Midnight repost: The uncertainty of climate science


The tenth anniversary retrospective of Behind the Black continues: Tonight’s repost, from 2015, can be considered a follow-up to yesterday’s. While many global warming activists are absolutely certain the climate is warming — to the point of considering murder of their opponents a reasonable option — the actual available data is so far from certain as to be almost ludicrous.

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The uncertainty of climate science

For the past five years, I have been noting on this webpage the large uncertainties that still exist in the field of climate science. Though we have solid evidence of an increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, we also have no idea what the consequences of that increase are going to be. It might cause the atmosphere to warm, or it might not. It might harm the environment, or it might instead spur plant life growth that will invigorate it instead. The data remains inconclusive. We really don’t even know if the climate is truly warming, and even if it is, whether CO2 is causing that warming.

While government scientists at NASA and NOAA are firmly in the camp that claims increasing carbon dioxide will cause worldwide disastrous global warming, their own data, when looked at coldly, reveals that they themselves don’t have sufficient information to make that claim. In fact, they don’t even have sufficient information to claim they know whether the climate is warming or cooling! My proof? Look at the graph below, produced by NOAA’s own National Centers for Environmental Information.

NOAA's global temperature data

The graph, which the NOAA website allows you to create for yourself, shows the places on land where the temperature in September 2015 was either above or below the baseline temperature average, established by data from the period from 1981 to 2010. If a region was hotter than that long term average, it is showed in red tones. If it was cooler, it is shown in blue tones.

A lot of red there, ain’t there? September must have been the hottest month in recorded history!

Not! Note the large areas of grey, as well as the little note near the bottom of the graph: “Please note: Gray areas represent missing data.” In other words, except for Europe and the United States and a scattering of other well-developed regions, the land data is quite limited These government scientists have almost no data for either the north or south poles and much of Africa. In fact, most of their best data is confined to urban areas, regions that are prone to increased temperature readings merely because their urban environment, a phenomenon climate scientists have even named as the urban heat island effect. Stations in urban areas show increased heat because they are often near a lot of asphalt and heat-producing equipment, making the place seem warmer than it actually is.

Moreover, they are very vague about the meaning of the square data points. Do they represent one weather station or many? In the U.S. I would assume that there are many data-gathering stations within each square. In places like Greenland and Antarctica, however, I suspect that each square represents only one station. That means that in these two places their data is based on a very small number of stations, 9 for Antarctica and 5 for Greenland, all strung out along the coasts with no interior data points.

My point here is not to disprove the theory of human-caused global warming. My point is to note the limited nature of the data, and how this makes coming to any conclusion at this time difficult if not impossible. Satellite data fills in many of the blank areas of this graph, but it also shows absolutely no warming for almost the last 20 years. According to all global warming models, however, the climate should have continued to warm during this period because the CO2 in the atmosphere was also increasing.

The models were wrong however. Or to put in another way, the science remains uncertain. Keep this in mind the next time you hear a politician demand you give up your rights and freedoms in order to prevent global warming.

24 comments

  • Max

    Carbon dioxide has been vilified as pollution… A political designation, not factual or scientific definition.
    Everything that is living on this planet are referred to as carbon-based life forms. That’s right, all life is carbon dioxide.
    The theory that an “increase of carbon dioxide” leads to an “increase in temperature” only works in manipulated computer models. There has never been an actual “cause and affect” experimentation to verify the theory.
    Global temperatures, as much as we can trust the accuracy due to politics, have not varied more than 1° of temperature (plus or minus half a degree) But it said that carbon dioxide levels were at 350 parts per million during the beginning of the industrial age and have climbed to 410 ppm currently and still climbing with no devastating results… In fact quite the opposite as the earth begins to green more and produce more food with less water.
    I’ve never could understand how every carbon dioxide molecule could warm 2,500 Air molecules around it for less than a second continuously. How hot would that CO2 need to be? How would it recharge itself to raise the air temperature 30° by noon every day? Wouldn’t every carbon dioxide molecule’s temperature be hotter than the sun to achieve this?
    My conclusion is that global warming/climate change is a political/religious unscientific movement based upon the “ends” being justified by “any means possible”. Case in point is the current wo-flu epidemic controlled and promoted by the same groups as global warming except this time getting the desired results… the destruction of the American way of life.

    Michael Crichton wrote a book about the “State of Fear” where perceived tragedy is used to control the people with fear and guilt to further political gain. Even when it’s an invisible fictitious enemy.
    I wonder what he would say today, if he was still alive, to see the entire world brought to its knees by the media propaganda and the common cold…

  • wayne

    Max-
    Good stuff.

  • Andrew_W

    CO2 levels have increased from 280ppm to 415ppm today, an increase of nearly 50%.
    The amount of energy in the system below the stratosphere: In the atmosphere – as measured with thermometers, in the oceans – thermometers and thermal expansion, the decline of ice, observed and calculated through gravitational changes, makes it certain that the Earth has absorbed a considerably more energy over the last 140 years than it’s emitted.

    The increase in GHG concentrations is one likely explanation, magic is the other.

    Each molecule in the troposphere undergoes collisions with other molecules at a rate of about a billion collisions a second, there’re plenty of opportunities for GHG molecules to absorb radiation and then shed that energy to other atmospheric molecules during those collisions.

  • MDN

    The gold standard for arguing against global warming alarmism is the USCRN (United States Climate Reference Network).

    This is a network of over 100 precision weather stations established by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 2005 that are sited in a relatively uniform array across the entire nation in remote, un-developed, locations (that is, isolated away from the Heat Island Effect caused by urbanization). These stations are equipped with standardized, redundant, state of the art sensors, are calibrated to a stringent standard, and are maintained on a regular basis to ensure maximum accuracy.

    This is SCIENCE at its best with real data un-perverted by human activity (as many of the non USCRN weather stations are, being next to parking lots and freeways and all manner of human activity that affects their readings). And after 15 years of continuous operation it is abundantly clear that there is no detectable trend of increasing temperature.

    Save this link and keep track of the trend as the data is updated around the 5th of each month:

    https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/temp-and-precip/national-temperature-index/time-series?datasets%5B%5D=uscrn&parameter=anom-tavg&time_scale=p12&begyear=2004&endyear=2019&month=12

    Show people this graph and challenge them to identify a trend. 2 degrees C, which is the number we are supposed to fear by 2100, is 3.6F, and 15 years of data should have seen 1/6th of this by now (0.6F), and it isn’t there. At all.

  • MDN: Thank you for reminding me of this. I had linked to it several years ago when the lack of a trend became obvious. I had forgotten about it.

  • Andrew_W

    MDN. I confess I’m not sure what your point is, without a linear trend line to smooth the data eyeballing that graph provides no useful information on what the US contiguous states temperature trend is and zero information on what the global trend might be over the period covered. So I thought I’d help you out with the below link, it provides an easy to understand linear trend for global temperatures for the period your link covers with all 4 of the recognized data sets, the two surface; Giss and Hadcrut, and the two satellite; RSS and UAH

    https://woodfortrees.org/plot/uah6/from:2005/trend/offset:0.52/plot/rss/from:2005/trend/offset:0.25/plot/gistemp/from:2005/trend/plot/hadcrut4gl/from:2005/trend/offset:0.13

  • R7 Rocket

    The difference between the global warming crisis hoax and the COVID19 hoax is that it’s easy to detect COVID19 hysteria as a hoax.

    The global warming hoax required a hacker to obtain the emails of the conspiring climate academics.

  • MDN

    Andrew

    Interesting. Given your obvious skill in the art why don’t you simply calculate the linear fit to the USCRN data? The entire table of data directly follows the graph. And when you do so I believe you will find the trend is actually going down slightly, not up.

    My point is that USCRN is the only data set I personally trust. It comes from a diverse set of state-of-the-art weather stations that are fully documented, calibrated, and maintained. And they mask UHI out of the equation which is notoriously bad in other data sets. We’re supposed to be arguing the influence of CO2 concentrations on temperature and should control for obvious corruption like temperature stations that have cinder block buildings built immediately next door including A/C condensers.

    I am not an expert on climate science, or the particulars of the data sets you reference. But I believe I understand enough to be skeptical of the. As I stated the land sets do not mask out UHI, and worse they have been subject to extensive “adjustment”. One example is the altering of historic ship water temp readings from 50 to 100 years ago on the predicate they were inaccurate, however I never saw any evidence proving that or or anything to document the veracity of the adjustment mechanism, we’re just supposed to trust. And initially I did, but over the years I have read of too many adjustments and they ALWAYS go just one way, supportive of the AGW claims. But as an engineer and one familiar with instrumentation and statistical probabilities I find that laughable. Errors skew both ways. They always have and they always will. And when they don’t you cannot trust the data. It’s as simple as that.

    You make a reasonable observation that USCRN only covers north America, not the whole planet. So, yes that is a limiting factor. But I will argue that if CO2 is the thermostat AGW proponents claim it to be then we should expect that effect to be visible in North American data, where presumably the CO2 concentration is higher then the global average as we are the second largest emitter.

    I would also ask why is there no USCRN equivalent network elsewhere in the world? It cannot cost THAT much to build and maintain, yet the US is the only country to have done so. That is pathetic, particularly when the objective is to influence many trillion dollar policy world wide.

    So in the end I follow the data, but only from documented and maintained science instruments, and only where we have access to all of the un-processed raw data and the methods used to interpret them.

    Anything less is not science, at least in my book.

  • Andrew_W

    “My point is that USCRN is the only data set I personally trust.”
    A lot of skeptics personally trusted Roy Spencer’s UAH satellite data, criticizing the surface data on grounds that they didn’t trust the methodology. Spencer, as you probably know, was also a critic of surface data, but now that his UAH data closely matches GISS, the “skeptics” now look to other, often regional data sets that show local trends that suit them.
    If you’re reduced to only trusting the data that suits what you want, well, I wouldn’t call that very “scientific”.

    You can also plot in the Climate Division Dataset at your link, there’s no discernible difference between the two.

    As I stated the land sets do not mask out UHI,

    Well, you can state that, but I’m reminded of Anthony Watts campaign against surface temperature data sets based on that exact claim, his campaign was abandoned when the results of his work were contrary to what he wanted them to be.

    Berkeley Earth has also been looking for UHI effects in the data and last I read (a few years ago I admit) they hadn’t found much.
    https://judithcurry.com/2015/02/09/berkeley-earth-raw-versus-adjusted-temperature-data/

    But I will argue that if CO2 is the thermostat AGW proponents claim it to be then we should expect that effect to be visible in North American data, where presumably the CO2 concentration is higher then the global average as we are the second largest emitter.

    The problem with relying on US data is that it’s so strongly affected by weather events, a months long polar blast will markedly affect the whole years average temperature for the 48 states, as can be seen. I’ve not seen any evidence that CO2 levels over the contiguous states are measurably higher than anywhere else on Earth, everyone goes on about how quickly and well anthropogenic CO2 is mixed into the atmosphere.

  • R7 Rocket

    Once again, Andrew_W is completely unresponsive against my posts.

  • Andrew_W

    About half way down the page:
    Map of the most persistent carbon dioxide “anomalies” seen by OCO-2 (i.e. where the carbon dioxide is always systematically higher or lower than in the surrounding areas). Positive anomalies are most likely sources of carbon dioxide, while negative anomalies are most likely to be sinks, or reservoirs, of carbon dioxide. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
    https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2915/the-atmosphere-getting-a-handle-on-carbon-dioxide/

    The US doesn’t stand out.

  • R7 Rocket

    @Andrew_W

    “I wouldn’t call that very “scientific”.”

    Define “science” for us then.

  • Andrew_W

    Once again, Andrew_W is completely unresponsive against my posts.

    Sorry:
    LOL.

  • R7 Rocket

    @Andrew_W

    Unresponsive.

  • wayne

    R7 Rocket / MDN
    = Good stuff.

  • wayne

    Andrew_W:

    ref: “The problem with relying on US data is that it’s so strongly affected by weather events…”
    So, WHERE on Earth, isn’t effected by weather events?

    pivoting….

    Negativland
    “Time Zones”
    https://youtu.be/QDmWYVdN8ug
    5:26

  • pzatchok

    OCO-2 Data and graphs are biased.

    The objective of the whole project is to find global warming.

    So they are making assumptions about all the data and adjusting it.

    Show me the OCO-2 raw data without the human assumed contributions. Without the assumed contributions of natural fires and why do they ignore all the volcanoes that go off around the world?

  • Andrew_W

    So, WHERE on Earth, isn’t effected by weather events?

    Exactly so, just as year to year US temperatures can be greatly affected by polar storms an heatwaves, global temperatures are significantly affected by ENSO events, which is why a period as short as 15 years can, as a result of those particular weather events, show no trend.

    Good stuff Wayne.

  • pzatchok

    Why are volcanoes putting out 10 times the CO2 that humans do but they are not blamed?

  • Andrew_W

    “Why are volcanoes putting out 10 times the CO2 that humans do but they are not blamed?”

    This argument that human-caused carbon emissions are merely a drop in the bucket compared to greenhouse gases generated by volcanoes has been making its way around the rumor mill for years. And while it may sound plausible, the science just doesn’t back it up.

    According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the world’s volcanoes, both on land and undersea, generate about 200 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually, while our automotive and industrial activities cause some 24 billion tons of CO2 emissions every year worldwide.
    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/earthtalks-volcanoes-or-humans/

  • pzatchok

    SA is a hugely biased periodical.

    They in fact take cash for publishing articles from the writers.

    National Geographic is also a hugely biased publication. Since 1980 try to find an addition that does NOT have an article that mentions global warming. In fact I have found many edition that EVERY single article is centered on global warming.

    Wolf populations going down caused by human induced global warming.
    Polar bear populations going down caused by human induced global warming.
    In fact both populations are on the rise.
    Even whale populations are on the rise even though Japan is still hunting them.

    And how are you calculating the human contribution? I found one reference that is calculated here by taking the roughly 120 ppm rise in CO2 since pre-industrial times converted into 936.5 gigatons of carbon dioxide gas then devides it by years.
    Not actually a scientific measurement because it includes ALL Co2 and attributes it ALL to humans.

  • pzatchok

    Plus the Earth loses about 50,000 metric tons of hydrogen and helium to space every year and takes in about 40,000 tons of meteorites every year.

    Has there ever been a point in the Earths history when the Co2 level was higher than it is now?

  • Andrew_W

    And how are you calculating the human contribution?
    The contribution from fossil fuels from the amount of carbon in the coal, gas and oil we burn each year. That the CO2 is entering the atmosphere at the rates expected is supported by changes in atmospheric carbon isotope ratios.

    Has there ever been a point in the Earths history when the Co2 level was higher than it is now?
    Of course, no one denies that.

  • Andrew_W

    If you wish to dispute the data in the SA you should take issue with the sources the article uses:
    CONTACTS: U.S. Geological Survey, http://www.usgs.gov; Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, cdiac.esd.ornl.gov; British Antarctic Survey, http://www.antarctica.ac.uk.

    I know of no scientists, skeptics or not, that dispute the human vs volcanic contributions to the rise in atmospheric CO2.

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