The Week That Was: March 5, 2016 – Brought to You by www.SEPP.org
By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project
Atmospheric Data – Re-Analysis and Confirmation: An issue developed this week that illustrates the importance of proper re-analysis of data and independent confirmation. The issue regarding temperature trends in the middle troposphere was noticed by Anthony Watts, WUWT, discussed in several other posts, with an expanded discussion by Roy Spencer. Spencer and John Christy developed the method of measuring temperatures using data from satellites, for which they received significant recognition. Their findings are publicly posted monthly, with the data going back to December 1978. These data, known as the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) data are the most comprehensive estimates of global temperatures in existence. The group is funded by NOAA.
A private group, publicly and privately funded, is headed by Frank Wentz, with Carl Mears the chief scientist, Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) provides the other well-known analysis. Some years ago, this group discovered that the UAH data, at that time, did not properly account for orbital decay of satellites, giving a cooling bias to the data. Once this bias became known and demonstrated, UAH adjusted for it. This is the way science works, correcting mistakes. Unfortunately, this incident led some global warming promoters to declare that the UAH data is discredited, which it is not.
This week, ahead of print, the Journal of Climate posted an article by Mears and Wentz stating that, in effect, UAH under-estimate global temperature trends. And the fun begins.
At issue are the readings from one satellite, NOAA-14, roughly between 1995 to 2005. Spencer and Christy noticed that this satellite gave higher readings than the prior satellites and the following satellite, NOAA-15. They considered the warming to be spurious and adjusted for in their latest data on the Lower Troposphere and the Middle Troposphere for several reasons. One, the new Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit (AMSU) instrumentation on NOAA-15 is far superior to the prior instrumentation. Second, the NOAA-14 satellite orbit was “drifting far beyond any of the other dozen satellites in the record, leading to warming of the instrument itself.”
Further, after Mears made the RSS data available, Christy calculated the level of agreement (variance) of the three satellite data sets (including NOAAv3.0) with eight sets of radiosonde data from weather balloons. The correspondence with the UAH dataset was far better than the other two satellite data sets, with the exception of the balloon dataset showing the greatest warming trend. Also, when Mears and Wentz first submitted their article to another journal for publication, Christy reviewed it and made certain recommendations, but did not recommend against publication.
All this was available to Mears and Wentz prior to publication in Journal of Climate. Why they treated data from superior instrumentation the same as data from inferior instrumentation on a satellite that was shown to give biased readings is known only to them. But the incident demonstrates the importance of careful reanalysis and independent confirmation of instrument data. See links under Challenging the
Quote of the Week: “The more experience and experiments are accumulated during the exploration of nature, the more faltering its theories become.” Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799) [H/t Volker Marten]
Number of the Week: 19.2%
UAH Atmospheric Data Discredited? As stated above, some global warming promoters claim UAH atmospheric data are discredited, even though UAH made the necessary adjustments decades ago. The atmospheric data used in the brief filed by some scientists in support of petitioners opposing the Administration’s power plan is for the Lower Troposphere (surface to 18 km (59,000 feet)). The data show no statistically significant trends, positive or negative, exist between 1979 to 2011. Further, the data show no tropical hot spot (an atmospheric warming trend centered at about 33,000 feet, 10km) with more a pronounced warming trend than surface warming trend. The Mears and Wentz study is for the middle troposphere, not the lower troposphere (there is some overlap). It will be interesting to see if they publish one for the lower troposphere and if they test their ideas against radiosonde data from weather balloons.
In the context of atmospheric data, the new paper needs to be considered. In the context of the prevailing theory of the influence of carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations on the earth’s temperatures, it is less important. Since the 1979 Charney report, the prevailing concept is that a doubling of CO2 will result in an increase in the earth’s temperatures in the range 1.5 º C to 4.5 º C or a range of estimates of 3 º C.
As of now, the trend for RSS is 0.129 º C per decade and for UAH 0.072 º C per decade. The difference equals 0.057 º C per decade over the satellite record. Given the wide range of estimates being advanced by the Climate Establishment, a difference between UAH and RSS estimates of 0.57 º C per century is not particularly significant. Using this difference to claim the UAH data discredited is akin to claiming a bump on the rump of an elephant discredits the elephant’s existence.
[It should be noted that the 2007 Fourth Assessment Report (AR-4) of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had the estimate of warming at 2.0 º C to 4.5 º C. This report was current in the 2009 EPA finding that greenhouse gas emissions, primarily CO2, endanger public health and welfare (Endangerment Finding). The Fifth Assessment Report (AR-5) in 2013 went back to 1.5 º C to 4.5 º C. So the IPCC partially undermined the EPA Endangerment Finding.
SEPP thinks that the lower bound (from a doubling of CO2) is far too high. Based on observations and recent research it should be no more than 1 º C, or significantly less. Of course, such an estimate would render meaningless the bureaucratic science being performed on the social costs of carbon by certain government entities, such as the US Global Change Research Program. See Measurement Issues – Atmosphere and the February 27 TWTW at SEPP.org.
El Niño Influence: For some time, Roy Spencer, and others, have suggested that the current strong El Niño may increase atmospheric temperatures, showing that these data are influenced by events other than CO2 concentrations, including weather events and volcanoes. Spencer reports that this February is the warmest since full-year satellite measurements began in 1979. It should be remembered that the IPCC, and others, consider El Niños to be weather events, not climate events. Even the concept that frequent El Niños influence climate was not accepted by the IPCC.
Not systematically discovering the causes of El Niños, which result in warming, and La Niñas, which result in cooling, is a major deficiency in the funding of climate science by government entities. The emphasis on only human factors is greatly misplaced. Among other private researchers, Bob Tisdale has asserted that El Niños result from a lessening of the trade winds in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, resulting in a lessening of the overturning of the ocean and a warming of the surface water.
For months, private groups and government entities have been forecasting that this 2015-16 El Niño is a strong one. Also, some private groups, such as Weatherbell Analytics, have been stating that the current El Niño is significantly different than the 1997-98 El Niño. It is centered further westward, towards the central equatorial Pacific, rather than in the eastern Pacific, off the coast of Peru. The different location results in different weather patterns, particularly in the Americas.
As linked in last week’s TWTW, NASA finally recognized that the current El Niño is different than the 1997-98 one, and NOAA forecasts that it will fade quickly and be replaced by a strong La Niña this year.
The real question is what will happen after the La Niña. Will the temperatures roughly stabilize for a number of years, as in the past? Will the level be roughly the same as before, or will it be higher, as happened after the 1997-98 El Niño. Unfortunately, these unknowns are among the many problems in climate science.
RICO: Starting about September 2015, some academics at George Mason University (in Virginia) were urging members of Congress to begin investigations under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) against those who question the Climate Establishment that human emissions of carbon dioxide are causing unprecedented and dangerous global warming.
Now, another member of Congress, Lamar Smith, is suggesting that at least one of the academics and his wife received compensation for full-time employment from federal grants while he received compensation for full-time employment at George Mason University. This practice is known as “double-dipping” and may be illegal. Given that the Justice Department refused to investigate Peter Gleick for pretending to be as a member of the Board of Directors of the Heartland Institute in order to obtain privileged documents, it is questionable if the Justice Department will investigate. But if Lamar Smith prevails, it will be interesting to see if the colleagues of this academic claim that he is protected by academic freedom.
Also, are these colleagues still expecting great windfalls in possible RICO cases from suing private companies for not spreading climate alarm? See link under Suppressing Scientific Inquiry – The Witch Hunt – Push-Back and Communicating Better to the Public – Make things up.
Energy Security: On Climate Etc., Evan Hillegrand has an interesting discussion on energy security. All too often, such concepts are confused by secondary concepts such as energy independence or sustainability. As with other commodities, in themselves, energy imports are neither good or bad, as long as the imports are reliable. Also, the concept of sustainability opens up a host of issues for speculation. Eight years ago, who would have proclaimed that oil and natural gas production in the US was sustainable for the foreseeable future – except those few who were advocating increased drilling? See link under Seeking a Common Ground.
A Noble Experiment? On his web site, Energy Matters, Euan Mears (not Carl Mears) has been tracking an experiment on El Hierro, one of the Canary Islands, to make the island energy independent with 100% renewable electricity, with a combination of wind power and pumped hydro storage. With a round-trip loss of about 30%, or more, of the electricity that goes into pumping water uphill, pumped hydro storage is the only method used on a commercial scale to store excess electricity for future use. It is used in Denmark, with the pumped hydro in Norway and Sweden, and in the US, with the largest facility in Virginia. For El Hierro, the system had an installed wind capacity of more than twice the peak demand. The ultimate back-up was diesel.
In a lengthy, somewhat technical post, Mearns discusses the experiment after eight months of operation. About 32% of the electricity delivered was renewable (wind and pumped storage). About 68% was diesel. Under prolonged windy conditions the renewable system delivered only about 50% of the electricity. Those promoting wind power, especially politicians, should be forced to address the limited reliability of wind power. See link under Alternative, Green (“Clean”) Solar and Wind — Reliability
Additions and Corrections: Australian Des Moore asked if the Supreme Court decision to “stay” EPA actions on the Administration’s power plan would impact on other regulations on CO2, and will the Administration fulfill its promises in the Paris Accord?
To which we responded, from our reading, the unusual stay applies only to the Administration’s “Clean Power Plan”, which would have forced states to develop plans in order to reduce CO2 emissions. The plan applies to existing stationary sources and largely to coal-fired power plants.
This does not prevent the EPA from inventing additional regulations, but if such regulations apply to CO2 emissions, the EPA will be in a legal thicket.
The commitment to the Paris agreement is that of the Administration alone, not of the nation. It is based on the Administration’s power plan, which has been suspended, indefinitely. The Administration has ignored the role of Congress. There is little reason to assume it will obtain the support of Congress at this late date.
Number of the Week 19.2%, compounded annually. Some promoters of global warming/climate change are demanding that insurers and other companies inform their stockholders of the risks of climate change. In the 2015 annual report, Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. did so. His comments include:
“Up to now, climate change has not produced more frequent nor more costly hurricanes nor other weather-related events covered by insurance. As a consequence, U.S. super-cat rates have fallen steadily in recent years, which is why we have backed away from that business. If super-cats become costlier and more frequent, the likely—though far from certain—effect on Berkshire’s insurance business would be to make it larger and more profitable.
“As a citizen, you may understandably find climate change keeping you up nights. As a homeowner in a low-lying area, you may wish to consider moving. But when you are thinking only as a shareholder of a major insurer, climate change should not be on your list of worries.”
Berkshire Hathaway is the largest shareholder in Munich Re, the world’s largest re-insurance company. Annually, Munich Re promptly produces reports of losses, both insured and estimated non-insured, for the previous year, which are linked in TWTW. There are no skyrocketing losses.
Berkshire Hathaway’s annual report stated that the Compounded Annual Gain for the stockholders, 1965-2015, is 19.2%. Claiming that the stockholders are being misled by not stating the risks of climate change is absurd. See links under Questioning the Orthodoxy.
1. How to Keep Bad Science From Getting Into Print
‘Irreproducible’ research is more often due to error than misconduct or fraud, but fighting it is vital.
By Jeffrey Flier, WSJ, Mar 1, 2016
SUMMARY: The Dean of the Harvard Medical School writes:
“In 2015 more than one million papers in bioscience were published—more than ever before, and reflecting enormous progress in biomedical research. But a growing number of high-profile retractions have led to a widespread belief that the results scientists publish are increasingly irreproducible. The retraction last August of 64 articles by one of the world’s largest academic publishers, Springer, sent shudders through the scientific world. Another example is the retraction in 2010 of a widely cited paper published in Lancet in 1998 claiming a link between vaccines and autism.
“Proper studies to assess the prevalence of irreproducible research don’t exist, but online access to published results allows more widespread scrutiny. The main goal of Retraction Watch, for instance, is to identify and publish such claims. Peer-reviewed publications are the linchpin of medical progress, so concerns about their accuracy must be taken seriously.
“The causes of irreproducible research, much more often due to error than to misconduct or fraud, fall into three main categories. First are deficiencies in how investigators conduct and analyze their studies, including problems in design and statistical analysis. Second are incentives—including career advancement, grant funding and possible financial conflicts of interest—that may tempt investigators to violate good scientific practice.
“A third cause, less commonly discussed, relates to how papers are reviewed and accepted for publication. Scientific journals are the major vehicle for disseminating science, yet there is little active effort to determine how best to deliver research results. In short, we need a science of how to publish science.”
“As gatekeepers, scientific journals can do more to enhance the validity of the work that they publish. For instance, it’s time to consider ending the tradition of journals keeping reviewers anonymous to the authors. Anonymity might protect reviewers from retaliation by disgruntled authors, but it might also promote self-serving or superficial reviews. Reviewer identification should be encouraged if not required.
“With a few notable exceptions, journals don’t publish reviewers’ comments, or editors’ and authors’ responses. Journals should also publish these communications, which would be data for independent research on the quality of the peer-review process.
“Might the sequence between publication and review sometimes be reversed? A movement is gaining steam to encourage pre-posting of bioscience manuscripts online, as is the norm in physics today. The website F1000Research publishes papers online before review and then solicits assessments from a panel of reviewers and/or the wider scientific community. The site also encourages the publication of confirmatory studies, which are vital to scientific progress but of less interest to journals and therefore to scientists.
“More discussion online after publication would be welcome. PubPeer encourages open dialogue between the public and authors, which may bring concerns about papers more quickly to the attention of scientists and publishers. We need research on the benefits and risks of this approach.
“Finally, publishers must move faster to correct mistakes in published papers. The current glacial process allows errors to be propagated for too long.
2. Downstream From a Slippery EPA
In the aftermath of the Gold King spill, the agency is holding itself to a lower standard than polluters.
By Ryan Flynn, New Mexico’s Secretary of Environment, WSJ, Feb 29, 2016
SUMMARY: New Mexico’s Secretary of Environment contrasts the EPA public statements with the slow, inept response to the communities affected by EPA’s actions at Colorado’s Gold King mine, which resulted in a major spill into the Animas River on August 5.
“An estimated 880,000 pounds of lead and other metals poured out of the Gold King in August when the Environmental Protection Agency fumbled a construction project and blew out the mine’s plug.”
“From the start, the EPA bungled its response to the spill. The first call alerting New Mexico that contaminated water was on its way didn’t even come from the agency. The water-quality manager of the Southern Ute Tribe, who live in Colorado right on the border with New Mexico, contacted my department with a warning on Aug. 6.
“The New Mexico Environment Department quickly dispatched technical staff to take advance water samples, to establish a water-quality baseline. The Animas River is much more than a kayaking spot or a fishing hole for New Mexicans. The drinking water of eight communities—about 90,000 people—is drawn directly from the river, which also sustains crops and livestock, and supports thousands of people’s livelihoods.
“After failing to alert New Mexico promptly, the EPA to a large extent left the states and tribes downstream to fend for themselves. No one from the EPA’s regional office in Dallas showed up in New Mexico for nearly a week, by which time the lume had passed. New Mexico’s representative to the EPA’s Incident Command Center in Colorado reported that she was shut out of closed-door meetings where decisions were made.
“When EPA staff did finally arrive in New Mexico on Aug. 9, they were rotated out of the state every few days. This led to redundant briefings and inconsistent execution. One EPA communications officer arrived in New Mexico with no capability to text, email or dispatch photos from the field.
“As the spill wound its way downstream, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy repeatedly went on camera to say that the agency would hold itself to a “higher standard.” Instead it engaged in a careful campaign of minimization and misdirection.
“About two weeks after the spill, the EPA released an environmental standard for the Gold King mine sediment that was an order of magnitude weaker than those applied to other polluters. The agency used a “recreational” standard and suggested that lead in the soil at 20,000 parts per million would be “safe” for campers and hikers. But in New Mexico people live along the Animas, so a “residential” standard would be more appropriate. During a cleanup of a superfund site in Dallas, in the regional EPA office’s own backyard, the standard for lead in the soil was 500 parts per million.
3. U.S. Bid to Prosecute BP Staff in Gulf Oil Spill Falls Flat
Judges dismissed charges related to Deepwater Horizon blowout; tally: 3 misdemeanors
By Aruna Viswanatha, WSJ, Feb 27, 2016
SUMMARY: The Justice Department has failed in its effort to successfully prosecute those responsible for the 2010 BP blow-out in the Gulf of Mexico. According to the reporter:
“A critical moment in the government’s case against Robert Kaluza, who was facing a criminal charge for his role in the 2010 BP PLC oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, came when a former colleague was called to testify.
“Donald Vidrine had already pleaded guilty and was expected to bolster prosecutors’ arguments. But he had trouble articulating exactly what he—and by extension Mr. Kaluza—may have done wrong. “I, we, uh, I may not have, I probably didn’t press hard enough,” the Louisiana native told a federal jury in New Orleans last week, after a long pause. “I thought I had.”
“Late Thursday, a jury took less than two hours to find Mr. Kaluza not guilty of the charge he had ignored warning signs leading to the explosion.
“It was an ignominious end to the final case in the government’s effort to find individuals criminally responsible for the blowout on the Deepwater Horizon. In the four years since the U.S. began its cases against five men, prosecutors withdrew 23 counts before trial, judges dismissed 23 others and jurors acquitted on three counts. The three guilty pleas the government secured were all misdemeanors, and the men received or will likely receive probation.
“The outcome, stemming from the largest oil spill off the U.S. coast, in which 11 people died and more than three million barrels of oil poured into the Gulf, is a reminder how hard it is to find individuals culpable for catastrophes where companies were held responsible.”