwaites, Smith and Kohler glaciers, West Antarctica from 1992 to 2011".. Geophysical Research Letters, 2014; DOI: 10.1002/2014GL060140

Joughin, Ian, Benjamin E. Smith, and Brooke Medley. "Marine Ice Sheet Collapse Potentially Under Way for the Thwaites Glacier Basin, West Antarctica." Science 344, no. 6185 (2014): 735-738. DOI: 10.1126/science.1249055