Posted by: ericgrimsrud | January 17, 2013

The last 16 years

The Deniers of AGW often argue that man-caused global warming is not occurring by using, as best they can, the variations of temperature that occur for natural reasons over the relatively short term time scales of either one year or even a decade. For example, back in 2009, we heard the Deniers repeatedly claim that global cooling had occurred during both the previous year and the previous decade. Both of these claims were correct only in the sense that the average temperature of the Earth did go down in 2008 and that the temperature of the specific year 10 years earlier, 1998, just happened to be anomalously high. So if one used only the temperatures for the years, 1998, 2007 and 2008, both of their statements could be said to be correct in a very narrow but misleading sense. Inspection of all of the data over the decade prior to 2008, showed quite clearly that the Earth had not, in fact, detectably cooled over that decade. They were simply cherry picking specific years in order to make their case.

When the temperature for 2009 became available, however, and it showed a distinctly higher temperature than 2008, I noted immediately that the Deniers then dropped their argument described above and moved on to other bogus claims. The one we most frequently hear today is that the average temperature of the Earth has not increased over the last 16 years.

Rather than punt this one out of the ball park also here, I will instead refer the interested reader to a short video recently produced by Skeptical Science – which does this most clearly. It can be found at

In addition, another even more important fact must be recalled: More than 90% of the extra heat we are receiving from our increased levels of GHGs goes into the oceans of the world and only minor portions go towards heating the atmosphere and the continents. For a complete explanation of this, see Temperature measurements of the ocean clearly show the huge amounts of energy that has been deposted there in the last several decades. And remember, while it takes a long time to warm up the oceans, it will also take a long time for them to cool back to pre-industrial levels – from that perhaps now imaginary point in the future when we mananage to bring CO2 levels back down to pre-industrial levels. Thus, when ever we do get serious about addressing climate change, we will have to deal with the following two formidable facts. It takes a very long time to rid the atmosphere of its excess CO2 and it takes along time for the oceans to release their excess heat.


  1. Eric,
    Once again, Happy New Year!
    There is convincing evidence that the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has been rising monotonically since 1900. I am also persuaded that this is the result of burning fossil fuels.
    If CO2 was a major “Driver” of global climate, HADCRUT4 would correlate with the Mauna Loa CO2 measurements. The fact that there is little correlation demonstrates that other factors overwhelm whatever effect CO2 may have.
    No matter what time scale you choose (other than 1975-1998) there is poor correlation between CO2 concentration and global temperature. When it comes to ice core measurements that extend 750,000 years into the past, the observations show that temperature drives CO2 concentration. The owner of this site is a chemist so he understands why this is so

    [ REsponce from EPG: Happy New Year to you also, Gallopingcamel.

    You will note above that I have published here only the scientific comments you provided in your own words. I do not go to the literature and especially to the multitude of “stuff” on the bloggery and provide reviews of it.

    But concerning what you did say yourself: So you don’t believe in “feedback” mechanisms. You should because they are the most important means of temperature change. Specifically you don’t believe in the synergistic feedback relation between temperature and CO2. You should. Take a glass of soda and heat it – CO2 is emitted. Take a tube filled with nitrogen, add a bit of CO2 and measure the change in the amount of IR radiation that passes through that tube from one end to the other. You will find that much less IR radiation then passes through as and that heat (increased T) is being transferred to the gas within the tube. So does T follow CO2 conc or does CO2 conc follow increased T? The answer, of course, is “yes”. Both are true.

    The effect here is the same as that observed for water vapor every sunny summer morning after brief rain. The sun heats the ground, ground emits more water vapor, the increased water vapor traps the IR emitted from the ground, the air gets much warmer, causing the ground to warm even faster, causing more evaporation, causing …… etc . Now, why does it then become so hot later in that morning – is it due to the heating by the sun or is it due to the trapping of heat by water vapor. The answer of course is “yes” – both cause the increased temperture.

    So during the glacial/ interglacial changes, sure, changes in CO2 initially followed T change. Why would you then suppose that the increased CO2 did not additionally increase T? And another question – why were temperatures about 50 mil years age so high (+12C rel to today and the Earth had no ice at all on it – sea levels were more than 100 meters higher than today). CO2 levels were thought to be about 1,500 ppm at that time, you know, and the intensity of the sun was either the same or slightly less than today. Do you think that the very high temperatures then were caused simply by some type of albedo effect? After thinking about this for a while one is forced the beleive that T can, indeed, be greatly affected by higher CO2. Perhaps you, GC, can think of another explanation? Please do if you can.

    So thanks for putting something into your own words, GC. Its helps me see where you are coming from. If you think what I have told you here is does not hold up, please do explain in your own words without simply pointing to stuff in the bloggery. Bottom line opinions are not worth a dime a dozen and one can find any one wishes to find. My advice is stop surfing the web for the grap you like and start thinking for yourself and stand on your own two feet. The science really is not that difficult to understand.

    So if you are capable of carrying on such a discussion, please do. The ball is in your court. ]

    • Eric, you say “So you don’t believe in “feedback” mechanisms”.

      How could you could come to such a conclusion? You might as well claim that physicists don’t believe in differential equations. I have studied Nyquist and Bode in depth and have applied their theories to the stabilization of electron beams in relativistic synchrotrons. I believe in their theories on feedback and stability because they work every time I apply them.

      When it comes to applying feedback theory to climate one runs into problems. For example, it is not feasible to study the “Open Loop” response so one tries to make deductions from the “Closed Loop” response. That is difficult because there are many variables affecting temperature and few of them are well understood.

      If you ignore the complexity and take the simple minded view that CO2 is the control knob for global temperature (hat tip to Richard Alley of Penn State) you run into the embarassing problem that the CO2 concentation in the atmosphere has lagged Temperature for most of the last 750,000 years.

      You say that rising CO2 concentrations will cause a rise in Temperature. I believe that. However, if the effect was a strong one the “Closed Loop” gain would exceed unity and the global temperature would become unstable. The consequence would be “Runaway” cooling or warming until some non-linear process intervened to limit the temperature excursion. (hat tip to James Hansen)

      [ REsponse by EPG: Gallopingcamel,

      Feedbacks do not cause runaways under all conditions. In the case of the glacial / interglacial periods, for example, something caused temperature to stop increasing at that of the interglacial periods. This might have been caused by an onset of the negative feedback expected due to increased weathering of CO2 (its conversion to inorganic compounds such as limestone) since the rate of weathering is greatly increased by increased temperature.

      Or it might have had something to do with a decreasing temperature sensitivity of the Earth’s albedo as the glaciers vanished from most of the northern continents. Further increases in temperature would have caused less change to the Earth’s ice coverage than that caused during the transition period.

      To use again the analogy of a warm summer morning after a brief rain: the warming ground emits more water vapor, which further increases the temperature, which causes more evaporation, which….. ect. But this common event does not ever lead to runaway warming. Other negative feedbacks gradually halt the temperature rise initially caused by water vapor positive feedback. Get it? ]

  2. Yo, Grimsrud,

    You were booted off of the very highly trafficked WUWT site for being an obnoxious, hate-filled troll. Now you ar relegated to having ONE comment posted here [OK, two, including this one].

    Obviously, nobody cares about your phony climate alarmism. So go ahead and snip this comment. You and I know exactly where you stand in the scheme of things.

    So I will keep commenting on WUWT, where many thousands of readers will read my opinion. Nobody will see yours here. Enjoy your well-deserved obscurity, you pathetic loser.

    [ Response from EPG: I am pleased to leave your comment here in order to show the type of exchanges that regularely appear at WUWT. That is, shoot from the hip BS totally void of science – as long as the BS is of the Denier’s sort. So please do keep up your “contributions” to WUWT. IF you ever have something specific to say about the science of AGW, however, you are always welcomed to try those thougts out here.

    I will never block anyone out of this blog as Anthony Watts routinely does at WUWT – as long as the comments focus on the science – as mine routinely did at WUWT. Mr. Watts simply can not stand to have a knowledgeable and forceful professional scientist, such as me, in their midst that runs circles around their “inhouse” pseudo-scientific “experts”, none of which can even produce a resume that suggests a bonifide education or research background in climate science.

    So I am glad you have a place at WUWT to share your “wisdom”. If you ever have a thought of an honest scientific sort, however, you are always welcome to try to post it here. Watt’s kicks people out of WUWT permanently no matter what their comments are. I don’t. At the same time, I do not want my blog to be littered with crap, although I have made a one-time exception here just for you. ]

  3. “last 16 years no warming trend?”
    Wrong. see

    “no correlation between temperature and CO2?”
    Wrong again. see
    Note the accelerating rise in temperature on climatologic (30 year) time scales. If you plug the data from into a spreadsheet, and create a scatterplot with CO2 plotted on x axis versus T plotted on y, and put in a trendline with equation and R^2, you find that the correlation between the two is 0.68. If you filter the T data with a running 5 year mean to remove weather noise, the correlation jumps to 0.9.

    I got banned from WUWT for posting this link –

  4. EPG,
    The melting of ice caps increases the Earth’s albedo and therefore should be regarded as a positive feedback. However, once the poles are ice free as in the PETM, the effect vanishes. This is an example of a non-linear effect that works to limit temperature excursions.

    Likewise cloud cover increases as temperatures rise but once cloud cover is 100% as on Venus this “feedback” effect vanishes too. What kind of feedback do clouds provide; positive or negative? You seem to think that increasing cloud cover has a positive effect on temperature. I envy your simple faith!

    While increasing cloud cover is a wonderful thing for retaining heat at night it also raises the Earth’s albedo and thereby rejects incoming solar energy. Compare Venus with its Bond albedo of 0.75-0.90 due to 100% cloud cover and Earth with ~0.30. My back of the envelope calculations say Bond albedo wins so clouds provide negative feedback. You will have to produce some quantative analysis to convince me otherwise! Analogies won’t cut it.

    Some people believe that the Thermo-Haline circulation has a great influence on climate. In the short term they talk about tipping points and in the long term the influence of continental gyrations.

  5. Eric – I’m informed that “Smokey” is one of several sockpuppets used by one of the WUWT moderators. Having been on the receiving end of Smokey’s errant nonsense about ocean acidification when I commented there once, it kind of makes sense in retrospect.

    As heat waves increase in frequency and severity, ocean acidification corrodes and kills more shelled marine life, and extreme weather grows ever more intense, I would expect the WUWT’ers to retreat further from reality.

    • Rob Painting: Just how sure are your of the conjecture that you put forth?
      “As heat waves increase in frequency and severity, ocean acidification corrodes and kills more shelled marine life, and extreme weather grows ever more intense, I would expect the WUWT’ers to retreat further from reality.”
      The oceans did not turn into battery acid in the past; therefore, why would they do so now?

      “It is thought that the carbon dioxide in the sea exists in equilibrium with that of exposed rock and bottom sediment containing limestone CaCO3 (or sea shells for that matter). In other words, that the element calcium exists in equilibrium with CO3. But the concentration of Ca (411ppm) is 10.4 mmol/l and that of all CO2 species (90ppm) 2.05 mmol/l, of which CO3 is about 6%, thus 0.12 mmol/l. Thus the sea has a vast oversupply of calcium. It is difficult therefore to accept that decalcification could be a problem as CO3 increases. To the contrary, it should be of benefit to calcifying organisms. Thus the more CO2, the more limestone is deposited. This has also been borne out by measurements (Budyko 1977).” [maybe, just maybe as with so many things in nature, this is a self-regulating factor that has been taking care of the ocean’s pH without humans having one thing to do with it]

      • Not conjecture J Doug, actual peer-reviewed science.

        Niether you nor your seafriends understand ocean acidifcation. It has little to do with calcium ions because, for all intents and purposes, the oceans are well saturated with calcium ions, and this rate changes only very slowly – on the timescale of millions of years.

        In fact the oceans have become corrosive to marine calcifiers many times in the past. The Permian extinction and the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum are two notable examples. The fossil record has numerous “reef gaps” – periods where coral reefs have gone extinct. Typically it has taken several million years for new forms to evolve. These reef gaps go hand-in-hand with geologically-abrupt increases in atmospheric CO2.

        The important thing to realize Doug, is that it isn’t actually the pH (the inverse proportion of hydronium ions in seawater) that is the issue for many marine calcifiers, it’s the reduction in carbonate ions which they use to build their calcium carbonate shell/skeletons. One of the chemical reactions which takes place when extra CO2 dissolves into the oceans is the reaction between carbonate and hydronium which forms bicarbonate and water.

        So ocean acidification reduces carbonate ions dissolved in the oceans which makes it energetically more costly for these marine life to build their shells. But the stability of the shells is dependent on the chemistry of the oceans which determines the direction of the chemical reaction which formed the shells in the first place. Lower the ocean saturation state of calcium carbonate and the reaction favours the reverse – dissolution.

        Dissolution is what we are now seeing in the oceans, in accord with the general scientific expectations. Antarctica is seeing seasonal upwelling so severe that it is dissolving pteropod shells within days. And parts of the North American Pacific coast are also seeing severely corrosive seawater. That’s why many oyster hatcheries are in trouble – the corrosive water is killing juvenile oysters.

        Ocean acidification is one of those issues that scientists have genuinely underestimated. It is happening far more quickly than many anticipated.

        I suggest you read: Ocean Acidification in Deep Time by Lee Kump and fellow authors. That peer-reviewed paper is freely available on the internet.

        [Thanks for that Rob. I, as well as J Doug, needed the clarification you provided. Eric ]

  6. J Doug, Concerning your comments above about the undersaturations of the sea w.r.t. CaCO3:

    I assume to concentrations you listed for Ca ion and the sum of the 3 forms of carbonate apply to the oceans as a whole. So yes to deep oceans are not saturated w.r.t. CaCO3.

    But what about the shore lines and places where shell bearing critters live? Because of abundance of limestone in such places wouldn’t those regions be be saturated w.r.t. CaCO3?

    The environmental issue concerns the increased solubility of shells as the acidity of ocean is increased. And in regions where the sea is in fact saturated w.r.t CaCO3, we expect solubiltity to increase with increase acidity.

    What say you about this?

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