The debate with Paleoclimatologist Dr Andrew Glikson about the evidence for Climate change has reached a telling point. There is a gaping hole.
Through four rounds of to and fro, I’ve been asking for evidence that the predicted (critical) “hot spot” was there above the equator, and we were drilling down to this point. It’s the weak link in the chain of evidence, and if the climate models are wrong on this element, you can kiss goodbye to the catastrophe. Everything else might be right, but there’s no major warming if there’s no strong amplifying (positive) feedback, and and there is no amplifying feedback from water vapor if there is no hot spot. Indeed, I quoted evidence from three peer reviewed studies that show that we’re headed for a half a measly degree of warming rather than a baking 3 – 6 degrees.
In Round 2 Glikson didn’t mention Lindzen, Spencer or Douglass (the three independent papers which suggest that predicted feedbacks are missing or negative). Instead he suggested “Sherwood 2008” found the hot-spot. I pointed out that Sherwood used wind-gauges instead of thermometers. To believe he is right we need to throw out thousands of thermometer readings and calculate the temperature indirectly from the wind-speed instead.
In Round 3, Glikson didn’t mention Sherwood. But he posted graphs showing the troposphere had warmed. I pointed out that his graphs demonstrated what I had been saying — the upper troposphere had warmed at the same rate as the surface. If the hot spot was there it would have warmed nearly twice as fast.
In Round 4 (in comments after round 3), Glikson didn’t mention the graph. But he pointed to Santer 2008. I replied that Santer didn’t find the hot spot, he just found fog in the data and fog in the models and stretched the error bars so wide that finally the models just overlapped with one set of observations. Santer had no new data. Nine years after the data came in, all he did was to increase the error bars and suggest that maybe our equipment wasn’t good enough to find the hot-spot. It’s rather devastating: if we can’t build weather balloons that get a useful temperature reading, how the heck can we create models that estimate the temperature from 10,000 m below based on dozens of factors that are even harder to measure? The hot-spot should have been at least 0.6°C and radiosondes are individually calibrated to 0.1°C. Somehow we’re supposed to believe that hundreds of radiosondes had missed it?
In round 5, Glikson didn’t mention Santer. It’s as if this devastating point didn’t exist. Andrew Glikson is genuinely trying to come up with other evidence, and he’s not just ducking out completely (as many would), but he is ducking the point that matters, the weak link in the AGW chain. Really, seriously, everything about the Tower of Global Warming was built on the foundation of an increasing column of water vapor. Does he realize that all the other circumstantial evidence is predicated on a guess that the Earth’s climate had net positive feedbacks, when almost all other long-lived natural systems have net negative feedbacks?
All of the other points I’ll briefly sum up here below. I’ve had helpful responses from Michael Hammer with some very original work, and also from William Kinninmonth. I will post these both soon (separately).
- Water vapor has the biggest effect in the tropics (yes) but the poles heat up the most. (I guess the implication is that the poles are heating due to CO2). Wait til you see Hammer’s reply. I’ll just say that no matter what the cause of heating, the poles will always probably warm more than the equator, so the fact that they have warmed more tells us nothing whether CO2 caused it. The equator has an in built “thermostat”. Cubic kilometers of water evaporate, dump that heat in the atmosphere, rain back down, and keep the equator a fairly constant temperature. At the poles though, it takes a lot of extra heat energy to “evaporate” the near zero degree water. Thus the temperatures vary much more. There is a big evaporative air conditioner working in the tropics. It’s barely there at the poles.
- CO2 supposedly hangs about for centuries. This is one of the more outlandish weirdo ideas being repeated in many circles. Even though IPCC charts themselves show that a quarter of all atmospheric CO2 churns in and out of the atmosphere every year. How the human contribution is supposed to behave differently, and not just become a tiny extra part of this continuous exchange defies common sense. We add 8GT per year to an atmosphere with 800GT. About 200 GT is taken up by the oceans and plants, and about that much is released. It’s all in a kind of equilibrium. There’s no reason to suppose that a quarter of all human emissions don’t turn over each year just like all the rest. Radio carbon dating of C14 from atomic explosions decades ago confirms that there is little trace left today, and that CO2 hangs around for about 8 -10 years. 
- Studies from 3 million to 500 million years ago show that when volcanoes blow up or asteroids hit, CO2 levels rise and animals die. Yep. That’d be because both those events are god-awful, destructive things that dump mountains of ash in the atmosphere. The ash cools the planet. Cold times are yukky for life on earth. Animals die en masse. Tsunami’s, dust and lava are probably not too friendly either. The CO2 effect is a mere rider of correlation. All these studies that are referred to are just stabs at correlation, and correlation is not causation. We know (as I’ve said before) that colder oceans suck CO2 out of the atmosphere. We would be shocked (shocked, I tell you) if the geological record didn’t show a correlation between temperature and CO2. Temperature drives CO2. Read the caption on Figure 1. “Dating errors are typically less than ±1 Myr.” We’re hunting for an effect that ought to happen in days, weeks and months, with some effect within decades, and the graph we’re looking at resolves things to plus or minus one million years. We’re searching for Nanotubes in a hay stack, and we’ve only got our bifocals.
- Fast feedbacks versus slow feedbacks. The models obviously get the fast feedbacks totally wrong. So there’s not much upward pressure pushing on the slow processes. Convince me that effects that may take hundreds of years, which depend on fast feedbacks and are calculated by faulty models are something I should pay taxes on in 2010? If there is hardly any fast feedback in the first place, doesn’t that kind of suck most of the scary part out of the slow feedbacks? What are the slow feedbacks responding too? Since they’re slow, we might have, you know, a few years (or 100) to wait before setting up a global trading scheme and redeveloping the worlds energy supply.
- The world is a lot like the Pliocene a few million years ago. Back then it was 3-4 degrees hotter and CO2 levels were “about the same” as today. We don’t know what caused that warming back then. We don’t have the resolution to figure it out. Which came first, CO2 or the heat? Perhaps it’s something else entirely that came first. We can’t tell. Why assume it was CO2?
- Yes ENSO’s are cycling. We don’t know exactly why, but they appear to switch every 30 years roughly. Figure 5 is only a 50 year SOI graph. How are we supposed to see long term trends in a 30 year cycle within just 50 years? Things were due to swing towards El Nino’s anyway, and now they are due to swing back to la Nina’s now. So? Figure 6 has the opposite problem. It’s a 5 million year graph, but we’re supposed to see an effect on the SOI from the last 50 years of human CO2 emissions? Sure maybe there is some anomalous ENSO signal lying waiting for us to find in 2050, but we can’t use this as an indicator unless we feel like waiting decades (and even then it’s not the answer). It’s the wrong tool to use for attribution.
- Increased ice sheet melting. We’ve already done this. Back in Round 2 I quoted Wingham 2006 showing that there is more ice in Antarctica. Glikson’s Figure 7 graphs show that there has been significant thickening in some places on the ice sheets, and thinning in others. This is a non-point about something that can’t be used for attributing climate change to CO2 in any case. There’s no cause and effect link. All forms of warming would cause ice sheets to change. (Do I need to keep repeating this?)
- Yes, there have been some droughts lately. Any cause of warming would change rainfall patterns. There is no information here about the effect of CO2 or the cause of the droughts
- Disasters cost more today than they did in 1950! Yeup. That happens when you inflate the money supply and is a dang useless “indicator” for anything to do with climate. Can I put a fine point on it? The M3 (that’s a broad monetary aggregate) in the US grew thirty fold from 1959 to 2005. Basically, there is 30 times as much money floating around the economy now as there was back in the fifties. How could prices of nearly everything not rise under that kind of money supply growth? The growth in the cost of disasters is not the graph to use. It’s just a poor proxy for inflation. There are better graphs of hurricanes to use and other references deal with hurricanes specifically and find little trend. Right now the global accumulated cyclone energy index is at one of the lowest points in thirty years.
(Thanks to Baa humbug and Paul M and Roger Pielke.)
What about the fingerprint of “greenhouse gases”?
There’s the usual argument that greenhouse gases should 1/ warm the troposphere, 2/ cool the stratosphere, and 3/ rising minimum temperatures and less difference between minimum and maximum in daytime and night-time temperatures.
This leaves out the major effect of the fingerprint of greenhouse gases (the missing hot spot). The warming troposphere and cooling stratosphere have happened, which confirms that there is probably more CO2 in the atmosphere. But as I said already (repeatedly)… Yes doubling CO2 heats the planet directly by maybe as one (1!) degree. This is what Hansen et al suggest and possibly that is correct. But without the amplifying feedback of the water vapor and warming due to changes in clouds, there is no disaster. At most it’s only one measly degree over 300 years, and worse (for the scare campaign), if Spencer and/or Lindzen are right then it’s only a half a trivial, inconsequential-cancel-the-IPCC degree thanks to the negative feedback.
Other factors like extra cloud cover also cause increasing minimums by keeping in the heat. The only definitive fingerprint that would suggest impending disaster (if only it were there) is the one that isn’t mentioned: the hot-spot.
Glikson’s answer is polite and well referenced, but overall, it’s not that well organized; it wanders around, repeating points I’ve already debunked or that I’ve already pointed out are irrelevant and avoids discussing the most important point. It is a rehash of the same old, and does nothing to convince me of a threat from man-made global warming.
I’m feeling a bit sorry for him. The Schmidts, Jones, Mann’s, Hansens, Gores et al almost never “debate” — The big-name-brands in the climate-science industry know that they don’t have the goods. Instead, they let the other scientists do the front line work. There are undoubtedly a lot of expert researchers in climate related fields (but not in modelling) who have no idea that the models were based on such a flimsy assumption.
There is no evidence to support the idea that carbon’s warming is amplified by humidity and clouds and this pulls the rug out from under every other point. Will any scientist from the Pro AGW side admit they can’t provide evidence that there will be any warming above 1 degree for a doubling of carbon? It would take a big man.
Glikson is an expert in that fascinating area of major asteroid impacts from millions of years ago. He just announced a massive crater find in the Timor sea (possibly one of the largest ever). This is important research, but not the kind of information we need to know to generate models that actually work. Behind the scenes, why have people like ANU colleague Will Steffan left it up to poor Glikson to defend the climate models? Glikson has been dumped with the impossible task.
But having realized that there is no good answer (or Steffan and Pitman and others would be debating it instead), the honest but hard thing for Glikson to do would be to stand up and admit that he is unable to give any evidence that supports the catastrophic warming that the models suggest. It would also earn him kudos scientifically if he was one of the few climate scientists brave enough to say that the behaviours of people like Jones and Mann in emails from ClimateGate were not acceptable and did not reflect well on the industry.
Thanks to Dr Glikson for being dedicated enough to follow through, and making a serious effort to line up the evidence. Thanks also to the people who contributed to the comments below Dr Gliksons points. I wish I had time to summarize all the pertinent points here. Dr Glikson is most welcome to contribute more.
The Full Debate:
Part IV: Glikson suggests evidence for the hot spot.
I point out how weak it is. (See the UPDATE below Part III).
Part VI: Dr Glikson asked to respond again. I said “please do”. So far, he has no reply.
 D. J. Wingham,*, A. Shepherd, A. Muir And G. J. Marshall, Mass Balance Of The Antarctic Ice Sheet, Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A (2006) 364, 1627–1635
 Revelle, R. and Suess, H. E. (1957) Tellus 9, 18-27.
 Segalstad, T. V. (1998) Global Warm ing the Continuing Debate, Cambridge UK: European
Science and En vironment Forum, ed. R. Bate, 184-218.
 Other references about Hurricanes: Bove et al. (1998), Landsea et al. (1998), Landsea et al. (1999), Parisi and Lund (2000) Elsner et al. (2004) Landsea (2007) Parisi and Lund (2008). R. Maue, Northern Hemisphere tropical cyclone activity, Geophys. Res. Lett. 36, L05805 (2009). Henderson-Sellers et al 1998 Tropical Cyclones and global climate change. Wu et al (2006) Trends in Western North Pacific Tropical Cyclone Intensity Pielke et al (2005) BAMS, Hurricanes and global warming.