Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Feedbacks Misdiagnosed

I have been following the climate debates rather closely these days. I'd rather be doing IEC Fusion but that is stymied for lack of research funds. So the climate debate keeps my brain engaged until I can put it to more productive uses.

Let me start from the beginning. Here is how the warmists say global warming works:

1. Extra CO2 makes the atmosphere less transmissive of heat
2. That causes the atmosphere to get hotter
3. That causes more water vapor in the air
4. Which causes the atmosphere to get much hotter

Item #4 - more water vapor leads to heating is based on measurements and calculations. The measurements are pretty good in this case since they are done by satellites, so the question is are the calculations correct?

Roy Spencer says we are not doing the calculations right because we are assuming that certain things are uncorrelated when in fact they are correlated. He says that because of the way the calculations are done that this almost always leads to a positive feedback result from the calculations.

First he does a software experiment and proves his thesis with that. Well you can prove anything with computers. How about some real live data.

Now, what we really need in the climate system is some big, non-cloud source of radiative forcing, where the cloud feedback signal is not so contaminated by the obscuring effect of cloud forcing. The only good example we have of this during the satellite era is the cooling after the 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo.

And guess what? The SW
[shortwave - ed.] cloud feedback calculation from the Pinatubo-caused variability in Forster and Gregory was – surprise, surprise! – anomalously negative, rather than positive like all of their other examples of feedback diagnosed from interannual variability!
So what is Roy's conclusion?
What I fear is that we have been fooling ourselves with what we thought was positive cloud feedback in observational data, when in fact what we have been seeing was mostly non-feedback cloud “forcing” of surface temperature. In order to have any hope of ferreting out feedback signals, we must stop averaging observational data to long time scales, and instead examine short time-scale behavior. This is why our GRL paper addressed daily variability.
Richard S. Lindzen has been saying this since at least 2001. Here is a somewhat less technical explanation with better pictures. Until this "experiment" Lindzen had no way to explain why what he thought was true was not explained by the data. It looks very much like the data is correct but our assumptions about its nature are not.

Which is another good reason why climate scientist must make public their data and methods. There could be other errors.

OK there is the science controversy. What does this mean politically? If the feed back is negative, not positive, CO2 is way less important than people have thought and the temperature rise from a given amount of CO2 will be much less than calculated by the current models.

This could be a big thing politically because if it holds up it means that we will not have to cut back our energy use while we work to solve our long term energy needs. Like with that fusion project I mentioned. Which could use $15 or 20 million for research. Contact me.

Lubos at The Reference Frame has some thoughts.

Cross Posted at Classical Values and at The Astute Bloggers


Karridine said...

This is GOOD NEWS, Simon, and good reporting on your part.

Nevertheless, in the absence of other beliefs (based on rational, observable fact; e.g., Baha'u'llah) people are choosing 'Global Warming Religion', and defending it DESPITE rational factual data!

So the politics will continue to be distorted, secondary to the human spirit...

There is NO political solution to spiritual problems.

Anonymous said...

Just a quick comment - you say that "This could be a big thing politically because if it holds up it means that we will not have to cut back our energy use while we work to solve our long term energy needs."

I fear that this is not the case. No, not because of Global Warming - I think you are right about this - but because of the rapidly depleting oil reserves. Read around on "the oil drum", on the website of ASPO etc etc.

Fusion is excellent, and it may very well be the solution to our energy problem. But it will take a long time until we can really use it, and the oil reserves may not last long enough.

That would mean that cutting back on energy use would be a wise thing to do indeed.

M. Simon said...

If CO2 is not a problem we can make oil out of coal.

BTW if we got cracking with IEC Fusion we could have it on the grid in 10 years.

Anonymous said...

If you think that coal will pose no real problem I suggest you have a close look at this here:
It is a summary on five studies about the coal reseve situation published in 2007. Conclusion from all of them: There is less available than usually thought.

Given the momentary situation with lack of necessary investments there is about ZERO chance that we will get cracking on fusion anytime soon.

papertiger said...

We have all been reading about the Russian claims on the north pole which is a grab for undersea oil reserves.
So how did this oil get there?

It is common knowledge that the former supercontinent Pangeia originated in the southern hemisphere, and slowly drifted northward, breaking apart on the fly.
In no part of our geologic history is the North Pole covered by a land mass.
No land mass means no dead animals to be squeezed into fossil fuels.

linearthinker said...

-- CO2 is not a problem. It might be regarded a blessing in 20-30 years.
-- We can make oil from coal.
-- There is abundant oil available in the Canadian tar sands and in the Colorado-Wyoming-Utah oil shale. Tradeoffs will occur.
-- We won't see much development re 2nd & 3rd above until conventional oil rises to price levels that make it worth the investment.
-- Enviros, wormers, liberals, progressives, regulators, and lying high priests of the church of scientism will lose favor when the masses begin to shiver in higher latitudes, roast in poorly conceived air conditioned dwellings in lower latitudes, abandon cars they can't afford to drive, and generally realize they've been had.
--Eventually there will be a breakthrough in new energy research and development.
--In the mean time, keep the government out of things. No good has ever come from government meddling in energy issues, especially price controls or diverting good corn from liquor stills, feed lots, and tortillas over to ethanol boondoggles.

Patience will be rewarded. Avoid people wearing tinfoil, and don't buy aluminium futures.