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« Diary date | Main | The open, transparent (ho, ho) BBC »
Friday
Feb012013

James Annan on climate sensitivity

James Annan has a must-read post on climate sensitivity today, picking up on the Norwegian study, Nic Lewis's work and the contents of the leaked IPCC report. Here are some choice excerpts:

As I said to Andy Revkin (and he published on his blog), the additional decade of temperature data from 2000 onwards (even the AR4 estimates typically ignored the post-2000 years) can only work to reduce estimates of sensitivity, and that's before we even consider the reduction in estimates of negative aerosol forcing, and additional forcing from black carbon (the latter being very new, is not included in any calculations AIUI). It's increasingly difficult to reconcile a high climate sensitivity (say over 4C) with the observational evidence for the planetary energy balance over the industrial era.

Since the IPCC can no longer defend their old analyses in any meaningful manner, it seems they have to resort to an unsupported "this is what we think, because we asked our pals". It's essentially the Lindzen strategy in reverse: having firmly wedded themselves to their politically convenient long tail of high values, their response to new evidence is little more than sticking their fingers in their ears and singing "la la la I can't hear you".

The paper I refer to as a "small private opinion poll" is of course the Zickfeld et al PNAS paper. The list of pollees in the Zickfeld paper are largely the self-same people responsible for the largely bogus analyses that I've criticised over recent years, and which even if they were valid then, are certainly outdated now. Interestingly, one of them stated quite openly in a meeting I attended a few years ago that he deliberately lied in these sort of elicitation exercises (i.e. exaggerating the probability of high sensitivity) in order to help motivate political action. Of course, there may be others who lie in the other direction, which is why it seems bizarre that the IPCC appeared to rely so heavily on this paper to justify their choice, rather than relying on published quantitative analyses of observational data.

This comment submitted by Annan to the Fifth Assessment report process is fun too:

It seems very odd to portray our work as an outlier here. Sokolov et al 2009, Urban and Keller 2010, Olson et al (in press JGR) have also recently presented similar results (and there may be more as yet unpublished, eg Aldrin at the INI meeting back in 2010). Such "observationally constrained pdfs" were all the rage a few years ago and featured heavily in the last IPCC report, there is no clear explanation for your sudden dismissal of them in favour of what seems to be a small private opinion poll.

And there are some interesting comments on Nic Lewis's work too. Great fun. Read the whole thing.

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Reader Comments (56)

It's essentially the Lindzen strategy in reverse:

What a strange thing to say! It was Lindzen, who had the wisdom to see a low sensitivity, who presented evidence and theory in support of a low 'sensitivity', which the rest are now slowly coming around to. But yet Lindzen is wrong because he didn't accept their conclusions at that time!

Feb 1, 2013 at 1:37 PM | Registered Commentershub

You didn't notice this from James Annan?

Interestingly, one of them stated quite openly in a meeting I attended a few years ago that he deliberately lied in these sort of elicitation exercises (i.e. exaggerating the probability of high sensitivity) in order to help motivate political action.

Feb 1, 2013 at 1:38 PM | Unregistered Commenterredc

redc,
Saw that. Contrast the above statement with propagandist skepticalscience's latest post which claims (as though it knows) that climate scientists constantly underestimate things.

Feb 1, 2013 at 1:52 PM | Registered Commentershub

Redc

Missed it. Blimey.

Feb 1, 2013 at 2:06 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

it will be interesting to see how the Team reacts to this outbreak of inconvenient realism.

Feb 1, 2013 at 2:12 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

'there is no clear explanation for your sudden dismissal of them in favour of what seems to be a small private opinion poll.'

There is and its s simply one, take away the 'climate doom' and the IPCC is a dead duck.

Feb 1, 2013 at 2:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

Interestingly, one of them stated quite openly in a meeting I attended a few years ago that he deliberately lied in these sort of elicitation exercises (i.e. exaggerating the probability of high sensitivity) in order to help motivate political action.

And the climate scientists colleagues allowed him/her to get away with it!

Kind of sums up the kabal of climate scientologists

Feb 1, 2013 at 2:27 PM | Registered Commentermangochutney

Note also the couched language; Annan cintinues to position things "properly":

It's increasingly difficult to reconcile a high climate sensitivity (say over 4C) with the observational evidence for the planetary energy balance over the industrial era.

Still a catastophe then, "grand so" as they would sa yin these parts.

I am surprised that Annan didn't cite his $10,000 temperature bet with Galina Mashnich and Vladimir Bashkirtsev. The result will hinge on the average HADCRUT teeperature anomally for 2012-2017 and whether it is hogher or lower than for 1998-2003.

At the time Anana, in his normal self effacing and modest manner, declared that he would be shocked if he didn't win. Presumably based on his views of climate sensitivity that would be at work over the 14 years in question.

The 2012 average was only fractionally, hundredths of one degree, above 1998-2003. I can't imagine that, as premature as it is, such developments wouldn't have shaken someone's beliefs in even a more modest climatate sensitivity value (say 2 degrees) being overstated. Not our James though.

Feb 1, 2013 at 2:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterGeckko

Bish was Annan involved in the Jesus Paper? Or am I confused?

Feb 1, 2013 at 3:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterN.Tropywins

It becomes harder than ever to claim that scientific "consensus" is more than a sociological phenomenon.

Feb 1, 2013 at 3:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterNicholas Hallam

I should have written a little macro years ago so that when I type ^F1 it prints "It was never about the science; it was always about the politics".
Could have saved myself several hundred man hours over the last decade!
What is so alarming is that there are still so many people that just don't get it.
Overpeck (allegedly) said it about the MWP ("we must get rid of ...)
Firth said it ("even if the science is wrong we 're doing the right thing for the planet").
Mohner quoted some numpty as admitting they tweaked the sea-level figures in order to get a trend.
And now this!

How long, O Lord, how long?

Feb 1, 2013 at 3:16 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

No, the 'Jesus' paper was Caspar Amman, not James Annan....

... And it was Timothy Wirth (not Firth) who made the notorious comments about riding climate catastrophism even if the science proved wrong.....

Feb 1, 2013 at 3:18 PM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

"...he deliberately lied in these sort of elicitation exercises..."

I think they spelled illicitation wrong.

Feb 1, 2013 at 3:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeff Norman

Damn, I thought my other 2013 prediction about a 'major player' breaking cover this year was about to come true.

Feb 1, 2013 at 3:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

Hey Bish, have seen or read Jim Bouldin's blog? He is on part eight of "severe problems in dendro". This, IMO, should be getting A LOT more attention!

http://ecologicallyoriented.wordpress.com/

Feb 1, 2013 at 3:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterDeNihilist

Thanks Skiphill. I do in fact store Amman and Annan very close to each other on my memory stick of a brain.

Feb 1, 2013 at 3:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterN.Tropywins

DeNihilist, I usually try to stay on topic, but your comment made me take a new look at Bouldin's (of RealClimate fame) blog, and to read his post abut Lance Armstrong. There's what I think is an implicit reference to climate science in the post itself, which is then taken up by commenter "Dodgy Geezer" on January 21, 2013 at 17:19, and an interesting response from Bouldin.

Feb 1, 2013 at 3:49 PM | Registered CommenterJeremy Harvey

How can we take Annan seriously? Given what he wrote before and after he lost the climate bet with Dr David Whitehouse. Before and after the bet he said that Whitehouse was dishonest and when he lost the best wanted to go back and run it retrospectively with a dataset that didn't even exist when the best was made. He would have lost again but the bad grace and sour grapes left a bad taste behind.

Feb 1, 2013 at 3:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterFdell

At James' blog Eli Rabett says:

"The real issue with BC forcing is that it is not global, but intensely local, depending not only on emissions (Asian brown cloud) but also absorptions (Greenland darkening)"

How exactly is a source of black carbon local to Greenland? (I would have asked there but I am not clever enough to use a Google log in)

Feb 1, 2013 at 4:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeff Norman

skiphil
Slip of the brain for a second. It was, of course, Timothy Wirth.

Feb 1, 2013 at 4:39 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

"Contrast the above statement with propagandist skepticalscience's latest post which claims (as though it knows) that climate scientists constantly underestimate things."

-Which is at odds with anything that could be described as "settled science."

It is, however, consistent with "It's worse than we thought"! :)

Feb 1, 2013 at 4:55 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

@Jeff Norman

It was odds on that Josh Halpern would find a way to save Annan for the Team

Feb 1, 2013 at 4:58 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

Yup. Further proof that the walls around the IPCC edifice are crumbling. Be interested in Nic Lewis' response to Annans remarks on his recent work.

Feb 1, 2013 at 5:13 PM | Unregistered Commentertheduke

This makes the wait for Gav's "On Sensitivity: part III" even more exciting ...

Feb 1, 2013 at 5:19 PM | Unregistered Commenterdr slop

we all know there is no part 3 coming - the Nic Lewis-Steve jewson exploded that part of the propaganda campaign. They are now running stories of Steig jerking off about ice melt in Greenland.

I thought Annan's reaction to Nic Lewis was technical rather than personal - compared with his hilarious (I've got a wedgie) reaction to losing his bet with Dr Whitehouse - and I doubt that Mr L will have much of a problem with it.

Feb 1, 2013 at 5:31 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

I realize this is OT, but I don't post much here or elsewhere and I wanted to get this thought our there in the blogoshere, if it is not already. Jeremy Harvey, DeNihilist, and maybe Jim Bouldin are probably thinking the same thoughts. Which are this. As I watched the Opra interview with Lance Armstrong I couldn't help but think I was seeing the future and that wasn't Lance Armstrong being interviewed, it was Micheal Mann. The stories are just so similar and I believe one day Mann will be put into the same position, where the evidence against him and his (junk)alarmist climate science will be so overwhelming that he will have to face the truth. Like Lance he would justify it by saying, I had to do it for the better good and besides everyone else was doing it. The way Mann vigurously attacks anyone and anything that came after him or his reputation and science. Like with Armstrong, there are a lot casualties along the path that Mann has led.

Feb 1, 2013 at 6:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterTom Anderson

theduke
"Be interested in Nic Lewis' response to Annans remarks on his recent work."

I have written a detailed response, but James Annan's blog won't accept it - some technical problem caused by its authentication requirements, I think. So I have emailed it to him.

Feb 1, 2013 at 6:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterNic Lewis

Feb 1, 2013 at 6:10 PM | Tom Anderson

But Armstrong was among the greatest ever at what he did, Mann drew a line that went up at the end like a hockey stick... One thing though is that Armstrong was eventually brought down by his former colleagues who had previously protected him for so long.

Feb 1, 2013 at 6:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob Burton

Tom,
The comparison with Armstrong is quite interesting.
On 30 December I was flying to Texas and sat next to the communicatios director for the Livestrong Foundation (Lance's charity). I discussed why I was still holding out that Lance was still innocent in my opinion. She was very appreciative of my opinion, but there was an odd inflection in her voice and body language that stuck in my memory. Now I know why, of course. I must have been one of the last of the Armstrong supporters and can only imagine this poor embattled young lady was trying to keep a straight face. I wonder who will be left holding the bag for Mann?

Feb 1, 2013 at 6:49 PM | Unregistered Commenterlurker, passing through laughing

Tom Anderson,
Unlike Armstrong who can point to the many people whose battles with cancer he inspired as well as his creation of Livestrong, Mann is without worthy accomplishment; at least so far.

Feb 1, 2013 at 7:10 PM | Registered Commenterjferguson

Back on topic, Annan's objections to Nic Lewis's analysis seem somewhat contrived given that Nic uses values for ocean heat flux and aerosols that are accepted by many others. You could just as well say that to get a high median vale for sensitivity using this sort of empirical analysis you have to cherry pick large values of aerosol forcing and of ocean heat uptake. We'll see what Nic says when James Annan publishes his comment.

Feb 1, 2013 at 7:48 PM | Registered CommenterJeremy Harvey

Thanks to Nic Lewis for the update.

Like Shub, I'm curious about the reference to Lindzen by Annan. I'm not sure what he's trying to say. Can someone clarify? Is he knocking Lindzen?

Feb 1, 2013 at 8:40 PM | Unregistered Commentertheduke

How many climate scientists can now be encouraged to take a fresh look at the main issues?

Sensitivity is a huge one, and potshots at Lindzen do not begin to address adequately the failings of climatology to date.

Jim Bouldin, reflecting upon the Lance Armstrong saga, adds an observation that resonates across many situations:

Jim Bouldin on power and groups


Jim Bouldin
on January 21, 2013 at 20:57 said:

"Humans are extremely susceptible to the power of groups, and to power generally, in many small and large ways, I believe. It causes many problems. When people lose their sense of true independence, it’s usually a downhill slide from there. We all have to fight it, daily."

Whether or not he has any climate science issues in mind during such discussions, I would definitely draw parallels in terms of group think and peer pressure, etc.

p.s. for trolls who want to slap the group think tag on skeptic and lukewarmer blogs, one fundamental difference is that (online) all of us can come and go as we please, say or not say what we truly think. At least from behind anonymity (ha, no I don't want to start any discussion of nyms). I have no interests in these discussions beyond (1) genuine curiosity, and (2) genuine concern for our social, economic, and political worlds. In my real life it would be far far easier and far more beneficial for me to go along with the alarmists to date, if I considered that intellectually and ethically respectable for me.

Feb 1, 2013 at 8:45 PM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

I have now succeeded in posting my comment at James Annan's blog, using a different ID provider.
See http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=9959776&postID=1573684829816144955&page=1&token=1359752369736

Feb 1, 2013 at 9:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterNic Lewis

Not just group think and peer pressure perhaps, but the bait and trap of policy-relevant research grants, and the research councils which set the agenda, and the appointers of the research council members themselves, and we get closer to the famous Eisenhower Farewell Address warning -

'The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present—and is gravely to be regarded.'

Feb 1, 2013 at 9:03 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

Nic Lewis,

Thanks for that comment and for all you are doing on these issues. I was not able to use the link you provided when pasted into my browser, but this hyperlink should take others to the comments thread itself if they have the same problem I did:

comments at James Annan blog

Feb 1, 2013 at 9:07 PM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

Jeff Norman -- You ask: "How exactly is a source of black carbon local to Greenland?"

I think Eli's point, which is at least intuitively plausible, is that black carbon's warming effect is dependent on what it lands on, and that its biggest effect would be when landing on white snow/ice, as on Greenland. It probably wouldn't make much difference on plowed farmland, for instance.

The black carbon issue does seem to be getting more attention now because arctic ice melt is the only real climate variable that has been trending this century.

This doesn't say anything about its effect when absorbing solar radiation while airborne, of course.

Feb 1, 2013 at 10:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterCurt

My reading of the Lindzen comment is this: Annan suggests that Lindzen convinced himself that sensitivity must be low ages ago, and then was only prepared to countenance evidence that fitted with this conviction, so as not to have to step down from his opinion. This may be considered rude by readers here but I think in a sense it is not so interesting to react like that. Because Annan is also claiming that people like Michael Mann are experiencing the reverse: having convinced themselves that sensitivity must be high, they are unwilling to admit any evidence to the contrary. In Andy Revkin's incredibly messy post about the Norwegian sensitivity press-release, he gives a hat-tip to Roger Pielke Jr for having pointed him to a paper that kind of makes the same point: having subscribed to the 'sensitivity must be between 1.5 and 4.5, and likely 3' idea for so long, people are prepared to re-define what sensitivity is, and which evidence they will take seriously, in order not to have to climb down from that.

Feb 1, 2013 at 10:19 PM | Registered CommenterJeremy Harvey

Feb 1, 2013 at 10:19 PM | Jeremy Harvey

people are prepared to re-define what sensitivity is, and which evidence they will take seriously, in order not to have to climb down from that.

Oh, no! They've already used "climatic licence" to re-define inter alia "trick", "decline", "peer review", "fudge", "experiments" ... not to mention "consensus" (of the decidedly under-overwhelming kind)

And now we'll have to add "sensitivity" to this list?!

Say it isn't so;-)

Feb 1, 2013 at 11:45 PM | Registered CommenterHilary Ostrov

Perhaps we focus too much on CO2 sensitivity alone.

Overall, CO2 + black carbon - aerosols + waste heat +/- secondary forcing +/- solar effects +/- unknowns have given us a "civilization sensitivity" of approximately +0.1C/decade over the last half century. Most of these effects continue to increase in proportion to our industrial activity.

The underlying bet is whether the benefits of future industrial expansion to our civilization will outweigh the damage.

More and more, Donald Rumsfeld's quote seems applicable to the climate change debate.

"There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know."

Feb 2, 2013 at 12:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic Man

It looks like Annan is putting a lot of faith in one approach of estimating sensitivity which will only be as good as our ability to accurately model our recent climate. I would suggest Annan approaches this issue wearing blinkers where as Lindzen is looking wider and considering not just what we know but how well we know it, and importantly, how much don't we know. Sometimes when knowledge is lacking an educated hunch will be better than an empirically derived result. I do see the statement as an insult to Lindzen because of this. Annan has observed first hand how his method is sensitive to new developments in climate science (which lowered his result, fancy that); an open thinker would realise that isn't the end of it.

Feb 2, 2013 at 12:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterDaveA

I'm sorry, maybe I didn't get the memo. But I'm suddenly seeing a new term: "Black carbon." Isn't that the mother of all redundancies? I'm not a chemistry major, but isn't all carbon black? Isn't that like saying "white salt?" What am I missing here?

Feb 2, 2013 at 5:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterJacques V

Nic Lewis,

your estimate of 1.62 deg does not include the new black carbon data.

Bond et al. 2013 estimate black carbon forcing at 1.1 W/m2 and write that "direct effects due to black carbon are nearly twice the number reported in the 2007 IPCC Fourth Assessment", hence the inxrease is about 0.55 W/m2

Including black carbon would further increase net total forcing by about 20%. (where I assume there is no overlap with the adjustments already done in the new aerosol cooling, otherwise the increase would be less)

Wouldn't that decrease sensitivity further to about 1.35 deg ?

Feb 2, 2013 at 6:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterManfred

"But I'm suddenly seeing a new term: "Black carbon." "
Feb 2, 2013 at 5:45 AM | Jacques V

Watch out for the politically correct infantry complaining about the term as well...

Feb 2, 2013 at 8:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh

The issues around black carbon and aerosols appear to be around global variations in these parameters. Isn't this a benefit to estimating senstivity to CO2..?

The pinatobu event provided a temporal variation in parameters that enabled Forster and Gregory to estimate sensitivity.

Why should a spatial variation in these parameters also not aid in estimation of climate sensitivity?

Feb 2, 2013 at 9:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterAndy scrase

If we match the Zickfeld et al paper with the Lewandowsky paper, we can see a pattern emerging.

Climate Disaster is real because we say so, and everyone who doesn't believe this is deluded or insane, because we say that as well...

Feb 2, 2013 at 9:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

...Annan has observed first hand how his method is sensitive to new developments in climate science

How true. More specifically, these methods provide results that are dependant on the phase the climate system is passing through. They don't appear to be independent of the state of the system for which the data has been collected.

On the Annan thread, one can see the usual suspects desperately clinging to '3C', reading Annan's post like chicken entrails, rather than the words and sentences it is made of.

Feb 2, 2013 at 9:41 AM | Registered Commentershub

So - a contibutor to the Zickfeld paper, on which the IPCC relied heavily for its assessment of climate sensitivity, LIED to 'help motivate political action'...
Politicians in all Western governments - you've been conned.
We, the voters, are having to pay for all of this.
Better get your excuses ready...

Feb 2, 2013 at 1:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Jaques V

"isn't all carbon black?"

Soot is black, but diamond?

Carbon compounds such as CO2 or sugar are also clear.

Feb 2, 2013 at 3:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

Jaques:

I'm sorry, maybe I didn't get the memo. But I'm suddenly seeing a new term: "Black carbon." Isn't that the mother of all redundancies? I'm not a chemistry major, but isn't all carbon black? Isn't that like saying "white salt?" What am I missing here?

Diamonds are (or can be) a pure form of carbon and isn't black. Just saying.

Feb 2, 2013 at 6:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterCarrick

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