Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #254

By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project www.SEPP.org

What Happens Now? Roy Spencer reported that the early calculations for atmospheric global temperature report from the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) show that 2016 was slightly warmer than the prior hot year of 1998 by a statically insignificant 0.02ºC. The earlier part of the year was warmer, but temperatures dropped in the latter part of the year. Spencer produces a table ranking the 38 years by the anomaly from the average: 2016 is now 1, 1998 is 2, 2010 is 3, 2015 is 4 and 2002 is 5. The top 2 years are about 0. 5ºC from the anomaly, and the departure from the anomaly lessens significantly after that. According to Paul Homewood, the UAH calculations were independently confirmed by data from Remote Sensing Systems (RSS).

The central issue is not that 2016 was slighter “hotter” than 1998, but what will happen in 2017 and beyond. Both 1998 and 2016 were strong El Niño years (Pacific Ocean warming). After the spike in 1998, the El Niño was followed by a brief La Niña cooling, but then temperatures rebounded to about 0.2ºC above the 38-year mean. Will temperatures return to the 1998 to 2015 plateau or be above or below it? Unfortunately, despite spending over $45 Billion on “climate science” since 1993, the US does not have the capability of predicting significant weather events such as El Niños and La Niñas. See links under Measurement Issues – Atmosphere


Quote of the Week. With four parameters, I can fit an elephant, and with five I can make him wiggle his trunk. — Attributed to von Neumann by Enrico Fermi.


Number of the Week: Plus or minus 0.1ºC


TWTW: Over the next few weeks, the coverage of TWTW will be limited. Shortly before the election, Ken Haapala was asked to volunteer for a non-paid, temporary position on a Trump transition landing team. He responded as he would have for any major national candidate – Yes. The activities are taking considerable time. Further, he will avoid writing in TWTW about policy or political issues. Responses to correspondence will be limited. Thank you.


The Gradient: In a March conference by the CO2 Coalition, Meteorologist Richard Lindzen gave a presentation emphasizing that the central issue for weather and for climate change is not global average temperature. The central issue is the gradient between the temperatures in the tropics and at the poles. Lindzen states that major historic climate changes “were characterized by large changes in the temperature difference between the tropics and the poles, with very little change at the equator.”

Lindzen uses the concept of a pipeline to illustrate his explanation. If a force applied to a liquid in a pipeline is increased, the flow increases because the pressure in the pipeline increases compared to the pressure at the end of the pipeline. The gradient in the pressure determines the flow.

Another simple illustration can be found by comparing the flow of a non-tidal stream on the coastal plain at an elevation at 20 feet with the flow of a stream in a beaver meadow at 6,000 feet. The speed of the flow of water is not determined by the elevation of the stream, but by the gradient of the stream.

Lindzen writes: “Misunderstanding the nature of past climate change, has, for example, led paleo-climatologists to exaggerate grossly climate sensitivity. As we have seen, past climate change was primarily characterized by changes in the equator-to-pole temperature difference, accompanied by only small changes in equatorial temperature.” Lindzen also states that the concept of “polar amplification” of global warming/climate change is absurd.

Lindzen’s comments are consistent with the findings of climate pioneer H.H. Lamb, who observed that the Little Ice Age was marked by fierce storms in Europe and, comparably, the warm periods were benign.

If the globe is experiencing a greenhouse gas warming, then the gradient between the tropics and the poles should be declining and gradient between the surface and the warming atmosphere should be declining. If occurring, these reductions in gradient should lead to a reduction in the severity of storms, not an increase as claimed by many.

Formerly, UAH published useful colored maps showing the global temperature change over the entire dataset, from which one could visualize changes in gradient. But the administration’s cuts in its funding of UAH are having an effect. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.


Climate Variability Selection: For some years, researchers at the Smithsonian Institution have explored the development of the human species in the Rift Valley of East Africa. With its many subspecies, the family could be called the human bush, rather than the human tree.

Researcher Rick Potts, director of the Smithsonian Institution’s Human Origins Program, has developed the hypothesis that climate variability selection may explain the increase in brain size of humanoids over the past several million years. Drilling cores and other archeological records show significant periods of strong rainfall and droughts as well as variation in temperatures over the last million years. Such changes in climate, and available foods, may favor adaptive organisms over highly specialized ones.

The data presented show ever increasing climate variability along with a general cooling. The trend in increased climate variability corresponds with an increase in brain case volume. It will be interesting to see how this research develops. See links under Changing Climate.


Data Fiddling: A new paper, built on an earlier one by Tom Karl, attempted to do away with the so-called Temperature Pause or Hiatus by reanalyzing sea surface data, then claiming that earlier estimates of temperature trends by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had large cooling biases. Thus, according to the paper, actual warming trends are greater than what was reported by the IPCC.

As David Whitehouse states: “Any estimate of temperature trends that have their endpoint on the uptick of the El Nino curve will give a misleadingly high trend. A new paper falls into this trap, claiming the global temperature hiatus never existed.”

“One has to be very careful about estimating temperature trends as they depend strongly on start and end years and changes of a year or two in them can produce very different results. One also has to be aware of the structure in the temperature data of the past 20-years or so as it is dominated not by long-term warming but by natural inter-annual events that are much stronger. There is the very strong 1998 El Nino that elevates temperatures, the much cooler La Nina years of 1999 and 2000, the El Ninos of 2010 and 2015 as well as smaller El Ninos and La Nina effects.

“The temperature trends of the oceans estimated by the paper fall into this trap. Technically the trends calculated are accurate for the start and end points used, but they are unwise start and end points which are, to use a frequently misunderstood term, cherry-picked.”

Perhaps unknowingly, these papers challenge the assertions of the IPCC claims of certainty.

The entire process is reminiscent of what von Neumann said in the quote of the week. If there is insufficient calibration among datasets, one can draw an elephant.

The 2008 NIPCC report discussed the calibration problem of going from instruments on ship engine water intakes significantly below the surface to ocean buoys on the surface. The NIPCC report suggested that because of the thermocline in the oceans, the shift would give an overestimate of any warming trend. The latest papers suggest that going from instruments below the surface to instruments at the surface results in an underestimate of any warming trend. Have the authors ever gone scuba diving in the ocean and felt the change in temperature with depth? See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy – NIPCC and Challenging the Orthodoxy.


Life Finds a Way: Craig Idso’s web site, CO2 Science, posted an interesting new study on so-called ocean acidification. Analyzing fossilized shells for the most diverse and abundant reef-building coral, the researchers discovered that the corals maintained their skeletal structures for 40 million years. The period covers extensive periods warmer than today, ice ages, and wide variety of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) conditions. As the site states:

The take home message of the Stolarski et al. paper is that the skeletal formation process of Acropora is, as they state, ‘strongly biologically controlled,’ uninhibited by changes in temperature or seawater chemistry, including seawater pH/ocean acidification conditions that are predicted to occur over the course of the next century and beyond.”

Many other such links can be found at CO2 science under the headings “Ocean Acidification” and “Ocean Acidification and Warming” http://www.co2science.org/subject/o/subject_o.php

See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy and Review of Recent Scientific Articles by CO2 Science.


Microbes and Oil: Oceanus, the magazine from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, not to be confused with John Holgren’s group, has an interesting article on what happened to the oil from Deepwater Horizon, the BP Oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. As TWTW reported at the time, the actual damage to major wildlife was greatly exaggerated, and the naturally occurring microbes were having a feast. The question addressed in the article was whether chemical dispersants helped the microbes in their feast.

The general conclusion is that by preventing the oil from clumping together, keeping the oil in smaller droplets, the dispersants assisted the microbes at the banquet. Of course, many in the environmental industry will be outraged by such findings. See link under Oil Spills, Gas Leaks & Consequences


Judith Curry’s Resignation: Judith Curry has resigned her tenured position as professor at Georgia Tech to devote time to her growing company in weather prediction. For several years, she has been a strong voice for reason in an ever-increasingly politicized world. We hope she continues with her web site, Climate Etc., giving a forum for many questioning the political and climate establishment. See links under Seeking a Common Ground.


Number of the Week: Plus or minus 0.1ºC (0.2ºF). On his web site, Roy Spencer stated: “We estimate that 2016 would have had to be 0.10 C warmer than 1998 to be significantly different at the 95% confidence level.” If the same calculations apply for a cooling, this would be an error range of plus or minus 0.1ºC. It would be interesting to see a realistic error range calculation of global surface temperature measurements.



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