Can’t see the Climate Forest For the Trees

by Dr. Tim Ball on July 7, 2012

in Data,Philosophy,Politics,Theory

No, this is not another article about tree rings, hockey sticks, and rewritten history, although that is one tree in the climate forest. A group of scientists dismissed historical evidence and misled the public about temperature trends. Some dismiss their actions as bad science, but the evidence, particularly exposed in the leaked e-mails from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU), indicate differently. Many, including those claiming to be climate scientists were misled because they were experts on another tree in another part of the forest. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is not studying climatology, but specialists looking at some very limited components of an extremely complex system.

We live in a generalized world in an age of specialization. These problems are manifesting themselves more and more as the world systems break down into increasingly small pieces. It used to be there were general rules with exceptions to the rule – now everything is an exception. The problem is evident in the misuse of specialized knowledge by climate scientists. Using tree rings as representing temperature is a classic example.

Climatology is the study of the average weather and how it changes over time. It requires putting together all of the components that create the weather and understanding how they interact. This makes it a generalist discipline. A climate scientist is a person who studies one component of the weather. Unfortunately, they are often unable to show the location or the interaction of their component. This is why the Reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are so disjointed and easily manipulated to produce the political result presented to the media and the public through the Summary for Policymakers (SPM). It is a classic example of Gestaltist Theory that is the,

Psychological point of view that says it is necessary to consider the whole of something, since the whole has a meaning apart from its individual elements.

This creates a series of problems, both deliberate and because of ignorance that fall into a few categories. Sadly, because global warming caused by human CO2 was chosen for a political agenda, most were deliberate.

1. Deliberate misuse of a specialization: This appears to to be the case in the hockey stick. It wasn”t just the statistical manipulation, but the entire assumption that tree rings are a proxy for temperature.

2. Incomplete analysis: This involves failing to determine the actual mechanism and cause and effect relationship. Sunspots and temperature relationships is a major one, omitted because of the lack of a mechanism when one had been in the literature beginning in 1991. The problem is underlined when other weather effects, such as El Nino and La Nina are included but the mechanism is not known. They are ocean current reversals but that requires wind reversals, which requires pressure reversals which requires temperature reversals, which are not observed.

3. Deliberately ignoring ingscasino contradictory evidence. Every record of any duration for any time period has temperature increase preceding CO2 increase. Nobody has responded to my call for a contrary example.

4. Lack of awareness of previous research. This occurs in the individual component of the climate scientist, but especially in awareness of previous climatological work. There are four outstanding examples. a) volume 2 of Hubert Lamb’s Climate: Present, Past and Future. b) John Oliver and Rhodes Fairbridge’s Encyclopedia of Climatology c) Rudolf Geiger’s The Climate Near the Ground and d) John Herman and Richard Goldberg’s Sun, weather and climate.

5. Deliberate selection of data or mechanisms for inclusion or exclusion. It is frequently referred to as “cherry picking”. In an amazing comment about tree ring studies, Roseanne D’Arrigo said if you’re going to make cherry pie you have to pick cherries. The issue is also discussed in decisions about choosing proxies. Another example is selection of start and end points for a graph. Benjamin Santer provided an early example in Chapter 8 of the 1995 IPCC Report.

6. Omission of mechanisms because they don”t supposedly fit the period under examination. The IPCC left Milankovitch out of their computer models on these grounds. Here is a plot of insolation variation over a one million year record from the net Milankovitch Effect. The range of variability of solar radiant is 100 watts per square meter, which compares with the IPCC claim of 1.6 watts per square meter total human effect. Since the IPCC is studying climate change from pre-industrial (1750?) and for at least the next 50 years, a total of 300 years, so it is a factor.

7.Omission because the data is simply not available. Two of these are identified by the IPCC in Chapter 8 of the 2007 Report.

Since the TAR, there have been few assessments of the capacity of climate models to simulate observed soil moisture. Despite the tremendous effort to collect and homogenize soil moisture measurements at global scales (Robock et al., 2000), discrepancies between large-scale estimates of observed soil moisture remain.

Due to the computational cost associated with the requirement of a well-resolved stratosphere, the models employed for the current assessment do not generally include the QBO.

8. Limitation of research by definition of climate change – to only things within the Earth/Atmosphere/Ocean system or caused by humans. Besides ignoring Milankovitch they also ignore solar system and Galactic considerations. An example of the former is the work of Theodor Landscheidt

Another example is the relationship between the cyclical pattern of Ice Ages approximately every 250 million years and rotation of the Sun around the Milky Way and passage through areas of Galactic dust.

9. Complexity of climate. There are many specialized areas rarely discussed and little known that help build a better picture and understanding, but are ignored. For example, Palynology is the reconstruction of changing environmental conditions through changing layers of sediment and the pollen they contain. They show the changing vegetation through time as it responds to a multitude of factors. This is why it is necessary to include as many variables and measures as possible in a climatological study. Quite simply, the IPCC is not studying climatology.