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Global Warming For Thee But Not for Me:
The Associated Press has a story about climate change that has been getting some play in the blogosphere:
  It may be cold comfort during a frigid February, but last month was by far the hottest January ever.
  The broken record was fueled by a waning El Nino and a gradually warming world, according to U.S. scientists who reported the data Thursday. Records on the planet's temperature have been kept since 1880.
  Spurred on by unusually warm Siberia, Canada, northern Asia and Europe, the world's land areas were 3.4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than a normal January, according to the U.S. National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. That didn't just nudge past the old record set in 2002, but broke that mark by 0.81 degrees, which meteorologists said is a lot, since such records often are broken by hundredths of a degree at a time.
  Over at Powerline, Scott Johnson (who I had the pleasure of meeting in person a few months ago) suggests that the story may be all hot air. He points to the following comment from reader William Katz:
  The story lists the usual "global warming" horrors. Then, toward the end, the writer casually informs us that January temperatures in the U.S., presumably the home of environmental original sin, were essentially normal, "ranking only the 49th warmest since 1895."
  Oh.
  As Gilda Radner used to say: "Never mind."
  I'm no expert in global warming, but isn't Mr. Katz wrongly assuming that the causes and effects of climate change occur in the same place? It's been 15 years since I looked at this issue closely, but I thought that it was called "global warming" and not "national warning" or "New Jersey warming" because potential causes of climate change introduced in one place tend to have a global effect. If you pump out CO2 in Ohio one day, the next week that CO2 is mostly on the other side of the planet thanks to the jet stream, etc. Given that, I don't know why average temperatures in the U.S. last month somehow is supposed to discredit the AP story about worldwide averages.

  That's my understanding, at least. Am I wrong? I hope informed readers will offer some thoughts in the comment thread.
Katherine (mail):
Of course you're not wrong. Are you really this mild mannered?
2.16.2007 4:02pm
llamasex (mail) (www):
I am shocked you take Powerline seriously. I thought it was while known that site routinely fudges the facts and make specious arguments frequently.
2.16.2007 4:05pm
George Lyon (mail):
Perhaps a more convincing piece would have looked at the average temperatures over the last 12 months. One month is of very little statistical reliability to evaluate whether and to what degree global warming may be occurring.
2.16.2007 4:06pm
Jeff Shultz (mail):
All I know is that according to my electric bill, the average temperature for January '07 was 6 degrees cooler than it was in '06.

And that made a rather significant difference in how much I paid the power company.

Go Global Warming, Go!
2.16.2007 4:10pm
NickM (mail) (www):
Did anyone ask the people of Siberia, Canada, northern Asia, and Europe whether they would have preferred it be several degrees colder than it was?

Nick
2.16.2007 4:12pm
Rich B. (mail):

It's been 15 years since I looked at this issue closely, but I thought that it was called "global warming" and not "national warning" or "New Jersey warming" because potential causes of climate change introduced in one place tend to have a global effect.


Irrespective of global warming can assure you that this week there is no "New Jersey warming."
2.16.2007 4:21pm
Jeff Eaton (mail) (www):

Did anyone ask the people of Siberia, Canada, northern Asia, and Europe whether they would have preferred it be several degrees colder than it was?

All other considerations aside, this is one of the most frustrating pseudo-arguments that's brought up whenever global warming is discussed. Assuming that GW is happening, suggesting that there are "a lot of really cold places that would be more habitable" misses the point entirely. The danger doesn't lie in the fact that Iowa is three degrees warmer on average. The danger lies in the cumulative effects of 'ripples' like shifted crop cycles, rising sea level, changing salinity levels as ice melts, changes to seasonal patterns as predictable air and ocean currents are disrupted, etc.

People who argue that a warm January means Global Warming are missing the point entirely. But so are those who say, "Great! Now Canada will be warmer!"
2.16.2007 4:22pm
John Jenkins (mail):
I like that it's reported as the hottest January *ever*, but then later on reports that records have only been kept for 128 years.

Going to the actual report, we have
The combined global land and ocean surface temperature was 1.53°F (0.85°C) warmer than the 20th century average of 53.6°F (12.0°C) for January based on preliminary data, surpassing the previous record set in 2002 at 1.28°F (0.71°C) above the average. Last month's record was greatly influenced by a record high land-surface temperature, which was 3.40°F (1.89°C) warmer than average. Separately, the global ocean-surface temperature was fourth warmest in the 128-year series, approximately 0.1°F (0.05°C) cooler than the record established during the very strong El Niño episode in 1998.


Now, I am no physicist (nor am I a climatologist), but I am puzzled by a few things here. First, if warming were a long-term trend, wouldn't the oceans presumably be warmer than they are? Water holds on to heat better than air does, after all.

I am laughing at one statement in the report though: "The presence of El Niño along with the continuing global warming trend contributed to the record warm January."

The "continued global warming trend" is an effect, not a cause. You'd think scientists would know the difference.
2.16.2007 4:28pm
Houston Lawyer:
John, scientists who can't figure out the difference between correlation and causation seem to be the primary culprits.
2.16.2007 4:38pm
JRL:
All other considerations aside, this is one of the most frustrating pseudo-arguments that's brought up whenever global warming is discussed. Assuming that GW is happening, suggesting that there are "a lot of really cold places that would be more habitable" misses the point entirely. The danger doesn't lie in the fact that Iowa is three degrees warmer on average. The danger lies in the cumulative effects of 'ripples' like shifted crop cycles, rising sea level, changing salinity levels as ice melts, changes to seasonal patterns as predictable air and ocean currents are disrupted, etc.

People who argue that a warm January means Global Warming are missing the point entirely. But so are those who say, "Great! Now Canada will be warmer!"


That's OK. I'm frustrated by those who think that if global warming did occur that it would result in rising sea levels.
2.16.2007 4:54pm
Hattio (mail):
Oh, where to start.
Nickm,
Somehow I think those people who live in Shishmareff, a village that is rapidly eroding into the ocean because they no longer have the protection of sea ice are not happy at all about global warming. Besides losing their village to erosion, I also don't think they are happy about decreased whaling opportunities etc. And let me re-phrase that. I know they're not happy. Numerous stories appear in newspapers regarding their plight and the millions of dollars it will take to move their villages and others in the same boat. Did it ever occur to you that people live in the Arctic because they like living in the Arctic?
John, The continuing global warming trend is a cause of a warmer January, not an effect. Global warming is an effect (presumably) of increased greenhouse gases. You can debate whether humans caused global warming, and to what extent. But January being warmer is not the cause of global warming. January being warmer is a measurement of the world.
2.16.2007 4:55pm
rarango (mail):
Powerline oops the AP routinely fudges the facts and makes specious arguments.......
2.16.2007 4:57pm
Just an Observer:
I continue to be amazed at the politicization of scientific issues such as global climate change. If one is a "liberal," it is expected that one has a certain view, the reverse if one is a "conservative."

I am no scientist, and don't consider myself supremely knowledgeable in this area even for a layman. But my passing familiarity with the blogosphere teaches me that if I want to learn something about the scientific issues, I should not expect to find much that is credible at Powerline (or DailyKos).

It is hard enough to find anything credible on politics in such political venues, but at least on such topics it is easier to make the requisite adjustments for windage to account for bias of the source.
2.16.2007 5:02pm
stevesturm:
And we're supposed to care that people living in Shishmareff can't go out and kill as many whales as they used to? Or that their precious oceanfront property may wash away?

Yeah, there's going to be losers if the planet continues to warm... and there will be those who enjoy a net benefit. I have yet to see any real analysis that demonstrates that the supposed evils of global warming are greater than the sum of the benefits and the damage to the economy that would result if the likes of Gore had their way.

And, yes, I mean real... not the bogus stuff put out by the alarmists with a political agenda.
2.16.2007 5:08pm
gab:
JRL - I am asking this in earnest. Are rising sea levels not a consequence of global warning? I had assumed that was the case, but you seem to believe differently.
2.16.2007 5:09pm
Stephen C. Carlson (www):
I thought that it was called "global warming" and not "national warning" . . . .


That record for the hottest January isn't a global record either. It is for the Northern hemisphere.
2.16.2007 5:22pm
Goobermunch (mail):
Gab--

I'm guessing that JRL's position is that, if the average temperature rises significantly, we'll see more evaporation of seawater, resulting in a lowering of sea levels.

Of course, that view might fail to account for the effect of additional water released from the ice caps and glaciers. I'm not a climatologist, so I can't tell you what the net delta on sea levels will be.

But, assuming that the climatologists who've addressed the issue aren't lying, it's likely that the net delta would be an increase in sea levels.

--G
2.16.2007 5:23pm
Andy M. (mail):
This is why many scientists in the area hate the phrase "global warming"; it makes people think temperatures will go up uniformly everywhere. The preferred term is "global climate change", because while the average temperature might go up, there will be local increases and local decreases.

One of the most common causes of local cooling due to global warming will be changes to ocean currents; large-scale currents move a lot of heat, which keeps some areas warm (England, for example, is noticeably warmer than a lot of places equally far north, due to warm atlantic water circulating up to its shores). Changing the heat differentials that drive those currents can stop or reroute them, which could cause the places warmed by them to suddenly get colder (for example, US weather changes noticeably from year to year based on "El Nino", the state of a particular pacific current).

Similarly, "glaciers will all melt because it's hotter" is a common misperception; in many places, they will, but in some places, glaciers will grow, because warmer air over a body of water can pick up more moisture, which will then dump additional snow on the glacier... So in places where there is a body of water just upwind of a cold location, a small increase in temperature might actually cause glaciers in that location to grow.

So, yes, it is possible for "global warming" to cause your favorite location to become colder. And your favorite location becoming colder, even over somewhat longer timescales, probably does not contradict the current climate change theories

And further, a month is a remakably short timescale for "climate". Years being the hottest or coldest on record is evidence; a month being particularly hot or cold is well within the "you got lucky/unlucky" range of weather.
2.16.2007 5:35pm
alwsdad (mail):
I'd say you got some pretty sound technical responses here. But I'd just reiterate the caution against going to Powerline for scientific information. Witty bon mots and delightful banter, sure, but not scientific information or analysis.
2.16.2007 6:02pm
John Jenkins (mail):
The continuing global warming trend is a cause of a warmer January, not an effect. Global warming is an effect (presumably) of increased greenhouse gases. You can debate whether humans caused global warming, and to what extent. But January being warmer is not the cause of global warming. January being warmer is a measurement of the world.
What are you talking about? I didn't write that a warm January was a cause of global warming. I wrote that the trend was an effect and not a cause. The effect is reflected in a series of data that show temperatures trending upward. The abnormally warm January is part of the trend, but is not caused by the trend. That is akin to saying that an today's high price is caused by an upward trend in the price of oil. It is at best circular.
2.16.2007 6:11pm
Hunter McDaniel (mail):
I suspect the Powerline guys don't take this argument seriously themselves, but are just posting it as a counter to all the breathless news stories that attribute any above-average temperature event as evidence of "global warming".
2.16.2007 6:11pm
a scientist:
According to which record set? You might think it funny, but statements about about which years are warmer than others historically are not facts per se. They're statistics that require citation.

One result of the growing climate change consensus is that scientists are now going back to develop corrected timeseries based on our knowledge now that a gradual warming effort must appear and can be used to calibrate the historic records.

For some discussion of this, see:
http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=1139
2.16.2007 6:12pm
bob montgomery:
I don't pay any attention to reports like this, since every possible climate/temperature/weather fluctuation is treated as a demonstration of global warming.

Warmer winter? Global warming.
Warmer summer? Global warming.
Rainy November? Global warming.
Dry December? Global warming.
Drought? Global warming.
Flooding? Global warming.
Cooler winter? Global warming.
More hurricanes? Global warming.
Milder weather? Global warming.

I don't know what the truth is, but I'm pretty sure that it has never been presented to me, not by Al Gore, nor Powerline, nor the UN; nobody.
2.16.2007 6:13pm
Jake (Guest):
I think one reason to focus on the US numbers is that they are likely to be the most reliable available numbers in the data set. Really, how good are our numbers for Siberia and "northern Asia" over the last 128 years? I suspect that if you limited the inquiry to the US and Canada you wouldn't see a record breaking year.

Is it really plausible to say that the US and Canada represent some tiny area that's a potential outlier in the overall trend of global warming?
2.16.2007 6:24pm
Byomtov (mail):
I suspect that if you limited the inquiry to the US and Canada you wouldn't see a record breaking year.

Maybe, but why so confident? The article says Canada was 5 degrees warmer than normal, while the US, a slightly smaller area, was .94 degrees warmer than normal. So the two country average was significantly higher than normal.

Is it really plausible to say that the US and Canada represent some tiny area that's a potential outlier in the overall trend of global warming?

No. But no one has said that. The claim is that the generally high temperatures in northern areas are a predicted consequence of climate change.
2.16.2007 6:45pm
elliottg (mail):
Nothing can cnvince you of the stupidity of people more than reading conservatives commenting on a blog post.
2.16.2007 7:02pm
Colin (mail):
I bet you wish you'd spelled "convince" properly, huh?

Having said that, yeah, the Powerline crew--commentors and authors--make me despair for the future of the nation.
2.16.2007 7:09pm
mariner (mail):
Nothing can convince you of the stupidity of people more than reading conservatives commenting on a blog post.



Au contraire.

Reading leftists commenting on a blog post is quite sufficient.
2.16.2007 7:10pm
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):
The real issue here is that the "warmest January in 128 years" is not a useful measure or a valid piece of evidence for or against global climate change. Using it this way is inherently political or, really, propaganda.
2.16.2007 7:21pm
AppSocRes (mail):
Another problem with info like this is that there are dozens of climate "models" out there, all making different predictions. Furthermore, the more "sophisticated" models are not necessarily deemed so because they incorporate more knowledge, data, or understanding than other models, but more often get this designation because they have orders-of-magnitude more "tweakable" parameters and interacting equations (algebraic, differential, partial differential, and integral). Very small changes in how these models are parametrized, programmed, and run can lead to enormous changes in their predicted outcomes. (As I'm fond of pointing out to friends with enough knowledge of math to appreciate the insight, the "butterfly effect" is a non-existent natural phenomenon, but an inevitable characteristic of even the simplest non-linear mathematical models.) Given this, it is invariably possible to find some "global warming model" that predicts whatever weather phenomenon has caught the eye of some global warming true believer. The blissful (terrified???) ignorance of these people is stultifying. Now, before I engage with these people I ask whether they (1) know the most important factor impacting global climate [believe it or not a lot have trouble with this]; (2)are familiar with the Maunder minimum and how it relates to the "little ice age", (3) know what the medieval climactic optimum was, (4) understand anything about modeling non-linear systems. It saves me a lot of frustration.
2.16.2007 8:06pm
jim:
JRL, care to comment on why you believe that long-term global warming will not lead to rising sea levels?

Obviously sea levels won't rise just because oceanic ice melts, just as a glass of water doesn't overflow when the ice in it melts, but it is my understanding that there is a legitimate fear that the melting of that ice will clear the way for terrestrial ice to fall into the sea, which would seem to cause rising ocean levels. Another poster mentioned that warming temperatures could lead to more glacial deposits forming, but isn't that something that would take place only within a band of temperatures?
2.16.2007 8:39pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Of course, it is all local - the Denver area is nearing a record w/i recorded history of how many consecutive days w/snow on the ground. Snow from before Christmas is still on the ground, so Denver is nearing the two month mark, and more than two weeks is unusual. Unfortunately, while the snow has hit Denver pretty hard this year, it hasn't hit the mountains sixty miles west as much so, so the ski areas, though doing well financially (given how bad it was on the East Coast), haven't had a banner year for snow.

What I do love is that whenever something big happens in the area of warning about Global Warming, very often it is accompanied by cold weather - what has become known as the "Al Gore" effect.
2.16.2007 8:51pm
a scientist:

Maybe, but why so confident? The article says Canada was 5 degrees warmer than normal, while the US, a slightly smaller area, was .94 degrees warmer than normal. So the two country average was significantly higher than normal.

Well canada is at a higher lattitude


No. But no one has said that. The claim is that the generally high temperatures in northern areas are a predicted consequence of climate change.

This is the _new_ theory. The old theory was called 'polar amplification' and asserted that warming would be more pronounced with increasing lattitude (both North and South). This theory is slowly being forgotten now that the evidence is pretty clear that the Southern hemisphere is not changing in temperature with a bit of downward bias. There is not presently a new teleological explanation for this.

The evidence right now is that the Northern extremes are warming quite a bit, while most of the rest of the world's surface temperatures are unchanged. This warming in the Northern extremes is driving up the global average. Nor is this really supported by GCM.

This not a case of the rather misleading "some places will warm and others will cool because of ocean currents" That's bogus. The time-constant of shifting ocean-currents is huge.
2.16.2007 8:53pm
a scientist:
Orin: In answer to your question, people are interested in that apparent concentration of Global Warming to the Northern latitudes because it is inconsistent with CO2 driven warming. It is more consistent with some of the lesser theories involving solar output, cosmic radiation, and orbital dynamics.

Therefore it is significant when the global averages are rising but areas outside of the extreme North are not.
2.16.2007 8:57pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
My problems with the Global Warming debate are:
- The failure to seriously look at the tradeoffs between winners and losers. It is assummed to be BAD, accompanied by examples of some possible losers. But what about the winners? Maybe, just maybe, the planet, or at least humans, may be better off with a slightly warmer climate. (For example, the possibility of unlocking some of the huge extents of Siberia and Canada for farming - potentially over a billion acres for every 100 miles further north we can farm).
- There are other known factors that most likely have a bigger effect on Global Warming than human introduction of CO2 into the atmosphere - such as sunspot cycles. Panicking about human introduced CO2 causing all the current instances of slightly higher temperatures is plain silly since we know that we are currently nearing a peak of solar radiation. In other words, there may be a problem, but all these instances of warmer weather are not necessarily a result of it.
- Well, if human introduced CO2 into the atmosphere is causing some Global Warming, and that is BAD, then what should we do? Are there solutions that might be signicantly less costly to the U.S. economy than those being pushed right now? That is why Branson's prize is so intriging - not that it will necessarily solve the problem, but that it may start us thinking about more economically reasonable alternatives. Thinking out of the current box of reducing CO2 emissions through reduction in energy usage.
- And then there is the problem of the third world. How are we going to convince the Chinese to curb their hugely increasing introduction of CO2 into the atmosphere? The same Chinese who just completed that Three Gorges dam? And how about the rest of the third world?
2.16.2007 9:13pm
MajorMike (mail) (www):
Why have theories to explain something, if there is nothing to explain?
All are missing the point by arguing about each instance as a sign of what has come, or what is to come. It would be much more informative to address consistent trends over a long time period. One I just examined shows that the Armagh Observatory in Ireland has continuous temperature records back to 1790. They show global warming has been consistent for over 200 years, a steady rise of 0.6 degree Centigrade each century. The records also show the 1930-40's were warmer than the current period, and that the temperature rise 1819-1828 was much more dramatic than any rise since.
Weather satellites, which have only a continuous record of temperatures since 1979, confirm there is not a significant increase in global temperatures.
Obviously, this continuous record does not support current higher temperatures being unprecedented, nor does it support that higher temperatures are driven by increases in CO2.
About sea levels rising, this is to be expected. Sea levels have risen 300 meters in the 18,000 years since the last ice age peaked. That's an average of 66 inches each century, for 180 centuries. Sea level increases were much greater in the first 10,000 years, and the pace of sea level rising has significantly decreased in the last 8,000 years. The current 4 to 7 inches sea levels have risen, and are expected to rise, are right in line with expectations with or without this period of natural global warming. After all, we are still in an interglacial period which, of course, followed a glacial period.
Sea levels fell as ice cover increased to cover most of northern Europe, Asia, and America, and now are rising as the ice continues its 18,000 year retreat.
But be unafraid. In another 2000 years, or just a bit more, the next glacial period will begin, and the ice retreat will reverse. And the seas will fall again.
Just as it has over 600 times already, spread over millions of years.
And just as it will hundreds, or thousands, or who knows how many more times in the life of the Earth.
We may the current temperature is the best of all possible temperatures, but back in the Medieval Warm Period (800-1300 AD), when it was warmer than today, the people probably would have preferred it a bit warmer. They didn't have the resources and the technology to adjust to annual climate fluctuations like we can now.
Change has been a constant of the Earth's climate since it all began, and man hasn’t been around long enough to be responsible for it all.
2.16.2007 9:55pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
You got it, Jake. 128 years ago was 1879. Siberia was so empty in 1908 that the Tunguska comet(?) impact, which knocked down trees for HUNDREDS OF MILES was not observed by anybody more sophisticated than a reindeer hunter.

Any 'scientist' who claims he has temperature records for Siberia going back 128 years is a fraud. And he thinks you are really, really stupid.
2.16.2007 10:17pm
Lev:
Said Steven Guilbeault of Greenpeace, "Global warming can mean colder, it can mean drier, it can mean wetter, that's what we're dealing with."
2.16.2007 11:00pm
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
Global Warming predicts everything. Its like the Unified Field Theory or some other Holy Grail of "science".

If the Global Warmers truly believed the crap they spew and that it was of such dire, immediate, and desperate circumstances, they would all be clamoring for the world to build 50 or 100 new nuclear power plants over the next 5 years.

Until they start protesting for more nuclear power plants, they have zero credibility, imho.

Says the "Dog"
2.16.2007 11:17pm
OrinKerr:
JYLD,

You are nothing if not predictable.
2.16.2007 11:19pm
MajorMike (mail) (www):
In my earlier comment, I affirmed that global warming exists and is natural. That, of course, leads to a conclusion that there is nothing we can do about it. On the basis of the previous period of global warming, the Medieval Warm Period (800 to 1300 AD)where it was much warmer for much longer, we should ask "Why would we want to do anything about it?" That sustained warmer period was very beneficial for mankind, particularly in contrast to the Little Ice Age that followed with widespead crop failures, starvation, and disease.
Who can prove the temperatures of the 20th Century were the optimum for mankind, and that slightly higher temperatures would mean disaster?
The observed natural global warming trend suggests an increase of 0.6 degrees Centigrade (+1.1 degree Far.)each century, as in the past two.
If that's all the warming we have to deal with, what's the problem?
2.17.2007 12:58am
John (mail):
How was this average calculated? Were there a bunch of points around the earth whose temperature was measured each day, and then all the numbers were added and divided by the number of points and days? How were the points chosen? Was the sampling truly random around the earth? How were the chosen points correlated to those Siberian thermometer readings of the 19th century?

Where are the statisticians here to help us?
2.17.2007 1:56am
drm (mail):
Andy M says



This is why many scientists in the area hate the phrase "global warming"; it makes people think temperatures will go up uniformly everywhere. The preferred term is "global climate change", because while the average temperature might go up, there will be local increases and local decreases.


So now it is global climate change.. Hmm, that about covers it, whatever the climate does the "greenhouse loons" get to say it is because of "greeenhouse" gases. I would venture to say that the "global climate" is ALWAYS in a state of change. There is no natural state of the global climate, IT IS ALWAYS CHANGING

2.17.2007 2:30am
Harry Eagar (mail):
MajorMike sez: 'Who can prove the temperatures of the 20th Century were the optimum for mankind'

Actually, the 19th c. is supposed to have been the optimum according to the warmers. I call it the Goldilocks Theory of Climate: 'Yewww, the 18th century was too cold. Ugggh, the 20th century was too hot. But aaaah, the 19th century was juuust right.'
2.17.2007 6:04am
mr. meade (mail):
Global Warming is like the Iraq War: there are enough facts out there for anyone of any political stripe to pick and choose from to make their underlying assumptions provable to the world.

Ice melting will increase sea levels except where the ice was so heavy it actually pushed the earth down so in those places land will rise and increase. Water temperatures will increase and decrease and salinity will change and currents will slow down or speed up and be warmer or hotter and fish will change navigational patterns and birds will adjust and more whales will go up the Thames. Sunlight will become oppressive and the ozone layer will be thinned except where any thinning will be compensated for with increased moisture which will keep melanoma at bay except in those cases where it won't. Riverfront and beach property owners will experience tremendous erosion in their pocketbooks from the insidious natural forces of insurance agents. And Bangladesh will still be a completely shitty place to live.
2.17.2007 7:21am
mr. meade (mail):
And I'm not sure about Global Warming. But I do try to be efficient in my usage of electricity, buy used clothing when possible, recycle, not buy too much, and drive less. Living frugally in the ecological sense is not a sin even if living extravagently might not be sinful either.
2.17.2007 7:28am
NickM (mail) (www):
Nickm,
Somehow I think those people who live in Shishmareff, a village that is rapidly eroding into the ocean because they no longer have the protection of sea ice are not happy at all about global warming. Besides losing their village to erosion, I also don't think they are happy about decreased whaling opportunities etc. And let me re-phrase that. I know they're not happy. Numerous stories appear in newspapers regarding their plight and the millions of dollars it will take to move their villages and others in the same boat. Did it ever occur to you that people live in the Arctic because they like living in the Arctic?


Did it ever occur to you that the 562 whale hunters of Shishmareff really don't count for much in the scheme of things? We're talking about less than 1 hundredth of 1 percent of Alaska. Did it ever occur to you that the vast majority of them have no experience with living in a climate where going outside in the winter with your head uncovered isn't rapidly fatal and might prefer that (as well as preferring not living in a subsistence economy based on hunting)?

All other considerations aside, this is one of the most frustrating pseudo-arguments that's brought up whenever global warming is discussed. Assuming that GW is happening, suggesting that there are "a lot of really cold places that would be more habitable" misses the point entirely. The danger doesn't lie in the fact that Iowa is three degrees warmer on average. The danger lies in the cumulative effects of 'ripples' like shifted crop cycles, rising sea level, changing salinity levels as ice melts, changes to seasonal patterns as predictable air and ocean currents are disrupted, etc.

People who argue that a warm January means Global Warming are missing the point entirely. But so are those who say, "Great! Now Canada will be warmer!"


That's a pseudo-rebuttal.

Making large swaths of the earth's surface more habitable is a positive effect of warming temperatures in those regions. It's also generally ignored in the argument for carbon dioxide emissions controls, etc. Balancing the harms and benefits of global warming requires assessing each, not asserting that the benefits are beside the point.

Nick
2.17.2007 7:34am
FantasiaWHT:

How was this average calculated? Were there a bunch of points around the earth whose temperature was measured each day, and then all the numbers were added and divided by the number of points and days? How were the points chosen? Was the sampling truly random around the earth? How were the chosen points correlated to those Siberian thermometer readings of the 19th century?


I have always asked those questions and never gotten answers

1) Why is it assumed that temperature measurements 120 years ago were just as accurate as they are now?

2) Why is it assumed that there were enough data points taken 120 years ago to actually produce a reliable "average temperature"

3) Why is it assumed that there are enough data points NOW to actually produce a reliable "average" temperature? Everything I've ever seen only counts surface temperatures, when the temperatures of the sea at various levels and the atmosphere at various levels should have an effect as well

4) Why is it assumed that the net effect of global warming will be bad?

5) Why is it assumed that CO2 increases cause warming and not the other way around?

6) (This one there probably is a perfectly valid answer for, but I've never heard it from anyone) How will rising temperatures make polar ice caps melt? -30 F may be warmer than -35 F, but if it's not above freezing, it's not going to melt.

Honestly, it's possible some of these aren't assumed but can be/have been proven, yet it's all presented to us as assumptions with nothing to back it up.

What I believe is that environmentalists ran out of good things to complain about. Our output of "traditional" pollutants has dropped substantially in the past thirty years, our air and waters are much cleaner, and we are re-growing our forests. So environmentalists decided they needed to complain about something (CO2) that's produced naturally, has only a tenuous connection to environmental conditions, is otherwise innocuous, and would only be reducable through massive overhauls that probably will never occur to a large scale because of policy reasons, so they will always have something to complain about
2.17.2007 7:41am
Frederic (mail) (www):

6) (This one there probably is a perfectly valid answer for, but I've never heard it from anyone) How will rising temperatures make polar ice caps melt? -30 F may be warmer than -35 F, but if it's not above freezing, it's not going to melt.

#FantasiaWHT
The polar ice caps melt at the fringe with warm oceanic currents. The North Pole is thought to be free of permanent ice in summer during the Holocene Optimum some 8,000 years ago when the area of Artic permafrost area was much smaller than now.
... all this happening when the number of suvs was precisely equal to zero.
2.17.2007 10:25am
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
Orin, Everything and everyone is predictable to someone of your great omniscience so nothing new there.

If one wants to reduce the amount of CO2 released by burning fossil fuels to create energy WITHOUT shutting down economic activity, then that power has to come form some non-CO2 emitting source. Nuclear power is a 100% clean non-CO2 emitting means of producing electrical power, that also has the added benefit of not requiring a single drop of middle east oil.

If global warming requires immediate action one of those immediate actions that could be quite effectively taken would be to increase reliance on safe clean non-CO2 emitting nuclear power plants over CO2 emitting sources of energy.

What's predictable to me is that the global warmists are lead by people who oppose human economic activity of the west and want to destroy the capitalist economies their marxist green leaders hate. That's how they disingenously use global warming alarmism, and exactly why they oppose solutions like nuclear power plants that are perfectly clean and far more efficient than wind power and other new age feel good crap.

Says the "Dog"
2.17.2007 11:16am
Eli Rabett (www):
To introduce some facts, January 2007 temperature anomalies** for most of the world were well above average (see maps, the one on the right shows sea surface temperatures also). the US was only 0.5 C above average because the SW was one of the few areas on the Earth where the anomaly was negative.

**(difference between the temperature at a location and the January average between 1961 and 1990)

Sea level rise has two sources. The first is that hotter water is less dense than colder water (down to 4 C) Therefore warming oceans will increase in volume. That part is well understood. Second, and here is where we know less than we should, grounded ice, including glaciers and ice shelfs can melt/fall into the ocean, again, increasing sea level. The only two really significant potential contributors to this mechanism of sea level rise are Greenland and Antarctica. The biggest known to be unknown is the rate at which this happens in response to warming. Previous models of ice dynamics had it occuring over several centuries in response to a climate warming, but there is increasing observational information that this is a major underestimate.

This is a major difference between the Third and Fourth Assessment Reports. In the Third, estimates of sea level rise included the ice shelf disintegration, in the Fourth, the Summary takes this out and says "we do not have sufficient information at this time to make a good estimate, but it will be faster than previously thought and potentially disasterous. Put effort here" (paraphrase obviously, don't try to google it)
2.17.2007 12:11pm
Roger Sweeny (mail):
MajorMike,

There is a fairly plausible "first cut" argument that global warming (or global cooling, for that matter) would probably do more harm to people than good. Where people live, what people have built, how people go about their lives are the result of innumerable decisions taken under the influence of climate as it was at the time. If the climate changes, these decisions--and the buildings, cultural practises, etc. that go with them--will be less fitting.

Of course, in the long run, good may ourweigh the bad. Right now, most residents of Bangladesh are poor peasants. Rising sea levels could flood half the country. As in Japan or Korea, they could become prosperous townspeople. But that would require good government policies, something I don't count on.
2.17.2007 1:40pm
Toby:
The more we measure, the more anomolies we find.

I would like to add one question to FantasiaWHT's list:

1) Where were Official City Temperatures measured 50 Years ago. (Central Park in NYC. Audubon Park in NO. etc). Where are they measured now. (At the local Airport). Ias there a constent temperature difference between a wooded area and a vast wasteland of concrete? Is there a difference in daily volatility?
2.17.2007 1:46pm
Roger Sweeny (mail):
Rising sea levels

Global warming can raise sea levels in two ways. When ice that is resting on land thaws and flows into the sea, it raises sea level. (Ice that is already floating doesn't have this effect, any more than melting ice in a drink raises its level. Try it some time.)

Water also expands when it warms (well, if it's above 4 degrees Celsius/40 degrees Fahrenheit). The percentage increase isn't much but there's a lot of water in the oceans. Also, water takes a long time to warm. So sea level rise operates with a big lag.

How much would a 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) increase make sea levels rise? Estimates range from 1 inch to a foot. The IPCC's best estimate for temperature in 2100 is about 4.5 degrees Celsius above today, with an increase in mean sea level of from 8 to 24 inches (.2-.6 m).
2.17.2007 2:06pm
FantasiaWHT:
Since the oceans absorb a great deal of CO2, wouldn't rising sea levels curb the increase in CO2? And since water heats and cools slower than land does, won't it also curb the increase in global temperatures?

Toby that's a great question. I've got another one.

We're told that global CO2 levels from the ancient past can be measured by ice cores. Is the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere uniform across the entire globe that ice samples from extreme latitudes can tell us what the CO2 concentration of the entire earth's atmosphere was?
2.17.2007 2:38pm
a scientist:

Any 'scientist' who claims he has temperature records for Siberia going back 128 years is a fraud. And he thinks you are really, really stupid.

This position is a bit unreasonable--I hope you are joking. Much of the activity in climate science involves proxy studies. These are reconstructions of historic climate data based on measurements we do have available, e.g., growth patterns in trees.

You be right to say though that these studies are rather inaccurate and often forgo statistical rigor.
2.17.2007 3:05pm
Orin Kerr's Future Husband:
What eugenics was to the 20th century, global warming will be to the 21st.
2.17.2007 3:11pm
Tracy Coyle (mail) (www):
MajorMike has danced around my personal question of the people that are crying the sea is rising, the sea is rising.

What is the correct temperature for Earth? Do we know if the warming that is occurring is getting us CLOSER to the correct temperature, or FARTHER from the correct temperature? If the correct temperature is 2.0 C higher than it is now, shouldn't we be working to INCREASE both the rate of warming and actual temperature? If we are already 4.0 C above the correct temperature, we have been increasing long before industrialization has become a factor. We have 6 billion people on the planet, breathing and generating personal heat, that is more than 3 times the number just over a hundred years ago. Should we kill off 3 or 4 billion people? If current temp is 4.0 C above correct, it may be the only way to "correct" the trend.

As soon as someone tells me what the correct temperature is supposed to be, I will get on board plans to reach it, until then, longer summers mean more time for golf....
2.17.2007 3:16pm
a scientist:

1) Why is it assumed that temperature measurements 120 years ago were just as accurate as they are now?

I don't think anyone actually assumes it; although it is sneakily suggested by certain presentations of data. This one reason why people care much more about examining temperature trends in the United States as a proxy for world temperature: the data has been carefully collected for some time--in comparison to other regions of the world.


2) Why is it assumed that there were enough data points taken 120 years ago to actually produce a reliable "average temperature"

What we actually see are apples and oranges comparisons. Temperature time-series often develop from combining many different studies and surveys across time. It is unusual for the same set of measurement locations to be represented over hundreds of years. Its only more recently that we've begun to regularly measure the temperature of the Northern extremes. This aided for one by scientific missions at the poles and two, because of weather satellites.

Because the warming trend is pronounced in the upper North latitudes this does have the effect of distorting the data.


5) Why is it assumed that CO2 increases cause warming and not the other way around?

Well this is the core of the opposition position. They argue that atmospheric CO2 levels are an effect of rising temperatures, not a cause. The AGW position suggests that the oceans are operating to sink some but not all of our CO2 emissions. Actually this point is not universally accepted, some people believe that the oceans are net out-gassing CO2.

The standard figure quoted around is that 6Gigatons of carbon dioxide are being released by industrial activity per year, and the atmospheric concentration is rising by 3Gt/yr, the rest being sinked. The origins of these numbers are a bit suspect--I invite you to research them yourself. They appear to have originally been developed backwards. First the CO2ppm trend was noticed and from that it was assumed to represent industrial output. A factor of two was added as a rough guess assuming that the environment would be acting as a net carbon sink.

I invite you as an exercise to compute how much carbon we could be releasing from fossil fuels by tabulating estimates of worldwide oil, coal, and natural gas production. Hint: the numbers do not add up to 6Gt/yr.


6) (This one there probably is a perfectly valid answer for, but I've never heard it from anyone) How will rising temperatures make polar ice caps melt? -30 F may be warmer than -35 F, but if it's not above freezing, it's not going to melt.


Because they melt from edges. At the edge is liquid water. Therefore you heat the edge, melt, repeat.
2.17.2007 3:24pm
godfodder (mail):
a scientist:
You bring up a point that has puzzled me. If historical temperatures are measured by proxy ratings (like tree rings, or historical documents, or ice cores, etc) then how can the tiny changes in temperature associated with "global warming" be detected? Even in the 20th century, we are only talking about a fraction of a degree celsius. I am skeptical that a temperature change of that magnitude could be detected by the "instruments" you mention. Plus, there is the confounding influence of factors like drought, flooding, disease, etc. that would have to be subtracted out.

"...forgo statistical rigor"? You're not kidding.
2.17.2007 3:39pm
fishbane (mail):
I'd be most convinced by climate-change skeptics who were heavily invested in beachfront property.

More specifically,

Is the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere uniform across the entire globe that ice samples from extreme latitudes can tell us what the CO2 concentration of the entire earth's atmosphere was?


While it is, in fact, true that local concentrations of (for instance) Co2 can happen by way of net production, if one accepts the general tenets of physics, then one can assume that diffusion (more specifically, minimization of Gibbs free energy) will distribute local concentrations globally in a closed system (which earth, mostly, is). If one wishes to argue that a near-term spike has happened with ice cores, explaining what might have caused that local Co2 output might have been. Penguin exhalation? Massive meteors of frozen dioxide?

Of course, if the earth were created 6000 years ago, we can ignore physics, except for life extending pharmaceuticals, which we all know have nothing to do with chemistry. Oh, and gas, which was not produced from decaying dinosaurs, which were either on the Ark, or excluded from the Ark, depending on which modern day prophet one listens to.
2.17.2007 5:34pm
a scientist:

While it is, in fact, true that local concentrations of (for instance) Co2 can happen by way of net production, if one accepts the general tenets of physics, then one can assume that diffusion (more specifically, minimization of Gibbs free energy) will distribute local concentrations globally in a closed system (which earth, mostly, is). If one wishes to argue that a near-term spike has happened with ice cores, explaining what might have caused that local Co2 output might have been. Penguin exhalation? Massive meteors of frozen dioxide?


You're responding to a complete red-herring argument. Ice core samples do not yield clean consistent data. The extracted CO2 varies wildly and appears to depend on the heating and cooling cycles that the ice experienced when it was deposited and accumulated.

The data analysis is not simplistic and may be challenged on those grounds. CO2 trends post 1950 are much more reliable, taken as they are from direct measurements. The fight vis-a-vis ice cores is over the historic slope of the graph and the presumption that the derivative was in fact close to zero 150 years ago.
2.17.2007 6:35pm
Nate F (www):
JYLD,
I find it odd that you so often in these threads make comments about environmentalists being united in unwillingness to support nuclear as an alternative energy source. I think you would find there is quite a bit of debate about that issue in all sectors of the environmental community. I consider myself an environmentalist, and I personally am very much in favor of more nuclear power and grid upgrades for reducing US emissions.
2.17.2007 7:17pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
scientist, no I am not kidding. The AGW crowd claims to know the present global temperature to a hundredth of a degree, and simultaneously to know the temperature at various times in the past (like 1879) with comparable (if not quite exact) precision.

Enough to draw conclusions.

As it happens, I don't believe we know the global temperature to any more precision than a whole degree for any time before the 21st c., but be that as it may, we don't know the temperature of Siberia in the 19th c. to a hundredth of a degree, nor to a tenth of a degree. Those proxies are pretty shaky.

Then you gave a good, but incomplete answer, to Fantasia's "1) Why is it assumed that temperature measurements 120 years ago were just as accurate as they are now?"

You said: "I don't think anyone actually assumes it; although it is sneakily suggested by certain presentations of data. This one reason why people care much more about examining temperature trends in the United States as a proxy for world temperature: the data has been carefully collected for some time--in comparison to other regions of the world."

When the concept of runaway greenhouse warming first got traction in the mid-'80s, a Harvard prof (forget his name) actually wrote the Natural History Museum in London to borrow the bucket used on HMS Challenger during its voyage in the 1870s. He wanted to calculate the convection losses of heat in the water in the bucket as it was hoisted aboard and had its temperature taken.

That little event was what tipped me off that the global warming scare was a hoax from the start. (For those who don't know, Challenger's readings are virtually the only climatic data for half the world from the last quarter of the 19th c.)

So the answer is, yes, the researchers have tried to calibrate temperature readings between different series, at different times; and to account for the fact that, as Toby says, the sampling sites get moved from time to time. They even try to calculate local ("heat island") effects.

And then they come out with results they claim are accurate to two significant digits? I'm not a scientist, but I am paid to know when someone is pulling my leg.
2.17.2007 7:43pm
Kilo (mail):

NickM: "Did anyone ask the people of Siberia, Canada, northern Asia, and Europe whether they would have preferred it be several degrees colder than it was?"


Why would we need to ask them ? They've probably seen maps like the one at the bottom of
this page.

That page representing the question being put to Americans about how they feel about this.
Global. Glooo-baaaal climate change.
2.17.2007 8:04pm
FantasiaWHT:

While it is, in fact, true that local concentrations of (for instance) Co2 can happen by way of net production, if one accepts the general tenets of physics, then one can assume that diffusion (more specifically, minimization of Gibbs free energy) will distribute local concentrations globally in a closed system (which earth, mostly, is). If one wishes to argue that a near-term spike has happened with ice cores, explaining what might have caused that local Co2 output might have been. Penguin exhalation? Massive meteors of frozen dioxide?


Perhaps the same phenomena that concentrate CFC's in small locations leading to ozone holes over the poles? Perhaps the same phenomena that result in more rapid heating of the earth at the poles at times?


Of course, if the earth were created 6000 years ago, we can ignore physics, except for life extending pharmaceuticals, which we all know have nothing to do with chemistry. Oh, and gas, which was not produced from decaying dinosaurs, which were either on the Ark, or excluded from the Ark, depending on which modern day prophet one listens to.


Nobody I've seen here has made an argument even remotely based on that belief set, and I resent the fact that by including it in your response to me, you are insinuating I am basing my scientific beliefs on that belief set as well.
2.17.2007 8:11pm
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
Nate, your support of more nuclear power is not one picked up by the media hyping the global warming farce nor is it one picked up by any "leader" of any so called environmental group . When I start reading headlines in the NYT that quote global warming protesters with chants of "Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Nuclear Power Is The Way To Go", then I'll rethink my position.

People like you want a good environment and nuclear power. Conservatives like me want a good environment and the personal individual freedom that derives from a capitalist system. Unfortunately, neither of us run the green movements or the media types all to willing to hype the latest fad of gloom and doom lefties.

Says the "Dog"
2.17.2007 11:14pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
The temperature record goes to the heart of the GW debate. Michael Mann published the “hockey stick graph” circa 1998, which purported to show that global temperatures were stable for 1,000 years and then rapidly increased in the 20th Century. Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick, then published a critique of Mann’s analysis, which meet with much derision by the GW community. Then the House Commerce and Energy Committee asked Edward Wegman to analyze the “hockey stick” data. Wegman formed a team of statisticians who did the analysis pro-bono and concluded that Mann’s temperature data analysis was wrong and testified in Congress to that effect in July 2006. You can read a review in the Canadian National Post here. Scientists from realclimate attended the hearings and conclude that Wegman’s correction is trivial and does not change the “hockey stick.” Be sure to read the follow-up comments. And so it goes back and forth, with expert contradicting expert. Imagine how confused the public is. The American media has not served its readers well because they the impression that GW is a settled matter, and the skeptics are either a fringe element, or in the pocket of the oil companies.

For the technically inclined reader, I recommend looking at Nir Shaviv (an Israeli astrophysicist) reviews of Climate Sensitivity and Carbon Dioxide or Solar Forcing. Be sure to read the follow-up comments, as Shaviv answers the standard objections to the cosmic ray model for global warming, such as you will find over at realclimate, taking cosmic rays for a spin. Actually you don’t have to be that technical, simply skip the equations. Shaviv comments on the correlation between co2 and temperature are particularly enlightening.

The more I get into this business, the less I think of realclimate, but that's just my opinion.
2.18.2007 6:07am
A. Zarkov (mail):
I messed up the link to Carbon Dioxide or Solar Forcing?
2.18.2007 6:11am
Greg D (mail):
Of course, that view might fail to account for the effect of additional water released from the ice caps and glaciers.

All these "scientific experts" assembled, and none of you can recall that ice floats?

Melting floating ice does not change the sea level in the slightest. The North Pole ice caps float on the arctic ocean. Melting them doesn't change the height of the ocean at all.
2.18.2007 4:08pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Greg D

The problem with the melting of Arctic ice is not a change in sea level, but a change in the planetary albedo and sea salinity. If the arctic ice melts then the net planet albedo will decrease because less of the sun’s radiation gets reflected resulting more warming. This is a positive feedback. A change in the sea salinity will affect thermohaline circulation, which really could affect the world’s climate. It could cause atmospheric co2 concentration to increase, another positive feedback.
2.18.2007 5:08pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Kilo, I looked at the map on the page you linked.

It shows California as a place where wheat is not now viable. I guess the farmers who plant 600,000 acres of wheat there need to be told.

We were asked, in the ReVonna thread, to be polite. I'm trying, but when somebody goes on a public blog hyping flat-earth articles from the BBC, it's hard to refrain from pointing it out.
2.18.2007 5:34pm
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
I'm sure the following will be quite predictable to some...



What do people think of this person's views?

The article is a profile of and interview with this person.






"To determine temperatures and carbon dioxide levels in the distant
past, scientists rely on what they call the 'proxy record.' There
weren’t thermometers. So researchers drill deep down into the
Antarctic ice sheet and the ocean floor and pull up core samples,
whose varying chemical elements let them gauge both the CO2 levels and
the temperatures of the distant past.

Gieg clicks a button, and three charts come together. The peaks and
valleys of the Milankovi´c cycles for planetary temperature align well
with the ocean-floor estimates, and those match closely the records of
carbon dioxide concentrations and temperature indications from ice
cores. So, the professor maintains, these core samples from the polar
ice and ocean floor help show that the Earth’s temperature and the
levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have been in lockstep for
tens of thousands of years.

Of course, that was long before anybody was burning fossil fuels. So
Giegengack tells his students they might want to consider that
'natural' climatic temperature cycles control carbon dioxide levels,
not the other way around. That’s the crux of his argument with Gore’s
view of global warming - he says carbon dioxide doesn’t control global
temperature, and certainly not in a direct, linear way. "



Says the "Dog"
2.19.2007 3:00pm
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
Sorry, I screwed up the links in the post above. Here they are:

upenn.edu

science_al_gore_is_a_greenhouse_gasbag

Says the "Dog"
2.19.2007 3:04pm
Alex Dularge (mail):
Does this mean the Global Cooling Hoax is officially over? Is the pollution causes hurricanes hoax over? -that one only lasted a year. Are we still using the Ozone Hole Hoax? Funny, all the ozone eating molecules knew to get down to one place, but the global warming molecules are simultaneously everywhere! As a Good Environmentalist: I need to know which ridiculous hoax we are humping as a cover for more taxes and reduced property rights. Socialists have to do something these days...
2.23.2007 4:08pm