Thursday, May 1, 2014

Bob Tisdale, the one-trick pony, rides again at WUWT

Sou | 9:03 PM Go to the first of 15 comments. Add a comment

One-trick pony
Perennially puzzled Bob Tisdale has another ENSO article at WUWT (archived here). I won't go into all the details, it's a variation of his normal theme that El Niño is the cause of global warming. If you read what Bob writes about ENSO, I recommend supplementing it with reading from scientific sources, such as the Bureau of Meteorology and NOAA. I've pulled together some of the key points previously, with references.

What I'll comment on (again) is that Bob refuses to accept the greenhouse effect.  He's no better than the dragon slayers and one wonders why Anthony allows him to write at WUWT, since Anthony's said many times that he doesn't allow slayers to have a voice.

Noise vs signal

Bob doesn't always seem to understand what he's quoting. For example, he quotes this passage from an NPR article (mainly about ENSO guru Kevin Trenberth):
You can think of it like a staircase. Temperature is flat when a natural cool spell cancels out the gradual temperature increase caused by human activity. But when there’s a natural warm spell on top of the long-term warming trend, the story is dramatically different.

Notice the part about the "long-term warming trend".  The long term trend is the signal. ENSO is noise.  ENSO comes and goes while the world continues to warm up. ENSO events do have a big impact on weather in parts of the world, but they are not the cause of climate change. The floods and droughts that can come from La Niña and El Niño (respectively, in Australia) are weather variations, not climate change. (And drought can happen without an ENSO event, too.)

Bob doesn't believe there is an anthropogenic cause to the long term warming trend. He attributes it to El Niño heating up the world by magic.  Bob doesn't see ENSO as internal variability. He thinks it causes global warming.  It doesn't.  El Niño and La Niña shift energy within the system - between the atmosphere and the ocean and within the ocean. They don't generate energy from nothing, which is what Bob would have you believe.  According to Bob, conservation of energy doesn't hold on earth. He seems to think that energy is created out of nothing.  He wrote at one point about an article about ENSO at SkepticalScience.com:
We can see evidence of this in the way that alarmists portray the instrument temperature record. Refer to the SkepticalScience animation on their recent ENSO Temperature Trends webpage. There they write in explanation of the first frame of their animation:
First Frame: The Cowtan & Way (2013) global surface temperature data show a clear increasing trend, but it is “noisy” because multiple influences are present in the data (AGW, ENSO, volcanoes, solar cycle).
Of course, any portrayal of El Niño and La Niña events as noise is intended to mislead or misdirect. It’s nothing more than nonsense based on their misunderstandings or misrepresentations of El Niño and La Niña processes. There are a number of other examples being used by the global warming enthusiasts.

ENSO is sacred to Bob.  He cannot bear to think it might be described as "noise" that can mask or amplify the long term warming signal in temperature data.  To Bob, ENSO is the be all and end all of climate. This is what Bob finished up with (my bold italics):
A strong El Niño event can also cause an upward shift in the temperatures of two-thirds of the surface of the global oceans, while having no apparent long-term effect on the other one-third. Those upward shifts in surface temperatures give the appearance of a relatively steady rise in global surface temperatures when the data are looked at globally. As a result, the rise in global surface temperatures have been incorrectly attributed to human-induced global warming. That means the climate science community is no closer to finding evidence of the human fingerprint in global warming than they were in the early 1990s, the early years of the IPCC. The IPCC has no one to blame for that than themselves, with their focus on carbon dioxide.

Why haven't the oceans boiled dry by now?

Thing is, ENSO type events have been happening forever - or as close to forever as is relevant to now. If Bob were correct that El Niño warms up but La Niña doesn't balance this out, then by now the oceans should have all boiled dry.

From the WUWT comments

Gary Pearse says:
April 30, 2014 at 6:52 pm
Bob, a casual review of the “steps” leaves an impression as expressed by Trenberth that the climate shifts up with an El Nino but it doesn’t shift back down. Looking at your fig. 15, one could imagine the steps going up forever. Isn’t there more to say about this process?

Chuck L says:
April 30, 2014 at 7:36 pm
Bob, the step-increases in temperatures shown in your diagrams and charts make sense. Although I know you are not in the prediction business, I am curious whether you think a period of step-decreases can occur and if so, what the mechanism would be. Thanks.
Bob doesn't answer either of these two questions directly. He mumbles something about the AMO (Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation). Incidentally, there's been a new paper on the AMO recently, in Nature that looks interesting (open access).

X Anonymous says:
April 30, 2014 at 8:25 pm
El Niño events are by far the largest of any weather-related phenomenon taking place on the planet, and they impact weather around the globe.”
Except for the Seasons. Summer>Winter, etc, are much larger than El Nino

u.k.(us) says:
April 30, 2014 at 9:49 pm
Do plankton (etc) act like clouds in the ocean, keeping the sun’s energy near the surface where it is easily re-radiated to space ?

I don't know about it all being re-radiated to space. However organisms in the ocean do have a role to play in the carbon cycle and climate (though probably not through anything to do with sulphate emissions and clouds in the sky).

Otter (ClimateOtter on Twitter) says:
May 1, 2014 at 1:50 am
Question: Is there any definitive paleorecord of El Ninos and La Ninas? You have noted that La Ninas, in some (most?) cases, do not quite cancel out the warming from El Ninos. It occurred to me that it would be interesting to see how / if the cycles corresponded and changed, with the LIA.
Yes, as a matter of fact, deniers ask and scientists oblige, for example, here and here.

holts7 says:
May 1, 2014 at 2:09 am
Bob your theory means that the temp always goes up in steps and never down, that sounds like an agreement with CO2 adding heat all the time….sorry, it does not gell with me…nothing keeps on going up in the oceans…they warm and they cool, the sun is the likely culprit imo

Except the world has been getting hotter even though the sun hasn't been sending more heat our way:

Source: SkepticalScience.com

Knudsen, Mads Faurschou, Bo Holm Jacobsen, Marit-Solveig Seidenkrantz, and Jesper Olsen. "Evidence for external forcing of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation since termination of the Little Ice Age." Nature communications 5 (2014). doi:10.1038/ncomms4323


  1. I just saw the latest episode of the new 'Cosmos', which featured the story of lead (Pb), how it was used to determine the age of the earth, and how it led to the 'battle' between Robert A. Kehoe and Clair Patterson.

    In 1919, Thomas Midgley Jnr and T. A Boyd, working under Charles Franklin Kettering at General Motors Corporation Research (Kettering had previously made his name by replacing the hand-cranked starter with a battery, starter motor and alternator) was searching for an additive to reduce 'knocking' or 'pinking' in high compression petrol engines. They tested over 33,000 compounds including benzene (anti-knock value 67), toluene (100), alcohol (160), tin tetra-ethyl (2,100), nickel carbonyl (34,500) and iron penta carbonyl (37,00). In 1921 he found that tetraethyl lead (TEL) (anti-knock value 62,500), which they called ethyl was the most effective. They founded a company, Ethyl Gasoline Corporation owned by General Motors and Standard Oil, and with collaboration from Dupont at their Dayton factory, started production using the bromide process. (For his efforts, in 1923 Midgley received the Nichols Medal and in 1937 he also received the Perkin Medal.) Unhappy with Dupont, in 1923 they started construction of new chemical factory at Bayway, New Jersey, that used the new chlorine process. During the following year with reports of hallucinations and cases of suicide, Midgley came to the University of Cincinnati to consult with Dr. Martin H. Fisher, Head of the department of Physiology and assistant Professor Dr. Robert Arthur Kehoe who had worked on heavy metal poisoning. As the school year was about to close, Dr. Kehoe was keen to work with Ethyl, and General Motors made available to him a building in Dayton. in 1925 when the New York Times reported that 300 workers at the DuPont plant had been poisoned and that 8 had died, sales of ethylised petrol was halted, and the future of Ethyl looked grim. The workers called the factory the 'House of Butterflies', as those who worked there, even just repairing the equipment, saw hallucinations of butterflies. A number of American cities had also banned the sale of ethylised petrol.

    An investigation was thus established by the American public health service, the British Ministry of Health and the oil companies in which they performed a number of experiments on monkey's and humans, looked at the incidence of lead poisoning in petrol attendants, and held hearings with experts. The investigation was initiated in part because of the efforts of Dr. Alice Hamilton, who starting in 1910, had been surveying Chicago hospitals for cases of 'plumbism' (lead poisoning) and Dr. David Edsall, dean of the Harvard Medical School, who along with other doctors, had written to the Surgeon General. On behalf of Ethyl, Dr. Kehoe appeared at the Surgeon General’s hearing on tetraethyl lead, alongside Dr. Hamilton and Dr. Edsall. The argument in favour of TEL was that it increased engine efficiency and thus would extend scarce petrol supplies. It's supporters called it's discovery a 'gift from God'. At that stage Dr. Kehoe asserted that it could not be 'proved' that it was a public health hazard, using what became known as the 'Kehoe Paradigm', where any decision on TEL should be based on facts already known. Dr Touart, medical director of a New York City hospital stated part of what is now known as the 'Precautionary Principle', where if there is suspicion that it could cause public harm, it should not be used until it is conclusively shown that it is not poisonous. Midgley also reported that since the new factory used a new process, and there was a 'slip up', where it wasn't handled properly, or there was a contamination, it was only a temporary and minor situation. To prove it was safe Midgley, in front of news reporters, poured TEL over his hands. (This would later lead to an acute case of lead poisoning)

  2. cont.

    So using the 'Kehoe Paradigm', seven months after the hearings, the committee issued it's report, stating that 'there are at present no good grounds for prohibiting use of ethyl gasoline …provided that it's distribution and use are controlled by proper regulation' The committee also suggested that funding from Congress be requested to fund studies on the hazards of lead, but no follow-up assessments were in fact conducted. By 1928, with ethyl petrol vindicated thanks to the efforts of Dr. Kehoe, it was put back on sale. In 1934, it was put on sale in Australia by the Vacuum Oil Company (which eventually became Mobil) under the trade mark Super Plume, Super-Shell by Shell Oil and Atlantic-Ethyl by Atlantic Union Oil Company (which eventually became Esso). It was also coloured red to prevent substitution and to aid in identifying fuel leaks. Also around this time, arsenate of lead was used as an insecticide on fruit trees, as Dr. Kehoe's research showed it was safe on humans.

    In 1930, with the help of the University of Cincinnati, General Motors, Dupont and Frigidaire Corporation, the Kettering Laboratory of Applied Physiology was built, and named after Charles Kettering from General Motors Laboratory. This was where Dr. Kehoe served as director until his retirement in 1965, and did his research on lead, arsenic, freon and fluoride, funded by the manufacturers of steel, freon and later uranium.

    In the 1950's, Dr Clair (Pat) Patterson, a geochemist at the California Institute of Technology, was trying to determine the age of the earth, using Uranium-Lead radiometric dating of meteorites. Pat had graduated from Grinnell College in the 1940's with a degree in chemistry and moved to the University of Iowa where Pat did a M.A. thesis in molecular spectroscopy. After his graduation in 1944, Pat and his wife were sent to University of Chicago to work on the Manhattan Project, and later to Oak Ridge, where Pat worked on the electromagnetic separation of U-235, and so became familiar with mass spectrometers. After the war, he returned to the University of Chicago to pursue his Ph.D. under Harrison Brown, who had become interested in trace elements in meteorites, as he had the idea that lead isotopes might reveal when the solar system first formed. In 1948, for his dissertation Harrison gave Pat the task of making lead measurements in zircon crystals from Precambrian granite, and he started work in a dusty and old laboratory in Kent Hall. After his graduation, the quest then began to measure the lead in meteorites, and he was also able to work in the new and much cleaner Institute for Nuclear Studies building, but after a year this was interrupted when Harrison accepted a faculty appointment at the California Institute of Technology. Pat accompanied him there where they built the world's first clean room. It was in 1953, equipped with a world class clean room, he was finally able to chemically separate out the lead found in the troilite from the Canyon Diablo iron meteorite which had formed the famous Barringer Crater. With his uncontaminated lead sample, he was finally able to make an accurate mass spectrometer measurement at the University of Chicago, revealing that the age of the earth was about 1.5 billion years than previously thought, at 4.55 billion years. 'We did it', he thought at the time. So with his quest over, he decided to turn his attention to why he had to go to such extreme lengths to avoid lead contamination.

  3. cont.

    In the late 1950's, Pat, with the help of Tsaihwa J. Chow, began work on the isotopic composition of lead in ocean and land sediments, which showed that the geochemical cycle for lead was badly out of balance. There were limitations with the study, and in 1963 he published a report with Mitsunobu Tatsumoto from research that showed that deep ocean water contained up to 10 times less lead than surface water. But it was in 1965 with his seminal paper entitled “Contaminated and Natural Lead Environments of Man", where he estimated that the lead concentration in blood for many Americans to be over 100 times that of the natural level, that he drew the attention of Dr. Kehoe, who considered Pat to be a 'zealot' and called Pat's conclusions “rabble rousing". The response to Pat's paper was one of incredulity, and Pat revised his original paper, and in an accompanying letter wrote "In the end they have been greeted with derisive and scornful insults from toxicologists, sanitary engineers and public health officials because their traditional views are challenged.". His paper earned him a visit from representatives from Ethyl who tried to "buy me out through research support that would yield results favourable to their cause", loss of his research funding and calls for his sacking by the Board of Trustees of the California Institute of Technology. He wrote twice to the California Governor and to once to Senator Muskie, chairman of the Subcommittee on Air and water Pollution, and was invited to appear before the committee on 15 June 1966, where he stated that it was wrong for public health agencies to work so closely with the lead industries, but was sternly opposed by Dr Kehoe.

    By 1970 Pat and his colleagues had completed studies of snow strata from Greenland and Antarctica that showed clearly the increase in atmospheric lead beginning with the industrial revolution in both regions. Modern Greenland snow contained over 100 times the amount of lead in pre-industrial snow, with most of the increase occurring over the last 100 years. In 1971 the National Research Council released a report entitled “Airborne Lead in Perspective” to guide the Environmental Protection Agency’s policies on lead pollution. The panel was widely accused of not being forceful enough in interpreting its data and being too heavily weighted toward industrial scientists. Pat’s work was largely ignored, however by December 1973 the EPA did announce a program to reduce lead in petrol by 60-65% in phased steps. Thus was the beginning of the removal of lead from gasoline. Meanwhile Patterson continued to work on the lead problem from another perspective, by measuring lead, barium, and calcium concentrations in bones from 1600-year-old Peruvian skeletons. The results indicated a 700- to 1200- fold increase in concentrations of lead in modern man, with no change in barium.

    In the late 1970s Pat turned his attention to lead in food. In 1979 he wrote to the commissioner of food and drugs at the Environmental Protection Agency. When asked if he could cite other laboratories that agreed with his results, Pat responded that scientific matters are not decided by majority vote. In 1980 Dorothy M. Settle and Pat published a warning on the amount of lead entering the food chain due to lead solder used in sealing cans. Around 1973 lead began to be reduced in petrol but was only completely removed in 1987. Lead solder has been removed from U. S. food containers a well as from paints and water lines. By 1991 scientists could report that the lead content of Greenland snow had fallen by a factor of 7.5 since 1971.

    Dr. Robert Kehoe died at age 99, in November 1992. He was at various points president of the American Academy of Occupational Medicine, president of the American Industrial Hygiene Association and sat on the editorial boards of leading scientific publications.

  4. cont.

    What struck me was the similarity with the global warming debate, and how the fossil fuel companies are employing the same techniques that were used almost 100 years ago. Their use of the 'Kehoe paradigm', and the use of other people who subscribe to the ideology. You could say that people like Bob Carter, Fred Singer, Ian Plimer, Richard Lindzen, Willie Soon, Patrick Michaels, Stephen McIntyre and Judith Curry, are the Robert Kehoe's of today. And that Michael Mann is the Dr Clair (Pat) Patterson of today. Like Pat, Mann turned upside the paradigm that the MWP was warmer, and like Pat, has been hounded by those who deny his conclusions.

    Just a bit of history, and my observation that history is repeating itself.

    “Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it.”
    ― Edmund Burke

    1. Dave... I found that episode of the Cosmos re-make to be the most interesting of the lot so far. Imagine that the person who discovers the true age of the Earth is also the same person who discovers that the populace is being gradually poisoned by lead from petrol-burning emissions.

      And, of course, the same vested interests of yesteryear are the same vested interests of today: those that stand to make a buck from business as usual. Quelle surprise.

    2. Thomas Midgley, Jr was a frigging lunatic, a genuine evil genius.

      Not only did he invent the tetraethyllead (TEL) additive for gasoline, he was part of a GM team that developed the first chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).


      Dave mentioned one of the consequences of his denial.
      "On October 30, 1924, Midgley participated in a press conference to demonstrate the apparent safety of TEL. In this demonstration, he poured TEL over his hands, then placed a bottle of the chemical under his nose and inhaled its vapor for sixty seconds, declaring that he could do this every day without succumbing to any problems whatsoever."
      "Midgley sought treatment for lead poisoning in Europe a few months after his demonstration at the press conference."

      R. McNeill, an environmental historian, has remarked that Midgley "had more impact on the atmosphere than any other single organism in Earth's history."

      Like the ending of a Hollywood movie, he met a strange but somehow appropriate death
      "In 1940, at the age of 51, Midgley contracted poliomyelitis, which left him severely disabled. This led him to devise an elaborate system of strings and pulleys to help others lift him from bed. This system was the eventual cause of his own death when he was entangled in the ropes of this device and died of strangulation at the age of 55"

  5. Tisdale is comical in his obsessiveness and volume of output.

    It is becoming more apparent that the source of ENSO is interactions of the inertial basin with the same forces that lead to tides and geophysical wobbles.

    Tisdale doesn't like this because it is just another zero-sum process that doesn't lead to AGW.

  6. Simply put, Bob doesn't understand the law of conservation of energy.

  7. It's a ridiculous piece. The possible forthcoming El Niño really has got them all in a spin.

    1. Ridiculous yes, but a perfect fit to their requirements. Warming is explained by El Nino while La Nina has nothing to do with cooling. Almost elegant in its simplicity.

      Of course, since warmer surfaces radiate more heat to space, El Nino actually has a cooling effect on the whole system. So expect to hear about a fall in the 2000m ocean heat content as evidence of something (in exactly the same way that 2000m OHC increase isn't evidence of anything when there's a Pause on).

    2. Bob just provides the Wattsians with something to soothe their mind: "it still isn't us! It's just El Nino!"

  8. This is the basis of my article.

    I think it shows his argument is about as wrong as it gets with respect to ENSO. Since the early 1980's, we have been in a mostly La Nina environment: exertly a downward influence on the surface air temperature anomaly. The strength of the PDO has been on a prolonged decay, and it's possibly about to go straight up as 2023 is the approximate 40th anniversary of the last PDO peak: 1983.

  9. Anyone have access to good ENSO data with with to compute a running sum?

    What is the integrated SOI as a function of time, say starting in 1950...

    1. SOI is determined by pressure, so is not directly related to ocean temperature. Nevertheless, if you want it, see here:


      Various indices based on sea surface temperature are given at the following site. The Nino 3.4 index is most commonly used, but others are included.



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