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June 21 2013

22:05

Video Friday: Climate, Arctic Sea Ice and Weather Whiplash

We have two videos today from Yale Climate Forum exploring the connection between Arctic ice, the jet stream and “weather whiplash.” In the first video, Rutgers University climate researcher Dr.Jennifer Francis and Dr. Jeff Masters discusses this connection in terms of the “mirror image” spring weather over much of North America between 2012 and 2013.

In the second video, climatologist Dr. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research offers some skepticism about the impact between Arctic sea ice and the observed weather with a response to Trenberth’s concerns from Francis. This exchange of ideas serves as an example of top scientists working in their fields to better understand the implications and consequences of global climate change.


The post Video Friday: Climate, Arctic Sea Ice and Weather Whiplash appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

June 07 2013

16:55

Video Friday: Ocean Heat, Climate Change and Surface Temperatures

This video from greenmanbucket is taken from a longer skype interview with Dr. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).  In this clip Dr. Trenberth discusses Earth’s energy balance, ocean heat and climate sensitivity. Dr. Trenberth discusses these issues further in a recent interview published in The Conversation

The post Video Friday: Ocean Heat, Climate Change and Surface Temperatures appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

February 17 2012

21:40

Climategate victims chide Heartland double standard

A group of top-tier climate scientists who were victimized in the email theft known as Climategate has written to the Heartland Institute, sympathizing that the Institute is reading its own confidential documents in the public press, but chiding the "think tank" for how irresponsibly it dealt with the stolen emails.

In a letter printed in The Guardian, the scientists say,

As scientists who have had their emails stolen, posted online and grossly misrepresented, we can appreciate the difficulties the Heartland Institute is currently experiencing following the online posting of the organization’s internal documents earlier this week. However, we are greatly disappointed by their content, which indicates the organization is continuing its campaign to discredit mainstream climate science and to undermine the teaching of well-established climate science in the classroom.

The signatories were Michael Mann, Kevin Trenberth, Ray Bradley, Jonathan Overpeck, Ben Santer, Gavin Schmidt and David Karoly, a relative who's who of climate science excellence.

They point out that when the Climategate emails were stolen, Heartland took bits and pieces out of context (and, we would add, advocated for punitive action against the scientists on the basis of these manipulations). At no time did the institute suggest that the hackers who breached the East Anglia University security system to steal the emails had been in the wrong to do so.

In the case at hand, (and as Heartland explains in its own press release) an anonymous "Heartland Insider" asked the Institute to mail the entire briefing package for its January board meeting - and Heartland complied. Having received that package, the DeSmogBlog checked the content against research we had in hand to confirm its authenticity. Then we published it - in its entirety, so there could be no doubt about the context - on our website on Valentines's Day.

read more

March 28 2011

21:24

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Hears Testimony on Freshwater Loss Due to Climate Change

  EarthJustice.org Regional water supplies at risk in many regions of the Western hemisphere March 28, 2011 Washington, D.C. —  The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights today heard expert testimony describing the human rights implications of freshwater loss caused by climate change occurring in the Western hemisphere. The panel included a scientist, a farmer from the [...]

March 26 2010

17:01

Greenpeace Releases 20-Year History of Climate Denial Industry

Greenpeace released a terrific report today on the 20-year campaign by polluters to mislead the public by creating the climate denial industry. 

The new report succinctly explains how fossil fuel interests used the tobacco industry’s playbook and an extensive arsenal of lobbyists and “experts” for hire in order to manufacture disinformation designed to confuse the public and stifle action to address climate change.

In the report, titled "Dealing in Doubt: The Climate Denial Industry and Climate Science," Greenpeace provides a brief history of the attacks waged by polluting industries against climate science, the IPCC and individual scientists.

ExxonMobil deservedly gets special attention for its role as the ringleader of the "campaign of denial."  As Greenpeace has documented meticulously over the years with its ExxonSecrets website, ExxonMobil is known to have invested over $23 million since 1998 to bankroll an entire movement of climate confusionists, including over 35 anti-science and right wing nonprofits, to divert attention away from the critical threat of climate disruption caused largely by the burning of fossil fuels.

The report, authored by Greenpeace climate campaigner Cindy Baxter, calls out by name a number of key climate skeptics and deniers who have worked with industry front groups to confuse the public, including S. Fred Singer, John Christy, Richard Lindzen, David Legates, Sallie Baliunas, Willie Soon, Tim Ball, Pat Michaels and many other figures familiar to DeSmog Blog readers.
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A number of the key “think tanks” at the forefront of the attacks on climate science - including the Heartland Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, American Enterprise Institute, George C. Marshall Institute, Heritage Foundation and Cato Institute – are also examined for their climate denial work on behalf of oil and coal interests.

Greenpeace explains how the network of denial was created in the early 1990s to dissuade politicians from taking action to prevent climate change.  Chief among these early groups were the Global Climate Coalition, the Climate Council and the Information Council on the Environment (ICE). 

The report also provides a brief history of the attacks launched against each of the IPCC’s scientific assessment reports dating back to 1990, noting the key players involved in each successive attack leading up to the present day attempts to tarnish the IPCC’s reputation and to falsely suggest that a debate still exists among climate scientists.

Personal attacks endured by climate scientists, especially key contributors to the IPCC reports, are also discussed in some detail, including the virulent attacks by the climate denial industry against reputed scientists like Michael Mann, Ben Santer, and Kevin Trenberth.

Greenpeace also calls out Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) and other members of Congress who are beholden to polluting industries through campaign contributions, and who regularly aid and abet the climate denial industry by promoting the false and misleading claims of deniers and skeptics on Capitol Hill.

Finally, “Dealing in Doubt” notes the escalation of the denial campaign during the administration of George W. Bush, when key White House and regulatory agency positions were filled with polluter lobbyists. 

The placement of Philip Cooney, a lawyer and lobbyist who spent 15 years at the American Petroleum Institute before he was picked as chief of staff in the Bush White House Council on Environmental Quality, serves as a key example.  Days after the New York Times broke the story that Cooney had made extensive edits on government scientific reports on global warming, Cooney resigned to go work for ExxonMobil.  

“Dealing in Doubt” is recommended reading for anyone looking for a brief primer on the history of the denial industry’s relentless campaign against science and reason.  It should be required reading for members of Congress, the mainstream media, and others who continue to be duped by the climate denial industry.

January 14 2010

18:03

The Real “Climategate” Story – Current Climate Satellites are Woefully Inadequate

The media missed the real story about the so-called “climate-gate” scandal.

fter thousands of emails were mysteriously stolen from the University of East Anglia and distributed just before the climate conference in Copenhagen, many news outlets seemed content to report the story as it was presented to them rather than bothering to read the emails in the context they were written.

A closer look at these candid messages reveals a very different problem than the supposed scientific conspiracy theory that’s been in high rotation in the media. This previously unreported story also shows why launching the long-mothballed Deep Space Climate Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) is more urgent now than ever.

Lets start with perhaps the most widely distributed and misunderstood of the stolen emails, of October 12, 2009 from Dr. Keith Trenberth to Michael Mann, which reads:

The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can't.

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Out of more than a thousand emails dating back 13 years, this single sentence was seized on by some commentators as evidence that decades of climate research by hundreds of scientists is instead a global conspiracy.

If you are going to put that much weight on a single email, you may as well finish reading it. Here’s what Trenberth says in the following sentence:

The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on 2008 shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. Our observing system is inadequate.

Allow me to translate this dense jargon into English. CERES stands for Clouds and the Earth s Radiant Energy System – a five-satellite network launched by NASA dating back to 1997 to monitor heat flow in the upper atmosphere.

The story you haven’t heard is that scientists can’t get the numbers to add up using existing climate satellites. After billions of research dollars spent and over a decade of trying, the energy budget of planet as measured by CERES and other low- Earth orbit satellite systems is out of whack by about 6 watts per square meter.

That stubborn error in the satellite data is about six times larger than what is scientifically possible, and several times larger than the effect scientists are trying to see, namely planetary warming caused by continued massive emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

While this is a very big deal, it does NOT remotely suggest that climate change is a hoax. For evidence of that, you don’t need a satellite, you can look out your kitchen window.

Sea ice is disappearing from the arctic so fast it could be gone forever in as little as 30 years. The Met Office predicts 2010 may be the hottest year on record and that this decade was the hottest ever “by far”. Australia is currently enduring the hottest six months since record keeping began in the 1800’s.

What Trenberth is saying in this now infamous email is that it is a “travesty” that scientists cannot accurately measure from space what is plainly obvious here on Earth. More than that, he is lamenting that our “observing system” is inadequate to be able to accurately balance the planet’s energy budget.

Dr. Trenberth is one of the world’s most respected climate researchers. To hear him directly explain this problem himself, have a look at this video. If you happen to have a PhD in atmospheric physics (or just have trouble sleeping) you may also want to read his thorough research paper on the topic.

It’s not that the CERES experiment is a bad project or staffed by incompetent people. But the fact of the matter is that our satellite systems have failed to provide coherent data to explain the defining issue of the 21st century. This important but esoteric problem is largely unknown to the public, but widely acknowledged within the scientific community.

So what’s the problem with the data? In science, such unexplained phenomena are not a “problem” – they are the most interesting things to look at. They reveal clues about things we don’t yet fully understand, or hint that long-accepted methods of measurement need to be reassessed.

Which brings us back to the limitations of CERES and other low Earth orbit instruments. These satellites are traveling at more than seven kilometers a second and see our planet in thin strips as narrow as ten kilometers wide. Most take about 24 hours to get back where they started.

From this vantage it is like trying to map an elephant using a microscope. By the time you look at the same spot twice, the Earth (and the elephant) is doing something else.

There are far better instruments for observing elephants: Binoculars.

The long-mothballed DSCOVR spacecraft, still languishing in clean storage here on Earth, is just such an instrument. Rather than seeing the planet from hundreds of kilometers away, DSCOVR was designed to track our orbit around the Sun from 1.5 million kilometers away.

From a unique gravitational dimple called “L1”, the spacecraft would continuously monitor the entire sunlit disc of our planet, providing an entirely new way of collecting data on the Earth’s energy budget. This coincident data would compliment and calibrate more detailed measurements from CERES and other satellites that observe the Earth from much closer.

Yet of the $160 billion given to NASA from the US taxpayer since DSCOVR was built in 2000, they have stubbornly maintained that launching this already fully completed spacecraft is either too expensive or simply not important. 

For the record, the most inflated estimate to launch and operate DSCOVR of $250 million would represent 0.15% of that public largesse. In fact, the true cost to NASA to operate DSCOVR for seven years is likely less than $50 million due to cost sharing opportunities with other agencies, and use of cheaper launch vehicles such as a SpaceX rocket.

The reasons for NASA's apparent resistance to exploring new methods of Earth observation probably have more to do with internal bureaucratic inertia than anything else. As they say, old dogs have a hard time learning new tricks and NASA has being doing low Earth orbit for more than forty years. 

They recently committed a further $1 billion on a low Earth orbit replacement to CERES called CLARREO that won't be launched until at least 2016. Whether or not this experiment will finally make the numbers add up remains to be seen, and the results will not be known for another six years at the earliest.

In the meantime, climate change proceeds apace, "skeptics" make specious arguments using glaring errors in the satellite data, and DSCOVR dozes in its storage box here on Earth waiting for 1/20th of the money required for a re-do the failed CERES experiment.

If there is a bright side to the sinister theft of thousands of emails just before the Copenhagen Conference, it is that we can now start to have a more intelligent conversation on the glaring discrepancies in our Earth observation instruments.

And lets not be too hard on NASA. After eight years of George Bush in the Whitehouse and billions diverted from worthwhile science towards inter-planetary photo ops like the manned mission to Mars, the space agency is understandably just now picking up the pieces.

The fabulously expensive (and scientifically useless) International Space Station will also have funneled off $140 billion in scarce research dollars when it finally plunges into the ocean in 2016.

These outside political pressures forced NASA to drop so many Earth-observing missions that by 2006 leading scientists were warning our climate monitoring system was “at risk of collapse”. Four years later, the public was granted a rare glimpse of the frustration within the scientific community in Trenberth’s now famously misinterpreted message.

What about the stolen emails and global conspiracy theories? I suggest a more plausible alternative: The next time the media encounters a such an obvious stick being thrown for them, maybe they should instead chase the mysterious person doing the throwing.

As for DSCOVR, it is interesting that an experiment that could help resolve glaring uncertainties abound this century’s defining issue has somehow never been launched.

For some powerful interests far beyond NASA, continued uncertainty can be a very valuable commodity. To quote a notorious leaked strategy document from Big Tobacco when they were seeking to delay costly regulation of their dangerous industry in the 1960’s: “doubt is our product.”

Next post: DeSmog Blog talks to leading scientists about the DSCOVR mission.

December 03 2009

17:06

Nature Weighs in on Email Controversy

The journal Nature, unquestionably one of the most credible sources in science today, weighed in yesterday with an editorial on the hacked email controversy. It's conclusion:

"In the end, what the UEA (University of East Anglia) e-mails really show is that scientists are human beings — and that unrelenting opposition to their work can goad them to the limits of tolerance, and tempt them to act in ways that undermine scientific values. Yet it is precisely in such circumstances that researchers should strive to act and communicate professionally, and make their data and methods available to others, lest they provide their worst critics with ammunition. After all, the pressures the UEA e-mailers experienced may be nothing compared with what will emerge as the United States debates a climate bill next year, and denialists use every means at their disposal to undermine trust in scientists and science."

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