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SEPP Science Editorial #10 (11/1/08)

The Fingerprint Controversy  Part-1


The crucial question is: Is warming (predominantly) due to natural or human causes?  How can one tell?  The issue is of obvious importance since natural causes cannot be influenced in any way by policies that limit greenhouse (GH) gas emissions, such as CO2.  Resolving the question is a difficult scientific task.  Natural causes are plausible; the climate has been warming and cooling for billions of years on many different time scales [See, e.g., Singer and Avery 2007].  On the other hand, GH warming is also plausible, since the concentration of GH gases has been increasing due to human activities.


The method agreed to by everyone is the “fingerprint” method, which compares the pattern of temperature trends calculated from GH models with the pattern observed in the atmosphere.  The first application of this method may have been by Santer et al in IPCC-SAR [1996].  However, Santer misapplied the method in order to force the conclusion that warming was due to human causes, namely GH gases. 


In one attempt, he compared the geographic pattern of surface temperature trends, derived from GH models, with the observed pattern.  He calculated a “pattern correlation coefficient” and claimed that it was increasing with time “as the human signal emerged from the background noise of climate variability” [IPCC-SAR, 1996, chapter 8].  However, when the graph there is compared to the one in his original publication [Santer et al 1995], one discovered that he had removed all of the trend lines, including zero and negative trends, except the one that suggested an increasing correlation in the last 50 years [Singer 1997].  When questioned about this by e-mail, he replied that it was done for “pedagogic reasons”** 


Santer’s second attempt, also in chapter 8 of IPCC-SAR, was to compare the modeled and observed latitude and altitude patterns of temperature trends.  It was soon discovered, however, that his claimed “agreement” was due to a selective use of data; he had chosen a time interval (1963-1987) during which the tropospheric trend was increasing, while the overall trend during the period (1957-1995) was not [Michaels and Knappenberger 1996]. 


By then it had become quite apparent that there was a disparity between the observed trends in the troposphere and the surface [NRC 2000; Singer 2001].  Douglass, Pearson and Singer carried out a full-scale comparison of available model results and temperature observations from balloons, satellites, and reanalysis [2004].  They concluded that the observations did not confirm the expected increase (from GH models) in temperature trends with altitude in the tropics; but they did not delve into the implication of this disparity.  As a result, their result was largely ignored.


Next, a full-scale investigation of this problem was carried out as part of the federally financed Climate Change Science Program.  CCSP-SAP-1.1 [2006], the first and most crucial of the 21 reports of the CCSP, titled “Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere: Steps for Understanding and Reconciling Differences,” confirmed the result of Douglass et al [2004]. 


To be sure, the abstract of CCSP 1.1 claims that the discrepancies between surface warming and tropospheric warming trends have been removed.  This statement distorts the sense of the CCSP report and has been widely misunderstood as having confirmed the validity of GH models.  CCSP-1.1 admits, however, (p.3) that in the tropics “the majority of observational data sets show more warming at the surface than in the troposphere….[but] almost all model simulations show more warming in the troposphere than at the surface.”  In other words, there exists indeed a discrepancy, which has not been removed.  This Executive Summary was authored by Wigley, with the participation of the chapter lead authors, including Santer. 


Following the publication of CCSP 1.1, and using best available models and data, Douglass, Christy, Pearson, and Singer [2007] extended their comparison between model results and observations in the tropical zone and concluded again that the observations did not confirm the GH model results.  This paper was also ignored until a group of independent scientists, the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) published its summary report in 2008.  Drawing mainly on the data from CCSP-1.1 and Douglass et al [2007], NIPCC [Singer et al 2008] showed conclusively the disparity between GH models and observations.


The NIPCC then drew the obvious logical conclusion:  Since GH models cannot explain the observations, the warming of the past 30 years must be due predominantly to causes other than GH gases.  In other words, the human contribution to the warming trend since 1979 is minor and insignificant – a conclusion contrary to that of IPCC [2007].  Another way of stating the NIPCC result:  Climate Sensitivity is considerably less than the values quoted by the IPCC, i.e. 1.5 – 4.5  C, and more in accord with the much lower values deduced by other methods [Schwartz, Monckton, Lindzen, Spencer].


Douglass DH, Pearson BD, Singer SF. 2004. Altitude dependence of atmospheric temperature trends: Climate models versus

observations. Geophysical Research Letters 31: L13208, Doi:10.1029/2004/GL020103.


Douglass DH, Christy JR, Pearson BD, Singer SF. 2007. A comparison of tropical temperature trends with model predictions. International Journal of Climatology 27: Doi:10.1002/joc.1651.


IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). 1996. Summary for policymakers. In Climate Change 1995: The Science of

Climate Change, Contribution of Working Group I to the Second Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Houghton JT, Meira Filho LG, Callander BA, Harris N, Kattenberg A, Maskell K (eds). Cambridge University Press:

Cambridge, New York.


IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). 2001. Summary for policymakers. In Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis,

Contribution of Working Group I to the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Houghton JT, Ding Y, Griggs DJ, Noguer M, van der Linden PJ, Dai X, Maskell K, Johnson CA (eds). Cambridge University Press:

Cambridge, New York.


IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). 2007. Summary for policymakers. In Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis, Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Solomon S, Qin D, Manning M, Chen Z, Marquis M, Avery KB, Tignor M, Miller HL (eds). Cambridge University Press: Cambridge,

New York.


Michaels, P.J., and P.C. Knappenberger, 1996. Human Influence on Global Climate? Nature, 384, 522-523.


NRC (National Research Council). 2000. Reconciling Observations of Global Temperature Change. National Academy Press: Washington, DC


Santer BD, Taylor KE, Wigley TML, Penner JE, Jones PD, Cubash U. 1995. Towards the detection and attribution of an anthropogenic effect on climate. Climate Dynamics 12:77-100


Santer BD, Wigley TML, Barnett TP, Anyamba E. 1996. Detection of climate change and attribution of causes. In Climate Change 1995: The Science of Climate Change, Contribution of Working Group I to the Second Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Houghton JT, Meira Filho LG, Callander BA, Harris N, Kattenberg A, Maskell K (eds). Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, New York; 572.


Singer SF. 1999. Reply. Eos 80:372


Singer SF. 2001. Global warming: An insignificant trend? Science 292:1063–1064.


Singer SF and Avery DT. 2007.  Unstoppable Global Warming – Every 1500 Years.  Rowman & Littlefield. Lanham, MD


Singer SF. et al  2008. Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate: Summary for Policymakers of the Report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, Singer SF (ed.). The Heartland Institute: Chicago, IL.


** Santer also made significant text changes in Chapter 8 of the IPCC-SAR report, after its approval by coauthors.  See discussion by SF Singer et al [Bull. AMS 78:81-82, 1997], and E. Masood [Nature 381:039, 1996]


1.  Obama plans to regulate CO2 using EPA and Clean Air Act


2.  Bush vs Bush (his irresolution applies also to CO2 and GW)


3.  Corruption in climate science and among scientists



5.  Holland inundated by alarmist propaganda


6.  Environmental satire trumped by reality of environmental supidity





Carborexia - A new mental illness defined as Obsession with saving the planet: You are probably suffering from "carborexia", Or "energy anorexia". Psychiatrists in America have identified a new mental illness that threatens the very fabric of society: an obsession with saving the planet. Some people are so addicted to cutting their carbon emissions that they seem to have gone quite mad. Take, for example, Sharon Astyk, who makes her four children sleep in a huddle so she doesn't have to turn on the heating (if she was that concerned about the planet, perhaps she could have stopped reproducing after baby number two). Or Jay Matsueda, who waters his lawn with his own urine so that he doesn't have to flush the loo; he says that it was his ex-girlfriend's choice of gas-guzzling car, rather than his habit of weeing on the grass, that led to the break-down of their relationship. "If you're criticising friends because they're not living up to your standards of green, that's a problem," said Elizabeth Carll, a psychologist who specialises in obsessive-compulsive disorder. 

2.  BUSH vs BUSH (his irresolution applies also to CO2 and GW)

SEPP Comment:  Bush has shown similar irresolution on the GW issue.  While, properly, steadfastly refusing to regulate CO2 emissions, his technology (remember the “hydrogen economy”?) and energy policies have treated CO2 and GW as threats (see, e.g., “Climate fears distort rational energy policy” )




Guest weblog by Hendrik Tennekes, October 28, 2008


Five months ago, I felt that the tide in Holland was turning. Marcel Stive, a civil engineering professor and member of the Delta Committee, a blue-ribbon panel that was going to publish a report on our coastal defenses, said in an interview with an alumni magazine:

“Fortunately, the time rate of climate change is slow compared to the life span of the defense structures along our coast. There is enough time for adaptation. We should monitor the situation carefully, but up to now, climate change does not cause severe problems for our coastal defense system. IPCC has given lower estimates for the expected sea level rise in four successive reports.” [See here NIPCC report Fig. 19]


But what happened? The Delta Committee published its report in September, and based its recommendations on well over a meter of sea-level rise in this century and a tenfold increase in coastal security. Its estimate for the additional funding needed is two billion dollars annually.


In interviews with journalists, scientists associated with the Delta Committee went further yet. Professor Pavel Kabat of Wageningen University said that sea-level rise could easily exceed the number given in the report, and Professor Pier Vellinga, also of Wageningen University, quoted six meters, on the assumption that the rate at which the Greenland ice cap is melting will accelerate dramatically.


Professor Hans von Storch, a German member of the subcommittee in charge of assessing the scientific evidence, promptly protested in the Dutch press, saying that the Delta Committee had piled extreme upon extreme in order to obtain these figures. Holland’s senior science writer, Karel Knip, followed suit, suggesting that the Committee was evidently ignorant of the statistics of rare events. For reasons unknown to me, KNMI, the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, did not attempt a rebuttal. It could have chosen to state in public that recent assessments by IPCC and by its own scientists predicted half a meter of sea-level rise, but it didn’t. I suspect that the Department of Transportation and Public Works, which is responsible for our coastal defense system, instructed KNMI not to derail the political debate with a balanced presentation of the scientific evidence.   SEPP comment: NIPCC’s best estimate is only 28 cm]


Much to my dismay, the publication of the Committee report was followed by a massive publicity campaign. Al Gore came over to Holland a month ago, and gave a $300,000 speech blasting the energy industry. James Hansen, advisor to Gore and well-known forecaster of catastrophic sea-level rise, will address a meeting in Rotterdam next month. Kabat and Vellinga will speak there too. The Urgenda Foundation, not so subtly named for its promotion of an Urgent Agenda for Climate Change, has published a manifesto full of hell and damnation in a leading newspaper. After several years of floating scary stories about possible inundation of Amsterdam Airport, Professor Vellinga now advocates a massive dam in front of our entire coast, wide enough for urban development.


What is the purpose of hyped-up forecasts of sea-level rise? Why don’t the Dutch participants in IPCC speak up? Why doesn’t the IPCC brass? Whose interests are served by ridiculous climate alarms? The problems surrounding climate change are tough enough as is. We desperately need moderation, not propaganda.