TCO's Review of Rybski et al 2006

TCO has done a long review of Rybski et al., 2006, Long-term Persistence in Climate and the Detection Problem. GRL 33, L06718, 2006 Link

Rather than burying the topic separately in a post, here is a well-behaved TCO post on the masthead. (I haven’t edited it and don’t vouch for it, other than there’s serious effort in it.) So here’s TCO on Rybski et al:

This article has gotten interest on the site because of two issues: support for AGW and citing MM03 as a “reconstruction”. Big picture: what the authors do is (1) look at the change in temp over last 100 years (instrument) and compare it to the historic changeability of climate (in proxy reconstructions) to see how “unusual” (in the sense of odds) that the recent warming is and (2) look at “long term persistence” (LTP) within the reconstructions. The discussion, a bit unnecessarily, mixes the two issues (perhaps to make the simple point (1) seem more “technical”). Really they are BOTH interesting issues on their own. The problems of LTP just make for a case where temp rises are more likely than if the data were independent (thus setting a higher bar for “remarkability” of the recent temp increase).

The article is a bit more technically written than needed, but with a little effort, one can get most of the physical insights from the text. I think I got about 85%. This discussion will contain criticism, observations and questions from reading the paper. It is organized in the order of reading the paper (by paragraph number). Some points are minor, some stylistic.

While most of my comments are negative, that does not mean I think the work without merit. I just like to note all the assumptions and things that could influence the result or the interpretation of the result.

[1] (reads like an abstract)
A. 6 reconstructions (Jones98, Mann99, Briffa00, Esper02, “MM03”, and Mo05) were examined.
1. The paper does not explain the selection process: Are these the only 6 reconstructions of the NH temps? Do they use the entire records or chop them to be historic only?
2. Are the reconstructions independent (in method or data?) Could one get a false picture of 6 different samples for this analysis? (think a verbal caveat called for here.)
3. In particular, “MM03” was not intended as a reconstruction (so that selecting it misrepresents the population of reconstructions…all the rest of the samples were at least trying to solve the question of what happened). In that sense, at least there is some Bayesian benefit to looking at several recons. But not with MM03 (the authors don’t stand behind it as an attempt to measure temps). More troubling, MM03 was run as a variant of MBH98 (to test robustness) so it is very much non-independent of MBH in inputs and method.
4. If variants of MBH are of interest to subject to this analysis, it would be good to look at the Burger and Cubasch full factorial of MBH variants as well.
B. There is an implicit assumption (not stated, granted, but not caveated either) that the proxy recons are historical records equivalent to the instrument period (thus allowing the point (1) examination). If the proxies are contaminated by CO2 or cherry-picked then that affects the results. Same issue with the instrumental record (if it is inaccurate)”¢’‚¬?in particular, the instrumental record is based on ground stations, not on satellite or balloon measurements. That might be fine. But it should be noted.
C. It’s not clear to me why we compare the instrument temp change to the proxy records. Why not compare recent proxy history (last 100 years) to overall proxy records. This type of analysis would better show the unreliability of the proxies (or their divergence from instrument), would bring in the divergence problem and the lack of recent proxy data.
D. (Observation) The paper looks at delta temperatures from midpoint of one averaged temp period to the midpoint of another averaged period. This is where (L, m) come in. This is made more technical sounding than it needs to be.
E. (Minor) Not clear to me why M=30 (averaging period) and L=100 are “climatologically significant”. Certainly sigma ratio = 2.5 is not “climatologically significant”. I think 100 is really significant since it is closely related to the observed recent warming (especially when you have to average across a period, so you’re really looking at 100+15+15=130 years within the delta T. Would rephrase this to be more precise and thoughtful and less “puffy”.
F. The difference between an onset of detection and a “excessive odds versus historic variability (isubc and isubd) is just a feature of the “smoothing” or averaging inherent in the 30 year number. I’m not clear why there is a 14 year difference versus a 15 year difference.

[2] This is a good introductory paragraph.
A. While the paper gives a nice hat tip cite to others who have worked on “attribution and detection problem”, none of the later discussion compares the results obtained to those other papers.
B. Is there going to be a “longer paper”? In theory, letters should be followed up by longer papers that go into more detail. Recently, in the physical sciences, people have started blowing this off. I wonder if climatology/GRL is even worse about this.

[3] This para has a tiny bit more detail on recons selected, but still fails to answer the questions from [1].
A. Also gives a false impression (to the extent of a bad error or a lie) that MM03 is a “time series supposed to describe the historical development of the variable”. (BTW, that sentence is bloated and poorly worded as well as being inaccurate wrt MM03.)
B. The authors fail to say how they obtained the MM03 data (not on file at WDCP). This is poor form, both for future readers, wanting that info, and because they fail to acknowledge or thank MM for providing the info (even knowing that it would be used in a manner per A above that they disagree with.) To the extent that they make it look like MM are failing to archive adequately (when MM03 is like a Burger and Cubasch run)”¢’‚¬?that is a really nasty, nasty trick.
C. The second half of the paragraph (about LTP) should be its own paragraph. It’s a different subject.
D. The many cited “real” (I don’t like that term btw) climate records with LTP are never directly compared to the obtained results here. We just get a claim that there is similar behavior. Of course in the longer paper, this will all be better described. àƒⰃ à…➍

[4] This para is more intro and is about both the moving averages and the comparisons. (Overall poor construction of the paper in layout of subjects: excess repetition and lacks a “pyramid” organization of content.)

[5] This para is about Figures 1 (spaghetti graph) and 2a (normal distribution of temperature deviation from the mean).
A. This should be two separate paragraphs.
B. Both figures are very tiny and hard to read.
C. The sphaghetti graph would be better shown in smoothed version.
D. SG has bad background color.
E. 2a is a semilog plot (always look at semilog and log-log suspiciously because a lot of range is compressed) and the normalization by std deviation obscures the difference in range of the curves. In addition, I would like to have a numerical value of some test or percent normality. Not just this visual.
F. Last sentence has a lot of puffery. Just say that the visual confirms normal distribution (or what have you). The Gaussian comment is not needed and the “fully described” is puffery and non-quantitative.

[6] Is about the assessment of LTP in the reconstructions.
A. I could not follow the math. (Just my fault.) I don’t know what the bra ket notation means or what the triple bar equals sign means.
B. I wonder if this is a “vanilla style” of LTP or of explanation of what LTP means. Why aren’t they talking about “redness” or about ARIMA coefficients? At least with ARMA, I have an intuition what the parameters mean (storage effects and the like).
C. Is DFA[2] analysis conventional? (very recent publications). Could we do similar analysis with something more “standard”?
D. (Figure 2b) not clear to me why none of the lines cross. Luck? Significant? Something about how the analysis was done (for graphical purposes)?
E. Significance of the deviations from the line (on log-log). BTW, lines on log-log are very, very easy to get.

[7] Is a comparison of Mo recon to an artificial LTP function.
A. Not clear to me why so much text space (and two of the only readable figures) are dedicated to this essentially didactic point. (nature of LTP).
B. If one wants to make this didactic point (nature of LTP), better done as on Steve’s blog by showing some iid, some ARMA of different types, etc.
C. The Bunde citation sentence seems odd and forced. Is there really something so special about this 2005 paper on heart rates that needs to be compared to these climate records? Wouldn’t it be better to cite a classic, older paper (the Nile hydrology)? And it’s such a throwaway remark that it doesn’t seem to mean much, the way it’s said.
D. The function used to generate 3b is not ARMA and seems overly technical (not sure why we need to look at a 1996 reference instead of a textbook).

[8] This para is about variability in the instrument record.
A. Not clear to me what the author means by use of the word “natural” within the period of instrument time. In the past it seems that he uses this word for “historic times”.
B. I don’t see a graph or a table where the results of this “examination within the instrumental period” is recorded. Confusing para really.
C. Oh wait, I think I get it. They are using Tsubi not for T(instrument), but for T(ith reconstruction)? Confusing. Grr. (If the para is about T(instrument), then figure 2a is missing set of records for the instrument. Actually come to think about it…if we have a hockey stick occurring, how can we possibly have this normal disrtribution at all for any records? Wouldn’t it be skewed normal?
D. Is it a truism that if the overall dataset has normally distributed (from the mean) temperatures than the M, L results will be normally distributed? Not sure I buy that as a truism.
E. “very unreasonable” is puffery. Just say “low”.

[9] Is about the relationship of the standard deviation to the (m, L) parameters. Basically, as you get a larger L (several values shown) or smaller m (two values shown), you get a larger standard deviation. This makes implicit sense. Smaller m means less “smoothing”. Larger L means end points further apart (less correlated).
A. The stuff about “error bars” of the artificial functions is just another proof that the climate records have autocorrelation or can be compared to classic autocorrelation functions.
B. Why are only 4 records looked at?
C. What is the significance of crossings of the error bars. Is there a better (numeric) way to describe goodness of fit?
D. The comment about significantly greater variability in these records then in uncorrelated ones ought to be proven/quantified. I believe them. I just think if they want to make the point, they should prove it.
E. As expected, the “bumpier recons” have higher SD than the smooth ones.

[10] Para is about figure 5a and 5 b.
A. 5a just shows a good view of the instrumental record. Para makes the point (which we grasped earlier) that the (m, L) blabla is just a deltaT on a smoothed graph.
B. 5b, jumps two steps down the explication train by both having the delta T and by dividing it by the SD of the reconstruction(s): for L=20, m=5. The different reconstruction SDs are just scalars, so what you have are six versions of the same curve, just shifted different amounts from the axis.
C. During the instrumental time, there are a couple periods where the (1940ish, 1995ish) where the curves veer over significance limits. The text discusses the likelihood of this happening. (pretty unlikely).
D. It’s not clear to me if this likelihood equates to a per period sense. That is if we have something that is 1/44 likelihood, it means it happens once per 44 years (on average)?
E. As might be expected, given the general warming experienced in last 100ish years, there are no crossings of the significance boundaries in the negative direction. A couple come close. I think some comparison of negative and positive excursions should be made (and it helps the warmer case).

[11] this para is about the same concept but with L=100, m= 30 (incidentally why vary both at same time?) Because the instrumental record is only about 150 years long and we need 130 years of data to start to do this method, the graph doesn’t show much extent of time (1970-1990).
A. The curves start out significant (or near significant) and with time all show some excess of the control limits.
B. The 14 year delta of isubc versus isubd is finally clear here (versus a 15 year delta). The smooths are for 30 record years, thus covering 29 calander years duration. They do 14 ahead and 15 behind. I think it would just be better to do 31 year smooths and keep it symmetrical, but no biggie.

[12] This para just gives the different years where we cross significance thresholds and when detectable, (because of the smooth). The bumpier curves (Mo and Jones) give a later detection limit (it’s just a function of the larger scalar divisor in the SD).

[13] Conclusion para (claims that observed warming is inconsistent with natural variation.
A. This is a reasonable, mathematical expression of the proxy records versus instrument. I think it is better to drill things down into math than to just show spaghetti graphs (I couldn’t for the life of me tell from the spaghetti who’s side it supported). This at least moves it to math.
B. There is a gratuitous comment about the “quality controlled” instrumental data. But the earlier article did not establish the quality level of the instrumental data. I’m not a UHI whiner, but this kind of gratuitous comment in a conclusion is uncalled for. No new facts/points in the conclusion. Just a natural denoument.
C. Similarly it seems gratuitous and forced and even a little political to frame this result in terms of supporting the arguments of several other “detection and attribution” writers rather than to just give own conclusion. And some summary of these earlier results/arguments was never given earlier in the paper. It’s another case of bringing in new stuff in the conclusion (and in this case stuff that one has to go to a cited reference to even use…or just be part of the club and be familiar with those papers).
D. I think the prominent (by having it in conclusion) and almost titillating comment about the similarity of results from MM03 and MBH is a bit nasty. There are a lot of criticisms of MBH by MM that are not captured in this particular analysis of the two “records”. One might get entirely the wrong point from this paper. Also (as discussed before) the reconstructions are closely dependant (given that one was a variation for effect of the other). However, it is interesting that this analysis shows that the prominent hump at 1450 of the MM03 variation may not be so significant from a mathematical standard deviation/confidence interval point of view.


  1. Tom Ault
    Posted Jun 18, 2006 at 8:05 AM | Permalink

    I could not follow the math. (Just my fault.) I don’t know what the bra ket notation means or what the triple bar equals sign means.

    A ket (written as |a>) is simply a vector in a (usually complex but for this paper probably real) Hilbert space. A bra (written as <a|) is the transpose of the complex conjugate of the corresponding ket. For simplicity, you can think of a ket as a column vector and its corresponding bra as a row vector whose elemenets are the complex conjugate of the elements in the ket. This simple representation for the complex-conjugate transpose of a vector and a convienient representation for the inner product (<a|b>) is one of the main advantages of bra-ket notation.

  2. John Hunter
    Posted Jun 18, 2006 at 6:28 PM | Permalink

    Peter (#2): O.K. — I’m dumb — I’m often told I’m dumb on here. But I don’t understand a word you are saying. Please — give me a clue — what is “kinetic induction” in the context of climate? — can you give me an authoritative and helpful reference? All I can find in this regard on the web is posts by yourself.

    Or, alternatively, Steve, is this a spoof?

  3. Dave Dardinger
    Posted Jun 18, 2006 at 6:45 PM | Permalink

    re: #3

    For once I’m in sync with you Dr. Hunter. And I went to his website and while it seems to be a real site, it’s no more understandable there. And while educational degrees and so forth aren’t a necessity for a person to have good ideas, this is a case where I’d like to know exactly where Peter K is coming from. His prolix prose could either be a sign of high intellectual ability or of deranged thinking.

  4. TCO
    Posted Jun 18, 2006 at 8:21 PM | Permalink

    Hunter, Dardie: I think the guy is a bit deranged. I was teasing him rather hard and now feel guilty for it.

  5. TCO
    Posted Jun 19, 2006 at 7:04 AM | Permalink

    There will be no real discussion with you until you write terse, grammatical, organized, non-randomly-capitalized-letter posts.

  6. Dave Dardinger
    Posted Jun 19, 2006 at 7:27 AM | Permalink

    Peter K,

    Well, that is a little better as I actually can tell a bit about what you’re trying to say. It sounds like you may have some insight into the concepts of thermodynamics without knowledge of the nomenclature. If you do have such knowledge, however, it would much improve your signal to noise ratio to use it, at least until you’ve educated those here as to your own terminology. For the moment I’m not sure just how “kinetic induction” would translate. In essence you may be refering to what’s commonly call “free energy” but without any mathematical equations to quantify your concept it’s still a floating abstraction.

    As to the internet, you’d be surprised just how much can be documented there. For instance I find that you’ve often run into trouble in various groups for failing to follow their rules concerning posting. You need to introspect as to why this happens to you so often. And please don’t fall into paranoia as many people here, such as myself, weren’t aware you existed until a day or two ago.

  7. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jun 19, 2006 at 7:31 AM | Permalink

    Peter K, most blogs like this have a type of “Methane Mike” policy to describe a rule circumscribing posts from people espousing their own hobbyhorses at every opportunity. If you want discuss the issues in a thread, fine. But I’m going to start deleting posts that are unconnected promotions.

  8. UC
    Posted Jun 19, 2006 at 7:53 AM | Permalink

    [8] D : Linear functions of normally distributed random variables are normally distributed.

    The article says that Gaussian distribution is fully described by the standard deviation. This seems to be a bit incomplete statement. For 1-dimensional Gaussian we need mean and std. For n-dimensional we need means and all the second-order moments. If we have a Gaussian, stationary process, then the mean and covariance function will do. But if the process is not stationary, and we have only one realization, we are in trouble. It seems that this article shows that the records are both stationary (premises) and non-stationary (conclusion).

  9. Paul Penrose
    Posted Jun 19, 2006 at 7:56 AM | Permalink

    Sorry Peter, I find your prose impenetrable. You may be a genius, but nobody is going to know it as long as you write like that. Do you speak that way too?

  10. fFreddy
    Posted Jun 19, 2006 at 8:36 AM | Permalink

    Re #6, Peter K Anderson
    Peter, is English your native language ?

  11. Dave Dardinger
    Posted Jun 19, 2006 at 11:45 PM | Permalink

    So is there going to be discussion, or more name calling?

    I vote for name-calling. You make such funny turns of phrase, which indicate you’re trying to sound intellectual without having to actually be intellectual. There may be places where such high-flown phrases will cover a lack of real understanding, but this isn’t one of them.

    Your beginning couple of paragraphs are really risible when you compare what you say about statistics with what people who really know statistics like Steve M and Gerd were discussing the other day.

    I’m not quite sure what to call your sillyness about the human body addressed to me except that it makes no sense unless I assume you don’t know much about either human physiology or the greenhouse effect. While the value of the energy radiated back to the surface from the greenhouse effect is quite a few watts per square meter, that doesn’t result in THAT large a temperature change. And the enhanced greenhouse effect from CO2 of human origin is a tiny fraction of that. The actual discussion between warmers and skeptics is between a small effect (warmers) and an itsy-bitsy effect (skeptics). We’re not talking microwave oven energy levels, IOW.

  12. Lee
    Posted Jun 20, 2006 at 12:08 AM | Permalink

    Yep, Dave.

    I’ve slept under an electric blanket that provided quite a lot more IR energy than 1.2 W/m2, and it didnt seem to have any deleterious effect on my “cellular water’. In fact, rather the oppposite; it makde my “cellular water’ feel quite snug and cozy.

    Although I must say, given a choice, I prefer a good goosedown comforter.

  13. Dave Dardinger
    Posted Jun 20, 2006 at 6:28 AM | Permalink

    Bye, Peter. I’m not wasting any more time trying to read your messages. You may be quite a nice guy in person but your messaging style is a big turn-off.

  14. TAC
    Posted Jun 20, 2006 at 8:46 AM | Permalink

    TCO’s welcome review of Rybski et al. (RBHvS06) considers a lot of issues related to both the form and substance of that letter; yet a lot remains to be said. In particular, my biggest disappointment with RBHvS06 is that it does not sufficiently explore the character of the time-series structure. Having found that LTP is present — this is an important thing — it would be great to then pursue the particular form of LTP. What do we know about it? Is it stationary? Can it be described as FARIMA(p,d,q)? Until such questions can be answered, or at least the answers bounded, it seems pointless to attempt to draw conclusions like: “…at least part of the recent warming cannot be related to natural factors…”

  15. Paul Penrose
    Posted Jun 20, 2006 at 9:27 AM | Permalink

    It’s your habit of reversing all your noun-verb relationships that is causing most of the problem. For example from #18 above, “…such of a supposed “greenhouse’ effects existence” is very clumsy for most people to read and is definately not conversational style english. If it were rephrased as “the existence of a supposed ‘greenhouse effect'”, it would be much easier to read. When you write like this it forces everybody to spend a lot of time trying to parse and rephrase your unfamilar style. When there’s a lot of content to read this just takes too much time. If you continue to post using this style of phrasing, I too will be forced to ignore your messages.

  16. John A
    Posted Jun 20, 2006 at 9:45 AM | Permalink

    Re #20

    Just ignore him, Paul.

  17. welikerocks
    Posted Jun 20, 2006 at 11:21 AM | Permalink

    #20 John A and everyone,

    I do understand what you all are frustrated about. But, I kind of like Peter K’s posts. They stop my brain from thinking the same old way. I like when that happens.

    Besides the manner in which he speaks/types, what do you think of his points or information? I’ve only found one or two refutes or implied ones. I have no idea if what he is saying is perfectly true or not. I don’t know, just thought I’d say something. I know who to read here, and trust you guys (somebody might have already said by the time I hit “submit commet”)

    I have to say the reason I like it : it is not the same old climate lingo you read online.

    He talks about energy; not giving hot or cold any connotation, puts Humans in their place… Our Energy is a blip!
    Also, not giving the attributes of earth an “it’s broken” or negative feeling is refreshing.

    I don’t see the earth as a greenhouse either; with big lid, plunked down, not moving. (neither do any of the scientists in my life) It’s majestic. It’s not weak, and nature heals itself, over and over.
    The states this incredible planet gets into all amazing!!

    (Why do we have to look at it so anxious and angry?)

    anyway, my .02

  18. Lee
    Posted Jun 20, 2006 at 11:50 AM | Permalink

    re 21.

    Peter, are you claiming that IR ‘Radiation’ sufficient to warm the planet is incompatible with the existence of human life? OR am I misreading (which I must say is a likely explanation).

    Have you stepped out under the sun on a hot summer day at any time in the recent past? Solar IR Radiation is routinely intense enough to cause a warming of 20C – 30C or more in a single day, and it doesnt seem to have been incompatible with the evolution of human life at all.

    We have a wood stove in our living room, which in the winter often produces enough IR Radiation to keep the house some 30C warmer than baseline. Not only is that much IR radiation perfectly compatible with life, but life of many forms, including a couple cats and our children, seem to find it quite comfortable and cozy to spend a lot of time in the full blast of that IR Radiation.

  19. welikerocks
    Posted Jun 20, 2006 at 12:02 PM | Permalink

    TCO, forgot to add apologies. I didn’t intend nor want to overide your work or the topic here with my comment at all!!!

  20. TCO
    Posted Jun 20, 2006 at 3:09 PM | Permalink

    Lee, stick to the topic, please. Take a gander at the paper,(maybe) a gander at the review. Correct, dispute relevant points or raise new ones on the topic. Do the general purpose messing with deranged people and lightweights on some other thread.

  21. jae
    Posted Jun 20, 2006 at 4:13 PM | Permalink

    If the reconstructions used to evaluate LTP are flawed (which seems to be the case, because of all the defenseless cherry picking), then how can I have any faith in this paper?

  22. Dave Dardinger
    Posted Jun 20, 2006 at 10:19 PM | Permalink

    Well, Peter K,

    That was a much more readable message and you even have a legitimate gotcha on Lee concerning solar IR. Well, somewhat anyway. The solar IR isn’t totally ignorable but pretty near so at the frequencies we’re dealing with (Solar IR is in the sw IR.)

    But you’re way off-base when it comes to claiming that IR sufficient to power the greenhouse effect would “boil” human skin. It’s just not that intense. The total atmospheric greenhouse effect is only a few tens of degrees F and the enhanced greenhouse effect a very few degrees even for a doubling of CO2. This will not produce any problem when it encounters human skin. Think of standing in front of a blazing fire. It will be at a couple of thousand degrees but you will be able to stand there rather close to it where the equivalent temperature (ie where the amount of IR you’re absorbing is equal to that from a gas at a temperature of) several hundred degrees F. (Note that this is different than what you’d absorb by conduction / convection if you were in contact with gases so hot. That could be dangerous. But the radiation is bearable.

  23. Lee
    Posted Jun 20, 2006 at 11:35 PM | Permalink

    “VERY capable of producing such Kinetic induction IS water, and yet it is the LAND surface that is in the lead of observations of “temperature alteration’.”

    Assuming for the sake of argument your point, you need (at the very least) to include heat capacities in your discussion.

  24. Dave Dardinger
    Posted Jun 21, 2006 at 7:21 AM | Permalink

    To phrase things for you as clearly as possible “Dave”, if there WAS a “greenhouse effect’ able to produce those “temperatures’ you cite, the modern (water based) “Human bio-form’ would NOT exist as it WOULD have evolved differently over the past 7 Million years.

    To phrase things for you as clearly as possible, Peter [why do you have my name in quotes, BTW?] you’re wrong. There is a greenhouse effect and it’s accepted by warmers and skeptics alike. Your mere assertion that it doesn’t exist does not impress anyone here.

    I think it’s time to get to what always separates the scientifically literate from the kooks. Show us the math! If you avoid quantifying your statements or produce illogical pseudo-equations we’ll know the truth for sure.

  25. welikerocks
    Posted Jun 21, 2006 at 7:35 AM | Permalink

    #31 Dave, my husband read PeterK’s posts. Considering all the stuff bombarding the planet up in spectrums we have no clue about; (seeing an aurora borialis is just a hint of it) he thinks that’s where Peter is coming from with his thoughts. Radiation scientists or people considering all the unknowns up there have to be “out there” and tend to be or sound like him. LOL ( My husband is also an earth scientist and he doesn’t deny greenhouse effects, just that the earth isn’t a green house)

    I feel if a person’s comment in general or to you directly makes you nuts, just skip it. It’s not like real life where you have to listen or feel annoyed at a person bothering you, it’s just fricken type on a computer screen.

    That said, PeterK, everyone here wants the same thing..the truth. Ease up.

    ( You can skip my comment too. 😉 )

  26. Dave Dardinger
    Posted Jun 21, 2006 at 8:36 AM | Permalink


    If Peter said something like, “I’m not convinced that ….” it’d be one thing. But he makes dogmatic statements. Generally, in the absence of quantatative evidence, this is a sign of a self-convinced mind. A scientific mindset has to be convincable via provable, repeatable facts, and mathmatical analysis of the data. But to be convincable it also needs to be acquainted with and fluent in dealing with such analysis.

    BTW, what’s so hard about understanding the aurora borialis? That’s been well understood for decades, AFAIK. Particles from the sun get accelerated by the earth’s magnetic field and this produces a faint light (either directly or via collision with the thin upper atmosphere; I’d need to do a search via Google to recall the details) which can be observed at high latitudes or when there is especially strong solar activity.

  27. Paul Penrose
    Posted Jun 21, 2006 at 8:59 AM | Permalink

    I don’t think that PeterK was saying that people can’t handle that level of IR for short periods, because obviously they can. But I think he was arguing that over the long term it would have profound effects on the species that would be obvious. Take your example of standing in front of a 1000 degree fire: sure you can stand rather close to it for a few minutes, but what about a few hours, or a few years? Obviously there would be some negative health effects from that kind of exposure. Before the advent of modern shelter mankind had to endure the natural environment, IR and all, for their entire history. Now I don’t think that this disproves the “greenhouse” theories, but certainly it puts a cap on how much heat, on average, such an effect can have, no? I think this was his point, but I’m never sure with Peter.

    Note to Peter: You may not think that well-crafted, easy to read sentence structure is important, however if you want to communicate your ideas to other people, it’s critical. I’ve never subscribed to the “it was hard to write, it should be hard to read” camp.

  28. welikerocks
    Posted Jun 21, 2006 at 9:30 AM | Permalink

    #33 I didn’t mean we didn’t understand aurora borialis, just that the stuff or energy coming at us (like forms of radiation) from space or the sun (creating an aurora borialis) is just a hint of all thats going on up there… unknowns and crazy stuff. My understanding from my husband is that Peter is making points…just thinking out of the box.

    #34 Yes. That’s how I read his comment as well. You can also put the fire out in your house, or open a window. Or, kids can play outside all day in the sun, but if it never went down at night, or they couldn’t stop playing and get a drink of water, or find shade — it could turn ugly. Too much of a good thing gets ugly all the time (( Even the CO2 argument fits that statement))

    Also, what I got from PeterK’s comments is that the Earth has provided thus far all the controls and the relief we need against the things that in excess could be bad for life (existing on human timescales) Trees/vegetation for shade, water, shelter/caves. The sun just happens to “go down” everyday too thank goodness.

  29. Dave Dardinger
    Posted Jun 21, 2006 at 10:08 AM | Permalink

    re: #34,

    Well, Paul, that’s precisely why I’m calling him out on producing numbers. I don’t think he has any idea about exactly what amount of IR goes into the greenhouse effect, what additional amount is being projected for AGW nor what affect such IR has or would have on either ambient temperatures or on being absorbed by exposed skin.

    Let’s do a quick back of the envelope calculation to see what amount of heat from the greenhouse effect we’re likely to see. What kind of light source could you hold in your hand. Imagine a bulb with a diameter of one inch. it would have a surface area of about 81 cm2 (4 x 2.54 x 2.54 x 3.14). A square meter is 10,000 cm2 so we have about 120 such bulbs per square meter. since the amount of IR hitting the earth’s surface and thus a human body is supposed to be about hmmm… I can’t seem to find a copy of the earth’s energy balance which shows the IR figures. I’m thinking the total is similar to total solar incoming radiation. I’ll use 360 W/m2 subject to correction. That would make each bulb have to be 3 watts. So how much would a 3 watt bulb curled up in your hand heat it? Someone want to work that out? And that’s how much the hand would be cooler if there were no greenhouse effect (and don’t nitpick please; this is back of the envelope, remember). The heating by AGW even if it reached the scare-tactic levels would be much smaller as we’re talking many times less additional heating (a few W/m2).

  30. TCO
    Posted Jun 22, 2006 at 10:40 PM | Permalink

    No author or Zorita comments on my comments?

  31. BradH
    Posted Jun 23, 2006 at 8:04 AM | Permalink

    Q:for John Hunter

    TCO, since you offered to open your post for off-topic questions (though you obviously have no authority to do so), I have a few questions for John Hunter, which I haven’t seen asked before.

    John, what is the average sea level rise over the past ten years?

    Is that a measured rise, or an assumed rise, based on extrapolations from data sets extending back over longer periods?

    Do you have an opinion as to whether or not there is a linear (or log) relationship between anthropogenic CO2 and sea levels? If so, do sea levels rise and fall, based on CO2 concentrations?

    Finally, assuming there is a relationship between CO2-temperature-sea levels, do you expect a proportional increase in sea levels vs. temperature for the foreseeable future? (eg. temperatue increases by 0.5C, sea levels increase by yC; temps up by 1.0C, sea levels by 2 x yC)

  32. Ken Robinson
    Posted Jun 23, 2006 at 3:27 PM | Permalink

    Dr. Hunter:

    First, thanks TCO for volunteering your thread for “miscellaneous” discussions. As an aside to John A and Steve, I think a permanent “miscellaneous” thread is a good idea and would help keep other threads on-point.

    With respect to your points about risk assessment, in the context of the AGW debate the question really boils down to “what, if anything, should we do about it?” The notion that we should be investing heavily in emission reduction now requires us to sequentially believe a number of facts. Let me run through an example to demonstrate.

    I’m going to be very simplistic here since the details are of course what everyone argues about. But in general, I think the policy response needs to consider the following, independent, statements about probabilities:

    1. The earth is getting warmer.
    Most people would agree with this statement, though some would assign a lower probability pending an “audit” of surface temperature data. For the sake of argument, let’s say this is definitely true (probability = 100%).

    2. The warming trend will continue, its magnitude will be large, and the effects overall will be significant.
    There is a greater degree of uncertainty here, and boils down to how much faith to place in the climate models and “projections”. For the sake of argument, let’s assign a probability of 80% to the arbitrary use of “large” and “significant”. In other words, there’s an 80% probability that this is something worth worrying about.

    3. Human-related GHG emissions are causing it.
    There is, again, a degree of uncertainty about this. The point could be restated as “humans are causing x% of the increase”. Again, let’s be arbitrary and assign 80% to this factor. (As an aside, the debate over the hockey stick goes directly to this point, as the HS is one of the lines of evidence that indicates recent warming is unusual and likely to be anthropogenic in origin. ClimateAudit does not necessarily claim that modern warming isn’t anthropogenic, merely that the HS is a statistical artifact and as such should be precluded from consideration of this question. Removal of the HS does not, in and of itself, eliminate other independent lines of evidence but it could reduce the overall probability assigned to this factor.)

    4. The costs of reducing emissions in an amount sufficient to have any impact on climate will be less than the cost of adapting to the consequences of a warmer climate.
    By “costs”, I’m including not simply economic considerations but also issues of habitat destruction, increased disease levels among humans, agricultural disruptions, and the entire litany of disasters that are predicted. And of course, resources that are invested in reducing emissions are no longer available for investment elsewhere, which has significant consequences. This is a very gray area, with many dueling studies. To be fair, one would also have to include any potential benefits of a warmer world, and these are not trivial. As someone who develops energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, I have some insight into the current state of the relevant technologies at least in regard to stationary power sources and energy end use. On balance, I think that the current cost of reducing emissions by the 60% or 70% needed to have any climatic effect at all is drastically higher than the cost of adaptation. Therefore, the probability of Statement 4 being true is very low. (I also happen to think that the cost of emission reduction will fall sharply within 10 to 15 years, so the equation will change in the future.) This is why alarmists must predict catastrophic consequences, since only catastrophic costs of higher temperatures can outweigh the high costs of emission reduction. But let’s be very generous and assign a 50% probability to Statement 4, just for giggles.

    If each of these probabilities is truly independent, then the likelihood that an aggressive emissions reduction strategy is a good policy is:

    100% x 80% x 80% x 50% = 32%.

    Most supporters of Kyoto (and more draconian actions) would assign higher probabilities to each of these factors, but a series of quite high values would have to be assigned to each factor before the policy response makes sense. It also begs the question of how certain a policy-maker should be that his intended policy is a good idea before he implements it. Personally, I think the numbers in the example are in the high end of their respective uncertainties, and assigning much higher probabilities would be an act of faith, not reason. “Skeptics”, of course, would think these numbers are absurdly high to begin with, and not all of the skeptical arguments can be dismissed out of hand.

    My view is that we simply don’t know the answers to these questions with anything like the degree of certainty that is commonly portrayed in the mass media or, for that matter, in IPCC summaries. I’ve yet to see compelling evidence that expending significant resources to reduce emissions now makes economic sense. I also think that unless and until the economics make sense, nothing substantial will change in terms of how humans power their societies regardless of the degree of huffing and puffing over AGW.

    To place this discussion in the context of your particular specialty (of which clearly your knowledge is vastly superior to mine, so please correct any mistakes I make), it’s my impression that sea level has been gradually increasing since the end of the last ice age. Has there been a significant acceleration in the rate of rise that could be attributed to AGW? If so, what are the predictions for the value of this rise into the future? And how “solid” are these numbers, ie what degree of uncertainty surrounds them? (I promise to take your numbers on faith.) It seems to me that sea level rise is something which will occur very gradually in human timeframes, and that the overall magnitude of such a rise will be much less than the catastrophic scenarios so often trumpeted in the media, but perhaps I’m wrong. So, moving from science to economics (where our respective expertise is perhaps more equivalent); do you believe that sea level rise is a serious “threat” (and how is that quantified in terms of cost?), would large GHG reductions actually stop it, and how much money should we spend in doing so vs adapting to it?

    BTW, there’s a much better geopolitical argument to be made for reducing oil consumption, but this post is already far too long.

    Best regards;

  33. jae
    Posted Jun 23, 2006 at 3:41 PM | Permalink

    Great post, Ken. I wish the decision-makers would use this type of reasoning. There is absolutely no practical short-term “action” that can be taken to make a significant change in AGW, if it is truly being driven by CO2. In the long term, it will become economically feasible (and maybe absolutely necessary due to scarcities) to get away from fossil fuels. Lomborg gets into these concepts in his book, Skeptical Environmentalist.

  34. John Hunter
    Posted Jun 24, 2006 at 1:03 AM | Permalink

    BradH (#38):

    > John, what is the average sea level rise over the past ten years?

    > Is that a measured rise, or an assumed rise, based on extrapolations
    > from data sets extending back over longer periods?

    Reading Church & White (2006) should answer both questions for you. Details are at:

    > Do you have an opinion as to whether or not there is a linear
    > (or log) relationship between anthropogenic CO2 and sea levels?
    > If so, do sea levels rise and fall, based on CO2 concentrations?

    No — I don’t think it is a particularly interesting or useful question. Sea-level change is not driven directly by changes of C02 — there are intermediaries such as air temperature and its distribution, ocean temperature and its distribution, melting of ice on land, and of course other forcings such as solar and volcanic. We don’t need such a relationship anyway — for projections of sea level, we use GCMs, with the addition of factors such as melt of land ice.

    > Finally, assuming there is a relationship between CO2-temperature-sea levels

    — I’m sure there isn’t.

    > do you expect a proportional increase in sea levels vs. temperature for the
    > foreseeable future? (eg. temperatue increases by 0.5C, sea levels increase
    > by yC; temps up by 1.0C, sea levels by 2 x yC)

    I’m sure any relationship would not be simple. For example, a significant contribution to present sea-level rise is the melting of mountain glaciers. This contribution cannot last for ever, and in the relatively near future this source of ice will be effectively used up. Also, if there is a dramatic shift in climate, I would certainly not expect linear relationships to hold. Finally, melting of Greenland and possible destabilisation of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet also would not have a simple linear relationship with temperature.

  35. John Hunter
    Posted Jun 24, 2006 at 1:08 AM | Permalink

    Michael Jankowski (if you are reading this thread): You posted a useful reply in “Contact Steve”, which John A saw fit to delete along with a quick response to you that I would answer you in this thread. I have no copy of your posting (which related to some entry in Wikipedia). Could you re-post it here please?

  36. John Hunter
    Posted Jun 24, 2006 at 1:09 AM | Permalink

    Ken Robinson (#39): Your post is far too long — if you want me to respond, please post a few succint statements.

  37. gb
    Posted Jun 24, 2006 at 3:08 AM | Permalink

    Re # 39, point 4.

    The statement that reducing emissions is cheaper than adaptation is very uncertain I think. In Nature (vol 441) some economic models actually predict that reducing emissions (and the use of fossil fuels) can be rather cheap. Isn’t it better to support technology development and innovation at home instead of sending billions of dollars to countries like Iran, Syria, Saudi-Arabia, Sudan and keep on struggling with terorism for ever? Furthermore, global warming is caused by the USA, Europe etc. but the effects are also felt in developing countries (changing rain fall, decreasing availability of fresh water etc.) which do not contribute to the problem at all. Will the USA and other countries compensate for this damage in the future?

    I am an engineer and therefore quite optimistic about the possibilities of reducing the use of fossil fuels and increasing energy efficiency. The unwillingness to look for alternatives is in my opinion caused by a lack of creativity and imagination.

  38. BradH
    Posted Jun 24, 2006 at 3:56 AM | Permalink

    Re: #41

    Thanks, John H. I shall read the linked paper.

  39. Posted Jun 24, 2006 at 4:12 AM | Permalink

    “but the effects are also felt in developing countries (changing rain fall, decreasing availability of fresh water etc.) which do not contribute to the problem at all”

    I think this is an incredibly misleading statement. “Developing countries”, by the very nature of the fact they are developing, seem to have a lot of (dirty) industry. They also tend to have huge populations relatively speaking. I don’t think India or China are going to have trivial CO2 outputs over the next few decades.

    If they output heaps of CO2 as projected, and it damages the environment, will they compensate the USA for that damage?

    Didn’t think so.

  40. gb
    Posted Jun 24, 2006 at 4:42 AM | Permalink

    Re # 46.

    CO2 : Emissions per capita for 2001 (source: IEA)
    Units: metric tons per person

    North America 19.4
    Developing Countries 1.8
    Low Income Countries 0.7

    “think this is an incredibly misleading statement. “Developing countries”, by the very nature of the fact they are developing, seem to have a lot of (dirty) industry.”

    Well, according to the stats above they have a LONG way to ketch up (and the developing countries haven’t significantly contributed to the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere from 280 to 380 ppm that has been observed now).

    So, who is causing the problem? Quite clear, isn’t it?

  41. Bruce
    Posted Jun 24, 2006 at 6:24 AM | Permalink

    Come on gb. Surely the real issue from the viewpoint of the whole planet is total emissions by country, not per capita emissions.

  42. Posted Jun 24, 2006 at 6:25 AM | Permalink

    gb: Those are *per capita*. There are more people in developing countries than developed countries. Also, over time, the developing countries likely will catch up with the developed countries. In other words:

    * Population in developing countries is already larger than developed countries.
    * Population is growing faster in developing countries.
    * Pollution outputs are growing faster in developing countries (and shrinking in developed countries).

    Since we’re worried about problems in future here, we have to project into the future. And those projections show most likely China and India will be producing just as much, if not more, pollution in 10-20 years than developed countries are now.

    Are you so fixated on the present that you ignore the future? Or do you not think China and India will become more developed over time and have growing (rather than stable or shrinking) populations?

    All this is ignoring that there’s very little evidence CO2 is harmful, anyway. But regardless, it’s revealing that you feel you should place so much of the blame on the USA when Europe is producing at least as much CO2.

  43. Posted Jun 24, 2006 at 6:53 AM | Permalink

    Here is a 6-year old graph of total CO2 output per continent. Note that Western Europe + Eastern Europe is greater than North America. So is Africa + Asia. I think that by now, 6 years down the track, the ratio has probably changed such that North America is an even smaller pecentage of the total. It was 25% then. I don’t know what it is now. My guess is 15-20%.

    Anyway I didn’t come here to discuss this kind of thing. I’m more interested in the science behind the questions of whether there is a long term climate trend, what’s causing it and why. Since I don’t feel that’s anywhere near settled, placing the blame seems a bit premature, as does trying to implement a solution to a problem we’re not even sure exists yet. Well, I’m not, anyway.

  44. gb
    Posted Jun 24, 2006 at 7:18 AM | Permalink

    #48, 49 and 50. Yes, yes, I was aware of these points. I just wanted to point out that, if the global warming is caused by CO2 emissions and if it has serious consequences, the argument that adaptation is better than cutting emissions has weak points. Some people (and countries) have to pay the costs of adaptation who didn’t cause the problem in the first place!

    By the way, I didn’t start this topic.

  45. TCO
    Posted Jun 24, 2006 at 7:38 AM | Permalink

    John, your damn kludge of a bar, still has screwed up code for the number of threads. It does not always display 5 threads. Take a look at your code and think.

  46. John A
    Posted Jun 24, 2006 at 8:59 AM | Permalink

    I’ve actually captured the problem on IE. It’s caused by commenters not wrapping their URLs in a link like this. If commenters would properly link rather than post URLs the problem would disappear for the 27% of people who use IE to access this blog.

  47. TCO
    Posted Aug 6, 2007 at 4:32 PM | Permalink

    Steve, any comments on the paper itself? A lot of people asked you for your assement of it and it is right in the middle of the type of literature that you read, but you never makd aaresponse.

  48. Sam Urbinto
    Posted Aug 6, 2007 at 6:02 PM | Permalink

    dieser Server ist nicht mehr in Betrieb

  49. TCO
    Posted Aug 6, 2007 at 6:37 PM | Permalink

    Here’s a new link at VS’s new website:

    P.s. Also, note that since I used a real citation with the journal volume and all, you could actually find this at GRL electronic (pay or subscritpion) or have gone to the library and looked at it.

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