A primer for ‘climate science deniers’

The bottom line on climate is impressively simple.  There is an instantaneous rate of increase (nominally – see below) in greenhouse gas forcing of 1E-9 W/m2 – set against a background of immense natural variability. The 97% consensus on the first point is a misdirection intended to deceive the public that 97% of climate deniers don’t believe this.  Simply not even close to true.   The disagreement was always about the scope and depth of natural variability, on the point where data adjustments become statistical manipulations, on gaps and uncertainties in data, on the proper use and limitations of climate models and on chaos in climate and models.  But far and away – disagreement was always about energy and development.  In every instance we have been on the right side of science and policy.

Land temperatures are what they focus on – although it is a very minor part of the global energy budget.  It is measured as sensible heat (the heat you can sense) by thermometers in a box at 2m from the ground.  Ocean temperatures are measured as sea surface temperature.  In explanation, most usually what we see as data is the change from conditions in a baseline period defined as the ‘climate normal’ – so-called anomalies – and there is no problem with that.  Latent heat is the energy that melts ice or vaporises water.  This is a large part of the atmospheric energy content and it is not measured by thermometers.  As water vapour condenses higher in the atmosphere, heat is released and is measured by satellites.  The most significant problem in the surface temperature is the divergence of the land and ocean records this century – see below.  Land is warming faster than ocean surface temperatures.  This can only happen if the land is drying out leading to more sensible and less latent heat flux at the surface.  From 1stprinciples – the land surface record is not a consistent or complete record of energy in the atmosphere and we must look elsewhere to draw reasonable inferences.  Nonetheless – lat’s have a quiick.

Over a few decades, the range of surface temperature trends from different sources is broad. I have constrained endpoints to 1944 and 1998 – for reasons that will become clear – and chosen the worst case. And the winners are: GISS in the global category and NOAA land.  The global trend is at worst 0.870C/century – and it can’t continue.  Oil, gas and coal reserves are limited and prices will rise – emissions from land will be reversed and a transition to 21st century energy sources will happen over the next few decades.  Cheap energy will fuel global development and ecological restoration.


Figure 1:  GISS global temperature with trends – source: Dr Kevin Cowtan’s Trend Calculator

The land trend is appreciably greater than in the global record.  The conclusion to draw from this is that surface conditions – wind, rain, humidity, vegetation cover, soil moisture – conspired to amplify warming over land.  Rather than a real effect – the likely cause is reduced latent heat flux and increased sensible heat.  Only sensible heat is measured by thermometers.


Figure 2: NOAA land record – source: Dr Kevin Cowtan’s Trend Calculator

If you look carefully at the global record you can see a period of cooling from 1944 to 1976 and warming to 1998.  This mirrors changes in the volume of cold, nutrient rich, deep water upwelling in the north and central Pacific.  The logical end points for trends is 1944 and 1998 – over the complete record of a natural cooling and a natural warming regime.

‘Our interest is to understand – first the natural variability of climate – and then take it from there. So we were very excited when we realized a lot of changes in the past century from warmer to cooler and then back to warmer were all natural.’  (Anastasios Tsonis, Atmospheric Sciences Group, University of Wisconsin)

The Pacific Decadal Oscillation and the El Niña-Southern Oscillation are linked.  (Indeed all global climate phenomenon are linked as signals propagate around the planet.)  More upwelling in the north-east Pacific is associated with more frequent and intense La Niña – and vice versa.  Changes in upwelling occur at 20 to 30 year intervals and have for a very long time.  It is a climate sub-system that has enormous influence on global temperature, hydrology and biology.  Both ENSO and PDO were first identified in shifts in fisheries abundance.   This powerful sub-system caused in the 20th century alternate warming and cooling – and a moderate return to more upwelling since.  The next Pacific climate shift is due within the decade.  There is, however, variability over the Holocene.  Based on long term (in the real sense), high resolution proxy’s – as El Niño activity nosedives off a 1000 year high –  I suspect that a shift to yet cooler conditions will emerge.

On the instrumental record is high La Niña activity from the start – and for centuries beforehand – transitioning to a 1000 year high in El Niño activity in the 20th century –and with the ever present 20-30 year upwelling regimes.  There are associated changes in global temperature trends and in global hydrology and biology.


Figure 3:  The MEI of Klaus Wolter – source: NOAA

Below is a high-resolution proxy of the Pacific state over the past 1000 years.  More salt in a Law Dome, Antarctic ice core is a cool Pacific and more rain in Australia – with implication for global temperature, hydrology and biology.

vance2012-antartica-law-dome-ice-core-salt-contentFigure 4: A millennial Pacific state proxy – source – Tessa Vance et al, 2013

Over the Holocene – immense variability is evident in a high-resolution sediment record.  Christopher Moy and colleagues examined a sediment core from Laguna Pallcacocha in southern Ecuador.  More rainfall and runoff from a warmer sea surface in the eastern Pacific washes more red sediment into the lake.  So we know it was pretty rainy in South America a 1000 years ago.  Some 5,000 years ago there was a change from more upwelling to less – that dried the Sahel.  Just 3,500 years ago there were a long series of warm Pacific events with red intensity greater than 200 and civilisations fell.  For comparison – red intensity in the ‘monster’ 1997/1998 El Niño event was 99.  Extremes in the Holocene put those of the 20th century to shame.  All climate activist hydrology, on the other hand, starts in the 1950’s and everything since is extreme.


Figure 5: A high resolution Holocene spanning sediment record – source – Moy et al 2002

And then there are models. Below is a perturbed physics model using a nid-range no mitigation emissions scenario.  It shows thousands of diverging solutions that is the defining property of these chaotic models that have at their core nonlinear equations of fluid transport.  The thick black line is temperature observations.  The thick blue lines are the one standard deviation limits.  The red lines are the IPCC range derived by an entirely different method.  The range of the perturbed physics ensemble (PPE) is even greater than the IPCC range.

The IPPC opportunistic ensemble uses a single solution from 50 odd models – a solution arbitrarily chosen from 1000’s of plausible solutions, graphed together and a fake statistics fabricated over the top.  They have known this (e.g, IPCC TAR 2001, McWilliams 2007, Slingo and Palmer 2011) since Lorenz in the 1960’s.  It is as crude as that.  The use of this method strongly suggests incompetence or fraud.


Figure 6:  A perturbed physics climate model – source – Rowland et al, 2012

So let’s go with the PPE that has an even broader range – and a complete absence of a way to calculate a probability density function over the range.  There is no way of telling a priori the solution – if any – that is most likely.  The other problems are that there is no way to model abrupt changes in the Pacific state and actual emissions are overwhelmingly likely to diverge from IPCC emission scenarios.  Climate will continue to diverge from models – almost certainly cooler.

We will transition to cheap and abundant 21st century energy sources within decades.

In the meantime we will continue – I predict – to suffer the annual Grand-Guignal circus of annual averages temperatures – if ever again drought or ENSO pushes the surface temperature a little higher.  It is so unbelievably irrelevant.  Annual averages are pretty much dependent on the state of the Pacific during the year – ENSO does not work to an annual rhythm – and on soil moisture around the world.  Is it such a minor part of the global energy budget – it measures only sensible heat at 2m from the surface – it misses entirely surface latent heat flux.  It neglects ocean heat – which is where the overwhelmingly greatest part of global energy stores is found.  It neglects the large variability of incoming and outgoing energy.

The global energy budget is very simple.

Δ(O&Aheat) = energy in – energy out

It is a differential equation if you are unsure of the derivation.  It is the change in ocean and atmospheric heat content – and net energy change as the difference between energy in and energy out.  Energy in and energy out are measured as radiant flux over one second – i.e. the instantaneous energy flux.  Remember that the rate of increase in greenhouse gas forcing is 1E-9 W/m2.  It is a very small number – but the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere over time increases photon scattering that can be observed from space (Harries 2001).  Proof positive of the 150 year old predictions of global warming.

Greenhouse gas warming increases the energy content of the planet at the speed of light.  The planet accumulates additional energy, warms and restores the nominal balance of incoming and outgoing energy.  There is no radiant imbalance that is not instantly eliminated.  Radiant imbalance is an archaic climate meme which is the subject of strange divination in the entrails of climate data.  Greenhouse gas forcing cannot be seen in top of atmosphere radiant flux.   It can only be seen in changes in the heat content of the planet.

In atmospheric temperature changes – where satellite instruments are much to be preferred.  Where there is huge variability and slow greenhouse gas warming are well within instrument measurement error.


Figure 7:  RSS satellite temperature anomalies – source – woodfortrees.org

In ocean heat content.  Where in a limited period relatively precise data it is impossible to tell where small greenhouse gas takes over from large natural variability.  The problem of a small signal superimposed on a very much larger signal.


Figure 8:  Argo ocean heat content – source – climate4you – well worth multiple visits for a range of up to date data.  There was a large cooling to 2008 and strong warming since.

There is no precision in absolute values of energy flux in either incoming or outgoing energy.  Anomalies are much more  precise and can tell us a little.  The sun was a little warmer in past few years in the upswing of the 11 year Schwabe solar cycle.


Figure 9:  Solar irradiance anomalies – source – CERES data products 

Net flux is a combination of emitted infrared and reflected shortwave.  Net upward is warming by convention.  There has been a considerable natural warming since 2008.

Figure 10: Net outgoing power flux anomalies – source – CERES data products

Ole Humlum is Professor of Geosciences at the University of Oslo – he is of course one of the 1000’s of scientists on denier hit lists – mostly for saying something like this.


Figure 11: A pause in carbon dioxide increase –  source – Nature Commentary 

It is where I started this post – with profound anger at motivated idiots who can see nothing wrong with fitting science to a Procrustean bed.    They have been told these other things for decades.  The response has always been abuse, denigration, personalisation and marginalisation – and to place names on hit lists for future denier pogroms – come the revolution.

The performers are a cabal of self-appointed arbiters of science, swarms of followers who confound the discourse with dissimulation, trivialities, diversions, denigration and abuse – climate memes learned by rote and strategies honed in echo chambers – and a political class exaggerating risk to justify societal and economic transformation. They can, of course, be all three.  The personal investment of scientific credibility, self-image and political ambitions is enormous – and then there is the gravy train.  Motivated performers are hardly likely to be moved until ideology and reality diverge sufficiently such that the strange superstructure of climate activism collapses.

Returning 100 billion tonnes of carbon to soils and ecosystems has major benefits that are utterly unrelated to global warming. Restoring soil carbon stores increases agronomic productivity and enhances global food security.  Increasing the soil organic content enhances water holding capacity and creates a more drought tolerant agriculture – with less downstream flooding.  There is a critical level of soil carbon that is essential to maximising the effectiveness of water and nutrient inputs.  Global food security, especially for countries with fragile soils and harsh climate such as in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, cannot be achieved without improving soil quality through an increase in soil organic content.   Wildlife flourishes on restored grazing land helping to halt biodiversity loss.  Reversing soil carbon loss is a new green revolution where conventional agriculture is hitting a productivity barrier with exhausted soils and increasingly expensive inputs.

Increased agricultural productivity, increased downstream processing and access to markets build local economies and global wealth.  Economic growth provides resources for solving problems – conserving and restoring ecosystems, better sanitation and safer water, better health and education, updating the diesel fleet and other productive assets to emit less black carbon and reduce the health and environmental impacts, developing better and cheaper ways of producing electricity, replacing cooking with wood and dung with better ways of preparing food – thus avoiding respiratory disease and again reducing black carbon emissions.  A global program of agricultural soils restoration is the foundation for balancing the human ecology.  Many countries have committed to increasing soil carbon by 0.4% per year.  As a global objective and given the highest priority it is a solution to critical problems of biodiversity loss, development, food security and resilience to drought and flood.  Fifty countries and millions of people have joined the cause since Paris in 2015.

The other inevitable progression is a transition to 21st-century energy.  At this stage the frontrunner is modular, high temperature, fast neutron nuclear engines.  I was told recently that even if my nuclear fantasy was possible that cheap and abundant energy would increase resource use and be globally damaging.  I think I’ll disagree.  We are choosing for very good reasons a high energy future.  You may be dismayed at the choice – but that’s not our problem.

The COP21 shadow proclamation, on the other hand, results in an increase of energy emissions of 3.7 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions to 2030.  Liars and dissemblers proclaim a victory and cling to faint hopes of a comeback.  Like Kyoto it is a failure even in its limited objectives – and will continue so.

The rest of us are concerned that the real objectives of humanity are not lost sight of.  It is simple in principle to take the initiative on the broad front of population, development, energy technology, land degradation, conservation and restoration of agricultural lands and ecosystems and building resilient communities.  What we really want is much more clarity on effective policy responses – with a focus on the real issues of global economic progress and environmental protection.

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