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Thorne 2010: A very incomplete history of the missing hot spot

Emails are coming in about the latest attempt to announce that they’ve “found the hot-spot”: Thorne et at 2010.

It’s already being used in NOAA press releases to repeat the same line about how a “new scientific study” supports the models. The aforementioned support is rather weakly phrased as being “broadly consistent” (which somehow means the same thing as being “90% certain” a catastrophe is on the way, right?).

But it gives them another chance to claim it’s been found:

This new paper extensively reviews the relevant scientific analyses — 195 cited papers, model results and atmospheric data sets — and finds that there is no longer evidence for a fundamental discrepancy and that the troposphere is warming.

It says something about how important the hot spot is that they keep “finding it”. (Even though they never seem to issue a press release saying it’s missing.) But since the data from the last warming spell came in ten years ago, there are only so many ways they can rehash the same numbers. So now they’re scraping the bottom of the barrel in desperation. This new study is not a “new scientific study”, it’s a new review. This paper tells us upfront that its only distinctive contribution is to the “evolution” and “history” of this key point.

So they’ve run out of reanalysis, now they’re doing a peer reviewed history? (What’s next? The theatrical debunking where Discovering the Hot Spot hits Broadway in 2011?)

In any case, as histories go, this one is strategically very incomplete. Thorne et al doesn’t even mention McKitrick, McIntyre, and Herman (MMH)’s key paper which categorically refuted Santer 2008. (So Santer 08 is misleadingly listed as having “refuted” Douglass 2008 as if it was uncontested.) I described the incisive McKitrick et al paper and its conspicuous success in:  The models are wrong (but only by 400%).

To appreciate just how successfully McKitrick et al dismantled the Santer paper it’s worth revisiting MMH 2010’s Figure 2:

Thorne makes sure to graph the Allen and Sherwood data that was so creatively calculated from wind shear measurements. It not only sounds like a desperate way to measure temperature,  but Pielke Snr has refuted it in a paper with Christy and others.  Thorne doesn’t mention Christy et al 2010 either, but has time to reference Santer 2005 which found some warming in the short term trends, but nothing in the long term results. Worse, there is even a reference to the infamous Sherwood 2008 paper with the outrageously deceptive scale and patently misleading “hot spot” graph. At least Thorne did not repeat that graph (see below, it’s a special graph).

Sherwood 2008 hot spot deception scale

None of the other graphs of the hot spot use such a hot color for “zero”

Fred Singer is about to release another paper (or three) also refuting Santer.

From the abstract presented at the Erice Conference:

However, [the Santer 2008] result disagrees not only with an earlier analysis (Douglass et al 2007), but also with the conclusions of an independent study (NIPCC 2008), and with a recent report of the US Climate Change Science Program (CCSP-SAP 1.1) (Karl et al 2006), which was written by some of the same authors as S08! The crucial chapter of CCSP had identified a “potentially serious inconsistency” between modeled and observed trends in tropical lapse rates (Santer et al 2006).

[Singer] shows here that no credible analysis supports the S08 claim of “consistency”: The “new observational estimates” are spurious and conflict with satellite data. The GH model results used are inadequate for the intended purpose and simply reflect chaotic and structural model uncertainties (which had been completely ignored by S08). [The] conclusion therefore is that the claimed “consistency of modeled and observed temperature trends” does not exist.

We look forward to seeing that analysis in full.

Yes, the hot spot is still missing. The models are still estimating that water vapor is amplifying the minor direct effect of carbon dioxide.

When you’re part of a team with the finance to employ thousands of workers,  there’s no end to the ways to try to rewrite history. The Thorne et al version is just another attempt to provide a seemingly independent study and quoteable one-line answer to the vexing critical question that the billion-dollar-machine can’t answer.

Let’s see how many news outlets pick up the PR and seek out an alternative view of it.

Science Daily has already dutifully repeated it:

“Looking at observed changes in tropospheric temperature and climate model expectations over time, the current evidence indicates that no fundamental discrepancy exists, after accounting for uncertainties in both the models and observations,” said Peter Thorne.

There’s no fundamental discrepancy… especially if you ignore the papers which show that there is.

The full  PDF of Thorne et al is here.

H/t to Clive at Outersite

The Corruption series covered the missing hot spot and the colouring in trick.


Allen, R. J. and S. C. Sherwood, Warming maximum in the tropical upper troposphere deduced from thermal wind observations. Nature Geosci., Vol. 65, 2008, 399-403.  [PDF]  [Discussion, Lubos]

Christy J.R., Herman, B., Pielke, Sr., R, 3, Klotzbach, P., McNide, R.T., Hnilo J.J., Spencer R.W., Chase, T. and Douglass, D: (2010)  What Do Observational Datasets Say about Modeled Tropospheric Temperature Trends since 1979? Remote Sensing 2010, 2, 2148-2169; doi:10.3390/rs2092148 [PDF]

McKitrick, R., S. McIntyre, and C. Herman, (2010), Panel and multivariate methods for tests of trend equivalence in climate data series. Atmospheric Science Letters, 11: 270–277.  DOI: 10.1002/asl.290. Data/code archive. [Discussion on JoNova] [PDF]

McKitrick, R., McIntyre, S., and Herman, C. (2011) Corrigendum to Panel and multivariate methods for tests of trend equivalence in climate data series, Atmospheric Science Letters,  Vol. 11, Issue 4, 270–277. DOI: 10.1002/asl.360. [Abstract]  [See McKitricks page on model testing].

B. D. Santer *, P. W. Thorne, L. Haimberger, K. E. Taylor1, T. M. L. Wigley, J. R. Lanzante, S. Solomon, M. Free, P. J. Gleckler, P. D. Jones, T. R. Karl, S. A. Klein, C. Mears, D. Nychka, G. A. Schmidt, S. C. Sherwood, F. J. Wentz: Consistency of modelled and observed temperature trends in the tropical troposphere, Intl. J. Climatol., Vol. 28, 2008, 1703-1722.  DOI: 10.1002/joc  [PDF] [abstract]

Sherwood, S. Meyer, C.L., Allen, R, J. 2008:  Robust Tropospheric Warming Revealed by Iteratively Homogenized Radiosonde Data, Journal of Climate Vol 21, page 5336 [PDF]

Thorne P.W., Lanzante, J.R.,. Peterson, T.C,  Seidel, D. J and Shine K. P.: 2010 (in press) Tropospheric temperature trends: history of an ongoing controversy, WIREs Climate Change 2010 DOI: 10.1002/wcc.80 [PDF]


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