Christy’s Common Sense about Climate

An insightful straight-forward interview with Dr. John Christy published today at yellowhammernews  Alabama’s state climatologist John Christy rebuts claims of recent fires, heat waves being caused by human activity (H/T Climate Depot) Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

There is one particular word that Dr. John Christy turns to frequently for describing climate science: murky.

It’s a point of view foundational to his own research, and a message underpinning each of his twenty appearances before various congressional committees.

“It’s encouraging because they wouldn’t invite you back unless your message was compelling and not only compelling, but accurate,” Christy, Alabama’s state climatologist, told Yellowhammer News in an interview.

Christy, whose day job involves doing research and teaching as the Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), has gained notoriety over the years for dissenting from mainstream climate scientists and policymakers who argue that climate change is anthropogenic, or man-made, and that something must be done to stop it.

A “working-stiff” scientist

Dissent has gained for Christy the characterization as a “climate change skeptic” or “denier,” as critics refer to him, but he himself rejects those terms.

“I’m a working-stiff atmospheric scientist,” he said, “as opposed to those who support modeling efforts, those who use data sets that other people create and analyze them, but they don’t build them themselves.”

According to Christy, the result of fewer “working-stiff” scientists contributing to the prevailing climate debate is more frequent misuses of data.

“They’re not aware of what goes into it,” Christy said, referring to the data.

“Here we have a science that’s so dominated by personalities that claim the science is settled, yet when you walk up to them and say prove it, they can’t,” he said.

Christy spoke at length about what can be proven and what cannot in his self-described “murky” field, referring often to principles of the scientific method.

You cannot prove extra greenhouse gases have done anything to the weather,” he said, responding to claims made by many scientists that more greenhouse gases have caused extreme weather patterns to intensify.

“We do not have an experiment that we can repeat and do,” he said.

Christy outlined another problem with attempts to implicate greenhouse gases: a failure to account for things countering trapping effects.

“We know that the extra greenhouse gases should warm the planet,” he said. “The weak part of that theory though is that when you add more greenhouse gases that trap heat, things happen that let it escape as well, and so not as much is trapped as climate models show.”

Economics of climate policy

Though his scientific arguments are primary, Christy also frequently discusses in interviews and testimonies the economic consequences of proposed climate change mitigation policy via carbon reduction.

“Every single person uses energy, carbon energy, and relies on carbon-based energy,” Christy said. “None of our medical advances, none of our technological advances, none of our progress would have happened in the last hundred years without energy derived from carbon.”

Christy contrasts that reality within the modern, developed world with the world he saw working as a missionary teacher in impoverished Africa during the 1970s.

“The energy source was wood chopped from the forest, the energy transmission system was the backs of women and girls hauling wood an average of three miles each day, the energy use system was burning the wood in an open fire indoors for heat and light,” Christy told members of the House Committee on Energy in 2006.

Broad availability to affordable energy enriches countries, Christy said, praising carbon.

“It is not evil. It is the stuff of life. It is plant food,” he said.

What about the fires and heat waves?

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, fires were burning in fifteen states as of Tuesday, August 14.

Alaska reported seventeen fires, Arizona reported eleven, both Oregon and Colorado reported ten, and California reported nine.

Much of the news media’s discussion about these fires over the past few weeks has established a correlation between the many fires and anthropogenic climate change, a correlation that Dr. Christy rejects.

Christy argues that exacerbating fires out west, particularly in California, results from human mismanagement. Such states have enacted strict management practices that disallow low-level fires from burning, he said.

If you don’t let the low-intensity fires burn, that fuel builds up year after year,” Christy said. “Now once a fire gets going and it gets going enough, it has so much fuel that we can’t put it out.”

“In that sense, you could say that fires today are more intense, but it’s because of human management practices, not because mother nature has done something,” Christy said.

Data from the Fire Center indicates that the number of wildfires have been decreasing since the 1970s overall, though acreage burned has increased significantly.

As for the heat, Christy said there’s nothing abnormal going on in the United States.

“Heat waves have always happened,” he said. “Our most serious heatwaves were in the 1930’s. We have not matched those at all.”

Christy continued, “It is only a perception that is being built by the media that these are dramatic worst-ever heat wave kind of things but when we look at the numbers, and all science is numbers, we find that there were periods that were hotter, hotter for longer periods in the past, so it’s very hard to say that this was influenced by human effects when you go back before there could have been human effects and there’s the same or worse kind of events.”

Though Christy didn’t deny that the last three years have been the hottest ever recorded globally, he doesn’t concede that the changes are attributable to anything other than climate’s usual and historical erraticism.

@jeremywbeaman is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News

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N. Atlantic Cooling in Progress

RAPID Array measuring North Atlantic SSTs.

For the last few years, observers have been speculating about when the North Atlantic will start the next phase shift from warm to cold.

Source: Energy and Education Canada

An example is this report in May 2015 The Atlantic is entering a cool phase that will change the world’s weather by Gerald McCarthy and Evan Haigh of the RAPID Atlantic monitoring project. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

This is known as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), and the transition between its positive and negative phases can be very rapid. For example, Atlantic temperatures declined by 0.1ºC per decade from the 1940s to the 1970s. By comparison, global surface warming is estimated at 0.5ºC per century – a rate twice as slow.

In many parts of the world, the AMO has been linked with decade-long temperature and rainfall trends. Certainly – and perhaps obviously – the mean temperature of islands downwind of the Atlantic such as Britain and Ireland show almost exactly the same temperature fluctuations as the AMO.

Atlantic oscillations are associated with the frequency of hurricanes and droughts. When the AMO is in the warm phase, there are more hurricanes in the Atlantic and droughts in the US Midwest tend to be more frequent and prolonged. In the Pacific Northwest, a positive AMO leads to more rainfall.

A negative AMO (cooler ocean) is associated with reduced rainfall in the vulnerable Sahel region of Africa. The prolonged negative AMO was associated with the infamous Ethiopian famine in the mid-1980s. In the UK it tends to mean reduced summer rainfall – the mythical “barbeque summer”.Our results show that ocean circulation responds to the first mode of Atlantic atmospheric forcing, the North Atlantic Oscillation, through circulation changes between the subtropical and subpolar gyres – the intergyre region. This a major influence on the wind patterns and the heat transferred between the atmosphere and ocean.

The observations that we do have of the Atlantic overturning circulation over the past ten years show that it is declining. As a result, we expect the AMO is moving to a negative (colder surface waters) phase. This is consistent with observations of temperature in the North Atlantic.

Cold “blobs” in North Atlantic have been reported, but they are usually a winter phenomena. For example in April 2016, the sst anomalies looked like this

But by September, the picture changed to this

And we know from Kaplan AMO dataset, that 2016 summer SSTs were right up there with 1998 and 2010 as the highest recorded.

As the graph above suggests, this body of water is also important for tropical cyclones, since warmer water provides more energy.  But those are annual averages, and I am interested in the summer pulses of warm water into the Arctic. As I have noted in my monthly HadSST3 reports, most summers since 2003 there have been warm pulses in the north atlantic.
The AMO Index is from from Kaplan SST v2, the unaltered and untrended dataset. By definition, the data are monthly average SSTs interpolated to a 5×5 grid over the North Atlantic basically 0 to 70N.  The graph shows warming began after 1992 up to 1998, with a series of matching years since.  Because McCarthy refers to hints of cooling to come in the N. Atlantic, let’s take a closer look at some AMO years in the last 2 decades.

AMO decade 072018

This graph shows monthly AMO temps for some important years. The Peak years were 1998, 2010 and 2016, with the latter emphasized as the most recent. The other years show lesser warming, with 2007 emphasized as the coolest in the last 20 years. Note the red 2018 line is at the bottom of all these tracks.  Most recently July 2018 is 0.4C lower than July 2016, and is the coolest July since 2002.

AMO July 2018

With all the talk of AMOC slowing down and a phase shift in the North Atlantic, we await SST measurements for August and September to confirm that cooling has set in.  As of July, the momentum is certainly heading downward, despite the band of warming ocean  that gave rise to now receding European heat waves.

cdas-sflux_ssta_atl_1

Summer “Hothouse” Silliness

This summer’s heat waves are having an unfortunate side effect. Some scientists who should know better are shouting wild claims as though their heads were exploding.  Paleoclimatologists use terms like “Hothouse” Earth and “Icehouse” Earth referring to our planet’s climate shifts over many eons.  One good old-fashioned hot summer is not a transition, or even an harbinger of an “Hothouse” world.  More importantly, the distribution of temperatures in a warmer world is not the hell on earth depicted by these folks who have lost their bearings.

A powerful post by Clive Best describes how earth’s surface temperatures change by means of changing meridional heat transfers. See Meridional Warming.

The key point for me was seeing how the best geological knowledge proves beyond the shadow of a doubt how the earth’s climate profile shifts over time, as presented in the diagram above.  It comes from esteemed paleoclimatologist Christopher Scotese.  His compete evidence and analysis can be reviewed in his article Some thoughts on Global Climate Change: The Transition from Icehouse to Hothouse (here).

In that essay Scotese shows where we are presently in this cycle between icehouse and hothouse.

As of 2015 earth is showing a GMT of 14.4C, compared to pre-industrial GMT of 13.8C.  According to the best geological evidence from millions of years of earth’s history, that puts us leaving the category “Severe Icehouse,” and nearing “Icehouse.”  So, thankfully we are warming up, albeit very slowly.

Moreover, and this is Clive Best’s point, progress toward a warming world means flattening the profile at the higher latitudes, especially the Arctic.  Equatorial locations remain at 23C throughout the millennia, while the gradient decreases in a warmer world.

A previous related post explained what is wrong with averaging temperature anomalies.  See Temperature Misunderstandings

Conclusion:

We have many, many centuries to go before the earth can warm up to the “Greenhouse” profile, let alone get to “Hothouse.”  Regional and local climates at higher latitudes will see slightly warming temperatures and smaller differences from equatorial climates.  These are facts based on solid geological evidence, not opinions or estimates from computer models.

It is still a very cold world, but we are moving in the right direction.  Stay the course.

Meanwhile, keep firing away Clive.

damaged-ship3

 

Ocean Air Temps Tepid in July

Presently sea surface temperatures (SST) are the best available indicator of heat content gained or lost from earth’s climate system.  Enthalpy is the thermodynamic term for total heat content in a system, and humidity differences in air parcels affect enthalpy.  Measuring water temperature directly avoids distorted impressions from air measurements.  In addition, ocean covers 71% of the planet surface and thus dominates surface temperature estimates.  Eventually we will likely have reliable means of recording water temperatures at depth.

Recently, Dr. Ole Humlum reported from his research that air temperatures lag 2-3 months behind changes in SST.  He also observed that changes in CO2 atmospheric concentrations lag behind SST by 11-12 months.  This latter point is addressed in a previous post Who to Blame for Rising CO2?

The July update to HadSST3 will appear later this month, but in the meantime we can look at lower troposphere temperatures (TLT) from UAHv6 which are already posted for July. The temperature record is derived from microwave sounding units (MSU) on board satellites like the one pictured above.

The UAH dataset includes temperature results for air above the oceans, and thus should be most comparable to the SSTs. There is the additional feature that ocean air temps avoid Urban Heat Islands (UHI).  The graph below shows monthly anomalies for ocean temps since January 2015.

UAH Oceans 201807The anomalies are holding close to the same levels as 2015. In July, both the Tropics and SH rose, while NH rose very slightly, resulting in a small increase in the Global average of air over oceans. Taking a longer view, we can look at the record since 1995, that year being an ENSO neutral year and thus a reasonable starting point for considering the past two decades.  On that basis we can see the plateau in ocean temps is persisting. Since last October all oceans have cooled, with offsetting bumps up and down.

UAHv6 TLT 
Monthly Ocean
Anomalies
Average Since 1995 Ocean 7/2018
Global 0.13 0.21
NH 0.16 0.3
SH 0.11 0.15
Tropics 0.13 0.29

As of July 2018, global ocean temps are slightly higher than June and the average since 1995.  NH remains virtually the same,  while both SH and Tropics rose making the global temp warmer.  Global, NH and SH are matching July temps in 2015, while the Tropics are the lowest July since 2013.

The details of UAH ocean temps are provided below.  The monthly data make for a noisy picture, but seasonal fluxes between January and July are important.

Open image in new tab to enlarge.

The greater volatility of the Tropics is evident, leading the oceans through three major El Nino events during this period.  Note also the flat period between 7/1999 and 7/2009.  The 2010 El Nino was erased by La Nina in 2011 and 2012.  Then the record shows a fairly steady rise peaking in 2016, with strong support from warmer NH anomalies, before returning to the 22-year average.

Summary

TLTs include mixing above the oceans and probably some influence from nearby more volatile land temps.  They started the recent cooling later than SSTs from HadSST3, but are now showing the same pattern.  It seems obvious that despite the three El Ninos, their warming has not persisted, and without them it would probably have cooled since 1995.  Of course, the future has not yet been written.

 

Iowa Climate Common Sense

Iowa trivia: Refrain from Iowa Corn Song: “We’re from I-o-way, I-o-way, That’s where the tall corn grows.” Athletic teams that represent Iowa State University are called the “Cyclones,” after the devastating 1895 storms, the most extreme weather in state history. My mother was born and raised near Cedar Rapids, IA.

Today a website in Iowa reblogged my post Who to Blame for Rising CO2?  Returning the favor I draw your attention to a concise, comprehensive and reasonable statement of their climate perspective.  The website is Iowa Climate Science Education (Red title is link).  Excerpts below from their position statement in italics with my bolds.

Scientists disagree about the causes and consequences of climate for several reasons. Climate is an interdisciplinary subject requiring insights from many fields. Very few scholars have mastery of more than one or two of these disciplines. Fundamental uncertainties arise from insufficient observational evidence and disagreements over how to interpret data and how to set the parameters of models. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), created to find and disseminate research finding a human impact on global climate, is not a credible source. It is agenda-driven, a political rather than scientific body, and some allege it is corrupt. Finally, climate scientists, like all humans, can be biased. Origins of bias include careerism, grant-seeking, political views, and confirmation bias.

Probably the only “consensus” among climate scientists is that human activities can have an effect on local climate and that the sum of such local effects could hypothetically rise to the level of an observable global signal. The key questions to be answered, however, are whether the human global signal is large enough to be measured and if it is, does it represent, or is it likely to become, a dangerous change outside the range of natural variability? On these questions, an energetic scientific debate is taking place on the pages of peer-reviewed science journals.

In contradiction of the scientific method, IPCC assumes its implicit hypothesis – that dangerous global warming is resulting, or will result, from human-related greenhouse gas emissions – is correct and that its only duty is to collect evidence and make plausible arguments in the hypothesis’s favor. It simply ignores the alternative and null hypothesis, amply supported by empirical research, that currently observed changes in global climate indices and the physical environment are the result of natural variability.

The results of the global climate models (GCMs) relied on by IPCC are only as reliable as the data and theories “fed” into them. Most climate scientists agree those data are seriously deficient and IPCC’s estimate for climate sensitivity to CO2 is too high. We estimate a doubling of CO2 from pre-industrial levels (from 280 to 560 ppm) would likely produce a temperature forcing of 3.7 Wm-2 in the lower atmosphere, for about ~1°C of prima facie warming. The recently quiet Sun and extrapolation of solar cycle patterns into the future suggest a planetary cooling may occur over the next few decades.

In a similar fashion, all five of IPCC’s postulates, or assumptions, are readily refuted by real-world observations, and all five of IPCC’s claims relying on circumstantial evidence are refutable. For example, in contrast to IPCC’s alarmism, we find neither the rate nor the magnitude of the reported late twentieth century surface warming (1979–2000) lay outside normal natural variability, nor was it in any way unusual compared to earlier episodes in Earth’s climatic history. In any case, such evidence cannot be invoked to “prove” a hypothesis, but only to disprove one. IPCC has failed to refute the null hypothesis that currently observed changes in global climate indices and the physical environment are the result of natural variability.

Rather than rely exclusively on IPCC for scientific advice, policymakers should seek out advice from independent, nongovernment organizations and scientists who are free of financial and political conflicts of interest. Our conclusion, drawn from its extensive review of the scientific evidence, is that any human global climate impact is within the background variability of the natural climate system and is not dangerous. In the face of such facts, the most prudent climate policy is to prepare for and adapt to extreme climate events and changes regardless of their origin. Adaptive planning for future hazardous climate events and change should be tailored to provide responses to the known rates, magnitudes, and risks of natural change. Once in place, these same plans will provide an adequate response to any human-caused change that may or may not
emerge.

Policymakers should resist pressure from lobby groups to silence scientists who question the authority of IPCC to claim to speak for “climate science.” The distinguished British biologist Conrad Waddington wrote in 1941,

“It is important that scientists must be ready for their pet theories to turn out to be wrong. Science as a whole certainly cannot allow its judgment about facts to be distorted by ideas of what ought to be true, or what one may hope to be true.” (Waddington, 1941).

This prescient statement merits careful examination by those who continue to assert the fashionable belief, in the face of strong empirical evidence to the contrary, that human CO2 emissions are going to cause dangerous global warming.

Reference
Waddington, C.H. 1941. The Scientific Attitude. London, UK: Penguin Books.

 

 

Dr. Indrani Roy on Solar and Climate Cycles

The last solar eclipse was in 2017. The totality in the picture lasted a little more than 2 minutes, while the process lasted about 2.5 hours.

One of the great disputes in climate research is between those (IPCC) who dismiss solar cycles as a factor in climate change and those who see correlations in the past and keep seeking to understand the mechanisms. To be clear, there is considerable agreement that earth’s atmosphere can and does reduce or increase the amount of incoming solar energy (albedo effect), thereby contributing to surface warming or cooling. The science and research into the “global dimming and brightening” is discussed in the post Nature’s Sunscreen.

The above image of the eclipse is intended to remind us that humans down through history have been terrified of the sun going dark because they knew intuitively that no sun means no life. A more modern and sophisticated concern is that even slightly falling energy from the sun brings cooling, ice and death.  Quite apart from the sunscreen, this post is focused a different matter, namely that changes in the sun’s output radiation cause changes in earth climate parameters. One theory of such a mechanism is espoused by Henrik Svensmark and concerns solar particles effect upon albedo. That line of research is discussed in the post The Cosmoclimatology theory

A different investigation has been advanced by Dr.Indrani Roy, her most recent publication this month being a book Climate Variability and Sunspot Activity Analysis of the Solar Influence on Climate (H/T NoTricksZone).

The book is behind a paywall, but the abstract and chapter headings indicate a comprehensive approach.

Overview Climate Variability and Sunspot Activity (2018)

This book promotes a better understanding of the role of the sun on natural climate variability. It is a comprehensive reference book that appeals to an academic audience at the graduate, post-graduate and PhD level and can be used for lectures in climatology, environmental studies and geography.

This work is the collection of lecture notes as well as synthesized analyses of published papers on the described subjects. It comprises 18 chapters and is divided into three parts: Part I discusses general circulation, climate variability, stratosphere-troposphere coupling and various teleconnections. Part II mainly explores the area of different solar influences on climate. It also discusses various oceanic features and describes ocean-atmosphere coupling. But, without prior knowledge of other important influences on the earth’s climate, the understanding of the actual role of the sun remains incomplete. Hence, Part III covers burning issues such as greenhouse gas warming, volcanic influences, ozone depletion in the stratosphere, Arctic and Antarctic sea ice, etc. At the end of the book, there are few questions and exercises for students. This book is based on the lecture series that was delivered at the University of Oulu, Finland as part of M.Sc./ PhD module.

Chapter Titles

  • Climatology and General Circulation
  • Major Modes of Variability
  • Stratosphere-Troposphere Coupling
  • Teleconnection Among Various Modes
  • Solar Influence Around Various Places: Robust Solar Signal on Climate
  • Total Solar Irradiance (TSI): Measurements and Reconstructions
  • Atmosphere-Ocean Coupling and Solar Variability
  • Ocean Coupling
  • The Sun and ENSO Connection–Contradictions and Reconciliations
  • A Debate: The Sun and the QBO
  • Solar Influence: ‘Top Down’ vs. ‘Bottom Up’
  • An Overview of Solar Influence on Climate
  • Other Major Influences on Climate
  • Sun: Atmosphere-Ocean Coupling – Possible Limitations
  • The Arctic and Antarctic Sea Ice
  • CMIP5 Project and Some Results
  • Green House Gas Warming
  • Volcanic Influences
  • Ozone Depletion in the Stratosphere
  • Influence of Various Other Solar Outputs

To better appreciate Roy’s viewpoint, two of her previous publications provide the evidence and analytical thought behind her conclusions.  Published in 2010 with J.D. Haigh was Solar cycle signals in sea level pressure and sea surface temperature  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Summary of SLP and SST signals

We identify solar cycle signals in the North Pacific in 155 years of sea level pressure and sea surface temperature data. In SLP we find in the North Pacific a weakening of the Aleutian Low and a northward shift of the Hawaiian High in response to higher solar activity, confirming the results of previous authors using different techniques. We also find a broad reduction in pressure across the equatorial region but not the negative anomaly in the sub-tropics detected by vL07. In SST we identify the warmer and cooler regions in the North Pacific found by vL07 but instead of the strong Cold Event-like signal in tropical SSTs we detect a weak WE-like pattern in the 155 year dataset.

We find that the peak SSN years of the solar cycles have often coincided with the negative phase of ENSO so that analyses, such as that of vL07, based on composites of peak SSN years find a La Nina response. As the date of peak annual SSN generally falls a year or more in advance of the broader maximum of the 11-year solar cycle it follows that the peak of the DSO is likely to be associated with an El Nino-like pattern, as seen by White et al. (1997). An El Nino pattern is clearly portrayed in our regression analysis using only data from second half of the last century, but inclusion of ENSO as an independent regression index results in a significant diminution of the solar signal in tropical SST, showing further how an ENSO signal might be interpreted as due to the Sun.

Any mechanisms proposed to explain a solar influence should be consistent with the full length of the dataset, unless there are reasons to think otherwise, and analyses which incorporate data from all years, rather than selecting only those of peak SSN, represent more coherently the difference between periods of high and low solar activity on these timescales.

The SLP signal in mid-latitudes varies in phase with solar activity, and does not show the same modulation by ENSO phase as tropical SST, suggesting that the solar influence here is not driven by coupled-atmosphere-ocean effects but possibly by the impact of changes in the stratosphere resulting in expansion of the Hadley cell and poleward shift of the subtropical jets (Haigh et al., 2005). Given that climate model results in terms of tropical Pacific SST can be dependent on different ENSO variability within the models, our analysis indicates that the robustness of any proposed mechanism of the response to variations in solar irradiance needs to be analyzed in the context of ENSO variability where timing plays a crucial role.

Comment on Dr. Roy’s Methodology

It is challenging to grasp this approach and results because she respects the complexity of solar and climate dynamics.  For starters, she is not mining climate data in search of 11 year periodicities as others have done.  Dr. Roy takes the dates of observed SSN maxima and minima and compares with repeated effects in climate measurements.  Many readers will know that solar cycles are only quasi-11 years long; there is considerable irregularity.

Even more importantly, SSN do not peak midway in the cycle, but can appear early on and show additional peak(s) afterward. She defines minima and maxima in terms of SSN significantly lower or higher than the mean.  So Roy’s analysis is not simplistic, but correlates all years in the datasets comparing SSN with climate measures.

Dr. Roy also diligently analyzes confounding factors such as oceanic circulations and the influence of previous years upon succeeding years (system momentum).  For example, the above study discussed solar influence on Pacific SST and SLP.  This is presented in the following image:

Tropical Pacific SST composites using NOAA Extended V4 (ERSST) data for solar Max (Top) and Min years (Bottom) during DJF. Levels usually significant up to 95% level are overlaid by opposite coloured contour. Plots are generated using IDL software, version 8 with the data from NOAA/OAR/ESRL PSD, Boulder, Colorado, USA, from their website at (http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/).

Importantly, the analysis shows little to no solar influence upon the ENSO 3.4 ocean sector, but as the graph above shows the effect is much broader. Roy concludes that ENSO operates mostly independently of solar influence. Even more striking is the result for NH winter, showing solar minima associated with generally warmer SST and maxima generally cooler. Dr. Roy explains the solar influence in terms of two separate processes.  Bottom up is fluctuations in SSTs while top-down is UV effects upon the stratosphere extending downward expressed in SLP differentials.

For a discussion of the solar/climate mechanism there is  Solar cyclic variability can modulate winter Arctic climate by Indrani Roy  Scientific Reportsvolume 8, Article number: 4864 (2018). Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Abstract

This study investigates the role of the eleven-year solar cycle on the Arctic climate during 1979–2016. It reveals that during those years, when the winter solar sunspot number (SSN) falls below 1.35 standard deviations (or mean value), the Arctic warming extends from the lower troposphere to high up in the upper stratosphere and vice versa when SSN is above. The warming in the atmospheric column reflects an easterly zonal wind anomaly consistent with warm air and positive geopotential height anomalies for years with minimum SSN and vice versa for the maximum. Despite the inherent limitations of statistical techniques, three different methods – Compositing, Multiple Linear Regression and Correlation – all point to a similar modulating influence of the sun on winter Arctic climate via the pathway of Arctic Oscillation. Presenting schematics, it discusses the mechanisms of how solar cycle variability influences the Arctic climate involving the stratospheric route. Compositing also detects an opposite solar signature on Eurasian snow-cover, which is a cooling during Minimum years, while warming in maximum. It is hypothesized that the reduction of ice in the Arctic and a growth in Eurasia, in recent winters, may in part, be a result of the current weaker solar cycle.

Results

In summary, for solar Min years, the warm air column is associated with positive geopotential height anomalies and an easterly wind, which reverses during Max years. Such NAM feature is clearly evident supporting the hypothesis of communicating a solar signal to Arctic via winter NAM (North Annular Mode).

Above: Mechanism to describe the stratospheric pathway for solar cycle variability to influence the Arctic climate. Mechanisms for (a) discuss a route where perturbation in the upper stratospheric polar vortex is transported downwards and impacts the Arctic on a seasonal scale via the winter NAM (flowchart is presented on the right). Mechanisms for (b) discusses the route that involves upper stratospheric polar vortex, tropical lower stratosphere, Brewer-Dobson circulation and Ferrel cell (flowchart is presented to the left). It is created using images or clip art available from Powerpoint.

During DJF, Arctic sea ice extent suggests a strong correlation with SSN (99% significant) and even with AOD (95% significant) (Table 3a). SSN is also found to be strongly correlated with AO (95% significant). Figure 8a shows that significant correlation between Arctic sea ice extent and SSN is still present in other seasons as well. However, the correlation between SSN and AO is only significant in DJF, confirming that the possible route of solar influence on winter Arctic sea ice is via the AO. On the other hand, the influence of AO on Arctic sea ice extent is not present during winter. It is strongest during JJA, though fails to exceed a significant threshold of 95% level.

Results of Correlation Coefficient (c.c) between Sea Ice Extent and various other parameters. (a) Seasonal c.c. for four different seasons are presented using other parameters as SSN and AO, and (b) c.c. for the winter season in different regions using other parameters as AO and AMO. Significant levels of 95% and 99% using a students ‘t-test’ are marked by dashed line and dotted line respectively. Plots are prepared using IDL software, version 8.

In terms of oceanic longer-term variability, here we particularly focus on the AMO and find a strong connection between sea ice and AMO in winter, agreeing with previous studies45,46. Earlier discussions suggested that there are few differences in region A and B relating to trend (Figs S6 and S7), but correlation technique indicated a very strong anti-correlation between the winter AMO index and sea ice in all regions of our considerations (Fig. 8b)). Even using two different data sources (HadSST and ERSST) we arrive at similar results, and it is also true for overall sea ice extent. It could also be possible that, in region B, due to a strong presence of AO influence of the sun, it may mask some of the influence of the longer-term trend (seen in Fig. 2) to suggest a lesser trend, as also noted in Figs S6 and S7.

This Matters As We Reach Solar Minimum for Cycle 24

The latest observations show this solar cycle is over, perhaps the next one beginning.  With no sunspots seen since June, this is unusually quiet.

The solar surface at the moment is “Spotless” and has been for a month.

Summary

The sun is the primary source of energy in the earth/atmosphere system, but the actual role of the sun and related mechanisms to support varied regional climate responses and its seasonality around the world, are still poorly understood. Solar energy output varies in cycles, of which the 11-year cyclic variability is one of the most crucial ones. It causes differences in the amount of solar energy absorbed in the UV part of the spectrum within the upper stratosphere, varying from 6 to 8%. Such variation is believed to be one of the most important solar energy outputs to influence the climate of the earth and that knowledge of cyclic behaviour can also be used for future prediction purposes. Apart from solar UV related effects on earth’s climate, studies also identified effects related to solar particle precipitation.

Various studies have also detected an influence of the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO)22 and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) on Arctic sea ice. An association between the sun and ENSO are discussed in various research. Because of related complexities along with various linear and nonlinear couplings among major modes of variability, the role of the sun on Arctic air temperatures and sea ice extent and related mechanisms remains poorly understood/explored.

While many studies point to anthropogenic influences on the long-term sea ice decline, this study is motivated by the potential links between the sun and the surface climate through stratospheric processes. Alongside warming in the Arctic, a cooling is noticed around Eurasian sector despite continuing rise of greenhouse gas concentrations. Various modelling groups, however, made unsuccessful efforts to detect an association between Eurasian cooling and Arctic sea-ice decline. In this work, we evaluate the impact of the solar 11-year cycle, measured in terms of solar sunspot number (SSN), as a driving factor to modulate Arctic and surrounding climate. The influences of SSN on various surface parameters, such as Sea Level Pressure (SLP), Sea Surface Temperature (SST), and the polar stratosphere are well recognised. If there is indeed a link between the solar cycle and Arctic climate, it is possible that the 11-year solar cycle can be used to improve seasonal and decadal predictions of sea ice.  In the present study, we use a combination of observational and reanalysis datasets to uncover relationships between the sun’s variability and Arctic surface climate, via the modulation of NAM and downward propagation of anomaly from upper stratospheric winter polar vortex.

Our result suggests the latest rapid decline of sea ice around the Arctic in the recent winter decade/season could also have contributions from the current weaker solar cycle. The last 14 years are dominated by solar Min years and have only one Max. This is unlike other previous years, where the number of Max and Min years were evenly distributed (five each). The cumulative effect from the past 13 solar Min years could have played a role in the current record decline of the last winter, 2017. The current weaker solar cycle may also have contributions on increase in winter snow cover around the Eurasian sector.

Presenting schematics and flowcharts, we discussed mechanisms of how solar cycle variability influences Arctic climate. In the first route, perturbation in the upper stratospheric polar vortex is transported downwards and modulates the Arctic in a seasonal scale via the winter NAM. Another route was shown, which could involve upper stratospheric polar vortex, tropical lower stratosphere, Brewer-Dobson circulation and Ferrel cell. It could also reinforce the findings of the ‘Solar Max (Min) – cold (warm) Arctic’ scenario.

 

 

Heat Waves: Historical, not Hysterical Context

Rannoch Moor, Scotland

Alarms are being sounded about heat waves in the Northern Hemisphere, noting heat waves in Eastern Canada and US, wildfires in N. Sweden and Siberia.  The recent UK lawsuit featured the advocate claiming the Arctic is burning, so global warming is no longer in doubt.  Thus UK needs to up its carbon reduction targets.

The High Court disagreed.  And for good reasons not cited by the judge.  The hot dry weather this summer in Siberia was preceded by extreme cold and massive snowfall, unusual winter conditions even for that climate zone.  Similarly, there have been cold winters across Eurasia, while Northern Europe enjoys a BBQ summer.  BTW, I recall seeing on TV May and June tennis matches in Spain where spectators were wearing jackets and head covering against the cold.

What is going on?  Fact: Concurrent warm summers and cold winters are a feature of the North Atlantic climate system.  It has gone on periodically throughout history, and long before humans burned fossil fuels.  Below is evidence providing insight into our present experience of 2018 weather.

Concurrent Warming and Cooling

This post highlights recent interesting findings regarding past climate change in NH, Scotland in particular. The purpose of the research was to better understand how glaciers could be retreating during the Younger Dryas Stadia (YDS), one of the coldest periods in our Holocene epoch.

The lead researcher is Gordon Bromley, and the field work was done on site of the last ice fields on the highlands of Scotland. 14C dating was used to estimate time of glacial events such as vegetation colonizing these places. Bromely explains in article Shells found in Scotland rewrite our understanding of climate change at siliconrepublic. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

By analysing ancient shells found in Scotland, the team’s data challenges the idea that the period was an abrupt return to an ice age climate in the North Atlantic, by showing that the last glaciers there were actually decaying rapidly during that period.

The shells were found in glacial deposits, and one in particular was dated as being the first organic matter to colonise the newly ice-free landscape, helping to provide a minimum age for the glacial advance. While all of these shell species are still in existence in the North Atlantic, many are extinct in Scotland, where ocean temperatures are too warm.

This means that although winters in Britain and Ireland were extremely cold, summers were a lot warmer than previously thought, more in line with the seasonal climates of central Europe.

“There’s a lot of geologic evidence of these former glaciers, including deposits of rubble bulldozed up by the ice, but their age has not been well established,” said Dr Gordon Bromley, lead author of the study, from NUI Galway’s School of Geography and Archaeology.

“It has largely been assumed that these glaciers existed during the cold Younger Dryas period, since other climate records give the impression that it was a cold time.”

He continued: “This finding is controversial and, if we are correct, it helps rewrite our understanding of how abrupt climate change impacts our maritime region, both in the past and potentially into the future.”

The recent report is Interstadial Rise and Younger Dryas Demise of Scotland’s Last Ice Fields
G. Bromley A. Putnam H. Borns Jr T. Lowell T. Sandford D. Barrell  First published: 26 April 2018.(my bolds)

Abstract

Establishing the atmospheric expression of abrupt climate change during the last glacial termination is key to understanding driving mechanisms. In this paper, we present a new 14C chronology of glacier behavior during late‐glacial time from the Scottish Highlands, located close to the overturning region of the North Atlantic Ocean. Our results indicate that the last pulse of glaciation culminated between ~12.8 and ~12.6 ka, during the earliest part of the Younger Dryas stadial and as much as a millennium earlier than several recent estimates. Comparison of our results with existing minimum‐limiting 14C data also suggests that the subsequent deglaciation of Scotland was rapid and occurred during full stadial conditions in the North Atlantic. We attribute this pattern of ice recession to enhanced summertime melting, despite severely cool winters, and propose that relatively warm summers are a fundamental characteristic of North Atlantic stadials.

Plain Language Summary

Geologic data reveal that Earth is capable of abrupt, high‐magnitude changes in both temperature and precipitation that can occur well within a human lifespan. Exactly what causes these potentially catastrophic climate‐change events, however, and their likelihood in the near future, remains frustratingly unclear due to uncertainty about how they are manifested on land and in the oceans. Our study sheds new light on the terrestrial impact of so‐called “stadial” events in the North Atlantic region, a key area in abrupt climate change. We reconstructed the behavior of Scotland’s last glaciers, which served as natural thermometers, to explore past changes in summertime temperature. Stadials have long been associated with extreme cooling of the North Atlantic and adjacent Europe and the most recent, the Younger Dryas stadial, is commonly invoked as an example of what might happen due to anthropogenic global warming. In contrast, our new glacial chronology suggests that the Younger Dryas was instead characterized by glacier retreat, which is indicative of climate warming. This finding is important because, rather than being defined by severe year‐round cooling, it indicates that abrupt climate change is instead characterized by extreme seasonality in the North Atlantic region, with cold winters yet anomalously warm summers.

The complete report is behind a paywall, but a 2014 paper by Bromley discusses the evidence and analysis in reaching these conclusions. Younger Dryas deglaciation of Scotland driven by warming summers  Excerpts with my bolds.

Significance: As a principal component of global heat transport, the North Atlantic Ocean also is susceptible to rapid disruptions of meridional overturning circulation and thus widely invoked as a cause of abrupt climate variability in the Northern Hemisphere. We assess the impact of one such North Atlantic cold event—the Younger Dryas Stadial—on an adjacent ice mass and show that, rather than instigating a return to glacial conditions, this abrupt climate event was characterized by deglaciation. We suggest this pattern indicates summertime warming during the Younger Dryas, potentially as a function of enhanced seasonality in the North Atlantic.

Surface temperatures range from -30C to +30C

Fig. 1. Surface temperature and heat transport in the North Atlantic Ocean.  The relatively mild European climate is sustained by warm sea-surface temperatures and prevailing southwesterly airflow in the North Atlantic Ocean (NAO), with this ameliorating effect being strongest in maritime regions such as Scotland. Mean annual temperature (1979 to present) at 2 m above surface (image obtained using University of Maine Climate Reanalyzer, http://www.cci-reanalyzer.org). Locations of Rannoch Moor and the GISP2 ice core are indicated.

Thus the Scottish glacial record is ideal for reconstructing late glacial variability in North Atlantic temperature (Fig. 1). The last glacier resurgence in Scotland—the “Loch Lomond Advance” (LLA)—culminated in a ∼9,500-km2 ice cap centered over Rannoch Moor (Fig. 2A) and surrounded by smaller ice fields and cirque glaciers.

Fig. 2. Extent of the LLA ice cap in Scotland and glacial geomorphology of western Rannoch Moor. (A) Maximum extent of the ∼9,500 km2 LLA ice cap and larger satellite ice masses, indicating the central location of Rannoch Moor. Nunataks are not shown. (B) Glacial-geomorphic map of western Rannoch Moor. Distinct moraine ridges mark the northward active retreat of the glacier margin (indicated by arrow) across this sector of the moor, whereas chaotic moraines near Lochan Meall a’ Phuill (LMP) mark final stagnation of ice. Core sites are shown, including those (K1–K3) of previous investigations (14, 15).

When did the LLA itself occur? We consider two possible resolutions to the paradox of deglaciation during the YDS. First, declining precipitation over Scotland due to gradually increasing North Atlantic sea-ice extent has been invoked to explain the reported shrinkage of glaciers in the latter half of the YDS (18). However, this course of events conflicts with recent data depicting rapid, widespread imposition of winter sea-ice cover at the onset of the YDS (9), rather than progressive expansion throughout the stadial.

Loch Lomond

Furthermore, considering the gradual active retreat of LLA glaciers indicated by the geomorphic record, our chronology suggests that deglaciation began considerably earlier than the mid-YDS, when precipitation reportedly began to decline (18). Finally, our cores contain lacustrine sediments deposited throughout the latter part of the YDS, indicating that the water table was not substantially different from that of today. Indeed, some reconstructions suggest enhanced YDS precipitation in Scotland (24, 25), which is inconsistent with the explanation that precipitation starvation drove deglaciation (26).

We prefer an alternative scenario in which glacier recession was driven by summertime warming and snowline rise. We suggest that amplified seasonality, driven by greatly expanded winter sea ice, resulted in a relatively continental YDS climate for western Europe, both in winter and in summer. Although sea-ice formation prevented ocean–atmosphere heat transfer during the winter months (10), summertime melting of sea ice would have imposed an extensive freshwater cap on the ocean surface (27), resulting in a buoyancy-stratified North Atlantic. In the absence of deep vertical mixing, summertime heating would be concentrated at the ocean surface, thereby increasing both North Atlantic summer sea-surface temperatures (SSTs) and downwind air temperatures. Such a scenario is analogous to modern conditions in the Sea of Okhotsk (28) and the North Pacific Ocean (29), where buoyancy stratification maintains considerable seasonal contrasts in SSTs. Indeed, Haug et al. (30) reported higher summer SSTs in the North Pacific following the onset of stratification than previously under destratified conditions, despite the growing presence of northern ice sheets and an overall reduction in annual SST. A similar pattern is evident in a new SST record from the northeastern North Atlantic, which shows higher summer temperatures during stadial periods (e.g., Heinrich stadials 1 and 2) than during interstadials on account of amplified seasonality (30).

Our interpretation of the Rannoch Moor data, involving the summer (winter) heating (cooling) effects of a shallow North Atlantic mixed layer, reconciles full stadial conditions in the North Atlantic with YDS deglaciation in Scotland. This scenario might also account for the absence of YDS-age moraines at several higher-latitude locations (12, 36–38) and for evidence of mild summer temperatures in southern Greenland (11). Crucially, our chronology challenges the traditional view of renewed glaciation in the Northern Hemisphere during the YDS, particularly in the circum-North Atlantic, and highlights our as yet incomplete understanding of abrupt climate change.

Summary

Several things are illuminated by this study. For one thing, glaciers grow or recede because of multiple factors, not just air temperature. The study noted that glaciers require precipitation (snow) in order to grow, but also melt under warmer conditions. For background on the complexities of glacier dynamics see Glaciermania

Also, paleoclimatology relies on temperature proxies who respond to changes over multicentennial scales at best. C14 brings higher resolution to the table.

Finally, it is interesting to consider climate changing with respect to seasonality.  Bromley et al. observe that during Younger Dryas, Scotland shifted from a moderate maritime climate to one with more seasonal extremes like that of inland continental regions. In that light, what should we expect from cooler SSTs in the North Atlantic?

Note also that our modern warming period has been marked by the opposite pattern. Many NH temperature records show slight summer cooling along with somewhat stronger warming in winter, the net being the modest (fearful?) warming in estimates of global annual temperatures.  Then of course there are anomalous years like this one where cold winters combine with warm summer periods.

It seems that climate shifts are still events we see through a glass darkly.

 

N. Atlantic Finally Cooling?

RAPID Array measuring North Atlantic SSTs.

For the last few years, observers have been speculating about when the North Atlantic will start the next phase shift from warm to cold.

Source: Energy and Education Canada

An example is this report in May 2015 The Atlantic is entering a cool phase that will change the world’s weather by Gerald McCarthy and Evan Haigh of the RAPID Atlantic monitoring project. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

This is known as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), and the transition between its positive and negative phases can be very rapid. For example, Atlantic temperatures declined by 0.1ºC per decade from the 1940s to the 1970s. By comparison, global surface warming is estimated at 0.5ºC per century – a rate twice as slow.

In many parts of the world, the AMO has been linked with decade-long temperature and rainfall trends. Certainly – and perhaps obviously – the mean temperature of islands downwind of the Atlantic such as Britain and Ireland show almost exactly the same temperature fluctuations as the AMO.

Atlantic oscillations are associated with the frequency of hurricanes and droughts. When the AMO is in the warm phase, there are more hurricanes in the Atlantic and droughts in the US Midwest tend to be more frequent and prolonged. In the Pacific Northwest, a positive AMO leads to more rainfall.

A negative AMO (cooler ocean) is associated with reduced rainfall in the vulnerable Sahel region of Africa. The prolonged negative AMO was associated with the infamous Ethiopian famine in the mid-1980s. In the UK it tends to mean reduced summer rainfall – the mythical “barbeque summer”.Our results show that ocean circulation responds to the first mode of Atlantic atmospheric forcing, the North Atlantic Oscillation, through circulation changes between the subtropical and subpolar gyres – the intergyre region. This a major influence on the wind patterns and the heat transferred between the atmosphere and ocean.

The observations that we do have of the Atlantic overturning circulation over the past ten years show that it is declining. As a result, we expect the AMO is moving to a negative (colder surface waters) phase. This is consistent with observations of temperature in the North Atlantic.

Cold “blobs” in North Atlantic have been reported, but they are usually a winter phenomena. For example in April 2016, the sst anomalies looked like this

But by September, the picture changed to this

And we know from Kaplan AMO dataset, that 2016 summer SSTs were right up there with 1998 and 2010 as the highest recorded.

As the graph above suggests, this body of water is also important for tropical cyclones, since warmer water provides more energy.  But those are annual averages, and I am interested in the summer pulses of warm water into the Arctic. As I have noted in my monthly HadSST3 reports, most summers since 2003 there have been warm pulses in the north atlantic.
The AMO Index is from from Kaplan SST v2, the unaltered and untrended dataset. By definition, the data are monthly average SSTs interpolated to a 5×5 grid over the North Atlantic basically 0 to 70N.  The graph shows warming began after 1992 up to 1998, with a series of matching years since.  Because McCarthy refers to hints of cooling to come in the N. Atlantic, let’s take a closer look at some AMO years in the last 2 decades.

This graph shows monthly AMO temps for some important years. The Peak years were 1998, 2010 and 2016, with the latter emphasized as the most recent. The other years show lesser warming, with 2007 emphasized as the coolest in the last 20 years. Note the red 2018 line is at the bottom of all these tracks.  Most recently June 2018 is 0.4C lower than June 2016.

With all the talk of AMOC slowing down and a phase shift in the North Atlantic, we await SST measurements for July, August and September to confirm if cooling is starting to set in.

Stanford Jumps Suicide Climate Shark

Today’s media feeding frenzy is promoting another scary climate change report from Stanford.  Sample headlines are:

Climate change linked to increase in suicide rates USA Today

Rising heat linked to suicide spikes in U.S. and Mexico Thomson Reuters Foundation News

Climate Change May Cause 26,000 More U.S. Suicides by 2050 The Atlantic

Etc. Etc.

Some points to consider:

1. A suicide is a personal event with many contributing factors, weather and climate being the most peripheral.

2. Serious suicide researchers have identified risk factors that inform caregivers. Franklin et al. provide this analysis of experience with suicidal incidents Risk Factors for Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors: A Meta-Analysis of 50 Years of Research

Open image in new tab to enlarge.

With such complexity of influencing factors, putting emphasis on a bit of warming is both myopic and lopsided.  For example, some places report springtime suicides are more frequent, others see more such deaths in Summer or Autumn.  The seasonal relationship is quite mixed in studies with various theories being suggested along with great uncertainty.

3. Suicides occur more frequently in colder climates than in warmer ones. For example, this European study found the highest rates in eastern European nations and lowest rates in Mediterranean countries.

Relationship of suicide rates with climate and economic variables in Europe during 2000–2012 in Annals of General Psychiatry. Excerpt below in italics with my bolds.

It is well known that suicidal rates vary considerably among European countries (Fig.  1) and the reasons for this are unknown although several theories have been proposed. The effect of climate has previously been discussed but has not been investigated in a systematic way across countries.

One of the biggest enigmas is the marked geographic variability in suicide rates found in Europe, with the highest rates being found in Eastern Europe and the lowest in the Mediterranean region

The current study reports that the climatic effect (cold climate) is stronger than the economic one, but both are present. It seems that in Europe suicidality follows the climate/temperature cline which interestingly is not from south to north but from south to north-east. 

4. Preventing suicides is a serious issue, and has nothing to do with reducing CO2.

These New Zealand researchers argue against mixing climate policies with suicide prevention programs.

Will climate change increase or decrease suicide rates? The differing effects of geographical, seasonal, and irregular variation in temperature on suicide incidence Excerpts in italics with my bolds

The effect of environmental temperature on suicide risk is an important issue given the increase in global temperatures expected over the following century. Previous research has produced conflicting findings: Studies concerned with temporal variation in temperature and suicide have tended to find a positive relationship, while those concerned with geographical variation in temperature and suicide have tended to find a negative relationship. In this study, we aimed firstly to estimate the relationship between suicide incidence and three components of variation in temperature: Irregular, seasonal, and geographical. Secondly, we aimed to critically examine what this information can (and cannot) tell us about the likely effects of anthropogenic climate change on suicide rates.

In this study, irregular variation in temperature had a positive relationship with suicide incidence, with approximately 1.8% more suicides for every 1°C increase in temperature. The size of this estimate was fairly consistent with those of previous studies (e.g., Deisenhammer 2003; Kim et al. 2011). We did not find evidence of the non-linear relationship between temperature and suicide incidence reported by Page et al. (2007). We also found no evidence for any substantial lagged effect of irregular variation in temperature, a finding similar to that of Likhvar et al. (2011) and Kim et al. (2011).

On the basis of the apparent positive effect of irregular variation in temperature, it would be tempting to conclude that global warming will increase the incidence of suicides. However, this conclusion is contradicted by our analyses of seasonal and geographical variation in temperature and suicide. Seasonal variation in suicide deaths did roughly follow the pattern generally found in the literature of a peak in spring and a trough in winter (Chew and McCleary 1995), but in accordance with a previous study in New Zealand (Yip et al. 1998), the magnitude of seasonal variation in suicide incidence was very small.

Furthermore, seasonal variation in temperature had a relationship with suicide incidence that was close to zero: That is, hotter times of the year were not consistently associated with higher suicide risk The relationship between geographical variation in temperature and suicide incidence differed even more greatly from that of irregular variation in temperature. While there was little evidence of any relationship at a bivariate level, controlling for age and ethnic differences across regions resulted in the relationship becoming negative: warmer areas had lower suicide rates. This finding was in accordance with prior studies finding a negative relationship between geographical variation in temperature and suicide rates (Rotton 1986; Souêtre et al. 1990; Lester 1999).

Counteracting the potential confounding problem relating to analyses of seasonal and (especially) geographical variation is that these analyses can potentially provide information about how humans adapt to long-term, sustained climatic differences. Indeed, the negative relationship between geographical variation in temperature and suicide incidence hints at the presence of adaptation mechanisms to warmer temperatures that inhibit suicide risk in the long term. At the very least, this finding means that we should be cautious about assuming that the positive effect of irregular variation in temperature on suicide incidence implies that climate change will increase suicide risk. Until the reasons for the apparently conflicting effect of geographical variation in temperature can be identified, such an inference does not seem well justified.

Once again alarmist researchers doing an high wire act. Claims with virtually nothing to support them.

Footnote:

“Jumping the shark” is attempting to draw attention to or create publicity for something that is perceived as not warranting the attention, especially something that is believed to be past its peak in quality or relevance. The phrase originated with the TV series “Happy Days” when an episode had Fonzie doing a water ski jump over a shark. The stunt was intended to perk up the ratings, but it marked the show’s low point ahead of its demise.

 

The Art of Rigging Climate Polls

Marketing and social influence makers have used opinion surveys extensively to promote awareness, interest and motivation to engage with their products or preferred policies. I have written before on how this ploy is used regarding global warming/climate change (links at bottom). This post is prompted by a fresh round of climate polls and some further insight into how results are created to support a socio-political agenda.

Of course, any opinion poll on climate as a public policy matter is indicating how much of the blather in the media has penetrated public consciousness, and softened them up for political pitches and financial support. And the continuing samplings and reports need to show progress to keep activist hopes alive.

Just yesterday we had an announcement along these lines. Poll shows consensus for climate policy remains strong is published at Phys.org from Stanford U. (where else, home of the belated Stephen Schneider, among many other leading alarmists). Stanford also happens to be my alma mater, but when I was studying organic chemistry there, we knew life on earth was carbon-based and did not think CO2 was a pollutant.

Climate Public Opinion is a Program of Research by the Stanford Political Psychology Research Group and has done frequent surveys on the question: What do the residents of the United States believe about global warming?

From psy.org article (excerpts in italics with my bolds):

While the United States is deeply divided on many issues, climate change stands out as one where there is remarkable consensus, according to Stanford research.

“But the American people are vastly underestimating how green the country wants to be,” said Jon Krosnick, a professor of communication and of political science at Stanford, about new findings from a poll he led on American attitudes about climate change.

The study was conducted with ABC News and Resources for the Future, a Washington, D.C.-based research organization. A representative sample of 1,000 American adults nationwide were polled from May 7 to June 11, 2018. The margin of error is +/- 3.5 percentage points.

The poll showed that Americans don’t realize how much they agree about global warming: Despite 74 percent of Americans believing the world’s temperature has been rising, respondents wrongly guessed 57 percent.

“The majority doesn’t realize how many people agree with them,” said Krosnick. “And this may have important implications for politics: If people knew how prevalent green views are in the country, they might be more inclined to demand more government action on the issue.”

Public belief in the existence and threat of global warming has been strikingly consistent over the last 20 years, even in the face of a current administration skeptical about climate change,” said Krosnick, who has been tracking public opinion about global warming since 1995.

Krosnick has learned from his 20 year experience with this topic, and shares with us some of the tricks of the trade. For example, one paper provides their finding regarding the wording of questions.

1. “What do you think is the most important problem facing the country today?”

In this traditional MIP question, about 49 percent answered the economy or unemployment, while only 1 percent mentioned the environment or global warming.

2. “What do you think is the most important problem facing the world today?”

Substituting the word “country” with “world” produced a significant change: 7 percent mentioned environmental issues, while 32 percent named the economy or unemployment.

3. “What do you think will be the most important problem facing the world in the future?”

When asked to consider the future of the planet, 14 percent chose the environment or global warming, while economic issues slipped to 21 percent.

4. “What do you think will be the most serious problem facing the world in the future if nothing is done to stop it?”

This time, 25 percent said the environment or global warming, and only 10 percent picked the economy or unemployment.

“Thus, when asked to name the most serious problem facing the world in the future if nothing is done to stop it, one-quarter of all Americans mentioned either global warming or the environment,” Krosnick said. “In fact, environmental issues were cited more often in response to question 4 than any other category, including terrorism, which was only mentioned by 10 percent of respondents.”

Thus it is that survey results are influenced greatly by the design of the questioning process. Helpfully, the Stanford program provides this history of the questions put to participants over the years. Below are the result categories, some showing the evolving form of questioning, and others just the most recent form for brevity. I will comment on the first few, and leave the others for your reflection (my bolds)

1. Global warming is happening. 2012-2013: What is your personal opinion? Do you think that the world’s temperature probably has been going up over the past 100 years, or do you think this probably has not been happening? 2012: What is your personal opinion? Do you think that the world’s temperature probably has been going up slowly over the past 100 years, or do you think this probably has not been happening? 1997-2011: You may have heard about the idea that the world’s temperature may have been going up slowly over the past 100 years. What is your personal opinion on this? Do you think this has probably been happening, or do you think it probably has not been happening?

Fair question with both responses equally acceptable. The earlier form referred to what they may have heard, but wisely dropped that later on. One does wonder what evidence people use for 100 years of reference.

In a separate study Krosnick tested the effect of asking about “global warming” or “climate change” and concluded:
In the full sample, global warming, climate change, and global climate change were all perceived to be equally serious on average. These findings seem to be inconsistent with the claim that people view climate change or global climate change as less serious than global warming. In addition, the distribution of seriousness ratings were equivalent for global warming, climate change, and global climate change.

IMO it is to his credit that he asks about global warming rather than the vacuous “climate change”.

2.Warming will continue in the future. 2012: If nothing is done to prevent it, do you think the world’s temperature probably will go up slowly over the next 100 years, or do you think the world’s temperature probably will not go up slowly over the next 100 years?

Here comes the phrase:  If nothing is done to prevent it . . . The participant gets the suggestion that rising temperatures have human agency, that we can do something to prevent them. As Krosnick explained above, this phrase will help respondents identify the issue as “environmental” and tap their instinct to protect nature. Implanting this subliminal suggestion sets them up for the next question.

3. Past warming has been caused by humans. 2012: Do you think a rise in the world’s temperature is being caused mostly by things people do, mostly by natural causes, or about equally by things people do and by natural causes? 2012: Assuming it’s happening, do you think a rise in the world’s temperature would be caused mostly by things people do, mostly by natural causes, or about equally by things people do and by natural causes?

Now we have some serious distortions inserted into the findings. The end results will reported as “The % of Americans that believe past warming has been caused by humans.” Note that participants have been primed to think warming is preventable by humans, so obviously humans have caused it (logical connection). Moreover, there are the 50-50 responses that will be counted as human causation. The problem is, people who are mostly uncertain and unwilling to say “don’t know” will fall back to the “equally human, equally nature” response.  It is a soft, not affirmative response.

And a further perversion: Those who have said temperatures are not rising are now told to “Assume it is happening.” What? This is no longer an opinion, it is out-and-out speculation. It appears that “Don’t know” and “Not Happening” are disallowed to force a choice with a 67% chance of getting the right answer: “Caused by Humans.”

4.Warming will be a serious problem for the U.S. 2012: If nothing is done to reduce global warming in the future, how serious of a problem do you think it will be for THE UNITED STATES – very serious, somewhat serious, not so serious, or not serious at all? 2012: Assuming it’s happening, if nothing is done to reduce global warming in the future, how serious of a problem do you think it would be for THE UNITED STATES – very serious, somewhat serious, not so serious, or not serious at all?

Again the phrase “If nothing is done to reduce global warming. . .” signaling participants that this is a serious issue, so don’t come with “not so serious” or (God forbid) “not serious at all.” And again, global warming must be assumed to be happening by anyone still unconvinced of it.

5. Warming will be a serious problem for the world. 2012: If nothing is done to reduce global warming in the future, how serious of a problem do you think it will be for THE WORLD – very serious, somewhat serious, not so serious, or not serious at all? 2012: Assuming it’s happening, if nothing is done to reduce global warming in the future, how serious of a problem do you think it would be for THE WORLD – very serious, somewhat serious, not so serious, or not serious at all?

Same comments regarding #4 apply here, only as Krosnick explained, elevating the issue to a “world problem” triggers even more seriousness in responses.

6. Five degrees of warming in 75 years will be bad. 2011-2012: If the world’s average temperature is about five degrees Fahrenheit higher 75 years from now than it is now, overall, would you say that would be good, bad, or neither good nor bad? 1997-2010: Scientists use the term “global warming” to refer to the idea that the world’s average temperature may be about five degrees Fahrenheit higher in 75 years than it is now. Overall, would you say that if the world’s average temperature is five degrees Fahrenheit higher in 75 years than it is now, would that be good, bad, or neither good nor bad?

In the past, interviewers told participants that global warming is defined as 5 degrees warmer, which triggered “bad” as a response. Fortunately, that obvious bias was dropped, and now people are free to say good, bad or neither. Interestingly, this question is not emphasized in the reports, perhaps because it only gets around 50% “Bad”, even in alarmist places like New York and California.

7. The government should limit greenhouse gas emissions. 2012: As you may have heard, greenhouse gasses are thought to cause global warming. In your opinion, do you think the government should or should not limit the amount of greenhouse gasses that U.S. businesses put out? 2008-2011: Some people believe that the United States government should limit the amount of air pollution that U.S. businesses can produce. Other people believe that the government should not limit air pollution from U.S. businesses. What about you? Do you think the government should or should not limit air pollution from U.S. businesses?

Here the older form of the question was more balanced: Some people believe X, some people believe Y, what do you believe? However, the older question was about air pollution which confuses CO2 (natural plant food) with artificial chemicals. The recent question targets “greenhouse gases”, a term nowhere defined. Now the biased question: Greenhouse gases cause global warming, should the government reduce them? Duh!

8.U.S. federal government should do more to address global warming. 2009-2012: How much do you think the U.S. government should do about global warming? A great deal, quite a bit, some, a little, or nothing? 2009-2012: How much do you think the U.S. government is doing now to deal with global warming? A great deal, quite a bit, some, a little, or nothing? 2008: Do you think the federal government should do more than it’s doing now to try to deal with global warming, should do less than it’s doing now, or is it doing about the right amount?

Note the shift from asking about Whether government should do more than now, to How much is government doing now, to present form: How much more should government do.  Compares with: “Have you stopped beating your wife?”

9. U. S. should take action regardless what other countries do. Do you think the United States should take action on global warming only if other major industrial countries such as China and India agree to do equally effective things, that the United States should take action even if these other countries do less, or that the United States should not take action on this at all?

IOW, Should the US wait for others and be a follower, not a leader? Duh!

Series of Government Policy Questions

The real reason for the survey is to develop support for government officials to impose climate policies upon the population. The flavor of these is below with few comments from me until the end.

10. For the next items, please tell me for each one whether it’s something the government should require by law, encourage with tax breaks but not require, or stay out of entirely. Each of these changes would increase the amount of money that you pay for things you buy.

Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by power plants. Favor lowering the amount of greenhouse gases that power plants are allowed to release into the air?

Favor a national cap and trade program. There’s a proposed system called “cap and trade.” The government would issue permits limiting the amount of greenhouse gases companies can put out. Companies that did not use all their permits could sell them to other companies. Companies that need more permits can buy them, or these companies can pay money to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that other people or organizations put out. This will cause companies to figure out the cheapest way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This type of permit system has worked successfully in the past to reduce the air pollution that companies put out. For example, in 1990, the federal government passed a law like this, called the Clean Air Act, which caused companies to put out a lot less of the air pollution that causes acid rain. Would you favor or oppose a cap and trade system to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that companies put out?

Tax breaks to produce renewable energy. Do you favor or oppose the federal government giving companies tax breaks to produce more electricity from water, wind, and solar power?

Tax breaks to reduce air pollution from coal. Do you favor or oppose the federal government giving tax breaks to companies that burn coal to make electricity if they use new methods to reduce the air pollution being released from their smokestacks?

Increase CAFE standards for cars. Favor building cars that use less gasoline?
Build electric vehicles. 2012: Building cars that run completely on electricity?

Build appliances that use less electricity. Favor building air conditioners, refrigerators, and other appliances that use less electricity?

Build more energy-efficient buildings. Favor building new homes and offices that use less energy for heating and cooling?

Tax breaks to build nuclear power plants. Do you favor or oppose the federal government giving companies tax breaks to build nuclear power plants?

Who Pays for all this? It is time for the turkeys to face the pilgrim with the hatchet. How willing are you to pay increased taxes to “fight global warming?”

Increase consumption taxes on electricity. Do you favor or oppose the federal government increasing taxes on electricity so people use less of it?

Most places, majorities of respondents were favorable, up to 80% in some states. Perhaps a tribute to relatively cheap electricity in the U. S.  They are blissfully unaware of what can happen to electricity rates, having been spared so far the “Ontario Experience.”

Increase consumption taxes on gasoline. Do you favor or oppose the federal government increasing taxes on gasoline so people either drive less, or buy cars that use less gas?

Nowhere does this get a majority favorable response. It ranges from 15% to 40%, with most places around 30% in favor of higher gasoline taxes.

And finally, how much do you care and how much do you know?

Warming is extremely important personally (and is likely to influence voting). How important is the issue of global warming to you personally – extremely important, very important, somewhat important, not too important, or not at all important?

Less than 17% of people say global warming is personally extremely important, and most places are under 10%

Highly knowledgeable about global warming. How much do you feel you know about global warming – a lot, a moderate amount, a little, or nothing?
Americans rate their global warming knowledge higher than other countries, going up to 60-70% claiming “Highly Knowledgeable.” Other country surveys would report 25% more typically.

Conclusion

An opinion poll is a mirror claiming to show us ourselves. All polls have error margins, and some are purposely bent to a desired distorted outcome.

In modern social democracies, polls and media are used to shape and report public opinions required by ruling elites to impose laws and policies unwanted by the people. A recent example was the distorted Canadian survey on carbon pricing used by Trudeau government to justify a carbon tax. That poll is deconstructed in a post Uncensored: Canadians View Global Warming.

Krosnick said that people taking his climate poll were surprised that the responses were not more skeptical of global warming claims. After seeing how the survey is put together, I am inclined to believe that participants and their neighbors are actually more skeptical than depicted in the results.  This showed up in the low numbers saying global warming is an important personal issue.  Despite agreeing with alarmist talking points, people seem to know this is about virtue signaling and tribal politics.  It is an “everywhere elsewhere” problem.

Finally, in the survey, Americans rate themselves as highly knowledgeable about global warming, up to 60-70% in some states. Other countries doing such climate surveys typically get about 25% of people saying that. For so many to be taken in by such a survey suggests that Americans’ actual knowledge of global warming is highly overrated.

Background:  Another Climate Push Poll