Thursday, January 30, 2014

Willis Eschenbach wonders how bad is global warming & soothes the scaredy cats @wattsupwiththat

Sou | 2:46 AM Go to the first of 7 comments. Add a comment

Wondering Willis Eschenbach has signed up to the "it's not bad" denier meme (archived here).  His article has the title: Should We Be Worried? and is aimed at quelling the fears of all the scaredy cats at WUWT.

To do so he decided to call up the monthly UAH charts.  Now monthly charts aren't that easy to read because the noise of the seasons and general fluctuations can make it hard to see the longer term warming signal.

Here is what Wondering Willis concluded from his examination of the data.  I've included the same data as Willis except that I've shown the anomalies as annual averages rather than monthly averages.

The tropics

Here is a chart of UAH lower troposphere temperature in the tropics together with global lower troposphere temperature.

Data Source: UAH

Willis wrote:
To start with, the tropics have no trend, that’s 40% of the planet. So all you folks who have been forecasting doom and gloom for the billions of poor people in the tropics? Sorry … no apparent threat there in the slightest. Well, actually there is a threat, which is the threat of increased energy prices from the futile war on carbon—rising energy prices hit the poor the hardest. But I digress …
Willis is one of those deniers who thinks that burning fossil fuels is the only way that "billions of poor people in the tropics" can produce all those goods that the wealthy people in the mid-latitudes want those "billions of poor people in the tropics" to make for them on the cheap. He is also one of those deniers who thinks the only thing that counts is surface temperature changes.

He's not far off with the trend - 0.06 degrees a decade but with a very low R squared.  At most a slight warming trend over the period since 1979.

Extra Tropics

Here is a chart of UAH lower troposphere temperature in the extra tropics together with global lower troposphere temperature.

Data Source: UAH

Willis wrote:

Southern Extratropics? No trend....Northern Extratropics? A barely visible trend, and no trend since 2000.
Barely visible? There is a marked trend in the northern extratropics (R squared = 0.71), of 0.25 degrees a decade. In the southern extratropics the trend is a less definite 0.09 degrees a decade.

South Pole

Here is a chart of what UAH calls South Pole temperature anomalies together with global lower troposphere temperature.

Data Source: UAH

This is what Willis had to say about it:
South of the Antarctic Circle? No trend, it cooled slightly then warmed slightly back to where it started.
This time he's pretty well right.  I don't think I've ever noticed that remarkable temperature anomaly in 1980, which was 0.86 above the 1981-2010 average.  Now that's an anomaly if ever there was one.

Addendum: There may be inaccuracies in the lower troposphere readings at high latitudes - see this paper by Richard E. Swanson - h/t Robert Grumbine in the comments.

North Pole

Here is a chart of what UAH calls North Pole temperature anomalies together with global lower troposphere temperature.

Data Source: UAH

This is what Willis wrote:

It cooled slightly over the first decade and a half. Then it warmed for a decade, and it has stayed even for a decade …

Clearly the Arctic is where there has been most warming of the lower troposphere. The trend is 0.45 degrees a decade. That's huge by any measure. And I wouldn't call the 2010 anomaly of 1.21 degrees above the 1981-2010 average as "staying even", would you?

Wondering Willis' Conclusion

Willis provides the required level of comfort to soothe the fears of the scaredy cat deniers:
My conclusion? I don’t see anything at all that is worrisome there. To me the surprising thing once again is the amazing stability of the planet’s temperature. A third of a century, and the temperature of the tropics hasn’t budged even the width of a hairline. That is an extremely stable system.

Now why does Willis decide that the world isn't warming to any great extent? Because he is choosing and selectively interpreting data to try to prove his hypothesis that the Earth doesn't have ice ages and interglacials.  He wrote:
I explain that as being the result of the thermoregulatory effect of emergent climate phenomena … you have a better explanation?

What data does Willis ignore?  All the temperature records prior to 1979, dating back to 1880 and before.  For example the land and ocean surface temperature anomalies.  The chart below shows UAH and GISTemp anomalies.  The surface temperature has gone up by one degree since the lows of the early twentieth century and by 0.8 degrees since 1880.  The lower troposphere has pretty well tracked the surface temperature, spanning minus 0.2 to plus 0.4, with an eyeballed rise of around 0.3 degrees since 1979.

Data Source: UAH and NASA

What Willis also did to pretend it isn't warming is present the data in a particular way to make it look (to uninformed deniers) as if it's barely warming.  He put up the following chart:

Source: WUWT
As if a change of plus or minus 3 degrees over three decades wouldn't be "catastrophic" to use a denier term!  And deniers insist on using monthly data because it helps to hide the signal from prying denier eyes.

A better explanation is the greenhouse effect ...

You may recall that Willis rejects the long term rise in global temperatures and has on more than one occasion claimed that temperatures have been +/- 0.3 degrees over the past century or so.  That's obviously not the case.  The global temperature has been going up, up, up much more than 0.3 degrees Celsius.

Willis asks for a "better explanation" than his "emergent climate phenomena".  How about the greenhouse effect!  That's the mainstream view of what is happening.

With more and more CO2 the temperature goes up. This results in various feedback mechanisms coming into play, such as more water evaporating so even more greenhouse gases causing Earth to warm up, and ice melt plus less spring snow cover so less reflected sunlight meaning more energy accumulating for longer.

From the WUWT comments

There aren't that many comments so far.  Here's a sample (archived here).

TimC doesn't seem to be aware that the land and ocean surface instruments are remarkably close to the satellite measures of temperature (as seen in the chart above) and says:
January 29, 2014 at 3:15 am
My answer to your question: No – and best now to ditch the surface thermometers entirely (with all their problems), and rely on the satellites instead for accurate measurement.
But shouldn’t it have been “What me worry”? …!

jim karock is a fake sceptic and blindly takes Wondering Willis at his word and says:
January 29, 2014 at 3:18 am
Willis wrote: “So that’s 70% of the planet with no appreciable temperature trend over the last third of a century
JK – I’d love to see how the “experts” turn this into warming with their gridding of the Earth. Is there some trick that makes warming like Mann made hocky sticks from red noise?
What happens if you merely sum those 5 graphs with proper areas weighting?

LT says:
January 29, 2014 at 4:30 am
Why is there such a difference between UAH and RSS ?

UAH covers a bit more of Earth. Wikipedia says UAH covers 85 north to 85 south. The RSS data show that RSS only goes from 82.5 North to 70 South.  In any case, they aren't so different as this chart shows:

Data Source: UAH and RSS

A couple of years ago Roy Spencer speculated that the recent discrepancy between UAH and RSS may be in part because RSS is using an older satellite and may not be applying the correct correction for diurnal cycle drift.  Or it could be just the different coverage of the globe.  If anyone else knows more about this, please let us know.

Addendum: I'll repeat here - there may be inaccuracies in the lower troposphere readings at high latitudes - see this paper by Richard E. Swanson - h/t Robert Grumbine in the comments.

This looks like a live one - has anyone come across this chap before?  harrydhuffman (@harrydhuffman) says:
January 29, 2014 at 5:58 am
“Emergent phenomenon” is an argument from incompetent, third-rate thinkers like Richard Dawkins, determined to push Darwinian, or undirected, evolution upon students of science, despite its by now obvious failings; back in the 1980′s, it was called “order out of chaos”, elevated to the airy status of a “meme”, and “chaos theory” was misapplied to support it (for the latter really only supports “order behind the apparent chaos”, not order produced–”surprisingly”, as Eschenbach himself emphasizes–BY chaos, or randomly-working physical processes).
But the idea fails, and fails here on a very basic level. “Emergent phenomenon” does not “explain” the “extremely stable system”–and the outstanding stability SHOULD be emphasized, as I have also done–it cannot, it is in fact logically opposed to it (“emergent phenomenon” is change, as Eschenbach’s examples well show, while “extreme stability” MEANS unchanging).
The truth, as I mentioned when Eschenbach first brought out this recycled idea here, is much simpler (but more surprising, of course, in the tattered intellectual atmosphere of current, officially unquestionable, scientific dogma), and should have been obvious by now, if science had not gone so determinedly wrong following Darwin:
“Emergent Phenomenon”, Or Design?
“Emergent phenomenon” is a desperate renaming of the observable truth, in order to avoid that truth. It is anti-scientific nonsense, which science will have to reject before real progress can be made. It is, in short, the same as saying “magic”, which science once so proudly scorned, and by which it lifted itself up out of the ancient pit of superstition and “sacred writ”.
Here's an archive of Harry's blog.


  1. Did you listen to Lindzen at the Select Committee hearing yesterday? A number of times he said something like "there is evidence to suggest that we shouldn't be worried". Technically, maybe correct, but - equally - there is evidence to suggest that we should be very, very worried.

    1. No, I didn't catch up with the hearing itself, that but I did notice the list of people presenting.

      Just like Anthony Watts finds places that suddenly catch UHI disease, the UK is catching USA-GOP disease.

  2. In the polar regions, the AMSU starts to see the surface rather than just the atmosphere. The surface means the sea ice pack -- which has trends in both the arctic and antarctic. Richard Swanson documented this problem in 2003 -- http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2003GL017938/abstract

    UAH (Spencer and Christy) have ignored the problem. RSS concluded that it meant they couldn't analyze the highest latitudes.

    1. Thanks Robert - something else I've learnt today.

    2. Another issue RSS identifies with Antarctica (and the reason why it limits coverage to 70S vs UAH's 82.5S) is surface altitude. Since so much of Antarctica is ~2000m or more above the datum, it is cooled by adiabatic lapse rate and this introduced cool bias into the TLT reconstruction.

    3. Thanks, BBD. The paper that Robert pointed to also mentioned problems with altitude. I guess that makes it a double whammy for Antarctica.

  3. Ewww, Huffman is one of those...

    A few of us are whacking those very same moles, currently infesting Eli's burrow. The main culprit has a somewhat similar modus operandi - claim that the science is wrong, that it's a religion, and that God is Great.

    I usually avoid the Creationist tar baby, but I'm poking a finger at Eli's. You'd think that I know better...


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