Friday, 13 March 2015

Review of BBC4's 'Climate Change by Numbers', March 2015

  
Presented by three mathematicians - Dr Hannah Fry, Prof Norman Fenton (Statstiician) and Prof David Spiegelhalter - it hones in on just three key numbers that clarify all the important questions around climate change:-
·         0.85 degrees (the amount of warming the planet has undergone since 1880)
·         95 per cent (the degree of certainty climate scientists have that at least half the recent warming is man-made)
·         1 trillion tonnes (the total amount of carbon we can afford to burn - ever - in order to stay below 'dangerous levels' of climate change)

I studied Mathematical Physics very many years ago and had a career in computer engineering. I'm well aware that statistics and numerical computational solutions can give misleading answers, therefore require testing in the real world (which we can't do with climate) so was very interested to view this programme. 

It covered lots of uncertainties and issues that need working around. The history of how the differing techniques were developed illuminated the problems well.  This is good because far too often we get told simplified analogies about the science which numerate and educated people can be deeply suspicious of – like I am.

My review covers a few issues about the presentation for each number, and follows with a few more numbers that I would like investigated.
·         200-300% Amplification by water vapour of the carbon-dioxide heating
·         0.2% of the total Carbon Flux in the atmosphere
·         the average ammount that Minimum & Maximum Temperatures have increased

The First Number:- 0.85 degrees Centigrade Warming Since 1880
Question:-       Is 0.85 deg. Centigrade unusual?
Answer:-         No. The previous 170 years also warmed at about the same rate. (I applaud the presentation in explaining that, as we go back in time, the accuracy of known temperatures declines so that we have talk in approximations.) Unfortunately, noone knows why the warming of 300 years ago started, and continued in fits and starts. Thus there's no way to show that the same natural warming isn't happening now.

The Second Number – 95% Certainty that Human Carbon-Dioxide Emissions Contribute at least Half of Recent Warming
As a statistician, Prof. Fenton should have explained that just because 2 things happen at more or less the same time, (i.e. in his example, football club wage bill; for climatology, carbon dioxide and temperature) doesn't mean one causes the other or even that they have the same cause.  In fact, in the case of carbon dioxide, it's a 'confounding' variable which is expected to increase with warmth. As the oceans get hotter, carbon-dioxide is transferred to the atmosphere (and the sea holds correspondingly less carbon-dioxide, becoming more acidic).  Another number that would be really interesting to look at is the % of the carbon flux that is due to humans.  I understand it's tiny, ~0.04%
Prof Fenton's presentation used a Bayesian Statistics approach which showed that the computer models depended on human carbon dioxide emissions creating more than half of the recent warming. The impression given was that observational data from the real world supports this conclusion. Whereas it's equally likely that the models are wrong .
A Computer Model output of the troposphere was shown indicating additional heat over the tropics is expected from human carbon dioxide warming but not from natural variability.  If observed for real, it would be decisive. However, it's not present in the real atmosphere!
… I'm really disappointed that it was unclear that the model results hadn't been checked against reality.

The Third Number – Total Amount of Carbon we can burn to stay below 'dangerous levels' of climate change

First, you have to show that it could be dangerous.  A really important number was omitted – an expected 200-300% amplification by water vapour of the basic carbon-dioxide heating.  This is unproven and is probably the most contentious thing in climate science because, without it there's no catastrophe.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Science Moves On. Even Climate Science


Science moves on.  Thus Al Gore's 2006 "Inconvenient Truth" is full of unmet expectations e.g.
·         Polar Bears are not dying out – their numbers have been increasing since the hunting ban
·         Both poles are not melting – the Antarctic ice is much the same as previously. (Ice-shelves  and sea-ice are always breaking up due to wind activity.  Depth and Extent of ice, particularly land-ice, is the important metric.)
·         1975 to 1998 warming is not the fastest ever, …
·         Temperatures are not the highest ever during human civilisation – Mediaeval Warm Period (~11---1250 AD), Roman Warm Period  and Minoan Warm Period were all at least as warm (within the error margins of times when people didn't have thermometers).
·    Extreme weather – IPCC says no connection found with Climate Change
And, whatever they say now, the vocal scientist supporters of the Dangerous Global Warming hypothesis were surprised by the 'pause' or 'hiatus' in warming (Quotes here)

Those scientists who'd kept their heads down and continued researching ocean currents, cloud formations, atmospheric circulation and ice formation /melting were now finding their research results more popular.

IPCC's AR5 report in 2013 accepted for the first time that the 1975-1998 warming could have been 50% natural due to a series of warm El Nino currents in the Pacific.


Supporters of the 'Climate Change – Earth's Energy Budget is being wrecked by human emissions of carbon-dioxide' theory (e.g. Michael Mann, Kenneth Trenberth, Naomi Oreskes) are 'finding' all the extra heat hidden in the deep oceans where it can't be measured reliably; & prophesying that there'll be a sudden huge release of heat in the future.


While some recent developments include:-
     (i)            Arctic warming happens from time to time without any help from human carbon-dioxide emissions
   (ii)            Atmospheric water vapour does not behave as simply as depicted in NASA's Runaway Warming hypothesis:-
a.       IPCC says cloud formation is very uncertain
b.      March 2015 Paper discussing a stabilizing feedback between atmosphere & ocean circulations, clouds and radiation . From the summary: "The major source of albedo variability and the principal mode of regulation are associated with the interannual variations of cloudiness. The small variability observed suggests a high degree of buffering by the albedo of clouds" http://judithcurry.com/2015/03/10/the-albedo-of-earth

d.      Clouds have the biggest effect at the equator – January 2015 paper: Current Hiatus of Global Warming Tied to Equatorial Pacific Surface Cooling, Yu Kosaka, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan; and S. P. Xie.

See images below

Cloud Cover vs Surface Temperature

Carbon-dioxide Global Distribution

Reflected Sunlight Global Distribution


As with all science, Time Will Tell.  Eventually.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Overview of Climate Science Analysis

My analysis of  climate science is to ascertain whether  there is:-
(i)      observational evidence that carbon-dioxide is a major driver for Catastrophic Global Warming
(ii) other theoretical mechanisms that could contribute to Global Warming.

As far as carbon-dioxide is concerned, I find:-
·       (a)  no observational evidence for (i)
·       (b)  CO2 will react to the Earth's Infra-Red energy, probably passing it on to surrounding molecules & possibly using it as kinetic, thermal or latent energy.  I haven't found any Statistical Mechanics work that looks into this.

So, some warming is expected from increased carbon-dioxide.  It is certainly a Greenhouse Gas answering the question of "Why doesn't Earth lose all it's heat overnight like the other planets do".  The Greenhouse Effect also has a contribution from the pressure of the atmosphere. It's not either /or, but both.

Our planet is the only one watery planet in the Solar System, so I suspect water is heavily involved in both the Greenhouse Effect and Climate Changes.

Nature is basically chaotic – deterministic and unpredictable.  As with animal and bird populations I would expect to find surface temperatures abruptly swinging from small to large.  And I would also expect the effects of more or less carbon-dioxide to vary, depending on the rest of the climate.  In other words, I don't think it is possible to do simple calculations to say e.g. "doubling co2 will give n degrees of warming".  Also, I wonder about possible influences from the sun, or maybe gravity.

Some sceptics reject the idea of Greenhouse Gases.  They are muddling up the macro (Thermodynamics) and micro (Radiative Transfer) physics incorrectly.  The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics is about flows of aggregates of molecules.  Whereas radiative transfer is about individual molecules. An individual cold molecule has been shown to transfer infra-red radiation to a warm one while the aggregate always goes from cold to hot.

I always think that putting physics into words is difficult. Both Statistical Mechanics and Quantum Mechanics – along with Chaos Theory – have an approach which allows for the fact that, at micro-levels, we can never be certain of anything because we are unable to measure sufficiently small enough without disturbing what we’re measuring viz,:-


(a) can’t measure both velocity and and position of a sub-atomic particle – probability measures were added to Quantum Mechanics to compensate. This has the side effect of losing the ability to describe what it is we’re talking about in English – is it a billiard-ball type of thing or like a ray of light or wave in the sea?
(b) can’t measure heat transfer of individual nano-particles – statistical methods were created for Fluid Flow which gives Statistical Mechanics.  There doesn't seem to be way that Thermodynamics Laws and Molecular Properties can be discussed together in English.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Are Oil Companies Funding 'Climate-Misinformation'?




Anyone who believes the oil companies would spend money on protecting their existence by "deliberately speading misinformation" is over generalising a special case and obviously doesn't understand how businesses and capitalism create effiencies by using their own self-interest.  If you go back to Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nations" you'll find he cautions that businesses need to be reined back from time to time.  For radio discussion with academics  see


I suggest that tobacco is a special case. The manufacturers didn't have a legal alternative to tobacco.  However, when I look at the research by anti-smoking activists, it's just as appallingly bad as the tobacco companies research (particularly about secondary smoke). As more and more statisticians are saying these days, by framing the question appropriately, you can always get the statistical answer you want – and then smooth over the fact that statistics don't prove causation.

Compare to the food processing companies when we were all told by governments to stop eating saturated fats.  They just upped their research into how to make margarine taste like butter and increased production of it, while reducing their exposure to butter and milk.  They were agnostic to the science, merely making sure that their company stayed alive.

The fact that we're now told that the saturated fat research was of poor quality and saturated fat is not dangerous after all makes me appreciate that the Precautionary Principle should follow medicine and include "First do no harm". This wasn't followed by the anti-butter activists – harmful trans-fats were used in margarine until recently (UK) .

In Europe, all the energy companies have been spending money on research into renewables at least since the 70s and 80s. They wanted to be in on the latest technology. I remember working for BMW where they had BP as their research partner on hybrid cars. I seem to remember that Shell were working with Ford.  Hydrogen fuel was perceived as the way forwards in Europe. While in North America with it's large amount of farming land, growing corn for ethanol was the way to go.   I'm sure they're also spending on research into alternatives for plastics /food /materials manufacturing and power-stations.

So I don't believe the conspiracy theory for anything except tobacco.  There's always been a prediction that coal, oil, etc will become uneconomic and the company's duty is to make sure that their company will survive - not necessarily still with oil technology.

Like tobacco, organisations against cheap energy (Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund, Club of Rome, etc) don't have any alternative to survive apart from stoking up conspiracy theories.  They've improved so much over the years …


Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Basic Climate Science Facts

Climate Science Facts

1.      Earth's Global Mean Surface Temperature has increased at approx. 0.6 – 0.8 deg. C per century for the past 300 years in a step-wise fashion with 20-30 year periods of slight cooling interspersed between 25 to 40 years of warming.
2.   The Greenhouse Effect  answers the question "Why doesn't all the heat disappear into space overnight?  Some gases (water vapour, methane, nitrous-oxide and carbon-dioxide) slow heat escaping to space due to their radiative properties. Gravitational effects of the whole atmosphere also help keep us warm.  For detailed explanation see
TAKING_GREENHOUSE_WARMING_SERIOUSLY_2007
3.      Carbon-dioxide can cause warming. First CO2 will try to expand, banging against other gases and giving off some heat as a by-product.
4.      The sun is the main driver of heating on Earth, but its' variations in amount of radiance are small in comparison to variation in Earth's surface temperature.
5.      The number of sunspots correlates with a warming Earth e.g. the depths of the Little Ice Age were at the Maunder Minimum 1645-1715, and Dalton Minimum, 1790-1830. (Correlation does not indicate causation - it could be coincidence, there could be a 3rd driver etc.)  Sunspots cause additional Ultra-Violet light, magnetic storms and an increase in cosmic rays.
6.      Volcanos can also contribute some warming.  80% of volcanos are under-sea.  The remaining 20% in the atmosphere send so much dust and particles into the atmosphere that overall they cool the planet.  Generally, atmospheric volcanos' cooling effect will last less than 2 years.
7.      The atmospheric and oceanic weather systems move heat from the equator to the poles over a period of time.  They are mathematically chaotic i.e. sensitive to initial conditions (hence unpredictable) and deterministic.
8.      Water vapour is the most active Greenhouse Gas accounting for approx 50% of the Greenhouse effect.
9.      Clouds are the biggest uncertainty in Climate Science.  Low clouds tend to reflect sunlight back to space during the day, thus cooling. It is not understood when, why or how cloud formation takes place.
10.      The Pacific Decadal Oscillator / El Niño-Southern Oscillation moves heat around the Earth, mainly between the equator and the poles and may subduct heat to the ocean deoths causing a lag in heat affecting the surface temperture. Monitoring by NASA calculates an index which is positive when Earth's global surface temperature warms (''El Nino' years) and cools with negative index ('La Nina's'). This creates a lag between the forcing agent and the realisation of heat at Earth's surface.
10. The Atlantic Meridonal Oscillation , like ENSO, affects surface temperature.  It's most well-known component is the warm Gulf Stream which keeps the British Isles warmer than other land at the same latitude.
11.  Statistics methods were developed with the assumption that each instance of a measure (e.g. surface temperature) is independent of every other and has no natural ordering (e.g. tossing a coin).  Thus statistical analysis is unreliable unless the data is either of:-
                                i.            Ergodic Process
                              ii.            Stationary Process
Note that the UK Met Office does not rely solely on statistical models in its detection and attribution of climate change. See JuliaSlingo_May2013 pdf which includes "… the complexity and non-linearity of the holistic climate system, its internal variability and its physical response to external forcing agents …"
12.  General-Circulation computer models have a couple of issues to cope with:-
                                i.            Navier-Stokes Equations are used which need to be approximated before use. See NASA's equations here and from various universities Stanford,  Illinois, CaltechManchester, New York, Colorado

                              ii.            There are too many variables to be able to run the models within a reasonable time, so ' parametrisations' are used for items which don't vary much.
The models are designed for physical processes to be investigated and not for prediction. Many different physical parameters are defined which can be varied and a suite of runs done to compare results.


Friday, 4 July 2014

The Season or Sun argument for Climate Predictability


You find climate scientists explaining ”we cannot predict the weather one month in advance, we can predict that next winter it will be colder than this month. That a model cannot predict natural variability (weather) does not mean that it cannot predict the long term climate (winter).”

However, the difference between one summer and the next is many magnitudes larger than differences predicted for surface temperatures.

Winter and summer are differentiated by the earth's orbit round the sun giving more sunshine during the summer than winter.  We also know that the sun's sunspot cycle of magnetic storms affects the weather.  The 'consensus' surface temperature variance expected is ~1% with cycles between about 9 and 14 years.  The 'pause' in global warming from 1998 to present has occurred during cycles of low sunspot numbers – an inactive sun. But not as inactive as in the depths of the 'Little Ice Age'

In both cases, the chaotic nature of weather systems means that there is no linear relationship in how much or how little the Earth's surface temperature will be affected. [see recent paper on Sun’s magnetic field Nov 2013]. A few sun researchers predicted slight cooling, yet none of the General Circulation computer models did.

Human emissions of carbon dioxide directly join the atmosphere and take part in weather's chaotic song-and-dance. Thus climatologists can predict that there will be some sort of warming affect but they'll have to be as vague as 'a bit warmer, perhaps'.  There's no chance of being able to give a figure for sensitivity i.e. x degrees increase for doubling of carbon-dioxide.

The climate itself is Fractal and Chaotic.  See paper below by Tim Palmer & Julia Slingo of UK Met Office:-
Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A-2011-Slingo-4751-67.pdf

Unfortunately, climatology is replicating the economics route.  When things go unexpectedly wrong (e.g. 2008) the 'consensus' economists make a big noise of "nobody saw it coming" despite the fact that a handful had done so (cash-flow researchers) so they're able to maintain the ear of politicians and keep the world economy aping a massive Ponzi scheme.  Meanwhile, economists add the missing variable(s) to their computer models and proudly tell each other when they're able to predict the past.


Not Good!

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Global Warming Thinking Styles


The main point of contention in Climate discussions seems to be between:-
(a)    those who say “When carbon-dioxide does the same in the atmosphere as it does in a confined container in the laboratory, then the Earth’s energy budget will be out of balance so  human emissions will cause continuous catastrophic warming.  We must follow the precautionary principle of stopping CO2 emissions.” (see links to Kiehl-Trenberth Earth Energy Budget Diagram, free OU courseMet Office website, Oxford Univ. Course) 

(b)   the more cautious attitude of “How certain are we? How has the theory been tested?   Before we ask the world to impoverish themselves and remove cheap energy from poor people, we must be very certain that the natural weather systems won’t handle the additional CO2.” (Prof. Roy Spencer, Prof Linzen, Dr. Bjørn Lomborg, Dr. Richard Tol)

The vast majority of sceptics agree that:-
·         The Earth is warming
·         Carbon-dioxide can cause warming
·         Humans can alter the climate e.g. cutting down forests leads to desertification

With controversies over:-
·         How much of the warming could be due to natural variability?
·         How much warming could be due to human emissions (climate sensitivity)?
·         Over what timescale?

The same facts about current warming (both measured and visible in the Arctic, glaciers etc.) can be used to support both sides of the argument, with theoretical folk claiming climate is the long-term trend so they never meant to imply it would be year-on-year rather than the trend over decades.  Now that we’ve had 17 years of pause (or slowdown),  the IPCC defined climate timescales are 30-50 years and longer and the computer models can now reproduce it. It fits well with the 300 year step-wise warming of the historical record with its’ 15-25 year ‘steps’.

Unfortunately, the catastrophic AGW theory is untested because we can’t build a model of an unconfined atmosphere; and the computer models are not good at predicting even though they are continually tuned to the latest data. 

Plenty of calculations are done from theory & data statistics. However, statistics based on a Time-Series such as temperature is notoriously unreliable unless it conforms to particular conditions (e.g. ‘stationary’ or ‘ergodic’) which is not proven.


For both main-stream and sceptic opinions see
Ø  UK Climate Change Committee 28th Jan 2014 written evidence & notes on hearing
Ø  US Senate Climate Change Committee July 18, 2013 evidence (the science testimony is by Dr Roy Spencer here)
Ø  Climate Dialogue – the Dutch Parliamentary initiative ‘to also involve climate skeptics in future studies on climate change’. http://www.climatedialogue.org/



Kiehl-Trenberth Earth Energy Budget Diagram (1997)


http://www.drroyspencer.com/wp-content/uploads/kiehl-trenberth.jpg