Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Not Much of a Mystery to the Skeptics

There appear to be two mutually exclusive schools of thought about global warming climate change. The Warmies believe we are in an unprecedented meteorological period where man made gases, primarily CO2 from burning fossil fuels, are forcing up the mean global temperature in a way never seen before (because we've not been burning so much fossil fuel before). The Skeptics know that the mean global temperature goes up and goes down in both regular and irregular patterns and there's nothing new or alarming about what's been happening over the past 150 years.

Despite the Stalinist attempts to silence or even to criminalize dissent in this matter, any prediction about the future carries some risk of being wrong (the sun, for example, won't appear to rise tomorrow morning if it explodes today) and given the reality of the Vostok ice cores, it seems incumbent on the Warmies to have the mean global temperature act in accordance with the theory. If it doesn't follow the theory or the computer predictions, then it's probable that the theory and predictions are wrong.

The Mauna Loa Observatory has recorded a steady state rise in atmospheric CO2 over the past half century. And indeed the consensus is that it has risen from 270 ppm in the mid 1800s to nearly 380 ppm today. That is a significant rise. If the Warmies are right, then the temperature has to have risen, and it has to keep rising as the CO2 rises; otherwise, the spell is broken and CO2, as we Skeptics believe, has no direct correlation to mean global temperature (except a World warmed by other things produces later more CO2, mainly from the Ocean).

So, are all the observations congruent with the theory and predictions. Well, in a word, no.

NPR correspondent Richard Harris has an article which should cause a lot of concern in the Warmie community entitled The Mystery of Global Warming's Missing Heat.

The theory is that the sea will warm a lot if there is global warming. It's not warming. Now what do they do?

My favorite bit:

...80 percent to 90 percent of global warming involves heating up ocean waters. They hold much more heat than the atmosphere can. So Willis has been studying the ocean with a fleet of robotic instruments called the Argo system. The buoys can dive 3,000 feet down and measure ocean temperature. Since the system was fully deployed in 2003, it has recorded no warming of the global oceans.
"There has been a very slight cooling, but not anything really significant ..."
(Emphasis added).

No, nothing significant here. Move along. The theory is that there will be warming and nothing but warming (although sometimes at slower rates than at other times) and now there's not warming but cooling. As Josh Willis at NASA's JPL puts it:

"Global warming doesn't mean every year will be warmer than the last. And it may
be that we are in a period of less rapid warming."

Silly me, I thought global warming meant exactly that every year (in response to ever year of rising CO2) will be warmer than the last. And Josh, it's not "less rapid warming" you're seeing; it's actual cooling and real serious cooling (in the air) in the last 14 months.

Here is how NPR author puts the possibilities for solving the mystery:

Some 3,000 scientific robots that are plying the ocean have sent home a puzzling message. These diving instruments suggest that the oceans have not warmed up at all over the past four or five years. That could mean global warming has taken a breather. Or it could mean scientists aren't quite understanding what their robots are telling them.

Or it could mean that the very theory of global warming caused primarily by anthropogenic CO2 is complete bunk. Richard Harris apparently can't even imagine that possibility. We Skeptics can, and indeed it seems the most likely possibility to us based on the scientific literature we have read (and sometimes understood).


"Silly me, I thought global warming meant exactly that every year (in response to ever year of rising CO2) will be warmer than the last."

Yes, that is silly. Just like market charts, temperatures vary wildly year to year. It is the trend you should look at.

The stock market gained 200 points today, but in my view, it is still going down.

Same thing.
I'm aware of ephemeral variations and trend lines. I wasn't talking each day being warmer than the last, there's obviously Winter and Summer, but if every year there is more CO2 than the last, and about that there is no doubt, and the theory is that more CO2 necessarily means warmer, then shouldn't the yearly average be ever higher (trend not actual day to day)? If you say that yes, that's the theory, but other things can interfere and send the yearly mean temperature down then you have just admitted that CO2 might not matter at all. It's a baby step, but it's in the right direction.
The long expected and necessary correction isn't over? Damn.
Sorry for the Dow comparison as that is a daily figure and I didn't mean to talk about daily temperatures.

I think you are feigning ignorance with this one..

If you say that yes, that's the theory, but other things can interfere and send the yearly mean temperature down then you have just admitted that CO2 might not matter at all.

That is really poor logic. Let's say, just for giggles, that stripping out all other factors, the average temperature is rising .1 degree F per year due to CO2. However, the average temperature over the course of a year can vary as much as + or - 5 degrees F due to other factors such as sun spot activity, jet stream patterns, etc.

I'm just making up these numbers by the way.

That would mean that 2008 could be 10 degrees cooler than 2007, but the cumulative effect of the CO2 continues to pile on. The lower end of the range of average temperature continues to rise as does the upper end. Over time this effect could be very significant indeed, even if it seems insignificant in any one year compared to the effect of the sun, ocean currents, and the like.

I'm not claiming any of those things to be true. I'm simply creating a logical framework. I took the LSAT Roger, and if you can't follow this argument, you never went to law school. :)
I still understand ephemeral variations. The historical record shows temperatures going up and down in longish term trends without any anthrogenic CO2. We know now that anthropogenic CO2 has raised the atmospheric concentration up about 30% in just a century and a half. Is that enough information to conclude that temperature must rise? No, you need more information, but scientists have looked at what are in my eyes absolutely normal ephemeral changes and longer term trends up and down and said--aha!global warming. I'm sorry, I need more information and I'm not getting it. So I stay skeptical. If the temperature going down a lot and/or a longish term trend going down doesn't stop you from believeing in GW, then, I submit, there is nothing that can shake your faith in GW and then its not science but a religion. Anything wrong with my logic now?
You must be speaking of a theoretical long-term trend of cooling because there isn't one currently. If there was a "long-term" cooling trend, then I could see your point. But there isn't so I don't.

However, I think your skepticism is healthy.
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