Open thread June 2011 – Earth warmed as much as expected


For discussing climate/energy things that are not the topic of other posts (hint, hint). E.g:

How (in)consistent is the instrumental temperature record with a climate sensitivity between 2 and 4.5 degrees (per doubling of CO2)? Turns out, within the admittedly large uncertainties they are entirely consistent (based on Ramanathan and Feng, 2009):

Global average surface temperatures have increased by about 0.75 degrees Celsius since the beginning of the industrial revolution, of which ~0.6 °C is attributable to human activities. The total radiative forcing by greenhouse gases is around 3 W/m2, with which we have ‘committed’ the planet to warm up by 2.4 °C (1.6-3.6 °C), according to a climate sensitivity of 3 °C (2-4.5 °C) for a doubling of CO2. The observed amount of warming thus far has been less than this, because part of the excess energy is stored in the oceans (amounting to ~0.5 °C), and the remainder (~1.3 °C) has been masked by the cooling effect of anthropogenic aerosols.

Dana over at SkS has an excellent post on this as well, using slightly different numbers and accounting for uncertainties. Over at the previous thread, RickA makes the common mistake of omitting the negative aerosol forcing and the ocean thermal inertia.

On low carbon technologies I don’t have terribly much to add at the moment, except to point to previous posts on technology (including lots of pointers to literature and/or other articles).

19 Responses to “Open thread June 2011 – Earth warmed as much as expected”

  1. Dana Says:

    Thanks Bart, one of my favorite topics because I like playing with numbers, because Lindzen so frequently and for so long (since 1989 at least) has claimed otherwise, and because it’s really not that hard to check. You can do it either by using transient climate sensitivity, as I did in the link you provide, or by trying to account for the amount of energy going into the oceans, as I did in a previous version. The latter is difficult because our ocean heat content measurements are pretty highly uncertain, but it’s a pretty straightforward exercise if you use transient sensitivity.

    But either way you get approximately the same result, and in both cases you find that the amount of warming we’ve observed is well within the range of warming “we should have seen”, contrary to “skeptic” claims otherwise, which as Bart notes are based on ignoring thermal inertia and cooling effects like aerosols. And you also find that an equilibrium sensitivity of below about 1.5°C, as Lindzen argues for, is inconsistent with the amount of warming we’ve seen.

    And yet the “skeptics” keep claiming “we should have seen more warming.” I find that rather dishonest and aggravating.

  2. Bart Says:

    Ah, that link you provided is actually the one I meant to use. This post was done quick as you can see.

  3. Jeff Id Says:

    Ok so I suppose someone should point out the problems with the heading:

    Click to access mmh_asl2010.pdf

    In data spanning 1979 to 1999, observed trends are not significantly different from zero or from model projections. In data spanning 1979 to 2009 the observed trends are significant in some cases but tend to differ significantly from modeled trends.

    There is also this:

    Now the continued blocking of McIntyre and Mckitrick’s corrections to Santer et al. should be an embarrassment to climatology but we know that is not how things work for skeptics. Hell, I’m not even sure they are skeptics. Like me, I think they just hate biased math.

    Gentlemen, the models are running high.

  4. Chris Colose Says:


    You are being argumentative again. You’re not even talking about the same variable as Bart’s post (instrumental temps and climate sensitivity vs. upper trop trends). We could just as well as say the model’s are running too conservative with respect to arctic sea ice loss, therefore sensitivity is underestimated, but that doesn’t directly follow either.

    I understand you skeptics are very angry at the world and want to argue about anything and everything, hence the need for at least one or two of your readers to bring up Mann’s 1998 work in a discussion about Venus, but please stay on focus… and re-read my post on Bart’s Venus thread about meshing everyone into this single group called “climatology.”

  5. Jeff Id Says:


    Paint me as an extremist if you like, but the post says:

    How (in)consistent is the instrumental temperature record with a climate sensitivity between 2 and 4.5 degrees (per doubling of CO2)?

    and a title of

    Earth warmed as much as expected

    Since ‘expected’ means projections which in turn refer to models, I wonder if you can address the statistical shortcomings of the model mean in a mathematically coherent manner.

    Naw, I’m just a grumpy guy.

  6. Jeff Id Says:

    Maybe the methods of Santer that prove the post title don’t appeal to you?

  7. Jeff Id Says:

    Oops, missed this.

    “We could just as well as say the model’s are running too conservative with respect to arctic sea ice loss”

    Sea ice loss has been overprojected repeatedly.

    Remember how that turned out?

  8. Steve Bloom Says:

    Jeff confuses weather with climate. On purpose. Again. To say nothing of his history of similar logical dodges.

    I’m really curious, Bart: Why is this interesting to you?

  9. Bart Says:


    The “warmed as much as expected” in my post referred to a very simple and crude energy balance calculation based on the estimated climate forcings since pre-industrial and the best estimate of climate sensitivity (as deduced from both climate models and data from different time periods). The total amount of warming since pre-industrial is approximately as much as expected from this simple energy balance calculation. No model projections involved.

    And yes, please move the energy technology discussion over here.

    Steve, what can I say? Gymnastics for the mind. Playing in the mud. Discussions such as these are often springboards for me to look further into some issues. I think Jeff could do with a chill pill sometimes but I appreciate his honesty in airing his opinions (notwithstanding the fact that I strongly disagree with most of them).

  10. Jeff Id Says:

    I like this recent set of posts at Lucia’s quite a bit.

  11. Dana Says:

    I suppose Jeff’s complaints would be nullified if the title were “Earth’s surface has warmed…” as opposed to “Earth has warmed”?

  12. MapleLeaf Says:

    Hi Bart,

    Thanks for the post. Sadly, a conspiracy theorist descends to try and distract us all from the facts….

    Really, after the fiasco that was McKitrick and Michaels, why do some people insist on taking McKitrick and his social network seriously. Oh right, they find their “answers” convenient…I (and many, many others) on the other hand do not find the best estimate of climate sensitivity of +3 C for doubling CO2 convenient, nor do I (and many, many others) find an estimate of +2 C convenient because we will more than double CO2 thanks to our myopia.

    And the example of the sea ice provided by the self-named “grumpy guy” is laughable. Really, the argument that someone overestimated Arctic sea ice loss refutes Chris Colose’s point is offensive and a strawman. By the same logic, going by Goddard’s failed attempts, all contrarians and “skeptics” have no credibility or skill whatsoever. Hang on but that is mostly true, and we do not have to do mental gymnastics to demonstrate that. More to the point, maybe he could demonstrate how the AR4 models overestimated the loss of Arctic sea ice….this image says otherwise.

    To demonstrate his true skepticism, perhaps Jeff would like to tear a strip off Goddard and Bastardi for their ridiculous Arctic sea ice “forecasts”, or tear a strip off no-error-bar-Michaels for his shameless and brazen attempt to mislead congress recently on the attribution of warming in the SAT record.

    But I digress, this thread is about climate sensitivity, and the argument that is is low is the last stand of the contrarians, skeptics and those who deny the theory of anthro global warming. So far their inconsistent, contradictory and sometimes physically implausible hypotheses have failed to make a credible, convincing or coherent case….see Roy Spencer’s desperate efforts for example.

    Jeff is just here to argue, I do not see the point in engaging him given his display up thread to distort (see below, for example) and misrepresent the science (e.g., sea ice projections). And those are just examples form this thread Bart.

    I for one am far more interested to hear what thoughtful, qualified and reasonable people like you and Chris have to say on this subject.

    Note: Intriguing games being played here by Jeff– the very loud claim is made about “the continued blocking of McIntyre and Mckitrick’s corrections….”. What does the PDF say that Jeff linked us to?

    In press, Atmospheric Science Letters”

    Fail. And please, this is not an opportunity for Jeff and ‘skeptics’ to float more conspiracy theories. You tried and failed, now please move on.

  13. Jeff Id Says:


    The article linked needed a novel statistical method to be published in a different journal just to see the light of day. Thus, a similar article is ‘in press’ yet the original using the same methods as Santer — blocked.

    #1 Models are running high compared to data on average by 2 to 4 times trend.

    #2 it is not my fault.

    I like your picture, have one for the south pole?

  14. MapleLeaf Says:


    So while he cannot bring himself to say it, Jeff admits that his claims about the Arctic sea ice were incorrect. And in a lame attempt to save face, he tries and shifts the goal posts on that, and the paper.

  15. cce Says:

    Look at the difference between HadAT and RAOBCORE. Look at the difference between UAH and STAR. The “data” tells us nothing, other than we need better data (especially in the tropics).

  16. troyca Says:

    Dana —

    And you also find that an equilibrium sensitivity of below about 1.5°C, as Lindzen argues for, is inconsistent with the amount of warming we’ve seen.

    I gave the RF09 paper a quick read-through, and Bart isn’t kidding about the large uncertainties. To stir the pot a bit, I’ll mention that it appears that even an equilibrium sensitivity of 1.0 C per CO2 doubling appears “consistent” with the numbers in that paper:

    If we assumed 3.8W/m^2C, we’d expect about 0.79 C of anthropogenic warming to this point. The lower bound RF quotes for the forcing still within the ocean is 0.4 W/m^2, and for aerosol impact -0.5 W/m^2, which leaves 0.11 C still in the pipeline and 0.13 masked by aerosols. So from this estimate we’d expect to have seen about .55 C, which is pretty close to the IPCC estimate of 70% * .8 = .56 C we’ve seen. And unless it is bundled within the aerosol impact, that doesn’t even include the land-use/UHI effect on the temperature record (which may be a hot topic for argument, but I don’t think anybody would disagree with the possibility of it accounting for 0.01 C over the course of more than a century).

  17. Bart Says:


    True about the uncertainties, and Dana is well aware of that ( ). Just for fun you may also want to check what high end estimate of climate sensitivity is still “consistent with” the instrumental record. And then do a risk analysis based on that.

    If however we add more constraints on the climate sensitivity (eg from past climatic states and volcanic eruptions) the values of climate sensitivity that is still consistent with all of these gets smaller and converges to 3 (+/- 1).

  18. dorlomin Says:

    Seems the maximum, minimum and average have been removed from the UAH discover web site

    We seem to have gotten close to 2010 temperatrures again.

  19. willard Says:

    In the Open thread of March, I posted a comment from Steve that deserved due diligence:

    > One of the strongest NAS panel members told me privately at AGU – requiring me to protect his identity – that, in his opinion, we had effectively killed that style of reconstruction until better proxies were available – a process that he estimated would take 10 to 20 years. One of the problems in climate science is that people can’t always speak their mind. Isn’t it ludicrous that a scientist of that calibre should be afraid to say for attribution what he really thought on the issue?



    In that same open thread, Rattus Norvegicus asked me if I would bet it was Christy. I would never bet, nor speculate, as speculation is dangerous, even if we can observe that Christy’s work receives positive comments on CA’s editorials.

    Nonetheless, I note in that thread that MarkB opined that:

    > It can’t be Christy McI is referring to. After all, Christy is not afraid of speaking his mind and spouting nonsense publicly, as the latest Congressional hearing and many of his public appearances indicates.


    In a recent editorial, posted on the 2011-05-23, at 23:00 EDT, so about two months later, Steve McIntyre mentioned in passing:

    > One member of the NAS panel (not Christy) told me, under the condition that I not reveal his identity, that we had effectively killed the enterprise of trying to reconstruct temperatures from lousy data and that it would take brand new data to resolve the questions – something that he thought might take 20 years.

    The mention that it was not Christy is quite intriguing. I wonder if this would suffice to make Rattus speculate about Steve’s reading habits.

    In any case, if we’re to believe Steve’s testimony, it seems that MarkB was right, and so wins the Internetz.


    And so we’re left with the same question that motivated our due diligence:

    How many NAS panel members were there, and how many plausible candidates to be considered by Steve McIntyre as “one of the strongest”?

    Here is the North report:

    Here is a hint:

    We can cross out Christy.

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