2010 was not a particularly good year for Canada and the world in a number of ways. However in regards to climate science, 2010 was an excellent year **. Just to be clear I mean excellent because our understanding of the climate increases and the confusion - real and manufactured - decreased. Unfortunately the outlook for the future has not gotten better but with 2010 just past I thought I would take a brief look at selected points from the world of climate science in the past year.
The start to 2010 was not so good due to the stolen CRU e-mails. It is obvious now that the e-mails were a small group that had been pulled from years worth of e-mails because they “looked bad”. However the various accusations that arose from them have been tracked down and investigated until now the only one that remains is that at some point the possibility was raised about avoiding an FOI request. Of course sceptics are still trying to gain traction from it, but the arguments now only seem to resonate with the sceptics.
However from that challenging start, 2010 turned into an excellent year for the science of climate change. To begin with, as is their job, the scientists are working hard to increase our understanding and reduce uncertainty. This can be seen in 2010 by two excellent papers that were published.
The first looks at the issue of the warming oceans . While it is known that a great deal of heat has been going into the oceans for the past many years, there are different estimates of how much. Lyman et al in their paper “Robust warming of the global upper ocean” looked at this issue, specifically trying to reduce the uncertainties involved. It is not an easy task but to quote their results ” Accounting for multiple sources of uncertainty, a composite of several OHCA curves using different XBT bias corrections still yields a statistically significant linear warming trend for 1993-2008 of 0.64 W m-2 (calculated for the Earth’s entire surface area), with a 90-per-cent confidence interval of 0.53-0.75 W m-2.”
A second paper that confirms an important part of our understanding is “A Determination of the Cloud Feedback …”. It is well known that one of the largest uncertainties in the models is the effect of cloud feedback. Consequently the models have a variety of different methods to simulate this effect. The sceptics like to say that these methods are wrong, but what Dessler’s paper shows is that the observed effect of cloud feedback is within the range of that used by the models. It also shows that the effect is very likely to increase warming, just as the scientists have been saying for years.
2010 also saw some direct confrontation in the form of debates between some well known sceptics and scientists. In February Lord Monckton debated with Dr. Lambert about climate. The best summary of it can be found at a post called Monckton’s McLuhan Moment (read it to see what the title means - it’s worth it). The other one was a debate between Dr. Lindzen and Dr. Dessler (the same one who produced the paper above - he’s had a busy year). I posted about this debate on October here. So as you can see, the debates have very positive for the science.
There have been a number of myths shattered over the last year as well. The one that comes to mind is the old canard that the sceptics have good science but are being blocked from publishing by the establishment. In fact a number of sceptics actually looked at some data from the Antarctic in the paper “Improved methods for PCA-based reconstructions …” which was published in the Journal of Climate. The paper showed that while the continent has overall warming with areas of cooling, there was very pronounced warming on the peninsula. So even the sceptics are starting to accept that the warming is real.
Another myth that was shattered this year was that the globe had been cooling since 1998, 2000, 2005 or whatever year you wish to use. The globe warms and cools on multiple time levels in response to a multitude of factors. This will make the data noisy, but the trends come through the noise very well. An excellent look at this comes from Tamino who shows that the trend from 2000 - 2009 was very similar to the trend from the 30 years before that.
One piece of science which is starting to be cleared up is the Wegman Report to the US Congress. This report has been called one of the strongest and best researched documents dealing with climate science. Canada’s own Deep Climate along with long time poster John Mashy have been doing the detailed nitty-gritty work needed to get to the bottom of what this report shows and you can read about it here. The allegations are now that he plagiarized large parts of the report but also claimed to replicate the work of others while in reality just copying their results.
However, in my opinion, the most important new thing to develop in 2010 is that the sceptics now apparently accept the physics of AGW. I have been involved in discussing the science of global warming for over 10 years and first became involved to convince myself that the problem of AGW was over stated. However, what I found when I looked at the issue was first a strong theoretical background supported by observations which convinced me but second a large distortion and/or misunderstanding of the actual science. That the atmosphere was saturated with CO2 and so adding more couldn’t cause warming, or that we weren’t responsible for the rise in CO2, or even since CO2 was such a small miniscule part of the atmosphere so it couldn’t cause warming - these were all arguments presented strongly in various websites. If we are well and truly past this stage then 2010 will represent a game changing year.
If the physics becomes accepted, then we can move to a stage where we can say that adding CO2 will cause warming. If people wish to present arguments that the warming will not be as severe as predicted, or that mechanisms will be set in place that will cause cooling then let them. But these arguments must be presented as clear science with the data and observations to support them. And that will be a very welcome change to the discussions in 2011.
To all Dr. Dawg’s readers and to all posters and collaborators, I wish you the best in 2011 and hope that your short and longterm outlooks are all positive.
** There was one serious climate problem in 2010 that I will raise very soon.