Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #240

The Week That Was: September 10, 2016 – Brought to You by www.SEPP.org

By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project

Treaty or No Treaty? According to reports, on September 3, U.S. President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping signed the Paris Climate Agreement (Treaty) prior to the G-20 economic meeting in Hangzhou, China. It is becoming clear that Mr. Obama has no intention of submitting the agreement for approval by two-thirds of the US Senate to become a Treaty, as required by the US Constitution — Article II, Section 2, Clause 2. As such, the agreement is not a treaty having the force of law in the United States, nor is it even a Congressional-Executive Agreement requiring a simple majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. The enforcement of the agreement under international law is a subject for legal scholars and; possibly extensive litigation. As the situation exists now, the future President can simply state that the United States changed its mind. Of course, the avid green groups would be outraged.

Evading the responsibility of submitting the agreement to the US Congress creates a major issue regarding the Oath of Office. Article II, Section One, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution states: “Before he [the incoming President] enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:–‘I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.’”

Whether or not Mr. Obama cares about his oath, only he can say. But, officers of the United States, including military officers, take a similar oath. It will be interesting to see how any officer of the United States can explain how the evasion of Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 preserves, protects, and defends the Constitution of the United States. Further, will anyone who participated in these actions, should they be nominated to become an officer of the United States in a future administration, be asked how evasion of Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 preserves, protects, and defends the Constitution of the United States? See Article # 1 and links under After Paris!


Quote of the Week. “I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of uncertainty about different things, but I am not absolutely sure of anything and there are many things I don’t know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we’re here. I don’t have to know an answer. I don’t feel frightened not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without any purpose, which is the way it really is as far as I can tell.” ― Richard Feynman


Number of the Week: 540 calories/gram or 22.6 x 10^5 joules/kilogram


La Niña Watch Cancelled: NOAA has cancelled its La Niña watch (ocean cooling), implying it does not expect a significant cooling following the current, fading El Niño. Whether or not this occurs remains to be seen. NOAA’s actions are based on the predictions of their models. It will be interesting to see if the predictions by the models hold.

As shown in the atmospheric temperature record, the 1997-98 El Niño was followed by a La Niña; but, in general, the temperatures remained higher than they were before the El Niño. The record gives a good example of a step change.

Certainly, the lack of a La Niña gives hope to those who are claiming 2016 is the hottest year ever recorded by instruments. Of course, this does not mean that it is the hottest year in the proxy record, such as boreholes, ice cores, pollen grains, lake and ocean sediments, growing seasons, latitude and elevation of timber lines, etc. See links under Measurement Issues – Atmosphere and Changing Weather.


Hottest Since? A paper in the December 1997 Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society by Thomas Peterson and Russell Vose gives an excellent description of the extensive effort to develop as comprehensive a record as possible, in digital form, of land surface temperatures (surface-air temperatures). The abstract reads:

“The Global Historical Climatology Network version 2 temperature database was released in May 1997. This century-scale dataset consists of monthly surface observations from ~7000 stations from around the world. This archive breaks considerable new ground in the field of global climate databases. The enhancements include 1) data for additional stations to improve regional-scale analyses, particularly in previously data-sparse areas; 2) the addition of maximum–minimum temperature data to provide climate information not available in mean temperature data alone; 3) detailed assessments of data quality to increase the confidence in research results; 4) rigorous and objective homogeneity adjustments to decrease the effect of non-climatic factors on the time series; 5) detailed metadata (e.g., population, vegetation, topography) that allow more detailed analyses to be conducted; and 6) an infrastructure for updating the archive at regular intervals so that current climatic conditions can constantly be put into historical perspective. This paper describes these enhancements in detail.”

The paper describes the efforts to combine various records and eliminate duplication, recording errors, etc. In many cases the records were only monthly, not daily, and often had only maximum temperatures, not the maximum and minimum. (The earliest data for both readings is from March 1840 for Toronto, Canada.) As the paper describes, the gold standard was for US since about 1880.

Except for the US, the maximum and minimum temperatures in 1900 was very scanty, with only parts of the coast of China, and sections of Australia covered (Figure 4 b). Otherwise, coverage in Europe and spots in India and Asia, Africa, and South America was for mean temperature only (Figure 3 b). The paper also shows the sharp decline in the number of reporting stations starting in the 1960s and the 5 degree by 5 degree global grid boxes covered – less than 100 of 2,952 (less than 4%) in the late 1990s. The claim that the surface-air instrument data is global, is absurd.

Given the significance of the historic record in the US, it is particularly disturbing when diverse individuals, such as Joe D’Aleo of WeatherBELL Analytics (and ICECAP) and Tony Heller (Steve Goddard) show that the US record of the 1930s has been “cooled” in subsequent re-analysis giving the impression of a warming trend where none existed before. Further, it is disturbing when government agencies make broad statements as the hottest year ever without specifically identifying the records used and the limitations of those records. See links under Measurement Issues – Surface.


Silly Season: The political games have infested many media outlets pretending to be objective when they are not. As much as possible, TWTW will avoid such articles with the noted exception this week being the New York Times for three reasons: 1) for years the Times has run articles on carbon dioxide accompanied by photos of emissions from coal fired plants darkening the skies; 2) an article this week that global warming is flooding the east coast with sea level rise; and 3) an advertisement in the Times stating it is ramping up coverage of climate change.

The past photos were usually steam condensing, taken under special lighting conditions or with special lenses. Carbon dioxide is invisible and cannot darken the skies. The current article is discussed below has a few tricks just as bad.

There is no question sea levels have been rising since the maximum extent of the last Ice Age, about 18,000 years ago. For the past three thousand years, the rate has been fairly constant at about 7 to 8 inches per century. The article of flooding of the East Coast implied that this is new; but, it is not. For example, the Port of Alexandria was founded in 1749 and had a tobacco warehouse on the upper Potomac River for the inspection of tobacco prior to sale, as required by law. The port is near the head of tides for the Potomac and the warehouses along the river have been subject to flooding whenever there are heavy rains upriver and spring tides or storm surges in the lower Chesapeake Bay where the Potomac empties. Thus, a photo showing flooding of old warehouses (now modern shops) is nothing new.

The article also has a photo of a coral reef in the Florida Keys significantly above sea levels, which gives evidence that the sea level was once far higher than today (possibly 110,000 to 120,000 years ago). Amusingly, the article does not discuss why sea levels were higher before any putative carbon dioxide-caused warming.

The advertisement in the NY Times needs independent review. See links under The Political Games Continue and Below the Bottom Line.


Disposal Wells: There was a 5.6-magnitude earthquake that hit roughly 55 miles northwest of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Immediately, some 37 wastewater disposal wells were blamed, and forced to close. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is examining whether the wells caused the earthquake. See Article # 2.


Agreement – Disagreement: Some excellent scientists have made detailed calculations and believe that human carbon dioxide emissions as well as land use change are the principal causes of recent global warming/climate change. TWTW certainly agrees that land use change is a principal cause of measured local and regional surface warming. That is one reason why TWTW emphasizes atmospheric temperatures.

Among other points of agreement are that significant changes in floods, droughts, famine, winds, tornadoes, hurricanes, sea level rise, species extinction, and human diseases are unlikely to accompany global warming, regardless of its cause.

The biggest point of agreement is the need for more data, reliable data, not false trends, etc.


Quote of the Week: The agreement in the need for reliable data makes the quote from Richard Feynman particularly appropriate. Those who argue that human emissions of CO2 must be the cause of global warming, because they can think of nothing else, lack imagination.


Additions and Corrections: TWTW reader Ben Anixter writes that the current governor of California is Jerry Brown, not his father Pat Brown (now deceased) who was a former governor. We appreciate the correction. Governor from 1959 to 1967, Pat Brown was a builder of modern California with major infrastructure projects such as the California State Water Project. Such projects transformed the San Joaquin Valley from an area that was a swamp in the spring and a desert in the summer and fall into a rich agriculture area. Jerry Brown is headed in a different direction. See links under California Dreaming.


Number of the Week: 540 calories/gram or 22.6 x 10^5 joules/kilogram. When water changes phase from liquid to gas (vapor) it requires 540 calories/gram or 22.6 x 10^5 joules/kilogram, without a change in temperature. This phase change results in tremendous loss of heat at the surface. When the vapor is transported, via convection, into the atmosphere to roughly 10 kilometers (33,000 feet), it condenses into droplets, releasing the latent (hidden) heat. What happens to this heat is a significant issue.

When global climate models are criticized for not treating clouds properly, it includes not properly addressing this enormous heat transfer. How many climate alarmists can discuss this enormous heat transfer?



1. U.S., China Agree on Implementing Paris Climate-Change Pact

Obama, Xi seek to demonstrate accord between developed and developing nations

By Carol E. Lee and William Mauldin, WSJ, Sep 3, 2016


SUMMARY: The authors state that the agreement signed by President Obama and President Xi Jinping includes “formal adoption by both the U.S. and China of the international climate-change agreement reached in Paris in December 2015, as well as a road map for achieving emissions reductions in commercial aircraft and for phasing out hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, a potent group of gases that are linked to climate change but aren’t covered by the Paris agreement.”


“U.S. negotiators pressed hard last year to structure the Paris agreement in such a way that the countries’ individual targets for greenhouse-gas emissions after 2020 wouldn’t be binding. Any agreement with legally binding targets and the threat of international sanctions would have required the approval of the Republican-controlled Congress, officials said.”

“Despite criticism from the European Union and other countries that wanted binding targets, the final Paris deal adopted a looser mechanism that requires countries to issue targets and disclose their progress along the way, with the aim of using peer pressure and world-wide attention to win compliance.”

“With respect to the legal form of the agreement, the United States has a long and well-established process for approving executive agreements, that is, a legal form which is distinct from treaties, which are approved through the advice and consent process in the Senate,” according to aide Mr. Deese.

[SEPP Comment: The aide and the article did not discuss if approving such an executive agreement requires submitting it to both houses of Congress.]


2. Disposal Wells’ Link to Oklahoma Earthquake Scrutinized

U.S. Geological Survey is looking into whether oil and gas companies’ underground wastewater disposal set off temblor

By Miguel Bustillo and Beckie Strum, WSJ, Sep 5, 2016


SUMMARY: According to the reporters:

“The U.S. Geological Survey is examining whether the 5.6-magnitude earthquake that shook Oklahoma on Saturday and tied for the strongest temblor ever recorded in the state was triggered by the underground disposal of wastewater from oil and gas production.

“’Without studying the specifics of the wastewater injection and oil and gas production in this area, the USGS cannot currently conclude whether or not this particular earthquake was caused by industrial-related, human activities,’ the USGS said in a statement. ‘However, we do know that many earthquakes in Oklahoma have been triggered by wastewater fluid injection.’”

“The USGS will continue to process seismic data in the coming days and weeks

“Oklahoma has a history of seismic activity—it experienced a 5.5-magnitude temblor in 1952, for example. But the state has stepped up regulation of injection wells after seeing a dramatic increase in quakes over the past decade that experts at the USGS and in academia have tied to the practice of burying wastewater near faults underground.

“In 2015, the USGS recorded 2,500 quakes with a magnitude of 2.5 or higher in the state, up from just three in 2005. The USGS in March released maps that for the first time show the potential risk of man-made as well as naturally occurring earthquakes, and they listed some parts of Texas and Oklahoma now with the same risk of temblors as California.

“The strongest quake previously recorded in Oklahoma was also a 5.6-magnitude event, and took place near Prague, Okla., in 2011, buckling roads and destroying 14 homes. It spurred several pending lawsuits from homeowners who claimed energy companies burying wastewater nearby had helped trigger that quake.

“Saturday’s quake occurred on a fault that experts hadn’t previously known about, roughly perpendicular to a larger known fault system, Daniel McNamara, a research geophysicist at the USGS Geologic Hazards Science Center in Golden, Colo., said in an email. He was set to travel to Oklahoma Tuesday to help state officials on wastewater-injection issues, he added.

“When energy producers extract oil and gas from wells, thousands of barrels of salty water laced with heavy metals come up along with the fuel. The water often is injected back underground under high pressure into special disposal wells.

“But government and academic researchers have found that the practice may help trigger movement along geologic fault lines. The oil-and-gas industry has acknowledged the validity of the studies and cooperated with regulators, but has said that more research is needed to link specific wells to specific incidents.

“Saturday’s well shutdowns were a direct response to the earthquake and seek to minimize further seismic activity around the fault line, said Matt Skinner, spokesman for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.

“The commission focused on wells that dispose wastewater into a rock formation deep underground called the Arbuckle. Seismologists are in broad agreement that the Arbuckle formation is linked to earthquakes in Oklahoma, Mr. Skinner said.”


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