Hoodwinked by Berkeley Earth

22/10/2011

Climate Change – Notes and Comments

Propaganda Tito style

My previous post was too polite about Berkeley Earth. I’d not figured out Richard Muller’s game. The mainstream media have have portrayed him as a repentant climate sceptic who has wonderful new evidence confirming man-made global warming. To see how the story is playing, look for Richard Muller Berkeley on Google News (139 reports and counting).

Normally I try to stick to the science, without being naïve about the politics. Posted earlier on this blog is the text of a talk I gave called “Global Warming is Just Propaganda”, which you’ll find here https://calderup.wordpress.com/2010/06/07/tradecraft-of-propaganda/

Muller

Tito

It compares the behaviour of the warmists with the tradecraft of propaganda during the Second World War. And the latest bout from Berkeley and the media reminds me, belatedly, of a manipulation of British propaganda in the Balkans in the early 1940s. For global warming read Stalinism and (at the risk of grossly overstating his importance) for Richard Muller read Tito.

Hoodwinking Churchill: Tito’s Great Confidence Trick, by the TV producer and military historian Peter Batty, was published earlier this year. Helped by a Communist mole filtering messages in the British team in Cairo, Tito fooled the West into thinking that he was the hero of the fight against the Italian and German forces in Yugoslavia. In fact he was subverting other guerrilla bands, doing deals with the Germans, and keeping his forces safe for a postwar Communist takeover of Yugoslavia. As Batty relates, Tito secured his 35-year dictatorship by butchering the non-Communist guerrillas who had been the real fighters in the occupied Balkans.

When Richard Muller, leader of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperatures (BEST) project, gave testimony to the US Congress back in March, he called for the creation of an ARPA-like agency for climate issues. ARPA, more correctly nowadays called DARPA, is the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a mighty organization with a $3 billion budget. Climate ARPA (CARPA?) might offer a promising niche for a 67-year-old astrophysicist.

But if that’s the aim, catastrophic man-made global warming must stay high on the political agenda. How better to go about making sure about that than to call yourself a sceptic, just as Tito pretended to be on Winston Churchill’s side. When the time came to show himself in his true colours Tito was celebrated in the Communist world. Similarly Muller has become an instant hero for the warmists.

Scientifically grotesque was the blurring in the Berkeley press release, as well as in the media, of the meaning of Muller’s main graph, shown in my previous post. Invited to comment by New Scientist, I said:

What do they mean by ‘global warming is real’? The graph of global land temperature changes associated with BEST’s announcement neatly confirms by their independent method that the warming stopped about 15 years ago. The Sun’s recent laziness has apparently cancelled any effect of ever-increasing man-made greenhouse gases.”

The interviewer commented:

I take your point about the reduced warming trend over the last 15 years, but this study is focused on the long-term warming trend which covers a century. How do you account for this long-term warming trend?”

My reply (which wasn’t reported by New Scientist) was:

Increased activity of the Sun, of course, from 1950 to the early 1990s as signalled most strikingly by the decline in ionizing cosmic rays at the Earth’s surface. See the red curve (ion chamber) in the attached figure.”

This is a coloured version of a graph in Henrik Svensmark, Physical Review Letters, 81, 5027-30,1998.

The message about Muller in the media, that “the science is settled (again)”, is completely at odds with the evidence.

Reference

Hoodwinking Churchill: Tito’s Great Confidence Trick, by Peter Batty, Shepheard Walwyn (London) 2011.


global warming want to bet

01/05/2010

Climate Change: News and Comments

Global warming – want to bet?

From the sweepstake's website

The smart money is on global warming,” declared a tipster in the journal Nature, back in 2001. John Whitfield was commenting on a short article in Science about an annual sweepstake on the date and time of springtime melting of river ice at Nenana in central Alaska. As Nature in London and Science in Washington have been the Tweedledum and Tweedledee of climatic alarmism, the prediction was consistent with editorial beliefs.

The tripod on 27 April 2010. From Ice Clasic Website.

Nenana is about 60 km south-west of Fairbanks, Alaska’s biggest inland city, and the townsfolk manage the sweepstake in support of local charities. They call it the Nenana Ice Classic, and this year’s betting closed on 5 April 2010. Every March, they embed a tripod in the ice covering the Tanana River. When the ice melts in late April or early May, the tripod moves, tripping a wire that stops a clock. Public concern about the size of the jackpot ($279,000 in 2010) ensures consistency and supervision worthy of the most meticulous scientific fieldwork.

Supposing you followed Nature’s advice in 2001, and bet on an ever-earlier melt date, would that have helped you to win the sweepstake?

If you knew that El Niño warmings and volcanic coolings influence the Alaskan river ice, you might have prudently started from the ten-year average from 1992 to 2001. Correcting for leap years, the average melting date was May 1. In the subsequent nine years, 2002-2010, the Nenana clock stopped as shown here, with leap years starred. Five times the melt was earlier than in 1992-2001, but three times it was later. The average melting date remained stubbornly at May 1. Nature proclaimed in 2001 that “an Alaskan sweepstake has become a record of global warming.” Now the Nenana ice joins the growing number of indications that global warming has at least paused, since the mid-1990s.

Engineers who were building a bridge over the river at Nenana started the sweepstake in 1917, and an unbroken sequence of records exists. Regarding the event as a proxy for springtime temperatures in central Alaska, I here plot the data with early melts high and late melts low.

The black line is a mathematical curve fitted to the data (5th order polynomial). It has no special statistical warranty but it gives a fair impression of ever-changing trends in the Alaskan climate. Only from 1975 to 1995 was a trend towards earlier ice melts fully consistent with the theory of man-made global warming. By contrast, most of the ups and downs match nicely with long-term decreases or increases in cosmic rays reaching the Earth, as the Sun’s magnetic activity varied. The dip since 2000 coincides with increasing cosmic radiation during a time of weakened solar activity.

Should you have therefore bet on the Nenana ice breakup being later in 2010? Not necessarily, because the smart money is on El Niño. The earliest melts in the Nenana record were on April 20 1940 (April 21 if not a leap year) and on April 20 1998. Both followed strong El Niño warmings in the eastern Pacific. So anyone aware of the major El Niño in progress in recent months might well have wagered on an April melt. In any case, you have to predict the time of day of the breakup – by hour and minutes – which leaves the most thoughtful analyst with little advantage over the general public in Alaska, who may just guess.

Simpler and surer bets about the climate take a long time. Ten years ago, mirth and outrage followed my suggestion on German television that global warming had stopped. That led to a written wager with the TV producer.

My expectation was a little premature and in 2006, because the satellite data did not go my way, I handed over the € 500. Much more important than that was my growing confidence that I had not misled the German TV viewers about global warming having stopped. Henrik Svensmark and Eigil Friis-Christensen in Copenhagen confirmed it in 2007, using tropospheric and oceanic temperature data. Others did so with officially publicized surface temperatures, so that by 2009 Kevin Trenberth, a prominent global warmer at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research, was admitting in a leaked “Climategate” e-mail that “we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t”.

Do we see just a hesitation in global warming, or the start of a prolonged cooling? In the second edition of The Chilling Stars (2008), Svensmark and I said “enjoy the global warming while it lasts”, and Svensmark repeated the remark in a Danish newspaper in 2009. Words, you might say, come cheap, but two Russian physicists have serous money riding on an expected decline in temperatures.

Vladimir Bashkirtsev and Galina Mashnich at the Institute of Solar-Terrestrial Physics in Irkutsk published in 2003 a paper entitled “Will we face global warming in the nearest future?” They answered the question with a determined “No”. To account for what they called “the cooling that has already started” Bashkirtsev and Mashnich traced the clear link between sunspot counts and temperatures, in Irkutsk and globally, over the period 1882-2000, and they went on to endorse a prediction that sunspot cycles would weaken over the coming decades.

In 2005, the Russian pair agreed to a $10,000 bet about it with James Annan, a British pro-warming climate modeller working in Yokohama. As reported by Jim Giles in Nature, Mashnich and Bashkirtsev said that the average global surface temperature in 2012-17 would be lower than in 1998-2003, using data from the US National Climatic Data Center. Solar activity certainly seems to have declined in the Russians’ favour. But like the gamblers themselves, onlookers must now wait until 2018 to know the outcome. A merit of the Nenana Ice Classic is that it demands only a few weeks’ patience from the punters .

References

J. Whitfield, “Warm favourite”, Nature News, published online, 26 October 2001 doi:10.1038/news011101-2

R. Sagarin & F. Micheli, “Climate Change in Nontraditional Data Sets”, Science, Vol. 294, p. 811 2001

Nenana Ice Classic http://www.nenanaakiceclassic.com/

Nenana melt records are available from the University of Colorado at

ftp://sidads.colorado.edu/pub/DATASETS/NENANA/nenana.dat

H. Svensmark and E. Friis-Christensen, ‘Reply to Lockwood and Fröhlich – The Persistent Role of the Sun in Climate Forcing’, Danish National Space Center Scientific Report, 3/2007

K. Trenberth, “Re: BBC U-turn on climate”, email to Michael Mann et al. 12 Oct 2009

J. Giles, “Climate sceptics place bets on world cooling down”, Nature, Vol. 436, p. 897, 2005

V.S. Bashkirtsev & G.P. Mashnich, G.P., “Will we face global warming in the nearest future?” Geomagnetism and Aeronomy, Vol. 43, pp. 124-127.2003.