A chilling effect on a warming theory

Unfortunately for an unscientifically inclined mind, one bitter cold winter is worth many mountains of research in the quest for the truth about climate change. And unfortunately for our choking biosphere, political action will likely remain an impossibility until we are well and truly past the alledged cessation of warming.

I received an apparently sincere comment that expressed what must be a common feeling in the general public:

You guys are so far scientifically over my head that it is impossible
for me to participate in this conversation. But consider that most
people are like me, stupid consumers. It might even be said from the
contacts I have in daily life that most people are even below my
abyssmal scientific comprehension level. We think about things like
sports and fashion and entertainment and bills. […] The
simple question I have is what I saw in an above headline. If it is so
warm, why is it so damn cold, with record breaking snowfall in certain
parts of the US right now. Nothing in the subsequent text answered the
question, at least not on my level. And it seems to me that somebody
MUST dumb down this conversation to communicate to the public. Right
now I am freezing my tail in lower than normal temps in TX and worrying
over the increase in my energy bill with my fixed income. I can only
imagine what people in Baltimore are feeling.

It is too easy for those of us engaged in the constant debates about both the real and the contrived technical minutia of anthropogenic global warming to brush off questions like this. It is basically what I have done in my guide entry about cold weather. I can only offer the excuse that I most often encounter that argument in situations where it is decidedly not a sincere query but it is a childish taunt.

The thing about weather is its variability from one day to the next is easily up to several hundred times that of climate from one year to the next. When we expect to see a trend in global temperatures of .2 over ten years it is really quite easy to still get record breaking cold snaps. Broke the record by a whopping 15 degrees, did we? Just imagine, without global warming we would have broken it by 15.2! (You see what I mean).

Rather than try to explain it in any more detail than that I would invite anyone at all sincerely confused by a record breaking cold snap in the midst of record breaking global warming to watch this, one of Peter’s recent Climate Crock videos.

It is very worth the time even for people who do get the difference between weather and climate for its clear presentation and interesting content (okay, and a reasonable dose of snark, too!). The bit that impressed me the most was the study of the frequency of record breaking temperatures, I forget the details since I watched it a few weeks ago now (maybe someone can post it in the comments?). If you did not have the time to watch, what the study showed is that far from being inconsistent with a warming world, record breaking cold events are completely expected. Currently, record warm temperatures out number cold ones by two to one, but rather surprisingly, models predict that we will still see the occasional record cold day in one spot or another all the way out to 2100. By that time the global mean temperature will be 3 or 4oC higher and the ratio of warm to cold records will be 50 to one, but it will still happen!

Also, for any of you in the states who would like to see a proper scientific write up putting the US cold snap this winter into an historic and current context, James Hansen has just such an essay here [PDF]. Have a read!
(Niagara Falls, 1911)

100 thoughts on “A chilling effect on a warming theory

  1. “If you think it is too loud, then you are too old!!”

    Awesome concert. Brilliant show and well worth it. Played all the old standards as well as the new stuff. And 2 hours of non-stop music.


  2. Coby

    You might need to start a new thread on this issue. Seems methane is venting from the permafrost at an extremely worrying rate, according to a study in the latest issue of Science.
    Here is the link:

    And here is the abstract for those who can’t access the full paper:

    Remobilization to the atmosphere of only a small fraction of the methane held in East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS) sediments could trigger abrupt climate warming, yet it is believed that sub-sea permafrost acts as a lid to keep this shallow methane reservoir in place. Here, we show that more than 5000 at-sea observations of dissolved methane demonstrates that greater than 80% of ESAS bottom waters and greater than 50% of surface waters are supersaturated with methane regarding to the atmosphere. The current atmospheric venting flux, which is composed of a diffusive component and a gradual ebullition component, is on par with previous estimates of methane venting from the entire World Ocean. Leakage of methane through shallow ESAS waters needs to be considered in interactions between the biogeosphere and a warming Arctic climate.


  3. How did Angus look?

    Still in his prep school uni?

    I still have a soft spot for the original configuration with Bon Scott.

    Oh well: live fast, die young, leave a not-particularly-good-looking-but-well-partied corpse.


  4. Re #47 and #48 on atmospheric water vapor. So far, research strongly indicates that average(*) relative humidity is a constant. That’s relative, not absolute, so the total amount of H20 in the atmosphere will go up as the average temperature of the atmosphere goes up. Note we’re talking about the troposphere, where almost all the H2O is. Stratospheric H2O is of course the subject of recently discussed research, but it’s a tiny fraction of atmospheric H2O.

    (*) Average over space and time. If over the whole world, a single day or a few days may be enough time for a good average. Smaller regions generally require longer times to get a good average.


  5. skip
    Angus was still in his school uniform, but his hair is receding a lot. They played quite a few of the old Bon Scott era songs (Highway to Hell, High Voltage Rock and Roll etc), and they had a montage of Bon Scott images and film clips up on the big screen while they were playing some of them. Was a real crowd pleaser.


  6. Yep – all those. When they did ‘The Jack’ the cameras panned around the audience. Lots of young ladies sitting on shoulders flashing their tits.


  7. Lots of young ladies sitting on shoulders flashing their tits.

    Hmmm … global warming … more topless sunbathers … hmmm ….


  8. Why do you not recommend these people to go and see Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth”?
    Climate science does not get much more dumbed down than that.
    As someone once said (and I paraphrase ) ” I can tell you about it, but I cannot understand it for you.”
    However, I think it would be best to say to them that if they cannot form an opinion on their own, then it is best that they do not form one at all and stay out of the debate.


  9. On further reflection, I think your confused correspondent has rather put their finger on one of the aspects of man made global warming theory which is problematical. If ALL past and future “weather” events are consistent with MMGW, it is impossible for the layman to see the process taking place and to put much personally held faith in it.
    When variations in the weather like we have been having (and you over in the US) still occur it is hard to get people excited about a putative increase of 0.1 degree Celsius a decade.
    Now that Hansen’s (his heart is in the right place,but he has done some damage )predicted catastrophies have failed to materialise in the 30 years after he predicted them it is hard now to row back to a “boiling frog” theory where we will not notice any change in the actual weather as we hurtle to our eventual doom. It is a tricky one.


  10. Actually Jack, Hansen’s predictions from 30 years ago have tracked very well with reality. As to whether or not he characterized them as being catastrophic by now, I would like to see a quote.


  11. Here at the Democracy Center we are working hard to draw attention to the impact of climate change already happening in some of the most vulnerable parts of the world. We’ve recently produced:

    A a video on Bolivia’s melting glaciers (http://democracyctr.org/blog/2009/12/visit-to-cemetery-of-glaciers.html)

    A new article in Yes! Magazine (http://www.yesmagazine.org/planet/as-glaciers-melt-bolivia-fights-for-the-good-life).

    We are also getting ready to report on the upcoming World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth (http://democracyctr.org/blog/2010/03/global-climate-change-conference-coming.html), an alternative response to failures of Copenhagen.

    Keep your eyes out for our coverage!


  12. I think we are fiddling while Rome burns.

    If 4 of 5 structural engineers concluded that the bridge you are heading for is unsafe and cannot stand the weight of your car, would you drive on it? Or, would you continue driving until your passenger tutored you on vector forces, etc. so that you could evaluate the evidence on your own?

    But, better than 9 of 10 peer reviewed climate scientists are telling us to get our act together, and only a few of us wish to do so. Even if there was a mere sliver of possibility they might be on to something, we should be going balls out for prevention. Even a small risk warrants action that effects billions; yet the risk is not small.



  13. Jan, the point isn’t that they wouldn’t ignore the engineer’s warnings.

    They are COMPLETELY happy for their pizza delivery boy to use the unsafe bridge rather than have a cold pizza. (to extent the metaphor)

    In other words, they have absolutely NO compunction against someone else dying if the result of avoiding it requires some piffling sacrifice on their behalf.


  14. How to explain that climate is warming and it is so damn cold?

    Consider the stock market:

    The S and P may be “up” 20% over 10 years, for example, yet some stocks may totally tank, there may be entire months, even a few years, of bear market etc. Still more stocks are up then down and up happens over longer periods than down.

    In both cases, we are talking about overall averages. Though there be colder spots, there are more hotter spots, for example.

    Another question:


  15. I’m not certain that the stock market is an entirely suitable analogy, Jan. The market is chaotic and by its very nature unpredictable. It could hardly be otherwise, or we would all be as rich as Bill Gates. If you compare climate to the market, you are implying that climate is wholly unpredictable too, which may be true but I suspect is not at all what you had in mind.

    As for your reference to the bridge, surely it is not quite as simple as you suggest. In your analogy we could either take the bridge or avoid it. But we cannot avoid the future. To put it in your terms, we have no choice but to cross the bridge. So, what do we do?

    Most engineers tell you that the bridge is dangerous and must be repaired. But doing so will mean transforming the national economy on a scale unprecedented in human history, and, indeed, possibly returning to a pre-industrial age. Moreover, there is no guarantee that the repairs will make the slightest difference.

    Another group of engineers, much smaller in number but no less expert, insist that the bridge is safe. They add that their colleagues who think otherwise have been unduly influenced by group-think, moral blackmail and political correctness. They produce evidence that they have cried wolf in the past. They add that some of their thinking appears to have been unduly influenced by manufacturers of steel girders, who would of course benefit were the repairs to go ahead. As if that were not enough, they show you errors in their calculations, particularly concerning a rather curiously-shaped supporting structure that puts you in mind of a hockey stick.

    Forgive me for labouring the point, Jan, but that, I believe, is the real dilemma.


  16. Why? Because it demonstrates the paucity of argument “this short period is down, therefore no AGW” is?

    > As for your reference to the bridge, surely it is not quite as simple as you suggest.

    It is that simple, since a complex one would bust your brainpan.

    > But we cannot avoid the future.

    The bridge isn’t the future.

    The bridge is “Climate science and the AGW that follows from it”.

    And we can easily avoid that by not doing the things that the science tells us will make AGW worse.

    We can avoid the future where we did nothing to change our future.

    > But doing so will mean transforming the national economy on a scale unprecedented in human history

    Got any proof of that? The Stern report (by a real economist, not someone playing one on a blog) says otherwise. And in any case, since fossil fuels are a finite resource, we’re going to have to change anyway.

    > They add that their colleagues who think otherwise have been unduly influenced by group-think

    They always think that. Because they’re wrong and rather than admit it, they want to transfer the issue to someone else. “It’s all a conspiracy” nutcase.

    > Another group of engineers, much smaller in number but no less expert

    Are they? Nope. In climate science the smaller number ARE less expert.

    > They produce evidence that they have cried wolf in the past.

    Why are your engineers who are saying that the bridge is safe reliable when they’ve given evidence that they’ve lied in the past for money???

    > As if that were not enough, they show you errors in their calculations

    Yeah, those denialist engineers certainly make a lot of calculation errors:


    But you’re still willing to believe these proven liars (self-professed, even!) who tell you the comforting thing that the bridge is safe and they won’t have to charge you to fix it.

    > particularly concerning a rather curiously-shaped supporting structure that puts you in mind of a hockey stick.

    Yes, the McIntyre and Wegman work IS a curiously shaped hockey stick, a figment of their poor statistics.

    However, if you look at the reliable work, you see a different Hockey Stick and you’ve not managed yet to prove it wrong.

    And yet still nothing from snow-job about why he thinks CLOUD is right other than his blind faith. You’d have thought he’d have managed it with all the typing he’s done since the question was asked, but I guess he doesn’t want to give the answer.


  17. The analogy really goes like this:

    Cautious Realists: “97 percent of bridge engineers agree the bridge is in peril. Every major engineering organization agrees the bridge is in peril. The “dissenters” have (a) no training in engineering, and (2) proven track records of incompetence and deceit. The bridge has to be rebuilt eventually anyway, so it is prudent to rebuild it in light of all we know.”

    Snowman: “Ha ha ha! Observe how the bridgists cringe in the face of the disproof of their socialist-folly-big government bridge control dream as it crumbles before them. Look at how the homeless man with his spreadsheet refutes their nonsense! Huzah for the illiterate bigot who refuses to accept their bridgista propaganda! They are the Mike Tysons of bridge science, and they and my wit have won the day!”

    So snowman, will you answer direct questions or remain a proven coward?


  18. I am a little surprised to hear you referring so enthusiastically to the Stern report, Wow. I am sure you know that in reaching his conclusions Stern drew heavily upon the work of Robert Muir-Wood, head of research at the US consultancy Risk Management Solutions, and of the IPCC author Prof Richard Tol of Trinity College Dublin.

    However, I guess you are unware that Muir-Wood said that Stern misquoted his work ‘going far beyond what was an acceptable extrapolation of the evidence’. Prof Tol described the report as ‘preposterous’ and added that if Stern had submitted it as a student thesis ‘I would, if I were in a good mood, have given it a D’.

    Other reviewers have been equally blunt.


  19. Oh, and by the way, Wow, far be it from me to accuse Lord Stern of a conflict of interest, but the Financial Times reported as follows:

    ‘Lord Nicholas Stern … will launch a new carbon credit ratings agency on Wednesday, the first to score carbon credits on a similar basis to that used to rate debt. Lord Stern, the former World Bank chief economist whose landmark report on the economics of climate change warned the world risked plunging into economic depression if action was not taken urgently on greenhouse gases, said carbon trading was a “key plank” in dealing with climate change. The agency, run by the IdeaCarbon group of which Lord Stern is vice-chairman, said it would offer investors a guide to the quality of credits and the likelihood that they would be delivered. Sellers of carbon credits would have to pay to have their products rated, while buyers would also pay to gain access to the ratings.’


  20. snowman

    How are you going with my (I thought quite reasonable) request over at the other thread? Would you be so kind as to tell us what you believe about AGW? Do you think the climate is changing? If so, what is causing it? What is the evidence for your belief? Why do you think CO2 couldn’t be causing climate change?



  21. Jan in 68,

    Ist paragraph

    I dont think the bridge analogy is very good in this situation.

    I say this because all the elements of bridge building are known so if a girder has a crack in it then we know the bridge could not hold as much weight as it was designed to hold etc etc.

    Where as in climate we know very little about many aspects so its not as simple as bridge building.

    In your second paragraph lets assume what you say is correct and a small sliver is enough for us to act. Then OK lets act but how do we act? In my country (not sure where you live) my government want to bring in a TAX on carbon, well they mean carbon dioxide anyway this TAX will not make a shred of difference to CO2 levels but will raise about 12 billion a year and the 11 billion a year fuel concessions we give these emitting industries now will be maintained.

    We will also continue to export coal (carbon pollution) to the highest bidder as before.

    None of this makes sense why would we be so concerned about carbon polution on the one hand but on the other sell coal to China who is the highest emitter on the planet?

    Does any of this makes sense to you Jan?

    If the Australian government was serious about tackling global warming there are many ways they could show they are through strong leadership but all they can come up with is a useless TAX on its people.

    When governments get serious about this issue i think you will find most people will also as you said “we should be going balls out for prevention”.


  22. > I dont think the bridge analogy is very good in this situation.

    You said that before.

    Has your script been photocopied incorrectly?

    > my government want to bring in a TAX on carbon, well they mean carbon dioxide anyway this TAX will not make a shred of difference to CO2 levels but will raise about 12 billion a year

    So people will just spend more? They don’t care about wasting money?

    This is the only reason why the carbon tax won’t have any effect on reducing CO2.

    And with that 12 billion, you could fix the damage done by the weather recently, compensate the survicors and build renewable infrastructure (build and maintained by local people, increasing the working population).

    Yet you seem to have a problem with this.


    If people are willing to pay the tax and not change their ways, then they haven’t got a problem with the tax. And the revenue could build infrastructure, create jobs or just reduce the income tax rate.


  23. > far be it from me to accuse Lord Stern of a conflict of interest

    No, it’s your MO. You haven’t anything except argument ad hominem.

    You haven’t shown anything about the data or report being wrong, because you can’t show that.

    Yet you believe with your entire heart and soul that AGW is wrong, that it will cost far too much and have never once actually tried to work it out for yourself, relying instead on what feels right fed to you by right-wing pundits.


  24. > Stern drew heavily upon the work of Robert Muir-Wood, head of research at the US consultancy Risk Management Solutions

    So an economist asked someone with expertise in Risk Management to help with assessing the risk management issues, and you have a problem why?

    You were all A-OK with scientists getting statisticians to help (until the statisticians didn’t prove the Hockey Stick wrong), but now you’re against an economist getting a specialist to help.

    This would be because you don’t like the conclusions, therefore it must be a conspiracy.


  25. I’ll be charitable, Wow, and assume that you simply misread my post at 74. I have no objection at all to Stern drawing upon the work of Robert Muir-Wood. My objection, as I pointed out, is the use to which he put it.

    Perhaps you might care to read my post again. Then, when you have done so, I will gracefully accept your apology and retraction.


  26. Yes, your objection is that, unlike Wegman, he didn’t distort the work to make it “disprove” AGW.

    The Stern report says economically rather differently from what you say economically.

    And Muir-Wood’s input was not the only data used.

    Note that nobody has actually managed to show where the extrapolations were not supported by Muir’s report. Not even the man himself.

    E.g. his claim that the Muir’s research “showed no such thing”, what “such thing” wasn’t seen? Since the complaint was about this:

    > New analysis based on insurance industry data has shown that weather-related catastrophe losses have increased by 2% each year since the 1970s over and above changes in wealth, inflation and population growth/movement. […] If this trend continued or intensified with rising global temperatures, losses from extreme weather could reach 0.5%-1% of world GDP by the middle of the century

    Then all Muir’s report has to fail to address is whether the trend will continue and what that means by the middle of the century.

    If the new information didn’t show 2% increase year-on-year since the 1970’s, Muir could have been clear and stated so. Yet he includes two elements, one of which is extrapolation from a statement about Muir’s work.

    And still you haven’t given any reason other than belief that the CLOUD experiment will disprove AGW.


  27. Still can’t say why you believe CLOUD even before the experiment is done will undo AGW?

    Just blind faith in it.


  28. read my post again idiot and you will see i never claimed cloud was a success christ even Mandas understood the post, like i said at least with Skip it was a fair fight but you are no match for snowman.

    Tear him apart snowman so i dont have to put up with his stupid posts anymore


  29. Your posts are all identical, cracker ass.

    Blind faith, irrelevant verbiage, violent rhetoric and vitriolic spite.

    It’s fairly mundane, really.

    You’ve been claiming that Snowman is right in his support of CLOUD and his insistence in it being correct.

    You’ve been claiming that cloud changes explain everything, yet you don’t even know who did the calculations (and guess what the CLOUD experiment is about, barnpot). Nor can you explain why that change in cloud cover explains the facts it has to replace.

    You only have your blind faith that, no matter what’s happening, it isn’t AGW.

    If you’d had anything other than blind faith, you’d have answers.

    Yet you have spend over a dozen pointless baby cry rants here avoiding answering the questions because you know that you only have faith, no evidence.

    It’s all falling apart on you now, cracker.


  30. Good heavens, Crakar, are you suggesting that Wow is as mad as a box of frogs? I must admit that hadn’t occurred to me, but, now that you mention it, there is no denying the growing eccentricity of his posts.

    Note his defence of Stern. I pointed out that both Richard Tol and Robert Muir-Wood have indignantly denounced the interpretation that Stern placed on their work. And it is upon their work that Stern’s report is largely based.

    And how does Wow respond? Does he say, well, yes, I suppose you have a point, Snowman. No, he declares that Muir-Wood does not understand his own work. I woldn’t claim to be an expert on personality disorders, but Wow’s behaviour is surely giving cause for concern. I suggest we all watch carefully for signs of further deterioration. The sooner these things are caught the better.


  31. Good grief, more words avoiding answering anything substantive from our whitest denialist ever.

    Tol, of course, is a paid shill for the denialists:

    > Bjørn Lomborg chose Tol to participate in his ‘Copenhagen Consensus’ project in 2008. In 2008, Tol collaborated with Gary Yohe, Richard G. Richels and Geoffrey Blanford to prepare the ‘Challenge Paper’ on global warming which examined three approaches devised by Lomborg for tackling the issue

    So of course he’s going to complain about the Stern report.

    Note that he hasn’t managed any actual substantive other than scream “It doesn’t say that!”.

    But snowjob is willing to push on as long as he can avoid saying why he believes that CLOUD proves AGW wrong when it hasn’t even finished yet and preliminary results show no effect.

    And unable to admit that his faith in it is blind.


  32. Good grief, Crakar. Look at Wow’s post above. Totally detached from reality (and from the point I was making). I am starting to think you may be right about him. Maybe it is time to send for the men in the white coats.


  33. you are no match for snowman.

    The singular funniest thing ever posted on the forum.

    No proven coward and liar is in a position to best anyone.

    (Of course when a proven illiterate, plagiarizing bigot is the one making the judgment it all makes sense.)

    Here is one that always exposes the matchless Snowman:

    Snowman, are you prepared to answer direct questions or will you insist on remaining a dishonorable coward?

    The coward’s imminent silence is the loudest testimony as to who is being beaten here.


  34. snowman

    How are you going with answering my questions about your views on climate change? They weren’t that hard you know, so why don’t you give it a go?

    Or would you rather just take the default position of being a whining pedant with no real views other than being a standard denialist ideologue?


  35. . . . a whining pedant with no real views other than being a standard denialist ideologue?

    I think “coward” captures the essence of it more succinctly but we can quibble over semantics later.

    Notice no response from his cowardliness?


  36. Wow

    It’s pointless using evidence and science to try and debate with snowman. Note he never addresses the substance of your – or anyone’s – posts. He just uses pedantry and ad hominem attacks to divert attention from the very simple fact that he is completely incapable of answering even the most basic questions regarding either climate change or his own ideology. Once he has run out of steam, he will disappear back under his rock for a while, before returning once again to bulk up the thread with useless non-contributions.

    Crakar – I think you do yourself a disservice by cheering snowman. At least you provide posts that we can discuss. Snowman just takes up space.


  37. Mandas in 95,

    I will take that as a compliment….of sorts if that is OK by you, however i cannot stomach the thought of replying to WOW’s crap anymore, in my opinion he has because a poor mans version of Skip. They are both way past rational debate and their posts are personal attacks from start to finish (not that i am an angel in this area i know).

    I find Snowmans posts to be quite fitting when responding to the gibberish of WOW and i enjoy reading them immensely. Its about the only laugh i get around here now days, so keep up the good work Snowman.


  38. Snowman’s posts make me laugh too. But then so do crakar’s.

    Looks like I get twice the enjoyment than the cracked one then.


  39. Now you see Chris your post above puts you in the category as Skip and WOW.

    No substance in your post just personal attacks, in other words rubbish. So why dont you jump right back into the box you crawled out of………theres a good boy.


  40. “Tol collaborated with Gary Yohe, Richard G. Richels and Geoffrey Blanford to prepare the ‘Challenge Paper’ on global warming which examined three approaches devised by Lomborg for tackling the issue”

    The anally retentive snowjob and cracker-ass seemed to miss that.

    Do you see? (rhetorical question: I know you do and are desperate not to acknowledge anything on it) The point of the Challenge paper was to find the global warming issue wrong.

    Absolutely a pre-determined outcome.

    Hence it is all a scam.


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