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Friday, May 13, 2016

Leland Park has discovered seasons, day and night at WUWT

Sou | 7:08 PM Go to the first of 4 comments. Add a comment

After various mundane articles about politics, sea level rise, and tips for deniers on how to reduce the scariness of global warming, there was another rather silly and simplistic article, this time by Leland Park (archived here). It would have been sweet, worthy of an eight-year-old's science essay, except that he mixed up cause and effect and didn't understand most of what he wrote. Worse still, at the bottom of his guest essay he wrote:

The negative feedback between solar levels and temperatures has always existed – but never noticed, officially. I, for one, will be interested to learn how quickly climate science can adapt CO2 theory to explain away its implications.
This is what Leland Park thinks was never noticed officially:
  • The hottest time of the year is after, not on, the solstice
  • The hottest time of the day is after, not at, noon.
Leland thinking he discovered this would astound even Dunning and Kruger. That Anthony Watts decided to publish his article won't astound anyone much.

Leland Park's climate feedback

The fact that Leland didn't know this time lag is common knowledge isn't the only thing he got wrong. Leland doesn't seem to understand what feedback means in the context of climate science. He wrote: "It turns out that climate feedback is very real, large and negative."

Then he talked about the concept of feedbacks, writing:
The concept of feedbacks presupposes a dynamic system in which cause and effect are linked through a consistent timing relationship. Thus, evidence of climate operating as a system, if it exists, should be found in comparing a cause of climate behavior with its effects. It is well known that solar energy is a dominant factor in the climate. Thus, the timing relationship between solar levels and temperatures might provide insight into climate cause and effect timing.
Figure 1 | The daily maximum temperature and daily sunlight. Credit: Leland Park Source: WUWT
Leland is confusing the time it takes to reach a maximum daily or seasonal temperature with a feedback. He put up a chart plotting both daylight hours and average daily maximum temperature against month for somewhere in the USA. He said it was of USHCN stations (United States Historical Climatology Network) at 36 latitude, so it was probably an average of these.

Leland discovered "several interesting things". Wait for it:
  • the patterns of daylight hours and temperatures are both sinusoidal,
  • Temperatures lag solar levels by about a month throughout the year,
  • winter to summer temperature changes in excess of 40 deg F are entirely normal in the mid-latitudes,
  • this seasonal pattern is a consistent, recurring feature of climate behavior.

As you can see, Leland has learnt something about US weather. There are distinct seasons in the mid-latitudes and July is usually the hottest month. Days are usually warmer than nights. Who'd have thought. He then wrote:
Though climate is often thought of as chaotic, it is readily apparent that the historical, repetitive pattern of cause (solar level) and effect (temperature change) means this pattern is not accidental. In fact, the cause and effect nature linking the two functions is a systematic behavior known as stimulus-response in control systems. Since this seasonal pattern actually repeats every year, the huge lag is actually a characteristic of climate behavior. In systems terms, this lag, from cause to effect, constitutes negative feedback.
It's weather that is chaotic. Forecasts can only be made ahead a few days for that reason. Climate on the other hand is predictable as Leland's chart of seasonal temperatures shows. Winter is colder than summer. He refers to the lag between the hottest month and the longest day as negative feedback. He's wrong. It's just the time taken for the temperature of different parts of the system to warm up.

Predicting temperatures in the USA

As an aside, in a recent study of predictability of temperatures in Central and Western United States, the two main predictors used were, as would be expected, sea surface temperature and soil moisture. Put simply:
  • The oceans take a while to heat up, and when they do they heat the air. The air passes over the land and warms the surface. Hence the lag between the longest day and the hottest temperature.
  • More soil moisture means more evaporation in summer, which cools the surface. Less soil moisture (such as during a drought) means evaporation is less so the surface heats up more. There's no lag. Evaporation from soils could be viewed as a negative feedback. The more moisture there is, the greater the effect of moderating the surface temperature.
The other thing that has a cooling influence is snow. So where there's snow it takes time to melt. So there's another cause of a lag between the longest day and the hottest temperature.

The oceans get warm in summer and warm the neighbouring land

Further down, Leland wrote:
There are many factors that can produce variations in the seasonal Tmax. Among these are variations (by time and location) in the albedo, cloud cover, water vapor and ocean and atmospheric circulations. Despite the many reasons for variation, the climate follows the seasonal pattern closely even though the solar level is undergoing continuous change. In fact there is at least a 90 deg F round trip from winter to summer that is entirely normal at this latitude.
That's okay for what it is. He finally latches onto the oceans as the "cause of the lag" in seasons. He wrote:
It is possible to surmise major characteristics of the cause of the lag. These are; 1) high relative heat capacity, 2) very large total heat capacity and 3) global impact. Those characteristics can only be met by the water in the oceans. In effect, the ocean contains such enormous amounts of water (high relative heat capacity) that they represent a vast thermal reservoir for heat absorption and subsequent release as the seasonal solar changes require.

In addition to its high heat capacity, water has special thermal properties that provide a critical link between the oceans and global climate. For example, as the sun heats the ocean a portion of the surface is evaporated carrying a large amount of heat energy into the atmosphere to be globally circulated. The relationship between water and the climate is far too complex for elaboration here, but it is clearly critical to the global climate.
Then he added:
A system with a large negative feedback is inherently stable in its operation. In this case, climate behavior is operating as if it is a linear control system where the stimulus is sinusoidal. That is, the climate will dutifully follow the solar stimulus but with a persistent delay (lag). Not only is it responding to the solar stimulus, it is responding with great precision, despite the approximately 90 deg F seasonal round trip in ambient temperatures over the year.
I don't know what he means by stimulus. It's the sun and the Earth's orbit and tilt that brings about seasons. It's the sun and the rotation of the Earth on its axis that gives us day and night. I wouldn't call those a stimulus, but whatever. His "persistent delay" is nothing more than different parts of the system taking a while to heat up. Leland continues:
In fact, a system with this much lag would be quite stable with respect to minor perturbations. Inducing such a system to a permanent change in equilibrium conditions would not cause catastrophic instability. Instead the system would slowly seek a new equilibrium operating condition. 
His lag isn't very long. It only takes a couple of hours after the sun reaches its zenith for the land surface to reach the daily maximum temperature. And it is usually less than a month for the summer temperature to reach a maximum. Then he writes:
For a major change in equilibrium conditions, however, a correspondingly large change in the system fundamentals would be required as well as considerable time for the change to take effect. Suffice it to say that minor changes in atmospheric trace gases would not be likely to force an equilibrium change in the system.
He's correct in the first part. It does take a major change to get a change in equilibrium. And it does take time for equilibrium to be reached. Thing is, we're not making a minor change in atmospheric trace gases. So far, we've increased the amount of CO2 by more than 40%, which is a major change by any measure.

In his final two paragraphs, Leland loses it completely, writing:
Climate science should have begun to understand that the climate is stable when they found it necessary to continuously adjust temperature measurements to maintain the fiction that the earth is warming. If ever there was an excuse for “adjusting” field measurements, making continuing adjustments demonstrates that climate science has knowingly perpetrated a fraud.
In other words, not only must he think that this weather bureaux all over the world are "fudging" their temperature records, resulting in this massive and rapid increase in global mean surface temperature:

Figure 2 | Global mean surface temperature. Data source: GISS NASA

...he presumably thinks that at the same time. those who are recording sea ice must be "fudging" as well:

Figure 3 | Arctic sea ice extent 1953 to 2015 in the minimum month, September. Data source: Meier (2012) updated.

...and those who are recording sea level changes are in cahoots with the weather bureaux and cryosphere scientists:

Figure 4 | Sea level change 1993 to the present. Data source: Sea Level Research Group, U Colorado

And all the ship-builders who are busy building ice-breakers now that the Arctic ice is melting are part of this massive make-believe climate hoax.

Leland wrote how everyone knows that maxima follow the sun:
...awareness of the climate lag and its approximate size could have been gleaned from an ordinary calendar. The seasonal pattern of solar level changes is well known and the solstice and equinox points are often marked on the calendars. Furthermore, calendars and almanacs have long noted that the warmest and coldest temperatures lag the solstice points.
Then he seems to contradict himself, and finishes up by saying that what he calls "negative feedback" has never been noticed officially, writing:
The negative feedback between solar levels and temperatures has always existed – but never noticed, officially. I, for one, will be interested to learn how quickly climate science can adapt CO2 theory to explain away its implications.
Leland Park provides no evidence that the timing of the seasonal and daily maxima have not been noticed officially. (Nor does he say what it is that he regards as "official".)

Without the oceans, the surface would have got a lot hotter

One thing he sort of gets right is that the oceans play a big part in moderating global warming. Around 93% of the warming is going into the oceans as shown in the chart below (only to 2012):

Figure 5 | Global heat accumulation 1961 to 2012. Source: Nuccitelli 2012 via

Some of what Leland gets wrong

Where Leland Park gets it wrong is:
  • he wrongly claims that the world's scientific community have been engaged in an elaborate hoax, which he must think dates back to the time of Joseph Fourier in the early 1800s, and which no-one but he and his fellow conspiracy theorists are aware of
  • he wrongly thinks that official maintainers of weather records aren't aware that temperature maxima occur after mid-day and after the solstice
  • he seems to confuse a time lag and a feedback
  • he wrongly thinks that the lag between the time of highest solar intensity and the temperature maxima on the land surface is large (or what most people would regard as large)
  • he wrongly claims that there has only been a minor increase in greenhouse gases, when CO2 has already increased by more than 40%
  • he wrongly thinks that there is not a large shift occurring in our climate
  • he wrongly claims that corrections to and homogenisation of surface temperature records, necessary to estimate how global temperatures are changing, constitutes fraud.

From the WUWT comments

Some of the WUWT-ers viewed the article as an embarrassment for WUWT. I don't know why they think that. It's not as weird as Anthony Watts thinking that global warming is caused by Russian steampipes, or that "it's insects", or that we're about to enter an ice age. I'd say it's about average for WUWT. It would be an embarrassment on a climate blog, but it's par for the course for a climate conspiracy blog like WUWT.

Steven Mosher  put up one of Bob Tisdale's recent charts, which showed that adjustments have lowered the rate of warming in the long term, not increased it, and quoted Leland Park's words back at him:
May 12, 2016 at 4:13 pm
“Climate science should have begun to understand that the climate is stable when they found it necessary to continuously adjust temperature measurements to maintain the fiction that the earth is warming. If ever there was an excuse for “adjusting” field measurements, making continuing adjustments demonstrates that climate science has knowingly perpetrated a fraud.”
Some fraud, we adjusted the temperatures cooler.

dbstealey wrongly thinks that CO2 is tied to warming rate, whereas it's related to actual temperature. If there wasn't so much CO2 in the air the world would be quite a bit cooler than it is:
May 12, 2016 at 5:47 pm
The slope from ≈1900 to ≈1945 looks just like the recent warming event.
Since CO2 has been much higher recently, then there must be another explanation for recent global warming.
chilemike  can't read a chart, and wrongly thinks that 0.078 C/decade (raw data) is lower than 0.069 C/decade (GISTemp) - over the period 1880 to 2015.
May 12, 2016 at 6:51 pm
Yeah right. From what I’ve seen the past was cooled to make the graph slope higher. These adjusted records are a joke. Might as well make all of it up and just tell everyone it’s five degrees hotter on average, what the hell is the difference anymore? GISS is made up of actual temperature measurements, right? Or is it an algorithm to ‘fill in the blanks’?
I don't know quite what is going through the mind of Mike Jonas. It appears that he's no good at analysing trends. The last change in rate of warming was in the 1970s, not the 1950s. Since then the world has been heating up at around 0.17 C/decade.
May 12, 2016 at 7:41 pm
The effect of man-made CO2 did not cut in seriously, it is generally agreed I think, until around 1950-ish. I have examined closely all the linear trends in your chart, and I cannot see any hint of acceleration in any of them around 1950, or at any other date.
Figure 6 | Overlaid on the raw data are the mean curves predicted by the three change point model. The grey time intervals display the total range of the 95% confidence limits for each CP. The average rates of rise per decade for the three latter periods are 0.13 ± 0.04 °C, −0.03 ± 0.04 °C and 0.17 ± 0.03 °C for HadCRUT, 0.14 ± 0.03 °C, −0.01 ± 0.04 °C and 0.15 ± 0.02 °C for NOAA, 0.15 ± 0.05 °C, −0.03 ± 0.04 °C and 0.18 ± 0.03 °C for Cowtan and Way and 0.14 ± 0.04 °C, −0.01 ± 0.04 °C and 0.16 ± 0.02 °C for GISTEMP. Source: Cahill15

Tom Halla thinks that what Leland Park wrote is a "model", and in contrast to most deniers, likes simple models, even when he can't understand them:
May 12, 2016 at 4:14 pm
Park has a nice, simple model. I do not have enough math to make any critcism, but it looks very good.
Joe Born doesn't think highly of Leland's article:
May 12, 2016 at 6:16 pm
The head post is like one of those nonsense papers that are submitted to journals to determine whether any of the editors understood anything.
The answer appears to be no.

John Manville wants WUWT to stop pandering to anyone who doesn't think that more CO2 is anything but good, or that there is a greenhouse effect that keeps the planet liveable:
May 12, 2016 at 4:51 pm
CO2 is a triatomic molecule and as such possess no internal heat source and thus is incapable of heating anything.
It is time that WUWT stops pandering to those who ‘BELIEVE’ that CO2 is anything but good for all life on this planet. It is time to cut the chord. The green house effect was coined from ignorance. There is no greenhouse effect! All atmospheric gases act similarly in that they are all capable of cooling matter that is warmer and warming matter that is cooler. The second LAW of thermodynamics is alive and well.

Heat from the sun and Gravity are responsible for a positive temperature gradient in concert with increased air density that de-facto requires air molecules closer to the earth to move faster. This increased momentum of these air molecules is measured as temperature; as more energy impinges on the instrument used to measure temperature. That is real world temperature-measurement of useful heat.
There are none, and there will never be, an example of a `runaway greenhouse effect.
Life is good. CO2 is good.

It is time to move on. There are glass houses. There are no green-house gasses.

Other greenhouse effect deniers popped up out of the WUWT-woodwork, such as KevinK
May 12, 2016 at 6:28 pm
“There are glass houses. There are no green-house gasses.”
Well, some folks simply cannot “move on”, they have to stick with the hypothesis (correction, conjecture) that gases in the atmosphere can strongly affect the “average temperature”.
It is sad in a way that folks have their eyes, ears and minds so shut that they cannot accept the demonstrably real possibility that Arrehinus (and others following his lead) where incorrect when he/they postulated that the mere presence of “green house gases” somehow magically control the temperature of the Earth.
But, if a man is paid to “believe” something no amount of reasoning will lead him away from his paycheck.
For the record I have never received a paycheck from “Big Oil”, unless you want to count those free water glasses given out with each “fill-up” at gas stations back in the 60’s. Ok, I admit it my parents got some of those back then (and they where top notch stuff made in the USA).
Cheers, KevinK.

John Robertson isn't the first denier to confuse feedback and forcing. Increased CO2 is a forcing, not a feedback. More of it and the world heats up. He doesn't seem to have heard of major extinctions, either.
May 12, 2016 at 6:53 pm
Begs the question, Is there intelligent life in Climatology?
The Good Enough for Government thinking, that accepted an unprecedented positive feedback as the dominant climate forcing..
While such a feedback would have already exterminated most of life on earth.
The remarkable continuity of life speaks for itself.
One would have thought.. Oh never mind not during mass hysteria and social decay when feelings trump logic.
The very success of the CAGW meme is proof that far too many, so called educated, people did no thinking.
A lot of people remarked that Leland Parker was confusing time lags with feedbacks. davidmhoffer agreed, writing:
May 12, 2016 at 8:19 pm
I agree that highly positive feedbacks are unlikely. This explanation however, doesn’t hold water.

Peak temperature happens after peak insolation for the simple reason that while insolation may have started to fall from the peak, it is still higher than the equilibrium temperature of that place on earth for a time, so the earth there continues to warm even though insolation is falling, and will continue to warm until insolation drops below that equilibrium temperature. So, peak temps lag peak insolation and this has nothing to do with any feedback at all. Min temps lag min insolation for precisely the same reason. Once min insolation starts to rise, it is still below the equilibrium temperature of the earth at that time, so it continues to cool.

I’m in agreement with Germinio and Nick Stokes upthread, and (I think) Joe Born. The author’s observations are of a simple lag, not a feedback.

References and further reading

Alfaro, Eric J., Alexander Gershunov, and Daniel Cayan. "Prediction of summer maximum and minimum temperature over the central and western United States: the roles of soil moisture and sea surface temperature." Journal of Climate 19, no. 8 (2006): 1407-1421. DOI: (open access)

Meier, W. N., Stroeve, J., Barrett, A., and Fetterer, F.: "A simple approach to providing a more consistent Arctic sea ice extent time series from the 1950s to present," The Cryosphere, 6, 1359-1368, doi:10.5194/tc-6-1359-2012 (open access)

Nuccitelli, Dana, Robert Way, Rob Painting, John Church, and John Cook. "Comment on “Ocean heat content and Earthʼs radiation imbalance. II. Relation to climate shifts”." Physics Letters A 376, no. 45 (2012): 3466-3468. doi:10.1016/j.physleta.2012.10.010 (pdf here)


  1. Minor correction. You said, "he wrongly thinks that official maintainers of weather records aren't aware that temperature maxima occur after mid-day and after the equinox". I didn't read Leland's article yet, so I don't know what he said, but I think here you mean "solstice," not "equinox."

    The solstices mark the max and min points for solar influence (or at least, for daylight hours) and happen in June and December (max and min seasonal temperatures tend to happen in July and Jan or Feb). Equinoxes are when day and night are equal length, and happen in March and September. (The time lag in reaction by ice and ocean means that March and September are the months of min and max extent of sea ice in each hemisphere, even though the solstices happened three months earlier.)

  2. I've just made a discovery that science has yet to officially recognize. When I put water on to boil, its temperature is actually higher a few minutes after I turn on the burner than when I first turn it on. I will publish these findings and see how "scientists" scramble to explain the gap.

  3. My understanding of thermal lag in the climate system is, based on a hazy recollection of an Asutralian weather primer, that it still takes some time after the summer solstice for the back radiation heat loss overnight to begin to offset the heat accumulated during the shortening days; hence temperatures continue to rise slowly after the longest day.

    In winter the situation reverses - it takes a while for the increasing day length to offset heat still lost overnight - hence the coldest temps are generally 4-6 weeks after that solstice.


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