Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Bewildered Anthony Watts has more climate questions - is it lizard men from outer space?

Sou | 1:13 PM Go to the first of 2 comments. Add a comment

You'd think that someone who is so proud of running a blog supposedly about climate science that a teensy bit of knowledge about modern climatology might have rubbed off on him.  But no.  Anthony asks some questions that show he's as ignorant about climate now as when he first heard the word "climate".

Anthony writes:
OK, so here’s the 64 thousand dollar questions for IPCC cheerleaders:
  1. Which side is which time period?
  2. What caused the warming before CO2 became an issue to be essentially identical to the period when it is claimed to be the main driver?
  3. How is the IPCC 95% certain one side is caused by man and the other is not?
And puts up a split chart of HadCRUT3 showing the global surface temperature after and before (and during) the 1950s.  It shows he doesn't know nuffin'.  Here is what Anthony showed:

Source: WUWT

This is just another case of Anthony telling his readers what to see and those who are gullible enough will see it.  There are no scales on either axis. But just so the comments don't make it look as if he only attracts complete nitwits (or so he thinks), he gives his readers a clue to look out for the 1998 El Nino.

Anthony refers to the IPCC stating that it is 95% certain that, since the 1950s, human activity has been the major factor in global warming.  Below is an animated gif in which I show the 60 years from 1892 to 1952 and 1952 to 2012 on the same chart.  The chart is from HadCRUT4 and you will see three versions.  One for both periods on the same temperature scale.  One with the earlier period scaled up to match the start of the trend lines. Then with the earlier period scaled up to match the end of the trend lines.  All vertical axis have the same vertical scale spanning 1.4 degrees, it's just shifted up as stated. The horizontal scales both span 60 years.

Data source: HadCRUT4
The one thing you can say about both 60 year periods is that the temperature trend is up and that's pretty well where the similarity ends.  In the earlier period (1892-1952) that is largely the result of an increase in solar radiation plus increasing CO2.  In the more recent period (1952-2012) it's largely because of the increasing CO2.  Both periods also had volcanic forcing, negative forcing from aerosols and were subject to internal variation like ENSO.

If you think HadCRUT4 might exaggerate the differences, here is the same with GISTemp.  The differences between the two 60 year time periods are even more marked:

Data Source: NASA

Added: The Cherry is not Ripe

Some readers might have noticed Anthony's cherry picked dates.  It's likely that whoever produced the chart (has Anthony ever prepared a chart all by himself?) did their best to find some periods of similar length by bumping up the charts then wiggling them sideways.  They probably thought they found a close-ish linear trend.  But even leaving off the most recent four years of global temperatures (2009-2012 inclusive) and cutting out the middle ten years (1947-1956 inclusive) as Anthony's chart does, it still doesn't work.  Here's HadCRUT4 using Anthony's cherries.

Data source: HadCRUT4

Even if Anthony had found a period that lined up perfectly, (even temperature anomaly and all unlike in this case) -  by fudging just sideways, it does not follow that the forcings would be the same.  That's just silly denier stuff.  Your car can go down a hill at 60 kph because you touch on the accelerator.  It might also go down a hill at 60 kph if you leave it at the top of a hill in neutral with the brake off and give it a nudge, depending on how old your car is :-)  In one case the forcing is primarily the combustion of hydrocarbon and the other the forcing is primarily gravity.

Anthony's Questions Revisited

To Anthony's first question: which side is which time period? the answer is the chart with the higher rate of warming is the most recent period.

To answer Anthony's second question - What caused the warming before CO2 became an issue to be essentially identical to the period when it is claimed to be the main driver?

Bad question - false premise.  The periods are far from identical.

To see what caused warming before CO2 became an issue, we'd have to go back before the industrial revolution and find a time period when earth was warming and consider what was forcing the temperature. For example, changes to insolation are a common cause of warming.  In the early part of the twentieth century, incoming radiation was increasing.  Combine that with increasing CO2 and you get a double whammy that means earth warms up more than if it were just the sun on its own.  The IPCC reports discuss these and other factors that affected global surface temperatures prior to 1950.  Chapter 9 of AR4 is a good place to start.

CO2 became an "issue" when we first started using the air as a rubbish dump for all the waste by-product from burning fossil fuels.  That started way before the 1950s.  Anthony is trying to make out that CO2 only started working after the second world war.  But that's incorrect.  The point is that by mid-century, the impact of the extra CO2 was getting to the point where it was overwhelming any other forcings, like volcanic eruptions and changes in incoming solar radiation.  Not that it wasn't having any impact.

To answer Anthony's third question: How is the IPCC 95% certain one side is caused by man and the other is not?

Again, the question is flawed.  Again, the premise is wrong.  The "other" is partly caused by an increase in greenhouse gases caused by "men" doing things like burning fossil fuels and chopping down forests (we women aren't totally blameless either).  It's just that other forcings added to the warming of greenhouse gases.  It's not as if greenhouse gases suddenly got new properties in the 1950s.  It's that by the 1950s human activities were affecting climate so much more that the influence of greenhouse gases and other pollutants were beginning to outweigh that of any other climate forcing.

How do scientist know what is affecting climate? Scientists have factored in all known impacts on the climate including CO2 and other greenhouse gases, deforestation, smog as well as more natural forcings and feedbacks.  The sums add up.  They've even built models and plugged in all the physics - and it still all adds up. If Anthony Watts had ever taken the time to read an IPCC report then he'd know the answer.  But he didn't, wouldn't and doesn't.  Now it looks as if he's even walking back from his claim that he accepts that there are greenhouse gases and they absorb long wave radiation.  Maybe Anthony's becoming a dragon slayer.

SkepticalScience.com has compiled information from a number of studies to illustrate the contribution of various forcings to climate over the past century or so.  Here is one of the charts - as always, click to enlarge it:

Figure 2: Percent contributions of various effects to the observed global surface warming over the past 100-150 years according to Tett et al. 2000 (T00, dark blue), Meehl et al. 2004 (M04, red), Stone et al. 2007 (S07, green), Lean and Rind 2008 (LR08, purple), Stott et al. 2010 (S10, gray), Huber and Knutti 2011 (HR11, light blue), and Gillett et al. 2012 (G12, orange).
Source: SkepticalScience.com

Anthony Watts is bewildered by science

Anthony Watts sometimes tries to give the impression he knows what he's talking about.  Full of confidence and armed with misrepresentations and disinformation, he even gave a one hour lecture to some conspiracy theorising wackos in the USA.  Next minute he turns around and shows just how bewildered he is by all this sciency stuff.

Anthony doesn't know if he's coming or going.  One day he claims to accept the science of the greenhouse effect and the next day he comes up with shonky charts asking "not even wrong" questions that show that he neither accepts the greenhouse effect nor understands it.

Anthony has already done the ice age cometh and "it's insects".  He's wandered so far away from science that he can no longer expect anyone to still consider him "normal".  Not even a "normal" fake sceptic.  (Just check the comments to see the weirdos he attracts to his blog.) Soon he'll be appearing as a guest on a Jesse Ventura conspiracy-tainment, writing articles for prisonplanet and blaming global warming on lizard men from outer space.

To paraphrase Anthony's headline:

When someone hits you with shonky charts and denialist talking points from WUWT, show them this!  

Or better yet, this or this or this.

PS  New visitors from WUWT might enjoy this.


  1. I'm actually surprised he hasn't appeared on Jesse Ventura yet. His place has become wackier and wackier over the past three years as it becomes harder and harder for him to maintain his position....whatever that is now. As a result he is left with increasingly hardcore nutcases and in order to hold onto them he has to get nuttier himself....or perhaps I'm putting the cart before the horse, and he has actually gotten nuttier from reading his followers comments. My head hurts after just 5 minutes over there. It's an old meme but it still rings true.."The stupid, it burns!"

  2. These three questions have of course been answered in the IPCC reports (and in many other places as well). But WUWT is not about science, and all about propaganda and rhetoric. There are few among the WUWT readership who really give a damn about the science.


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