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Amazing IPCC: Finding Climate Change Before The Climate Changes

2010/01/25 6 comments

It’s open season on the IPCC, thanks to the absurd antics of a Dr Rajendra Pachauri, and a series of revelations including manipulation of science for policy purposes in matters of glaciers and disaster losses. As it happens, those problems concern a part of the IPCC report of 2007 I have already argued about: the actual evidence for “Climate Change/Global Warming” in the physical world of today, as per the IPCC AR4-WG2-Chapter1 (“Assessment of observed changes and responses in natural and managed systems” (*))

(for a different example concerning future “changes and responses”, see how a clever mix of “could”, “might” and “likely” means that even if we meet again in 2050 and global cooling is in full swing, still the IPCC reports will be, in a sense, correct)

And so here I’ll add my small contribution: because the IPCC authors and reviewers have managed to collate evidence for climate change where even James Hansen and Reto Ruedy agree that the climate has not (yet) changed. Time to ditch AR4-WG2-Chapter1 altogether?

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AR4-WG2-Chapter1 is rapidly turning into a sad joke almost devoid of scientific content. After all, with most if not all tangible AGW effects expected in the future, any serious present “Assessment of observed changes and responses” should be a 1-page note declaring “not much if anything”…

I have already shown quite some time ago how AR4-WG2-Chapter1 fails to demonstrate the “global” in “Global Warming”. For example, Table 1.12, p116 “Global comparison of significant observed changes…”) contains a total of 26,285 observed “significant changes compatible with warming“. Of those, 25,135 come from Europe alone: that is a whopping 95.6% out a continent covering less than 7% of the world’s land area.

Two out of three of the remaining observed “significant changes compatible with warming” come from North America. And so on and so forth.

If it interested anybody, we could start discussing how Europe has been warming of late. But about North America, the IPCC assessment is now smelling even fishier. It all started on Jan 14 with Judicial Watch announcing they

obtained internal documents from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) related to a controversy that erupted in 2007 when Canadian blogger Stephen McIntyre exposed an error in NASA’s handling of raw temperature data from 2000-2006 that exaggerated the reported rise in temperature readings in the United States

The news was linked later the same day by McIntyre himself. With 215 pages to go through, no wonder it took around a week for somebody to notice some peculiar statements (click here to read a funny episode almost straight out of The Office). And so AJ Strata of the Strata-sphere reported on Jan 21:

In their snobbish and arrogant effort to belittle those asking questions about what was the warmest year on record, they [GISS] inadvertently admitted that the current warm period is not significantly greater than the warm spots seen in the US in the 1930’s and 1950’s

What the above refers to is GISS’s Reto Ruedy writing on Aug 10, 2007 (expanding on a quote by James Hansen):

He [McIntyre] concentrates on the US time series which (US covering less than 2% of the world) is so noisy and has such a large margin of error that no conclusions can be drawn from it at this point

Later on Jan 21, AJ Strata pointed to another message by Mr Ruedy, dated Aug 15, 2007 and containing the following statement:

The US has been warming in the period 1980-2006 similarly to the period from 1920-1934; that earlier 15-year period then was followed by a cooling period and the same might be true for the current 25-year period. The annual US mean changes are still large compared to any CO2 effect

In other words: not even at GISS they can see any “climate change” concerning the USA.

And yet…amazingly, at the IPCC “somebody” still managed to find a series of pieces of evidence about “climate change” in the USA. Here they are from fabled IPCC AR4-WG2-Chapter1:

  • p84: Table 1.1. Direct and indirect effects of non-climate drivers. Invasive species:Tamarisk (USA)
  • p85: no change in the number of frost days in the south-eastern USA (Feng and Hu, 2004)
  • p86: Table 1.2. Selected observed effects due to changes in the cryosphere produced by warming. Decreased snow in ski areas at low altitudes:Decrease in number of ski areas from 58 to 17:1975-2002 New Hampshire, northeastern USA:Hamilton, 2003b
  • p89: Table 1.3. Observed changes in runoff/streamflow, lake levels and floods/droughts. Due to dry and unusually warm summers related to warming of western tropical Pacific and Indian Oceans in recent years:1998-2004:Western USA:Andreadis et al., 2005; Pagano and Garen, 2005
  • p92: 1.3.3.2 Changes in coastal wetlands. In the USA, losses in coastal wetlands have been observed in Louisiana (Boesch et al., 1994), the mid-Atlantic region (Kearney et al., 2002), and in parts of New England and New York (Hartig et al., 2002; Hartig and Gornitz, 2004), in spite of recent protective environmental regulations (Kennish, 2001)
  • p100: Table 1.8. Changes in the timing of spring events, based on observations within networks. Location:Period:Species/Indicator:Observed changes (days/decade):References. Western USA:1957-1994:Lilac, honeysuckle (F):-1.5 (lilac), 3.5 (honeysuckle):Cayan et al., 2001
  • p100: Table 1.8. North-eastern USA:1965-2001,1959-1993:Lilac (F, LU),Lilac (F):-3.4 (F) -2.6 (U),-1.7:Wolfe et al., 2005,Schwartz and Reiter, 2000
  • p100: Table 1.8. Washington, DC:1970-1999:100 plant species (F):-0.8:Abu-Asab et al., 2001
  • p102:  Table 1.9. Evidence of significant recent range shifts polewards and to higher elevations. California coast, USA:Spittlebug:Northward range shift:Karban and Strauss, 2004
  • p102:  Table 1.9. Washington State, USA Skipper butterfly Range expansion with increased Tmin Crozier, 2004
  • p102:  Table 1.9. Montana, USA Arctic-alpine species Decline at the southern margin of range Lesica and McCune, 2004
  • p103:  1.3.5.3 Climate-linked extinctions and invasions. The pika (Ochotona princeps), a small mammal found in mountains of the western USA, has been extirpated from many slopes (Beever et al., 2003)
  • p105: Table 1.10. Observed changes in agricultural crop and livestock. Yields:Part of overall yield increase attributed to recent cooling during growing season: 25% maize, 33% soybean:USA county level:1982-1998:Lobell and Asner, 2003
  • p105: Box 1.2. favourable conditions for wine…the same tendencies have also been found in the California, Oregon and Washington vineyards of the USA (Nemani et al., 2001; Jones, 2005).
  • p107: Climate warming can also change the disturbance regime of forests by extending the range of some damaging insects, as observed during the last 20 years for bark beetles in the USA (Williams and Liebhold, 2002)
  • p107: One study of forest fires in Canada (Gillett et al., 2004) found that about half of the observed increase in burnt area during the last 40 years, in spite of improved fire-fighting techniques, is in agreement with simulated warming from a general circulation model (GCM)[…] it seems to be confirmed by another recent study (Westerling et al., 2006), which established a dramatic and sudden increase in large wildfire activity in the western USA in the mid-1980s closely associated with increased spring and summer temperatures and an earlier spring snow melt.
  • p108: This increase in heatwave exposures, where heatwaves are defined as temperature extremes of short duration, has been observed in mid-latitudes in Europe and the USA

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QED: the IPCC AR4-WG2-Chapter1 is a sad joke almost devoid of scientific content. All that effort has been for nothing, all the more so as it reported (especially) about warming-related climate changes no matter what.

That is, independently even from the actual measured temperatures.

(*) The obligatory full reference: Rosenzweig, C., G. Casassa, D.J. Karoly, A. Imeson, C. Liu, A. Menzel, S. Rawlins, T.L. Root, B. Seguin, P. Tryjanowski, 2007: Assessment of observed changes and responses in natural and managed systems. Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, M.L. Parry, O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden and C.E. Hanson, Eds., Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 79-131.

A “More Likely Than Not” IPCC Mystery

2009/12/23 7 comments

Did the IPCC adhere to its own guidelines, or just twisted them whenever convenient?

(Most of the following text is extracted from a comment earlier today by John DeFayette)

I hope you can help me with an old, nagging questions that I have regarding the IPCC’s AR4.  To be clear, I have read the whole of the WG-I report.  There is absolutely no need to read beyond that, since WG-II and WG-III are mere science fiction once you understand the lack of conclusion in WG-I.

In my opinion the WG-I report document is well written.  For those who can read beyond the summaries the scientific evaluations are mostly honest in their admission of our ignorance regarding our climate. However, the politicians weighed in heavily even with the report’s body, and here is the question:

Who decided, and when was the decision made, to add the uncertainty category “more likely than not” to the uncertainty table (Table 4) in AR4?

Table 4 - Likelihood/Uncertainty

Table 4 - Likelihood/Uncertainty

note 12 and Table 2, mentioned in Table 4

note 12 and Table 2, mentioned in Table 4

The question is fundamental since it turns a perfectly reasonable document into a political club.

Clearly, an honest IPCC panel hammered out a reasonable likelihood scale in July 2005, published as an annex to AR4 in 2007.  Table 4 in the uncertainty guidelines document indicates the terminology “as likely as not” for the probability zone around 50% (from 33% to 66%).  This is perfectly reasonable, since a 50-50 likelihood or thereabouts has the same meaning as a coin toss.  The document further instructs the authors of AR4 to refrain from messing with these terms (note 10).

note 10

note 10

To my dismay, I find the final AR4 littered with a new term, “more likely than not” plopped right there at the 50-yard line where I would expect to find a balanced “as likely as not.”  A short search leads me to Box 1.1 of AR4 Chapter 1 as well as Box TS.1 in the Technical Summary, where I find that the AR4 authors have simply added the new term “…in order to provide a more specific assessment of aspects including attribution and radiative forcing.”

Box 1.1 Likelihood/Uncertainty table

Box 1.1 Likelihood/Uncertainty table

Box TS.1 Likelihood/Uncertainty table

Box TS.1 Likelihood/Uncertainty table

[NOTE BY MAURIZIO: Box 1.1 and Box TS.1 claim that in AR4-WGI-Chapter 2 “the basis on which the authors have determined particular levels of scientific understanding uses a combination of approaches consistent with the uncertainty guidance note as explained in detail in Section 2.9.2 and Table 2.11“.  Neither that Section nor that Table explain anything of the sort.

Box TS.1 reference to Section 2.9.2 and Table 2.11

Box TS.1 reference to Section 2.9.2 and Table 2.11

Section 2.9.2 (part 1)

Section 2.9.2 (part 1)

Section 2.9.2 (part 2)

Section 2.9.2 (part 2)

Section 2.9.2 (part 3)

Section 2.9.2 (part 3)

Table 2.11 (part 1)

Table 2.11 (part 1)

Table 2.11 (part 2)

Table 2.11 (part 2)

Table 2.11 (part 3)

Table 2.11 (part 3)

]

With this wondrous little change the AR4 is no longer a document that must admit that human activity may or may not (we don’t really know) cause an increase in hurricanes, in heavy precipitation events, in heat waves, droughts and more.  Instead it says “more likely than not” in these cases.  Obviously, the original terminology only allowed for a vague “we don’t know” whether the coin will land heads up; it sounds much better to say that the coin is more likely to land heads up than tails up.

[NOTE BY MAURIZIO: Coincidentally, the category “More likely than not” is the only one overlapping with another category, “About as likely as not“. Whoever decided not to follow the IPCC’s own guidelines, forgot to take notice that (>50%) is a subset of (33% to 66%)]

Scanning the two-year-old news I find no references to enraged citizens.  I wonder if it is possible to find the authors who are responsible for this semantic “sleight-of-hand”?

Climate Models Are Irrelevant, and Latest IPCC Models a Regression

(many thanks to LM for pointing this out)

  • “[GCM] model outputs at annual and climatic (30‐year) scales are irrelevant with reality
  • model predictions are much poorer that an elementary prediction based on the time average
  • The GCM outputs of AR4, as compared to those of TAR, are a regression in terms of the elements of falsifiability they provide, because most of the AR4 scenarios refer only to the future, whereas TAR scenarios also included historical periods

Those are not the insane ramblings of yours truly, but the conclusions of D. Koutsoyiannis et al’s “Assessment of the reliability of climate predictions based on comparisons with historical time series“, a poster presentation at the European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2008 in Vienna, Austria, 13‐18 April 2008.

Of course, it’s only a poster presentation…and of course, there was really no space at all to talk about it in the news, eg on the BBC.

Well, there is one good thing that has come out of this though: some explicit references in RealClimate about the need to have “a very civilized and friendly chat, “to be respectful, sincere, and show courtesy in our criticism, even when we argue why we think that a paper has flaws“, and that “we some day may be mistaken, so it’s important to be humble and check our drafts amongst ourselves“.

This will mean no more verbal attacks about “negationism”, and few if any displays of condescension. Sure it will… 

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