Saturday, November 22, 2008

Lies, damn lies, and...

During Spring, we are told, a young man's fancy turns to love. However, it is not Spring, it is Winter and so we return once again to the fantasy of global warming... er... I mean, climate change.

I think that we would all agree that to form any kind of theory about whether or not anthropogenic climate change is occurring, we really do need to have some vaguely reliable data; after all, if there is no actual warming, then it's a little difficult to say that we're causing it.

The trouble is that gaining a temperature reading for the entire world is actually a little tricky; it's a big planet we live on, and an awful lot of the surface area is made up of water. However, that hasn't stopped the Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS)—headed up by our old friend James Hansen (an enthusiastic proponent of anthropogenic global warming. Except in the seventies, when he was an enthusiastic proponent of anthropogenic global cooling)—relying on the land temperature record rather, than, say, satellite measurements.

There is, of course, some logic in this, as the land temperature record goes back until the late 1800s (in the US, at least), whilst satellite readings have been taken only since 1979. The trouble is that this very longevity introduces uncertainty into the temperature record: thermometers have become more sensitive, for instance, and population centres—with their attending urban heat island effect—have encroached on measuring stations once situated in the countryside.

It is, therefore, actually very difficult to gauge the average temperature over the globe with any degree of certainty, and the signal to noise ratio makes any estimate near worthless. Especially, of course, when the people responsible for the records keep retrospectively changing them, as Anthony Watts points out.

Blink comparator of GISS USA temperature anomaly - h/t to Zapruder

The last time I checked, the earth does not retroactively change it’s near surface temperature.

True, all data sets go through some corrections, such as the recent change RSS made to improve the quality of the satellite record which consists of a number of satellite spliced together. However, in the case of the near surface temperature record, we have many long period stations than span the majority of the time period shown above, and they have already been adjusted for TOBS, SHAP, FILNET etc by NOAA prior to being distributed for use by organizations like GISS. These adjustments add mostly a positive bias.

Please note that the above graph does not represent a change in temperature projections; GISS have effectively changed what they think that actual temperatures were (and their reationship to past temperatures). Which is interesting, is it not?

It is also interesting that GISS and the other agencies almost always put a positive bias on recent temperatures, and a negative bias on past temperatures. This processing has the simple effect of making more recent temperatures seem... well... higher.

Neatly illustrating this point is Climate Skeptic, with a blink graph of actual temperatures measured at the climate stations, against the end result that is passed to GISS from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

My point was not that all these adjustments were unnecessary (the time of observation adjustment is required, though I have always felt it to be exaggerated). But all of the adjustments are upwards, even those for station quality. The net effect is that there is no global warming signal in the US, at least in the raw data. The global warming signal emerges entirely from the manual adjustments. Which causes one to wonder as to the signal to noise ratio here. And increases the urgency to get more scrutiny on these adjustments.

It only goes through 2000, because I only had the adjustment numbers through 2000.

Part of the problem, you see, of scrutinising the adjustments is that these agencies seem to be extraordinarily coy about releasing the data and algorithms that they use to make said adjustments. Numerous FOI requests (mainly by bloggers) have revealed some of the processes (and exposed some as being deeply flawed) but not, alas, all of them.

What we do know, of course, is that adjustments for recent years are nearly always positive, a slightly bizarre process for anyone who has been following Anthony Watts' project.

If, for instance, a measurement station has been encroached upon by a population centre in the last twenty years (as many of them have) and this encroachment coincides with increased temperature readings, one might be tempted at least to investigate whether said station is being affected by the urban heat island effect. And if this is the case, the adjustments should be negative, not positive.

As it happens, we can show that this is precisely what GISS is not doing. Here, for instance, is a measuring station situated near a water treatment works in Clarinda, Iowa.

The MMTS temperature sensor is the short pole next to the half pickup truck.

For those of you that don’t know, this station is located at the wastewater treatment plant there. I’ve written many times about the placement of stations at WWTP’s being a bad idea due to the localized heat bubble that is created due to all the effluent coming though. The effect is especially noticeable in winter. Often you’ll see steam/water vapor in the air around these sites in winter, and more than one COOP observer has told our volunteers that snow sometimes does not stick to the ground at WWTP’s.

The larger pole appears to be a gas burnoff torch for excess methane. I can’t say how often it is activated (note the automatic ignitor circuit on the pole) but I can tell you that putting an official NOAA climate thermometer within a few feet of such a device is one of the worst examples of thoughtless station placement on the part of NOAA I’ve ever seen. Here is an example of a methane burn-off device at another WWTP.

We’ll probably never know what the true temperature is in Clarinda because untangling a measurements mess like this is next to impossible. How many days was Tmin and/or Tmax affected at this location by gas burnoff and to what magnitude? We shouldn’t have to ask these questions.

Quite so. But I would imagine that GISS and NOAA have this all under control, yes? I mean, I am sure that they are aware of the placing of the station and have adjusted the temperature readings down, as would seem logical.

Er... no.
And, adding insult to stupidity, the GISTEMP Homogenization adjustment makes the trend go positive, especially in recent years:

So, either GISS, NOAA and the rest of this merry crew are lying (in which case, you shouldn't trust a word that they say) or they are very, very bad scientists (in which case, you cannot trust a word that they say).

Of course, I am not discounting the idea that both contentions are true.

Anyway, whatever the reasons, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that the data coming out of GISS is highly suspect and, thus, so is the contention that the Earth is actually warming at all. And using such data to back a theory that any warming is caused solely by carbon dioxide (and other greenhouses gases) emitted by the activities of human beings is to discredit the entire hypothesis.

Wake up, people: you are being lied to.

UPDATE: the Beeb seems to have woken up to the fact that—even if anthropogenic warming is happening—the results might not be all bad.


Anonymous said...

This post is great - I hadn't heard about the whole "temperature adjustment" game before - but it's not that surprising. Living in Texas for 4 years - it was incredible how surprised everyone was every summer and how sure they were that it was hotter than last year. This is just scientists doing the same thing. Amazing!

Anonymous said...

A nice case of 'He who controls the past'... etc..

defender said...

Global warming in Florida.

Arctic blast shatters 40 year low temperature records across south-eastern US
November 22, 2008 · 2 Comments


Brrrrr! Cold front blasts the Southeast

NBC | Nov 19, 2008

OCALA, Fla. (AP) — Floridians, break out your fleece jackets.

Forecasters say an arctic cold front is expected to pass through the state starting Tuesday, with temperatures expected to hit 30 degrees in Marion and Alachua counties; the record low temperature of 30 degrees in Ocala was narrowly missed on Monday.

Hard freeze warnings are expected for much of interior north Florida for Tuesday night, where temperatures will fall into 20s and cause patchy frost by sunrise on Wednesday.

State officials urge folks to use safe heating sources, bring pets inside and use extra caution if planning outdoor activities due to the enhanced wildfire danger with all the dry air.

To the north in Georgia, the National Weather Service says temperatures Tuesday night and early Wednesday are expected to range from the upper teens in far north Georgia to the upper 20s and mid 30s near the coast.

Anonymous said...

If measured temperatures are actually rather level in areas that are being heated by humans, doesn't that mean actual temperatures are falling?!

Anonymous said...

Very interesting reading. My gut instinct has always been that our activities have to be altering energy balances in the atmosphere, i.e. chucking a load of gases that block IR radiation would cause temperatures to rise.

Thats not to say that trashing our economy was ever a sensible response as that only would result in exporting jobs and polution to China, etc...

However, if the surface temperatures are not even rising at all the the whole thing becomes even more bizare. Is it all (yet another) control plot?

Dick Puddlecote said...

DK, Hansen and the GISS have been shown up as incompetent twats for a long time. I'm surprised anyone listens to them anymore.

"A GISS spokesman lamely explained that the reason for the error in the Russian figures was that they were obtained from another body, and that GISS did not have resources to exercise proper quality control over the data it was supplied with."

I touched on some of their nonsense, amongst other unrelated illiberal lies, in one of my blog posts, link below.

(shameless plug alert)

Trident said...

Here here! the science behind this whole debate is flawed - hence the suppression by politicians of the original scientific reports submitted to the IPCC and the reluctance of the environmental lobby to even discuss it now.
I had a rant abou this very subject on my blog the other day, and I hope you don't mind but have linked to yours.

haddock said...

I read an article a few months back in which a good fist was made of questioning whether there is a greenhouse effect... at all.... even in a greenhouse. The author suggested that the greenhouse effect is part legend and has never been scientifically tested, his own research leans towards heating in greenhouses being almost entirely due to the prevention of convection. I would go along with this; many farmers and growers use poly-tunnels with plastic film rather than glass.... it is always said that the transmission/blocking of certain wavelengths is the secret of greenhouse warming... yet plastic film, with different characteristics works just as well.
If CO2 in the air causes a rise in temp because of blah blah.... then growers would be quick to add CO2 which is cheap, to do the heating, which is not cheap. And if the doom merchants are right, more CO2 would give even more temp rise.... win-win as plants actually like CO2.
The fact that growers do not use this form of heating is proof enough that it does not work.... the same sort of proof I would use against the windfarm whirlygigs.... if it was a good idea to use wind as power our corn would be milled by them.

Anonymous said...

Here's how the NOAA make their adjustments.

About half way down is a graph that shows the net effect of all the adjustments. It is +0.5 Farenheit by 2000AD.

A little earlier than that graph is this passage:

"Application of the Station History Adjustment Procedure (yellow line) resulted in an average increase in US temperatures, especially from 1950 to 1980. During this time, many sites were relocated from city locations to airports and from roof tops to grassy areas. This often resulted in cooler readings than were observed at the previous sites. When adjustments were applied to correct for these artificial changes, average US temperature anomalies were cooler in the first half of the 20th century and effectively warmed throughout the later half."

This reads to me like they are moving stations from urban areas to rural areas, noticing the temperatures recorded are cooler and adjusting them upwards to what they would have been if they were still in urban areas. Effectively exporting the urban heat island effect to now rural stations.


Plant growers do add CO2 to glasshouses but not to heat. CO2 is an airborne fertiliser and adding more makes plants grow more.

Billions (often taxpayers money) are spent every year looking into the effects of global warming/climate change. Billions more are spent lobbying politicians and industries to become more efficient and whatnot. I've not seen either billions being spent on setting up a global, reliable network of unadulterated climate monitoring devices*, or billions spent demonstrating in a practical manner just how terrible more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would be. It's not difficult. The theory says more CO2 = hotter atmosphere. Simply construct a load of small glasshouses, put differing concentrations of gasses in them and see if the temperatures inside are consistently different. To the best of my knowledge it has not been done.

* Most referred to CO2 measurements come from a single site. This to me is simply bad science.

JPT said...

I did an OU course in climate change and my conclusions were that while the earth IS warming quite quickly we are still in a fairly cold period.
So all this talk of ice caps melting and deserts etc is bollocks because at this moment in time we're already COLDER than the earth normally is.
It's all a tax scam.
Wake up people.

Anonymous said...

Well, given all the scientific information bandied about I can't really be sure either way on this whole subject. What is more, me knowing the truth would have no effect on the reality anyway, so I spose none of it is really relevant.

I do know that power-hungry, ambitious chaps that spend their days in shopping centres selling socialist worker will jump on any bandwagon to gain power. Global warming has the added benefit of making capitalism baaaaaadd.

For what it's worth, as an off-shore sailor, I do think we are experiencing wilder and wilder weather in the World and, simplistically, wind is caused by heat over water, so maybe there is some credence to global warming, whether it's manmade or not. Then again, that is over my experience of say 35 years as a sentient being interested in such things, so its hard to put that in context against say, 50,000 years or so.

My gut says its generally paranoia empowered. Anyway, I can't afford a Range Rover anymore thanks to Brown and his incompetent pals so perhaps, if its the same for you, we'll all be 'greener' and more sanctimonious as a result...

The Remittance Man said...

Let me get this straight: If Anthony is right someone put an official temperature measuring station next to a fuckoff big patio heater (or vice versa).

And these idiots call themselves scientists?

Anonymous said...

Haddock on infrared absorption 20:04 22/11/08

R W Wood (professor of experimental physics at Johns Hopkins University) proved in 1909 that infrared absorption has a negligible effect on the temperature of a greenhouse. This can be demonstrated by opening the greenhouse door. He proved it by using a sheet of rock salt instead of glass.

Polytunnel film is modified to increase infrared absorption in order to reduce temperatures inside the tunnel. This is because there is much more incoming infrared than outgoing. Radiation is proportional to the fourth power of the temperature of the emitting body. (Sun v. floor of greenhouse)

Anonymous said...

This was a comment from wuwt blog by a physics guy that I thought killed the global warmers dead.

“”Cassandra King (14:35:46) :
Thanks for the input and corrections George, “”
Cassandra, one of the problems here is that a lot of us don’t know who on earth we all are, so it is easy to talk down (or up) to somebody else. For all I know, you may have four PhDs in Astrophysics; Thermodynamics, Molecular Spectroscopy, and Cosmic Radiation; well I don’t have any of those just a BSc in Physics and Maths plus 48 years as a practising physicist in industry.
But back to the GISStemp. Clearly the original data is some sort of thermometer reading/s from some set of formal measuring stations; all of which I know nowt about; but Anthony has been snooping in on some of these places, and some are like gold rush town horseshoe foundries.
But suppose you measure a temperature (of the ground) somewhere; bearing in mind, that 73% of the ground is actually the ocean. According to physical theory, every body at a temperature above absolute zero, radiates electromagnetic radiation energy, which will result in cooling that body. That radiation is limited by a theoretical absolute maximum radiation of a type known as “Black Body Radiation”, which I can tell you has nothing to do with Eartha Kitt. BB radiation is one of the miracles of modern Physics, and the first correct calculations of its properties was the very start of the era of quantum mechanics and quantum physics.
It turns out that a good deal of the earth, particularly the oceans actually radiate relatively closely to the Black body limit. What we know about BB radiation is that the Total energy radiated per second, is proportional to the fourth power of the absolute temperature (Kelvins).
So here we have the very first problem with GISStemp. We measure a temperature; say on your front doorstep; but the heat energy being lost to the rest of the universe from that step depends on the 4th power of that temperature; not on the temperature itself. So what purpose is served by averaging temperatures.
Now the so-called mean Global temperature is about 15 C or about 288K, and we know that the BB radiation at that temperature is about 390 Watts per square meter. The coldest earth temperatures, at Vostock Station in Antarctica get down to -90C which is 183 K, so the maximum radiation rate can only be (183/288)^4 x 390 or 63.6 Watts per square meter. At the other end, in tropical hot deserts, the air temperatures can get to about +60C, and the ground even hotter, and that is 343 K, so the radiation rate can get up to (343/288)^4 x 390 or 784.6 Watts per square meter. So that is a range of 12.3 times from coldest to hottest temperature locations. Clearly the very hottest places on earth are actually cooling the planet fastest, and the polar regions are doing very little to cool the earth, and the hot deserts can be cooling the earth at double the rate corresponding to the global mean temperature.
So you can see that averaging all the points on earth to get an average temperature is not very useful for determining whether we are heating up or cooling down.
When it comes to the influence of Green House Gases such as CO2, the problem gets a lot more complicated.
Not only does the theory of Black Body Radiation specify the total radiation being emitted from an ideal black body, but it completely specifies the spectrum of wavelengths that are emitted. I should add that a “Black body” in this sense is a body that completely absorbs ALL EM radiation that falls on it, from the longest wavelength radio waves to the shortest wavelength gamma rays and even cosmic radiation. We can make a laboratory gizmo that very closely approximates a black body; they typically are very well thermally insulated cavities that optically trap radiation that enters their “aperture”. At a particular temperature, that aperture emits a radiation pattern which we can completely describe with very high precision.
The deep oceans, because they absorb virtually all the radiation that strikes them, are fairly good approximations to a black body.
The other wonderful property of a BB, is that the spectrum of the emitted radiation is completely and very accurately described by Max Planck’s BB radiation law; it is one of the most accurate physics theories we have, and the wavelength at which the emission is maximum is inversely proportional to the absolute temperature.
So the sun at about 6000 K emits a spectrum that peaks at about 0.5 microns wavelength in the green region. At 300 K, which is close to the earth temperature (288), the emitted spectrum peaks at 20 times that for the sun or 10 microns, and it is about 10.1 microns at 288 K, and that is the mystery Infra Red radiation that GHG warming is all about.
Well at 343K (60C) the peak wavelength is about 3000/343 or 8.75 microns, while at 183K it peaks at 3000/183 or 16.4 microns.
Well CO2 does its thing at about 14 microns or so, and actually absorbs well from about 13.5 to 16.5 microns, so CO2 is more effective in the polar regions than in the tropics. On the other hand Ozone absorbs at 9-10 microns so it slams even tropical IR emissions, but CO2 is much less effective. This spectral peak shift is called the Wien’s displacement law, and the other important point is that the value of the radiation rate at the spectral peak actually varies as the 5th power of the absolute temperature, whereas the total radiation varies as the 4th power.
Then you have to consider that over the oceans, you get evaporation, vertical convection in the ocean water, conduction between water and air, and vertical convection of the heated air, a swell as the thermal radiation. Over a hot dry desert you dont’ get any of the evaporative cooling effects, so the relation between temperature and heat energy emission is quite different than for the ocean, and different again over a tropical rain forest or alpine meadow.
So you see, the temperature tells you nothing much of value and the average temperature tells you even less.
And if all of this is what you wrote your PhD thesis on; please accept my humble apologies; hopefully it is useful for somebody else who may be lurking here.
But that is why I am not too enamoured with GISStemp. And there are other problems with it which are almost too gory to talk about.

You can't argue with proven science.

Anonymous said...

Going through the numbers in the previous post it looks like CO2 only blocks heat escaping when it is far colder than we would ever want it to be at ground level.

Very clever molecule if so as it would have warmed the Earth in the geological past when the sun was cooler but then effectively switches itself off to prevent us being cooked now.

Now as temperature falls the as altitude rises it would work at airliner flight levels but thats basically irrelevant as far as I can see.

I've always been suspicious of conspiracy theories but I'm beginning to see where you guys are coming from on this one...

Elby the Beserk said...

Your thoughts?

Anonymous said...

I love the way the BBC report explains how averting an ice age is STILL a bad thing lol.

Neal Asher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Neal Asher said...

I'll try that again. Here's a recent post of mine contrasting two NSIDC reports - I've chopped the url in half:

Anonymous said...

Brown's Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)lacks reliable, investigative 'news'.

Evidenced realities include acceleration of diminishing polar ice caps.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure I read somewhere that the northern ice had grown this year? not on the British Brainwashing Corporation's website though... unless that was where I read that it wasn't 'proper' ice and it didn't count?

Anonymous said...

What, exactly, would be the point of them lying? Are you all seriously suggesting there is some global scientific conspiracy to rid the world of plastic bags, and make us all drive hybrid cars? Have these scientists got hidden shares in the bio-fuels stock market? If you are willing to look realistically at the data (not selectively, like you and the washy liberals you hate so much do in equal measure), you will find that yes, it is very difficult to measure the temperature of the earth. No one has ever suggested it was easy. Is it not then, since you yourself admit we cannot know the absolute truth, better to err on the side of caution? Giving a tiny scrap more power and control to the greens and liberals is surely a risk worth taking when stood against the possibility of our planet dying in the very near future! Or are you lot going to stand by your foolish and self-admitted unprovable statistics in the face of such possible, however unlikely, danger?

The very model of a modern scientific man

Your humble Devil was thoroughly amused by Neil Ferguson's fall from grace, and is very pleased to have found the time to outline Fergus...