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Providing Insight
Into Climate Change
FoS Climate Science Newsletter - 2017

By: Ken Gregory


CliSci # 252      2017-02-11


Climate Scientists Versus Climate Data

Dr. John Bates retired November 2016 from his job as a principle scientist at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). He wrote NOAA’s procedure for quality checking, documenting and archiving climate data. Dr. Bates wrote a blog post that sharply criticized Tom Karl, director of NCIE, for not archiving or documenting a critical climate dataset that was introduced in a paper Karl et al 2015 (K15) published in the journal Science. The study had the effect of slightly reducing the sea surface temperature (SST) trend from 1980 to 1996, graph here, but increasing the SST trend from 1997 to 2014, graph here, where the trend during the hiatus period increased from 0.014 °C/decade to 0.065 °C/decade. The SST trend from 1980 to 2016 increased by only 0.006 °C/decade. Bates wrote “I was dumbstruck that Tom Karl, the NCEI Director in charge of NOAA’s climate data archive, would not follow the policy of his own Agency nor the guidelines in Science magazine for dataset archival and documentation.” The Karl data never went through any “operational readiness review” so Bates says “it is virtually impossible to replicate the result in K15.” Bates writes “we find Tom Karl’s thumb on the scale pushing for, and often insisting on, decisions that maximize warming and minimize documentation.” See here.

David Rose wrote an article in the UK Mail titled “Exposed: How world leaders were duped into investing billions over manipulated global warming data”. The K15 paper was dubbed the ‘Pausebuster’ paper and was very influential at the Paris climate conference. The paper adjusted floating buoy temperature data to better match data from ship engine room water intakes. The K15 paper also made smaller changes to the land temperature record. Bates say “the software used to process the figures was bug-ridden and unstable. The article says another version of the sea surface data, ERSSTv5, is being prepared that will fix errors in the ERSSTv4 based on K15 by changing the buoy adjustments and including some satellite data and Argo buoy network data. This will result in a reduction in the recent global warming trend. See here. Note, the graph comparing NOAA and Met Office temperature data in the Rose article is misleading as the temperature separation is due to the two indexes using different base periods.


One Thousand Years of Summer Temperatures in Northeastern Canada

CO2 Science reviewed at paper Naulier et al 2015 that presented a summer temperature reconstruction for eastern Canada based on oxygen isotopic series from tree rings. The oxygen isotope is considered a more reliable proxy than tree ring width. The temperature graph is here. The millennial record revealed a cooling trend to 1900, warming to 1950, 1970s cooling and warming to 2000. The warmest period was during the Medieval Warm Period at about year 1000, “and a cold period extending from the early 15th century through the end of the 19th century, representing the Little Ice Age”. There is nothing unusual, or unprecedented about the current level of warmth in northeastern Canada. The paper reports that their data suggest that "solar radiation was the most influential forcing on Tmax changes in the studied region," further noting that "low temperature periods were always associated to low solar radiation periods (p < 0.05)." See the review here.


U.S. Wind Energy Policy

The total cost of the US wind production tax credit subsidy for wind power in the years 2016-2020 is estimated at US$23.7 billion. Public opposition to wind turbines standing over 500 feet (150 m) near homes has significantly intensified. The Obama administration lost three court cases involving wind power for failing to comply with laws governing wildlife protection. The Department of Energy has issued reports that contradicted experts who have testified that wind turbines adversely affect health. Wind turbines adversely affects military radar, but the administration prohibited the Secretary of Defense from objecting to any wind energy project unless it produced an unacceptable risk to national security. The blog Master Resources reviews this and will make specific recommendation to the new Trump administration to fix these issues. See here.


Siberian Arctic Black Carbon Sources

Black carbon (BC) deposits on ice and snow are a major driver of climate warming in the Arctic, which is greatly underestimated in climate models. A study published in the Proceedings of the National academy of Sciences used a transport model and observations to find that the major sources of BC in the Russian Arctic are domestic heating sources (35%) and transportation (38%), with gas flaring (6%), power plants (9%) and open fires (12) being minor sources. Understanding the BC source attribution is required to develop reliable mitigation strategies to reduce BC impact in the Arctic. Black carbon, or soot, contributes to ice loss by increasing the absorption of sunlight. High-latitude sources are especially important. China releases more BC than Siberia, but reductions in China would have much less impact than reductions in the Arctic. See the abstract here and a news release here.


Solar Activity Drives Sea Levels, Tropical Storms and River Discharge

Dr. Lüning and Dr. Vahrenholt discuss three new papers related to solar forcing.  One paper “Decadal variability of European sea level extremes in relation to the solar activity” shows the autumn and/or winter sea level extremes vary with the 11 year solar cycle in Venice, Trieste, Marseille, Ceuta, Brest, and Newlyn. Another paper, “Solar forcing over the last 1500 years and Australian tropical cyclone activity” uses a 1500-year tropical cyclone activity index to show that “solar forcing largely drives decadal, interdecadal, and centennial cycles within the tropical cyclone record.” A third paper “Evidence of a decadal solar signal in the Amazon River: 1903 to 2013” compared a 1903-2013 record of the Amazon River discharge to solar activity. The paper reports the decadal flow cycle is anti-correlated with solar sunspot cycle. The authors write “This relationship persists through time and appears to result from a solar influence on the tropical Atlantic Ocean.” See here.


CliSci # 251      2017-01-29


Carbon Circular Logic

The BERN model is an “earth system model” used to convert estimates of carbon dioxide emissions to carbon dioxide accumulating in the atmosphere by estimated the absorption by carbon sinks. This model is used to generate CO2 concentration forecasts from the emission scenarios used in climate models. As a minimum, the BERN model should be able to reproduce past CO2 concentrations from CO2 emissions data, but it badly fails this test. Dr. Clive Best calculated the CO2 levels implied by the BERN model from the CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use, cement production and land use changes resulting in this graph. The BERN model gives goods agreement with the Dome C ice core data of CO2 levels up to 1940, then it give much higher CO2 levels than measured at Mauna Loa. A paper by Millar et al shows very similar results. Dr. Best explains that the discrepancy is likely due to the BERN model’s failure at account for the CO2 fertilization effect that is greening the earth and resulting in a growth plant CO2 sink. Dr. Best writes “This makes it clear that any fertilisation effect was also ignored by ESMs. This likely means that IPCC projections of future CO2 levels based on the Bern model are too high.” See his post here.

‘Warming’ and ‘The Pause’ Explained By Wind, Upwelling And Mixing

The amount of cool ocean water upwelling has a dramatic effect on sea surface temperatures. Wim Röst presents maps showing that during the warming ‘pause’ (2001-2015) ocean areas that cooled the most relative to the previous warming period (1986-2000) are those area that were windiest. Strong winds cause strong ocean upwelling, as well as more evaporation, both of which cause sea surface cooling. There was increased wind speed in the eastern Pacific during the ‘pause’ corresponding to cooler temperatures while the opposite occurred in the north Atlantic. Global wind speed were higher during the ‘pause’ than during the previous warming period. Wim Röst suggest that this is an overlooked negative feedback, where more warmth leads to more wind, more upwelling causing cooling that offsets some of the initial warming. See here.

Trump’s NOAA Administrator Must Address the Temperature Record Controversy

Dr. Spencer writes “NOAA has been actively ‘adjusting’ the thermometer record of global temperatures over the years by making the present warmer, and the past colder, leading to an ever increasing upward temperature trend.”   Numerous technical articles show that the temperature record is contaminated by the effects of urbanization and by inappropriate temperature adjustments.  A study resulting from the surface station project headed by Anthony Watts here shows that the NOAA adjusted USA temperature record trend from 1979 to 2008 is 59% greater than that determined by the stations compliant with NOAA’s standards.  Spencer says that President Trump must select a new NOAA administrator who “will reexamine these procedures. … The new NOAA Administrator needs to address this issue head on, and not whitewash it.” See here.

800 Years of Summer Temperatures in Scotland From Tree Rings

A study published is Climate Dynamics this month used living and fossilized pine tree rings to reconstruct 800 years of summer temperatures in Scotland. The abstract reports “ that the recent summer-time warming in Scotland is likely not unique when compared to multi-decadal warm periods observed in the 1300s, 1500s, and 1730s … Prominent cold periods were identified from the sixteenth century until the early 1800s—agreeing with the so-called Little Ice Age … extreme cold (and warm) years observed in NCAIRN appear more related to internal forcing of the summer North Atlantic Oscillation.”  See here.

Climatic Variability in Northern China over the Last 2200 Years

A paper by Li et al 2017 presented pollen-based temperature and precipitation reconstructions of northern China over the last 2200 years. The reconstruction shows “that solar activity may play a key role in driving the climatic fluctuations in NC [northern China] during the last 22 centuries, with its quasi ∼100, 50, 23, or 22-year periodicity”.  The reconstructions were compared to social-economic, and geo-political historical records. The authors find “that precipitation (67.4%) may have been more important than temperature (32.5%) in causing the overall agro-ecological and macro-geopolitical shifts in imperial China”. See here.

Petrified Tree Rings Show Solar Cycles 300 Million Years Ago

A paper published this month in the journal Geology used petrified tree ring from the Permian period in Germany to show an 11-year cyclic period. This is the earliest direct evidence of the 11-year solar cycle. The abstract says “… sunspot activity caused fluctuations of cosmic radiation input to the atmosphere, affecting cloud formation and annual rates of precipitation, which are reflected in the tree-ring archive.” This demonstrates the long-term stability of the solar cycle for at least the last 300 million years. See Science News here, the abstract here.


CliSci # 250      2017-01-16


The Atmospheric Temperature Pause

The December 2016 global temperature anomaly from the average of two analysis is 0.20 °C above the average of 1981 – 2010. The large El Niño event is over and we wait to see if it will be followed by a La Niña event. The satellite measured temperature of the lower troposphere to the end of 2016 from the average of the University of Alabama in Huntsville and Remote Sensing Systems analysis is here. The temperature trend from December 1997 to December 2016 is 0.045 ± 0.043 °C/decade at the 95% confidence interval. The slope could be as low as 0.002 °C/decade. According to the satellite data, 2016 was a statistically insignificant 0.02 °C warmer than 1998, which was another strong El Niño year.

Climate Models Overestimate the Aerosol Effect on Clouds

A paper published this month in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics shows that climate models overestimate the effects of aerosols on cloud liquid volume. The authors simulated warm clouds at the  southern Great Plains (SGP) measurement site using a cloud resolving model (CRM) tuned to the measurements from the site, and compared the results to a single column version of a climate model (CAM).  The liquid water volume (or liquid water path, LWP) increase substantially with aerosol loading in the climate model while that in the cloud resolving model did not increase. The abstract says “The increase of LWP in CAM is caused by a large decrease of the autoconversion rate when cloud droplet number increases. In the CRM, the autoconversion rate is also reduced, but this is offset or even outweighed by the increased evaporation of cloud droplets near the cloud top, resulting in an overall decrease in LWP. Our results suggest that climate models need to include the dependence of cloud top growth and the evaporation/condensation process on cloud droplet number concentrations.” Climate modelers use aerosols as a huge fudge factor to match history. These results shows that aerosols no not affect cloud cover as much as previously assumed. This implies the decrease in global temperatures from 1940 to 1975 was not caused by human-caused aerosols but by natural causes. See the abstract here.

Greenland Ice Sheet Surface Mass Balance Is 120 Billion Tonnes Above the 1990-2013 Average

Danish Meteorological Institute publishes a real time chart of the Greenland ice sheet surface mass balance, which records the balance between ice gain from snowfall and ice loss from melting and sublimation.  See the chart here. The surface mass balance has increased due to an increase in snowfall, likely due to increased ocean evaporation resulting from lower sea ice extent in the Arctic. The total mass balance of the ice sheet would not change if the surface mass balance grows by the same amount as the calving from glaciers into the ocean as icebergs. Over the last decade, the calving from glaciers has exceeded the surface mass balance by about 200 Gt/yr, so the ice sheet was losing mass. That might change if the surface mass balance continues to grow at its current rate.

Coral Fossils Show Evidence of Immunity to Predicted Ocean Acidification and Warming

A paper published in Scientific Reports in January 2017 by Stolarski et al shows a comparison of skeletal structures of living Acropora corals with fossilized corals over many periods of the last 40 million years. Over this very long period of time the corals have experienced major changes in atmospheric CO2 concentrations and ocean temperatures. The oceans also had a dramatically changing Mg/Ca ratio. The analysis shows that the reef building corals were not harmed by the fluctuation CO2 levels, but has maintained its distinct skeletal bio-mineralization pattern for at least 40 million years. The authors write, “Such remarkable evolutionary stability … exists despite major global geochemical fluctuations”.  The skeletal formation process of corals is “strongly biologically controlled” and is uninhibited by changes in temperature or seawater pH –ocean acidification. See a review at CO2 Science here.

Satellite Reveals End of “Unending” N. California Drought

The New York Times reported in May 2016 the governor of California imposed permanent water conservation measures. The governor claimed that the drought may never end due to climate change. The idea that drought is caused by global warming is not supported by scientific evidence, as warming will cause slightly greater evaporation and precipitation rates. USA Today reported on January 12, 2017 that 20 inches (51 cm) of rain and 12 feet (3.66 m) of snow has ended the 5-year drought in northern California, see here.  Dr. Roy Spencer published satellite images of California that show the dramatic changes which have occurred since the same date three years ago. The images show the brown land in 2014 are now green and there is widespread snowpack, see here.

Climate and Solar Activity

There have been 132 peer-reviewed scientific papers published in 2016 that show a significant solar influence on climate and at least 7 paper published in this year show similar results.  A recent paper Zawiska et al 2017 presents a temperature reconstruction for the last millennium from lake sediments in Eastern Norway.  The results show that “summer temperatures were 1 to 2 °C  warmer than the mean millennial temperatures during the 11th, 13th, 15th and 20th centuries and 1 to 2 °C cooler during the 12th, 14th, 17-18 centuries.” The authors write “The three minor cooling periods were reconstructed in the first half of the millennium: 1050–1150, 1270–1370, 1440–1470 CE, that coincide with solar activity minima: Oort, Wolf, and Spörer respectively. Furthermore, a two peaked cooling period in the second half of the millennium was identified that coincided with the [Little Ice Age] LIA. These changes co-occurred with the prevailing negative [North Atlantic Oscillation] NAO index. … Maunder solar minimum caused a very deep negative NAO index phase during the LIA.” Climate warming began in 1800 following the Little Ice Age. “Temperatures increased very fast, from 8.5 to 12.8 °C during the first 75 years, but in the 20th century the increase became less pronounced.” The warming “correlates with the positive North Atlantic Oscillation index and increased solar activity.” The Zawiska paper is here. See a summary of this and other recent papers by Kenneth Richard here.

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