Saturday, December 26, 2015


Back at the end of June I wrote a post discussing skepticism of global warming. My reference was "Lessons From the Lab" by Jeffrey Kooistra. It was the Alternate View column in the November 2009 issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact. Not everything from the magazine is online, though with a bit of searching I found this article, which I didn't include in my earlier post. Yes, I'm way behind in reading accumulated issues. I stopped buying new issues a year ago, though what I have should last me another 5 years.

I am writing this post a couple days after a string of cities from Florida to Quebec set record high temperatures.

Kooistra's main point is that the data on which the climate predictions are based aren't accurate enough to tell us much of anything. For example, can we trust data where the collection station was painted with whitewash and is now painted with latex paint? How about if the collection station is now near the exhaust of a new building's air conditioner? What about the case were a parking lot has been added near a collection station?

A couple days after that post my friend and debate partner replied. Part of what he wrote:
I'd be surprised if a relatively small number of stations having issues among two thousand reporting makes much difference in the trend that almost all of the warmest years on record have been very recent.
I replied:
The affected stations wasn’t “a relatively small number,” it was more like 90% of all stations.
My friend responded:
OK, looks like Kooistra has a case.

I'm finally up to the April 2010 issue of Analog. Both the "Editorial, The Rest of the Data" by Stanley Schmidt and the "Brass Tacks" letters column were rebuttals to Kooistra. Schmidt's main points.

* Once a systematic error is found (such as the change of paint) the data can be corrected for it.

* There are other sources that must be considered. These are used to collect climate data from before thermometers were invented and can confirm what thermometers say. These include measures of glacial and polar ice melt, sea level changes, earlier plant blooms, later fall colors, and bird species range (Carolina wrens now seen in New York).

Writers to the letters column made these points:

* We can see the level of CO2 in the atmosphere through history. It is now higher than any time in the last 300,000 years. It has to be doing something and we don't know all the ways Nature will react.

* Kooistra didn't visit enough of the collection stations to accurately say data from 90% of them was defective.

The last letter was from Kooistra, who said he would devote an upcoming Alternate View column to his reply. This is where having several years of issues already on my shelf came in handy. I could look through issues I haven't read yet to find Kooistra's response, which came in the September 2010 issue. He titled it "I Think, Therefore I Question." His main points:

* Kooistra worked with simple fluid systems and found it difficult to model them adequately. Climate models are much more complex. Our knowledge of how weather and climate work has too many gaps. The model's predictions must be treated with deep skepticism.

* One of the earliest demonstrations of global warming was the famous "hockey stick" graph that showed temperatures holding steady for may centuries then abruptly jumping upward. But, says Kooistra, this chart ignores the Medieval Warming Period, a time of prolonged higher temperatures that allowed the Vikings to settle Greenland.

* Kooistra mentions Anthony Watts of Watts Up With That who discusses in detail improper placement of temperature stations. As of early 2010 he had reported 88 dubious placements.

* While it is possible to correct for a change in the type of paint on a collection station, it is not possible to correct for a station near an AC exhaust.

* We have no way of knowing how much, if any, of the current warming trend is due to humans and how much is because of natural processes.

The reference to the hockey stick graph prompted me to search for it. I chose the link with the best image. That brought me to a page on the site Global Warming and the Climate. It indeed shows the hockey stick graph, gives a bit of background, and works through the criticism of that graph.

A big problem is: How to accurately estimate temperature in a time before thermometers were invented? One way to do that is through tree rings. The thickness of rings varies from year to year and using either really old trees or matching up inner rings from 20th century trees to outer rings in 18th century trees and working farther back one can get a pattern that spans 2000 years. The thickness of rings does show temperature … but it also shows drought and, important for the 20th century, level of CO2. So much for that idea.

After reading about what Global Warming and the Climate has to say about the hockey stick graph I went to the site's main page. Through various charts and discussion it lays out an alternate explanation. Temperatures don't correlate to CO2 and industrialization, but to sun activity. And for various reasons – which I'll let them explain – the sun activity is at a maximum and is about to drop. The global temperature of the earth is about to plummet – at a time when the hysterical (their word) world is preparing for rapid temperature rise.

Don't sigh in relief just yet. A colder era could be just as stormy and disastrous to crops as a hotter one, especially in India and Brazil.

Why haven't we heard about this pending drop into a mini ice age? This site blames it on mass media controlled by the Global Warming Industry, scientists and people like Al Gore who have staked their careers on global warming.

I'm well aware of media controlled by such things as the Diet Industry. Everyone, including doctors, insist that to be healthy one must be thin. That's in spite of the lack of evidence, an idea I've been exploring over the last year.

One one side of the diet debate is the strong and powerful Diet and Food industry. On the other side are some pretty weak voices. But that's not true of the climate debate. On one side is this supposed Global Warming Industry. On the other is the Oil Industry. Both appear to be heavyweights, though I would have thought the Oil Industry to be the champion, able to get the GOP to do its bidding, even though the Global Warming Industry supposedly controls the media.

Who to believe? Though I'm well versed in science both sides can make claims and counter claims backed up by charts, diagrams, and language that leave me confused. Or they both use shrill language I now view with suspicion. In short, I can't tell.

On to the next question. What should we as a world be doing? Does dropping temperatures mean I could buy a gas guzzler SUV (not that I want one) without guilt? We can ignore all those global warming pledges from the recent Paris conference? We should stop production of wind turbines and invest heavily in the Alberta tar sands? I should turn up the thermostat of my house to a balmy 74F?

Well, no. While much of the policy, at least in America, has been driven by the thought of global warming, the use of petroleum products also comes with a great deal of pollution – as Beijing is learning. Even if we don't overheat our world we can still poison it.

No comments:

Post a Comment