Tag Archives: modeling

Rapidly warming satellite data sends “skeptics” scurrying to models

Most people remotely familiar with climate “skeptics” know that if you can count on them for anything, it’s the following:

  1. “Skeptics” love satellite temperature data.
  2. “Skeptics” hate computer models. 

“Skeptics” claim to reject the surface instrumental temperature record because of alleged biases in the data, supposedly fraudulent “adjustments”, etc. These objections are not based in reality, as multiple analyses of the surface data have shown. In reality, “skeptics” reject the surface instrumental record for the same reason they reject so much of modern science: it doesn’t show what they want it to.

“Skeptics” claim that satellite temperature data, derived from microwave brightness soundings of the lower troposphere, are superior. The reality is that the satellite data cover a shorter record (and thus capture less of the warming), use a more recent baseline (and thus have cooler “anomalies” relative to the surface record), and are more sensitive to natural climatic variability like ENSO (and thus make the human signal harder to pick out visually). In other words, they like the satellite data because they show them more of what they want to see, and less of what they don’t. That one of the groups producing a satellite record is comprised of Roy Spencer and John Christy is icing on the cake.

And if there’s one thing “skeptics” disdain more than the surface instrumental record, it’s computer models. The ostensible justifications are legion, but the underlying cause is simple: they show things that “skeptics” don’t want to see.

So it was with great amusement that I took note of the “skeptic” reaction to the UAH satellite record’s rapid January warming, which reached temperatures exceeded only during the strong El Niño years of 1998 and 2010:

Rather than accept their beloved satellite data at face value, “skeptics” cast about for any alternative data set that didn’t show the inconvenient warming. Over at the wretched hive of scum and villainy known as WUWT, the innumerate and oft-beclowned Anthony Watts seized upon NCEP data showing much less January warming:

Of course NCEP isn’t actually an observational data set. It’s a reanalysis product created by those evil and untrustworthy models. You know, the ones “skeptics” demonize regularly in outlets like WUWT:

When the satellites don’t show what they want to see, “skeptics” waste no time in fleeing to the models they otherwise disdain.

Because climate “skeptics” are anything but skeptical.

And just for the record, the RSS satellite record showed a similarly large (+0.341°C) increase in January 2013.

Elizabeth Kolbert’s New Yorker profile of James Hansen

It’s here, and well worth reading. Hardly the zealot the denialists make him out to be, which should surprise exactly no one familiar with his work or public speech.

For me the two key takeaways are Hansen’s unwavering resolution to point out that bills like Waxman-Markey (ACES) are insufficient to the task at hand and perhaps calamitously so, and Kolbert’s point that while politicians seem to willfully misunderstand climate science, Hansen seems to willfully misunderstand politics. I think they’re both correct, and that provides a sobering counterpoint to the jubilation of ACES’s passage in the House.

The next denier talking point: “We prevented the next ice age”

Via Climate Feedback and also at New Scientist. I wonder how long it will take to be misrepresented and appropriated for inaction on emissions stabilization…

Updates to come.

[Edited to add: I realize, of course that such a talking point isn’t itself “new”. Rather, I am waiting to see how long it takes this particular study to reinvigorate it. Furthermore, in case it isn’t obvious from the tone of my post or those contacted for comment on the study, I absolutely don’t agree that the argument carries any weight. As has been mentioned in the links, the model has a bias towards large, stable sheets, and we are talking about a long, long time in the future by civilization’s standards.]

[UPDATE: Dot Earth has picked this up, and notes that:

[the study] stirred a lot of skepticism in the community of specialists examining ancient records of past climate changes and how they might relate to variations in Earth’s orbit and orientation toward the Sun and other factors. I’ll be adding some of their reactions overnight.

So far nothing from the usual suspects.]

[LATE UPDATE: Dot Earth has some reactions from the community and they range from mildly intrigued to overtly hostile (e.g. Wunsch)].

[UPDATE: Well, I guess it’s finally hitting the denialosphere. First hit on a Google blog search is from “An Honest Climate Debate: Exposing the truth about the Man-Made Climate Change theory” (Orwell would approve!). More to come. I’ll just add them to the bottom of the post without updating if they get to be too numerous.]

An Honest Climate Debate [uses Brisbane Times headline]

Australian Climate Madness: “Global warming” will avert next Ice Age [interestingly, this one is such a vehement denier it actually rejects the study because it’s based on a climate model “just like the IPCC models”]

Climate Change Fraud [uses Daily Mail headline]

Environmental Republican: Putting the Global Warming Myth On Ice

ICECAP [uses Daily Mail headline; no permalink]

Planet Gore: Enjoy Global Warming While We Can

Skeptics Global Warming: A Possible Ice Age Looms

Stop the ACLU: The Ice Age Is Coming? Really? Cool!

Tom Nelson [uses Daily Mail headline]