The IPCC 4AR Zoning Variance: a CA Contest

A comment by Judith Curry reminded of a suggestion that Ross McKitrick sent me for a CA contest. Judith said:

There is no fear of H/W making it into IPCC4, the closing for papers to be accepted was over a year ago.

What Judith said here is what IPCC rules said prior to IPCC AR4. However unbeknownst to many active climate climate scientists such as Judith, IPCC varied their rules. The rules which were sent out to third-party scientists ahead of time were:

In practice this means that by May 2005, papers cited need to be either published or available to LAs in the form of a reasonably accurate draft of what is expected to be the final publication….This means that LAs need to ensure that drafts of any such papers are sent to the TSU before or at the same time as the chapter drafts, for which the absolute deadline is August 12….When the second draft of the AR4 is written authors need to be sure that any cited paper that is not yet published will actually appear in the literature, is correctly referenced, and will not be subsequently modified (except perhaps for copy editing). In practice this means that by December 2005, papers cited need to be either published or “in press”….When the second draft of the AR4 is sent to Governments and experts for the second round review, the TSU must hold final preprint copies of any unpublished papers that are cited in order that these can be made available to reviewers. This means that by late-February 2006 if LAs can not assure us that a paper is in press and provide a preprint we will ask them to remove any reference to it.

In July 2006, IPCC sent out the following:

In preparing the final draft of the IPCC Working Group I report, Lead Authors may include scientific papers published in 2006 where, in their judgment, doing so would advance the goal of achieving a balance of scientific views in addressing reviewer comments. However, new issues beyond those covered in the second order draft will not be introduced at this stage in the preparation of the report.Reviewers are invited to submit copies of additional papers that are either in-press or published in 2006, along with the chapter and section number1 to which this material could pertain, via email to, not later than July 24, 2006. In the case of in-press papers a copy of the final acceptance letter from the journal is requested for our records. All submissions must be received by the TSU not later than July 24, 2006 and incomplete submissions can not be accepted

Here’s Ross’ contest suggestion:

I was thinking it might be fun on CA to have a contest. Post the IPCC letter where they changed the deadline for papers to be used in the AR4 draft, and then have people guess which paper they think the IPCC wants to insert after the deadline that everyone else was adhering to.

I’ll start off with my nominations: (1) Osborn and Briffa 2006. (2) Ammann and Wahl 2007 ?. Neither of these articles met IPCC publication deadlines. Osborn and Briffa 2006 was not published until February 2006 and was not even available as a preprint in the First Order Draft. Ammann and Wahl still isn’t published. The accepted version was not filed with IPCC TSU until the issue was raised here. As a reviewer of the Second Draft, I pointed out in writing that these articles were ineligible under IPCC publication deadlines (alo Hegerl et al 2006).

However, I suspect that a third nomination may show its head: (3) Hansen et al 2006. It would be pretty cheeky for IPCC to include this article as it wasn’t available for reviewers of either the First or Second Draft. But Hansen’s got a lot of attention and what’s a zoning variance between friends.

Whatever is on IPCC’s collective mind, you can be sure that there’s a reason for the variance. I’m not familiar with literature outside the paleoclimate area. Maybe there’s some interesting candidates there.

So the question: your suggestions as to the studies that will be cited in IPCC AR4 that were grandfathered by the July 2006 zoning variance.


  1. Steve Bloom
    Posted Jan 3, 2007 at 7:04 PM | Permalink

    Get yourself appointed an LA and you too can qualify for this privilege. Maybe for 2013? Seriously, of course the IPCC will not want the AR4 to be 18 months out of date immediately upon publication, which is exactly what would have happened with e.g. sea level. Having it come out only every six years is bad enough.

  2. Jeff Weffer
    Posted Jan 3, 2007 at 7:27 PM | Permalink

    I know of one published in May 2006 by Robert Berner from Yale in the American Journal of Science. I have not been able to find a free version of the paper.

    Much like the Hockey Stick, the paper rewrites the historical level of CO2 in the atmosphere over the past 500 million years, matching it very closely with historical temperature estimates.

    “For the first time, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations group that analyzes global warming, plans to include a chapter on the reconstructions in its latest report, due early next year.”

    “Dr. Berner recently refined his model to repair an old inconsistency. The revision, described in the May issue of The American Journal of Science, brings the model into closer agreement with the fact of wide glaciation 440 million years ago, yielding what he sees as stronger evidence of the dominant role of carbon dioxide then. Dr. Yapp, once a carbon dioxide skeptic, concurred, saying, “The data complied in the last decade suggests that long-term climate change correlates pretty well with CO2 changes.”

  3. Ross McKitrick
    Posted Jan 3, 2007 at 7:50 PM | Permalink

    Why not be 18 months out of date? Does the science really change that fast? If a paper less than 18 months old says something that is out of line with what was in print more than 18 months ago, surely it would be perilous to grab it fresh out of the journals and build a conclusion on it. I seem to remember one astute commentator saying something about the need to let papers ‘season’ in the literature a while.

  4. Steve Bloom
    Posted Jan 3, 2007 at 11:52 PM | Permalink

    Re #3: Sea level rise is still the perfect example of why not to proceed in that way. Recent observations of melting have shown that dynamical processes are vastly more significant than slow melt. If the AR4 relied solely on older papers dealing with the latter process, it would be wrong about one of the critical aspects of climate science. Would you prefer that?

  5. bender
    Posted Jan 3, 2007 at 11:59 PM | Permalink

    Re #4
    Bloom, how, then, do you suggest that we counteract the mad rush toward half-cooked alarmist science being applied to support policy before it’s had time to “season” after some careful scrutiny? Are you suggesting that bad intelligence is always better than no intelligence? Or just when it suits your agenda?

  6. Larry Huldén
    Posted Jan 4, 2007 at 1:04 AM | Permalink

    I think it would be interesting to see what IPCC AR 4, WG 2, writes about vector born diseases like malaria. There are several results which show that there is no link between low frequency trends in malaria and climate (temperature). Still in recent times (2005-2006) there have been published a hugh number of “models” which claim a considerable risk with global warming, “mosquitoes are increasing their range”, “Plasmodium will develop faster” etc. etc.
    Lena and I will soon (this spring) have three articles about malaria where the status of malaria will be established. Unfortunately the results will be published in a wrong time window and so will be “outdated” in IPCC AR 5 in 2013 when even more models (again without real data) will be cited.

  7. MJW
    Posted Jan 4, 2007 at 1:55 AM | Permalink

    Seriously, of course the IPCC will not want the AR4 to be 18 months out of date immediately upon publication…

    If that’s true, it was also true a year ago. So why did the IPCC first realize there was a problem in July?

  8. Posted Jan 4, 2007 at 2:10 AM | Permalink

    Being 18 months ‘out of date’ might help avoid short term changes being extrapolated into long term trends. Even so, there are a wealth of papers on land use change and problems with global average surface temperature measurements, for example, that are pretty much ignored by the non-objective IPCC politicians. Mention of the fact that the ‘level of scientific understanding’ of most climate forcings are rated as being ‘low’ or ‘very low’ is usually a conversation stopper.

  9. Florens de Wit
    Posted Jan 4, 2007 at 8:37 AM | Permalink

    All of this “moving the deadline” stuff is being caused by one thing: the completely bureaucratic IPCC cake that is only covered with a thin layer of scientific looking glaze.

    By setting a completely arbitrary deadline one tries to:
    1) make sure that as many scientists that have been sent by their governments can live with the compromise as expressed in the report
    2) as many opinions, model results and conclusions in peer reviewed papers are not excluded
    3) Clear dissenting opinions are rigorously excluded

    The overreaching goal of this is to provide “clarity” – read: give a simplistic and plain wrong picture of how science reaches conclusions by mimicking a democratic process yielding a consensus view – and “acceptability” – meaning that not empirically validated truth but the number of opinions per stakholder group counts.

    If all the nations involved in IPCC would have done assessments on national scale, including the options to addapt and mitigate, I am sure that addaption would be the main option and financing could have been negotiated for those in need of some backup. I am sure this would have been cheaper and more effective.

    Sorry for being slightly off topic.

  10. Gil Pearson
    Posted Jan 4, 2007 at 9:15 AM | Permalink

    On a positive side, how about Lyman 2006 (Ocean Heat Content). Might not this paper lead to a challenge of the lower end of CO2 climate sensitivity.

  11. Ken Fritsch
    Posted Jan 4, 2007 at 10:44 AM | Permalink

    So the question: your suggestions as to the studies that will be cited in IPCC AR4 that were grandfathered by the July 2006 zoning variance.

    I have no idea what specific paper(s) would be included under the amended rules, but I would put a substantial bet on it being on “message”. As a filtering/cherry picking mechanism for providing climate policy from a scientific “consensus”, I would expect no less and am not at all surprised about the apparent last minute rule change — which, by the way, could be rationalized in any number of ways.

    Also the need to be totally current (and moving on when hurried errors are exposed) is more in line with what I view as the current state of climatology and not unexpected from the sincere urgency that these people see in getting their message out and policies changed. I do not agree with this approach but I think I understand it.

  12. Mark T
    Posted Jan 4, 2007 at 11:06 AM | Permalink

    I would imagine folks such as Steve B. would be up in arms if the tables were turned an some counter evidence were allowed “post deadline.” Perhaps, Steve M., you should attempt to get a review in according to the new guidelines?


  13. Steve Bloom
    Posted Jan 5, 2007 at 1:22 AM | Permalink

    Re #12: Recall that he got his review. I’m sure the NRC Report’s conclusions will be reflected in the AR4.

  14. Steve Bloom
    Posted Jan 5, 2007 at 1:33 AM | Permalink

    Re #5: IMHO the IPCC is too conservative in its approach as it is. But given tour perspective, I would think you’d be pleased about the disconnect between the science and policy.

    Re #10: What would the connection be?

  15. Dave Dardinger
    Posted Jan 5, 2007 at 7:56 AM | Permalink

    re: #14

    Re #10: What would the connection be?

    #10 =

    On a positive side, how about Lyman 2006 (Ocean Heat Content). Might not this paper lead to a challenge of the lower end of CO2 climate sensitivity.

    The point is that if it’s easy for the ocean to shed excess heat, presumably via loss to space, then while additional CO2 might raise sst episodically, it would result in a periodic loss of the excess heat. While this could result in some excess of tropical storms, etc., it would ultimately result in reducing the SST compared to what it’d be with a straightforward rising trend.

    I think there was a bit of a discussion of this here a while back. Since downwelling ocean water is primarily in circumpolar waters, it is cold. Therefore the ocean depths can’t get very warm, even though there’s a considerable turnover. This means the heat from CO2 increase, as well as from other climate forcings is only “skin deep”. As such, a bit of scrubbing will set the temperature back to where it was, or nearly so.

    Presumably you can see why this results in a lower temperature sensitivity to CO2 than otherwise.

  16. Mark T
    Posted Jan 5, 2007 at 12:12 PM | Permalink

    Re #12: Recall that he got his review. I’m sure the NRC Report’s conclusions will be reflected in the AR4.

    I was referring more to a paper submission. The term “review” was meant more as reference to Steve’s and Ross’ published works which are, essentially, reviews of others’ works. I was also specifically addressing an “after the deadline” submission. Had they submitted something post-deadline, you would have given birth to a few cows over the matter.


  17. Lee
    Posted Jan 5, 2007 at 12:29 PM | Permalink

    re 15 –

    “skin deep’ involves to at least 600 meters down – that was the bottom of their analysis, and they do discuss the possibility of events going deeper. And AFAIK, no one has any idea where that heat went – up or down.

  18. Steve Bloom
    Posted Jan 5, 2007 at 2:36 PM | Permalink

    Re #15: That amounts to an argument that the climate is generally insensitive to forcings of all kinds, sort of like an “iris” effect without the need for clouds. Various questions arise from that, e.g. how do the relatively small increases increases in insolation due to orbital changes manage to terminate glaciations? Such questions don’t seem to have good answers, which is why nobody working on this (Lyman et al included) thinks a conclusion such as yours is plausible.

  19. Dave Dardinger
    Posted Jan 5, 2007 at 3:27 PM | Permalink

    re: #17 Lee,

    But the vast majority of the heat is higher, I believe, and you expect the mixed layer and probably a bit below to have constant temperatures.

    re: #18 Steve B

    nobody working on this (Lyman et al included) thinks a conclusion such as yours is plausible.

    Well, first of all, this finding of rapid loss of heat is new, so nobody has had to work on it until now.

    Second, not all forcings would be identical concerning how they’d deal with changes in average surface temperature. Thus, for instance, if the cosmic ray theory works out, it operates directly by changing cloud formation and thus direct shades or clears skies and changing temperatures. CO2 would only secondarily change cloud cover as part of the water vapor feedback system.

    Finally, I don’t know that it’s a case of my idea leading to lower sensitivity to forcing so much as that a lot of people have wanted to raise the sensitivity for their own purposes. In the discussion of that 55 mya event, for instance, the authors are explicit that the sensitivity must be high because… well because it if isn’t they can’t explain it.

  20. Posted Nov 23, 2009 at 7:49 AM | Permalink

    The person who makes a success of living is the one who see his goal steadily and aims for it unswervingly. That is dedication.

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