Thursday, August 28, 2014

Mark Steyn and the Expert Climatologist

A while back Mark Steyn said he's been out talking to people about the hockey stick. But it doens't appear to have made him any smarter.

On his blog yesterday, Steyn wrote that he knows what the scientific community thinks (wonder what journals he reads, and which conferences he attends), even if they won't admit it:
Actually, no. In public,"climate experts" rejected the notion. But in private - in fact - they well knew that "global warming has slowed or stopped".
which is nothing but Inhofeian conspiracy mongering. (Inhofe to MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, 2012:  “I was actually on your side of this issue when I was chairing that [Senate Environment] committee and I first heard about this. I thought it must be true until I found out what it cost.”

But back to Steyn. His notion that global warming has stopped originates in this smug 2009 Washington Times essay:
I don't know how Mr. Friedman defines "young," but let's be generous: If you're 29, there has been no global warming for your entire adult life. If you're graduating high school, there has been no global warming since you entered first grade. There has been no global warming this century. None.
Let us count the problems with this:
  1. Nine years is not a climateology relevant time period, and the statistical error bars are huge. With just rank-1 autocorrelation, 9-year trends are statistically significant only about 25% of the time
  2. So Steyn is drawing conclusions about the noise in the climate system. That's his right according to the First Amendment (except insofar as it constitutes libel). Except climate scientists study the signal, not the noise. 
  3. But let's play along with his obtuse 9-year period....and see what else was going on.
  4. The top 700 meters of the ocean gained 54 zettajoules in the first nine years of the 21st century. That's 54,000,000.000,000,000,000,000 Joules. (I wonder how Steyn thinks that happened.)
  5. That's an average of 210 trillion Watts. That's about 13 times the entire energy consumption of humanity
  6. It's 0.40 Watts per square meter of the Earth's surface, just in the top 1/4th of the ocean. (Argo's 0-2000 m data had only come out in 2005, but had already gained a 31 ZJ in four years, but not statistically significant, though.
  7. Average daily sea ice extent in the Arctic fell by 8% from 2000 to 2009. The yearly minimum was 31% smaller. Global sea ice extent dropped 4,000 km2. The daily Antarctic average gained 3%, and the yearly minimum gained all of 3%. 
  8. Arctic sea ice (3-dimensional) declined by 4,400 cubic kilometers, or nearly the volume of Lake Michigan. 
  9. The footprint of Greenland's ice area decreased by 355 square miles. Its volume of ice decreased by about 1.8 trillion tons, a number that then was already accelerating
  10. Sea level magically raised almost an inch (24 mm), even though global warming had "stopped."
None of this sounds like a world where global warming had stopped. Yes, the average global surface temperature was essentially unchanged in that time (though not on land, where we live and farm, where it was up by 0.09 C), and down in the lower troposphere (UAH: -0.06 C; RSS: -0.18 C, already a big difference that, until it's sorted out, suggests skepticism about both).

But then, short-term intervals are for suckers, and the thin surface sliver of the atmosphere is just about the worst place to diagnose the planetary energy balance created by AGW.

Steyn thinks this statement by Phil Jones supports his claim
The scientific community would come down on me in no uncertain terms if I said the world had cooled from 1998. Okay it has but it is only seven years of data and it isn't statistically significant.
which is fine until you ignore the last two words of the second sentence. Otherwise, not so much.

Here's an attempt at a clever switch of time periods, from 9 years to 30 years:
Steyn in 2009: I don't know how [New York Times climate alarmist Thomas] Friedman defines "young" but let's be generous: If you're 29, there has been no global warming for your entire adult life. If you're graduating high school, there has been no global warming since you entered first grade. There has been no global warming this century. None. Admittedly the 21st century is only one century out of the many centuries of planetary existence, but it happens to be the one you're stuck living in.

Steyn yesterday: Consider, for example, the context in which I made my 30-year-hot-30-year-cool observation half-a-decade back. I'd written a column in which I remarked en passant.
and the dopey (and dishonest) implication that 9 years with no (global surface) warming represents the entire 21st century. (It's hard to believe any editor would let him get away with that, except at the Washington Times.)

And this statement:
In the mid-nineties, which climatologist and which model predicted the cooling trend of the turn of the century and the oughts? And, if they didn't, on what basis do you trust their claims for 2050 or 2100?
which shows yet again (see Barry Bickmore, who noted that Steyn called the hockey stick a "climate model") {snort}, that Steyn doesn't know what a climate model is, what they aren't (magical foreseer of future ENSOs, volcanoes, changes in solar irradiance and shifts in the big ocean cycles) or how they work.

And finally, Steyn again quoted what he wrote in 2009 (since blogger lacks puke green, I'll put the mindless parts in pink):
For the last century, we’ve had ever-so-slight warming trends and ever-so-slight cooling trends every 30 years or so, and I don’t think either are anything worth collapsing the global economy over.

Things warmed up a bit in the decades before the late Thirties. Why? I dunno. The Versailles Treaty? The Charleston?

Then from 1940 to 1970 there was a slight cooling trend. In its wake, Lowell Ponte (who I believe is an expert climatologist and, therefore, should have been heeded) wrote his bestseller, The Cooling: Has the new ice age already begun? Can we survive?

From 1970 to 1998 there was a slight warming trend, and now there’s a slight cooling trend again. And I’m not fussed about it either way.
The part in red is especially inane; Ponte was a gadfly, not a scientist. Here is what Reid Bryson: (one of the first notable contrarians about manmade global warming) wrote in the preface of Ponte's book:
"...There are very few pages that, as a scientist, I could accept without questions of accuracy, of precision, or of balance..."
In the freaking preface! Regarding the "expert climatologist" Ponte:
Lowell Ponte's diverse background includes being a reporter in Washington, D.C., a legislative aide in the California Assembly, one of two co-owners of a successful Hollywood public relations firm, a consultant and speaker for various corporations and trade associations, and dean of a distance-learning university.
Ponte even asserted that the strength of the gravitational force was weakening, because the Moon moves 4 cm/yr away from the Earth. What an "expert!"

Did Steyn intentionally misrepresent Ponte's credentials in order to give his own writing the appearance of authority? If so, is that fraudulent?

Luckily, Steyn has the privilege of writing for conservative rags that aren't exactly known for their fact checking; they're happy as long as he ladels out reddish, half-spoiled meat with a side of Islamophobia for readers who mainly want affirmation for their selfishness, no questions asked and no facts expected.

Steyn should stick to the rags, because he's clearly not going to make it as a science writer. (He doesn't have much going as a defendant, either.)

P.S.: In the preface!


George Montgomery said...

Thank goodness for all that Steynsian global cooling. Otherwise, there'd be no summer Arctic ice left and no glaciers below the summer snowline of mountains. Or is that too cryptic for Mark S to understand?

tonylearns said...

to be fair, even with no EXTRA warming from 1998, Arctic and glacier ice would still melt, and sea level would still rise. It would take significant cooling to reverse those processes

David Appell said...

Tony: I get that ice will melt even with no temperature change, but why would the oceans still rise -- because of melting land ice (but no thermal expansion)?

Anonymous said...

Dr. Appell:

You say that "climate scientists study the signal not the noise." That's not possible for the power of the signal and the power of the noise are both nil.

Climatologists have borrowed the terms "signal" and "noise" from communications engineering and applied them inappropriately to an exercise in control systems engineering. Attempts at controlling the climate fall in the realm of the latter discipline.

In communications engineering information travels from the past toward the present with the consequence that it can be carried by a wave of energy travelling no faster than the speed of light. In control systems engineering information travels from the future toward the present. If this information were carried by a wave of energy this energy would have to travel at superluminal speed but for it do to so violates the theory of relativity.

David Appell said...


Blah blah blah.

This is climate science, not communications theory. Everyone knows what I mean.

tonylearns said...

yes, I am assuming that at current global avg temps that glaciers and ice caps will keep melting at least at about the rate the are doing recently.