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Dinner with global warming contrarians, disaster for dessert

Posted on 13 October 2014 by dana1981

Twelve climate scientists and contrarians recently had dinner together in the UK, which for some reason received media attention. While everyone should be free to have dinner with whomever they like, the problem with this particular event was that the ensuing media coverage made the contrarians seem downright reasonable. For example, the article about the dinner stated,

“...the insults slung around online only hinder the process of rational scientific debate.”

Yet one of the contrarians attending the dinner was Anthony Watts, who runs a blog that regularly insults climate scientists and climate realists. In fact, just a few days after the dinner, Watts was already taunting Ben Santer, one of the world’s most highly respected climate scientists, who had previously treated Watts with courtesy and respect. The article also quoted Watts as saying,

We’ve been at odds so long, it is time to present science together,

Climate contrarians are already free to present science at climate conferences. For example, the annual American Geophysical Union (AGU) fall meeting is the largest gathering of climate scientists presenting and discussing their research. Every year, the vast majority of scientific research presented at the AGU conference and others like it (about 97% or so) is consistent with the expert consensus on human-caused global warming. Contrarians don’t present science there because they have so little science to present.

The Mail on Sunday’s David Rose also attended the dinner. His latest climate article focused on the slight increase in Arctic sea ice as compared to the record low of two years ago (and of course on Al Gore), while ignoring the fact that the Arctic has lost about 70% of its total volume of sea ice over the past three decades.

The Mail in general seems incapable of covering a climate science story without adding some denial spin to the headline.

Also attending the dinner were Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) advisor and contributors David Whitehouse, Nic Lewis, and Marcel Crok. The purpose of the GWPF is to dilute, delay, and prevent government policies aimed to address the threats posed by global warming. The organization releases biased scientific reports from contributors like Lewis and Crok to support those efforts.

Supposedly, through the course of the dinner and discussion, the two sides found that they are not all that far apart,

A survey of the table at the end of the meal revealed that the views of scientists and sceptics on the level of “transient climate response” – or how much the world would warm should levels of pre-industrial CO2 be doubled – differed only by around 0.4C

Yet another contrarian and GWPF contributor, climate scientist Judith Curry, has just published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal (where else?). In it, she argued that the aforementioned small difference in the transient climate response, and the slowed global surface warming over the past few years “means there is less urgency to phase out greenhouse gas emissions now.”

Recent research has suggested that the lower climate sensitivity estimates preferred by Curry, Lewis, and other contrarians are likely incorrect because they fail to account for different efficiencies of different climate influences, and underestimate the amount of global warming in the oceans.

Nevertheless, the contrarians may be right that the climate sensitivity is toward the lower end of the possible range. It’s just as likely that it’s toward the higher end of that range, but most likely in the middle. From a policy perspective, it makes little difference. As climate scientist Myles Allen put it,

A 25% reduction in [transient climate response] would mean the changes we expect between now and 2050 might take until the early 2060s instead ... So, even if correct, it is hardly a game-changer.

Click here to read the rest

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Comments 1 to 29:

  1. Recent research has suggested that the lower climate sensitivity estimates preferred by Curry, Lewis, and other contrarians are likely incorrect because they fail to account for different efficiencies of different climate influences, and underestimate the amount of global warming in the oceans.

    Can we have a frank discussion about this paper?  I have run a few comparisons using Nuccitelli et. al. 2013 data set and have found that this reanalysis of southern hemisphere ocean heat radically changes things.  On the high end, it shows a 30% increase in Top of Atmosphere energy imbalance. (green line is bets fit slope of Nuccitelli curve with projections going forward).

    This reanalysis shows that the current TOA is closer to .9 Wm^-2.  It also indicates that, while the northern hemisphere values appear to be correct, this likely indicates that NH Aerosols are significantly understated as well, possibly by a factor of 2.

    If the energy accumulation raties continue along the best-fit curve then we are going to be experiencing catastrophic heat accumulation rates in only a few decades.

    This not only makes lower ECS and TCR values unlikely (impossible) but also shifts the most likely value up by 20% or more (3.6C vs 3) and the Fat tail is even fatter with a potential ECS of 8C.

    Am I reading this wrong?

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] Fixed link

  2. This sort of discussion, while perfectly reasonable, lends weight to the popular misconception that sufficient doubt remains about climate science to allow us to safely delay significant action.

    The message to the public is simple common sense - we cannot afford to take the risk that these indefatigable doubters are wrong and the overwhelming body of expert opinion turns out, when it is too late, to have been right.

    There will always be debate about details of the science, but the press, including the Daily Mail, must accept that there is absolutely no doubt about the need for action. You hit the brake before you hit the wall - even if you are not yet sure what you have seen is a wall - and especially when you have a car full of children

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  3. Way too much meat served at this luncheon.   Can't tell, though,  the distribution between the two groups.

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  4. I believe Betts is woefully naive in thinking this changes anything relative to Watts. My prediction is, this will end up like Muller. At some point Betts is going to have to tell Watts something scientifically accurate that he really doesn't want to hear and then Watts will turn the dagger on Betts.

    Mark my words.

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  5. The stark reality is that irreversible rapid global warming and ocean acidification in under way. Measurements confirm that hypothesis. The increase in storms, droughts, ice extent and floods provide substantiating data. As does the changes in the marine eco system.

    Ironically, even sound mitigation measures will only slow this dleterious process down slightly.

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  6. jja@1.  An even more recent paper by Hermann Harde supports the lower estimate of climate sensitivity reported by Lewis and Curry.  The paper in the Open Journal of Atmospheric and Climate Change  is at and perhaps the significance of it and the L&K paper might be discused here.  

    I am aware that Open Journals are regarded by some as the spawn of the devil but perhaps the recent support by the Guardian may, in time, alter that view.

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  7. Sorry that should be the L&C paper.  Apologies for a very careless error

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  8. Ashton, open access journals are a good thing, unless they are predatory open access journals, and I doubt you will find anybody that fails to make that distinction.  The real problem is journals with inadequate peer review processes.  A good way of distinuishing between good journals and bad is to look at the Google Scholar profiles of those on the editorial board and see whether they are eminent and experienced scientists whos own work is well regarded (and therefore widely cited).

    One possible solution to this problem is to make promotions etc. for researchers contingent on the citation of their papers rather than merely the existence of the papers themselves.  Arguably there isn't much point in writing papers that nobody will cite.  There then would no longer be the pressure for academic to publish, just a pressure to perform good work that will be valued by their research community.

    I think if Prof. Harde had any real confidence in his work he would have sent it to a good journal that climatologists actually read.

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  9. Ashton

    From the abstract of the Harde paper - 'The model describes the atmosphere and the ground as two layers acting simultaneously as absorbers and Planck radiators, and it includes additional heat transfer between these layers due to convection and evaporation'

    Sounds like a very simple version of a climate model. No mention of the different layers in the atmosphere which you need to try and get clouds and radiative transfer right. And no mention of the oceans. If it doesn't model the oceans any conclusions are likely to be wrong.

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  10. Glenn Tamblyn @9, simple is not the word for it.

    The model treats the Earth as truncated icosahedron, ie, a regular solid with 24 faces.  It divides the world into three isothermal climate zones.  It appears to treat all gases as absorbing and emitting at 11 km altitude (with temperature determined by lapse rate), thereby elevating the influence of water vapour by about 6 km above its natural level and (due to overlaps) greatly reducing the impact of CO2 relative to real values.

    Not so much a simple climate model, therefore, but a parody of a climate model.  Even with this, Harde still needs to use a solar forcing greater than 230% above the upper bound of the 90% confidence interval for solar forcing from 1751 as given by the IPCC.

    Finally, he eschews any effort to hindcast 20th century temperatures, limiting his empirical validation to the ability to predict the gross  values for TOA and surface, upward and downward LW and SW fluxes.  He makes not effort to retrodict individual sources of fluxes as determined by observation, or course, for doing so would massively invalidate the model (which is radically inconsistent with the results of LBL radiation models, and hence with the related observations).

    I know that if I had to cite this article as evidence in an a discussion, I would have lost the argument.

    Dikran @8, the article is published in an open access journal whose first edition was May, 2014 and which unsurprisingly does not appear in the Google h-5 index.  It does not appear on lists of predatory publishers yet, but given the publication of the Harde paper, that must surely be only a matter of time. 

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  11. Tom, the h-5 index of the journal would indeed be a useful metric if it were available, however in its absence you can look at the h-indices of the editorial board.   If the editorial board are not experienced leading researchers, it is likely to be a recipe for errors in the peer review process (c.f. Pattern Recognition in Physics)

    It isn't immediately clear to me why a truncated icosahedron would be more mathematically tractable than a sphere!

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  12. Dikran @11, here are the members of the Editorial board registered with google scholar.

    Chandra Shekhar Prasad Ojha cited 1126  times

    water resources,  evironmental engineering

    Mohammad Hadi Dehghani cited 282 times

    Environmental Health, Solid Waste Management, Air Pollution

    Mrinmoy Majumder cited 70 times

    watershed management, climate change, hydro power, nature based algorithm

    Panagiotis T. Nastos cited 1382 times

    Climatic Change, Human Biometeorology, Outdoor Thermal Comfort, Urban Microclimate, Atmospheric Pollution 

    T.N.Singh cited 1729 times

    Rock Mechanics, Artificial Intelligence, Engineering Geology, Mining

    That makes an avearge of 917.8 citations per editorial board member.

    I don't have much perspective on that, but (for example) Kevin Trenberth has 39953 citations, Judith Curry has 12073, and John Church has 9905.  It appears then, that they are on the lower end of a respectable citation results.  However, the connection between their output and the journal's subject matter seems a little stretched in most cases.

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  13. Thanks for the discussion which is not overly supportive of Professor Harde.  From the summaries of the list of reviewers from Tom Curtis I have to agree with Dikran Marsupial that the review panel may lack experience.  I also have to agree that Dr  Harde might have selected a more apposite and auspicious  journal to which to submit his paper.  Of course I can't know that he didn't.  

    I frequently disagree with posters here but on this occasion it is plain that the discussion  of the paper here is in an entirely different  and better, class  from that I have read elsewhere

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  14. I used to teach a postgraduate course (an afternoon) on how to review a paper, and I usually started by discussing why we publish and what the author gains from peer review (so you understand the aim of reviewing).  The main purpose of publishing is so that other people working in our field will read ours ideas, test them, and if they work will use them in their own research.  The thing that the author gains from peer review ought to be rigorous criticism that prevents publication of a paper that would be damaging to our research reputation (perhaps because it is wrong, or doesn't support the argument sufficiently well with observational or experimental) and if it is publishable make it a better paper that is more likely to be cited by other researchers who find it useful.

    It is to an authors advantage to send their work to a journal that is likely to give them a hard time, as it is the criticism provided by peer review that maximises their chances of having an impact and being cited.  If you think you have something that shows a whole research field is wrong, you ought to send it to the top journal, and if they don't accept it then perhaps it is because your idea isn't as good as you think it is and you need to work to refute their criticisms.

    The important thing in science though is not the source of the argument, but its validity.  As others have suggested above, Prof. Harde's method is not actually very advanced, and has a number of obvious flaws. 

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  15. There are a couple of references to earlier versions of Prof. Harde's work on Rabett Run, here and in the comments here

    The gist of it seems to be that Harde used some quite good molecular data for radiative calculations in a very simplistic climate model without feedbacks (or for that matter oceans) - and that seems to be the case with the current publication. 

    His result of 0.6 ˚C/CO2 doubling is therefore only comparable to the generally computed 1.1 ˚C of direct CO2 forcing (prior to feedbacks), as per Myhre et al. 1998. By comparison, Myhre used multiple atmospheric profiles with differing cloud levels, and compared three different radiative models for their estimates, which have held up in the literature quite well. I believe that Harde's very limited (and crude) model is responsible for the difference. 

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  16. "It is to an authors advantage to send their work to a journal that is likely to give them a hard time,"

    Yes. In many areas of science (especially where there is real controversy rather than manufactured) , each paper published is a shot fired in a war. It is common around here to suggest as a reviewer the person that will hate the paper most. Such a person is much more likely to put the time and effort into giving the paper an exhaustive review. This results in a much better paper than one that has only had prefunctory review from busy colleagues, even if it delays publication.

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  17. When I read the name "Harde" I had the bad feeling that another G&T embarassment might show up. To my relief the Rabett states: "Harde's stuff is of a much higher quality than the G&T joke."

    But it may well not be much higher, either. The citation base seems to be grounded on known outliers (Lindzen, Spencer...), even Vahrenholts "Kalte Sonne" gets cited. How low can you possibly go? And then this brave retired man gets his applause from web sites like EIKE or "science skeptical" (a kind of german SkS travesty). Like G&T it is one of those 450+ "papers" that EIKE uses to show the real true truth that everything from the Alarmistas is wrong and fabricated (and they never turn down anything from that ongrowing list, even if so debunked and burned that the authors themselves do not mention it anymore).

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  18. Hermann Harde has commented regarding his paper on the EIKE website (German climate denial lobbying group), which has been promoting his paper. My German is quite poor, so I'm relying on Google Translate for this - I expect fluent readers to have more clear information. Some notes and statements from that comment:

    • Harde is retired, writing on climate in his spare time. 
    • "...but generally about the greenhouse effect. It is almost nonsense, of a self-heating mechanism or Perpetuum Mobile to talk..." -this is Gerlich & Tscheuschner level nonsense, and in fact a term straight from G&T; the greenhouse effect is not invalidated by thermodynamics.
    • "That the CO2 concentration increases delayed (by Prof. M. Salby about 9 months) due to heating caused mainly by increased solar activity, no one disputes in this county. This has only effect that so climate sensitivity is additionally influence as a feedback or gain to the solar sensitivity." - No, it's not the sun, CO2 increases over the last century are _not_ due to the warming ocean, as oceanic concentrations are rising too, and Salby's nonsense is demonstrably just that
    • "...GCMs turns out here so great that all were not able one and all and to indicate the climate evolution of the last 17 years and also for the near future..." - Ah, the inevitable 'hiatus' comment...
    • "Limitations to this, it is only at a underlying thermally induced cloud feedback in the superimposed oscillations and can change the feedback coefficients." - The only feedback in his model appears to be a fixed cloud scaling with temperature. I cannot find any reference to water vapor or specific humidity.
    • "Circulation and exchange between different zones I do not treat as a global ECS and no climate sensitivities of individual zones are considered here." - A _very_ simple model.

    His starting point is rather worse than I had expected, loaded with climate denial myths. And while his radiative model is quite complex (228 layers - as I understand it line by line radiative code converges asymptotically after about 40 layers), his climate model and it's response to CO2 changes is clearly inadequate to the task. 

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  19. A response from Dr. G. Kramm (who is well published in climate studies) on the earlier EIKE thread promoting Harde states (again, my apologies for auto-translated German) with respect to Hardes paper: 

    [Notes that Harde hasn't cited relevant works]... The rivers of sensible and latent warmth allowed to be calculated only according to local temperature and humidity distributions. Everything else is colored blooming nonsense.

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  20. Ashton - The Lindzen and Choi paper was discussed on this thread. Nothing new from the previous 3-4 papers on the same topic, no addressing of the multiple rebuttals and previously demonstrated errors. 

    The Harde papers references of Lindzen et al 2001, Spencer and Braswell 2011, Salby 2012, Ludecke 2011, etc, are rather blatant examples of relying on wholly debunked works without referencing any of the later and contradicting literature. 

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  21. "Everything else is colored blooming nonsense."

    You've gotta love a slap down with style...

    More broadly, one day the psychologists are going to be able to mine the history of fringe climate denial to nail down the specific brain centers where Dunning Kruger originates.

    ......SORRY. Totally OT. But this totally cracked me up. From the WP article on the DK Effect:

    "The study was inspired by the case of McArthur Wheeler, a man who robbed two banks after covering his face with lemon juice in the mistaken belief that, as lemon juice is usable as invisible ink, it would prevent his face from being recorded on surveillance cameras"

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  22. Dikran wrote: "One possible solution to this problem is to make promotions etc. for researchers contingent on the citation of their papers rather than merely the existence of the papers themselves."

    Unfortunately, I doubt that would work for very long. Given the established willingness of 'skeptics' to game the system, changing the details of the sytem will just mean a brief period of clarity until they adjust by changing their gaming strategy. In this case... if citations are the determinant it seems inevitable that groups of 'skeptics' would get together and cite each other's papers en masse. Even legitimate scientists might be tempted to cite a friend's tangentially related work just to 'help them out'.

    Unless some 'ungameable' benchmark can be established, switching the benchmarks only serves to make an even bigger mess in the long run as each standard is deliberately corrupted in turn.

    An alternate approach is to play 'whack-a-mole' with each effort to undermine the current standards. In this case, if we take the problem to be publication of dubious research in journals with low standards, a solution might be to establish a means of identifying such journals and excluding them from consideration. No doubt this would lead to cries of 'bias' and 'censorship', but the reality is that various forms of publication (blogs, vanity press, un 'reviewed' papers, et cetera) are already excluded. This would just move the line slightly from including 'anything even ostensibly reviewed' to 'anything reviewed in a remotely competent manner'.

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  23. CBDunkerson, I don't think that is necessarily the case, there are comparatively few skeptics, so even if they all cite every paper each of them writes, that is still a relatively small number of citations for any given paper, compared to the available citations available from the research community in general.   A basic newtork analysis would expose their gaming of the system, so there would be little to gain from it.

    However, I was more thinking of acedemia in general rather than climate science in particular.  If academics no longer have an incentive to write papers that nobody cites (i.e. that everybody ignores), there will be no profit in running a predatory open access journal.

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  24. I'm not sure what the peer review process really is in Climate Science, although some disquieting emails on peer review in Climate Science  were brought to light a few years ago.  I suspect it probably is no different from the peer review pocess in my own area where  I never found out who peer reviewd the papers I submitted.  On publishing in open journals, which seem to be a lot less rigorous in their scrutiny of submitted papers, I write seem as I haven't submitted to such journals, it does add to the body of published work by an academic.  Although this may not enhance his/her standing in their particular  scientific community,  it could be very advantageous in internal applications for  promotion where a long list of publications can have a ssignificant positive impact on the university promotion committee 

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  25. Ashton: "I'm not sure what the peer review process really is in Climate Science, although some disquieting emails on peer review in Climate Science were brought to light a few years ago."

    Yes, that's true Ashton.  The Soon & Baliunas (2003) affair was fairly disquieting.  The Wegman affair was as well.  But perhaps it's these emails that you're referring to, addressed to the Met Office's Phil Jones.

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  26. Please take this as an entirely tongue-in-cheek look at publications and citations, but as soon as I read this thread I was reminded of the old chain-mail take on how to get tenure. I easily found the full text online at this location, with a bit of background info on its origin,  but here it is for local fun. I particularly enjoy the third paper cited.

    Dear Fellow Scientist:

    This letter has been around the world at least seven times. It has been to many major conferences. Now it has come to you. It will bring you good fortune. This is true even if you don't believe it. But you must follow these instructions:

    • Include in your next journal article the citations below;
    • Remove the first citation from the list and add a citation to your journal article at the bottom;
    • Make 10 copies and send them to colleagues.

    Within one year, you will be cited up to 10,000 times! This will amaze your fellow faculty, assure your promotion and improve your sex life. In addition, you will bring joy to many colleagues. Do not break the reference loop, but send this letter on today.

    Dr. H. received this letter and within a year after passing it on she was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Prof. M. threw this letter away and was denied tenure. In Japan, Dr. I. received this letter and put it aside. His article for Trans. on nephrology was rejected. He found the letter and passed it on, and his article was published that year in the New England Journal of Medicine. In the Midwest, Prof. K. failed to pass on the letter, and in a budget cutback his entire department was eliminated. This could happen to you if you break the chain of citations.

    1. Miller, J. (1992). Post-modern neo-cubism and the wave theory of light. Journal of Cognitive Artifacts, 8, 113-117.

    2. Johnson, S. (1991). Micturition in the canid family: the irresistible pull of the hydrant. Physics Quarterly, 33, 203-220.

    3. Anderson, R. (1990). Your place or mine?: an empirical comparison of two models of human mating behavior. Psychology Yesterday 12, 63-77.

    4. David, E. (1994). Modern Approaches to Chaotic Heuristic Optimization: Means of Analyzing Non-Linear Intelligent Networks with Emergent Symbolic Structure. (doctoral dissertation, University of California at Santa Royale El Camino del Rey Mar Vista by-the-sea).

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  27. Ashton:

    Yes, there have been some rather poor practises in peer review in climate science. In addition to the links provided by DSL, I suggest you take a look through this article chronicling Pal Review.

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  28. Most significant climate papers are published in journals that have a larger base than climate science and so have same process as all the other disciplines. I do hope you will further at the dispersions cast on scientists and peer review than just the misrepresentations by "skeptics". It is not often you get mass resignations of journal editors.

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  29. Ok, so it is important to rebut obviously innacurate models (i.e. no pressure broadening and LW "windows" to space) 


    If the Durack et. al estimation is correct and ECS is now pushed much higher, (with associtated TOA values pre 2005 much higher) then we must conclude that the aerosol forcing factor is much greater (negative) than current models hold. 

    The implications are then that, as China has been radically reducing its sulfate emissions since 2011, we are seeing a regional NH spike in heating (though we are only now experiencing the warming increases).

    Further implications are that the anthropogenic signal may now be accurately extracted from the 1910 to 1975 global temperature regime.

    If this is true, it changes everything.  near and long term temperature responses, incresed near-term land based and permafrost carbon cycle feedbacks, increased regional rainfall and land-based temperature extremes, radically incresed long-range projections for sea level rise.  And all of these produce an accelerated damage function in the IAMs leading to an estimation of the social cost of carbon greater than $300.00 per tonne CO2e (with a completely immoral and indefensible 3% pure-time multigenerational discount rate)

    In short.  If these implications are correct, we have crossed a threshold where mitigation discussions must now take on the urgency as an existential threat, without prejudice.

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