Archive for February, 2012

Daubert and the Admissibility of Climate Models as Evidence in a Court of Law

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

I get involved in so many things, sometimes I forget to let people know when something significant happens.

A few months ago, a paper I co-authored with attorney Brooks Harlow appeared in Energy Law Journal entitled: An Inconvenient Burden of Proof? CO2 Nuisance Plaintiffs Will Face Challenges in Meeting the Daubert Standard

I had always wondered how climate models, which are the ultimate source of “evidence” of anthropogenic global warming, could meet the rather stringent guidelines that judges use when deciding whether expert testimony should be allowed in court. Then, one day I received a phone call from an attorney (Brooks Harlow) who had been wondering the same thing, and we agreed to collaborate on a paper for submission to a law journal.

According to Wikipedia, “The Daubert standard is a rule of evidence regarding the admissibility of expert witnesses’ testimony during United States federal legal proceedings.

While the Supreme Court’s decision in Connecticut v. AEP effectively shut the federal court doors to federal common law nuisance claims, about half of the states rely on Daubert, and CO2 litigation can be expected in the coming years in various states.

There are 5 relevant standards in the Daubert test of admissibility, but which the judge does not necessarily have to follow rigorously. Again from Wikipedia:

  • 1. Empirical testing: the theory or technique must be falsifiable, refutable, and testable.
  • 2. Subjected to peer review and publication.
  • 3. Known or potential error rate.
  • 4. The existence and maintenance of standards and controls concerning its operation.
  • 5. Degree to which the theory and technique is generally accepted by a relevant scientific community.
  • In my opinion, two of the standards above (#1 and #3) are not met by climate models. In standard #1, climate models are not testable in any rigorous sense in what they are being used for: prediction of future climate change. We will not know whether they are right or wrong until the future happens.

    And even then, we can’t be sure that warming which ends up being observed in nature occurred for the same reason the models predicted it. Just because they create average weather that is somewhat realistic does not mean they can tell us how average weather might change in the future.

    And, contrary to what you might have heard, there is no obvious “fingerprint” of human warming. Natural warming from a slight change in cloud cover would look the same.

    Also, the oft-mentioned missing “hot spot” of warming in the upper troposphere would be the theoretically expected result of ANY warming; its presence (or absence) does not demonstrate causation as to the source of the warming.

    After all, the twenty-something climate models are all over the map in their predictions, and if one or two happen to be correct, what about all the other climate models which are also based upon “physical principles”, but which were wrong in their predictions? At some point, we have to admit that given enough different model predictions, one or two models are bound to be close to correct just by chance.

    Standard #3, which I also believe is not met, is related to standard #1 just discussed: the methodology should have a known error rate. In other words, how likely is a climate model to be correct based upon its success in previous predictions?

    “Predictions” of the past (e.g. what happened in the 20th Century) don’t really count because those are more exercises in curve fitting than prediction. What if the modelers did not know what the 20th Century temperature variations looked like, and were asked to use models to “hindcast” what happened. Would they be able to? Not likely.

    And since future warming (if it occurs) is a one-of-a-kind event, we won’t know for many years whether any of the climate models are correct even once, let alone for a statistical sample of independent predictions.

    If the climate system is always changing anyway, as some of us believe, you have a 50% chance of being right in a prediction of a warming trend by just flipping a coin.

    While some might also argue whether one or more of the other Daubert standards are not met, I thought I would address the two most obvious ones.

    I yearn for the day when the “scientific consensus” defenders are cross-examined in court. No longer will they be allowed to get away with demanding they be believed just because they are experts. That kind of attitude does not get you very far in court.

    Is the fight against global warming alarmism hopeless?

    Sunday, February 26th, 2012

    NOTE: The following light-hearted and playful editorial was whipped up after seeing a new Washington Post editorial on their Post(-Normal)Opinions page entitled Is the fight against global warming hopeless? I took the text of that article (which I encourage you to read first) and added some creative modifications. Only a few of the sentences were left intact, which are their creations, not my own…although I doubt the WaPo editorial board will agree with the context I have used them in. Snicker.

    Is the fight against global warming alarmism hopeless?

    IS THE FIGHT against global warming alarmism hopeless? It can seem so. The long-term threat to humanity comes from fears that carbon dioxide, which is necessary for life on Earth to exist, will lead to damaging energy policies which kill perhaps millions of poor people around the world each year. Fortunately, after decades of effort, only about one-tenth of America’s energy mix comes from renewable sources that don’t produce life-enhancing carbon dioxide, and which are so expensive they reduce prosperity for all.

    But two policies could allow inefficient, wealth-destroying carbon-free technologies to try to catch up to their less expensive competitors. One is aimed at greenhouse substances that clear out of the atmosphere after a few years, months or even days (as if the climate system really cares than much about them). Cutting back the emission of soot and ozone gases such as methane (sic) could reduce the world’s warming by an unmeasureable amount over the next few decades. Adding hydrofluorocarbons — another class of short-lived pollutants — to the list wouldn’t really help to delay the approach of temperature thresholds beyond which global warming could be catastrophic, since those thresholds are entirely in the realm of fanciful theories anyway.

    Alarmists believe that reducing these emissions is relatively cheap, especially when the benefits to health are factored in — but at the exclusion of the dangers to health of the reduced prosperity which would also result. For example, primitive cooking stoves in developing countries produce much of the world’s soot; alarmists think using more efficient ones would prevent perhaps millions of deaths from respiratory illness, as if poverty can be alleviated by giving poor people a solar cooker.

    Methane, meanwhile, is the primary component of natural gas — a commodity that pipeline or coal-mine operators could sell if they kept it from escaping into the atmosphere. Researchers have curiously concluded that global crop yields would rise…a speculative and even hypocritical claim considering the known benefits to photosynthesis of adding more CO2 to the atmosphere from fossil fuel burning.

    Coordinating an effective international effort to cut funding to long-lived climate alarmism enforcers will be the hardest task. Science institutions worldwide have spoken out on the need to address global warming, despite no scientist really knowing how much of past warming (which ended ten years ago) is natural versus manmade, and despite those institutions knowing virtually nothing about the underlying science.

    Climate alarmists will waste more than just American money. Regulators in the developing world push to enforce stronger air-pollution rules, which expands the role of government and provides job security for bureaucrats, while ignoring the downside of diverting too much of the taxpayers’ money away from other, more worthy goals.

    Since many of the health benefits of fossil fuels have been taken for granted by people, politicians are too eager to cut carbon dioxide emissions, without realizing there are very good reasons that we use carbon-based fuels.

    One development that promises to provide abundant energy without the meddling of environmental activists — America’s natural gas boom — faces a challenge of a very different sort: the environmentalists themselves. Innovative drilling techniques have made huge amounts of fuel deep below Americans’ feet retrievable at low cost. Most of it is methane, a greenhouse gas that produces only about half the carbon as coal after combustion. Environmentalists should be cheering: Cheap gas transported for the most part in existing pipelines can start the United States on a wealth-enhancing path with minimal added cost.

    That path will be followed naturally, based upon market forces and the ever-present consumer demand for energy. This might well eventually steer us away from fossil fuels, if only because they will gradually be depleted and so their price will by necessity rise.

    There is reason for hope – but not for complacency – over the coming years that the ill-conceived policy fantasies of climate alarmists can be fended off so that the poor of the world have a chance to prosper, with continuing access to our most abundant end least expensive energy sources – carbon-based fuels.

    This editorial represents the views of Dr. Roy W. Spencer as a professional climate scientist and semi-professional economist wannabe, as determined through debate among the various voices in his head.

    Ten Years After the Warming

    Sunday, February 26th, 2012

    The version of global warming theory being pushed by the IPCC is that anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are causing a radiative energy imbalance of the climate system, leading to warming.

    The radiative forcing history being used in the latest IPCC climate models looks something like the following, with red areas representing times when the climate system’s “stove is turned up”, that is, with heat accumulating in the system.

    (Actually, the correct analogy would be that the stove setting remains the same, but the lid partially covering the pot is covering it a little more over time…but that’s too hard to explain.)

    As can be seen, in the last 10 years the estimated forcing has been the strongest. Yet, most if not all temperature datasets show little or no global-average warming recently, either in the atmosphere, at the surface, or in the upper 700 meters of the ocean. For example, here are the tropospheric temperatures up though a few days ago:

    So what is happening? You cannot simply say a lack of warming in 10 years is not that unusual, and that there have been previous 10-year periods without warming, too. No, we are supposedly in uncharted territory with a maximum in radiative forcing of the climate system. One cannot compare on an equal basis the last 10 years with any previous decades without warming.

    There are 5 possibilities for the recent cessation of warming which are most discussed:

    1) cooling from anthropogenic aerosols has been cancelling out warming from more greenhouse gases

    2) natural cooling from internal climate fluctuations or the sun is cancelling out the GHG warming

    3) increased ocean mixing is causing the extra energy to be distributed into the deep ocean

    4) the temperature ‘sensitivity’ of the climate system is not as large as the IPCC assumes.

    5) there is something fundamentally wrong with the GHG warming theory itself

    Of course, some combination of the above 5 explanations is also possible.

    The 1st possibility (aerosol cooling is cancelling out GHG forcing) is one of the more popular explanations with the climate modelers, and especially with NASA’s James Hansen. The uncertain strength (and even sign) of aerosol forcing allows the climate modelers to use aerosols as a tuning knob (aka fudge factor) in making their models produce warming more-or-less consistent with past observations. Using an assumed large aerosol cooling to cancel out the GHG warming allows the modelers to retain high climate sensitivity, and thus the fear of strong future warming if those aerosols ever dissipate.

    The 2nd possibility (natural cooling) is a much less desirable explanation for the IPCC crowd because it opens the door to Mother Nature having as much or more influence on the climate system than do humans. We can’t have that, you know. Then you would have to consider the possibility that most of the warming in the last 50 years was natural, too. Goodbye, AGW funding.

    The 3rd possibility (increased ocean mixing) is one of the more legitimate possibilities, at least theoretically. It’s popular with NCAR’s Kevin Trenberth. But one would need more observational evidence this is happening before embracing the idea. Unfortunately, how vertical mixing in the ocean naturally varies over time is poorly understood; the different IPCC models have widely varying strengths of mixing, and so ocean mixing is a huge wild card in the global warming debate, as is aerosol cooling. I believe much of past climate change on time scales of decades to many centuries might be due to such variations in ocean mixing, along with their likely influence on global cloud cover changing the amount of solar input into the climate system.

    The 4th possibility (the climate system is relatively insensitive to forcing) is the top contender in the opinion of myself, Dick Lindzen, and a few other climate researchers who work in this field.

    The 5th possibility (increasing GHGs don’t really cause warming) is total anathema to the IPCC. Without GHG warming, the whole AGW movement collapses. This kind of scientific finding would normally be Nobel Prize territory…except that the Nobel Prize has become more of a socio-political award in recent years, with only politically correct recipients. The self-flagellating elites don’t like the idea humans might not be destroying the Earth.

    The longer we go without significant warming, the more obvious it will become that there is something seriously wrong with current AGW theory. I don’t think there is a certain number of years – 5, 10, 20, etc. – which will disprove the science of AGW….unless the climate system cools for the next 10 years. Eek! But I personally doubt that will happen.

    As long as strong warming does not resume, the heat-hiding-in-the-deep-ocean explanation will provide refuge for many years to come, and will be difficult to convincingly rule out as an explanation since it takes so long for the deep ocean to warm by even a tiny amount.

    Instead, there probably will be a tipping point (sooner than later) in popular perception when the public and Congress decide the jig is up, and they are no longer interested in hearing how we ‘might’ be headed for Armageddon.

    The public already knows how awful scientists are at forecasting the future…especially a future of doom, which curiously seems to be the only future scientists know how to predict.

    My Interview with WaPo Reporter Juliet Eilperin

    Friday, February 24th, 2012

    Yesterday I was called by Washington Post reporter Juliet Eilperin, who was doing a follow-up story on the Peter Gleick “Fakegate” release of Heartland Institute documents.

    Normally, I would not blog about talking to a reporter, but in my experience talking with a high-profile reporter like Juliet invariably leads to regret. Reporters will listen to my points, openly “agree” with me on many of them, and then take one poorly phrased snippet from a 20 minute conversation to make it appear I support their narrative.

    If this does not happen when Juliet’s article appears, the strain might be too much for me to bear. My world would be shaken.

    I’m just sayin’.

    So, I thought I would recount to the best of my recollection what we discussed. Then we will see how well her article represents my views. If she ignores them completely, well, that would be better than what usually happens.

    First, I pointed out that on the science of global warming I have been tagged a “lukewarmer”, sometimes attacked by both sides. I said that my position on the science of global warming causation is that I don’t think we know with any level of confidence how much of the warming in the last 50 years was due to humans versus nature.

    Next, she asked why (a relative few) scientists on both sides of the issue choose to enter the public fray over global warming, even though they know they will be attacked by the other side. I said I think the primary motivation is about the same on both sides: we know the science has policy implications, and those of us who take a stand do so based upon our understanding of how those policies might help (or hurt) people or nature.

    In the case of the outspoken IPCC-supporting ‘consensus’ scientists, they believe mankind is destroying nature and will cause the climate system to be increasingly hostile to life as we know it. (I did not venture into the quasi-religious motivation of some who believe humans should have zero impact on the natural world).

    In the case of skeptics like me, I believe the science supports a climate system which is not so fragile, and that premature energy policies which circumvent free market forces end up killing poor people.

    Next, Juliet seemed like she wanted a statement regarding the moral equivalence of the Climategate e-mail releases and Peter Gleick obtaining the confidential Heartland Institute documents. I said that if the Climategate e-mails were indeed obtained by a hacker, then both appeared to me to be illegal.

    But I *also* emphasized that what the Climategate e-mails revealed was behavior which was clearly crossing the line for scientists…such as collusion to interfere with the peer review process.

    In the case of the Heartland documents, in contrast, there was nothing there to see. Someone (Gleick?) had to forge an additional document to make it look like Heartland had nefarious motives.

    I said I have not publicly condemned Gleick’s unauthorized access to the Heartland documents because doing so would be somewhat hypocritical on my part, since I did not also condemn the Climategate e-mail releases. Instead, I choose to evaluate what the documents from both sources contain and what they say about the behavior of ‘activists’ on both sides of the global warming issue.

    On that basis, there is no moral equivalence.

    Climategate reveals taxpayer-funded scientists behaving badly, and possibly illegally. The Heartland documents reveal the mundane activities of a privately-funded organization trying to bring some balance to the coverage of climate change science.

    I don’t recall right now whether any other issues of significance were discussed in the interview, although there might have been.

    It will be interesting to see how Juliet represents my views. I predict spin.

    But if she accurately and fairly represents my views, I will apologize for doubting her.

    Yes, Virginia, the “Vacuum” of Space Does have a “Temperature”

    Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

    Usually, I refrain from addressing silly scientific claims. But since some people seem determined to go to any extent to ‘disprove’ greenhouse gas theory, in this instance I am going against my better judgment to answer a particularly crazy article entitled, “Roy Spencer’s Fatal Error: Believing the Vacuum of Space Has a Temperature“.

    I can’t tell whether John O’Sullivan really believes what he has written there. While I will assume he does, it still feels like I’m being challenged by a supermarket tabloid to offer proof that Elvis was not abducted by space aliens.

    But I digress. The basic issue is that the radiative energy budget of the Earth involves energy GAIN from the sun (primarily at visible wavelengths, less at infrared [IR] wavelengths), and then energy LOSS to the ‘cold’ depths of outer space, which is mostly in the IR.

    It is usually assumed in radiative energy budget calculations of the Earth that there is no IR emission toward the Earth from outer space, but this is not strictly true. Space emits radiation like a blackbody whose temperature is 2.7 K, and a portion of this emission is indeed in the infrared, as was verified by the COBE satellite experiment:

    So yes, Virginia, outer space does have a temperature, and it is a very cold one. But even if that temperature was 0 K (in which case one might metaphysically ask whether zero absolute temperature actually means no temperature), the practical result would be the same: the thermal radiation emitted by a colder object CAN influence the energy budget, and therefore the temperature, of a warmer object.

    In the case of the greenhouse effect, downwelling infrared sky radiation, even though it is usually less intense than the upwelling radiation from the ground, keeps the ground from cooling much faster at night than if the atmosphere was not there.

    No laws of thermodynamics are broken, because the net flow of radiation is still from the warmer object to the cooler object, despite the fact that the cooler object (the atmosphere) keeps the warmer object (the ground) warmer than if the atmosphere was not there. That’s the (so-called) greenhouse effect.

    You can perform an experiment yourself, with an inexpensive handheld IR thermometer (which is really a radiometer) and (for example) a side-by-side refrigerator/freezer. Point the IR thermometer, which will be close to room temperature, at the inside of the freezer (say at 0 deg. F), and the temperature of the freezer viewing side of the thermopile within the thermometer will drop, due to IR energy loss from the thermopile toward the freezer. Circuitry measures the rate of temperature drop and calculates the temperature of the object you are viewing (it also assumes an IR emissivity, usually close to 1.0).

    But if you then point the IR thermometer at the inside of the refrigerator (say at 40 deg. F), then the temperature of the refrigerator-viewing side of the thermopile will rise, even though the refrigerator temperature is colder than the handheld thermometer. So, yes, Virginia, cold objects (the refrigerator) can make warmer objects (the thermopile in the IR thermometer) even warmer still!

    If the Sky Dragon Slayers want to keep claiming otherwise, then fine. Maybe someday they will receive a Nobel Prize.

    And maybe someday Elvis will return from space with a great new weight loss product.

    More Musings from the Greenhouse

    Sunday, February 19th, 2012

    I continue to receive a steady stream of comments and e-mails which challenge my views on how the climate system operates. And that’s fine.

    But I also seem to get the same questions, over and over. I understand that it is time consuming to wade through all of the blog posts to find the ones where I address certain issues, so from time to time it seems useful to explain (once again) my understanding of things.

    So, here’s my latest attempt at explaining temperature change, the “greenhouse effect” (yes, I know it’s not like a real greenhouse, but thanks for the tip), and why alternative theories cannot yet replace greenhouse theory.

    Temperature is the Result of Energy Gain AND Energy Loss
    The temperature of something (the Earth’s surface, an atmospheric layer, the human body, a pot of water on the stove) is related to rates of energy gain and energy loss. Thus, generally speaking, you can increase temperature in one of two ways: (1) increase the rate of energy gain, or (2) decrease the rate of energy loss. (There can also be conversion between energy types, of course, but for simplicity here I am just talking about thermal energy, that is, sensible heat.)

    For example, if you are lying in bed and are too cold, you can turn up the electric blanket (increase energy gain), or add a regular blanket (decrease the rate of energy loss). If you add even more blankets, you will gradually make the temperature under the blankets higher…but at the same time you make the temperature of the outer blankets colder.

    Heat will always flow from higher temperature to lower temperature, but this does not mean that temperatures cannot change. The actual temperatures at different depths in the blankets depend upon the rate of energy gain and energy loss at those different depths, not just the rate of energy input into the system.

    The same is true of the climate system, and when explaining the surface temperature of the Earth. It does not matter whether we are talking about radiative heat transfer, or conduction, temperature is a matter of energy gain versus energy loss.

    The Greenhouse Effect Decreases the Rate of Energy Loss by the Earth’s Surface
    The atmospheric gases most responsible for IR absorption and emission in the atmosphere (“greenhouse gases”) act like a radiative blanket, cooling the middle and upper layers, but warming the lowest layers and the surface.

    This leads to two common misconceptions on the part of those who believe the greenhouse effect does not exist:

    FIRST, contrary to the assertions of some, the rate of IR absorption and emission of atmospheric layers are, in general, NOT the same. While the rate of IR absorption does not change much with the temperature of the absorber, the rate of IR emission increases rapidly with temperature.

    For example, if you took a sample of carbon dioxide gas at a very cold temperature and then irradiated it with infrared light, it would warm. (Some seem to believe its temperature would not change). The warming results because the gas would (initially) be absorbing more IR than it emits. But as it warmed, it would emit IR at a progressively greater rate. If this was the only process of energy gain/loss (IR absorption and emission), then the gas would warm until it reached a temperature where the rate of IR emission equaled the rate of IR absorption. It would end up having a higher temperature than it had before it was heated with IR radiation.

    The SECOND misconception is that because greenhouse gases allow the atmosphere to cool to outer space, adding more GHGs can’t cause warming. While it is true that GHGs do lead to an overall decrease in the mass-weighted average temperature of the atmosphere, their altering of the energy budget of individual layers leads to net warming of the lowest layers of the atmosphere.

    One of the first theoretical demonstrations of this was by Manabe and Strickler (1964), Fig. 4 from which I have reproduced below.

    In the case of pure radiative equilibrium (no atmospheric convection, and each layer comes into radiative equilibrium), the surface and lowest atmospheric layers become very hot, while the middle and upper layers become very cold (recall my example of adding blankets over your body?)

    In the real world, the atmosphere cannot support such an extreme temperature contrast, which is convectively unstable, and so heat is transported from lower layers to higher layers through convective transport (also seen in the above figure with 2 different assumed temperature lapse rates).

    Since most of what we observe as “weather” is the result of convective overturning of the atmosphere, it is actually the greenhouse effect which creates weather. If the atmosphere did not absorb and emit IR energy, it would probably come to the same temperature as the Earth’s surface (an isothermal atmosphere). This would cause all atmospheric convection to cease. (I have yet to test this with a model…the vertical heat transfer from the surface would be through conduction alone, which is very inefficient in air since it is such a good insulator, and which would take a very long time to equilibrate).

    By the way, if you are wondering why the stratosphere (above about 200 mb in the illustration) is so different, it is because there is a an additional radiative energy source there: solar ultraviolet energy absorption by ozone.

    The Issue of “Back Radiation”
    In the usual explanation of the greenhouse effect, one component of the vertical energy flows is downwelling IR radiation from the atmosphere to the surface. The existence of this “back radiation” is disputed by some people because of two seemingly counter-intuitive features:

    (1) the back radiation has an average value that is even larger than the energy source for the climate system, solar radiation, which would seem to violate the 1st Law of Thermodynamics; and
    (2) it flows from lower to higher temperatures, seemingly in contradiction to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.

    But the same objections could be made against many systems which create very high temperatures. You can pump energy into a system at a certain rate, and insulate the system so that it cannot lose heat easily and thus increase temperatures to very high levels. This is because, as was discussed at the beginning of this article, the temperature of an object is related to energy gain (input) and energy loss (output)– not to energy gain alone.

    So, if you continuously pump a certain number of Watts per sq. meter into a highly insulated system, the interior temperature can rise so high that the resulting infrared emission at the high temperature in Watts per sq. meter exceeds the rate of energy input into the system.

    But no physical laws are violated because there are energy flows both outward AND inward at those high temperatures, and it is only the net outward flow which cannot exceed the input into the system.

    A Back Radiation Thought Experiment
    If you still have an aversion to the idea of back radiation, flowing against the net flow of radiation in the opposite direction, then explain to me what happens in the following example.

    Imagine two plates at two different temperatures facing one another. Let’s say one plate is at 100 deg. C and the other is at 0 deg. C. It doesn’t really matter whether this is in a vacuum, or with air around the plates, the concept still applies.

    It’s pretty clear that the hotter plate will lose IR energy to the colder plate at a certain rate (which will decrease over time as the plates gradually equilibrate to the same temperature).

    But now imagine that the cooler plate is nearly the same temperature (99 deg. C) as the hotter plate (100 deg. C). It will be obvious to most people that the net flow of IR energy from the 100 deg. C plate to the slightly cooler plate will be at a slower rate than it was before.

    But why should that be? In both cases the 100 deg. C plate is emitting IR at the same rate, yet the NET flow of IR is reduced if the cooler plate is not as cold.

    The reason is that there is also “back radiation” from the colder plate to the warmer plate, which changes the energy budget (energy gain versus energy loss) of the hotter plate. If you STILL don’t like the idea of back radiation (“back” is admittedly superfluous), then just think in terms of the reduced rate of flow from the warmer plate to the cooler plate when their temperature difference is reduced.

    Either way, when you reduce the rate of net energy loss from an object, the object will have a higher temperature than if you didn’t reduce the rate of energy loss.

    Concluding Remarks

    The effect of infrared radiation on the average temperature profile of the atmosphere is complex, and is difficult to comprehend based upon intuition alone. It was not until we developed our own radiative transfer model that we were able to build intuition regarding what happens in a greenhouse atmosphere (with or without convection).

    The temperature of the Earth’s surface is an energy budget issue. Even for the same rate of energy input from the sun, the average surface temperature can vary widely depending upon the atmosphere’s ability to restrict the rate of energy loss from the surface, either radiatively or convectively.

    “Compressional heating” cannot explain the relative warmth of the Earth’s surface because, if the atmosphere could not cool from IR radiation, it would warm to the same temperature as the surface. This is an isothermal atmosphere, which is convectively stable, and so all convection would stop. Without convection, there is no “adiabatic lapse rate” which describes how a parcel of air warms as it descends from a high altitude to a lower altitude.

    Now, it is true that if you took an imaginary mass of air at some uniform temperature floating in outer space and dumped it onto the Earth, compressional heating would initially make the lowest layers warmer. But the final vertical temperature profile that would eventually result would be very different than the initial, as it would depend upon the resulting energy budget in each layer, which in turn would depend upon the abundance of greenhouse gases.

    So, what does all of this mean for global warming? Well, exactly how much warming will occur from adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere remains an open question. The IPCC thinks the sky is the limit. I think there is evidence that it could be quite small.

    But while I am in general supportive of questioning even our most cherished and long-held scientific beliefs, I do not yet see a reason for abandoning the basic physics of the greenhouse effect.

    In any comments submitted below, please refrain from strawman arguments, or diversionary tactics which divert attention from the central issues addressed above. I will not delete any comments, but I reserve the right to flag any I deem to be intellectually dishonest.

    I Heart Heartland

    Thursday, February 16th, 2012

    The unauthorized release of supposedly scandalous Heartland Institute documents has been pretty thoroughly addressed on many blogs over the last day or so. The documents are being used in an attempt to “expose” a “well-funded” “climate denial machine”, which is laughable on several levels.

    The only document involved that could be viewed as damning in any way is almost certainly a fake. The others are fairly boring, unless you really are surprised that any organization would take (very modest) donations to explore alternative hypotheses on the subject of global warming and climate change.

    Supporting alternative hypotheses in science…what a scandal!

    Only fringe lunatic save-the-Earth-by-killing-everyone-but-me types could really believe that any organization would actually promote “dissuading teachers from teaching science”. The person who wrote this obviously fraudulent Heartland goal clearly knows little about science or what kind of organization Heartland is.

    That so many media outlets (especially the Guardian) ran with the story without checking its veracity is another black eye for what passes as journalism these days.

    I know Joe Bast, the president and CEO of Heartland. He is of the highest character and intelligence, and I would consider his motives on the climate subject to be at or above anyone I have met in this business, on either side of the issue. This is why I agree to take part in the Heartland climate conferences, for less than half of my normal speaking fee. I don’t necessarily agree with all the science and ideas presented there, but I would rather it be presented and discussed than be censored, which is the U.N. IPCC’s modus operandi.

    The last conference even showcased a debate between me (a “luke-warmer”, I’m told) and a scientist-supporter of the IPCC position. That’s a level of openness you will not find on the IPCC’s side of the issue.

    Due to popular demand, Joe organized the last conference without sufficient funding. At the end of the conference he confided that he was still trying to find donors who would cover the expenses. It almost seemed like his organization really didn’t need the headaches involved in the effort, but no one else was stepping up to the plate to do a job which needed to be done.

    The real scandal is that it took a private organization like Heartland to compile the hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific publications which suggest that increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere might not be a problem for humanity or the biosphere. This is what the IPCC should have done, if it had any scientific objectivity.

    I hope that this hoax backfires on the person who started it. I hope it leads to even more donations to Heartland, which has played the role of David in its battle against the Goliath multi-billion dollar climate alarmist machine.

    UAH Global Temperature Update for January 2012: -0.09 deg. C

    Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

    PERSONAL NOTE: I’ve been unavailable for a while…my oldest daughter was in a bad car accident, will be OK eventually, but won’t walk for about 3 months. So, I might not be answering queries.

    The global average lower tropospheric temperature anomaly for January, 2012 took a precipitous plunge, not totally unexpected for a La Nina January (click on the image for the full-size version):

    The 3rd order polynomial fit to the data (courtesy of Excel) is for entertainment purposes only, and should not be construed as having any predictive value whatsoever.

    Here are the monthly stats:

    2011 1 -0.010 -0.055 +0.036 -0.372
    2011 2 -0.020 -0.042 +0.002 -0.348
    2011 3 -0.101 -0.073 -0.128 -0.342
    2011 4 +0.117 +0.195 +0.039 -0.229
    2011 5 +0.133 +0.145 +0.121 -0.043
    2011 6 +0.315 +0.379 +0.250 +0.233
    2011 7 +0.374 +0.344 +0.404 +0.204
    2011 8 +0.327 +0.321 +0.332 +0.155
    2011 9 +0.289 +0.304 +0.274 +0.178
    2011 10 +0.116 +0.169 +0.062 -0.054
    2011 11 +0.123 +0.075 +0.170 +0.024
    2011 12 +0.126 +0.197 +0.055 +0.041
    2012 01 -0.093 -0.059 -0.127 -0.138

    Progress continues on Version 6 of our global temperature dataset. You can anticipate a little cooler anomalies than recently reported, maybe by a few hundredths of a degree, due to a small warming drift we have identified in one of the satellites carrying the AMSU instruments.