de Freitas on solid groundRichard Treadgold | July 17, 2011
(h/t Bob D for most of the references)
Journalist Chris Barton has a story in yesterday’s Herald titled The climate dissenter holds his ground. After looking at Barton’s alarmist arguments I’ll stand with Chris de Freitas on the solid ground.
The story begins with the implication (not that the journalist says it this plainly) that, even with the planet battling weather extremes, that is not enough to convince an Auckland climate scientist (Associate Professor Chris de Freitas, at the University of Auckland) of the truth of human-induced global warming. We’re supposed to feel exasperation: “What will it take to get that man to see sense?”
But Barton is dead wrong. For why should “extreme” weather be an indication of man-made global warming? How could we get more extreme weather out of global warming?
What is weather
Weather is made up of several elements: temperature, air movement (wind), precipitation (rain, snow), sunshine, water vapour and clouds. What does it mean for those factors to become extreme? Remember that “extreme” might mean more or might mean less. Less rain equals drought.
Mr Barton must be saying that under global warming it will become both hotter and colder, winds will both increase and decrease, precipitation will be both less and more, and clouds will both increase and decrease. Presumably water vapour will go both up and down.
And this will all come from the same cause, which is increased warmth. How amazing.
This means only that weather will continue as usual. The expression “extreme weather events” means “climate.” We’ve always had extreme weather events.
We’ve been reading for years that global warming will cause floods and droughts to increase simultaneously, so perhaps that bold reasoning has softened our brains, and we’re now ready to accept any climatic nonsense.
Mr Barton ought to think about what he’s writing. Because the notion of the planet battling the weather, when it’s the planet itself which patently produces the weather, is plain illogical. Certainly, we battle the weather, but the planet doesn’t.
Just think association
Then he catalogues a string of bad weather events as though no other year had them but neglects to offer any reason to link them to global warming. We’re merely invited to “associate” those unpleasant and often tragic events with his mention of global warming. He omits to say that the northern winter of 2010-2011 produced record low temperatures and snowfall throughout England, Wales, Ireland, France, Scandinavia, Germany, Poland and Belgium and other places across the northern hemisphere.
But he’s claiming, in effect, that all damaging weather is caused by global warming and that makes no sense. Those record cold northern temperatures were not caused by warming.
He mentions the Mississippi floods, but they were caused by record snow melt, combined with poor maintenance of the levees and waterways. It’s unclear how record snow was caused by global warming.
Warming that persists during cooling
There has been no atmospheric warming for over a decade, and the oceans are clearly cooling. So even if we were to discover some mechanism by which “extreme weather” can be caused by global warming, we must then ask what kind of warming persists during cooling?
The claims regarding recent weather events are incorrect. The strong El Niño/La Niña sequence we saw in 2010/2011 was responsible for many of these events, and any half-decent environmental research should have revealed this.
There’s no indication that global warming will result in stronger storms. The World Meteorological Organisation announced earlier this year they find no connection between global warming and hurricane activity.
Stronger storms tend to be associated with larger north-south temperature differences. Global warming will tend to raise temperatures at higher latitudes, which will reduce those north-south differences, so reducing storm intensity. That’s the opposite of what Barton is saying here.
Russian Heat Wave
“Despite this strong evidence for a warming planet, greenhouse gas forcing fails to explain the 2010 heat wave over western Russia. The natural process of atmospheric blocking, and the climate impacts induced by such blocking, are the principal cause for this heat wave. It is not known whether, or to what exent, greenhouse gas emissions may affect the frequency or intensity of blocking during summer. It is important to note that observations reveal no trend in a daily frequency of July blocking over the period since 1948, nor is there an appreciable trend in the absolute values of upper tropospheric summertime heights over western Russia for the period since 1900.”
The Pakistan floods were linked to this same blocking event.
Australian Climate Report, page 42:
“The floods across eastern Australia in 2010 and early 2011 were the consequence of a very strong La Niña event, and not the result of climate change. That is, the underlying cause of the floods is a natural part of climate variability, which is part of the reason why Australia has always been a “land of droughts and flooding rains.” The extent, if any, of the influence of the warming planet on the intensity of these heavy rains and floods is simply unknown at this time. There is no evidence that the strength of La Niña events is increasing due to climate change.”
The IPCC has never even attempted to link tornado activity to global warming, simply because tornadoes are caused by cold air masses meeting warm air masses. A search of the IPCC SPM (Summary for Policy Makers) has zero results for the word “tornado”. Similarly for the “Regional Climate Projections.” Also, before the tornado season even began, most US meteorologists were predicting a record season this year because of the influence of the La Niña event.
The Texas drought, although severe, pales into insignificance beside the 1930s Dust Bowl, and the terrible droughts of the 1950s and the late 1980s. They are not demonstrating any increase in “severity.”
In aiming (ostensibly) to correct misapprehensions about dangerous human-caused global warming, Mr Barton instead exposes a very deep ignorance of it.
However, now Barton goes for the personal throat of the good professor, arguing for defects in a course de Freitas teaches at the university. He describes the “pretty simple” science that underlies episodes of extreme weather:
Increased heating leads to greater evaporation. Warm air holds more moisture. Hence increased water vapour and more energy in the atmosphere. Sooner or later the trapped energy has to go somewhere, and inevitably it ends up as weather. Thus increased surface drying, thereby increasing the intensity and duration of drought. And storms – whether with thunder, rain, snow or cyclones – are supplied with increased moisture, producing more intense precipitation events.
If we overlook the fact we’ve seen no increase in atmospheric temperatures for perhaps fifteen years (except in a single famous dataset managed by the “father of global warming,” James Hansen, at GISS), then this seems a reasonable mechanism. So do we observe this in nature? Well, yes, we do. This local increase in temperature gives rise to thunderstorms, which, according to Willis Eschenbach’s thermostat hypothesis, take the heat away most efficiently. Before extreme weather events occur. Or you could call a thunderstorm an extreme event, couldn’t you? Albeit a very common one.
The total opacity of Martin Manning
Barton turns now to Martin Manning for help. Professor Manning provides an extraordinary statement, obscure to the point of total opacity:
“What we are now starting to see is a collective extreme event which is occurring simultaneously across wide regions,” says the director of Victoria University’s NZ Climate Change Research Institute. “There is a huge spread of these events that makes them new and different.”
Simultaneously? But Barton’s own description shows many events occurring over many months. What does “starting to see” mean? It will continue? This is only the beginning, folks, and it’s all been predicted. This is nonsensical, frightening science by fiat from on high. We cannot take it seriously.
What’s a “collective extreme event” “occurring simultaneously” that actually takes months to happen? Further, there is a “huge spread” of these events. This is ridiculous. He’s talking about simple weather, which hasn’t changed at all.
Prof Manning, kindly supply graphs of increased storm (or any other “extreme” event you like) frequency and intensity showing a correlation with increasing atmospheric temperaures. Please. Thanks.
Applauds fraudulent hockey stick
Barton makes a detailed attack on de Freitas’ Geography 101 course, applauding Mann’s completely deprecated hockey stick graph of global temperature over the last 1000 years, omitting the fact that the strong recent upturn in the graph is caused by a single tree above the Arctic circle. It’s laughed at in serious academic circles and the author for many years refused FOI requests to release the data.
Barton thinks you can get better opinions from students about the quality of a course than you can from the professor who creates it. But how can that be true? They don’t even have a degree yet.
It was good to hear Glenn McGregor supporting de Freitas’ right to express his opinion freely. It was not so good to wade through Barton’s attack on that right.
Manning says those who are teaching students need to cover the full range of what goes in to scientific literature in a balanced way. “When you are teaching courses to students you really have a responsibility to cover the range of understanding and not just be dominated by a personal stance,” he says. “Courses in universities and schools should not be personal opinion.”
So, Prof Manning, do you similarly insist on having the “sceptical” climate view taught alongside your own establishment climate view? Come back to us on that, if you would.
To explain de Freitas’s view it’s necessary to acknowledge that he is one of a rare breed of climate scientists who oppose the climate change consensus as declared by the IPCC in 2007.
But this is disingenuous, because he does not “explain” Chris’ view. Nor is de Freitas one of a “rare breed”, he’s actually one of many thousands of scientists who have publicly declared doubts about the IPCC AR4 of 2007. Far more than the mere half-dozen or so credible voices responsible for the statement in the AR4 that humans are probably causing climate change. Nor is it hard to have doubts when the temperature can be seen not to have risen since about 1995.
But the company he keeps numbers just six in New Zealand and 142 worldwide according to the ICSC which keeps a register of “climate experts” who challenge “the hypothesis of dangerous human-caused climate change”.
This is outright deception or incompetence by Barton. A brief inspection is enough to discover that the register only records those who notice the web page and trouble themselves to enter their details. This journalist needs a better grasp of his ethical duties.
Claims are rising naturally
The references to the insurance industry are laughable. With more people living in situations of greater peril, such as on the coast, and living everywhere in greater numbers, such as in Christchurch or northern Japan, you would expect insurance claims to rise with every damaging event.
Those insurance companies are large organisations themselves, and they’re often subsidiaries of even larger ones and all of them are in the forefront of investment in the new and lucrative carbon credit markets and the alternative energy industries. We can expect them to talk up the global warming risks at every opportunity, simply to maximise their chances of a profit.
Very comic concept
Finally, we’re treated to the idea of scientists forensically examining individual events for telltale “fingerprints” of climate change. (They’re apparently “beginning to show” in extreme weather.) This ends a laughable treatise with a very comic concept.
So let’s try to understand this. We have an undefined concept, “climate change”, which means any weather at all, now to be identified by telltale fingerprints which are also undefined, and all of this will prove to us that humans are endangering the earth. Hmm.
It seems that the existence of weather proves our exacerbation of that weather.
Tell us what the fingerprints are, Chris, so we might believe you. No?
Oh well, we don’t believe you!
Kevin Trenberth says weather records are getting smashed. What’s the evidence for that? Did Barton ask him for evidence?
Well, did you, Chris?