Saturday, March 29, 2008

2008 International Conference on Climate Change

The 2008 International Conference on Climate Change held in New York last month was a big success. Audio of the presentations are now available here.

I previously posted Anthony Watts power point presentation. Now you can hear his speech.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Earth's Oceans Aren't Warming

An article on NPR discusses research showing that there has been no warming in the world's oceans over the last four years. The article states in part:
Some 3,000 scientific robots that are plying the ocean have sent home a puzzling message. These diving instruments suggest that the oceans have not warmed up at all over the past four or five years. That could mean global warming has taken a breather. Or it could mean scientists aren't quite understanding what their robots are telling them.

This is puzzling in part because here on the surface of the Earth, the years since 2003 have been some of the hottest on record. But Josh Willis at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory says the oceans are what really matter when it comes to global warming.

In fact, 80 percent to 90 percent of global warming involves heating up ocean waters. They hold much more heat than the atmosphere can. So Willis has been studying the ocean with a fleet of robotic instruments called the Argo system. The buoys can dive 3,000 feet down and measure ocean temperature. Since the system was fully deployed in 2003, it has recorded no warming of the global oceans.

I suppose it's possible that scientists are misinterpreting the data, a possibility that the article raises. But there are other possibilities as well for what NPR has dubbed a "mystery." The first, of course, being that the oceans aren't warming. It is also quite possible that they haven't been warming for some time and we are just learning of it. It is also possible that the warming suddenly abated in 2003.

As bad as the land-based surface temperature record is, the ocean temperature record is worse. Coverage is spotty at best, with a good portion of the record restricted to shipping lanes, leaving vast areas of the ocean wholly unsampled. Moreover, numerous methods have been employed over the years to measure the ocean's temperature, including dipping uninsulated wooden buckets into the ocean, bringing them on deck and inserting a thermometer (prior to WWII). Using the same method but with insulated buckets (after WWII) and measuring the temperature at the engine intake (also after WWII).

Temperature readings from uninsulated buckets have a cold bias due to evaporation. Engine intake temperatures contained a warm bias due to the engine room. Taken together, a warming trend is introduced over and above whatever is actually occurring in the oceans.

There have also been buoy measurements and infrared sea surface data taken by satellites. The buoy data is good, but again somewhat spotty. The satellite data give much better coverage but is affected by cloud cover and volcanic aerosol contamination, introducing a cooling bias. So all of the methods used to measure ocean temperature have had problems and biases that make it difficult to know exactly what has been going on with ocean temperatures over the last 100 years.

The ARGO array has only been deployed since 2003 and offers far better coverage and accuracy than previous measurements. It will be interesting to watch the data coming out of the ARGO array over the next couple of decades. Here's a flash demonstration of the ARGO system.

The article also states:
In recent years, heat has actually been flowing out of the ocean and into the air. This is a feature of the weather phenomenon known as El Nino. So it is indeed possible the air has warmed but the ocean has not. But it's also possible that something more mysterious is going on.
However, the air hasn't warmed either. Indeed, according to Richard Lindzen at MIT, there has been no warming since 1997 and no statistically significant warming since 1995.

This graphic from a post by Basil Copeland at Watts Up With That? further emphasizes the lack of warming over the last few years.

Here are some comments on the NPR story from Roger Pielke, Sr. at Climate Science.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

NOAA: Coolest Winter Since 2001 for U.S., Globe

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has announced that, "The average temperature across both the contiguous U.S. and the globe during climatological winter (December 2007-February 2008) was the coolest since 2001."

Some of the temperature highlights presented by NOAA are:

  • In the contiguous United States, the average winter temperature was 33.2°F (0.6°C), which was 0.2°F (0.1°C) above the 20th century average – yet still ranks as the coolest since 2001. It was the 54th coolest winter since national records began in 1895.
  • Winter temperatures were warmer than average from Texas to the Southeast and along the Eastern Seaboard, while cooler-than-average temperatures stretched from much of the upper Midwest to the West Coast.
  • With higher-than-average temperatures in the Northeast and South, the contiguous U.S. winter temperature-related energy demand was approximately 1.7 percent lower than average, based on NOAA’s Residential Energy Demand Temperature Index.
The full press release is available here.

Antarctica still not warming

Do you believe that the South Pole is warming and that the Antarctic ice cap is melting? Just about everybody does. But as is often the case with global warming, the truth is quite different than what is reported. Numerous peer-reviewed papers have shown that the Antarctic is cooling and gaining ice mass. The most recent study to look at Antarctic temperature trends is published in the Journal of Geophysical Research (abstract can be read here).

The researchers found a statistically insignificant positive trend in Antarctic temperatures during the period 1960-2005. They found a weak negative trend from 1970 to 2005. Finally, they found a widespread, but again, statistically insignificant warming trend from 1992 to 2005. In other words, there's a whole lot of nothin' going on at the South Pole.

Monaghan, A. J., D. H. Bromwich, W. Chapman, and J. C. Comiso (2008), Recent variability and trends of Antarctic near-surface temperature, Journal of Geophysical Research, 113, D04105, doi:10.1029/2007JD009094.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Anthony Watts' presentation of work on U.S. temperature network

Anthony Watts has posted an excellent overview of the important effort he is leading to survey the U.S.-based temperature stations used to calculate global temperature. The overview is in the form of a powerpoint presentation he delivered at the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change in New York City.

The presentation is available here. If you do nothing else, be sure to look at all the pictures of the temperature stations in the presentation. It is quite evident that the U.S. temperature network, probably the best maintained in the world, is a complete mess. It's not at all clear to me that we know what the global temperature is or whether it is going up, down, or staying the same.

Take a look at this site from Staunton, VA (I choose this one, because I've actually been to the site myself).

It is surrounded by concrete and asphalt. This clearly introduces a warming bias into the record. None of this really matters for the original purpose for which these temperature stations exist, i.e., to provide the locals with weather data. It's really of no consequence if your local weatherman reports a high temperature of 95 degrees, when in fact it was only 93 degrees. Nobody is likely to notice the difference.

It's an altogether different thing, however, when the global average temperature, calculated from this highly flawed network, is used to justify a wholesale (not to mention costly) alteration of our current energy system. And remember, we're talking a change in global temperature of a mere 0.7 degrees C over the last 100 years. Given the problems with the temperature stations uncovered by Watts, it might be that the entire 0.7 degrees is due to bad siting.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Crazy weather

In Huddersfield, England, an otherwise normal February recorded the warmest day ever recorded for the month of February and the coldest day ever recorded.

Full story here.

Unintentional climate humor

The headline of this Christian Science Monitor story made me laugh out loud.

"Global Warming Not Always to Blame for Extreme Winters"

The story itself is a fairly reasonable, but that headline is just silly. Anyway, the full story is here.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Snow disaster leaves 1.6 mln people frostbitten in NW China province

XI'NING, March 1 (Xinhua) -- Severe snow disasters have left 1.65 million people snowblind and frostbitten, 500,000 livestock and wildlife dead and 3.1 million others on verge of starvation in Tibetan prefectures of northwestern Qinghai Province.

Full story here.

Skeptics on Human Climate Impact Seize on Cold Spell

Andy Revkin of the New York Times writes about the recent global cold snap.

Full story here.

"We have barely had a summer this year"

An article on, reports on snowfall on the last day of summer at the Perisher Blue and Threbdo ski resorts in Australia. The quote in my headline was uttered by Perisher Blue's manager.

The whole story is here.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Dodgy Peruvian Temperature Adjustments

There are a lot of funny things going on with the surface data compiled by the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). Many people probably believe that the raw data taken from temperature stations used to compile global temperature records are simply combined and averaged. In reality, there are a series of adjustments made to the data before it is presented to the public.

Up until recently, the raw data -- and the types of adjustments made to it -- wasn't even publicly available. Fortunately, public pressure has induced GISS and other agencies that compile temperature data to release their raw data and adjustments to the public. The result has been the discovery of some eye-opening adjustments made to the data. Not all adjustments are invalid. It is well known that as cities grow they become warmer. This is known as the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect. It is entirely valid to attempt to remove this warming bias to get a true reading. However, many of the adjustments to the record appear to have no valid justification. The main effect of these adjustments appears to be to make recent global temperatures look warmer relative to the past. Voila, you have global warming.

One of the people taking a look at this data has been Steve McIntyre of "hockey stick" fame. His excellent website has a wealth of information on the statistical machinations of the global temperature cabal. He has also uncovered numerous seemingly wholly unjustified temperature adjustments that give the appearance of greater warming than may have actually occurred.

A recent post that caught my eye was on adjustments made to various temperature records from Peru. McIntyre presents graphics from four Peruvian temperature stations. I'm posting the Puerto Maldonado station graphic here that McIntyre created.

The black line is the plotted raw data. The red is the adjusted data. As can be clearly seen, the earlier data has been substantially adjusted downward. As much as 3 degrees. The more recent data hasn't been adjusted. The practical effect has been to change a falling trend into rising trend. Was this adjustment valid?

There are several things to take into consideration. Puerto Maldonado, the city where the temperature station is located, is the capitol city of the Department of Madre de Dios. A 2005 census put the population of the city at 51,349. It is now estimated to contain 56,917 people. The official census from 1981 put the population of the city at 12,693. An article in Conservation Biology on the effect of slash-and-burn agriculture in that region of Peru stated:

"Tambopata Province is in the Department of Madre de Dios, a remote and biodiverse region of Peru. This lowland, forested region was isolated from international markets until the rubber boom of the late 1800s, which gave rise to ribereƱo society (Amazonian residents of mixed ancestry), and decimated indigenous populations. The rubber industry collapsed in the early 1900s, and the local population remained relatively stable until the mid 1960s, when a road was constructed into Madre de Dios. Andean peasants were drawn to the region by gold, available land, and economic incentives for ranching and farming. Tambopata's population grew five-fold in 25 years, reaching 76,610 in 1997, with roughly half the population residing in the capitol city of Puerto Maldonado."*

So the population of Puerto Maldonado has grown since the 1960s, and has grown exponentially since 1981. This rapid urbanization certainly warrants an adjustment to the temperature record, but most of the adjustment should take place after 1981. Most of the adjusting done by GISS takes place prior to 1981. It is also interesting that the raw data show a cooling trend even in the face of rapid urbanization.

Here is a current satellite photograph of Puerto Maldonado from Google Earth.

As you can see, Puerto Maldonado is a good sized city. Pictures of the city can be see here, here, here, here, here, and here. According to the Weather Underground website, the temperature station in Puerto Maldonado is located at the airport. The airport is located at the bottom left corner of the above picture where there is a cluster of blue dots and one orange dot by the compass. Here's a closer look at the airport (Aeropuerto Internacionale Padre Aldamiz).

Pictures of the airport are here, here, and here. The airport is on the outskirts of the city, but has a lot of black top and concrete and is large enough to accommodate Boeing 707s.

The point of all this is that that the raw data shows a cooling trend despite rapid population growth. Adjusting the data properly should maintain or even enhance the cooling trend. Instead, the GISS adjustments created a warming trend. The warming in the record is indeed man-made, but has nothing to do with greenhouse gases.

*See: Lisa Naughton-Treves, Jose Luis Mena, Adrian Treves, Nora Alvarez, Volker Christian Radeloff (2003) Wildlife Survival Beyond Park Boundaries: the Impact of Slash-and-Burn Agriculture and Hunting on Mammals in Tambopata, Peru Conservation Biology 17 (4).

Global Cooling: Amazing pictures of countries joining Britain in the big freeze

Yesterday's picture in the Mail of a cascade of icicles in the Yorkshire Dales was a reminder of how cold Britain can be - something many of us have forgotten in this unusually mild winter.

But it really is remarkable how little attention has been paid to the extraordinary weather events which in recent weeks have been affecting other parts of the world.

Full story here.

Global Warming Sceptics Buoyed by Record Cold

Global warming sceptics are pointing to recent record cold temperatures in parts of North America and Asia and the return of Arctic Sea ice to suggest fears about climate change may be overblown.

Full story here.