Greenhouse gases up; Temperature stable

The uncertainty of science: Even as the Earth’s climate temperature has remained essentially unchanged for the past two decades, the rate of increase in greenhouse gases in 2013 hit its highest number in thirty years.

This Nature article is interesting in two ways. First, it actually breaks with the tradition of the past two decades and notes the gigantic uncertainties that exist in climate science.

The question remains, however, of why the rise in global mean temperatures near the surface has apparently slowed, after a series of exceptionally warm years in the 1990s.

To have mentioned an inconvenient fact like this, casting doubt on the theory of human-caused global warming, has been forbidden for decades in major journals like Nature. That the article does mention it shows that the inconvenient facts have become too obvious to ignore.

The second way the article is interesting is its repeated attempt to make believe that new theories, based on this very incomplete and contradictory data set, can explain the mystery.

Scientists have suggested a number of possible explanations for the global warming pause. According to the latest hypothesis, regularly occurring changes in circulation patterns in the Atlantic and Southern Ocean may have caused an increased volume of relatively warm water to sink to the depth of the ocean, thus reducing the amount of ocean heat escaping to the atmosphere.

The sad fact is that there are now dozens of theories to explain the long pause in global warming, none of which are convincing. The uncertainties continue to rule!

Similarly, the article also makes this naive statement:

Atmospheric methane, the second most important long-lived greenhouse gas, also reached a new high of about 1,824 parts per billion last year, mostly due to increased emissions from cattle breeding, rice farming, fossil fuel mining, landfills and biomass burning. [emphasis mine]

The certainty expressed here about the sources of methane increase in the atmosphere is misplaced. We don’t really know all the sources of the increase in methane in the atmosphere. Recent data instead suggests it could have many natural sources having nothing to do with human activities.

The bottom line remains: The knowledge we have of the Earth’s atmosphere and climate remains very incomplete and preliminary. Any theories about its nature and operation must be taken with a very large measure of skepticism. Any particular theory might be right, but it is just as likely that future research will very easily prove it wrong.

It would be nice if the journalists at Nature would take this advice.

New satellite data covering the period from 2000 to 2011 now shows that the atmosphere traps far less heat than predicted by every global warming climate model.

The uncertainty of science: New satellite data covering the period from 2000 to 2011 now shows that the atmosphere traps far less heat than predicted by every global warming climate model.

The models had predicted that the increase in CO2 — which is insufficient on its own to cause a greenhouse effect — would cause feedbacks with water (the atmosphere’s real greenhouse gas) that would increase the amount of atmospheric humidity which would thus trap heat in the atmosphere and raise the global temperature. The new data instead shows the opposite. The atmosphere is not trapping any heat. The greenhouse effect is not occurring as predicted.

The levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere hit a new high in 2011.

The levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere hit a new high in 2011.

The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) – the single most important greenhouse gas – reached 390.9 parts per million in 2011 and is now 40% above the pre-industrial level of 280 ppm, the WMO reports in its new Greenhouse Gas Bulletin released today. Methane (1,813 parts per billion) and nitrous oxide (324 parts per billion) — both potent greenhouse gases — also reached new highs last year.

Mysteriously, however, there has been no measured rise in the temperature of the climate for the past sixteen years, even though every computer model predicted that this increase in greenhouse gases would force a temperature rise.

The conclusion? I have none, other than to point out once again that climate science remains a difficult and complex area of research, filled with large gaps in knowledge and many questions and uncertainties that remain unanswered.

However, we will never get these questions answered if we make believe they don’t exist. It is essential that the climate science community stop pretending that they know what is going on while simultaneously playing politics with the science. Do the research, ask the right questions, and focus on what we don’t know. And tell the politicians to shut up and keep out, as they are surely the last people to understand the science of climate.

That way, we might finally begin to understand what is happening and can deal with it rationally.

The new Arctic ozone hole

An interesting and very informative paper was published by the American Geophysical Union this past Saturday, entitled “Arctic winter 2010/2011 at the brink of an ozone hole.” The first paragraph of the introduction essentially summed up the paper’s key points:

Large losses of Arctic stratospheric ozone have been observed during winter 2010/2011, exceeding observed losses during cold winters over the past decades, characterized as the first Arctic Ozone Hole. Although in general Arctic ozone is expected to recover because of the reductions in ozone depleting substances as a result of the Montreal Protocol and its amendments, the observation that apparently the cold Arctic winters in the stratosphere have been getting colder over the past decades raises some concern that Arctic ozone depletion may worsen over the next decades if the cooling trend continues while concentrations of ozone depleting substances remain sufficiently high. [emphasis mine]

Two important take-aways:
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