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The Climate Show Episode 9: Nuclear power and hot spots

Posted on 20 March 2011 by John Cook

The Climate Show have released Episode 9 which looks at mass loss from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, a record ozone hole over the Arctic and reviews last winter's climate numbers. In light of the tragic events in Japan, their special guest is Professor Barry Brook from the University of Adelaide, who examines the prospects for the future of nuclear energy.

Legendary chemist/physicist and Nobel prize winner Ernst Rutherford is said to have uttered one of my favourite quotes about science communication:

"If you can't explain your physics to a barmaid it is probably not very good physics."

With that principle in mind, I was determined in this week's episode to clearly explain the misconceptions about the tropospheric hot spot. The heart of the hotspot myth lies in misunderstanding what causes temperature to warm faster in the upper troposphere compared to the surface. Basically, it's due to changes in the lapse rate (which is how quickly temperatures cool at higher altitudes). To help explain this, I whipped up a simple schematic, demonstrating how global warming changes the lapse rate:

But after all that, Gareth (who must be far more effective with barmaids than I am) paraphrased my convoluted explanation in a single sentence explaining what caused the hot spot more clearly and intuitively than my attempt. Hmm. Did I mention Rutherford was from New Zealand?

Anyway, I've embedded the YouTube of the Climate Show below. And let me encourage anyone with a blog or website to embed the YouTube on your own websites, so your readers can tap into the rich source of climate news, interviews and stuttering explanations from a Brisbane blogger.

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Comments 1 to 18:

  1. 80 minutes this week? Eeek! Ah, well, I've got a nice cuppa handy and no pressing demands... :-P
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  2. My way to work takes some 25~30 min. This time the show will last 3 trips, then. No problem at all to me...
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  3. Well, it was worth the time. Nice interview with Barry Brook, and John, I thought you did quite well explaining the tropical tropospheric hotspot (that *is* a mouthful!), but, yes, Gareth's one-line summary was a pearler. I hope you'll be putting that into the basic version of that rebuttal? :-)
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  4. My bar maid is asking me why the hot spot is not observed. What should I tell her?
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  5. ClimateWatcher... First step would be to tell her to stop reading WUWT and JoNova if she is actually interested in the science of climate.
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  6. After that... 1) The hotspot is NOT a fingerprint of AGW. 2) The hotspot is difficult to pin down. 3) It has been indirectly measured. Then she can read the various articles on SkS that are fully supported by published science.
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  7. #6 Rob, 1) The hotspot is NOT a fingerprint of AGW. Right. It is a finger print of ANY warming ( the models indicate a hot spot from CO2 increase, solar increase, and albedo change). So either there is no warming ( since there is no hot spot ) or there is warming, but the models are seriously in error. 2) The hotspot is difficult to pin down. If no hot spot was occurring, it would certainly be difficult to pin down. 3) It has been indirectly measured. Were this indirect measurement accurate, one would have to ask why it was so contradictory to RAOB -and- MSU (both UAH and RSS), which agree fairly closely.
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  8. ClimateWatcher... Have you read the relevant sections here at SkS? The science is quite clear on the tropospheric hotspot. So... 1) Every measure of the atmosphere shows warming. Surely you agree with that. Even the BEST study is apparently coming out with the exact same results. For the rest, I suggest you check out Dispelling two myths about the tropospheric hot spot. All your questions are answered there. Remember: Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Time to get skeptical and look at the science.
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  9. ClimateWatcher... I have to address this statement though... "So either there is no warming (since there is no hot spot) or there is warming, but the models are seriously in error" Think about what you just said there. The models actually DO show the hotspot. The hotspot happens to be really difficult to measure. But again, go read the relevant sections in SkS. It's a popular topic. You'll probably learn quite a lot.
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  10. #8 Rob, Look at the graphic above. That is from the RAOB, UAH and RSS measurements. That is not the absence of evidence. It is evidence of no hot spot. The models pre-dict it. The observations contr-dict it. That is all.

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    [DB] Rob was kind enough to point you in the right direction:

    Please demonstrate good faith and do so.  Thanks!

  11. ClimateWatcher... So, your claim is now that there is no warming since 1970? Is that your position?
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  12. ClimateWatcher... I would add that what you seem to be overlooking in the diagrams that you provided is the very clear fingerprint of AGW which is stratospheric cooling.
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  13. And warmer nights/winters etc etc.
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  14. stratospheric cooling is a clear fingerprint of the rise of CO2 concentration, which is a dominant cooler in the optically thin regime (CO2 excited by collisions radiate towards empty space and the photons are no more trapped). So stratospheric cooling shows that CO2 concentration is increasing (whatever the cause), which we know anyway by direct measurements. It doesn't say much about the origin of ground warming.
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  15. Gilles... You might want to look at figure 3 here.
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  16. "It doesn't say much about the origin of ground warming." only if you don't accept conservation of energy. Come on, you agree with one result of radiative physics but disagree with another based on exactly the same physics.
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  17. scaddenp : no, you can have cooling of the stratosphere without warming of the troposphere , even with conservation of energy - for instance with an increase of albedo because of clouds - and more generally you can make the average temperature vary by modifying the latitude repartition without changing the energy budget. I'm not saying it's really happening, I'm just saying that cooling of the stratosphere can be explained only by the cooling effect of CO2 and doesn't say much about the ground temperature.
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  18. No, you cannot. If the mechanism cools the troposphere, it must warm the ground. There may be other feedbacks that result from that warming (eg clouds), but increased CO2 will, even with no feedback, increase radiation to ground. I notice you choose to ignore the other fingerprints as well.
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