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« The Crazy Gang | Main | Nordhaus and the sixteen »

Another rebuttal

Richard Betts points us to this paper by a group of climatologists who seek to rebut Richard Lindzen's talk at the House of Commons the other day. The authors are, in the main, familiar names. John Mitchell and Brian Hoskins featured regularly in the Climategate emails and both were involved in the coverups too; Eric Wolff made a couple of brief visits to BH in the wake of the Cambridge Conference last year, but was put off by the over-hostile reaction from commenters; Tim Palmer has been mentioned on the pages of BH a couple of times. Keith Shine is less familiar to me although he too has been mentioned before as one of the members of the Royal Society's advisory panel on climate change (as indeed are most of the others).

With my current focus on climate models, here's an interesting excerpt:

At every stage models should be evaluated by exhaustive comparison with observations. The models encapsulate our understanding of the basic science of the climate system, including for example, Newton’s laws of motion, the laws of thermodynamics and the quantum theory of radiation. When deficiencies are found at one level then improvements are sought and the lessons learnt should cascade to models at other levels. This is, of course, the ideal: the actual development of the science is rather more irregular but very definitely in this direction. Even the models at the more complete and complex end contain many uncertainties and deficiencies, which are widely recognised within the modelling community, but they are the best guide we have as to how the climate system may change in the future. Their results are not to be accepted in an unquestioning manner; they should be analysed in detail, with the dominant processes behind any climate variability and change thoroughly investigated using observations and simpler models in the hierarchy.

I think the words "out of sample" need inserting in a couple of places in that paragraph. I think it would also have helped if Hoskins had reiterated his earlier clarification about the limitations of climate models - namely that they are "lousy".

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Reader Comments (212)

PS in the first case the temperatures rise/fall exponentially, asymptoting to the level set by the total thermal capacity and the initial temperature difference.

In the second case, the final temperature is higher by an amount equal to the combined thermal capacity divided by the integrated extra energy arising from the mythical 'back radiation'. This is why according to the IPCC's energy budget, you get an increase of heat transfer rate from the Earth's surface compared with that coming in from SW energy by a factor of 2.7.

This imaginary energy multiplication apparently performs the same function for climate science as a toddler's comfort blanket. Take it away and they sulk behind their barrier of selective peer review. I wish I could have done this when I was solving major industrial scientific problems!

Apr 4, 2012 at 6:43 PM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

Hi Richard:

"Sure - the Met Office model did - or at least, it was within the uncertainty range even if it was not the central estimate."

It's not clear to me when this forecast was made, and why it didn't make it into the MSM. Perhaps you can cite the paper and date this occurred. Are we talking about the same model that, spectacularly in my view, managed to get so many consecutive long range weather forecasts wrong that the Met Office stopped doing long range forecasts?

Apr 4, 2012 at 6:49 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Dear mydogsgotnonose,

Regrettably I cannot follow your technical arguments, which you appear to express with confidence and authority. And few of your posts generate discussion from other knowledgeable contributors. This I find disconcerting. Where are the physicists to support you in challenging the climatologists on these matters ? Might your views be deemed controversial by many physicists ?

Apr 4, 2012 at 7:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterCassio

If I presented a paper of this waffle for my degrees I would not now be a ChPhys. It's wording is appallingly vague, it lacks proofs and worst of all it lacks any precision what so ever.

It marks the quality of the emails in which these guys are mentioned. "No Agenda" you must be kidding Richard.

Apr 4, 2012 at 7:49 PM | Unregistered Commenterstephen richards

John Mitchell's involvement with the IPCC, as I recall, was as review editor of the AR4 paleo chapter. His job was to clear up any unresolved issues between reviewers and chapter authors.

This was the chapter in which the chapter authors failed to reach a resolution with Steve McIntyre on a number of issues, such as the truncation of Briffa's paleo series, and the handling of Wahl and Amman. John Mitchell, in a disgraceful dereliction of his duties as review editor, ignored the disagreement and patted the chapter authors on the back. When asked for his notes that led him to this decision, the met office refused to make them available with all of the usual excuses that we know to expect from climate science.

The content of the rebuttal is largely empty. Aside from the oxymorons observed here and the weaselly hand-waving about model output, the authors argue that models must be tested. But when such testing is carried out, for example that performed by the Itia group, showing models have no usable skill even in hindcasting, the modelling community simply ignore the criticism and insist that the models aren't supposed to correctly hindcast things like statistical distributions of temperature or precipitation.

I'm not sure how gushing about their abilities helps in the face of such a weak article.

Apr 4, 2012 at 7:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterSpence_UK

the clear evidence of a perturbation to the climate system

and where is this clear evidence. I have seen no 'engineering quality' evidence of any warming other than to natural levels.

Let me be clear here. I accept that since 1979 the globe has been warming and MAY have warmed at 0.13 °/ dec. That is no different to othe warming cycles since the ice age. It is of course much less than the warming following the Y-D cold but about the same as the MWarming, and the other warming cycles either side of the LIA.

There are of course many caveats to that statement. These are just three:-

1) heaven knows we cannot trust any of the data gathered since the 1850s. They have been tortured, and are still be tortured until they scream.
2) any form of measurement is always and without exception fraught with problems which always lead to some errors.
3) Proxy data by its very nature is difficult and riddled with measurement traps, physical exception and many other errant parameters

Apr 4, 2012 at 7:57 PM | Unregistered Commenterstephen richards

Apr 4, 2012 at 7:53 PM | Spence_UK

Good to see back. Good comment this one.

Apr 4, 2012 at 7:58 PM | Unregistered Commenterstephen richards

"It is important to note that the observations show a small initial rise in southern and perhaps deep ocean temperature, followed by several thousand years in which these temperatures and CO2 rose together."

Nature now thinks the CO2 rose before the temps. Blast - I was keeping some mivvies on ice as a time capsule. I'd better start saving teabags instead.

Apr 4, 2012 at 8:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Reed

Apr 4, 2012 at 7:49 PM | stephen richards

Hi Stephen

It's not actually a "paper", it's a commentary posted on a website, intended to be concise and readable.

The authors of the commentary each have plenty of papers which are extremely precise, please see here and here just for starters. There's plenty more if you look.



Apr 4, 2012 at 8:09 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

Be that as it may, the topic of how we got to this pass is surely well worthy of study. It won't stop the machine that has been created, but it might make it harder to construct the next one.

Apr 4, 2012 at 12:38 PM | John Shade

Great post John, as usual, but sadly humans and politicians always repeat their mistakes about every once every generation. So, no, as long as the Met Off, Greenpeace, WWF FoE, Defra etc exist this scam will continue unabated. None of these people is going to, as you say, shout from the rooves. Their prestige, livelihood, egos and agenda depend on keeping it going. Your very astute prognostication that the next drive will be for sustainability is spot on and under that banner the CO² scam will continue but in the background, sort of reserve on the bench in case.

There are $billions upon billions on the table of the green movement now. They have never, never had so good. This will not die. All the Met Offs around the world were just back room nobodys before this scam now they are important councellors to the highest ranking people of our nations.

This scam will not die until we wheel out the guillotine. We still have one remaining in Paris. I want to start in Brussels.

Ole Bish won't like this.

Apr 4, 2012 at 8:09 PM | Unregistered Commenterstephen richards

I found overall that the critique of Lindzens presentation struggled to find anything really wrong with the analysis. It feels like much of this comes down to stating differences of opinion rather than evidence based argument. For instance, Hoskins et al states, in reference to the Wunsch paper, that :

“RSL wrongly interprets uncertainty as to the magnitude of the expected rise in sea level with there being no reason for concern about it."

How can Lindzen be judged “wrongly” to interpret uncertainty as providing no reason for concern? This a considered opinion weighing up the inadequacy of the models and the potential consequences if they are right. Where is the evidence to say that Lindzen is wrong? Overstating the accuracy of the models and being overly concerned could cause Dangerous Anthropogenic Economic Change that could remove food from the mouths of children. Countering an opinion with another opinion is of little value.

“Contemporary science suggests unambiguously that there is a substantial risk that these feedbacks will lead to human-induced surface temperature change considerably larger than 1oC in global average this century and beyond.”

There is an issue here. Many believe contemporary science has been 'designed' to suggest "unambiguously" of the substantial problem. If scientists have been sponsored and conditioned to find solutions to pre-determined problems using complex and largely inaccurate theoretical models it is no surprise that they can produce an unambiguous ‘answer’.

To end with a conclusion that criticises Lindzen of conflating uncertainty with ignorance can easily be turned around. Hoskins et al are conflating uncertainty with knowledge.

Apr 4, 2012 at 8:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterChairman Al

Hi Stephen

It's not actually a "paper", it's a commentary posted on a website, intended to be concise and readable.

The authors of the commentary each have plenty of papers which are extremely precise, please see here and here just for starters. There's plenty more if you look.



Apr 4, 2012 at 8:09 PM | Richard Betts

The two "here"s went nowhere Richard. Again I do not call that concise or perhaps it is too concise.

If you are seeking to damn someone's presentation ( and I was a presentation trainer to senior managers for several years) then you make your criticisms precise, accurate and contructive. This 'note' ,on that measure, fails, In my unworthy opinion.

Apr 4, 2012 at 8:14 PM | Unregistered Commenterstephen richards

Apr 4, 2012 at 7:14 PM Cassio

Dear mydogsgotnonose,

Regrettably I cannot follow your technical arguments, which you appear to express with confidence and authority. And few of your posts generate discussion from other knowledgeable contributors. This I find disconcerting. Where are the physicists to support you in challenging the climatologists on these matters ? Might your views be deemed controversial by many physicists ?

MDGNN frequently posts his brief comments - which are too brief to make any real sense of. From this aspect, he tends to come across as a crank with a bee in his bonnet. But he has a background that suggests he should not be dismissed out of hand and that his views would probably make sense - if they were coherently explained. I've tried to follow up with questions to him, but his answers are always too succinct to enable one, for example, to refer to the literature and read up on what he's talking about.

It would be great if he would write up his viewpoint, making reference to standard texts on radiation or heat transfer engineering (preferably online), so we could understand what he is on about and read up any necessary background material.

MDGNN is in danger of being lumped in with the authors of "Slaying the Sky Dragon" - whose understanding of transfer of energy by radiation is - let's just say, not in agreement with the standard physics of the 20th century. Anyone who thinks he falls into this crank-science category is just not going to take him seriously.

In the past MDGNN has mentioned that he might do a write-up of his views - but we are still waiting.

Apr 4, 2012 at 8:15 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Apr 4, 2012 at 6:59 PM | Cassio

Fair enough, that document did underplay the uncertainty in places. I didn't like the "20-30% of species could face extinction at 2 degrees" statement either. I don't think we'd write that now.



Apr 4, 2012 at 8:19 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

I listened twice to Dr Linzen's presentation. I found it balanced, precise and with uncertainties clearly explained. I found it to be a breath of fresh air in comparison to some of the utter rubbish I have had to wade through that were called scientific papers.

There was only one incident which I found unacceptable and that was when Christopher Monckton cut a quetioner short. He could have handled that problem much better and may well have done so after the meeting. By contrast, I have yet to find a climate science paper which reaches the standards set during my career in research. Many of those I have read would have lead to a reduction in future salary or dismissal; Unfortunately, the only people dismissed from climate research, of which I am aware, have been those who have criticised the 'consensus'.

Apr 4, 2012 at 8:21 PM | Unregistered Commenterstephen richards

Richard Betts (Apr 4, 2012 at 5:28 PM).

Many thanks for that correction Richard. That was a careless error on my part. John Mitchell was not instrumental in the Third Assessment Report with regard to the hockey-stick. I think John Houghton was the man there. Mitchell’s contribution was to protect the hockey stick and leave it, albeit less frequently and prominently, in the Fourth Assessment Report despite the fact that it had been thoroughly discredited by then. I think he is also responsible for the remarkable claim in AR4 that the Earth was hotter than in any time in the past 1,300 years. A comment very much in accord with the world-view of global mean temperatures so artistically presented by the hockey-stick.

Readers may like to see John Mitchell in action here ( in 2010, in a non-technical talk in which just about every time series plot is of temperatures. A topic he begins with, and about half an hour later, his last chart is also on it, although he does give other topics brief mentions. I guess he has moved on, and would not be so 'obsessive' about temperatures today.

Apr 4, 2012 at 8:24 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade


I agree with Martin A that if you really think you are on to something and have discovered something that overturns atmospheric physics as fundamentally as you claim, you should write up your ideas / findings properly and submit them to a journal.

I have to admit I am completely unconvinced, and I think even Dick Lindzen would disagree with you - whatever his views on climate sensitivity, he does at least agree with the basics of the greenhouse effect and does agree that increased CO2 would have some sort of warming influence.

However, since he is the atmospheric physicist who is most open to ideas outside of the mainstream, I strongly suggest you write up your ideas and send them to him for advice. His contact details are here.



Apr 4, 2012 at 8:30 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

Tallbloke has got a discussion thread on one of the Sky Dragons here:

Whilst there are areas of disagreement his treatment of them seems a lot fairer.

Apr 4, 2012 at 8:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Cowper

Cassio: I challenge any professional physicist or engineer to dispute my argument which is there can be no net heat transfer [radiative, convective or conductive] from a cooler to a hotter body. This is not to say that a radiometer, shielding radiation from the opposite direction, can measure an apparent flux cooler to hotter. However, none of that apparent energy can be converted to heat at the hotter body.

In the absence of convection, net heat transfer is the difference between the S-B radiative fluxes corrected for emissivity, absorptivity and view factor. However, engineers use empirical heat transfer coefficients for combined convection and radiation because you can't separate the two. This is because the same activated states at a solid surface can emit IR or transfer the energy to an adsorbed gas molecule so the sum of the energy fluxes from both processes is constant hence IR flux is always less than the S-B for a vacuum.

So, the assumption in the 'Trenberth et. al. Energy Budget' [enough 'back radiation' from the atmosphere to the earth's surface to make its IR emission the same as a black body at its average temperature] is to claim a perpetual motion machine which increases energy transfer from the earth's surface over the 161 W/m^2 absorbed SW energy [2009 data] by a factor of 2.7. For the IR energy it's a factor of 4.3. This is phantasy physics.

The simplest explanation is to point out that two bodies in a vacuum in radiative equilibrium at the same temperature still emit radiation according to the S-B equation but there is no net conversion of this radiation to heat at either body. This is expressed in Kirchhoff’s Law of Radiation - at equilibrium, emissivity equals absorptivity, and Prevost’s Theory of Exchanges - radiative energy flow from Body 1 to Body 2 is exactly equal to radiative energy flow from Body 2 to Body 1 so it cancels out.

The cause is that at equal temperatures, half the density of ‘activated states’ at each body is occupied by energy transfer from kinetic energy, the other half from arriving radiation so no net heat transfer. As the temperature of one body falls, because of ‘Wien’s Displacement Law’ fewer IR states at the hotter body can be filled by radiative energy from the cooler body so by definition, the balance shifts to net transfer hotter to colder.

The dogmatic assertion of Climate Science that ‘back radiation’ is real is because it has totally misinterpreted what the radiometers actually measure.

Apr 4, 2012 at 8:44 PM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

Apr 4, 2012 at 8:24 PM | John Shade

Thanks John. Yes, it was Houghton, not Mitchell, who was in charge of Working Group 1 for the Third Assessment.

John M was indeed one of the review editors for the palaeo chapter in AR4. However, I don't think it's true to say that "he is also responsible for the remarkable claim in AR4 that the Earth was hotter than in any time in the past 1,300 years."

Firstly, as a review editor he did not write the content of the chapter.

Secondly, you've overstated the chapter's conclusions, which were actually:

Palaeoclimatic information supports the interpretation that the warmth of the last half century is unusual in at least the previous 1,300 years.

Average Northern Hemisphere temperatures during the second half of the 20th century were very likely higher than during any other 50-year period in the last 500 years and likely the highest in at least the past 1,300 years. Some recent studies indicate greater variability in Northern Hemisphere temperatures than suggested in the TAR

[my bold]

This is a less strong statement than you seem to have remembered.



Apr 4, 2012 at 8:44 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

I also find the arguments from mydogsgotnonose remarkably hard to follow. However he has made an exception in his comment #99 on this thread which is actually reasonably clear for the first 2.5 paragraphs. But then , alas, it suddenly veers off into traditional style. The second sentence of paragraph three makes no sense to me. Furthermore it ascribes a view to the IPCC which I do not recall from their lips. Perhaps it would help to cite a case where the IPCC (or some individual who might reasonably be taken as representative) treats the exact case he is discussing?

Apr 4, 2012 at 8:49 PM | Registered CommenterJonathan Jones

I see Judy Curry has spotted the discussion here.

Her verdict:

With regards to the Hoskins et al. article. There were weaknesses in Linden’s argument, and even some bonafide errors. I agree with Hoskins et al. that Lindzen’s high level of certainty that climate sensitivity is 1C is unjustified. That said, I didn’t find the Hoskins et al. rebuttal to be all that effective. So points go to Hoskins et al. on this one, but far from a knockout.

Apr 4, 2012 at 8:55 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

Returning to the original topic, I would have little quarrel with the revised statement

Contemporary science suggests unambiguously that there is a substantial risk that these feedbacks will lead to human induced surface temperature change considerably larger than 1°C in global average this century and beyond.

What I don't like is the struck-out words, which seem to have little pupose beyond attempting to raise the fear-factor. I was taught to distrust adverbs in scientific prose; they have their place but should be used with caution.

Apr 4, 2012 at 9:00 PM | Registered CommenterJonathan Jones

Apr 4, 2012 at 8:21 PM | stephen richards

I was there and very much agree with your characterisation of Lindzen's presentation. I also agree incidentally with your comment about Christopher Monckton’s poor handling of that questioner.

Apr 4, 2012 at 8:09 PM | Richard Betts

I agree it’s not a “paper”. But you're still, I suggest, missing the point. The Hoskins et al note claims to be "a short critique of some of the major scientific arguments" in Richard Lindzen's talk. But, as I've pointed out to you several times now, the essence of that talk was his claim that there is minimal evidence of a connection between predicted warming and the catastrophes of which we are regularly warned (by some scientists (e.g. James Hansen), politicians, the MSM etc.) That surely is a major scientific argument – and it was the key such argument in his talk. Moreover, it goes to the heart of the climate debate. But, although you're willing to engage with others on important but lesser points, you seem unwilling to deal with this one. So – once again, Richard: is Lindzen’s claim right or wrong?

Apr 4, 2012 at 9:03 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

Ruchard Betts; I believe Lindzen is wrong because he is wedded to the conventional view that the intrinsic CO2 climate sensitivity is ~1 K. This in turn assumes 100% direct thermalisation of absorbed IR. However, in 1993, Will Happer an IR specialist pointed out this is wrong and resigned from his US DoE job. You prove it by slackening the cap of the 'PET bottle'; temperature rise is lower because you now have constant pressure, also replace the PET with thin Mylar - even less heating.

The reason is that for a gas you can have kinetic effects - the same energy photon can be emitted at the same time as the incoming photon is absorbed so Local Thermodynamic Equilibrium is restored; no net heat transfer. I am working on an hypothesis with the entire atmosphere being a heat transfer medium via GHGs with no direct thermalisation.

This has profound implications because if thermalisation is mainly at clouds, it ties in with Miskolczi's ideas. I have also worked out revised aerosol optical physics of clouds, a second optical process.

Apr 4, 2012 at 9:04 PM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

Well, I would thank Richard Betts for the long list of papers by Dr. Shrine.

I was lucky enough to stumble across this one, which I think shows Dr Shrine's visionary thinking. I shall call it, "homeopathic climate science".

You would think someone with even a basic grasp of science would understand that there are so many more important reasons to choose anaesthetics, you know, such as thousands of lives saved, or recovery from operations, that the homeopathic effect of these anaesthetics on climate would not even register on the list of things to think about.

Dr Shrine hand waves around the issue with the statement "all else being equal". All else in this case assuming that the several thousand more valid reasons for choosing an anaesthetic somehow perfectly cancel each other out, I guess.

I don't know, perhaps the paper was some kind of departmental joke, but the paper smacks of obsessive beliefs and a complete lack of rational thinking.

I guess if I was sick and the only remedies available to me were two glasses of water, perhaps the one that had once been in contact with some naturally occurring emetic might be the one to go for, "all else being equal". But I don't think I'd call it science.

Apr 4, 2012 at 9:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterSpence_UK

I return to this fascinating thread with still limited time. Thanks on this page to Richard Betts for the advice to mydog, the precision about TAR WG1 on paleo and the pointer to the verdict of Dr Curry. And many thanks to Jonathan Jones for acknowledging that our dog is hard to understand even for an Oxford professor in physics. It would be good to have some light shed on this particular distraction, as Richard Lindzen I'm sure would consider it - as this minute from the original video shows. (Going back a bit gives context which firmly establishes the relevance.)

Apr 4, 2012 at 9:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

re Climate Models (and in particular uncertainty - see the second issue raised) from one of the authors:

A very grand challenge for the science of climate prediction
Palmer, T


A rather prevelant picture of the development of climate models throughout the 20th Century, is for the idealised, simplified, and hence mathematically tractable models of climate to be the focus of mathematicians, leaving to engineers, the "brute force" approach of developing ab initio Earth System Models. I think we should leave this paradigm in the 20th Century, where it belongs: for one thing, the threat of climate change is too important and the problems of predicting climate reliably too great. For the 21st Century, I propose that mathematicians need to engage on innovative methods to represent the unresolved and poorly resolved scales in ab initio models, based on nonlinear stochastic-dynamic methods. The reasons are (at least) threefold. Firstly, climate model biases are still substantial, and may well be systemically related to the use of deterministic bulk-formula closure - this is an area where a much better basic understanding is needed. Secondly, deterministically formulated climate models are incapable of predicting the uncertainty in their predictions; and yet this is a crucially important prognostic variable for societal applications. Stochastic-dynamic closures can in principle provide this. Finally, the need to maintain worldwide a pool of quasi-independent deterministic models purely in order to have an ad hoc multi-model estimate of uncertainty, does not make efficient use of the limited human and computer resources available worldwide for climate model developement. The development of skilful stochastic-dynamic closures will undermine the need for such inefficient use of human resources. As such, a very grand challenge for the science of climate prediction is presented in the form of a plea for the engagement of mathematicians in the development of a prototype Probabilistic Earth-System Model. It is hoped that this Newton Institute Programme will be seen as pivotal for such development.

Apr 4, 2012 at 9:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterHAS

Richard Betts (Apr 4, 2012 at 8:44 PM)

Thanks once again. Those are important clarifications for me. And a lesson that I should check with source publications more often, and rely less on blog reports than I tend to do!

Apr 4, 2012 at 9:16 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade


Cassio: I challenge any professional physicist or engineer to dispute my argument which is there can be no net heat transfer [radiative, convective or conductive] from a cooler to a hotter body.

While I understand his points, I admit that it is because I am well versed in what he is talking about and that he is clearly assuming each and every one of us has that understanding -- which is clearly not the case, nor should he be making that assumption.

What MDGNN is saying, somewhat stridently, but accurately, is you can't boil water by adding ice. It is all basic physics, better known as the Laws of Thermodynamics. I suggest you read up on them if you do not follow. I am sorry, but you need to understand that to understand his point. However, I believe you should have little difficulty in understanding my analogy -- put ice in to a bucket of water, the ice will melt and the water will get colder until it all gets about the same temperature.. That is really all he is saying.

While it is possible to move energy in the form of heat from a cooler place to a warmer place, one must focus it in some manner. For example, using a mirror or lens. In the case of a lens, focus sunlight onto a piece of paper. The paper will get warmer than the surrounding air and catch fire. However, what you are actually doing is collecting heat from a wide area (the surface of the lens) onto a small area and not actually increasing the total energy --- you are just focusing it into a very small area. Indeed, if you look at the shadow cast by a lens in the sunlight, you will see a bright spot in the center, but the surrounding area is actually darker than before you applied the lens.

Put another way -- if you measure all the photos coming through a five inch diameter lens and a five inch diameter plate of flat glass, they will have a very similar number. However, the distribution will be different with most of those going through the lens ending up at the hot spot.

Getting back to Climate Science™, you would need some sort of reflective or focusing mechanism to explain "back radiation". I have yet to see such a mechanism described by the so-called "climate scientists™." Nor do I expect to see one, because it can only be done with magic in my opinion.

MDGNN also describes how sloppy research technique can apparently make it look like the effect has occurred when it has not. I will not waste your time by describing what he is saying. I think it is adequate to explain his basic point as "You can't boil water by adding ice." To do that would require Harry Potter's magic wand.

Apr 4, 2012 at 9:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Richard Drake: I hope I have made myself clearer. One of the sad features of modern science is that there are professors of physics who apparently believe in the 'back radiation' argument and have to be taken behind the bike sheds to be 're-educated'!

A radiometer pointing down a temperature gradient measures one part of a net zero [at equilibrium] Prevost exchange on which is superimposed the net radiative energy transfer. As far as the IR physics is concerned, you can't measure it with container walls which absorb 'pseudo-scattered' IR or by looking at individual molecules because it's the continuum that matters.

This science is not settled. No offence meant but my Thermodynamics' teacher was a post doc with Max Planck and I worked once designing heat treatment processes with McAdams under one arm and Carslaw and Jaeger under the other.

The problem with modern science is that people believe what's in the computer programme without checking it ALL out by experiment. I believe nothing until I see the experimental evidence and have rejected all other possible explanations.

Apr 4, 2012 at 9:35 PM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

Don Pablo, I understand your analogy well enough. What I don't understand is why you think it's a good analogy,

Richard Drake, my fairly long standing theory of what lies behind the arguments of mydogsgotnonose is in essence a disagreement over terrminology (the fondness of climate scientists for unusual terminology is a major source of their difficulties in convincing other scientists IMAO) leading to the use of a misleading analogy. But I may of course be wrong :-)

Apr 4, 2012 at 9:51 PM | Registered CommenterJonathan Jones

The sentence that sticks out is the one highlighted first by Philip Bratby and again by JJ above. I wasn't 'taught' to avoid unnecessary adjectives and adverbs but I have learnt it fairly recently - from Steve McIntyre!
As Spence says, there is little of substance beyond the usual claims and vague assertions.
Perhaps the most interesting question raised is the distinction between uncertainty and ignorance, which might be worth following up further, though this is more philosophical than scientific.

JJ's point about unusual terminology is a good one. Very early in my climate blog-commenting I came across someone talking about 'zero forcing'. I corrected him and said he meant constant forcing, pointing out that with zero forcing the earth would cool down very quickly. This was one of the first indicators to me of climate scientists living in their own world with their own misleading concepts. [In case it's not obvious, 'zero forcing' is misleading because it creates the false impression that with 'zero forcing' the system must come to rest at a stable equilibrium].

Apr 4, 2012 at 10:55 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Jonathan Jones

Because it is exactly the point in question. Let us say that you have water at 50°C, ice at 0° C, and water boils at 100°C. While you may not think of ice having much heat, it actually does. For there to be no heat in it, you would need to cool it down to -273.15°C. That means, on an absolute scale there is actually a good deal of heat in that ice.

You mix ice into the water. What happens? The ice melts and the water gets colder until it all ends up at little about 0°C. In other words, you can not move heat from a colder body (the ice) into a warmer body (the water) and increase the temperature of that warmer body. If you could, you could put sufficient ice into the water to make it 100°C and boil it.

What the Climate Scientists™ are saying is that they have this magical mechanism called "back radiation" which can move heat from cold air into already warmer air and make it even warmer still.

It is exactly the same idea. That is why MDGNN and several others are so riled up -- it is a totally bogus situation. It is FRAUD.

Apr 4, 2012 at 11:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra


Good spot regarding the publishing predilections of Dr. Shine - if I'm asked to referee an article which contains the following statement in its ABSTRACT:

"...these three gases contribute only 0.02% of the climate effect that results from the increases in carbon dioxide due to human activity"

i.e. 1/5000 of an effect that is so small that hasn't been measurable for 15 years, (assuming it ever has been) then for the sake of the journal's credibility and to save the author's face the paper simply has to be round-filed. Or forwarded to Annals of Improbable Research for an IgNoble nomination

But no, now I see that this ordure has been cited by four other papers!

Words fail me.

Apr 4, 2012 at 11:28 PM | Registered Commenterflaxdoctor

Lindzen is nearly there ... but carbon dioxide has zero warming effect, not just a little.

Seeing that a microwave oven produces low frequency radiation far more intense than carbon dioxide could ever do, and yet its radiation is not absorbed* and converted to thermal energy in ice, what makes anyone think that radiation from carbon dioxide could warm all the snow and ice covered areas of the planet?

The mechanism by which microwave ovens heat water molecules is totally different from the excitation of atoms which happens when high frequency solar radiation warms water. The oven emits radiation at a very specific frequency which happens to resonate with natural frequencies of the water molecules which then "snap" or "flip" through 180 degrees and back again in synchronisation with the passing waves of electromagnetic radiation. The molecules in water do have the space to do this, and when they flip there is frictional heat generated by collisions of the molecules. In ice there is not sufficient room to move and flip like this.

There is no violation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics simply because electrical energy was added to the system.

But the fact that the ice was not melted demonstrates the phenomenon of "resonant scattering" in which radiation is not reflected, not transmitted and not absorbed with conversion to thermal energy. See Section 5 of my publication here.

* Try this home experiment:

Obtain two identical small microwave bowls which do not get warm in the microwave oven. Ensure that they both fit in the oven together. Obtain a small ice cube tray and fill it with filtered or distilled water. Pour that water into one of the bowls. Then refill the tray with similar water and place the ice cube tray in your freezer and both the bowls in your frig overnight. Next day, empty the ice cubes into the bowl without water, then place both bowls in the microwave oven and operate for about 60 to 80 seconds depending on the volume of water - try to bring the water nearly to the boil. Observe that the ice has not been affected - you might even try comparing its temperature with other ice in the freezer. To do this, pack the ice samples in a tall insulated mug and insert a meat thermometer with a metal spike.

Why wasn't the energy in the radiation shared equally between the water and the ice? If you pour the hot water into the bowl with the ice it will easily melt the ice within a couple of minutes, so this demonstrates that sufficient energy did enter the water.

Apr 4, 2012 at 11:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterDoug Cotton

Apr 4, 2012 at 10:55 PM Paul Matthews

This was one of the first indicators to me of climate scientists living in their own world with their own misleading concepts. ...

- Is there a precise definition of the term "forcing"? What units is it measured in?

- Why do they always talk about temperature "anomolies"? Doesn't it just complicate things?

Apr 4, 2012 at 11:02 PM Don Pablo de la Sierra

What the Climate Scientists™ are saying is that they have this magical mechanism called "back radiation" which can move heat from cold air into already warmer air and make it even warmer still.

Well, they do prattle on about "backradiation". But, forgetting the confusing teminology, is there anything physically impossible happening?

As I see it, all the heating actually done by the original incoming solar radiation.

If I turn on the electric blanket, all the heating is done by the watts flowing in via the electric flex. The temperature inside the bed is affected by the characteristics of the blanket, which I could describe - misleadingly - as being due to backradiation. It gets warmer and warmer in the bed until, finally, things reach equilibrium and the power leaving as heat = the power coming in. But the blanket is not generating heat. And the blanket iself is cooler than the air inside the bed. But noone denies the "woolly blanket effect".

When I do the sums for greenhouse effect, everything adds up, nothing unphysical goes on (in the conventional model). Certainly there is no heat flowing from cold to warm. I don't understand the objections.

Apr 4, 2012 at 11:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

Apr 4, 2012 at 9:03 PM | Robin Guenier

Hi Robin

Sorry to miss your earlier post. I was dipping in to the thread in between meetings!

Although Lindzen correctly states that the problem should be separated into two issues:

1) The magnitude of warming, and
2) The relation of warming of any magnitude to the projected impacts [NB he says "catastrophe" but that's a strawman - the impacts don't have to be catastrophic in order to be undesireable]

However, his talk only addresses (1) and not (2). His argument is basically that (1) is small and therefore we don't need to even bother thinking about (2).

My view is that (1) is unlikely to be small and hence we do need to think about (2). We are highly uncertain about (2) but this does not mean there is no problem.

So, if Lindzen's argument can be summarised as "anthropogenic climate change is not a problem" then in my opinion he is wrong.

Apr 5, 2012 at 12:05 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

But the blanket* is not generating heat. And the blanket* iself is cooler than the air inside the bed. But noone denies the "woolly blanket effect".

*I'm talking here about the woolly overblanket. Not the electric blanket that rests directly on the mattress and does the heating.

Apr 5, 2012 at 12:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

Hi Martin A

The IPCC define radiative forcing as:

an externally imposed perturbation in the radiative energy budget of the Earth's climate system. Such a perturbation can be brought about by secular changes in the concentrations of radiatively active species (e.g., CO2, aerosols), changes in the solar irradiance incident upon the planet, or other changes that affect the radiative energy absorbed by the surface (e.g., changes in surface reflection properties).

"Anomalies" is used to denote differences relative to a chosen baseline. I think it is used instead of "differences" partly because we often compare anomalies with each other, so to avoid confusing phrases such as "difference between the differences" we can say "difference between the anomalies". However it may also be just one of those words that just became a part of the jargon - I'm not really sure.

That's it from me for a while I'm afraid - I'll be offline for a while now. See you soon...



Apr 5, 2012 at 12:28 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

I'm surprised that someone like Keith has put his name to this document. Some of it is painful to read. What kind of politician speak is

"..However, it is wrong to infer from this that we know nothing about these feedbacks. Contemporary science suggests unambiguously that there is a substantial risk that these feedbacks will lead to human-induced surface temperature change considerably larger than 1oC in global average this century and beyond."

Brian Hoskins, Keith Shine (together with Alan Thorpe who doesn't appear to be head of NERC anymore) were all heads of Reading Meteorology dept Brian and Alan while I was there, and contemporary with Julia Slingo's work there. I'm pretty sure Keith wasn't interested in the political side of things and I'm sure there are references to his concerns about how the IPCC worked in producing the statement for policymakers. I'm surprised this kind of 'rebuttal' was written at all and suggests to me that some kind of external pressure was applied to produce it.

Regarding the models I think they have no use at all in answering the CO2 causes warming question as it is just a massive circular argument where the model just outputs the hypothesis you put into it in the first place. Reproducing the 20th century weather my adding aerosol forcing in the fifties/sixties which coincide with cooling doesn't tell you anything (even if the forcing terms happened to be correct).

I'd also agree with mdgnn's comment in why isn't there more basic experimentation to prove the basic tenets of the hypothesis. One that springs to my mind is tallblokes 'how does IR heat the ocean?' I struggle to see how any energy could effectively penetrate though the few microns of surface absorption. Surely fairly basic experiments could demonstrate how it happens.

Apr 5, 2012 at 2:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterRob Burton

Note that they don't talk about future impacts, either "dangerous" or otherwise, and also they specifically say:
It is up to policy makers, not scientists, to decide whether governments should take concerted mitigating action to try to reduce this risk. On this we do not comment.
Apr 4, 2012 at 9:30 AM | Richard Betts

Richard, so why does Brian Hoskins also have a presentation:

"Tackling the anthropogenic climate change problem

By continuing to emit greenhouse gases to the atmosphere we are performing a very dangerous experiment with planet Earth. What can we do?"

That sounds very much to me as Hoskins directly saying there is a manmade global warming problem that is a dangerous experiment on our planet. It definitely seems like his opinion on display here and not just his science.

Apr 5, 2012 at 3:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterRob Burton

Martin A

When you turn on the electric blanket it is analogous to the sun heating the surface of the earth. Now, to have "back radiation" what you need is the air above the bed which is cooler than the bed (I assume that you turned the blanket on because it is winter) magically causes the heat radiating up from the electric blanket through normal radiation of energy to be reflected back down into the blanket so that there is a net gain in heat in the blanket. This without the aid of a space blanket or other reflective (i.e. mirror) surface. This is what I mean by net heat moving from cooler to warmer. I would really like to see that trick.

Now remember, no mirrors or other reflective surfaces. A space blanket would work to some degree, but that not part of my example.

Can you show me such an effect with air? Even clouds would allow the heat to dissipated upward.

The reason why you have no problem with your calculations is that there is not such thing as "Back Radiation." You don't have it effecting your experiment and so everything comes out okay.

Apr 5, 2012 at 4:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Apr 4, 2012 at 5:30 PM | Martin A

Some of us tried for a very long time to get the computer modelers to discuss the meaning of the word 'prediction' in science. They adamantly refuse to do so. Just as they adamantly refuse to discuss anything having to do with scientific method. Shucks, we have asked them just to specify the logical relationship that exists between a model and the data that supposedly supports it. They adamantly refuse to do so. To discuss their standards, you have to join their organization. Unfortunately, this holds for Richard and Tamsin too.

You have taken the road demanded by their silence: good old ridicule. Good for you.

Apr 5, 2012 at 6:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin


Many thanks for correcting my spelling of Dr Shine's name, and my apologies to Dr Shine for getting his name wrong.

But his paper is still not grounded in rational thinking. I get annoyed when quackery like that tries to involve itself in healthcare matters.

Mind you, claims that the greenhouse effect can't exist doesn't impress me much more than Dr Shine's paper. We have about 1.3kW of power per orth sq m arriving from the big nuclear fusion reactor in the sky. The atmosphere (and oceans, etc, etc) modulate that power with the result of changes in heat content throughout. I can't see how analogies with ice cubes and hot water are relevant, unless they happen to be sitting on top of a stove.

Apr 5, 2012 at 7:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterSpence_UK

Re: Mitchell and the hockey stick

Mitchell was a Coordinating Lead Author of the 2001 TAR Chapter 12, where the whole purpose of the hockey stick can be seen on page 714

If the real world internal variability on this time-scale is no greater than that of the models, then the temperature change overthe last 140 years has been unusual and therefore likely to be externally forced. This is supported by palaeo-reconstructions of the last six centuries (Mann et al., 1998) and the last 1,000 years (Briffa et al., 1998; 2000; Jones et al., 1998; Crowley, 2000; Crowley and Lowery, 2000; Mann et al., 2000), which show that the 20th century warming is highly unusual. Three of the five years (1995, 1996 and 1998) added to the instrumental record since the SAR are the warmest globally in the instrumental record, consistent with the expectation that increases in greenhouse gases will lead to sustained long-term warming.

We should also remember that Mitchell and Hoskins were a key part in the Boultonization and rebuttal of my ICCER evidence submission. If Boulton’s account of the telephone call he had with him is correct, Mitchell said

I was not aware of the debate about whether the Wahl and Amman paper had or had not met the deadline for the 2nd order draft for chapter 6 until after the event. This issue however misses the point, as the use of unpublished material is permitted under IPCC rules. In earlier assessments, there had been a relatively liberal regime in using unpublished material provided that there was a sound basis for regarding it as rigorous or reliable, although priority was always given to finding published sources. In AR4 the regime was tightened significantly but the use of unpublished material was not prohibited.

With the greatest respect, Mitchell ought to have known and told Boulton that Wahl and Ammann did break two deadlines, the rule for the second of which required all references to Wahl and Ammann to be removed. But then who knows, perhaps he did.

Apr 5, 2012 at 8:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Holland

"they are the best guide we have as to how the climate system may change in the future"

replace the word 'best' with 'only' and we would have a more objective but equally meaningless statement

the word 'best' suggests that there are other ways to predict the future (are there?) and of course there is a qualative inference that is not based in reality

so this is activism by any other name. shameful really

Apr 5, 2012 at 8:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterDolphinhead

Apr 5, 2012 at 12:28 AM Richard Betts

Hi Martin A

The IPCC define radiative forcing as:

an externally imposed perturbation in the radiative energy budget of the Earth's climate system. ....

Richard, thank you for the explanations. Have a good trip.

The IPCC definition seems a bit vague.

"an externally imposed perturbation in the radiative energy budget". So it'll be measured in joules or other energy units.

Do they really mean that? Radiative power budget would make more sense, I'd have thought. An energy budget only makes sense if the period of time over which it is measured is defined.

If it's a perturbation it can presumably can be either positive or negative

Apr 5, 2012 at 8:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

Apr 4, 2012 at 11:55 PM Doug Cotton

Electromagnetic radiation is electromagnetic radiation whether it comes out of the magnetron in a microwave oven or from the surface of a hot body. There's a difference in wavelength (energy per photon if you prefer) and overall shape of power spectrum but that's about it.

Apr 5, 2012 at 8:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

Apr 5, 2012 at 6:01 AM Theo Goodwin
"You have taken the road demanded by their silence: good old ridicule. Good for you."

Thank you.

The failure of the global climate to continue warming clearly has created a crisis for climate science. For them to be saying "we predicted it all along" is 100.000% pure bollocks.

I think the CAGW scam is probably with us essentially forever. If it ever does end, it will be because of some major catastrophe, such as the collapse of the US dollar.

At some point, it may become the butt of comedians jokes. If that happens, we'll know its end is nigh.

Apr 5, 2012 at 9:05 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

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