Archive for June, 2016

“Climate System Scientist” Claims Jet Stream Crossing the Equator is Unprecedented

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

Paul Beckwith has a masters degree in laser optics, which he has somehow parlayed into being a “Climate System Scientist” to spread alarmism about the climate system.

But his post “Unprecedented, Jet Stream Crosses Equator” suggests he knows little of meteorology, let alone climate.

A “jet stream” in the usual sense of the word is caused by the thermal wind, which cannot exist at the equator because there is no Coriolis force. To the extent that there is cross-equator flow at jet stream levels, it is usually from air flowing out of deep convective rain systems. That outflow often enters the subtropical jet stream, which is part of the average Hadley Cell circulation.


There is frequently cross-equatorial flow at jet stream altitudes, and that flow can connect up with a subtropical jet stream. But it has always happened, and always will happen, with or without the help of humans. Sometimes the flows connect up with each other and make it look like a larger flow structure is causing the jet stream to flow from one hemisphere to the other, but it’s in no way unprecedented.

We’ve really only known about jet streams since around WWII…one of my professors, Reid Bryson, was one of the first to advise the U.S. military that bombers flying to Japan might encounter strong head winds. The idea that something we have been observing for only several decades on a routine basis (upper tropospheric winds in the tropics) would exhibit “unprecedented” behavior is rather silly.

I especially like this portion of Paul’s post:

“We must declare a global climate emergency. Please consider a donation to support my work..”

Nice touch, Mr. Beckwith.

2016 Will Likely See Record Global Warmth in Satellite Data

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

…but the approaching La Nina might extend the global warming pause to 20 years.

Even though global average tropospheric temperatures are rapidly falling now as La Nina approaches, it is usually the second calendar year of an El Nino event that is the warmest, especially in the satellite record of tropospheric temperatures. This is because it takes a couple of months for all of the unusually warm Pacific surface water to transfer its extra heat to the atmosphere, pushing peak atmospheric temperatures into the second calendar year of an El Nino event.

While 2015 was only the 3rd warmest year in the satellite record (since 1979), 2016 might well beat out 1998 as the record warmest.

I computed just how fast average cooling must be for the remainder of this year for that to happen (or not happen), at least in our UAH dataset; the RSS satellite dataset would give somewhat different results. The following graph shows that if steady, linear cooling occurred from the May 2016 value of +0.55 deg. C to reach +0.20 deg C in December, then 2016 would edge out 1998 for a new record warm year (ignoring measurement uncertainty).


If linear cooling ended up resulting in +0.19 deg. C in December, then we would avoid a new record warm year.

How likely is it that cooling will progress at such a fast rate? Examination of previous El Nino-La Nina transitions suggest it would be unusual, but not out of the question. The latest La Nina forecast suggests fairly rapid onset of La Nina conditions, possibly by next month.

Nevertheless, if I had to make a prediction one way or the other, I would bet that 2016 will not experience that rapid of a rate of cooling, and will edge out 1998 for record warmth. I’d be happy to be wrong, though.

And, of course, if we go into prolonged La Nina conditions for the next 2-3 years, we might well be debating the meaning and significance of a 20-year pause in global warming in another year or two.

For the reminder of the year, I will try to include updates to this graph in my usual monthly global temperature updates. This will provide a visual guide to how we are progressing toward a possible new record warm year.

If Skeptics can be Prosecuted for Fraud, So can Alarmists

Friday, June 17th, 2016

I’m glad to see this news report today, and I’ve been saying the same thing ever since the whole Attorneys General flap started:

“If Democratic attorneys general can pursue climate change skeptics for fraud, then also at risk of prosecution are climate alarmists whose predictions of global doom have failed to materialize.

The cuts both ways argument was among those raised by 13 Republican attorneys general in a letter urging their Democratic counterparts to stop using their law enforcement power against fossil fuel companies and others that challenge the climate change catastrophe narrative.

Consider carefully the legal precedent and threat to free speech, said the state prosecutors in their letter this week, headed by Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange.

If it is possible to minimize the risks of climate change, then the same goes for exaggeration, said the letter. If minimization is fraud, exaggeration is fraud.

The popular comparison of legitimate skepticism and uncertainty over the causes of climate change with hiding the risks of tobacco use is just so silly. No one can be demonstrated to have been harmed by manmade climate change, partly because there is no way to establish causation, there has been no demonstrable increase in severe weather events, etc.

Besides, can any investor in Exxon Mobil really claim they never heard of the possible risks of anthropogenic climate change? That’s all we’ve been hearing in the news for the last 30 years.

But Dr. Spencer! It can be demonstrated that flash floods have killed more and more people in their cars over the last 150 years!” Sheesh. If you really think this is a valid argument, I can’t help you.

In fact, to the extent that recent climate change has been partly caused by humans (which I do believe…even though I cannot prove it), the positive externalities have likely outweighed the negative externalities (cold weather still kills more people than hot, crop productivity goes up with increasing CO2).

That is in addition to the fact that we have no large-scale replacements for fossil fuels yet, and to the extent we force expensive renewables on people, we make poverty worse. And poverty does kill.

Environmental groups that have pressured decision makers into bed with them on the issue should be held accountable for their deceit.

No, Spencer’s Research Wasn’t Funded by Peabody

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

My vacation this week was interrupted this morning by some hate e-mail…apparently, the recent Peabody Coal bankruptcy produced paperwork that listed everyone that was ever paid by Peabody for anything.

As far as I can recall, I am quite sure that Peabody has paid me for two things. Neither was payment for climate research, but just for presentation of information and opinions.

First was a presentation I gave to their board of directors, maybe 2-3 years ago, for which I charged my usual speaking fee plus travel expenses to Washington D.C. As I recall, my talk was back-to-back with one by a representative from Natural Resources Defense Council.

The second instance was hearing testimony I was asked to write related to a legal case I’ve already blogged about, here. That took quite a bit of time, requiring rebuttal and surrebuttal testimonies, then travel to St. Paul, MN to testify in front of a judge. I don’t do such things for free, and I always make sure I do it on vacation time from my day job so I can’t be accused of double-dipping.

If people are that concerned about not having any financial relationships with fossil fuel interests, I suggest they stop using electricity and most of our modern conveniences. I would have accepted payment from Satanists for Sane Energy Policy for my opinions if it would help prevent energy poverty and the resulting preventable deaths.

Another Potential Reason Why Climate Sensitivity is Over-Estimated

Thursday, June 2nd, 2016

No, not that kind of feedback...

No, not that kind of feedback…


It’s been quite a while since I’ve discussed why the diagnosis of feedbacks in the climate system (and thus climate sensitivity) from observations is biased toward high climate sensitivity. It’s a controversial topic, one which we have a few published papers on, yet one I am more firmly convinced about than any other climate research I have ever published.

I’m pretty convinced that most of our detractors on the subject don’t even know what we are talking about. The refutations against our work have been a mixture of strawman arguments, red herrings, silliness, and deception.

To put it simply, if temperature change causes a change in the top-of-atmosphere radiative balance, then you can (with some assumptions regarding time lags) diagnose feedbacks by simply regressing the radiative variations against the temperature variations. BUT if it is instead a time-varying radiative imbalance causing a surface temperature change (causation reversed), then you cannot diagnose feedbacks.

If you try, then you will usually diagnose positive feedback, even if strongly negative feedback exists. Our most complete analysis of the effect was described here.

In general, both directions of causation are operating in the climate system. People like Andy Dessler will claim that ALL radiation changes are ultimately caused by temperature change, maybe at some earlier time, and so he thinks you can diagnose feedback.

But I totally reject that…there are many reasons why (for example) clouds (and thus albedo) can change that are not caused by temperature.

And if Dr. Dessler really believes it, why does he not include a time lag in his feedback diagnoses? (It usually take time — sometimes months — for the atmospheric response to a surface temperature change to fully develop). When you do that, the diagnosed feedback parameter almost always shifts in the direction of low climate sensitivity (Dick Lindzen has also published work on this issue).


For years, I’ve been mulling another reason (other than the radiation-causing-temperature change one) for diagnosed feedbacks to be biased positive. It would occur if different sources of climate variation have different feedbacks.

When feedbacks are strongly negative, then temperature changes will be minimized, because that’s what negative feedback does — it damps temperature change.

But when feedbacks are positive, the temperature changes are allowed to grow.

So, the BIG temperature changes and their associated radiation changes during positive feedback events will dominate our observations of the climate system, while the small temperature changes during negative feedback events will be less noticeable.

The net result will be an average diagnosed feedback that is biased positive, that is, toward high climate sensitivity, because we are really only analyzing the big climate events that were allowed to grow due to positive feedbacks.


One can test this idea quantitatively with a simple 1D forcing-feedback energy balance model (like the one we have use in our papers, but here assuming a simple 1-layer swamp ocean 25 m deep, and a 30 day time step). If I force the ocean surface temperatures departures from an average state with a random number generator that is smoothed in time, then assume a sinusoidally varying feedback parameter between 0 and 6.4 W m-2 K-1 over a period of 28 months as the radiative response to those temperature variations, I get behavior like this:


The net feedback parameter diagnosis is then usually just the regression slope between the radiative flux variations and the temperature variations, which from the model output looks like this:


We see that the regression diagnosis of the feedback parameter is biased low. Instead of an average of 3.2 W m-2 K-1 as specified (which would be 1.2 deg. C equilibrium climate sensitivity), the diagnosis is 2.07 W m-2 K-1 (about 1.8 deg. C climate sensitivity).

If I add in some time-varying radiative forcing like we have addressed in our recent papers (e.g. this one), the bias toward high climate sensitivity is even greater (not shown here).

The above discussion is nowhere near exhaustive; I’m just trying to stimulate thought and discussion on an issue I feel very strongly about, that is: climate feedbacks diagnosed from observational data are very error-prone, with the errors most likely leading to overestimates of climate sensitivity.

UAH Global Temperature Update for May, 2016: +0.55 deg. C

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

NOTE: This is the fourteenth monthly update with our new Version 6.0 dataset. Differences versus the old Version 5.6 dataset are discussed here. Note we are now at “beta5” for Version 6, and the paper describing the methodology is still in peer review.

The Version 6.0 global average lower tropospheric temperature (LT) anomaly for May, 2016 is +0.55 deg. C, down 0.16 deg. C from the April value of +0.71 deg. C (click for full size version):


The global, hemispheric, and tropical LT anomalies from the 30-year (1981-2010) average for the last 17 months are:

2015 01 +0.30 +0.44 +0.15 +0.13
2015 02 +0.19 +0.34 +0.04 -0.07
2015 03 +0.18 +0.28 +0.07 +0.04
2015 04 +0.09 +0.19 -0.01 +0.08
2015 05 +0.27 +0.34 +0.20 +0.27
2015 06 +0.31 +0.38 +0.25 +0.46
2015 07 +0.16 +0.29 +0.03 +0.48
2015 08 +0.25 +0.20 +0.30 +0.53
2015 09 +0.23 +0.30 +0.16 +0.55
2015 10 +0.41 +0.63 +0.20 +0.53
2015 11 +0.33 +0.44 +0.22 +0.52
2015 12 +0.45 +0.53 +0.37 +0.61
2016 01 +0.54 +0.69 +0.39 +0.84
2016 02 +0.83 +1.17 +0.50 +0.99
2016 03 +0.73 +0.94 +0.52 +1.09
2016 04 +0.71 +0.85 +0.58 +0.94
2016 05 +0.55 +0.65 +0.44 +0.72

Cooling from the weakening El Nino is now rapidly occurring as we transition toward likely La Nina conditions by mid-summer or early fall.

The “official” UAH global image for May, 2016 should be available in the next several days here.

The new Version 6 files (use the ones labeled “beta5”) should be updated soon, and are located here:

Lower Troposphere:
Lower Stratosphere: