Archive for December, 2008

An Open Challenge to Climate Modelers for 2009

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

Back in 1997, Bob Cess (climate researcher, cloud expert) said in an interview with Science magazine’s Richard Kerr,

“…the [climate models] may be agreeing now simply because they’re all tending to do the same thing wrong. It’s not clear to me that we have clouds right by any stretch of the imagination.”

In the last year or so I have become convinced that this is indeed what has happened…..the models are all doing the “same thing wrong”. While I have addressed this before, I am going to continue to harp on this issue until one or more climate modelers finally has a light bulb go on in their head and says, “Ahhh…I see what you’re talking about now…”. The issue is critical, and could completely change our perception of the role of clouds in climate change.

First, though, a little background for the uninitiated. Modern climate change theory is all about radiative forcing (aka, radiative energy imbalance) of the climate system: Something causes either a change in the rate at which solar energy is absorbed by the Earth (for instance, a major volcanic eruption), or the rate at which the Earth emits infrared energy back to outer space (for instance, increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations). The resulting global average radiative energy imbalance then causes a temperature change. This part of the theory is seldom disputed.

But that temperature change, in turn, causes other elements of the climate system – clouds, water vapor, etc. – to also be altered, which then feeds back on the original temperature change by amplifying it (positive feedback) or reducing it (negative feedback). Those feedbacks are what will determine whether manmade global warming will be either lost in the noise of natural climate variability, or — as NASA’s James Hansen believes — catastrophic. Feedbacks in the climate system are much less certain than the radiative forcing from extra carbon dioxide.

All twenty climate models tracked by the IPCC now have positive cloud feedbacks, which is partly why they project so much global warming in the future. Obviously, we desperately need to know what cloud feedbacks are occurring in the real climate system. And since one needs global observations to do that, it can only be done (if at all) during the modern satellite era.

But some researchers now think the search for the feedback “Holy Grail” is a lost cause. This is partly because researchers get different answers depending on which years of satellite observations are analyzed.

But I think I have discovered why. The issue is not a new one to the climate research community, and it is really quite simple: In order to estimate radiative feedbacks, one must first remove any sources of radiative forcing present in the data.

This ‘radiative forcing removal’ technique has been performed before by Forster & Gregory (2006 J. of Climate) to estimate feedbacks during the global cooling which occurred after the 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo. They removed an estimate of the radiative forcing caused by the volcanic aerosols in the stratosphere in order to estimate radiative feedbacks.

Similarly, Forster & Taylor (also 2006 J. Climate) removed anthropogenic radiative forcings from the output of 20 IPCC climate models in order to diagnose the radiative feedbacks operating in those models.

Well, what researchers haven’t accounted for is that there are natural cloud variations in the real climate system, and these also cause radiative forcing. So, in order to estimate feedbacks in the real climate system from satellite data, one would need to first remove those radiative forcings. Unfortunately, this is not easy because those forcings are somewhat chaotic…but, as I
show, they have distinctly different signatures in the data.

Because this ‘contamination’ of the feedback signature by internally-generated radiative forcing by clouds has never been taken into account before, diagnosed feedbacks have been both quite variable (depending upon the time period analyzed), AND they have been significantly biased in the direction of positive feedback.

The result has been the illusion of a sensitive climate system with positive cloud feedback….when in fact the satellite evidence, after accounting for this effect, reveals cloud feedbacks to be negative.

The article I posted here contains the details on all of this, including what I believe to be the most stringent test of climate model feedbacks ever performed. In it I present proof that this natural radiative forcing by clouds is strong, and ever-present…even in the climate models themselves!

I also provide the first evidence that the short-term feedbacks in the IPCC models are substantially the same as their long-term feedbacks in response to anthropogenic radiative forcing — a key finding if we are to ever apply our short-term satellite observations to the long-term global warming problem.

I challenge modelers to address this important issue, because the current, crude level of model testing has NOT been sufficient to validate feedbacks in climate models.

And yes, some of our early work on this issue has been published in the peer-reviewed literature (Spencer et al., 2007 GRL; Spencer & Braswell, November 1, 2008 J. of Climate). Unfortunately, our work is either being ignored or marginalized.

If anyone has a legitimate objection to my arguments in that article, or think something I’ve presented is not clear, e-mail me (see bottom of this page) and I will post your question and my reply here if I think it would be of general interest. I will not reply to comments or questions which are submitted anonymously.

OK, the Real Blog is A-Comin’…

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

I’ve gotten a lot of requests for me to turn my pseudo-blog into a real, interactive one, with RSS feed, etc. So, I’m having that done…hopefully in the next several days or so. Stay tuned.

Satellite and Climate Model Evidence Against Manmade Global Warming

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

I’ve posted a new article that shows from (1) five years of satellite data, (2) a simple 3-layer climate model to interpret those data — and (3) from the IPCC climate models themselves — that feedbacks in the real climate system in response to the warming tendency from anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are probably negative, not positive as is now exhibited by all of the IPCC climate models.

This is a short version of a new and rather extensive paper we are now finishing up that presents all of the evidence we have gathered over the last year or so that suggests there has been a serious misinterpretation of the behavior of clouds in the climate system. This misinterpretation has led to the construction of climate models which are much too sensitive. The source of the problem is the contaminating effect that natural cloud variations (forcing) have had on the diagnosis of feedbacks. We even show clear evidence that these natural cloud fluctuations occur in the IPCC climate models.

I believe that the model-satellite intercomparisons we have made are more specific and more demanding than have ever been performed before. Until the IPCC models are as rigorously compared to the real climate system, their global warming projections can not be trusted.

Manmade Global Warming: A Dangerous Urban Legend?

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

With the new Obama Administration just around the corner, the U.S. is headed for what I consider to be a ‘train wreck’ on the issue of public policy related to global warming. Through an extensive advertising campaign we are being led to believe that ‘green energy’ is the answer to global warming…as well as to our economic woes.

The EPA is on the verge of regulating most sources of carbon dioxide emission in this country, and the Democrat-controlled Congress will probably be pushing for carbon cap-and-trade or carbon tax legislation in 2009. The European Union’s utter failure to control CO2 emissions with cap-and-trade over the last few years is now well known to everyone — except those who depend upon the U.S. mainstream media to keep them informed.

Barack Obama claims that the country that put a man on the Moon can certainly find ways to produce clean energy. The trouble is that overcoming the force of gravity by using energy stored in rockets is trivial compared to finding new sources of energy that we want to be economically competitive with the alternatives, and free of risk to boot.

Only a fool believes we can punish the use of energy, and make the economy grow as a result. T. Boone Pickens makes it sound like an old Oil Man can be turned green, but note his public advertising campaign for wind energy is to get government subsidies (i.e., more of your tax dollars) to make his huge investment in a west Texas wind farm economically viable.

And what will happen to natural gas prices, which are already high, if the country heeds his advice and starts running cars on natural gas? Demand will explode…as will prices. Vladimir Putin would love this, though, since his Gazprom now has a greater monopoly on the world’s natural gas supply than OPEC has on petroleum.

Yet, if NASA’s James Hansen is correct that the climate system is very ‘sensitive’, then no cost is too much to avert a climate catastrophe. But the available evidence is that the climate system is INsensitive, and now there is increasing evidence that global warming could be mostly the result of a natural cycle in global cloud cover associated with the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO).

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), who the world now relies upon for the ‘official’ position on climate change science, has essentially ignored the possibility that natural modes of internal climate variability — like the PDO — could cause climate change. All it takes is a small, naturally-induced change in cloudiness and, voila, you have global warming or global cooling. The U.S. has spent billions of dollars to build and launch new Earth-monitoring satellites which are giving us a wealth of new data on natural climate variability to interpret, yet I know of no research that has ever been funded to look for natural explanations for global warming.

Those few dozen bureaucrats and politically-savvy scientists in charge of the IPCC process now exert considerable influence over what kinds of climate research is funded by congress. The government funding and peer review process has been corrupted by a few outspoken scientists, bureaucrats, and politicians who now have a vested interest in the theory of ‘manmade global warming’.

In my view, this constitutes gross negligence and misuse of science to advance the political objectives of the IPCC leadership and the United Nations. That political agenda has been embraced by too many U.S. politicians who wrap themselves in the cloak of ‘scientific consensus’ which has been asserted by the IPCC leadership — without any vote from the hundreds of scientists being represented.

Because of the extreme economic cost of proposed policy changes (carbon cap and trade, carbon taxes, etc.) to the economy, and especially to the poor, it is imperative that such policies be based upon good science — not propaganda. The scientific basis for the belief that mankind is now the dominant control on climate needs to be revisited. Al Gore and Barack Obama have said that there is no longer any scientific debate over the cause of climate change. I say that it is time for the debate to finally begin.

Cold & Snowy: Is it Global Warming’s Fault?

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

No matter what weather event happens these days, someone is bound to blame it on manmade global warming. Snow in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, early cold across the U.S….anything and everything is now evidence that humans have screwed up the weather. Thom Hartmann on Air America recently used some convoluted logic to explain how global warming causes more cold and snow.

The truth is that unusual weather has always been…well…normal. It is perfectly normal for records to be set for cold, heat, rain, drought, etc. Since most locations have records extending back less than 100 years, it can be expected that they will, on occasion, experience some weather event that they had not experienced before.

So, how do climate experts know that unusual weather now is a sign of global warming? They don’t. And when someone blames unusual COLD on global warming, you can bet that they have always had a little trouble in the critical thinking department.

And the news keeps getting even crazier. Now researchers have concluded that manmade global warming actually started 5,000 to 8,000 years ago. How can we trust them? Because they used “powerful supercomputers and advanced climate models”. Well, gee, that’s good enough for me.

My New Website ( is Launched!

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

Thanks to the assistance of Jamon Holmgren of ClearSight Design, I now have a new website dedicated to keeping people informed of my latest research, and of my views on the escalating hysteria over manmade global warming.

Much of the material here comes from my old global warming web pages kept at our web site. If you try to access those old pages, you will be automatically redirected here. As of today (December 21, 2008) I’m still transferring material, so check back often.

While this is not intended to be a discussion forum (I don’t have the time to police one anyway), I DO want to thank all of you who have been so supportive of my work in recent years…I hope you will find this site informative and useful…and a little easier on the eyes.