Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Reality bites NC-20

NC-20, named for the 20 coastal counties of North Carolina, is an extremist anti-global warming organization. They don't like being called 'anti-science,' but the facts speak for themselves. One of the objectives of NC-20 is to pass legislation in North Carolina to control how climate research is conducted or considered by the state. Their interest in this is that a forecasted 39-inch sea level rise would inundate much of their counties. This, obviously, is not in the best business interest of the coastal counties, so they will just try and get global warming outlawed.

Well, nature doesn't really care what NC-20 wants. Ironically, it turns out North Carolina is an excellent place to show the sea level rise research is valid. Stefan Rahmstorf, a German climatologist, has used the North Carolina marshes to identify sea level rise for the last 2000 years. By using sediment cores, he was able to show sea level rise closely correlates with rising temperature.

NC-20 can huff and puff and blow all they want. They can try to get all the legislation they want passed. But, it won't matter. The global average temperature continues to rise and the sea level will continue to rise with it. What are going to do when this comes to pass? I imagine they will try to sue nature or have it arrested because it violated the law. Why not? Taking measures to be prepared probably isn't anything they would consider.

Rocky Mountains snow pack is declining

One of the great services mountains provide is the snowpack, the great mass of seasonal snow that collects on the mountains every year. Water is stored in the snowpack during the winter and gradually melts during the spring and summer, providing water during the dry months.  A declining snowpack is therefore something of great consequence. And, that is exactly what has been happening in the Rocky Mountains. Since the 1980s the amount of snow falling on the Rockies in the winter time has been dropping, reducing the amount of water flowing out of the mountains in the summer months. There could be two main reasons for this. The amount of precipitation is declining; or the amount of precipitation falling as snow is declining while the total precipitation remains about constant.

New research using tree ring data has now shown the cause is the latter reason. The amount of precipitation isn't changing that much, but the amount of snow is declining. The researchers state they believe manmade global warming is responsible for 30-60% of the decline because the amount of decline is greater than what could have occurred as a result of natural reasons.

This only makes sense and is no surprise to me. In fact, I have stated for many years this would be a result of global warming. Precipitation that would normally be near the freezing point has now been warmed up enough to fall as rain instead of snow. A great deal of snow still falls in the Rockies, but not as much as it did just 30 years ago. A big question I have now is, how does this compare to other mountain ranges?

This study here shows the snowpack in the Cascades has declined, despite an increase in precipitation. This does not bode well.

So, if you live somewhere that relies on snowpack melt for its summer water supply, you might want to start consider what measures you are going to take.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Denialist crocodile tears

The climate change denial organization has been in a well-funded and well planned campaign to attack climate scientists all over the world. Any scientist doing research showing the climate is changing is subject to viscous attacks. This has even been given a name - The Climate Wars. The fossil fuel industry, Koch brothers, Scaife Foundation, the Heartland Institute and Saudi Arabia have been very active in this campaign. The leading members of Congress that are denialists receive massive amounts of support from these, and other, groups. Virtually every noteworthy denialist also receives funding from one or more of these groups.

Recently, though, more and more information is being revealed about all of these activities. The result is that many of the denialists are being shut out of venues for their messages. After years of villainizing climate scientists, the deniers are finding themselves on the other end of the message.

Now, they are claiming they are the victims. They claim they are just honest scientists trying to present an alternative interpretation of the science. Take this article that appeared on as an example. This article is a very typical example of how deceptive the deniers can be. For instance, the author, Warren Meyer, discusses an article critical of climate change deniers and states, "Of course, not once in the article is the mainstream skeptic scientific position even given." The problem with this is that there is no scientific position provided by the deniers. They claim there is, but there is no science and no evidence to support any of their claims. Many of their claims are even contradictory.

Meyer goes on to state, "Those who are not actually involved in the details of the debate could be forgiven for believing that skeptics have not real scientific position, since folks like Clynes go out of the way never, ever to write about it.  It is the first rule of climate journalism — never quote a skeptic’s scientific position." Well, Mr. Meyer, I am actually involved with the details of the debate. I am a professor of physics and have been working in fields related to climate change for over 25 years. I have actively followed the science and engaged climate scientists for about 30 years. I am well read and very conversant on the issues of both climate scientists and the deniers. I am qualified to speak on this issue and I can tell you that there is no valid scientific position the deniers can stand on. In fact, I have said that the only way you can deny manmade climate change is to reject science. And, I can defend that statement. Rejecting science is not a scientific position.

Meyer also states,
The climate community has become incredibly insular and resistant to criticism and replication of their work.  Peer review tends to be by a small group of friends and close associates, and attempts by third parties to replicate their work are impossible, since climate scientists seldom release their key data to outsiders, even when, which is often the case, their work is publicly funded. In particular, climates scientists often get very “creative” with statistical methods, and often create results which don’t stand up to review by qualified statisticians outside the field.
This, of course, is a total fabrication, something the deniers do frequently. It sounds good with the general public, so they say it over and over. The fact that it is a lie is something that is missed by most people that are not involved in science.

Here are the facts, most of the climate data is readily available to anyone in the world with an Internet connection. I, myself, frequently go on-line and download the data. It is free and does not even require a password.  What is not readily available is proprietary computer code that scientists work many years to develop. The physics and the data are available and are the same for everyone, but the product of their minds and efforts belongs to them and they don't have to release it. If someone wants to duplicate the experiment they have access to the physical equations and the data. It is actually better, and much more valid, if someone verifies an experiment with independent code. There is nothing under-handed or malicious here. This is the way it works in all fields.

Peer reviews are done by anonymous individuals. Editors try to ensure there is no conflict of interests, but sometimes that happens. The deniers have learned how to play that game with several very controversial and invalid papers that were, literally, reviewed by their friends and associates. Generally speaking, the community is much too large, contrary to what Mr. Meyer claims, for it to be a real problem. There are thousands of climate scientists world wide. I have reviewed papers for peer-reviewed journals and I can state that I did not know the authors or have any association with them. Mr. Meyer is just making this up.

Every paragraph of Mr. Meyer's article is false. Just below the paragraph stated above he says,

Over and over we must take Michael Mann and other climate scientists at their word that these lawsuits are purely to harass them.  But, in fact, the origins of these lawsuits were to try to obtain data from Mann and others that was needed by third parties to replicate their published works, data that was collected in most cases with taxpayer-funded grants for research that was published in journals that nominally required authors to provide all data needed for replication.
Sure, some recent FOIA suits by political groups, particularly one in Virginia of Mann’s emails when we was a professor there, border on harassment; but I have yet to meet any scientist who, hearing the story of Mann’s resistance to providing replication data, has any sympathy for such a clear breach of the scientific process.
 The reality is that Dr. Mann has been literally attacked by the deniers and has received as many as 20 FOIA requests over a single weekend. The people requesting the data have all been told that the data is freely available. As I explained above, the actually computer code is proprietary and Dr. Mann, or anyone else, is not required to provide it. Considering the hostile and illegal activities that have been directed at him, he is well advised not to engage the deniers any more than he is forced to. Mann wrote a very good book, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars, that provides the story in detail. If you have any interest in the subject, I recommend you read it. I'm willing to bet you will be surprised to find out what has been going on.

As for the 'border on harassment' suits in Virginia, these were attacks by the state Attorney General, Kenneth Cuccinelli, that were so flagrant that the universities involved refused to provide the requested information and successfully went to court to quash the AG's subpoenas. That does not 'border' on harassment, it is harassment.

Read the article for yourself and do a little homework. It will not take very much effort at all for you to investigate his claims and to find that they are false. Try it. Its fun.

I could go on, but all I  would do is to provide more evidence that Mr. Meyer is a liar. If he doesn't like me saying that, he knows were to find me. I will stand by my statement. Do you think he will do anything to me? I would be stunned. The truth is a defense in suits on libel and slander. I am absolutely sure Mr. Meyer and any other climate change denier would never want to have to defend their statements in court. That would be a losing bet for them and they know it.

Instead, the deniers, such as Mr. Meyer, will cry and act like victims. In this way they hope to lure new believers to listen to them. That is the very definition of crocodile tears.

Meanwhile, if any of the climate change deniers show up with anything that is scientifically valid, it will get published, just like any other paper that is based on real science.

EndFossilFuelSubsidies is an example of how to lose the public

We really need to get off fossil fuels and make changes to how we do business at many levels. But, this does not mean we need to engage in extremist activities. Some of the measures being pushed by extremists would not only do as much damage as what we are currently doing, but they alienate a large part of the public as well.

An example of this is the activist group known as EndFossilFuelSubsidies. I am in favor of this, but we need to be careful of how we go about doing it. There is this perception that we can just take some action and it will fix things. For instance, many people think that we can just stop using coal-fired power plants. No,we can't. The cost of replacing those plants will be enormous. That cost will be passed on to the customers. This would mean that people who are just barely getting by would suddenly see their electricity bills surge. Also, products made with that electricity would become more expensive, meaning that fewer products would be produced (or, they might just be replaced with imports) and that would mean layoffs. If we get rid of the coal-fired power plants we need to do it over a period of time. And, we must examine the alternatives. They can be just as bad, or even worse.

We need to make changes, but we must also win the public opinion battle. Extremist proposals won't do it.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Misstep by the NSF

The American Institute of Physics (AIP) has joined with more than 120 other organizations by signing a letter to the U.S. Senate concerning the 2013 funding for the National Science Foundation. The central issue is that the Senate is cutting some funds for NSF that were to be applied to some programs. The AIP and other organizations objected to the idea that Congress is attempting to micromanage the NSF. Specifically, two programs, one on climate change education and another political science program, are targeted to be cut. In this regard, I believe the letter signers and NSF are in the wrong and it will hurt the battle over educating the public about climate change.

The problem isn't that NSF is engaging in educating the public about climate change. I think that is a very good and necessary thing we need to be doing. The problem is that this is already being done by other agencies, such as NASA and the Department of Education. The targeted program is even a duplication within the NSF itself which already has the Climate Education Program (CCE). The Duplication and overlap of activities is a real problem in government and was one of the driving factors behind these cuts for NSF. A good clue that this is a redundant program is the fact that its mission has changed from one directed at K-12 to one directed at graduate and undergraduate students. A change in mission is a big warning sign that this is nothing more than empire building.

NSF and its supporters should drop this one. They are giving climate change deniers ammo to use in their fight for the public's mind on global warming. The deniers will be able to cite this as an example of government waste. And, their logic will say, since this government spending on climate change is a waste so is all other government spending on climate change. I know the argument is a false one, but the public readily buys into those kinds of arguments.

The deniers won this one, let's not make it better for them by dragging this out.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Mars climate shifts

Climate change deniers cite Mars as an example that climate change is being caused by events outside of Earth's environment and not by manmade emissions. This, of course, belies their claim that global warming isn't occurring, but we'll ignore that point. What is important is that climate change on Mars does not have anything to do with what is happening on Earth. Recent images from the European Space Agency mission Mars Express illustrate this point.

Deniers point at images of the martian polar regions over a period of years as proof that manmade emissions are not causing global warming. What we see is that the carbon dioxide polar caps freeze in the martian winter, melt in the spring and then freeze again the following winter. However, comparison of some of these images shows that subsequent freezing does not reach the same amount as it did in the past. The carbon dioxide polar cap appears to be getting smaller each year. Since the CO2 polar cap needs really cold temperatures, the conclusion by some is that the polar regions on Mars are getting warmer. Since there are no manmade emissions on Mars, this warming must be due to other things, such as a warming Sun, and these same causes are responsible for global warming on Earth, not manmade emissions.

There are a lot of problems with this claim. The first is that there is no evidence to support it. The second is there is a mountain of evidence to deny it. But, let's not let reality get in the way.

The fact is that the climate changes on both Mars and Earth through natural cycles. These are well-known and are called Milankovitch cycles on Earth. The great part about these cycles in that deniers use the Milankovitch cycles as explanations for the current change in Earth's climate, but then ignore them on Mars. The natural cycles on Mars are much more extreme because it does not have a very large moon, like Earth does. The climate on Mars changes much more rapidly as a result.

Now, the ESA Mars Express images show a deep martian crater and the layers of sediments can be seen. A nearby crater that is not as deep does not show these deeper layers, meaning the layers are in the rock and were not subsequently formed in the larger crater. While we cannot be sure without actually going there and doing tests on the layers, it is believed these layers are caused by cycles in the martian climate, just as expected with the natural cycles.

And, what about those cycles on Earth? The scientist claiming the martian changes are evidence for natural causes here on Earth is Habibullo Abdussamatov, head of space research at St. Petersburg's Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory in Russia. He said, in 2007, that the Sun entered a period where it is dimmer, beginning in the 1990s, and that we would see a steep cooling of the climate as a result, 'within 15 to 20 years.' Well, it has been five years since he made that claim and what we have actually seen is that global warming has continued with the warmest years ever recorded occurring since then.

The evidence and track record don't seem to be supporting the deniers. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Sea ice approaching record low

Measurements of arctic sea ice this spring shows that many areas normally covered with ice at this time of the year are free of ice. Overall, the level of sea ice in the arctic region is below the baseline average. This is an indicator that the amount of sea ice coverage in the Arctic Ocean will reach a very low minimum this year. It is not conclusive at this point and things could change, but it is a disturbing warning. What is particularly disturbing is how so much area is ice free before we even get to the summer solstice. This is when the Sun is at its highest point in the sky and shines 24 hours a day above the Arctic Circle. Ice free areas of water are darker than ice covered areas and absorb a greater percentage of light shining down. A greater ice free area and more intense sunlight means the Arctic Ocean will be storing a great deal of heat. That heat will then be re-emitted later in the year as autumn begins. This will melt more ice and will cause changes in the weather patterns.

Will we see a record low amount of sea ice cover this year? It is very likely, but not a sure thing at this point. But, I think we should all be getting ready for another winter of extreme weather. The big question we need to be asking at this point is whether it will be extremely cold and snowy, or will it be extremely warm and dry? We have seen both of those in the last several years. This news about the sea ice makes me believe we will see it again this year.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Record May warmth

The planet experienced the second warmest May recorded since such records began in 1880. The warmest May occurred in 2010. The United States saw is warmest spring ever recorded. The global average temperature for May was 1.19 degrees F higher than the 20th century average.

Climate change deniers will tell you that there is no warming. That is, until the data just can't be ignored any more. Now, there favorite claim is to say that warming has stopped and the planet is actually cooling. They do this by what is known as cherry-picking. That is when you selectively pick data points to prove the point you want to make while ignoring others. 1998 was an abnormally hot year. Compared to 1998 many years have been cooler. But, when compared to the averages the warming continues.

Now, we have the two warmest Mays on record and they both occurred since 1998.

So, tell again how global warming has stopped and the planet is actually cooling?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

China emitting more than thought

A team of researchers took the Chinese national data on greenhouse emissions and compared it to a total emission calculation from all of the Chinese provinces. The results were interesting and showed there is a discrepancy of about 1.4 billion tons between the two. The national data appears to be too small, so that is a discrepancy in the bad direction.

The researchers found that, according to Chinese national statistics, on average, CO2 emissions have been growing 7.5 percent annually from 1997 to 7.69 billion tonnes in 2010. At the same time, though, the total emissions of all Chinese provinces have increased 8.5 percent on average to 9.08 billion tonnes in 2010. In comparison, U.S. emissions were 6.87 billion tonnes in 2010, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The extra amount of CO2 that China is putting into the air is roughly equivalent to what Japan emits every year.

This is very bad news and will certainly complicate things. This means climate change is happening faster than we thought because our calculations are based on the lower emission rate. And, all of our climate models have been receiving bad input data. This has an effect on the long range calculations, but not so much on the short term forecasts.

So, what this means is we have less time to fix things than we previously thought. Considering how reluctant we have been to address the problem so far, this does not look good for our future.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Fastest warming states are warming faster

Climate Central, a research and public outreach organization, examined historical climate data and identified the the U.S. states that are experiencing the greatest and the least amount of warming over the last 100 years. The state that has warmed the most over the last 100 years is Rhode Island. They also found three states have actually cooled over the last 100 years - Arkansas, Georgia and Alabama. It is interesting to examine their result as applied to regions. The northeast region has warmed the most, while the southeast has warmed the least.

But, there is an even more interesting result from their data. What they found is that they had to break it down to subsets of before 1970 and after 1970. Comparisons between these two data sets show the warming trend since 1970 has been three times as much as before 1970. In other words, the states were, mostly, warming before 1970. But, the warming rate is now three times as much as it was before 1970.

Keep that in mind next time someone tells you global warming has stopped.

Sea ice reflectance

I read an article in the science journal Eos, Transactions of the American Geophysical Union today about how well sea ice reflects the sunlight. It was summarizing a paper that appeared in Geophysical Research Letters. What these researchers found was there was that old and new sea ice reflected pretty much the same amount of sunlight during the winter months, but there was a big difference in the summer months. In fact, they found that areas with seasonal sea ice (ice that melts in the summer) will absorb 40% more energy than areas covered with multi-year ice.

Since the area covered with multi-year ice is getting smaller every year and being replaced with seasonal sea ice, this is a significant finding. As the ice melts at a greater rate and gets thinner and thinner, we will get a positive feedback where even more ice will melt. This will result in changes in the currents and weather systems in the arctic region and that will affect the rest of the world, including us. Just exactly what those changes, and resulting effects, will be is not entirely clear, so it will be increasingly important for us to study and document these changes in coming years.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Severe winters linked to melting sea ice

We have seen winters over the last few decades become increasingly severe. Some times, the winter is harsh, while other times it is very mild. There have been a lack of  'average' winters. Now, new research indicates this may be due to the melting of Arctic sea ice.

As ice melts in the summer the ocean absorbs sunlight and stores it as heat. Previously, much of the sunlight was reflected back into space by the bright ice that covered the Arctic Ocean year round. But now, thanks to global warming, much of the Arctic Ocean that use to be ice covered is now ice free and more energy is being stored in the region as a result. As the summer turn to fall the amount of sunlight falling on the Arctic Ocean decreases and the amount of energy being stored begins to drop. As a result of this, the energy that was stored in the summer time is released into the atmosphere. This changes the difference in air pressure between the arctic and the lower latitudes, resulting in changes in the jet stream.

The jet stream curves northwards and southwards as it moves from west to east. This means some areas will see the jet stream far to the north, which will allow warm southern air to move northwards. Other areas will see the jet stream move to the south, allowing cold arctic air to move down. This means areas of the world will have severe winters while other areas will have mild winters at the same time. That is just what we saw this past winter. The U.S. was very mild while Europe was very severe.

Even if the details of this research are not correct the basic principle still is. The Arctic Ocean is storing great amounts of extra heat in the summer time above what it use to store. That energy is then being released into the atmosphere and will result in changes to weather patterns. The atmosphere is a heat engine. If you juice it up with more energy you are going to get results. It is like stomping on the gas pedal in your car.

What will the winter be like this year? We don't know. We can't make forecasts that far in advance. But, you should be prepared for something severe, one way or the other.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Arctic sea ice and phytoplankton

Researchers in the Arctic Ocean have drilled through the sea ice and found the levels of phytoplankton far exceeded anything that was expected. This was under thin, new ice that was about 3 feet thick. Analysis of the currents and plankton growth rates show that this plankton is actually growing under the ice and is not being swept in by the currents. One of the reasons this was unexpected is that light does not penetrate ice very well. This is especially true of the thick, older ice that can be very rough and irregular. However, the thinner new ice tends to be flat and allows melt water to form large ponds. The optical properties of these ponds work to allow light to pass through.
Credit: Don Perovich/U.S. Army Cold Regions and Engineering Laboratory

What this will mean in terms of the environment is yet to be determined. But, we see yet another example of how the climate is changing due to global warming. The evidence keeps mounting and has become an entire mountain range. And, as we keep debating this massive amount of evidence, we see that the effects keep mounting as well. Instead of acting, we are being held hostage by the climate change deniers that want to keep any of us from doing anything that will benefit us.

Why is that?


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Warm weather records keep falling

NOAA has reported that the lower-48 states have seen their warmest spring on record, as well as the warmest year-to-date, and the warmest 12-month since record keeping began in 1895. December, January and February (the winter months) were the fourth warmest ever recorded in the lower-48. March was the warmest March ever recorded, followed by the third warmest April and the second warmest May.

The significance of this, other than illustrating the issues of climate change, is how this puts the lie to the climate change deniers. They frequently claim that there has been no global warming since before the year 2000 and that global temperatures have actually been dropping. Both claims are false. They are able to make these claims by doing what is known as 'cherry picking.' This is when you selectively take data to support your claims while ignoring any data that doesn't. Climate change deniers like to take 1998 as the baseline year for data. The reason for this is because 1998 was extremely hot. It is either the hottest or second hottest year ever recorded. Depending on the data you use, 2011 was either hotter or tied with 1998. So, by using the hottest recorded year they can make everything else look cooler. But, you can only do that if you ignore all other data.

Let me put it this way. At the time, the 1980s was the hottest decade ever recorded. Every year in the 1990s was hotter than the average temperature from the 1980s. Then, every year of the 2000s was hotter than the average of the 1990s. Now, so far, every year of the 2010s has been hotter than the average of the 2000s. If you don't cherry pick the data but look at the entire picture we see there has been a constant rise in the average temperature.

And, we see this last year is setting new records for temperatures. At what point will the deniers stop making their false argument? And, more importantly, when will the public stop believing them?

Sunday, June 3, 2012


NC-20 is a coalition of 20 coastal counties in North Carolina. These counties are threatened with flooding due to sea level rise. So, there solution to this problem is to deny the sea level rise, seek crackpot science and get legislation introduced to outlaw sea level rise. I'm not making this up.

This is like finding out you have been diagnosed with cancer and going out to find a doctor who says you don't. It might make you feel better for a little while, but you still have cancer and its only a matter of time before it begins to take its toll. In the meantime, you have wasted opportunities to address the problem.

That is the situation in North Carolina. They have a real problem developing with sea level rise over the coming decades. They have an opportunity to address this problem now, but instead, they find the extremists that tells them what they want to hear. Its only a matter of time before reality comes to haunt them.

The motive for this is simple. In a memo to NC-20 members, it is stated, "The economic consequences of adding 39" to our already existing flood levels are obvious: The cost of building would escalate rapidly if, indeed, a building permit could be obtained at all on many thousands of acres in the NC 20 region."

Their solution? They turned to Nicola Scafetta, a research scientist at Duke University. Scafetta claims "At least 60% of the warming of the Earth observed since 1970 appears to be induced by natural cycles which are present in the solar system." He also predicts "a stabilization of global temperature or cooling until 2030-2040." These claims are based on what he claims are naturally occurring cycles in the solar system.

Unfortunately, his claims have been debunked.

The validity of Scafetta's work is easily seen by looking at his publication list. He is published by groups such as The Heartland Institute and Science and Public Policy Institute. These are well-known climate change denier organizations that take funding from the fossil fuel industry, including Saudi Arabia, and are responsible for organizing much of the climate war. You can tell a lot about someone by who their friends are.

Meanwhile, the people of these 20 counties of North Carolina are being misused by NC-20 and will have to pay the consequences later on.