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A Case Study in Climate Science Integrity

Posted on 22 January 2011 by dana1981

Everyone makes mistakes, including scientists.  Should we trust our science with those who admit to and correct them, or with those who deny and ignore them?

In the past week, two key examples have emerged illustrating how the two sides of the climate science debate react to mistakes. In both cases, the scientists made the same basic errors, but drew opposite conclusions (both wrong) about the near-term warming of the planet. The media responses to these miscalculations by each side show a sharp contrast. 

An Argentinian environmental group called Universal Ecological Fund (FEU) released a report which incorrectly stated that the planet will warm approximately 1.5°C between now and 2020.  In a contrasting article, Dr. Richard Lindzen (a prominent climate scientist who is skeptical that the consequences of global warming will be dangerous), argued that we are already over 80% of the way to the greenhouse gas levels that the intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)  claims will cause a 2-4.5°C increase in global temperatures.  But global temperatures have only risen by less than 1°C, so, Lindzen argues, The IPCC predictions are wrong and we have nothing to worry about.

Both Dr. Lindzen and the FEU rely upon the IPCC's estimated range of values for the climate sensitivity, which is the factor that tells us how much the planet will warm in response to a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide.  What both parties stumbled over is the fact that this factor tells us how much the planet must warm to reach an equilibrium in radiated power. When the greenhouse effect is increased, the Earth's heat radiation is impeded - global warming is the planet's way of restoring its full ability to get rid of heat.  However, this warming doesn't happen instantly.  The Earth is covered in oceans, and as anyone who has tried to make a hot beverage will tell you, water is slow to heat up.

The illustration below shows that over 90% of the heating goes into warming the oceans. That means that even when we stop increasing the greenhouse effect, there will be a considerable delay while the oceans, lands, etc. warm to their respective equilibrium temperatures

 

 

The mistake made by the FEU was to assume that the full impact of the added CO2 would be reached within a decade: that was wrong, the lag is far greater.  The mistake made by Dr. Lindzen was to assume that the full impact of the CO2 added to date was already being felt:  that was wrong, for exactly the same reason.  In fact, the planet has warmed approximately 0.8°C over the past century, and the IPCC estimates that if we were to freeze atmospheric greenhouse gases at today's levels, the planet would continue to warm another 0.6°C before reaching equilibrium.

Both the FEU and Dr. Lindzen calculated the amount of global warming we expect from all man-made greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, etc.).  However, neither accounted for man-made emissions of aerosols (small particles from fossil fuel combustion which block sunlight and cool the Earth's surface), or other cooling effects.

By accounting for all human-caused warming effects but neglecting our cooling effects, Dr. Lindzen and the FEU both over-estimated how much warming we expect to see in the short-term.  However, the two drew dramatically different conclusions from this mistake.  The FEU, thinking that we should expect to see the full equilibrium temperature for our level of CO2 almost immediately, concluded that we should expect to see exceptionally rapid global warming over the next decade; whereas Dr. Lindzen, thinking that we are already experiencing the full equilibrium temperature for our level of CO2 now, concluded that continued global warming will be nothing much to worry about.

The response to the FEU errors has been straighforward and comprehensive.  Several journalists, climate bloggers, and climate scientists informed the FEU of their mistakes prior to the report's release.  Unfortunately, for various reasons, the report was released anyway.

In a strong showing of scientific and journalistic integrity, a number of media sources have devoted articles to noting and correcting the errors in the FEU report, including The Guardian, RealClimate, The Huffington Post, and many others.  Rather than deny, ignore, or propagate the errors, scientists and the media immediately acknowledged and corrected them.

By contrast, former TV weatherman Anthony Watts' popular global warming skeptic blog, WattsUpWithThat, soon ran Lindzen's article with no commentary or analysis.  As a result, Lindzen's errors and incorrect conclusions were propagated to a much larger audience, which, based on the blog comments, was very receptive to the article.   The article was soon re-published by The National Review and numerous other blogs and media sources, with a distinct lack of analysis or commentary.  Lindzen's errors continue to spread, unacknowledged and uncorrected.

Ironically, Watts' blog also ran a story which was highly critical of Scientific American for initially publishing an article containing the FEU errors.  However, just a few hours later, Scientific American ran a new story correcting the FEU errors.  One wonders when Watts will correct his own blog's propagation of Lindzen's errors.

The examples above are fairly representative of the behavior of scientists, bloggers, and global warming "skeptics."  Self-proclaimed "skeptics" will pounce upon any mistake made by climate scientists with the zeal of sharks smelling blood in the water.  Yet mistakes by a fellow skeptic like Dr. Lindzen are passed over in silence, and his erroneous conclusions are promoted and propagated.

Skepticism, in its true sense, means examining all evidence with an equally critical eye.  A true skeptic should also look for mistakes made by those on his side; and if he encounters them, he should acknowledge and correct them.  In this case study, the true skeptics were the climate scientists and journalists.  Those who wish to be considered honest skeptics should take note of their commendable behavior.

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 60:

  1. Great work Dana, and you make some very pertinent and damning points concerning the observed behaviour of "skeptics".

    "One wonders when Watts will correct his own blog's propagation of Lindzen's errors."

    I doubt that very much. In fact, part of the allure of being a "skeptic" is that you are apparently not expected by your fellow "skeptics" to admit errors or correct wrongs, while at the same time being encouraged to admonish and berate climate scientists for each and every error, no matter how trivial or inconsequential. Quite the blatant double standard, and not how science is done.
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  2. Indeed. Isn't that the strength of the age-old saying about TV weathermen:

    "Not having to worry about keeping your day job if you're consistently wrong is a wonderful thing."

    Joking aside, wonderful post, Dana.

    (Doesn't the graphic at top remind anyone of a six-toed bear track?)

    The Yooper
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  3. Thanks Albatross and Daniel. By the way, it's worth noting that Lindzen has long been making this same argument with these same errors, including in a public debate involving Gavin Schmidt and Michael Crichton back in '07.

    "we're three-quarters of the way to a doubling of CO2 already and the planet has warmed less than a degree"


    And Stefan Rahmstorf called Lindzen on making these errors back in 2008 as well.

    This case study focused on the reaction to the errors by both sides, but Lindzen deserves a lot of criticism for continuing to make the same erroneous claims for well over 3 years now, despite other climate scientists pointing them out.
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  4. Dr. Lindzen is correct, if not dead on, his figure is darn close. In this case it is the IPCC who has made an error. IFR and heat does not just transfer vertically in a column, but also horizontally as well. Hurricanes tranfer heat/IFR to space as well and most interestingly greenhouse gases do not trap in heat like a blanket. A blanket analogy depicts a closed system which the earth, ocean/atmosphere interface is not. The planet is an open system. The other error on the IPCC's part is assuming equilibrium thermodynamics. In fact non-equilibrium thermodynamics applies here. To perform non equilibrium calculation on the entire planet is impossible, but using equilibrium assumptions leads to great errors which require very large assumptions independent of actual data. I will provide equations, references and further explanation upon specific requests to show what I mean.
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    Moderator Response: [muoncounter] Please do not take this thread off-topic. If you are intending to address heat transfer and/or thermodynamic mechanisms, there are more appropriate threads. This thread is about specific issues with Lindzen's work and the ethical imperative of admitting/rectifying a mistake.
  5. Oceans not only slow warming but they actually reduce the total long term trend too in their great buffering capacity.
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  6. Chemist1,

    "I will provide equations, references and further explanation upon specific requests to show what I mean."

    Please do.

    And I think you have missed the point of Dana's post. Can you please identify and speak to the specific error Lindzen has made to which Dana is referring?
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  7. I echo Albatross' request, particularly since you seem to be making a completely different argument than Lindzen, Chemist1.
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  8. Chemist1,
    Dr. Lindzen is correct, if not dead on, his figure is darn close.

    An interesting, if unsupported, appraisal.

    I, on the other hand, find nothing new in Lindzen's recent article, and much of it to be flawed. It contains little to no substance, speaking only in generalities, and repeats talking points that are close enough to the truth to deceive the unwary, and yet wildly inaccurate.

    He starts with the (incorrect) "there's too much noise iun the system to see any true warning" meme.

    Then he goes on about the same cloud theories which he has been unable to prove in scientific publications. No one stops him from talking about it whenever he wishes, because it's a free country, but why can't he prove this stuff in scientific journals?

    Next he goes on to basically quote himself (or rather his 2009 Lindzen and Choi paper), saying that the ERBE data proves there is a negative feedback, despite the fact that his 2009 paper with Choi was roundly refuted, and he has been unable to publish any improvement on that flawed work.

    He goes on to make the mistake outlined in this SS post (implying that warming must be instantaneous, and if it's not, then it must not be happening).

    Then he finishes by drawing the conclusion that global warming must not be happening, in which case there's some sort of sinister conspiracy of bureaucrats, politicians and environmental groups and even nations to use such a hoax to their advantage.

    Really, Chemist1, I think you could be a little more critical of what you support.
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  9. Lindzen remained sufficiently vague so that the implication to the echo chamber is clear, but so that he can defend himself from outright falsehood. But looking at the substance, he’s making very much the same mistake as the NGO did indeed.

    Lindzen implied (though left it somewhat vague) that since CO2 equivalent was already at 86% of a doubling, the warming according to the consensus estimate of climate sensitivity should have been much higher than waht is observed, and that therefore this sensitivy is overestimated. His argument goes wrong because 1) it ignores the negative aerosol forcing and 2) it ignores thermal inertia.

    1) and 2) are the same issues as where the NGO went wrong.

    Further discussion also in the comments of http://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/2011/01/20/food-gap-ngo-2-4-degrees-2020-no-way/
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  10. Mr. Watts is not known for correcting denialists’ mistakes (except when he finally threw Goddard under the bus).
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  11. Does anyone post on What's up with the correct info...Mr Watt can censor I suppose..
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  12. Dana it seems impossible to judge the error in Lindzen's work without contemplating the strength of the 'heating in the pipeline' idea. I realise we've discussed this often here but you present it here in an uncritical (unsceptical) way. For it to be of value it needs to be based on real world physical processes and be observed. From what I can see neither of these are true. In fact it's more of a convinient conceptual idea to fill an inconvinient gap in an equation. So far the best explanations for it (by Trenberth) are based on unsubstaniated criticism of a particular data set (ARGO) or physical processes that don't seem to fit with our present best understanding of how the world works (i.e. all this energy entering the abyss).

    'Heating in the pipeline' may be favoured by the IPCC but it's far from a fully developed theory. If you're going to criticise Lindzen's work based on that it seems prudent to include some sense of the limitations of the competing arguments.
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  13. HumanityRules
    even ignoring the heat in the pipeline the heating of the ocean takes times. As simple as this.
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  14. Polar @11,

    He has been known to do more than that I'm afraid. Anyhow, posting the corrections at WUWT is pointless.
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  15. HR @12,

    I think you too are missing the point of Dana's post. You said a great deal @12 without really saying anything.

    Lindzen is wrong to say "the greenhouse forcing from man made greenhouse gases is already about 86% of what one expects from a doubling of CO2".

    Yet "skeptics" (including you it seems) choose to ignore that and try and focus attention on something else. Lindzen needs to correct the public record on this matter, and other issues as well...
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  16. HR #12 - There is a measured global energy imbalance. Therefore, there is 'warming in the pipeline'.
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  17. From what I understand, Lindzen dismisses sulfate aerosols, hiding behind the uncertainty (uncertainy must mean there's no effect according to contrarians), and perhaps because it doesn't support his claims of net negative feedback.

    His rationalization for dismissing the equilibrium lag is probably along the same lines.

    His public argument is indefensible and a scientist of his qualifications should know better.
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  18. There is an equilibrium lag but it is on the order of months - not years and certainly not decades. When dealing with something like CO2 gradually added to the atmosphere over decades, the response time is essentially a non issue.
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  19. I think this is a key point with the sceptics position. Their scientific argument is necessary, but is poor on this agw issue. They are resorting to esentially one argument, saying trust us are the good guys everything we say is true, the others are scammers everything they say is false. They will even claim some basic physics is false if they think they have a susceptible audience. Once they admit an error they loose massive credibility, more than the agw "team". So dont ever expect retractions.
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  20. Let's face it, the FEU may be off by who knows how many years, but at some point global average temperatures will likely reach that 2.4oC level. So from that perspective there is still some worth to the FEU paper. I'd have liked to have seen some comment on that aspect of the paper. Perhaps under a different thread?
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  21. NYJ #17 - you got it. Lindzen plays the game that because there are uncertainties regarding the size of the aerosol forcing, we can just assume the net forcing is zero. On Bart's blog (comment #9), I'm in an argument with a 'skeptic' who's playing this same game, arguing that Lindzen didn't "ignore" the aerosol cooling because he mentioned it. It's a silly game that Lindzen allows his followers to play because he didn't ignore the cooling factor in the article, he just ignored it in his calculation.

    Ron #20 - it's true, there is worth in the FEU paper. It's unfortunate that they distracted from its worth by making this major error.
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  22. Humanity Rules @12, even assuming that all heating in the ocean due to the greenhouse effect is trapped in the mixed layer of the ocean (approx the upper 70 meters), and a climate sensitivity of 0.5 degrees per doubling of CO2, it takes around 5 years to heat the ocean surface sufficiently to achieve radiative balance. On the same assumptions but the more realistic climate sensitivity of 2.8 degrees C, that pushes out to several decades.

    But the heat is not trapped in the mixed layer. Both measurement and modelling show that only a third of the heat stored in ocean is trapped in that layer, with a third trapped in the main thermocline (approx 70 to 300 meters) and another third trapped in the deep ocean.

    That is very consistent with the results of modelling which suggest that only 66% of equilibrium warming will be achieved in 30 years if green house gas levels are held constant at an particular level.

    More details at my blog. (I had hoped to link to an argument at this site specifically discussing this issue, but unfortunatly I could not find it. Perhaps Dana or some other regular who knows the site well could provide a link.)

    Quite independant of that analysis, as Dana @16 points out, the measured inequality of incoming and outgoing radiation at the top of the atmosphere proves there is heating still in the pipeline, although it does not by itself indicate how long it will take to restore equilibrium.
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  23. Ron Crouch @20, my estimate by eyeballing the graph at Real Climate
    is that they are out by 30 years on assuming business as usual.

    Another way of looking at it is that if we continue business as usual till 2020 (almost guaranteed policy now due to current inaction) then cease all CO2 emissions all together, they will be within a whisker of the correct value by 2050, and the Earth's climate will continue to approach the value they give for the remainder of the century.
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  24. The whole ocean doesn't participate in the thermal mass of the planet. If it did and the equilibrium time was decades, there would be little if any seasonal variability in each hemisphere each year.
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  25. Tom Curtis:

    "Ron Crouch @20, my estimate by eyeballing the graph at Real Climate
    is that they are out by 30 years on assuming business as usual. "

    So you're invested in the belief that the current solar minimum will continue for the next 30 years?

    Note: if it does, it says nothing about sensitivity to CO2 forcing. It simply means the sun's unusually cold. When it warms again (bets are off the current minimum continuing another 30 years), things will heat up very quickly.

    You do realize that there's some truth to the denialist claims that "it's the sun!" though given the current extended minimum, that cry works against them. Which is why they're so invested in "it's the sun, but not the bits we measure or understand theoretically!" meme.
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  26. Dhogaza @25, I am not sure where that came from. The graph I refered to was the one at Real Climate article discussing the error in the FEU report. It shows the IPCC projections of temperature increases under various scenarios. Under those projections, the temperature reachs approximately 2.4 degrees above pre-industrial temperatures (or 1.5 degrees above current temperatures)around 2050, or thirty years after they were assumed to reach that level in the FEU report.

    I doubt the IPCC expects the current solar minimum to last 30 years, and I certainly do not.
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  27. RW1 - Oh, my. Short term (surface layers) versus deep ocean - yearly cycles will only penetrate the upper layers of the ocean, whereas consistent, multiple year trends will affect the deeper ocean.

    Inertia, time lag, the great flywheel of the ocean temperature - it takes time to affect the overall mass of the oceans, and simple yearly (or even multiple year issues like ENSO) will not change the baselines. That takes decades, the "30 year of significance" for climate trends. Not overnight, not seasonally, but over decades, RW1 - only then are you changing the energy levels of the ocean mass.

    Response time is not only a serious issue - it's one of the primary issues.
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  28. RW1 @24, the following graph shows measured temperature trends in the ocean as a function of depth and latitude:


    (From Purkey and Johnson 2010 as reproduced by Skeptical Science.)

    You will notice that warming down to 2000 meters is strong at almost every location where warming is present on the surface. You will also notice a strong warming trend down to the ocean bottom around 55 and 65 degrees south. Averaged over the area studied, this amounts to a substantive warming. An even stronger abyssal warming has been found by other studies at about 60 degrees North, associated with the thermohaline circulation.

    I need to emphasise, these are not the results of models. These are the results of measurements. Consequently the idea that only the surface of the ocean contributes to the effective thermal mass of the planet is in direct denial of observations, and in fact in direct denial of known observations for over a decade. Your advisers about thermal mass are either in complete ignorance of the relevant science, or are deliberately misleading you.
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  29. I guess my senses are wrong and the large seasonal variability is a figment of my imagination.
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  30. KR (RE: 27),

    "Oh, my. Short term (surface layers) versus deep ocean - yearly cycles will only penetrate the upper layers of the ocean, whereas consistent, multiple year trends will affect the deeper ocean."

    I think you may not understand what thermal mass actually means in the context being discussed here. It's the amount of heat required to change a body's equilibrium temperature by a specific amount - in this case roughly the average surface temperature of the oceans. Of course multiple year, decade and even century long temperature changes will affect the deeper ocean temperatures, but the deeper oceans don't participate in the thermal mass of the planet. If they did, there couldn't be anywhere near the seasonal variability we have each year.
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  31. RW1
    there's a seasonal cycle in the temperature of the oceans too, they do participate and due to their thermal mass they strongly smooth the seasonal cycle. The same is true for the diurnal cycle, where the forcing is much larger. It would be much, much worst if the revolution of the earth around the sun stops or the earth was always facing the sun like the moon with the earth.
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  32. Nice work Dana - as usual.
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  33. RW1 @29, you seem to alleging that because a seasonal cycle which results in a 200+ w/m^2 variation in insolation at mid latitudes causes an appreciable change in temperature within a year, that therefore an approximately 4 w/m^2 forcing will heat the ocean to the equilibrium temperatue in less than a year. You allege this despite the fact that the lower the difference between net energy in and out, the lower the rate of heating; and you allege this despite the fact that even for seasonal variations the ocean never reach the equilibrium temperatures associated with the maximum and minimum of insolation. Your argument transparently does not follow.
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  34. RW1:

    Another way of explaining what is going on: A cyclical variation in temperature gets propagated into the ground according to the heat equation. The solutions to this equation are:
    a) sinusoidally varying in time, with the same frequency as the driving temperature; and
    b) exponentially dying as you proceed into the ground. The faster the frequency, the more quickly the wave dies out; conversely, the slower the frequency, the more slowly the wave dies out.

    The result is that for higher-frequency variations (diurnal and seasonal), the penetration of the wave (and thus the involvement of the ground) is much less than for the long-period (multi-decadal) variations. In the special case of the straight linear increase in temperature, there is no limit to the depth of the entailed layer: it goes on forever.

    The situation with the ocean is similar, although fluid mixing confuses the temperature profile and can also entail further water at deeper depths.

    So your observation that temperature changes follow the driving sunlight doesn't negate the fact that the deeper layers of the ground and ocean participate much more fully in "thermal inertia" at lower frequencies.
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  35. Hey, how come Watts is backing up Lindzen's claim? Now he says the observed warming is almost the full effect of doubled CO2? Wasn't it just an illusion due to ill-placed thermometers?
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  36. This post may be right, in that the reaction of the global warming community to the FEU error was more appropriate than the reaction of the sceptic community to Lindzen's supposed error. However, the FEU error seems more obvious than the Lindzen's statements. It's true that the oceans absorb a huge amount of heat. The oceans are the buffer system of the earth's climate. Why would the oceans give this heat back to the atmosphere? After freezing the greenhouse gasses, the oceans will transfer the heat to colder places, i.e. the deep ocean, but not back to the atmosphere (second law of thermodynamics).
    The effect of this heat distribution through the oceans on the climate is unpredictable with the current state of knowledge. Lindzen can be right or wrong. The sceptic community could have reacted more critical.
    So, this case study does not end in 1 to 0 for warmists/sceptics but merely 1 to 0.5.
    But there are other cases, where the scores are opposite. I just mention two:
    (1) in the controversy between Mann and McIntyre the integrity score of the warmist community against the sceptic community is at the highest 0.2 to 0.8.
    (2) in the controversy about the hot spot (Douglass versus Santer et al) the score is about 0.5 to 0.5. The issue is still undecided, although the warmist community insists that Santer et al proved the existence of the hot spot.
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  37. RW1:

    1) thermal linkage between the atmosphere and the ocean is fairly weak so seasonal variability of the atmosphere can be much larger than that of the ocean (though seasonal variability would be greater on a planet with no oceans).

    2) thermal linkage between the atmosphere and the ocean is fairly weak so the time taken for atmospheric changes of temperature to bring the ocean to equilibrium are long.

    These facts don't contradict each other, they are complementary.
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  38. fydijkstra #38 says

    the FEU error seems more obvious than the Lindzen's statements.

    Not really so. Even a layman can spot gross incorrections in Lindzen's statement. He says, for example, that larger sensitivities are based on models. Maybe a working climatologist like him is unaware of all the senstivity calculations based on empirical evidence?

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  39. That of course, besides the mistake already spotted in the main article, which demands a little more thinking, and therefore is "less obvious" to the layman.

    He assumes the effect is immediate, and ignores other influences that offset the greenhouse warming.

    Certainly not an excusable mistake coming from a working scientist like him.
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  40. fydijkstra @36:It's true that the oceans absorb a huge amount of heat. The oceans are the buffer system of the earth's climate.

    Yes.

    Why would the oceans give this heat back to the atmosphere?

    1. Because, on occasion the atmosphere is cooler than the ocean and

    2. Because evaporation from the ocean resulting in precipitation over land results in the transfer of latent heat.

    But this is missing the point, see below.

    After freezing the greenhouse gasses,...

    I assume here you mean human emissions of greenhouse gases going to nearly zero so that the atmospheric concentration stays the same rather than freezing like that which happens to CO₂ at Mars' poles in winter. :-)

    the oceans will transfer the heat to colder places, i.e. the deep ocean,

    Yes. However, this is a slow process as most of the ocean is stable with the denser water at the bottom so most of the transfer of energy to the deep waters happens by circulation at the poles. This is beside the point, though. When equilibrium is reached, by definition, the ocean isn't doing this any more. Even with equilibrium with only the surface waters or the surface and deep but not abyssal waters the story doesn't change that much, I think, because the circulation is such a slow process.

    but not back to the atmosphere (second law of thermodynamics).

    As noted above there's no reason for heat not to move back to the atmosphere. However, what is important is that as the ocean reaches equilibrium it doesn't transfer heat back any more than it was before but it does stop absorbing heat from the atmosphere resulting in the temperature of the atmosphere increasing as a result of the net input of heat from the Sun. This is net input which has been happening since the GHGs were emitted but which previously was going to the ocean. Absent the ocean heat sink the temperature of the atmosphere and continents will increase until the radiation balance is re-established.
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  41. #23 Tom

    I've seen those arguments thrown around, but believe me, hydrocarbon emissions will continue to grow well beyond 2020.

    Despite the gnawing fact that Exxon/Mobil is playing both sides of the field at once, I must commend them for their current stance and studies into Global Warming. 2020 is unrealistic in that replacement technologies can't and won't be in place by that time to even make a dent in emissions. I can't say that during my lifetime that I have seen any improvements in the direction that humanity has chosen. It's an economy that is driven in large part by consumerism, and greed. There is in general no longer any concern among the world's citizenry for the state of the planet. It certainly is not a priority for the poor who have little understanding of science and who's lives are consumed with trying to stay alive. Meanwhile in the developed part of the world the concern is lacking due more to apathy than anything else. There are simply too many people who think that when Global Warming lands in their back yards that they only need to pick up the phone and dial 911 to seek relief. I wish I were an optimist when it comes to humanity's future, but based on all the scientific data that I've poured over during the last 30 years, I have reached a totally different conclusion. And when Exxon Mobil's annual report comes out sometime in the next few weeks it's going to contain some shocking revelations that have been largely silenced in the rest of the scientific community and ignored by governments.

    I know I risk being labelled a pariah by talking about the dangers of abrupt climate change (but really climate change is just one player in the total scheme of things). Someone has to keep that portion of the discussion alive. So pariah I am.

    There is a write-up on that coming report here.

    My apologies if I'm way off topic, but it annoys me that the future of all our children is being held for ransom..
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  42. Ron Crouch, I certainly agree that hydrocarbon emmissions will not stop by 2020. I think that was really my point - that while the FEU made an error in timing, the scenario they envisaged is still, almost unavoidably in the pipeline.
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  43. fydijkstra @36, your objection shows a misunderstanding of the effect of thermal lag on green house warming. When the level of greenhouse gasses increase, that creates an imbalance betweeen incoming and outgoing energy at the top of the atmosphere. The balance is restored primarilly by the surface of the Earth, including the surface of the ocean, warming until the increased IR radiation from that surface compensates for the imbalance.

    Now suppose the ocean warms to that temperature, but then some of the heat flows to the deep ocean, cooling the surface. Well, then the surface of the ocean will no longer be warm enough to compensate for the imbalance anymore. Consequenlty the surface of the ocean will warm some more. Until the temperature required to restore the imbalance is reached, and heat transfers in the ocean are in quasi-equilibrium so that the surface does not cool again, it will keep on warming.

    You are wrong, by the way, about both Mann and Santer. Mann did not do anything untoward in his first papers on temperature reconstruction. He did not do it perfectly, but that was because he was the first to do it, and nobody knew what was the best technique. It was only after a few attempts were made that it became clear which were the best techniques, and what pitfalls to avoid. McKittrick has tried to take some minor and inconsequential flaws and try and blow it up into a case for fraud, and and indictment of everything that has followed in the field regardless of how disimilar the techniques used. He is a con artist who is trying to keep you preoccupied with his flashing hands so you don't see the mountain of science that demolishes his position.

    I'm sure Dana can redirect you to a thread which is better for discussing this topic, and Santer.
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    Moderator Response: [muoncounter] There is a thread for the ocean heating/cooling discussion here. Comments re thermal inertia of the oceans should go there.
  44. Tom (RE: 33),

    "RW1 @29, you seem to alleging that because a seasonal cycle which results in a 200+ w/m^2 variation in insolation at mid latitudes causes an appreciable change in temperature within a year, that therefore an approximately 4 w/m^2 forcing will heat the ocean to the equilibrium temperatue in less than a year."

    Not quite. I'm simply saying that the amount of ocean temperature change that occurs every year in each hemisphere would be impossible if the equilibrium response time to increases in radiative forcing were on the scale of years or decades.

    "You allege this despite the fact that the lower the difference between net energy in and out, the lower the rate of heating;"

    We are talking about equilibrium response time - not rates of heating. Unless you want to argue that smaller increases in radiative forcing take longer to reach equilibrium than larger ones? If so, under what law of thermodynamics would this occur?

    "and you allege this despite the fact that even for seasonal variations the ocean never reach the equilibrium temperatures associated with the maximum and minimum of insolation."

    I'm well aware the seasonal variations of the oceans never reach equilibrium; however, the rate and amount of heating that occurs is way too fast to be years or decades.
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    Moderator Response: [muoncounter] Further discussion of ocean heating must go to the appropriate thread. Further discussion of laws of thermodynamics must to to that thread.
  45. RW1,
    "We are talking about equilibrium response time - not rates of heating. Unless you want to argue that smaller increases in radiative forcing take longer to reach equilibrium than larger ones? If so, under what law of thermodynamics would this occur?"

    I think you're a tad confused. Tom is referencing the fact that a larger energy imbalance will lead to more dramatic temperature changes over a given amount of time than a smaller imbalance. Newton's law of cooling will teach you that; try sticking one cup of hot coffee in the freezer and another on the counter and wait ten minutes...

    During the winter (in either hemisphere) oblique angles and less time above the horizon means far less solar energy absorbed at the surface for that hemisphere than in the summer. Very basic stuff. The difference between absorbed solar in the winter vs. summer is much larger than the 4 Wm-2 imbalance from doubled CO2, and so it requires much less time to see a given temperature change deltaT. The hemispheres are no where near equilibrium and they don't need to be to see a large change in temperature.

    I apologize to the mods for continuing this off topic conversation. Great post though, Dana.
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  46. Robert S. (RE: 45),

    "I think you're a tad confused. Tom is referencing the fact that a larger energy imbalance will lead to more dramatic temperature changes over a given amount of time than a smaller imbalance. Newton's law of cooling will teach you that; try sticking one cup of hot coffee in the freezer and another on the counter and wait ten minutes..."

    We are talking about equilibrium time. I'm well aware that a larger energy imbalance will lead to a larger temperature change over the same period of time than a smaller energy imbalance. That is not the issue.

    A better analogy is a large pot of water on the stove with the burner on low and the water temperature at equilibrium with the burner. If you turn up the burner from low to high, the equilibrium time is not accelerated as a result of the larger imbalance, though of course the final equilibrium temperature will be much higher. On the other hand, turning up the burner only a very small amount above low does not result in a longer equilibrium time, though of course the final equilibrium temperature will only be a little bit higher.

    In effect, what's being claimed here is that the far smaller imbalance from CO2 will take way longer to reach equilibrium than the much larger seasonal imbalance from the Sun, and that doesn't add up.
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  47. Robert S. (RE: 45),

    "During the winter (in either hemisphere) oblique angles and less time above the horizon means far less solar energy absorbed at the surface for that hemisphere than in the summer. Very basic stuff. The difference between absorbed solar in the winter vs. summer is much larger than the 4 Wm-2 imbalance from doubled CO2, and so it requires much less time to see a given temperature change deltaT. The hemispheres are no where near equilibrium and they don't need to be to see a large change in temperature."

    I know. The point is the proportional amount of change that occurs over such a short period of time is way too large to support years or decades to reach equilibrium.
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  48. Moderator,

    OK, we'll take it over there.
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  49. "In effect, what's being claimed here is that the far smaller imbalance from CO2 will take way longer to reach equilibrium than the much larger seasonal imbalance from the Sun, and that doesn't add up."

    No one is claiming that. The fact that there are large seasonal temperature variations in no way contradicts a long equilibrium time. With seasons we are not talking about equilibrium time because, as Tom says, the hemispheres do not reach equilibrium with the max and min values of insolation and albedo. No where even close.

    The hemispheres don't need to reach equilibrium (or anywhere even close) for such large temperature variations to be observed because of the massive difference between absorbed solar in winter vs. solar.

    On a hypothetical Earth where we instantly doubled the CO2 from 280ppm to 560ppm, the bulk of the temperature change would indeed be felt within the first few years, but full equilibrium is not reached for a century or longer according to climate commitment studies (try Meehl 2005). A larger forcing, like what is seen hemispherically with the seasons, will take even longer to equilibrate, with the initial temperature change over the first year being considerably larger than what is seen in the doubled CO2 case.
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  50. Should be ...because of the massive difference between absorbed solar in winter vs. summer.

    Any further discussion will be in the ocean heating/cooling thread.
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