Saturday, September 11, 2010

Pielke snr: global warming halted 2004-2008

If you only have time to read one paper that provides an overview of Pielke snrs position then I recommend this one:
Have Changes In Ocean Heat Falsified The Global Warming Hypothesis? – A Guest Weblog by William DiPuccio, May 2009 (link)

Most of the angst against Dr Pielke in this Skeptical Science thread is based on his statement that "global warming halted on this time period" (2004-08). I would say that one of the roles of scientists is to identify better measurement tools - in this case the Argo system for measuring ocean heat in joules - and to base their analysis on those tools. This is what Dr Pielke has done. He has not concluded that global warming or increased CO2 in the atmosphere is not a problem but that the ocean heat measurement findings illustrate that our understanding is still quite limited.

Pielke snr:
If the ocean data is further corrected for the period 2004 to 2008, I would, of course, change my conclusion.

The more important issue, however, is the recommendation that upper ocean heat content in Joules be used as the primary metric to monitor global warming.(comment 15)
If climate change deniers take some of his statements out of context to promote their cause that is a separate issue. Climate change is not the same thing as global warming. It would be a sad day if scientists censored themselves because their scientific finding might be cherry picked by others with different agendas.

The main issues that seem to arise from this analysis are:

  • Some tools are better for measuring global warming than other tools. The best available tool we have at the moment is the Argo measurements of ocean heat content, measured in joules. The reliable data from this device begins in 2004.
  • Ocean heat warming as measured by Argo indicates that global warming has halted since 2004
  • Hansen's GISS model and the IPCC models are not accurate
  • We still can't accurately predict the future of climate but the tools are getting better and our ability to do so will improve in the future

Pielke snr:
Thus since 2003, there has been little if any global warming as diagnosed using ocean heat content. Since ocean heat content change has been shown to be a robust metric of global warmng and cooling ... the IPCC models clearly are not accurately predicting this global climate metric on this time scale (sea level budget over 2003-08)
Possibly the underlying reason why some people are annoyed with Dr Pielke is that he questions the reliability of IPCC models and so destroys the myth of a consensus of all scientists speaking with the same voice on the issue of global warming. Since many people find it difficult to differentiate b/w the science and politics of global warming they criticise Pielke for what they see as the political implications of his scientific analysis because they believe that there is a linear relationship between scientific findings and political action.

I went through a number of relevant post on Pielke snrs blog and wrote these brief summaries. This might be helpful for those too busy to do all the reading to see how the argument has evolved

Comment On Weblog Titled “Josh Willis On Climate Change: Global Warming Is Real” April, 2008 (link):
 Pielke criticises Willis for not facing up to the implications of his data. Global warming has not occurred in the atmosphere over the past four years, the computer models are wrong, if ocean heat is in the deeper ocean then it is not available for warming.

New Information From Josh Willis On Upper Ocean Heat Content, May 2008 (link)
Technical discussion of uncertainty of ocean heat data. Pielke links (but the link is broken) to Climate Science weblog in support of his belief that "The analyses performed by Josh Willis and colleagues should be the gold standard used to monitor global climate system heat changes"

Is There Climate Heating In “The Pipeline”? MARCH 5, 2009 (link)
By “unrealized warming in the pipeline”, they mean heat that is being stored within the ocean, which can subsequently be released into the atmosphere. It is erroneous to consider this heat as ”unrealized warming”, if the Joules of heat are actually being stored in the ocean. The heat is “realized”; it would just not be entering the atmosphere yet
Have Changes In Ocean Heat Falsified The Global Warming Hypothesis? – A Guest Weblog by William DiPuccio, May 2009 (link)
This one provides a great overview of the challenge provided by ocean heat measurements to the IPCC "consensus" of monotonic heating caused by AGW:
... the current lapse in heat accumulation demonstrates a complete failure of the AGW hypothesis to account for natural climate variability, especially as it relates to ocean cycles (PDO, AMO, etc.). If anthropogenic forcing from GHG can be overwhelmed by natural fluctuations (which themselves are not fully understood), or even by other types of anthropogenic forcing, then it is not unreasonable to conclude that the IPCC models have little or no skill in projecting global and regional climate change on a multi-decadal scale. Dire warnings about “runaway warming” and climate “tipping points” cannot be taken seriously. A complete rejection of the hypothesis, in its current form, would certainly be warranted if the ocean continues to cool (or fails to warm) for the next few years
Comment On EPA Response To Reviewer Comments On Ocean Heat Content, Dec 17, 2009 (link)
Jim Hansen's GISS model was accurate for an earlier time frame (ten years or so preceding 2003) but is not accurate in light of the ocean heat data since then. The EPA is in a state of denial of the scientific facts.

Further Comments Regarding The Concept “Heating In The Pipeline”, MARCH 9, 2009 (link)
Critiques an argument at Brave New Climate that we ought to slow down the reduction aerosols in the atmosphere on the basis that climate change is a bigger threat than the detrimental health effects due to aerosols. The BNC argument is based on incorrect "missing heat in the pipeline" thinking.

Further Comments on The Inadequate EPA Response To Reviewer Comments On Ocean Heat Content, Dec 23, 2009 (link)
Further technical discussion to demonstrate that heating has not occurred to the extent claimed by the EPA

Comment From Josh Willis On The Upper Ocean Heat Content Data Posted On Real Climate. Dec 29, 2009 (link)
The data for ocean heat change is much less reliable before 2004 than after 2004, when the Argo system became the dominant source of information.

My View Of The Terminolgy “Heating In The Pipeline”, Jan 5, 2010 (link)
The basic issue is whether the term “heating in the pipeline” refers to heat that is sequestered for a period of time deeper in the ocean only to reappear later in the atmosphere, or if it refers to a continuing assumed radiative imbalance until the atmosphere warms.

I do not conclude that the first perspective is an error in the physics, but it is not, in my view, what is meant by the terminology “heat in the pipeline”
Continued Misconception Of The Concept of Heating In The Pipeline In The Paper Vermeer and Rahmstorf 2009 Titled “Global Sea Level Linked To Global Temperature”, APRIL 13, 2010, (link)
Further misleading uses of the phrases “heat in the pipeline” or “unrealized heat”

Is There “Missing” Heat In The Climate System? My Comments On This NCAR Press Release, APRIL 16, 2010 (link)
Reprint of email exchange between Pielke and Trenberth about different studies and whether there is missing ocean heat below 700 metres.
Trenberth’s [and co-author, NCAR scientist John Fasullo], however, are grasping for an explanation other than the actual real world implication of the absence of this heat.
  • First, if the heat was being sequestered deeper in the ocean (lower than about 700m), than we would have seen it transit through the upper ocean where the data coverage has been good since at least 2005. The other reservoirs where heat could be stored are closely monitored as well (e.g. continental ice) as well as being relatively small in comparison with the ocean.
  • Second, the melting of glaciers and continental ice can be only a very small component of the heat change (e.g. see Table 1 in Levitus et al 2001 “Anthropogenic warming of Earth’s climate system”. Science).
Thus, a large amount heat (measured as Joules) does not appear to be stored anywhere; it just is not there.

There is no “heat in the pipeline” [or "unrealized heat"] ...
Further Feedback From Kevin Trenberth And Feedback From Josh Willis On The UCAR Press Release, APRIL 19, 2010 (link)
Further detailed discussion b/w Pielke, Trenberth and Willis about the reliability and implications of ocean heat measurement. Trenberth and Willis argue the case against placing too much reliability on this data and Pielke snr argues the case for.

Some further references recommended by Pielke snr (peer reviewed papers):

Sea level budget over 2003-2008: A reevaluation from GRACE space gravimetry, satellite altimetry and Argo (link)

Assessing the globally averaged sea level budget on seasonal to interannual timescales (link)


Mark Miller said...

Since many people find it difficult to differentiate b/w the science and politics of global warming they criticise Pielke for what they see as the political implications of his scientific analysis because they believe that there is a linear relationship between scientific findings and political action.

I haven't seen such people show a belief that there is a linear relationship between scientific finding and political action. They'll certainly insist on this relationship, but that doesn't mean they believe it. What I've seen is that at bottom they have already reached a conclusion. They are cherry picking information, and either exhibiting basic flaws in scientific analysis, or using statistical methods to show "it can't be anything else," as a proxy for testing that this is so, because "observation of this phenomena is too difficult," and immediately jump to a conclusion that to them is obvious. They're in essence looking for affirmation of their conclusion. They turn speculation into fact. They assert authority on the issue, and use the name of "science" and numbers ("thousands of scientists agree") to shut down counter-arguments to what they want to see happen.

At root the arguments I've seen in support of the theory of catastrophic global warming caused by humans are arguments from authority, which should always be questioned in science. The people who support this view tend to assume that science is an authoritative priesthood, as many do, not a means of inquiry and argument about reality.

Mark Miller said...


One could go into the psychological, financial, and economic reasons of why this is happening for quite a long time, as I sometimes have, but I heard an interesting analysis recently which might succinctly explain what we're seeing. Unfortunately I forget who said it, but the line of reasoning went that science can really only exist in an egalitarian society, because of the kind of argument and respect that's necessary for it to take place. The problem we have is that science and technology are advancing more quickly than most people can keep up with it. So we end up setting up authorities to handle technological and scientific issues. In the process we lose the egalitarian character that's necessary for robust scientific practice to take place. The conclusion is sobering. Science was lost on the European continent for a time, a couple thousand years ago, because of the loss of egalitarian character, and we may be losing it now, though ironically it may be because of what our society has been able to produce because of science, and the lack of ability of good education to scale.

Mark Miller said...


I also think what Carl Sagan (CS) said in an interview with Charlie Rose (CR) on his book, "The Demon-Haunted World," is worth noting. This is from 1996 (you can watch the whole interview here):

CS: "We live in an age of science and technology with formidable technological powers."

CR: "Science and technology are propelling us forward at accelerated rates."

CS: "That's right, and if we don't understand it--and by "we" I mean the general public--if it's something that--'Oh, I'm not good at that. I don't know anything about it.'--then who is making all the decisions about science and technology that are going to determine what kind of future our children live in? Just some members of congress? But there's no more than a handful of members of congress with any background in science at all."


CR: "What's the danger of all this?"

CS: "There's two kinds of danger. One is what I just talked about, that we've arranged a society based on science and technology in which nobody understands anything about science and technology. And this combustible mixture of ignorance and power sooner or later is going to blow up in our faces. I mean, who is running the science and technology in a democracy if the people don't know anything about it?

And the second reason I'm worried about this is that science is more than a body of knowledge. It's a way of thinking, a way of skeptically interrogating the Universe with a fine understanding of human fallibility. If we are not able to ask skeptical questions, to interrogate those who tell us that something is true, to be skeptical of those in authority, then we're up for grabs for the next charlatan--political or religious--who comes ambling along."

He makes some good points here about the impact of the loss of understanding of science to society, but I get the sense that he's kind of missing the point here. Maybe he addressed it in his book and I missed it, but I don't remember seeing him talk about this: If "nobody understands anything about science and technology," can science itself survive?

Bill Kerr said...

hi mark,

I think you are exaggerating the state of subjectivism and scientific ignorance. If you look at the Skeptical Science thread you will see that there is both support and opposition to Pielke snr and many of his opponents are fairly well informed scientifically and they present sophisticated arguments.

Where the argument goes of the rails IMO has been in the effort to present IPCC scenarios as consensus science which is sufficiently alarming to compel the concerted political action of brute force reduction of CO2 below 350 or 450ppm by 2050 or whatever the agreed target is meant to be. Probably this side of the argument is best put by Pielke jnr in his books, The Honest Broker, and The Climate Fix.

I still think Hansen is a good scientist but not very good when it comes to the political and practical implications of the science.