August 7, 2010
By Claude Sandroff
In a remarkable monograph, Roy W. Spencer presents hard evidence that 75% of the observed warming since the start of the 20th century is due to natural processes. He offers a detailed model describing how one of these processes, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), operates in the real world. Most importantly, he demonstrates that anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is a minor contributor to a global climate largely insensitive to man-made CO2.
Thanks to this highly skilled climatologist and his The Great Global Warming Blunder: How Mother Nature Fooled The World's Top Climate Scientists, we can now taunt the often corrupt and overtly political planetary high priests with this: PDO means AGW is DOA.
Written in a style that should be attractive to both warming newcomers and scientists from other fields, the volume's appearance is not a welcome event for the world's strident purveyors of global warming orthodoxy. For in the gentlest language possible, Spencer is telling the AGW clingers that they are scientifically incompetent lemmings.
The "blunder" Dr. Spencer (a leading analyst of satellite-derived atmospheric data) refers to is a basic one: confusing cause and effect. Most would-be scientists who make this mistake once, let alone repeatedly, often go into another kind of work. It's the equivalent of the graduate student who forgets to plug in his detector and then reports a successful negative check experiment.
The effect Spencer seeks to explain is the 1.8ºC warming of the earth since 1900. He argues effectively that accepted global warming dogma and funding agency prejudices had discouraged potential heretics from seriously entertaining the idea that long-term, natural variations, rather than man-made CO2 "pollution," could be operating over the timescale of a century to warm and cool our planet.
And as the recent Climategate scandal has confirmed, the AGW church fathers will discredit, shun, and excommunicate any deviant member of the warming consensus congregation.
Indeed, it is frustration with the controlling climate hierarchy that led Spencer to communicate his findings directly with the public in book form rather than in the peer-reviewed literature. He guides the reader through the fundamental blunder that has led almost every scientist astray.
Observing increasing CO2 levels and increasing temperatures, scientists assumed that the former must have caused the latter. How did the warmers know that it wasn't the other way around, and that higher temperatures caused higher CO2 concentrations? Or how did the warmers know that there wasn't another process, a naturally occurring one, that caused the temperature rise, with increasing CO2 just along for the ride? Answer: They didn't, because they never bothered to look.
They never felt that they had to look, since emitting CO2 for the true believer is a kind of original sin, a crime committed by affluent societies that requires no corroborating evidence, let alone a scientific trial to determine guilt. But Spencer decided to look, peering into the CERES (Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System) satellite data more deeply than anyone else in the field.
And ultimately, with just four parameters, keen insight into the behavior of the PDA and clouds, a simple program, and a few thousand Monte Carlo simulations, he was able to produce a model that explains our current climate system and man's role in it with unprecedented clarity.
Spencer devotes several chapters to the important role of feedback in understanding climate and the need to carefully separate it from existing forces (causes) to avoid overestimating the sensitivity of climate to external changes.
At the end of Spencer's careful analysis, a simple picture emerges. The PDO is a long-lived ocean-to-atmosphere heat transfer process (similar to the better-known El Niño and La Niña) but of much longer duration. Cloud cover decreases significantly during the positive PDO phase, allowing more sunlight to reach the earth's surface. In the ocean, this extra energy is stored as heat. In its negative phase, the PDO acts in reverse and cools the atmosphere. And all of this occurs in roughly thirty-year cycles. While this mechanism is operating, mankind is dumping a small, vanishing amount of CO2 into the atmosphere. Big deal.
The most prominent frauds active in promoting AGW have always tried to bury evidence of natural warming and cooling cycles. Truly, the Medieval Warming Period and Little Ice Age are threats to their very CO2-obsessed existence. But these eras occurred centuries ago, with only proxies (like tree rings) to indicate the actual prevailing temperatures. Hence, data from these eras are easily brushed aside and forgotten. Not so with recent thermometer measurements, and temperatures from two periods in particular that have always plagued the theory of AGW.
The first is the period from 1900-1940. A full 60% of the temperature increase measured in the last century occurred during these forty years, when less industrialization existed worldwide and therefore less CO2 had been spewed into our atmosphere. The mild cooling period that ended in the mid-1970s is also baffling. But like any good theory, Spencer's PDO-focused model fits the temperature data during these decades amazingly well. Natural processes -- cloud formation and heat transfer -- dominated the temperatures during these decades, as in every other decade in the modern era.
There is no greater pleasure in a scientist's life than being able to explain phenomena more simply and comprehensively than anyone else did before him. This sense permeates Spencer's book, along with something else: moral outrage.
Some wealthy, spoiled, self-hating Westerners might in their affluence be able to afford expensive energy alternatives to power -- things like wind and solar that don't directly involve the emission of CO2. But the rest of the world cannot. Cheap, affordable energy, the kind that comes from coal, natural gas and oil, is a prerequisite for any society to rise economically. Spencer seems thrilled to be able to tell the developing world that they have a free pass to burn hydrocarbons and prosper.