Our GRL Response to Dessler Takes Shape, and the Evidence Keeps Mounting

October 12th, 2011 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

I will be revealing some of the evidence we will be submitting to Geophysical Research Letters (GRL) in response to Dessler’s paper claiming to refute our view of the forcing role of clouds in the climate system.

To whet your appetite, here is a draft version of one of the illustrations (click for the large version). It clearly shows the large discrepancy which exists between the IPCC climate models and satellite observations in the way they show the Earth shedding excess radiant energy in response to warming. This is central to question of how much warming can be expected from anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, because the less radiant energy the model’s shed per degree of warming, the more the models continue to warm.

The figure above represents 700 years of data (50 years each from all 14 models we have analyzed), and all 20 years of global Earth radiant energy budget data which exists from 2 satellite periods. Each point plotted represents an estimate of how much energy is lost (gained) by the Earth per degree of warming (cooling) during year-to-year climate variations in the individual decades.

Results for various averaging times are shown: Monthly (used by Dessler), 3 and 12 monthly (used by Forster & Gregory, 2006 J. Climate in their analysis of ERBE data, results of which are plotted as blue squares above), and 18 months used by only us in our analysis of the CERES data. We decided showing results for multiple averaging times is better than arguing with our critics over what averaging time is best. (If there are two options, A and B, and we chose A, our critics would claim there was an Exxon-funded conspiracy to exclude B.)

Of course, this evidence also supports one of the main conclusions of our Remote Sensing paper published earlier this year: there is a large discrepancy between the IPCC climate models and observations. That’s the paper which led to the resignation of the journal’s Chief Editor, and an apology from that journal to Kevin Trenberth for even publishing our paper (never mind it was peer reviewed by researchers who also publish on the subject).

The Effect of Volcanoes in Models versus Observations

One new twist that emerges from the above figure comes from the blue triangles, representing the model decades involving large episodic radiative forcing events by volcanic aerosols, compared to decades without volcanic forcing (yellow triangles). These blue triangles clearly show that a low bias in the regression-diagnosed feedback parameter tends to occur when time-varying radiative forcing is present (The volcanoes were Mt. Agung in the 1960s, El Chichon in the 1980’s, and Mt. Pinatubo in the 1990s. 7 of the 14 models included strong, episodic volcanic forcing, as independently decided from data presented by Forster & Taylor, 2006 J. Climate).

Furthermore, comparison of those blue triangles to the Pinatubo-influenced ERBE satellite data (blue squares, separately computed and previously published by IPCC-affiliated researchers) shows even a larger discrepancy than do the yellow (non-volcanic) triangles compared to the (orange) CERES data, which experience no major volcanic events. While one might argue that the CERES satellite measurements (orange circles) are not totally inconsistent with the yellow model triangles, the same cannot be said about the ERBE Pinatubo-influenced observations (blue squares) versus the blue model triangles. This has become a common IPCC defense of the climate models (“…well, the observations aren’t totally inconsistent with all of the models…”), as if this somehow constitutes validation of the climate models.

How Do the Results Jibe with Dessler (2010)?
Dessler (2010) in effect made a calculation representing the single orange circle on the far left. He interpreted it as evidence of positive cloud feedback (all of the IPCC models now exhibit positive cloud feedback), and indeed if I were to take that single circle, with its diagnosed net feedback parameter of only 1.2 W m-2 K-1, I might be inclined to agree it does, indeed, suggest positive cloud feedback.

But note how that single orange circle compares to the models (the triangles) when the exact same calculation is made from them. There is a significant discrepancy, which is seen to grow at the longer averaging times where the feedback signal is expected to more clearly emerge.

And the discrepancy appears to be the greatest in decades that experienced major volcanic eruptions.


The evidence keeps mounting that the Earth is more resistant to radiative forcing than are the climate models used by the IPCC to project future climate change. While it doesn’t actually prove the models are wrong in their projections of global warming, I don’t see how discrepancies this large can continue to be ignored.

If not for the public policy implications (which Dessler admits was the impetus for his 2011 paper criticizing our work), evidence as strong as that contained in the above illustration would be easily embraced by the climate research community. Maybe some day.

It will be interesting to see whether GRL rejects our paper out of hand. Maybe it would help if I joined the Union of Concerned Scientists. Hmmmm.

P.S….another tidbit for those following Dessler’s claim that clouds can’t cause climate change…
Dessler claims that changes in ocean temperature are way too large to be caused by clouds. Well, the year-to-year changes in Levitus global ocean heat content of the 0-700 m layer during the 2000-2010 satellite period of record yields a yearly standard deviation of 0.5 Watts per sq. meter for the energy required. In comparison, the yearly standard deviation of the global oceanic CERES satellite radiative fluxes is 0.3 Watts per sq. meter, which represents 60% of the energy required to cause the ocean temperature changes. Using any reasonable feedback parameter combined with the sea surface temperature variations yields only 0.1 Watts per sq. meter.

Thus, cloud variations (or maybe even natural water vapor variations?) can constitute an important natural forcing component of climate variability. And since it is our physical interpretation of observed climate variability that impacts our estimates of climate sensitivity, it also impacts our estimates of future global warming (aka climate change).

At this point, I suspect Dessler’s conclusions to the contrary are partly the result of a large amount of noise in temperature changes with time computed from short-term Levitus ocean heat content data.

68 Responses to “Our GRL Response to Dessler Takes Shape, and the Evidence Keeps Mounting”

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  1. Dallas says:

    The proper interpretation is critical. The information is there, the vision is missing.

  2. Christopher Game says:

    Dr Spencer writes: “It clearly shows the large discrepancy which exists between the IPCC climate models and satellite observations in the way they show the Earth shedding excess radiant energy in response to warming.”

    This is decisive. That’s all he needs to say. Christopher Game

  3. DocMartyn says:

    “The figure above represents 700 years of data (50 years each from all 14 models we have analyzed”

    Cherry-picking again! You need at least 14,000 years using the 6 models that the referees think fits their biases the best.

  4. Congratulations!
    Another good Spencer paper is taking shape.

  5. Martin Clauss says:

    Dr. Spencer,
    I don’t see an orange circle. I see 4 yellow circles (of the Ceres vs. Hadcrut 3), but no single orange circle on the left. ( . . do I dare ask WUWT . .? 🙂 )

    • Hmmm…how old is your computer monitor? 🙂

      • Patrick says:

        Same problem for me. (I’m using a HP Notepad which is about 2 years old). What coordinates is the single circle?

      • Martin Clauss says:

        Apologies if my confusion was that the circles for the Ceres/Hadcrut observations are the oranges circles (they are a bit more toward orange than the yellow trianges, but I didn’t interpret them as ‘orange’ . .).

        If this is the case, I am assuming the circle very near the y-axis, just above the 1.0 line is the circle in question . . .

  6. GeoChemist says:

    Dr. Spencer: The last time this issue was critiqued by your critics, the claim was that the models that are good at describing ENSO effects are the ones that closely match the observations. Is that the case with respect to your graph above? If so, how will you answer your critics? By the way I very much enjoy your website and wish you well in your further research.

  7. Ah! Good point. I need to color code the models which have the best ENSO cycles, too.

  8. lateintheday says:

    Colour calibrate your monitor and save the settings. Only takes ten minutes, assuming your eyes are up to it. If Dr Spencer uses a Mac, chances are that his monitor will display the colours better ‘out of the box’.

  9. P. Solar says:

    Dr Spencer, I agree it is difficult to see how these major discrepancies are still going unanswered but it still seems to me that the elephant in the room is the inappropriate use of OLS which it seems you (as well as everyone else) are still doing in plotting “regression coeff” here.

    In short, it seems all work on this subject is based on a totally arbitrary choice of axes. There is no “controlled variable” here. Both quantities have substantial measurement uncertainly, error and noise. If you flip the axes you get TOTALLY different result.

    and indeed if I were to take that single circle, with its diagnosed net feedback parameter of only 1.2 W m-2 K-1, I might be inclined to agree it does, indeed, suggest positive cloud feedback.

    If you did the same regression on the same data the other way around you would probably get a regression coeff of nearer 8 W m-2 K-1

    The truth lies between the two and would almost certainly be >3.3

    That current regression methods are producing strongly attenuated slopes that flip the result form being negative net feedback to a positive net feedback can be proved very simply mathematically and demonstrated numerically on artificial or real data.

    Doing a rigorous regression fit is not simple but forcing recognition of the problem is the easiest way to blow this whole, false positive feedback out of the water.

    best regards.

  10. Hi Roy,

    This is kind of interesting. (Really.) I was wondering, though, whether you’ve gotten around to addressing the criticism that your lag regression coefficient test didn’t get at anything to do with climate sensitivity. Since Trenberth, Fasullo, and Abraham pointed out that, if anything, there is a slight positive correlation between quality of fit and climate sensitivity if you include the results of all 14 models you said you analyzed, rather than just the six you showed in your paper, is that matter closed? It seems like you’ve never addressed that issue directly in your blog posts. (You sort of dance around it without answering the charge, as far as I’ve been able to see.)

    Also, maybe this latest stuff will be just the evidence you’ve been waiting for, but can’t you at least admit that Dessler was right about your published evidence being deficient? That is, if you can make a simple climate model reproduce the lag regression pattern by forcing the system with cloud variations, AND some of the GCMs can give a similar result without such forcing, isn’t it fair to say that none of it amounts to real evidence for or against your proposition?

    Honestly, to me these seem like pretty black-and-white issues. You complain a lot about being dismissed by other climate scientists, but then when one of your arguments doesn’t pan out, you move on to the next one instead of saying, “Well, yeah, I see why that one wasn’t a conclusive argument.” I think if you could bring yourself to do that, more people would take you seriously.

  11. Bob Paglee says:

    Dr. Roy,

    Keep up the good work and don’t let those shady complaints cloud-up the big issues — when the dark cloud moves away, I am warmly enlightened, just as I am when I read your well-reasoned postings.

    Bob Paglee, Sr.

  12. Jim says:

    Mann and Trenberth argue, or did at one time, that the paleo evidence proves that the Earth must have a high sensitivity. Their analysis had to assume that the climate sensitivity is constant, otherwise their conclusion does not hold. It isn’t like climate sensitivity is a physical constant, like the speed of light. What evidence exists that the climate sensitivity is constant?

    • I think you are thinking of something Gavin Schmidt is reported to have said about it. In any case, paleoclimate studies that have attempted to quantify climate sensitivity have NOT assumed it was constant. But just because it isn’t constant doesn’t mean that it isn’t restricted to certain bounds. The probability distributions you get from the paleoclimate studies turn out to be about the same as what you get from the modeling studies, except that there appear to have been certain periods of rapid climate change (like the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum) when the sensitivity was much higher, for some reason. See this paper for some details:


      There are problems with paleoclimate studies–e.g., it’s not easy to make sure all your sediment cores, and so on, are temporally correlated just right. On the other hand, if you can deal with longer time periods, many of the problems inherent in dealing with noisy, relatively short-term modern data don’t apply.

      So the bottom line is that you have a number of ways of putting bounds on climate sensitivity using both paleo- and modern climate data. The standard models are consistent with all that data, so what’s the alternative? Well, Roy Spencer does it by ignoring the paleoclimate data and using simple climate models that he tweaks to explain limited modern data and give him a low sensitivity. But even that doesn’t typically work unless he is willing to allow wildly unphysical parameter values.


      Can you see why the other climate scientists don’t all jump on Roy’s bandwagon? They prefer theories that explain MORE data, not less.

  13. Bevan says:

    Once again, I ask why it is that we focus so much attention on the never-ending stream of discrepancies generated by the IPCC climate models when it is the very foundation of the Greenhouse Gas Global Warming conjecture that is false. Previously I pointed out that simple linear regression applied to over 32 years of monthly average CO2 concentrations from Mauna Loa, Hawaii, and Cape Grim, Tasmania, verses the satellite Lower Tropospheric
    temperature for the appropriate hemisphere shows that it is highly improbable that there is a causal relationship between changes in CO2 concentration and changes in temperature. Further that, as proposed by Prof Murry Salby, it is most likely that there exists a relationship
    between the rate of change of CO2 concentration and the ambient temperature level. Surely this discredits the Greenhouse Gas Global Warming conjecture.

    As if this is not enough, what has happened to the Ideal Gas Law? Back through the 20th Century, the CO2 warming conjecture was relatively unknown and the world progressed
    remarkably well without that knowing. People accepted the long established Laws of Thermodynamics and Ideal Gas Law which related the pressure, temperature and volume of a
    gas without any consideration of molecule absorption of infrared radiation. Land surveyors produced accurate maps of terrain using microbarometers and pilots navigated across that terrain guided by barometric altimeters, landing safely at airports at various altitudes. All of
    this relied on calibrations based on the Ideal Gas Law which provided corrections for changes in pressure and temperature but NOT greenhouse gases.

    Suddenly in 1988 the UN created the IPCC and we were informed that the temperature of the earth’s surface was due to back-radiation from greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. There was no mention of the Ideal Gas Law whereby the temperature at the surface was a result of the
    gravitational compression of the atmosphere by the air above, which had served humanity so well for a 100 years or so.

    How is it that the Dry Adiabatic Lapse Rate is stated as -9.8 degrees C per km of altitude change while the Saturated Adiabatic Lapse Rate is -5 degrees C per km? Is that not the very reverse of the Greenhouse Gas conjecture whereby the greenhouse gases trap the radiation from the Earth’s surface and act like an insulating blanket across the Earth? Yet here we have water vapour, a potent greenhouse gas, causing markedly greater heat conduction towards outer space than that for a dry atmosphere.

    Further, why is there snow on mountain ranges if the Greenhouse Gas Global Warming conjecture is correct? Surely all of the Earth’s surface at a given latitude should have the same temperature except for varying albedo. It receives the same amount of sun’s radiation as the adjoining surface at that latitude and is under the same atmosphere containing the same concentration of CO2 so the temperature should be the same regardless of altitude.

    Just what is going on?

    • Cristoph Schulz says:


      Another impressive Gish Gallop on your part. Each paragraph is filled with nonsense.

      * Your comment on linear regression of monthly CO2 was firmly smacked down last time you tried. Monthly average fluctuations are dominated by seasonal signals hence won’t correlate to temperature which is dominated by ENSO cycles of 18 months or so. Redo your calculations after removing the seasonal CO2 signal, and you will see.

      * There is nothing in the physical explanation of changing energy budget of the earth that violates any of the fundamental laws of thermodynamics.

      *The IPCC didn’t invent the green house gas theory in 1988, Arrhenius did in 1896

      * “The temperature should be the same regardless of altitude”? And you claim to understand the laws of thermodynamics?

      But why should I bother? You have proved to be beyond the reach of scientific discourse.

      Dr. Spencer raises interesting points based on informed knowledge of climate physics. It would be so nice if this site could remain free of these distractions.

      If salvatore would take everyone’s advice and start his own blog, you could do us all a favor and post there.

    • Isn’t PV=MRT still valid?

      • pochas says:

        Yes, and it and not radiation controls temperature from the surface to the top of the troposphere. Convection is the mechanism to recover the adiabatic temperature profile. Clouds are incidental to convection. They reflect shortwave, but they also suppress convection. Any miniscule effect of CO2 on downwelling IR will disturb the adiabatic temperature profile and immediately cause a miniscule offsetting increase in convection, which is the negative feedback secondary only to Stefan-Boltzmann. Perhaps the effect of clouds is actually less than had been thought.

        The effect of CO2 at the top of the atmosphere is another story.

  14. BEVAN, you said it all. Great post.

  15. Christopher Game says:

    Response to the post of Bevan of October 15, 2011 at 12:11 AM.

    Bevan writes: “There was no mention of the Ideal Gas Law whereby the temperature at the surface was a result of the
    gravitational compression of the atmosphere by the air above, which had served humanity so well for a 100 years or so.”

    This statement is incomplete and so open to various interpretations. Consequently any criticism of it will suffer from the likelihood that it will meet with the response “Oh, that’s not what I meant; you have misunderstood me.”

    A 1000 km high column of air isolated in situ in an isolating vessel (that I have a research grant to build; I have infinite research funding), with no possibility of entry or exit of matter or energy, can be left to come to thermodynamic equilibrium. Then the pressure and density will be high at the bottom and low at the top, because of gravity. The temperature will be constant throughout, uniform over altitude. We have this on the authority of Maxwell, Gibbs, and Boltzmann, who all studied the question; others have since checked their work and found it to be right.

    Take off the isolating walls at top and bottom, so that the sun can shine in and heat the land-sea surface during the day. Then the top of the column will radiate to space and get cooler, and the bottom will be heated by the land-sea surface, and the temperature will become non-uniform with respect to altitude, warm at the bottom and cold at the top. Of course the gas law will be obeyed apart from very very slight effects due to convective motion. The convective motion will try to even out the temperature, and will make progress in that effort, but will not be able to defeat the adiabatic gas law, the effects of friction and of turbulence, and other factors. Christopher Game

  16. Jim says:

    Barry Brickmore –
    OK, the paper you cite claims that climate sensitivity sometimes spikes, but they don’t know why. That doesn’t exactly give me a warm, fuzzy feeling that they understand what is happening with climate sensitivity.

    • It also says that the evidence seems to indicate that climate sensitivity has always been AT LEAST 1.5 °C for the past >400 million years. That doesn’t give me a warm, fuzzy feeling about people who want to do nothing to curb emissions because all the nuts and bolts of climate sensitivity haven’t been sorted out. The likely outcomes seem to be limited to “bad” or “really bad”.

  17. MikeN says:

    >Mann and Trenberth argue, or did at one time, that the paleo evidence proves that the Earth must have a high sensitivity.

    More recently I heard Mann argue the opposite. That the paleo evidence suggests a low climate sensitivity. He didn’t argue it per se, but when someone asked him if this meant that models overstate warming, he joked ‘You don’t look like Dick’, ans said I agree with that. I think there’s a missing negative feedback. The biggest uncertainty isn’t clouds, but the modelling of ENSO.

    • MikeN,

      I asked Mike Mann about your comment, and he says he presented evidence that past analyses of paleoclimate reconstructions may have led to an UNDERESTIMATE of climate sensitivity.

  18. RW says:

    The paleo climate data is completely inapplicable to the current climate, IMO. Too many unknowns and even the knowns point to an overestimation of sensitivity. The most egregious is equating the positive feedback effect of melting ice from that of leaving maximum ice to that of minimum ice where the climate is now.

    • Hi RW,

      As I understand it, when they have looked at climate sensitivity since the last glacial maximum, for example, they FIRST estimated the change in albedo due to receding glaciers, and THEN calculated the sensitivity due to other factors, such as changes in solar input and greenhouse gas concentrations. In other words, it’s a “fast-feedbacks” sensitivity.

      • RW says:


        It’s not applicable to equate the positive feedback effect of melting ice from that is leaving maximum ice to that of minimum ice where the climate is now. There just isn’t much ice left and what is left would be very difficult to melt, as most of it is located at high latitudes where it’s mostly dark 6 months of year with way below freezing temperatures.

        Also, what about the changes in the distribution of the incoming energy? More energy is distributed to the Northern Hemisphere as a result, is it not?

        The problem is the glacial to interglacial cycle is driven primarily by the change in the distribution of solar energy from orbital variation and the positive feedback effect of melting ice (far more and at lower latitudes than what exist now) and not the increase in net solar flux of about 7 W/m^2.

        • Hi RW,

          That’s exactly why looking at the Last Glacial Maximum is such a good test of climate sensitivity. There wasn’t much change in the amount of solar energy coming in–the main driver was the change in albedo. But since we know the extent of the ice sheets at that time, we can estimate what the change in albedo has been. We also know from the ice cores what the change in GHG concentrations was. When you plug all that into energy balance equations, you get a climate sensitivity of around 3 °C.

          So a climate sensitivity of around 3 °C can be used to explain the modern data, AND it can be used to explain very large past changes in temperature, such as the glacial-interglacial cycles. It is comparing apples to apples, because ice sheet extent is taken into account.

          What’s the alternative? Well, we can go with people like Roy Spencer, who say they don’t have a clue what caused the ice ages.

    • Note also that in Royer’s work that I linked, most of the time there were no ice sheets, so the bottom end of the range he quoted (1.5 °C) is really the bottom end.

      • RW says:


        Ultimately, it boils down the actual physical processes involved and basic energy conservation. Can you explain specifically where the watts are coming from to cause the 3 C rise? You don’t seem to be able to. Neither does anyone else in the pro-AGW community that I’ve talked to. Moreover, can you explain how the underlying physics are quantitatively the same from glacial to interglacial as they are on +3.7 W/m^2 in the current climate? All of this hand waving “it will come from the feedback” is indicative to me that you really haven’t thought this through very carefully (or very thoroughly).

        This is the fundamental problem with Dessler, BTW. Just correlating data isn’t good enough. Do you notice that at the beginning of his 2010 cloud feedback paper he mentions that the net effect of clouds is to cool by about 20 W/m^2, but ascribes absolutely no significance this? This would have to be explained in light of his conclusions wouldn’t it?

        Can you explain why the net effect of clouds is to cool by about 20 W/m^2 in the current climate?

        • Hi RW,

          Wishing feedbacks away doesn’t cut the mustard. And climate change is about **change**, after all, so your constant references to what the net effect of various factors are at the moment don’t really address the issue of how those factors would **change** due to a change in forcing.

          The only way I’ve seen you try to address that is with George White’s nonsensical graphs of gain vs. temperature, which you admit are contaminated at the low end by poleward heat transfer.

          • RW says:


            I’m not wishing away any feedbacks. My point is you can’t just claim ‘it comes from the feedback’ without not only a quantification, but an actual explanation and corroboration of the physical processes for the quantification. Dessler can’t explain the physics, nor can he explain the 20 W/m^2 net cooling of clouds in the current climate.

          • RW,

            Of course they can explain the physics. That’s why climate models have to be able to explain the present mean climate state before they can be used for projections.

            Yes, cloud physics has a lot of uncertainties involved, but conceptually it isn’t some holy mystery beyond the ken of mortals. It’s just complicated and controlled by factors that operate on a smaller scale than a pixel in a climate model.

            Also, the idea that you can’t know the final answer without being able to account for all the details of the physics is absurd. Newton couldn’t explain why gravity worked before he came up with a wildly successful equation to predict the net effect. Wegener couldn’t explain very well how continents could move around when he catalogued quite a bit of evidence that they do, in fact, move around. It’s the same thing here. You can use long-term paleoclimate data to estimate climate sensitivity, even if you can’t know all the details up front.

          • RW says:


            OK, explain to me the basic or general physics of clouds that makes the combined feedback of water vapor and clouds a strong net positive? Also, if there are a lot of uncertainties than what are they?

            You should also explain how the planet’s energy balance is so tightly maintained if the net water vapor and cloud feedback is 300% positive.

  19. Bevan says:

    May I suggest, Cristoph Schulz that you look at the data before you cast your brick bats. A seasonal correction only makes a minor difference in the case of the Mauna Loa data whereby the correlation coefficient between changes in monthly CO2 concentration and changes in monthly Northern Hemisphere Lower Tropospheric temperature is 0.003 with a two-sided probability of 94.5% under the null hyphthesis that the two variables are independent. Using seasonally corrected changes in monthly CO2 concentration gives a correlation coefficient of -0.001 with a probability of 97.7% under the null hypothesis. That is, there is no reason to expect that changes in CO2 concentration cause changes in satellite Lower Tropospheric temperature in the Northern Hemisphere.

    Also the seasonal effect for Mauna Loa is 6 months out of phase with that for Cape Grim lending further weight to Prof Murry Salby’s proposition that the rate of change of CO2 concentration is dependent on the ambient temperature.

    Further the power spectrum of the monthly changes in CO2 concentration at Mauna Loa show a very prominent peak at 12 months of about 30 times background noise. No maximum at 18 months was resolved with the basic analysis that I have available to me with only 393 data pairs.

    Finally you regress to blaming me for your inability to explain your position. Sorry Cristoph, I am not buying that.

    I see that you do not tackle the reason for the difference in the Dry and Saturated Adiabatic Lapse rates being the opposite to that predicted by the Greenhouse Gas Global Warming conjecture. Nor how there can be snow on mountain ranges if that conjecture is valid.

    The critical fact is that the world’s population is being threatened with doom based on an unproven conjecture for which there are no equations in mathematical physics that can be tested by real world experiments. Please note that running computer games are not experiments in anything other than running computer games, certainly not experiments in climate conditions. However the real world data and observations that I have suggested seem to me to contradict the Greenhouse Gas Global Warming conjecture as far as I can understand it.

    • Cristoph Schulz says:


      You have the Gish Gallop playbook down. Spew so many inaccuracies that nobody will take the time to explain clearly why each is false. Then double down on any left not addressed as a sign of victory. I’ll stick with just one since it is indicative of the flawed reasoning of the rest.

      You keep insisting that lack of correlation in *monthly changes* in CO2 with monthly changes in temperature means that CO2 cannot cause temperature changes.

      This is wrong for two reasons. First, as has been pointed out multiple times, the choice of *monthly changes* makes the correlation coefficient meaningless because during half the year it is positive and half negative, despite the steady rise of yearly in CO2 means for over 100 years. Everyone should view the use of linear regression coefficients or correlation coefficients on quasi-periodic data with great suspicion, you however wallow in them.

      But even more inane is your insistence on equating lack of correlation with lack of causation. It is classic false logic to equate correlation with causation. You take it a step further by equating lack of correlation with lack of causation. You can dress it up by computing a beta value for an irrelevant statistic, but it is still an invalid conclusion.

      “However the real world data and observations that I have suggested seem to me to contradict the Greenhouse Gas Global Warming conjecture as far as I can understand it.”

      This is a true statement because you don’t understand it at all. You do realize that you are insisting that all of Roy Spencer’s careful work is a waste of time because his understanding of climate is wrong?

      I have already wasted too much time on you, so you can “win” this one by insisting I know nothing because I won’t address each of your points with full detail.

  20. John Nicol says:

    Dear Roy,
    Would I be permitted to publish these articles on my website or put a link there to them, with due acknowledgement of course? I think they should be promoted as widely as possible, particularly here in Australia where we have a political battle on our hands against a carbon dioxide tax, legislation for which has just passed the lower house and is set to become law in a few weeks. It will be implemented in June next year if the government is still in office.
    Yours sincerely,
    John Nicol

  21. baxter 75 says:

    Referring to Christopher Games’ long column experiment discussed above and his statement that with the sun’s radiation admitted to the column it would then become warm at the bottom and cold at the top. Would he comment what the temperature profile under such conditions would be either in the presence or (hypothetically) absence of greenhouse gases?
    Appreciate your thoughts.

  22. John Ivory says:

    I would like to know why is South Pole is up to -20c cooler this year to other years comparing data from Wunderground.com web site and (i think but not sure) North Pole is warmer.
    I took a note mentally in about 1971 it was a really hot October Qld Australia but this year same time it was a lot colder.
    Thanks for the blog there a lot more too climate change than just co2 etc.. Earth wobble and it circle around the sun or changes to an epileptic and how many volcanoes are working, and how many sunspots

  23. Christopher Game says:

    Response to post of baxter 75 of October 18, 2011 at 3:49 AM.

    If the atmosphere were pure nitrogen with the same mass as the present atmosphere, and there were no water and no CO2:

    The sun would still heat the land-sea body. The land-sea body would heat the bottom of the atmosphere and radiation to space would cool the upper atmosphere. The atmosphere would be warmer at the bottom than at the top whenever sunlight had access to the land-sea body and the air could cool to space. The pressure and density would still be higher at the bottom than at the top, because of gravity. The temperatures would all be lower than in the presence of water or CO2.

    Introduction of some CO2 would raise all the temperatures.

    In the presence of the added CO2, the effect of adding water is something I wouldn’t feel confident to predict, though I am sure there are many who would feel confident to do so.

    Without CO2, adding water would raise all the temperatures.

    In the presence of water but not CO2, the subsequent addition of CO2 would further raise the temperatures. The really unknown question is by how much, and exactly why? Christopher Game

    • Rafael Molina Navas, Madrid says:

      Dear C. Game:
      Long time no see! …
      I don´t understand your last question – I mean, the reason why you bring that into question. I was sure you knew the answer I consider the correct one.
      Isn´t that due to the different grade of “transparency” of water vapour and CO2 to (?) different frequencies of LW radiation?
      Regards to all

  24. AlanG says:

    Barry Bickmore and others, search for ‘latest CO2 emissions by country’ in Google for a reality check. Here are the 2009 figures for CO2 emissions in billions of tons:

    China 7.711
    USA 5.425
    Europe 4.310

    The change in CO2 emissions from 2008 to 2009 by region are:

    North America down 6.9%
    Central and South America down 0.7% (USA down 7.0%)
    Europe down 6.9%
    Eurasia (ex USSR) down 9.2%
    Africa down 3.1%
    Middle East UP 3.3%
    Asia & Oceana (includes China and India) UP 7.5%

    The scientific arguments about climate sensitivity may be heated but will never drive policy. China, India, Russia, Brazil, South Africa, Canada and Japan have all publicaly said no to new CO2 emission targets after Kyoto runs out in 2012. Most of the rest of the world are exempt. These countries are not going to budge on this. The majority of fossil fuels are now consumed in the so called developing world. It really doesn’t matter what the US does because it won’t make any difference now.

    • Thank you, AlanG, for enlightening us with your inside knowledge of what all the countries of the world are willing to do. You’re right! Why should we make any serious attempt at negotiation, when YOU can tell us up front what they will be willing to do based on what they did between 2008 and 2009?

      I shall now vote for Ron Paul, and urge him to dissolve the State Department.

  25. Baxter 75 says:

    Thanks for your help, Christopher, that problem has bothered me for some time. I can understand that gases such as nitrogen do not interact with infra-red and hence don’t warm up like water vapour and CO2 will but what about UV and other radiations from direct sunlight as described in your theoretical column? Wouldn’t there be some heating from sunlight directly shining on the nitrogen?

    • Rafael Molina Navas, Madrid says:

      As the concentration of nitrogen is not beeing changed by us, the answer to your question has no importance for our bottom line question of man made global warming …

  26. MarkB says:

    Dr. Bickmore,

    While I don’t have an issue with the larger point you were making about oversimplifying regression analysis, I have to admit I’m baffled about your second argument. In my mind, while correlation does not imply causation, causation certainly implies correlation. If I’m not being a monkey somehow in accepting this premise, then obviously no correlation implies no causation; the contrapositive of a true proposition is also true. Doesn’t causation imply correlation?


    Mark Bofill

  27. MarkB says:

    lol – My apologies Dr. Bickmore, I should have addressed my prior post to Cristoph Schulz. I wish my browser would make proper use of the reply feature on this site!

  28. Christopher Game says:

    Response to post of MarkB of October 20, 2011 at 10:56 AM.

    It can be inadequate to use aphorisms like ‘correlation does not imply causation’. The words correlation and causation can each be construed in several ways.

    If two variables are related as the coordinates (x,y) of a circle, then overall, they have zero linear correlation, but still can be causally related. Two variables that are functions of time can each have sinusoidal time courses and be causally related but still have zero correlation as calculated by some methods.

    Two separate variables can be correlated because of their having a common cause, with neither of the two separate variables able to cause the other. Christopher Game

  29. MarkB says:

    Hi Christopher,

    Point taken, but with the caveat that I wasn’t trying to say everything is linearly correlated. To use your example, once you understand the relationship, the x y coordinates of a circle have an absolutely perfect correlation, just not a linear one.
    I’m just trying to state the obvious I suppose – I forget why I thought it important to post in the first place. When we say A causes B, we mean that A correlates in some way with B –AND MORE. The implicit assumption is there that there is some mechanism in reality that implements the necesity that when A changes, B must be affected, isn’t this what ’causes’ means? I had the impression that Barry (I mean Christoph!) was saying that this simple case was laughably invalid. ~shrug~ maybe I misunderstood, maybe I was picking nits, clearly I was already suffering from the time honored ‘Accuso Bickmore’ logical fallacy in the first place. 😉

    Best Regards Christopher,

    Mark Bofill

  30. paulus says:

    Reply to Chris G column of gas.

    No due to equal partition of energy between kinetic (temp) and potential (g*height)the temp at the bottom will be higher this is the adiabatic laps rate.


  31. Christopher Game says:

    Response to the post of paulus of October 20, 2011 at 4:12 PM.

    Dear Paulus, we may distinguish two situations. One is the isolated system, contained in a vessel with completely impermeable walls, allowed to reach thermodynamic equilibrium in the presence of the earth’s gravitational field. The other is the closed system, with no ingress or egress of matter being permitted, but with energy able to radiate or conduct in and out.

    The isolated system in thermodynamic equilibrium has a uniform temperature. We have this on the authority of Maxwell, Gibbs, and Boltzmann, and of other physicists who have checked their work. Of course this is a hypothetical situation because the building of a 1000 km tall isolating vessel would not be feasible. One can check this out in for example ‘A Survey of Thermodynamics’, 1994, by Martin Bailyn, American Institute of Physics, New York, ISBN 0-88318-797-3, pages 254-256.

    The closed system, with sunlight coming in and radiation going out to space, has a non-uniform temperature. This is because the land-sea body heats the bottom and radiation to space cools the upper parts. This sets up convection which is limited in its attempts to restore a uniform temperature by the slowing effects of turbulence and friction. The compromise reached is described more or less nearly by the adiabatic gas law. There is equipartition of energy, near enough, but this is not the only factor that determines the temperature distribution, and it does not directly tend to lead to a temperature gradient. This is more or less the actual situation in the atmosphere. Christopher Game

  32. paulus says:

    Chris so the adiabatic laps rate does not exist?


  33. Christopher Game says:

    Further response to the post of paulus of October 21, 2011 at 4:12 PM.

    The average potential and kinetic energies of molecules in a gas in a confined space are related by the virial theorem of Clausius, which he published in 1870, some 13 years after he published his equipartition relation in 1857, unaware of the unpublished version of the latter by Waterston submitted in 1854 but not accepted till 1892. The equipartition relation made no mention of potential energy. For this purpose the atmosphere is confined below by the land-sea body and above by gravity.

    Neither of these principles is the prime determinant of the temperature lapse rate. That is primarily determined by the radiation from the sun and to space, and secondarily determined by the effects of convection, which are constrained, but not fully determined, more or less by the adiabatic law, limited by friction and turbulence, as mentioned above. Christopher Game

  34. Bruce rennie says:

    Just a couple of questions for anyone game enough to answer. For all the arguing on both sides, I am still trying to get a reasoned response from opponents and proponents. The two questions relate to energy requirements for ice melt and ocean level rises.

    In Australia, we have had our Prime Minister come out publicly stating that she believes the climate change experts that there will be a 1.1 metre ocean level rise in the next hundred years, this is used to drive government policy (as well as the intra-party and inter-party fighting over various policies to be developed and implemented).

    In that regard, the two questions are:-

    1). How much land based ice is required to melt to give this rise?

    2). How much energy is required to cause the phase change of solid to liquid water?

    This would have to be accounted for in all models used by various groups.

    My own calculations (based on a 1 metre rise) give the following answer for 1). above as

    361,132 cubic kilometres (which I believe calculates out to approximately 13.7% of the Greenland Ice mass)

    and for 2). above as

    approx 1.2E23 Joules, (which I estimate is about 1 million 25 Megatonne Nuclear Bombs – a perspective)

    If this amount of energy was input into our atmosphere without being re-radiated out again, what would the various models show as the expected outcomes to atmospheric, land, sea and ice temperatures around the world? How do the various models account for such energy calculations?

    I am interested in reasoned responses as I am trying to determine what models predictively work.

    I am fully aware that the earth receives such energy levels on a daily basis. However due to approx steady state conditions, most of this energy is re-radiated to space during the same period – standard energy flow conditions. Seasonal variations are expected as we move around our orbit.

    regards to all

  35. Dan Pangburn says:

    There is only one complete and exact computer of global climate and that is the planet itself. By definition it complies with all laws of nature. All of the minutia of weather and climate whether known or not are accounted for. The results from the ‘planet computer’ are summarized in measurements of average global temperature (agt). The underlying physics that have driven the climate are expressed in a simple equation which calculates agt since 1895 with an accuracy of 88%. The equation is in the pdf made public 9/24/11 at http://climaterealists.com/index.php?tid=145&linkbox=true.

  36. Bruce Rennie says:

    Thank You Dan,

    But any equation that is only 88% accurate leaves much to be desired. I am currently trying to build a simple model of binding energies for nuclei based on work that I have access to from the 1960’s and later, and the author states that it is a model and doesn’t reflect reality but gives calculated figures to within a couple of percent and in a lot of cases less than 1% of experimental results.

    Even the standard model equations used in electromagnetic theory and gravity are accurate to minute fractions of a percent for macroscopic effects.

    A model is a simplified view of the actual reality but its accuracy should be good enough to make reasonable predictions, otherwise the model is useless for all intents and purposes. This was what was being taught to us in engineering 35 years ago.

    But I still would like to see an answer to my questions from a previous post from either side of the debate. The best response in the past I have received has been – “Good question, I’ll get back to you” and that was a few years ago now and nary a response since then.

    Neither side of the debate seems to want to answer these very simple questions. Why is that?

    regards to all.

  37. Tom says:

    Somewhat off topic, but here’s a new twist on forcing/feedback:


    If you paint roofs white, it will reduce radiative forcing, which will reduce cloud albedo and cause the climate to get warmer.

    Uh, OK.

  38. steve says:

    Extend the white roof theory to the disappearing of white snow.

    Less snow means negative feedback which means global warming has another negative feedback slowing it.

    BTW Ezra Klein is extremely annoying.

  39. Rafael Molina Navas, Madrid says:

    Dear Dr. Spencer, Christopher Game … (or any other ready to “help” me):
    When you say that some forcing or the like is of, f.e. 0.5 w/m2, energy per unit of time and unit of surface, what surface and time is supposed to be considered?
    In other words, how many m2 and seconds, multiplied by the given w/m2 figure, would give us the total energy, let us say per day?
    Because this is something not uniform: some radiations are related to only the effective real surface of CLOUDS and their real existing day time, others are related to the surface of maximum Earth transverse section, 24 h. a day … and others even to the total surface of the Earth, 24 h. a day … And what is important is total energy per day, not power per m2.
    And only indirectly related to this, some FOOD FOR THOUGHT:
    A new study, led by Frida Bender of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography and published in Climate Dynamics, shows that the tracks of mid-latitude storms – the type that drives the weather systems that affect Americans the most – have shifted poleward and narrowed over the last 25 years as a result of climate change. What’s more, as the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Graeme Stephens notes in a Nature Climate Change article about the study, Bender’s satellite-based research shows that the CLOUDINESS of the storm tracks has decreased over the same period. That’s important as it suggests the decline may have increased the net flux of radiation at the top of Earth’s atmosphere over storms – a process that could amplify warming over time.
    ( http://blogs.nasa.gov/cm/blog/whatonearth/posts/post_1313603011469.html )

  40. P. Solar says:

    MarkB says:
    October 20, 2011 at 11:38 AM

    lol – My apologies Dr. Bickmore, I should have addressed my prior post to Cristoph Schulz. I wish my browser would make proper use of the reply feature on this site!


    It’s not the browser which “makes use of” it is the content management software used by the site which does not work properly.

    Probably a case of IE only tested software.

    Banner at the bottom says “Powered by WordPress”, maybe a rather out of date WP since replies seem to work fine at climateaudit.org that also uses it.

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