Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #412

By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project

Re-Blogged From WUWT

Quote of the Week: “I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong. If we will only allow that, as we progress, we remain unsure, we will leave opportunities for alternatives. We will not become enthusiastic for the fact, the knowledge, the absolute truth of the day, but remain always uncertain … In order to make progress, one must leave the door to the unknown ajar.” – Richard Feynman

Number of the Week: 11,000 & 1,600

Dynamics in the Tropics: In 2017, Judith Curry retired from her tenured position as a professor at the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she had been Chair of the department, to focus on her private firm, Climate Forecasts Applications, citing the “craziness” of the field of climate science and the great politization of research funding. She has long recognized that there are major problems in the field, particularly in the dynamics of the atmosphere and the oceans in the tropics. As a climate modeler, she has first-hand knowledge of these problems, yet to be solved.

A former colleague at Georgia Tech, Peter Webster, has written what appears to be a significant book, Dynamics of The Tropical Atmosphere and Oceans. TWTW has not reviewed the book and the following is from what Curry has posted on her blog, Climate Etc. Of particular interest is that in 1967 as a young graduate student Webster took a course from Jule Charney, who headed the team that wrote the highly regarded 1979 Charney Report for the National Research Council. That report stated that the global warming from a doubling of carbon dioxide (CO2) is likely to be near 3°C ± 1.5°C.

The estimate was a significant increase from what laboratory experiments of the greenhouse effect of CO2 reported. The difference was a major increase in water vapor, the primary greenhouse gas, over the tropics. The Charney Report estimate, which was presented without any comprehensive atmospheric data supporting the conclusion, has been retained by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its followers, including the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP).

Both the IPCC and the USGCRP ignore the fact we have 40 years of comprehensive atmospheric temperature trends that contradict the 3°C ± 1.5°C estimate and indicate that 1.5°C is the more likely estimate and the global warming may be far less. Charney died in 1981, before the method of estimating atmospheric temperature trends from satellite measurements was developed.

A brilliant mathematician, Charney had been very influential in the development of numerical weather prediction and worked with J. von Neumann in using electronic computers to make forecasts by using dynamic equations of motion. These forecasts were based on an expanded network of daily radiosonde readings of the atmosphere using weather balloons. [The weather balloon data support the satellite temperature trend data as demonstrated by the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).]

One can argue that by ignoring the satellite data, the IPCC, the USGCRP, and others have divorced themselves from the very foundation of the Charney Report and its estimates. With this background, Curry’s review of Webster’s book is of keen interest. Many of Curry’s comments are too involved for TWTW, but the gist of some key comments is presented below.

The blurb on Amazon.com states:

“Dynamics of The Tropical Atmosphere and Oceans” provides a detailed description of macroscale tropical circulation systems such as the monsoon, the Hadley and Walker Circulations, El Niño, and the tropical ocean warm pool. These macroscale circulations interact with a myriad of higher frequency systems, ranging from convective cloud systems to migrating equatorial waves that attend the low-frequency background flow.

“A comprehensive overview of the dynamics and thermodynamics of large-scale tropical atmosphere and oceans is presented using both a ‘reductionist’ and ‘holistic’ perspectives of the coupled tropical system. The reductionist perspective provides a detailed description of the individual elements of the ocean and atmospheric circulations. The physical nature of each component of the tropical circulation such as the Hadley and Walker circulations, the monsoon, the incursion of extratropical phenomena into the tropics, precipitation distributions, equatorial waves and disturbances described in detail. The holistic perspective provides a physical description of how the collection of the individual components produces the observed tropical weather and climate. How the collective tropical processes determine the tropical circulation and their role in global weather and climate is provided in a series of overlapping theoretical and modelling constructs.

“Following a detailed description of tropical phenomenology, the reader is introduced to dynamical and thermodynamical constraints that guide the planetary climate and establish a critical role for the tropics. Equatorial wave theory is developed for simple and complex background flows, including the critical role played by moist processes. The manner in which the tropics and the extratropics interact is then described, followed by a discussion of the physics behind the subtropical and near-equatorial precipitation including arid regions. The El Niño phenomena and the monsoon circulations are discussed, including their covariance and predictability. Finally, the changing structure of the tropics is discussed in terms of the extent of the tropical ocean warm pool and its relationship to the intensity of global convection and climate change.”

The table of contents is extensive and should be reviewed.

Curry states:

“Here is what stands out for me in the book.

“First, the book is ‘old school’ in the sense of integrating observations and theory.  This approach is surprisingly rare these days in climate dynamics, with its heavy reliance on global climate model simulations.  The book has a very strong foundation in fluid dynamics and wave dynamics.  At the same time, the mathematical developments are sufficiently clear to be followed by students, with additional details in the appendices.

“Second, the book presents an underlying philosophy for approaching the understanding of tropical dynamics, integrating reductionist and holistic approaches.

“Third, the book provides historical context for the development of our understanding.  Interesting historical snippets are provided, including biographical notes of key historical scientists.

“Fourth, the above three elements integrate to provide insights into the process of the science of climate dynamics, not merely a recitation of our current understanding

“Fifth, there are over 300 diagrams/figures in the book, including many originally drawn schematics that are very effective at providing insights and supporting understanding…”

As presented by Curry, in the conclusion of the book Webster writes that, in 1967, when Webster was a graduate student, Charney believed that virtually all the problems of numerical weather predictions had been solved, but a few islands of resistance held out. They were:

  • “What is the relationship between the turbulent boundary layer and synoptic scale variability?
  • How can steep gradients associated with fronts and topographic features be handled in models?
  • Do models correctly handle the cascade of energy between scales of motion?
  • How are convective processes and large-scale tropical circulations related?
  • What determines the structure, variability, and location of such preeminent tropical features as the ITCZ [Intertropical Convergence Zone] organized and maintained?”

As a new student, Webster found Charney’s view that virtually all the problems of numerical weather prediction have been solved was depressing. Now he writes:

“Now, over 45 years later, many new questions regarding the tropical system have arisen. It is interesting, though, to determine what progress has been made in solving Charney’s list of problems and how we have approached their solution.”

There are two major approaches to model the issues. One approach is reductionism: breaking things down into components, trying to solve the components, and then trying to reassemble the components. However, when making predictions, “we find that the reductionist approach does not help in the prediction of emergent (or unforeseen) phenomena.”

The second approach is called Holism. “Holism claims that complex systems are inherently irreducible and are more than the sum of their parts, owing to chaos and nonlinearities. Emergent behavior may arise from complex systems that cannot be deduced from consideration of the components of the system alone. Holism leads to ‘systems thinking’ and possesses derivatives such as chaos and complexity.”

Webster gives specific examples of concepts such as the Hadley Circulation and Rossby waves that cannot be predicted. He goes on to discuss that there are three levels of complexity, the simpler the complexity of a system the more likely a predictive skill may be developed. Webster describes that a simple system possesses two components, a complex system may have three or more components, and a tangled system may have multiple interacting systems.

Webster concludes his book with:

“So, what can we say about the problems Charney laid out in 1967? There has been substantial progress in the first two problems. In 1967, the grid point resolution of the earliest numerical weather models was hundreds of kilometers. Now it is closer to 10 km and will possess greater resolutions and become cloud resolving in the near future. The number of vertical levels has increased as well from only a few to over 50 in some operational models. Topographic relief is incorporated directly through use of the sigma-coordinate system. However, Charney’s third and fourth problems remain “islands of resistance” to this day. Simply, we still are uncertain about how equatorial dynamics and convection interact and the degree of their mutual dependency. With respect to the ITCZ, Section 13.1 offered six theories regarding the location of equatorial convection. Although some are stronger than others, their number is an indication that closure on the issue has not yet been reached. In addition, we have unearthed many new mysteries. One is the discovery of enclaves of disturbances existing within tropics made up of families of convection ranging from diurnal through synoptic and biweekly to intraseasonal.

“In retrospect, Charney’s tropical problems were not solved by the end of the semester, nor by the end of the decade, and not even in the present time. In fact, investigations of these problems have spawned many new exciting problems. It seems that I was needlessly depressed in 1967 about the future opportunities in tropical meteorology.”

For purposes of TWTW, this book is important in recognizing the complexity of the problem, which we do not understand and for which we do not have solutions at this time. Those who claim that the science is settled, or that it is simple physics do not know of what they speak. Those who make long-term predictions lack knowledge of the subject. In regard to greenhouse gases, the best we can do is to continue monitoring the atmosphere to ensure that it is not warming dangerously. See links under Seeking A Common Ground.


Shock Value: Last week’s TWTW presented a thoughtful discussion by Jim Steele on so-called ocean acidification. TWTW failed to mention an important quotation.

“Although Dr. Ken Caldeira purposefully promoted the term ‘ocean acidification’ to generate public concern about possible effects from increasing CO2, the term ‘ocean acidification’ has evoked undue fears and misunderstandings. As New Yorker journalist Elizabeth Kolbert reported, ‘Caldeira told me that he had chosen the term ‘ocean acidification’ quite deliberately, for its shock value. Seawater is naturally alkaline, with a pH ranging from 7.8 to 8.5—a pH of 7 is neutral—which means that, for now, at least, the oceans are still a long way from actually turning acidic.’”

Caldeira is an atmospheric scientist with the Department of Global Ecology of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, CA. Apparently, choosing words for shock value is one of his important scientific discoveries. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.


Hypothetical Electrons? The News Release claimed:

“The United States can deliver 90 percent clean, carbon-free electricity nationwide by 2035, dependably, at no extra cost to consumer bills and without the need for new fossil fuel plants, according to a study released today from the Center for Environmental Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley.”

The claim is based on a report by the Goldmann School of Public Policy at Berkeley titled “2035 Report: Plummeting Solar, Wind, and Battery Costs Can Accelerate Our Clean Energy Future.” There were many similar claims in the UK when the Climate Change Act 2008 was passed and when appropriate policies were put into effect. Today, costs in the UK are increasing greatly, and electricity is becoming less reliable.

Writing for the UK Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), John Constable has a collection of essays on the fragility of the power grid and that it may take £2-3 Billion a year to prevent blackouts. This follows other reports on grid-scale storage, costs of offshore power, and similar reports by distinguished authors for the GWPF. All too frequently energy modelers bury their assumptions which should be clearly stated and evaluated. [The US energy models claiming the country would run out of oil and natural gas in the 20th century are examples.]

Rather than point by point analysis of assumptions sometimes it is far easier to take the position of former president Harry Truman from the “Show Me” state of Missouri. Give examples where a modern country operates without fossil fuels. They do not exist; even for electricity alone, they do not exist without nuclear. The problem with wind and solar is storage, a problem which is greatly underestimated. The only reliable storage on a commercial scale is pumped hydro storage, which Denmark relies on (thanks to Norway and Sweden), at significant cost to Denmark.

Called the largest battery in the world, the pumped hydro storage station in Bath, Virginia, is the world’s largest such facility. It was opened in 1985 and has maximum generation capacity of 3,003 Megawatts (MW), and a total storage capacity of 24,000 Megawatt hours (MWh). The elevation difference between the two reservoirs is about 1,260 feet (380 m) and the cost was about $4 billion in 2019 dollars. It can operate at maximum capacity for three hours, then due to dropping water level in the upper reservoir, the generation declines on a sliding scale to zero in 11 hours. During the last 8 hours after peak capacity, the average capacity is 1,864 MWh

Designed for peak shaving, when demand is the greatest, such as in August, it works well in balancing the load for the grid operator, JPM Interconnection, which covers parts of 13 states.

However, the key is refill, which comes from reliable nuclear and coal-fired plants. During weeks in August, the daily refill is not sufficient to top the upper reservoir, and refill continues during the weekends. Bermuda highs off the coast of the Mid-Atlantic states can last for days to weeks in August, rendering refill by wind power impossible.

Given current environmental regulations, it is doubtful such a facility would be approved in the US today.

Several efforts have been made to generate electricity without fossil fuels on isolated islands. They have failed. Claiming to provide all energy, El Hierro in the Canary Islands tried wind power and pumped hydro storage. A careful engineering analysis by the late Roger Andrews showed that over three years it failed to generate sufficient electricity, alone, about 50% of the time and diesel was required. King Island off Tasmania tried wind and solar power with batteries, dynamic resisters, flywheel, and reduced demand. It fails about 35% of the time and diesel is required.

Very simply, there is a big difference between modelers designing a hypothetical electrical system and engineers designing a real one. See links under Defending the Orthodoxy, Questioning European Green, and Alternative, Green (“Clean”) Energy – Storage.


Imagining Snowstorms? The National Science Foundation claimed: “Climate change could dramatically reduce US snowstorms.” According to the announcement:

“The researchers tracked snowstorms for 12 seasons in the early part of this century, establishing a control sample that was representative of actual observations. They then tracked snowstorms to see how those winter events would change in a climate that was warmer by about 5 degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit). That temperature increase is predicted for the late 21st century by averaging 19 leading climate models in an upper-limit greenhouse gas emissions scenario.

“The study is believed to be the first to objectively identify and track individual snowstorm projections of the distant future — from minor snow accumulations to average winter storms to crippling blizzards.” [Boldface added]

In CO2 Science, the staff reported on a 2019 study by Connelly, et al. “Northern Hemisphere snow-cover trends (1967-2018): A comparison between climate models and observations” published in the journal Geosciences. The report stated:

“In concluding their paper, the researchers state the obvious, offering ‘we recommend that the climate model projections of future and past snow-cover trends should be treated with considerable caution and skepticism,’ adding that ‘it is important that [policy makers] planning for future changes in snow cover do not rely on unreliable projections.’ And that is good advice to end a very important and revealing study.”

Given that climate models greatly overestimate atmospheric warming over the past 25 years and have huge problems as partially described above, TWTW has difficulty accepting the NSF claim. See links under Defending the Orthodoxy and Review of Recent Scientific Articles by CO2 Science


Number of the Week: 11,000 & 1,600. According to Wikipedia, the population of El Hierro is 10,968 (2019) and the population of King Island 1,585 (2016). Energy modelers claim we can provide 90% of electricity to the 328 million (2019) in the US using wind and solar plus storage techniques that fail in areas with 0.003% of the population 50% of the time?



1. The Covid Age Penalty

New patient data offers a guide to opening while protecting seniors.

Editorial, WSJ, June 12, 2020


TWTW Summary: The editorial begins:

“By now it’s clear that people older than 65 are the most vulnerable to the novel coronavirus, and the age penalty is especially severe for the elderly with underlying health conditions. This is a tragedy in lives cut short, but it also means that states and cities should be able to lift their lockdowns safely if they focus on protecting vulnerable Americans.

“About 80% of Americans who have died of Covid-19 are older than 65, and the median age is 80. A review by Stanford medical professor John Ioannidis last month found that individuals under age 65 accounted for 4.8% to 9.3% of all Covid-19 deaths in 10 European countries and 7.8% to 23.9% in 12 U.S. locations.

“For most people under the age of 65, the study found, the risk of dying from Covid-19 isn’t much higher than from getting in a car accident driving to work. In California and Florida, the fatality risk for the under-65 crowd is about equal to driving 16 to 17 miles per day. While higher in hot spots like New York (668 miles) and New Jersey (572 miles), the death risk is still lower than the public perceives.

“The risk climbs especially for those over age 80. According to the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, Americans over 85 are about 2.75 times more likely to die from Covid-19 than those 75 to 84, seven times more likely than those 65 to 74 and 16.8 times more than those 55 to 64.

“Fatality rate comparisons between Covid-19 and the flu are inapt because they affect populations differently. Children under age 14 are between 6.8 and 17 times less likely to die of Covid-19 than the seasonal flu or pneumonia, assuming 150,000 coronavirus deaths this year. Those 25 to 85 are two to four times more likely to die of Covid while those over 85 are about 1.7 times more likely.

“As treatments have improved over the course of the pandemic, fewer young people are dying. In late March, Americans over age 75 made up about half of all weekly deaths (see chart nearby) while those under 45 made up between four and five percent. Now those over 75 make up about two-thirds of deaths while those younger than 45 make up less than 2%.

“Older people generally have weaker immune systems and more have underlying respiratory and cardiovascular conditions that appear to exacerbate the illness. More than 95% of people who have died in the United Kingdom had at least one underlying condition. Italian public-health officials have also reported that 96% of deaths involved one chronic condition, and 60% had three or more.

“Nursing homes are especially vulnerable because they have large numbers of elderly in cramped quarters. They now account for more than 50% of Covid-19 fatalities in 30 or so states, including Arizona, Washington, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.

“The good news is that most people over age 65 who are in generally good health are unlikely to die or get severely ill from Covid-19.”

Then the editorial concludes with specific examples


The Media’s Self-Censors

The pre-liberal idea of settling disagreements with coercion has made a comeback in the United States.

By Daniel Henninger, WSJ, June 10, 2020


TWTW Summary: The journalist begins with:

“In 1789, America’s Founding Fathers, acutely aware of the political bloodbaths that had consumed Europe for centuries, created a system in which disagreements would be arbitrated by periodically allowing the public to turn their opinions into votes. The majority would win the election. Then, because political disagreement never ends, you hold more elections. Aware of the natural tendency of factions and majorities to want to suppress opposition opinion, the Founders created a Bill of Rights for all citizens, including what they called, with unmistakable clarity, ‘the freedom of speech.’

“Nothing lasts forever, and so it is today in the U.S., where the pre-liberal idea of settling disagreements with coercion has made a comeback.

“In the past week, the editorial page editor of the New York Times, the editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer and the editors of Bon Appétit magazine and the young women’s website Refinery 29 have been forced out by the staff and owners of their publications for offenses regarded as at odds with the beliefs of the current protests.

“It is impossible not to recognize the irony of these events. The silencers aren’t campus protesters but professional journalists, a class of American workers who for nearly 250 years have had a constitutionally protected and court-enforced ability to say just about anything they want. Historically, people have been attracted to American journalism because it was the freest imaginable place to work for determined, often quirky individualists. Suddenly, it looks like the opposite of that.

“The idea that you could actually lose your job, as the Inquirer’s editor did, because of a headline on an opinion piece that said ‘Buildings Matter, Too’ is something to ponder. It sounds like a made-up incident that one might expect in a work of political satire, such as George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm.’

“The issue here is not about the assertion that racism is endemic in the U.S. The issue is the willingness by many to displace the American system of free argument with a system of enforced, coerced opinion and censorship, which forces comparison to the opinion-control mechanisms that existed in Eastern Europe during the Cold War.

“In 2006, the movie ‘The Lives of Others’ dramatized how the Stasi, the omnipresent East German surveillance apparatus, pursued a nonconforming writer, whose friends were intimidated into abandoning him. To survive this kind of enforced thought-concurrence in the Soviet Union or Communist Eastern Europe, writers resorted to circulating their uncensored ideas as underground literature called samizdat. Others conveyed their ideas as political satire. In Vaclav Havel’s 1965 play, ‘The Memorandum,’ a Czech office worker is demoted to ‘staff watcher,’ whose job is to monitor his colleagues. You won’t see Havel’s anticensorship plays staged in the U.S. anytime soon.”

The journalist concludes with other examples of silencing or shunning. As demonstrated by Judith Curry leaving Georgia Tech, silencing or shunning is common in academia today.


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