While largely blind, I read stuff slowly and thought a lot. In particular I mulled the argument between the global warmists and the solarists. See the reports of the IPCC
and the NIPCC.
Climatology resembles ecology, sociology, and macroeconomics in that no human can possibly understand all of the underlying science. Practitioners learn a few things deeply but must depend upon others for the pieces to put together the big picture. Necessarily, I nibbled in, using those few things I knew (historic hurricanes, my memory, a little ecology and chem., some econ, and computer modeling) to ask about the strengths of the two hypotheses.
A near and dear relative who is a nuclear physicist telephoned me a few years ago to preach at me that we thoroughly understood the physics of global warming. I replied that it was not entirely a question of physics, but also of chemistry, biology, astronomy, and geology. I angered him when I refused to believe that we materially understood all of the intricate feedback loops of Earth.
Computer modeling, secrecy, and data quality
I have modeled financial scenarios since the invention of the PC. You build an intricate computer model with a lot of sweat and concentration. Several times, I have awakened at midnight screaming about an error I dreamed I had made. (While I have erred, I always found the next day that I had not made the particular error of my nightmares.)
In AIG’s 2007 10-K, the company explained how it had built a large and extremely expensive model to ensure that they were not taking excessive risks in any area. Many people across many areas of the company worked at the model. It was carefully reviewed by senior management, the board, and even an outside panel of experts for robustness and completeness. This model failed so miserably over a very short timespan that we are now all proud owners of AIG.
But the global warmists say that their models have been peer-reviewed. However they hold the models to their chest and will not reveal their guts to the public. If I could have President Obama do one thing on global warming, I would have him let us all see the models for which we have all paid and which purpose to turn our lives upside down. I would also ask Hugh Hewitt to consider an FOIA suit to get at these – the code will not fall within any of the FOIA exceptions.
The secrecy raises my suspicions. I have always let anybody and everybody review all of my models (within my company and outside if they did not contain competitive secrets), and I have been grateful for the feedback, criticism and validation received.
A second source of suspicions arose from relative data quality and seeming mendacity. Satellite and weather balloon data has the most consistent measurement over decades. Ocean measures suffers because the measurements have been made in progressively shallower water as the measurer has changed from largely ships which measure a fathom down to largely buoys which sample the top inches where the sun warms the water.. The least reliable data comes from land observation where the monitoring stations have their results contaminated by construction of parking lots or air conditioners adjacent to the thermometers. Further the number and location of stations fluctuates wildly from year to year and decade to decade. While nobody disagrees that the world warmed from 1975 until recently, the degree of warming forms a crucial portion of the argument. Satellite and weather data showed far less warming than land data. The most reliable land data comes from America. It shows far less warming than the rest of the world. The best data shows little; the worst data shows a lot – I am unclear as to any scientific reason to rely on the worst data and ignore the best. Consistency with a model makes poor excuse.
I was struck by the IPCC’s statement that the satellite and balloon data broadly agreed with the land data. They then do not discuss the satellite or balloon data, nor that the agreement is only as to sign, with enormous differences as to magnitude. The balloon data has just come into agreement with the land data. This happened because the 1950’s suddenly got colder in the 21st century. They threw out the results of seven tropical weather stations calling the outliers. The primary data is kept secret.
Climatologists are trying to measure the heat in an enormously complex system--Earth. Measuring the heat of something as simple as a stick is fiendishly difficult to get right. Pons and Fleischmann were confounded when they mistook the total heat present in a metal rod (which is of course far simpler than a stick). They saw fusion instead of the release of energy from within the rod. I would have greater humility in the face of such a task.
The Subtraction argument:
The IPCC makes mush of the fact that they can only find possible natural causation for 21% of the observed warming. They conclude that the remainder of the warming must be man-made. Let’s leave aside the question of if they have sufficient imagination and breadth to encompass all of the natural causes of warming. If the actual warming has been a fraction of the amount posited, this ratio of 21% will sky.
Mechanism for global warming:
While the solarists lean on greater heat from the sun, the global warmists rely on a blanket effect from CO2. CO2 lets sunshine through but blocks the return heat radiation. The heated CO2 molecules transfer their heat to the rest of the atmosphere and down to the Earth. Venus with an 97% CO2 atmosphere is deadly hot.
OTOH, Earth’s atmosphere (by dry volume) contains less than 0.04% CO2. Imagine how pleased your lover would be if while he shivers on a cold night you give him a 0.04% blanket. CO2 concentrations have increased their proportion of the atmosphere by about 0.004%. Could you mollify your lover with an additional 0.004% of blanket? (It is also true that .004% is 10% of .04%,)
The global warmists do not particularly highlight the fact, but they are not so simple as to rely upon these miniscule quantities. Water vapor functions like CO2—and more strongly and abundantly. The warming models use CO2 to increase water vapor levels (clouds) which creates more warming.
High wispy clouds reflect heat while letting sunshine through. Low fluffy clouds OTOH reflect sunlight and cool the Earth. Enormous uncertainty surrounds the shape of clouds. Joni
understood the shape of clouds in more depth than current science.
Global warming increases CO2. CO2 dissolves in water far more easily than any other common constituent of the air. (generally substances with positive and negative ends dissolve in substances with positive and negative ends; those without such ends dissolve in electrically neutral substances – both CO2 and water have positive and negative poles, while O2, N2 and argon are electrically neutral). As water warms, it can contain less CO2. The warmists posit a vicious cycle of CO2 causing warming causing release of CO2 from the oceans. Accelerated rot should have a similar if smaller effect. The solarists say that historically global warm periods have preceded increases in CO2.
The solarists say that the sun has caused the vast majority of recent warming. They posit that a roiled solar atmosphere increases UV radiation, cosmic rays and solar winds. These both heat the Earth and influence high cloud formation. The global warmists retort that variation in total solar irradiance is less than 0.1%. Temperature has risen only slightly. Without resolution, I note that a change of 0.1% in a first-order cause (direct) cause intuitively exceeds an increase in proportion of 0.004% of a second-order (indirect) cause.
Global warmist predictions remind me of Nostradamus. He predicted everything, but never in advance. After WWII, people went back and found Nostradamus manuscripts pointing to WWII, but they couldn’t find them in advance of the event. The recent shrinkage of the arctic icecap embodies this. Only after the shrinkage did the global warmists say it was caused by global warming. Alternative explanations include undersea volcanoes (which did erupt for more than half a decade) and a favorite warmist reason for any trend contrary to global warming-- weather.
Predictions are important because they allow for falsification of a theory. Perhaps the most dramatic such event occurred when doubters of the wave theory of light proved mathematically the seemingly absurd conclusion that the wave theory implied that a light shown onto a circular shadow-maker would generate a pinpoint of light at the center of the shadow. When the pinpoint was found to exist, the world immediately accepted the wave theory.
A writer in Discover magazine said recently that thirty years of global cooling would not disprove global warmism because we will always have weather. The solarists are predicting a long period of cooling – which seems to have begun. Weather?
Some news reports seem to suggest that global warmism has actually predicted the further deterioration of the arctic icecap. It seems to be regenerating, which would be consistent with volcanically-caused melting.
This increasing trend continues in 2009.
The NIPCC says that the global warmists predict that the tropical upper troposphere should be warming faster than the land surface, and that the models require this.greater speed. It makes intuitive sense as the atmosphere should absorb the infrared and then transmit it back to the ground. The data clearly shows no such effect. The NIPCC calls this absolute proof that global warmism is misbegotten. I lack the knowledge to make such a judgment.
The world came out of the Little Ice Age in the mid-nineteenth century and has been warming since except for the 35 years following 1940.
The area under the drawn-in bars shows that cooling period. WWII generated enormous quantities of dust – from the fighting, from converting many large cities to piles of rubble and from the industrial production where pollution was not even a minor consideration. The first and second worlds rapidly industrialized in the 1950’s. China quickly gained the world’s filthiest air with Mao’s idiocy of building backyard steel mills. China retains this honor. America was far dustier in 1970 than today. I can recall walking in morning smog in the late 60’s where I could not see my hand at armslength. Do you remember the air?
The environmental movement led to the cleansing of America’s skies. When I worked as an environmentalist lobbyist in the early 70’s, one statistic surprised me. The fourth greatest source of particulate matter (scientese for dust) was construction debris. (The top three were electric utilities, transport, and industrial processes with the ranking varying by locale.) Construction dust resolved easily by requiring builders to damp down construction sites with hoses.
Probably all of this dust was cooling. Certainly construction dust with its glittering sands would have reflected far more light than heat.
The rest of the first world cleaned up at about the same time as America. The second world improved rapidly when communism and its industry collapsed in the late 80’s. China has at least not worsened since the (literally) dark days of the 50’s. The hypothesis of the drawn line: the warming continued at a moderate rate from the end of the little ice age 150 years ago. Dust obscured the trend from 1940 to 1970. The seemingly more rapid warming of the 80s and 90s was catching up as the air cleaned. I have been unable to locate a history of air cleanliness to vet the idea. The idea that tropical weather balloons did not agree on the coolness of the 50’s is also consistent.
Pace Powerline who called it “Rube Goldberg science”, I was impressed with the President’s science adviser when he suggested putting stuff in the air to cool the planet. Edmund Teller once suggested using jet contrails.
I personally favor bringing back burning leaves of a fall, a ritual nobody under 30 has ever enjoyed. It might not cool the planet, but it would lift the spirit.
I have bought, sold, broked, and modeled catastrophe reinsurance for hurricanes for well over a decade. Historically, hurricanes raged more severely in the 40’s and 50’s than since. While there has been recurrent speculation that we may see a repeat of those years, we have not –notwithstanding that 2005 was a bad year.
The IPCC blames a supposed increase since 1970 on global warming (p.30). We have good hurricane records for Florida for about 120 years and for most other places for far longer. The people who bet huge sums of money on hurricane damage do not seem to believe in an increasing trend – and they watch very closely for such trends.
This was the point of the IPCC’S report where I knew the most, and I was appalled that they lied. This lie causes me to doubt the veracity of all of the rest of the report.
I have picked up little econ by osmosis both from business and bloggie. The NIPCC states that the IPCC assumed in all scenarios that the third world would grow economically by a ratio of 70:1 over the next century – such that North Korea would be more prosperous than America. By comparison, Japan grew by 20:1 in the 20th century. Without these absurd growth rates, the apocalyptic suggestions could not be made.
Per the NIPCC, the IPCC excluded economists from all deliberations. You can see why.
Economists would also never put up with secret models.
“[The IPCC’s]s role is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the latest scientific, technical and socio-economic literature produced worldwide relevant to the understanding of the risk of human-induced climate change…” This is from the second sentence of the IPCC’s description of its mandate.
And they exclude economists??!!
From data to the limits of modeling to falsehoods about hurricanes to absurd economics, global warmism fails to convince at even a threshold level.