In a world first, we apply technical analysis to the climate
Dr David Evans and Joanne Nova
8 April 2009
Figure 1. The big global temperature picture. Dr Syun Akasofu (International Conference on Climate Change, New York).
Could another large human institution dependent on complex models be headed for its ‘Lehman Bros’ moment?
Just as the great bull run that could-have-no-end, ended, another unthinkably big bubble quivers. Technical indicators are quietly being tripped that suggest the bull run in global temperatures that started in the late 1970s may be toying with a reversal. Could another large human institution dependent on complex models be headed for its ‘Lehman Bros’ moment? Will the climate keep hotting up, or are the latest downside breaks an indication of cool times to come? Billions in profits are at stake, as well as higher energy costs, thousands of careers, and really great junkets, but two groups of technical analysts come to very different conclusions. Who is right? And who will bail out the bureaucrats?
The Akasofu Wave Theory
Dr Akasofu, experienced analyst with the International Arctic Research Center, points out that the temperature have been rising steadily at a trend rate of 0.5°C per century since the end of the little ice age in the 1700s (when the Thames River would freeze over every winter; it last froze over in 1804). On top of the trend are oscillations that last about thirty years in each direction:
1882 – 1910 Cooling
1910 – 1944 Warming
1944 – 1975 Cooling
1975 – 2001 Warming
The green arrow in Figure 1 points to the situation today with temperature leveling off. The pattern suggests that the world has entered a period of slight cooling until about 2030, obviously quite bearish for temperatures in the medium term. Though not so for the carbon-credit market itself, since that appears to move completely independently of the climate.
The IPCC Theory – The Hockey Stick
IPCC predictions show the bull run in temperature continuing strongly out to 2100 at the same rate it warmed from 1975 to 2001. The IPCC complicates their analysis by looking at the rising trend in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, which they think might be related.
A Closer Look
Figure 2. Hadley Meteorological Centre temperature record.
Significantly, data from the Hadley Meteorological Centre (Figure 2) suggests tentatively that the recent up-channel has been broken to the downside for the first time in 30 years. The strongly rising temperatures met resistance at around 0.45 °C above the 1961-1991 average, produced a failed attempt to breach the channel to the upside in 2005, then dipping below the trend line in 2008.
The classic pennant formation of 1940 – 1980 neatly marks the half way point, consolidating the long rise last century. The similarity of the rises before and after the pennant also suggests that the last uptrend has ended.
So Who is Right, Bull or Bear?
The ability of large bureaucracies to influence planetary cycles has a poor track record
The IPCC is strongly supported by government funding, scientists in the media, famous ex-politicians, celebrities, multiple scientific committees, and Leonardo DiCaprio. Normally this would be an exceptionally persuasive mix, but the ability of large bureaucracies to influence planetary cycles has a poor track record. Now that the bull market trend of the late 1990s has clearly been broken, bearish analysts like Dr Akasofu have been gaining more respect.
The IPCC argue for an acceleration of the recent short term trend on fundamental grounds. They say that carbon dioxide is the major factor determining temperature – so if they are right then there ought to be high correlations between carbon dioxide and temperature at all time scales in the past:
Awkwardly, the short and long terms correlations are distinctly poor while in the medium term the correlation is excellent but backwards: temperature rises or falls first, then carbon dioxide. The lag is not just a few weeks, but around 800 years. So carbon dioxide is not a leading indicator for temperature on this time scale either. (Oddly the lag is well known among climate scientists, but apparently not so among journalists and documentary movie makers).
So the fundamental basis on which the IPCC is making its predictions doesn’t seem as strong as their 800 page, six yearly reports suggest. Have they been talking up their own book, drawing fat fees based on nothing more than a bullish period that they didn’t really understand?