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England and Kininmonth exchange emails

Professor Matthew England is Co-Director of the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales. He researches ocean circulation and its influence on climate, using models.

William Kininmonth is a climatologist with 45 years experience, including 38 years with the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, and 12 years (until 1998) as head of its National Climate Centre. He was one of the four independent scientists accompanying Senator Steve Fielding on his recent visit to Climate Minister Penny Wong.

Below the email exchange are details of some of England’s funding grants from Australian taxpayers. My commentary on these emails is here.

This is the full email exchange:

1. England wants to inform the skeptic team that they have been answered

From: Matthew England

Sent: Thursday, 25 June 2009 10:53 AM

To: Stewart.Franks

Subject: Qns answered…

Dear Stewart,

I just saw that some of these questions that Senator Fielding has posed of Senator Wong have been answered on line at:- http://www.environment.gov.au/minister/wong/2009/tr20090624c.html

I do not have email contacts for your colleagues Bob Carter, William K and so on. Is there any chance you could forward this URL to these folks? I suspect it would also be of interest to Ian Plimer. Again, I don’t have a contact for Ian.

Another good reference point for these folks is http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn11462 The above site covers most of the commonly posed questions, and other facts vs myths of climate change, all nicely addressed in accessible New Scientist format. See in particular the links under “Does CO2 cause warming”.

Of course, there’s also much peer-reviewed literature on all of these these topics, but the New Scientist pieces and Penny Wong’s answers synthesize the science well, and present in an accessible format for folks outside the field.

Hope this helps.

Best wishes,

Matt

———————————————

Professor Matthew England

Climate Change Research Centre (CCRC)

Faculty of Science

The University of New South Wales

UNSW SYDNEY NSW 2052

Australia Web: www.maths.unsw.edu.au/~matthew


2. Kininmonth queries the claimed extent of ocean warming

Subject: RE: Qns answered…

Date: Thu, 25 Jun 2009 20:36:27 +1000

From: William Kininmonth

To: ‘Matthew England’

CC: Senator Fielding, Bob Carter, Willie Soon, Stewart Franks, David Evans, Penny Sackett (Australia’s Chief Scientist), Will Steffan, John Church, Susan Head

Dear Matthew,

Stewart has kindly passed your email to me.

In the Minister’s response to the first question much is made of the apparent increase in ocean heat content.

Diagrams showing the rise in ocean heat content and thermosteric sea level over 35 years. http://www.environment.gov.au/minister/wong/2009/images/fig1.gif

I must admit to being initially thrown by the claim that the ocean surface layer had increased its heat content by a seemingly massive 15×10²² joules since 1960. I then divided that heat increase by the mass of water in the world’s oceans in the top 700 metre layer to arrive at the mean layer temperature rise. The result was a temperature increase over the nearly 50 years of almost 0.15° C, or 0.003° C/year.

Knowing a little bit about the limited precision of the XBT instruments and the relatively sparse network for sampling of the expansive oceans I wonder whether the estimate of the increase in ocean heat content is meaningful. You might care to comment.

If we accept published values for the coefficient of expansion of water at 17° C (about mean temperature for the layer) being 1.0022 then a 0.15° C mean temperature rise of the top 700 metres of the ocean translates to thermosteric sea level rise of 10 mm. This is only half the value depicted in the Minister’s graph. You may care to comment on the difference.

Additionally, a 20 mm thermosteric sea level rise over nearly 50 years, as depicted in the Minister’s graph, equates to a rate of sea level rise due to thermal expansion of 0.4 mm/year. This, of course, is much less than the IPCC quoted actual sea level rise of 2-3 mm/year. You might like to comment on the additional source of the sea level rise beyond thermal expansion and how this additional source might be related to anthropogenic global warming.

If the Australian government is intent on introducing legislation to decarbonise industry and community lifestyle, with the associated economic and social impacts, then it is important that the policies are firmly based on the highest quality science. When the basic mathematics of the arguments in support of the policy do not seem to withstand even the most cursory scrutiny then it is time for conscientious scientists to stand up and be heard.

Regards,

William Kininmonth


3. England “defends” his claims

Subject: RE: Qns answered…

Date: Fri, 26 Jun 2009 19:49:07 +1000

From: Matthew England

To: William Kininmonth

CC: Senator Fielding, Bob Carter, Willie Soon, Stewart Franks, David Evans, Penny Sackett (Australia’s Chief Scientist), Will Steffan, John Church, Susan Head

Dear William,

Thanks for the correspondence. John Church’s seminal work on sea-level rise and the XBT record is a good point of reference here. So too Stefan Rahmstorf’s Science paper in 2007.

A few comments:

- The Equation of State for seawater is non-linear so you can’t just take a layer mean T and use that – you need to do a full 3D calculation

- The layer-mean T you quote of 17 ° C looks wrong to me – go to the World Ocean Atlas data set to get a more accuarate value (although as above, taking a global layer mean is too simplistic due to the fact that density is not linear in T)

- The mean sea-level rise over the past 50 years is also not a steady linear function but is in fact accelerating If you think you are onto something with these back-of-the-envelope calculations, you ought to pursue it further, do a more meaningful and complete calculation and then write it up formally and submit it to a journal.

As you know from your days as a manager at the National Climate Centre, science is a wonderfully vigorous and engaging process where scepticism, scrutiny, and debate thrive. All of my very best PhDs and postdocs question conventional thinking and are out to make the next big discovery that displaces mainstream thinking. So please consider putting forward your ideas for this form of scrutiny in the journal review process.

Best regards,

Matthew

———————————————

Professor Matthew England

Climate Change Research Centre (CCRC)

Faculty of Science

The University of New South Wales

UNSW SYDNEY NSW 2052

Australia Web: www.maths.unsw.edu.au/~matthew


4. Kininmonth attacks

Subject: RE: Qns answered…

Date: Sat, 27 Jun 2009 13:55:51 +1000

From: William Kininmonth

To: ‘Matthew England’

CC: Senator Fielding, Bob Carter, Willie Soon, Stewart Franks, David Evans, Penny Sackett (Australia’s Chief Scientist), Will Steffan, John Church, Susan Head

Dear Matthew,

You are being evasive.

If you are of the view that a simple calculation does not give the correct order of magnitude relationship between increased ocean heat content and increased temperature then please outline the more complex formulation and the difference such a formulation makes in our understanding of the situation. As it stands, a 0.15° C ocean surface layer temperature rise is beyond the accuracy of current observational capability. This is something that a competent reviewer, who understands the Law of Conservation of Energy should have identified and questioned.

The corollary is that the purported 15×10²² Joules ocean surface layer temperature rise since 1960 is no more than a delusion.

Your claim that the mean sea level rise over the past 50 years is accelerating is not in accord with the record of thermosteric sea level rise provided by the Minister’s advisers. That graph quite clearly shows nearly constant sea level from 1960 until 1975 then steady rise. I note that you have not commented on the difference between the thermosteric sea level rise and reported observed sea level rise that I previously brought to your attention, including the unspecified source of the difference.

I am pleased to read that your best PhDs and postdocs are in the habit of questioning conventional thinking. The tradition lives: my postgrad supervisor, the renowned tropical meteorologist Herbert Riehl was wont to say, ‘There are no Gods in meteorology; if you cannot explain something from first principles then you do not understand it”. Thus, resorting to authority has no merit in a scientific debate.

Your invitation to write in a scientific journal is only more obfuscation. The IPCC documents have been put into the public arena with all the aura of infallible writings on stone tablets. The claims of the IPCC, and those of the acolytes who advance the IPCC claims in order to influence public policy, should be tested by public scrutiny.

Senator Fielding has put forward in the public domain a simple question that challenges the logic of the IPCC’s claims. To date the response has been unsound science, followed by your evasion and obfuscation. I would hope that the public defence of the IPCC claims can be lifted to a higher level of scientific rigour.

Regards,

William Kininmonth


5. England waves his qualifications and gives up

Subject: RE: Qns answered…

Date: Sat, 27 Jun 2009 18:41:44 +1000

From: Matthew England

To: William Kininmonth

CC: Senator Fielding, Bob Carter, Willie Soon, Stewart Franks, David Evans, Penny Sackett (Australia’s Chief Scientist), Will Steffan, John Church, Susan Head

Dear William,

I’m not sure how responding to your email, and pointing out some of the basic flaws in your simplistic calculations, is being “evasive”.

Where do I start with your points?

1. Re. the IPCC, your claims about its lack of rigour are bordering on bizarre. You do realise the IPCC is simply a review of all the peer-reviewed science? It undergoes more line-by-line scrutiny than any document I know of. It even needs a line-by-line defence against any criticisms raised by nations keen to derail the issue (you can appreciate that oil and coal rich nations would rightfully want to scrutinise the IPCC reports line-by-line, and this happens, and in all cases the science must be water-tight to be retained, or cached in suitable caveats). Interestingly, _many of the IPCC projections from past reports are below the observed trends_ – for Arctic sea-ice, global air-temps, sea level, atmospheric CO2, etc. This suggests the models are understating the positive feedbacks that can build up a greater (non-linear) response in the system. I could go on about the IPCC, and its phenomenal rigour, but if you ignore everything I write above, please at least recognise the IPCC does not conduct the science, it simply synthesises the published science. And it does all this under the scrutiny of non-science commentators and the science community. It cannot get away with loose simplistic arguments.

2. I had the impression you were not a scientist? I had been told you had little in the way of published work from your career (somebody mentioned you co-authored a paper once?). Forgive me if this is wrong.

If you have had a career marked by scientific publications you will understand the competitive nature of science. A Nobel Prize is there for many of the ideas the sceptics champion if only they were true. Climate science is old enough – 40+ years since the first meaningful calculations of the effect of rising CO2 on global climate.

Much is well known now and many of the most basic aspects that the sceptics deny are as fundamental as gravity, or evolution. And to be fair some of the misinformation is more subtle, like the one that has tripped Senator Fielding up: this focus on starting the trend analysis in 1998 (a strong El Nino year). I wrote in the Herald about this in more detail (http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/opinion/how-noisy-naysayers-led-fielding-on-to-false-path-20090616-cghf.html).

The misinformation on this post-1998 trend is so dodgy that anybody parading this fact is either purposefully fooling others or horribly unaware of simple climate physics.

3. Regarding your simplistic sealevel / heat content calculations, I restate that density (and therefore thermal expansion) is non-linear in temperature (for the full equation of state for seawater, track down Adrian Gill’s wonderful text-book “Atmosphere-Ocean Dynamics” and go to the Appendix, the equation is a page long but note the non-linear terms). I cannot do more hand-holding than this I’m afraid. This is not me being elusive, but simply giving you a lead that you can choose to follow, or ignore. I realise that it’s the norm for the sceptics to ignore simple facts when it is convenient. I simply don’t have the time to teach every person who contacts me a course in elementary physical oceanography. And there are other issues with your arguments: the interior warming is non-uniform, subduction rates are non-uniform, and of course thermal expansion is just one component of observed sealevel rise. The big unknown is the rate of land-ice melt and how rapid it will become.

4. Forgive me, but a nearly constant sea level from 1960-1975, then a steady rise after this, constitutes what physicists would term non-linear rise, or accelerating rise, since 1960 (i.e., over the past 50 years). Do you get this? Projections are that this curve will accelerate further.

I think we’re best cutting out of the communications now. I will not respond to any more emails from you on this: I have precious little time and have many more important things to do than to have one-to-one slagging matches over email (for one thing, I prefer put my arguments into published papers; you should try it)._ I realise you will want to reply and make more lofty claims of my prejudice, bias, lack of rigour in the science, and so on. I hope all those on the cc. list can see the irony here: these very labels are so patently appropriate for the sceptics camp that it is bizarre they get away with making them.

An overseas Nobel Prize winner told me the other day that he thought part of this whole phenomenon was the dwindling career trajectory that most of the sceptics have, and the desire to still have a voice that is heard on something. That seems a bit harsh to me – I know many retirees as sharp as tacks. My great preference is simply that those with these various loose ideas would bother to try to formalise them and get them published, and reap the accolades that would follow. But this doesn’t happen: the problem seems to be that there are so many errors and simplifications to the argument that it just don’t stack up.

All the best for now,

Matthew

———————————————

Professor Matthew England

Climate Change Research Centre (CCRC)

Faculty of Science

The University of New South Wales

UNSW SYDNEY NSW 2052

Australia Web: www.maths.unsw.edu.au/~matthew


6. Kininmonth’s final word

From: William Kininmonth

Sent: Sunday, 28 June 2009 2:21 PM

To: ‘Matthew England’

Subject: RE: Qns answered…

Dear Matthew,

Your point 1.

What I actually said about the IPCC was: “Your invitation to write in a scientific journal is only more obfuscation. The IPCC documents have been put into the public arena with all the aura of infallible writings on stone tablets. The claims of the IPCC, and those of the acolytes who advance the IPCC claims in order to influence public policy, should be tested by public scrutiny.“

It is only the Summary for Policymakers of the IPCC reports that are reviewed line by line. This review is by governments whose representatives do not necessarily have scientific qualifications or whose delegations are not supported by scientists. The compromise of the government representatives and the documents and findings on which those compromises are based should come under continuing scrutiny.

Your point 2

Scientist do not all seek self-aggrandisement through public accolades.

After all, a Nobel Peace Prize would put one in rather dubious company! For your information, I spent 40 years in public service the objective which was to develop and provide services that improved safety of life and protection of property. Only a bureaucrat! Your comparison between the greenhouse effect and gravity is an interesting one. Gravity we can measure but there is much uncertainty about its intrinsic nature; the greenhouse effect we can also measure but there is much misunderstanding, including in the IPCC explanations, about its intrinsic nature (as a starter, greenhouse gas molecules do not absorb and re-emit longwave radiation as claimed by the IPCC; greenhouse gases emit longwave radiation independently of the longwave radiation that they absorb – the atmosphere emits more longwave radiation than it absorbs).

Your point 3

You have still not identified how much the more complex equations will refine the calculations. Will it be noticeable in the second decimal point or will it double or treble the assessment? A simple application of the Law of Conservation of Energy identifies that the claimed change in ocean surface layer heat content (the value put forward by the Minister’s advisers) is below the discrimination capability of the ocean temperature monitoring instruments and networks.

I am happy to agree that the ocean surface layer thermal characteristics are quite complex, with the warmest temperatures at the ocean atmosphere interface. It is the surface temperature that regulates the heat and latent energy exchange with the overlying atmosphere, and consequently the energy available to the atmosphere to replace net radiation energy loss. Solar radiation at about current intensity has been continually absorbed in the ocean surface layer for millions of years and yet warm water is confined to a thin lens a few hundred metres in thickness overlying the cold abyss. As we know from El Nino episodes, the change in surface temperature patterns is a consequence of ocean dynamics, including both the spreading of warm surface water and the changes in upwelling and entrainment of colder subsurface water. It is the ocean-atmosphere interaction that is the primary determinant of surface temperature variability on the interannual timescale. It is those who blindly follow the anthropogenic global warming mantra who ignore the essence of ocean-atmosphere interactions on longer than interannual timescales.

I would agree with you that the big unknown is the rate of land-ice melt. It is another one of those variables that we do not have instrumentation and networks to quantify with sufficient precision. What we do know is the amount of energy required to melt a given mass of ice.

Most of the world’s land ice is in regions where incoming solar radiation only exceeds net surface infrared emission for a brief period each summer. The availability of radiation energy to melt polar ice is therefore limited. Taken in the context of winter accumulation and annual mass balance, slight temperature changes are not sufficient for changing local radiation to pose a significant hazard as far as ice melt is concerned. Possibilities are, however, opened up if we look beyond the anthropogenic global warming mantra and recognise the impact of changing magnitude of the poleward transport of energy by the atmospheric circulation – the internal thermodynamics of the climate system.

Your point 4

I do not understand your point. In my reference to the thermosteric sea level record provided by the Minister’s advisers what you actually said was, “The mean sea-level rise over the past 50 years is also not a steady linear function but is in fact accelerating”. In my understanding the only acceleration was about 1975 at the change in trend. An accelerating sea level rise would have an increasing trend, which the graph does not show.

In conclusion I acknowledge and will respect your wish to have no further communication on this topic. But let it be noted that it was you who opened the communication. If it is a Nobel Prize that you are seeking then may the Gods be with you.

Myself, I am just happy to see public policy based on good science!

Regards,

William Kininmonth



Australian taxpayers fund Matthew England’s research projects:

Professor Matthew England is the First-named Chief Investigator on projects that have received at least $2.47 million dollars in funding from the Australian Research Council.

2005 The University of New South Wales
England, M. Australian climate extremes and predictability
in a changing CO2 world: the unique role of the
Southern Hemisphere extratropical
$225,000

2005 The University of New South Wales
England, M. Genesis of Australian Climate Extremes in the
Southern Hemisphere Extratropical Ocean- Atmosphere
$1,551,625

2006 The University of New South Wales
England, M. Abrupt Southern Hemisphere Climate Change:
The Role Of The Southern Ocean Thermohaline
Circulation
$270,000

2006 The University of New South Wales
England, M. Eddy mixing and water mass formation in the
Southern Ocean in a global 1/4 degree model
$14,000

2008 The University of New South Wales
England, M. Coupled ocean-carbon-atmosphere feedbacks
in the global climate system
$415,000

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3 comments to England and Kininmonth exchange emails

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    [...] This post was Twitted by ClimateBlogs [...]

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    [...] A rejoinder from the scientists who accompanied Fielding to the recent meeting with Wong can be bound here. A somewhat acrimonious exchange can be found at JoNova. [...]

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    Robert Holmes

    Its quite obviously a waste of time even to try to talk to donkey’s like England.
    He does not follow the scientific method; can’t understand simple scientific concepts like
    the measurement of 15×10²² joules of energy in the oceans over 50 years in not only not possible, but would be a waste of time to measure such a tiny change, even if it were possible. I have seen similar claims by other alarmists that 150,000,000,000 tonnes of ice have melted in Antarctica 2002-2005. Alarmist ‘facts’ like these are now even in the peer-reviewed science; as if such an amount of melting mattered, even if it were true. They never state that 1) Its not possible to measure the Antarctic to such an accuracy and 2) Antarctica’s ice has actually grown by 35 times this amount anyway, (since 1960) and 3) Even if Antarctica were to continue to melt at this supposed alarming rate, it would take 200,000 years to completely melt.
    The whole CAGW is the most massive scam ever perpetrated on the long-suffering taxpayer; it also has inherent dangers in it in terms of our freedoms; we must fight it until it is completely dead.
    Robert Holmes

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