What is the science or lack thereof behind “Global Warming”? It may surprise some people that the earth’s climate is a very complicated thing. Carbon dioxide can intercept infrared radiation at a wavelength of about 15 microns and heat up. When the earth heats up, it can release carbon dioxide. Which came first the chicken or the egg? The plain and simple fact is nobody knows. There is much more water vapor in the earth’s atmosphere; and, water vapor absorbs infrared radiation at a much broader band width than carbon dioxide. It is universally believed that water vapor accounts for the overwhelming bulk of the so-called green-house effect. Water vapor also turns into clouds. Sometimes incoming cosmic radiation can effect the formation of clouds. Clouds cool the earth significantly. Convection also cools the earth significantly. The effect of clouds and convection would completely overwhelm the effect of radiance in the troposphere. The classic view of climate change puts ocean currents and the position of continents in the driver’s seat. Volcanoes emit both co2 which supposedly warms the earth and sulfur which cools the earth. Forrest fires emit both soot which cools the earth and enormous amounts of co2 which supposedly warms the earth. Soot can also darken snow causing the snow to absorb more visible light. Weathering of minerals also changes the amount of co2 in the atmosphere. Weathering of kerogen or carbonates can add co2. Much of the earth’s historic co2 has been sequestered in carbonates by living organisms. Weathering of silicates absorbs co2 and most of the earth’s surface is covered by silicates. The mechanics of earth’s movement through space (Milankovitch cycles) also exert a significant effect on climate. Solar activity has a significant effect on climate; but, not the way you might think. It seems the solar wind associated with sun-spots is a barrier to cosmic rays. You can find an abundance of articles on the web connecting sun-spots with climate including the observations of Edward Walter Maunder eighty years before this climate debate began. Living things have a significant effect on the earth’s climate too. Animals produce co2. Plants absorb co2 and also cool by vaporization. As if all this was not complicated enough, I can personally guaranty you that what we don’t know about the earth’s climate vastly exceeds what we do know! Yet it seems that the proponents of anthropogenic global warming have it all down to a computer model. I can only conclude that they must have the chips from the first “Terminator”.
By necessity, computer models are almost always cartoonish oversimplifications of reality. Both the code and the amount of processing time increase incredibly fast as one tries to make more realistic approximations of reality. Often these simplifications come surprisingly close to real world effects. Sometimes, they don’t. Dr. Ferenc Miskolczi claims that the black body equations used by many so called climatologists are a gross over simplification of how radiative equilibrium works on a real planet. Dr. Miskolczi’s article published in Quarterly Journal of the Hungarian Meteorological Service Vol. 111, No. 1, January–March 2007, pp. 1–40, which can be downloaded from: http://met.hu/doc/idojaras/vol111001_01.pdf. In defense of Dr. Miskoliczi’s article, many scientists believe that even though the partial pressure of co2 is equal to the air pressure outside the international space station, that the co2 in earths atmosphere completely extinguishes infrared radiation in it’s main absorption band of 15 microns in a few hundred meters. Carbon dioxide is like India ink to infrared radiation at a wavelength of 15 microns. The earth’s ability to maintain a relatively stable temperature is well known to earth scientists. So mystifying is the earth’s ability to maintain a relatively steady temperature that it has been given the whimsical misnomer “Gaia Hypothesis”. In fact no one really believes that the earth is alive or is being watched over by some Greek goddess and no one had any hypothesis to explain this fact until Dr. Miskoliczi published his article. Skeptical Science claims that extinction of co2 absorption spectra is irrelevant because of convection yet the cooling effects of convection are not taken into account nor any data set cited. Go ahead click their links. The sad fact is that we seem stuck like a broken record on these radiative transfer models. A doctor thinks he cures what you have and a specialist thinks you have what he cures. Dr. James Hansen specialized in radiative transfer models; but was never able to explain how greenhouse gasses could cause a planet to spin the wrong way. Many people think that Venus is hot because of its atmospheric pressure. In the troposphere radiative transfer is much less significant than heat conduction or convection. Conduction and convection is what your local weatherman looks at. This co2 based global warming thing is really based on a series of cascading positive feedbacks. Warmer air would contain more water vapor. The water vapor would multiply the co2 effect. Their collective effect would melt the tundra which would release methane, another greenhouse gas. These cascading effects would be triggered by the global temperatures rising above a “tipping point” beyond which the earth would be sent into an uncontrollable runaway greenhouse effect. It sounds logical; but it simply does not happen.
As I said, the earth has hot times and cold times; but always seems to bounce back to its “natural temperature range”. Currently we are at the cold end of that range. This is in fact an “ice age”. We just happen to be living during a short lived glacial retreat known as an “interglacial period”. Four of the previous interglacial periods were warmer and had more co2 than the current one. In fact for most of the past half billion years the earth has been warmer and had much more co2 in its atmosphere than now. Temperatures would have to go up 3-4 degrees Celsius and there would have to be three times as much co2 in the air just to get near normal. The earth is currently very deficient in co2. Even looking back just a thousand years it seems the climate was much warmer. A thousand years ago the North Atlantic was much warmer than it is now (medieval warm period MWP). Six hundred years ago the North Atlantic got very cold (the little ice age). In the 1800’s the North Atlantic began to warm up again. We don’t have rigorous temperature readings from these times; but, we have other proxies. Proxies are not all created equal. In school I found physics and math quite easy; but, geology was always a curve ball. Geology is all about evaluating proxies and the proxies don’t always point in the same direction. Tree rings can tell you if one year was better than another year; but, you can’t ferret out a tenth of a degree difference the way Dr. Michael Mann was trying to do. If you come across a frozen Viking farm; then you know that the climate had to be mild enough for whatever agriculture they were doing. Based on these proxies and the literature of the time; I can not see a thing remarkable about our temperature trend from 1800 to the present! Claims by the proponents of AGW that the Vikings were part of a vast right wing conspiracy have not been substantiated. There is nothing unusual about the current warming trend, even if you include a litany of exaggerated temperature readings.
“Also I cannot believe that there is not a concerted protest at the secrecy that surrounds this statistical composite from Phil Jones. You’d think that figures as widely quoted as this should be public (in the same way the satellite record is), but you’d be wrong.”
-Steve McIntyre: http://climateaudit.org/2007/01/26/hadcru-temperature/
It’s not just a matter of data being available in some generic form. There is tones and tones of data out there. Which data set goes with which paper? Is the data available? Even today they don’t make it easy. Remember; it’s your tax dollars that are paying for all this data. As these figures become available to the public more and more “errors” are being found. Failures in NOAA satellites went unchecked and the NOAA tries to doge FOI requests. Steve McIntyre discovered the Y2K bug in GISS data. A few months later they found more slipshod work from the house of Hansen. Data from Russian stations was cherry picked. This is particularly important because Siberia is one of the few places in the northern hemisphere where you can get rigorous data from pristine environments. An unexplained bias is added to New Zealand data and a smoking gun is found at Darwin Zero. Once the GISS data was fixed and the Darwin Zero data was un-homogenized the both indicated that the hottest year was in the 1930’s. This is significant because the proponents of AGW often claim that the medieval warm period was regional; not global. They also claim that the lack of data in the Southern Hemisphere proves this. Only for AGW does a lack of data prove anything. Furthermore it’s not up to Anthony Watts and Steve McIntyre to disprove the AGW theory. It’s up to the proponents of AGW to prove their theory and they have not come close to that. The vitriol aimed at Anthony Watts and Steve McIntyre is incomprehensible. Scrutinizing the integrity of the data is the first order of the day in any scientific endeavor. It is the difference between science and religion. Is the data driving the theory or is the theory driving the data?
Is it possible the sun has something to do with the climate? The AGW proponents say no. They claim that the suns brightness has not changed much in fifty years. Fifty years ago the northern hemisphere was well into its warming trend. The proponents of global warming have never produced the satellite records from four-hundred years ago, before the warming began. Furthermore the theory that it’s the sun has to do with sunspots. There is in fact a very good correlation with sunspots. When there are a lot of sun spots the suns atmosphere is very active. When the sun is active it injects more plasma into the solar wind which acts as a solar atmosphere stopping cosmic rays. Cosmic rays are thought to stimulate cloud formation which has a significant influence on the earth’s climate. That theory might not explain the global warming on Mars and Jupiter; but, something is happening that has nothing to do with people.
Proponents of AGW claim that carbon isotope analysis proves that humans have caused a 33% increase in atmospheric co2. Humans produce only 4% of the worlds co2. How can humans be responsible for a 33% increase in co2? It simply is not possible! That would be a total violation of both chemical and biological laws of equilibrium. In fact there is only a fractional difference δ13c and δ12c in the biosphere due to photosynthesis. Plants seem to have a slightly higher amount δ13co2. The co2 in the air seems to be lower in δ13co2 than you would expect from burning plants. Dr. Roy Spencer thinks peaks in sea surface temperatures might have caused the difference. In his post in WUWT Dr. Spencer compares:
The monthly C13/C12 ratio data from Mauna Loa (1990-2005) are available here: ftp://ftp.cmdl.noaa.gov/ccg/co2c13/flask/month/mlo_01D0_mm.co2c13
The monthly Mauna Loa CO2 data (1958-2007) are contained in the 5th file listed here: ftp://ftp.cmdl.noaa.gov/ccg/co2/trends/
I find the claim that we know exactly how much co2 volcanoes produce to be questionable. Most of the worlds volcanoes are under water and very difficult to explore. Furthermore magma that encounters limestone would release huge amounts of co2. Marble comes from mixing limestone with magma. Simply examining a few volcanoes tells you nothing. The amount of co2 produced could vary greatly depending on what kind of rock the magma encountered. I know of no large scale census of volcanoes. In my last post I mentioned how a disproportionate number of most cited papers in the geosciences seem to deal with climate science, at least for American geologists. Where’s the “shake and bake”; that’s what gets people interested in geology in the first place.
“There is no question that there are very many more scientific papers which accept the mainstream view of global warming being caused by humans. And that might account for something if those papers actually independently investigated alternative, natural mechanisms that might explain most global warming in the last 30 to 50 years, and found that those natural mechanisms could not.”
-Dr. Roy Spencer http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/06/22/spencer-the-inquisition/
The idea that these AGW scientists just got together and in twenty years they got the Earths climate all figured out is the most ludicrous claim I’ve ever heard. If these people are really that good then they should develop fusion power and make the whole debate academic. In fact there is little historic data to go on and use of proxies is not well understood by theoretical physicists. I haven’t even gone into ocean currents, only three of which are generally discussed. Biology would be a whole new chapter in the discussion by itself. Co2 is one factor of many. In the future other factors influencing the climate will probably be discovered. Take another look at what this much maligned man said: Balling
One of the things I like about Anthony Watts blog, WUWT, is how enlightened the comments are. In one post, Searching the PaleoClimate, the third comment states:
“The analysis of Royer et al. (2004) assumes an unrealistically high pH correction. First, it neglects the ice-volume effect, which changes the relation between δ18O and T. Second, this large pH correction implies high temperatures for seawater even during times of extensive glaciations. Moreover, the analysis of Royer et al. (2004) consists of bootstrapping, by introducing a correction to T that is an implicit function of RCO2. It is then not surprising that a correlation between T and RCO2 is obtained. This would be the case irrespective of the RCO2 model utilized.”
Referring to: http://www.phys.huji.ac.il/~shaviv/ClimateDebate/RoyerReply.pdf
Many of these peer reviewed articles, promoting the theory of “Anthropogenic Global Warming” have professional looking citations. There are thousands of articles by somebody et al. It is humanly impossible to begin to cover a fraction of them. Every time I’ve chased these musical “et al.s“; I find somebody et al. cited somebody else et al. who cited somebody who made an assumption about something they could not possibly know and had no physical reason as to why it should be so. (i.e. 100 year half life for co2 persistence in the atmosphere)
Personally I’m extremely skeptical of the theory of “Anthropogenic Global Warming” (AGW); but, that’s not really the point I’m trying to make here. The point is that things are allot more complicated than you’ve been told. The theory of AGW is not close to being proved and we are not close to understanding the earths climate.