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Science communication pollution

Posted By Joanne Nova On October 12, 2009 @ 12:46 am In Global Warming,Science Communication,The Skeptics Handbook | Comments Disabled

Image: science communication pollutionHere’s an example of SciComm Pollution — an article that leaves the world slightly less enlightened than they would have been had it not existed. It’s also proof that the media blackout works so well that even theoretically educated people like, say, an archaeologist, are unaware of basic uncontroversial scientific truths.  Here’s Michael Berry, in the Salt Lake Tribune, having trouble reasoning, missing the point, being fully a decade out of date, and acting unwittingly as a public relations agent for a giant  bureaucracy.

He tries to claim Senator Orrin Hatch and The Skeptics Handbook are wrong on the Vostok ice cores.

“He (Hatch) then misinterprets the 420,000 years of glacial and interglacial stages to indicate that temperature is the forcing factor for rises in CO2, reversing the actual causal mechanism.”

Here, Berry gets it 100% wrong. Temperature is the forcing factor, and even the IPCC agrees. Senator Hatch is referring to the way carbon rises and falls after temperatures in ice core records. Berry implies that Hatch “misinterprets” two lines that clearly rise and fall with an obvious lag. Instead it’s Berry who misinterprets the graph. Carbon can’t control temperature from 800 years in the future.

Little does Berry realize that the oceans store a vast 38,000 Gt of carbon, fifty times as much as the atmosphere, and that basic laws of solubility mean that when the oceans warm, they release carbon; when oceans cool, they absorb it back. Thus a temperature rise is causal, and it takes hundreds of years to fully unleash or absorb the carbon, probably because it also takes hundreds of years to turn over the deepest darkest corners of the deep blue sea.

I don’t know the actual source of Hatch’s argument, but the model he ascribes to is identical to that proffered in Joanne Nova’s Skeptic’s Handbook , a well-debunked publication aimed at a right-wing audience. The Hatch-Nova argument implies that IPCC scientists were unaware of the Vostok data. However, a reading of the 2007 IPPC Synthesis Report shows they did incorporate the data in their considerations and these data gave strong support to their conclusions.

If Berry had done ten minutes of research…

If Berry had done ten minutes of research, he would have found out that the data from the Vostok Ice Cores repeatedly and definitively shows that carbon follows temperature, and doesn’t lead it, and that it’s been known for 10 years. It’s been analyzed many different ways, and all of them conclude that the lag is hundreds of years. Hundreds, and sometimes thousands. I’m guessing Berry just read one of the debunkings of the Skeptics Handbook, and hasn’t actually read the Handbook or my rebuttal. As usual, those who like to attack it don’t want to show you the graphs they attack, where it would be obvious that they speak global gibberish.

Graph Vostok Ice Core Temperature rises first CO2 second

See all the graphs on this page.

Berry implies there’s some model I use, but all I’ve done is graph the two lines from the original data. You don’t need tricky maths to figure out that temperature rises first. Naked eyes work just fine when the data is displayed in enough detail.

Here are some of the scientific papers supporting this:

  • Petit et all 1999 — analysed 420,000 years of Vostok, and found that as the world cools into an ice age, the delay before carbon begins to fall is several thousand years.
  • Fischer et al 1999 — described a lag of 600 plus or minus 400 years as the world warms up from an ice age.
  • Monnin et al 2001 – looked at Dome Concordia (also in  Antarctica) and found a delay on the recent rise out of the last major ice age to be 800 ± 600 years
  • Mudelsee (2001) - Over the full 420,000 year Vostok history Co2 variations lag temperature by 1,300 ± 1000 years.
  • Caillon et al 2003 analysed the Vostok data and found a lag (where CO2 rises after temperature) of 800 ± 200 years.

The extraordinary media blackout: don’t mention the ice core lag

Instead the vast gap in news coverage can’t be repaired now, six years after the fact. As people find out what they weren’t told, there can be no hiding that the media has censored our news.

If the media had bothered reporting the news as it came out, from 1999-2003 — that temperature strongly drives carbon, and not the reverse — this non-controversial, well established, scientific point, would not catch people like Berry completely by surprise. Commentators would have some idea that the IPCC-spun-versions are not as robust as they appear. Instead the vast gap in news coverage can’t be repaired now, six years after the fact. As people find out what they weren’t told, there can be no hiding that the media has censored our news.

The IPCC broadcasts that there is “amplification”, but whether it’s important or significant is unsubstantiated speculation.

Even the IPCC admit that temperature drives carbon in the ice cores. They argue that once the carbon is unleashed, it provides feedback to amplify the temperature rise. At one stage alarmist scientists offered analysis to suggest there really was amplification, but closer examination showed they had a signal analysis error and had mistaken aliasing for an amplification signal. The same analysis, done properly, pretty much rules out any significant amplification.

In the ice cores, temperatures rises first and falls first. If there was strong amplification, Earth would have headed into a runaway boiling heat-ball millions of years ago.

  • See Palisad for the most informative detailed graphics on what the Vostok and Dome Ice cores mean and why they strongly mathematically suggest CO2 follows temperatures and has little effect on them.This is what you need to see to understand “feedback” or the postulated “amplification”.

Sloppy writing: sloppy thinking

Notice too, there’s the usual sloppy writing: the Handbook is apparently…”aimed at a right-wing audience” (as if that is something bad, and as if there is any way he could know who it’s aimed at, since he is not in my head, and I’ve never said anything like that).  The Handbook is aimed at anyone who can read and doesn’t have a religious belief in the enhanced greenhouse effect — about 90% of the population.

Note to Berry: If you know of a single significant flaw or inaccuracy in the Skeptics Handbook, email me here and I’ll issue a correction publicly. The Handbook has been out for 12 months, it’s been read by at least one Professor of Climate Modelling (who would rather I didn’t publish his critiscm, presumably because it’s so inadequate). Desmog and Deltoid tried and failed to find any logical or factual errors, and neither will publish any of the graphs I use. Real Climate has pointedly remained silent. Do you suppose they would have let anyone get away with a mistake if they could find one?

I wish people would write more carefully. Every person that puts up information on the web that is unresearched, not thought through, or out of date, is just issuing more science communication pollution. A bit more mess for the few unpaid people like me to clean up. They pick poor sources to read, then propagate the unreason.

I would have politely emailed him off line, but can’t find any comments box or email address (let me know if anyone finds one, I’m sure the they’ll be keen to get the info right eh, and make that apology to the good Senator?)

UPDATE: A Michael Berry has responded below at #12. It may be the Michael Berry, but it’s not confirmed.

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