Penny Sackett and the Evidence (2)

Bill Kinimonth on the Fielding/Wong/Sackett Meeting:

1 July 09

I am firmly of the view that Senator Fielding asked the correct question. It was simple and direct and invited a simple and direct response. Much like the little girl who asked “Why is the Emperor not wearing any clothes?”.

The point is that anybody with any understanding of climate history knows that a decade is a very short record and essentially meaningless for interpretation of long term trends. We recognise that the climate system includes two interacting fluids, the oceans and the atmosphere, and interactions between the fluids gives rise to variations on a range of timescales.

The AGW crowd however have made their own bed when in the 2001 IPCC TAR Summary for Policymakers they claimed that, based on computer models, there is only limited internal variability in the climate system. Remember the infamous ‘hockey stick’? The logical consequence of that statement is that any variations must be a consequence of radiation forcing and the warming of the previous two decades was due to CO2. This logic continued into the AR4 and the claim that most of the warming of the previous half century was related to anthropogenic causes.

The public expect, based on the IPCC propaganda, that if CO2 concentration is continuing to increase then global temperature should also continue to increase. The reality is that, based on the IPCC’s favourite reference record, temperatures have continued to be cooler than 1998. Senator Fielding, who represents a constituency, is entitled ask on behalf of the public why temperatures are not going up. There might have been a simple radiation forcing related answer, such as the solar irradiance has declined, aerosols concentrations have varied, or some other seemingly plausible mechanism.

The response has been very interesting and revealing.

Professor Nicholls of Monash University wrote a letter in The Australian newspaper to the effect that temperatures are still rising; in the decade since 1998 (1999-2008) temperatures have beco argued that solar irradiance variations since the Maunder Minimum could not explain the warming since the Little Ice Age, therefore a drop in irradiance was not a plausible excuse as the counter to CO2 increase. They also did not use the aerosol argument because IPCC have already admitted to a low level of understanding (and uncertain quantification) of the overall radiation effects of aerosols.

Minister Wong’s advisers have come up with a novel response: there is still an underlying warming trend because long-term the climate is forced by ocean heat; measurements of ocean heat content since 1960 identify a steady increase, even over recent years. The oceans contain more than 85 percent of the climate system heat and the implication is that this added heat will reappear eventually and warm the atmosphere. There are three contradictions in this advocacy.
1. The admission of internal variability severely weakens the previous storyline of only limited internal variability and that previous warming was due to CO2. Why was the previous warming not due to internal variability rather than CO2?
2. The temperature gradient in the ocean surface layer is such that the warmest water is at the surface and temperature decreases with depth. According to the Second Law of Thermodynamics heat will flow down the gradient from the surface to the deeper cooler layers. It is against the Second Law for the heat, at some later stage, to flow back up the gradient! The AGW advocates need to explain the processes whereby the heat will reappear and warm the atmosphere, because the processes are not obvious.
3. An increase in ocean heat content in the upper 700 m of the ocean of 15x10^22 joules since 1960 would seem to be of large magnitude. However, when divided by the mass of the upper 700 m and the specific heat of water we find that the warming is only 0.14C since 1960, or about 0.003C/year. The available instruments (expendable bathythermographs - XBT - deployed from merchant ships since 1960, and Argos buoys deployed since 2003) and the ocean coverage (merchant shipping lanes for the XBT) do not provide such precision of assessment. The claimed ocean surface layer warming is an illusion arising out of a delusion.

The upshot of Senator Fielding’s seemingly simple question is that the AGW advocates have not been able to give a simple and plausible response (that is, that the lack of warming is just part of the internal variability of the climate system) without tearing down a false edifice that has been constructed over three decades of carefully constructed seemingly plausible science. Unless the AGW advocates come up with a response to the Senator’s question that is soundly based in science then we must conclude that the AGW scare is a myth based on naked propaganda.

William Kininmonth


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