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Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 09/30/2008

Global Warming is Real, O.K.?

By Steve Tracton

Better prediction of local effects needed

Observed changes in global average surface temperature. Changes are relative to corresponding averages for the period 1961-1990. Smoothed curves represent decadal average values while circles show yearly values. The shaded areas are the uncertainty intervals estimated from a comprehensive analysis of known uncertainties. Courtesy IPCC.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, global warming is unequivocally happening. Evidence is now widespread from a variety of observations of many variables, including global and regional temperatures, sea temperatures, sea-level rise, melting Arctic ice, and glacier retreat. While any given set of observations and their interpretation might be questioned, the composite whole can leave little, if any, doubt that the global climate is warming and has been doing so for at least the last several decades at a rate virtually unprecedented in the documentable past.

Of course, there are skeptics who probably will not believe that global warming is a fact of life until one can fry eggs on a sidewalk in Fairbanks, Alaska ... in winter. Now that I've probably freaked out some skeptics - who right now are likely sending in comments (tirades?) before reading what follows - let me add that I do not necessarily attribute global warming primarily to human activities, such as through the burning of fossil fuels.

Keep reading for a continuation of Steve's perspective on global warming and a major new effort he supports to improve the tools for predicting future warming at the local level and its impacts. For local weather, see our full forecast.

But, I do agree with the IPCC conclusion that odds are about 90% that anthropogenic (man-made) influences are and will continue to be the principal cause of warming. I emphatically take issue with so called "deniers" who take the position - with seemingly a 100% level of certainty - that human activities are not an important factor. That attitude is unassailably faith-based (no religious connotation intended or implied) where evidence to the contrary has no place.

One can make a reasonably sounding argument that global warming could be due to natural fluctuations in the climate system (e.g., cycles in ocean/atmosphere circulations) and/or external influences (e.g., sunspot activity, volcano eruptions). However, while these mechanisms are subjectively plausible (especially to non-scientists) there is no objective, scientifically sound basis to conclude they can account primarily (let alone exclusively as some argue) for the observed global warming.

On the contrary, climate science and an array of sophisticated, state-of-the-art climate models indicate that anthropogenic influences are not only plausible, but very likely explanations for the observed warming. Where there is justifiable disagreement, i.e. uncertainty, is specifying the magnitude and rate at which warming may occur in the future.

To openly minded skeptics with honest questions, I too recognize that the current crop of climate models have significant limitations in simulating past and future climate change. Indeed, this may come as a surprise to some, so do most climate scientists.

Illustration of complexity of earth-climate system. Courtesy Department of Commerce.

The ocean, land, sea ice, atmosphere system is incredibly complex with each of the hundreds to thousands of individual components interacting to varying degrees of importance with every other component. Given this complexity, the governing mathematical equations that comprise climate models must be approximated on the basis of many assumptions having varying levels of validity. Furthermore, models must be simplified to accommodate the relatively limited computer resources required to run the models.

What we can expect of today's models is that they provide a reasonable simulation of the possible range of global average change with some capability to discriminate between large regions around the globe. Thus, for example, the IPCC concludes that the global average temperature over the 21st Century will increase between 3.2 to 7.2 degrees F with the largest and most rapid warming occurring in the Arctic. What models now cannot credibly predict are regional effects; for example, on a state by state scale.

I'm personally very wary of any claims to the contrary, with a few exceptions. For example, it's obvious (and well-established) that a prospective global rise in sea level will impact some regions more than others due to variations in local geography. Otherwise, it should go without saying that advance knowledge of regional effects is crucial to any decisions that officials nationally and internationally might make to reduce and/or adapt to global warming.

In response to the clear need for developing models capable of reliable predictions of regional climate changes, researchers from around the world gathered last May in Reading, UK at The World Modeling Summit for Climate Prediction. The aim of the summit was to develop a strategy to "revolutionize climate prediction for the 21st century". In the end the participants made the case (effectively, in my opinion) for a climate-prediction project on a scale that would rival some of largest scientific endeavors ever (e.g., the Human Genome Project). The project would create a world climate research center with computer power far beyond that now available. The cost, estimated at up to, if not more than a billion dollars, is perhaps large in absolute terms but, in my opinion, small change compared to other big budget science projects. Moreover, the potential savings in life, infrastructure, and the international economic system - made possible through expected game changing advances in climate science and modeling - are inestimably larger than the costs involved in the proposed climate research center.

I'm not sure where the proposed climate center proposal stands at this time, but I'll be monitoring the situation. Stay tuned for updates as available.

Steve Tracton is filling in for Andrew Freedman, who writes about climate change weekly for the Capital Weather Gang.

By Steve Tracton  | September 30, 2008; 10:30 AM ET
Categories:  Climate Change, Tracton  
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Global warming as an event has been well established. Natural and anthropogenic causes of global warming are still up for debate.

Posted by: Jamming | September 30, 2008 11:23 AM | Report abuse

I'm looking for the silver lining in the climate change cloud. What do the models indicate about future average humidity in the DC metro area? Any chance that it will decline?

Posted by: sweltering | September 30, 2008 11:30 AM | Report abuse

I am a bit confused about where you stand on the subject. At one point you write...

"I do not necessarily attribute global warming primarily to human activities, such as through the burning of fossil fuels."

But in the next paragraph you say...

"But, I do agree with the IPCC conclusion that odds are about 90% that anthropogenic (man-made) influences are and will continue to be the principal cause of warming."

I, for one, am one of those deniers that you referenced. I am currently a senior student studying operational and theoretical meteorology. While I don't disagree that there is also something to be done to save our environment, I think global warming and so called "Going Green" are topics that are need to be separated.

Climate models are just that... models. They are only as good as the data you put into them. Just like the NAM is to forecasters, climate models have their serious downfalls to climatologists.

I think that the current global warming trend is part of the normal, cyclic period of the Earth's temperature. 12,000 years ago the Earth came out of the last ice age... not because of any car emissions but from the normal Earth cycle. The Middle Ages saw their temperature fall a few degrees, which had drastic consequences. Again, the Earth rebounded...

I feel the effects of humans play such a small role (0.000001%) on the overall effect of global warming.

Should the climate models be correct, albeit due to humans or natural cycles, look for a period of global COOLING...
But I guess that is for another post.

Posted by: CTWx4caster | September 30, 2008 12:20 PM | Report abuse

For those who don't know it, there are two primary sources of temperature measurement (especially when you speak of global temperature).

The first source is land based temperature measurement. The second source is satellite based measurement.

I do not personally have any faith in the land based temperature record. One of the reasons I do not have any faith in the land based temperature is the horrendous lack of oversight and adherence to rigorous scientific standards for the surface stations used. It is abysmal, to say the least. Google "surface stations dot org anthony watts" if you want to see photographs of what I am talking about. Another reason I don't personally trust the land based temperature record is the data manipulation. Dr. Hansen, and his counterparts at the U.K. MET, adjust the data as a matter of practice. Some adjustment is probably necessary, to adjust for the urban heat island, but the adjustments as they are currently being performed are obscene. Don't take my word for it; read the full article from the previous link I provided. Make up your own mind.

I have more faith in the satellite data. And the satellite data doesn't show the dire warming that the "adjusted" land based temperature data conveys. Take a look at this graphic and tell me if you are going to lose sleep over global warming.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr. Q. | September 30, 2008 12:58 PM | Report abuse (admittedly, an advocacy blog) blogs about a new study NASA/Navy study (published in the peer reviewed literature) that concludes that the sun "if anything" contributed to a slight cooling in the last few decades and that "[n]one of the natural processes can account for the overall warming trend in global surface temperatures."

Posted by: Capital Weather Gang | September 30, 2008 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Mr Q: Have you read the U.S. government's synthesis and assessment report: "Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere: Steps for Understanding and Reconciling Differences"? It concludes: "The most recent versions of all available data sets [including satellite and balloon records] show that both the surface and troposphere have warmed, while the stratosphere has cooled. These changes are in accord with our understanding of the effects of radiative forcing agents and with the results from model simulations."

Whether or not to lose sleep over the amount of warming understandably varies from person to person based on their own risk tolerance and values. Note you've chosen to highlight the dataset that shows the least warming. There is another satellite dataset which shows warming more consistent with land-based record.

Posted by: Capital Weather Gang | September 30, 2008 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Capital Weather Gang, your comment did not address either of my two primary complaints with the surface based temperature record -
1. the horrible lack of scientific standards for the surface stations
2. the amount of "adjustment" done to the surface record

Speaking of adjustment, have you read "A Tale of Two Thermometers"?. Take a look at the two temperature graphs near the center of the article. One graph represents the 1999 official NASA version of U.S. temperatures and the graph beneath it represents the 2007 official NASA version of U.S. temperature. I can hardly wait until NASA releases the next version of U.S. temperature! Who knew historical data was in such a state of flux?!?

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr. Q. | September 30, 2008 2:07 PM | Report abuse


To address the confusion issue, the point is that I'm not close minded in concluding that that human activities are primarily responsible for global warming. Rather, I agree with the IPCC that there is about a 10% chance this may not be the case.

As you apparently would agree , you're a perfect fit to the label of "denier".

Hence, you THINK the global warming trend...", and you "FEEL the effects of humans ..." , and BELIEVE that,"if climate models are correct"... "look for a period of global cooling.."


This is precisely what I mean about faith based as opposed to evidence based conclusions. Skepticism is fine, as long as it is accompanied by the willingness to objectively assess a scientifically sound knowledge base - or provide a reasonable basis to doubt the science.

BTW: Especially if you intend to continue studies in meteorology or related science in graduate school, being closed minded and labeled a "denier" (of anything) will not do you well. Please take this as well intentioned (unsolicited) advice. or dismiss outright.

Posted by: Steve Tracton | September 30, 2008 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Capital Weather Gang said -
"Note you've chosen to highlight the dataset that shows the least warming. There is another satellite dataset which shows warming more consistent with land-based record."

Do you have a link to the satellite dataset you are referring to? Preferably a current (mid 2008) dataset.

Thanks in advance,
Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr. Q. | September 30, 2008 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Q - just more of your flak intended to divert attention from the much larger body of evidence inconsistent with your impassioned side of the global warming issue.

How about answering the question asked of you last week (from TBull) which you avoided answering directly:

Do you really have "no doubt", that is 100% certain, that global warming is not occurring???
YES or NO??

If "NO", do you have any doubt - 100% certain - that human activities are not the primary cause??
YES or NO??

These are not meant as a "gotcha" questions, just an attempt to understand the bottom line on where you are coming from

Posted by: Steve Tracton | September 30, 2008 2:32 PM | Report abuse

How does ignoring my legitimate criticisms and attempting to focus the attention on what I believe help your argument????

You can get mad at me, or other commenters, all you want, but I rather doubt that lashing out a commenters is going to convince readers of your argument.

How does where I am coming from affect the facts???? Try focusing on the facts and not me.

You said, "There is another satellite dataset which shows warming more consistent with land-based record."

I am assuming that you aren't referring to this.

Do you have a link to the dataset which "shows warming more consistent with land-based record" or not?

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr. Q. | September 30, 2008 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Q-- You linked to the UAH satellite dataset. There is also a satellite dataset from Remote Sensing Systems (RSS). See:

Posted by: Capital Weather Gang | September 30, 2008 3:19 PM | Report abuse

CTWx4caster said- "I think that the current global warming trend is part of the normal, cyclic period of the Earth's temperature. 12,000 years ago the Earth came out of the last ice age... not because of any car emissions but from the normal Earth cycle. The Middle Ages saw their temperature fall a few degrees, which had drastic consequences. Again, the Earth rebounded..."

I think you're grossly overlooking timescales. Yes, in the past the Earth has been as warm, and it also has been much cooler. The timescales at which these events occur, happen over hundreds/thousands of years if not more. They have not been observed to occur on the order of decades as we are currently observing.

Maybe your theoretical meteorology program should include a course on paleoclimate.

Posted by: MDreader | September 30, 2008 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Q

Yes or NO ???

Posted by: steve tracton | September 30, 2008 3:52 PM | Report abuse

"The suspense is terrible. I hope it'll last." - Willy Wonka

Posted by: John - Burke | September 30, 2008 4:04 PM | Report abuse

@Capital Weather Gang -
I was aware of the RSS dataset. Apparently my question was not clear. :(

I did not ask, "Is there are a different source of satellite data?"

I asked, 'Do you have a link to the dataset which "shows warming more consistent with land-based record" or not?'

I apologize if that was unclear. I will try again.

Dr. Tracton said, " There is another satellite dataset which shows warming more consistent with land-based record."

I was looking for a direct link to that dataset. Not a link to a different satellite temperature source. But a direct link that supports Dr. Tracton's statement.

Perhaps a graphic would better demonstrate what I am looking for. Here is a RSS graphic. As you can clearly see, it agrees entirely with my previous UAH graphic. Do you have a direct link to a graphic which refutes that graphic and supports Dr. Tracton's claim?

Sorry if I was unclear before, and thanks in advance.

@Dr. Tracton -
Please try to focus on the facts and not on me.

How do you respond to this news release from NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab -
--begin quote--
Patzert says global warming due to increasing greenhouse gases is responsible for some of the overall heating observed in Los Angeles and the rest of California. Most of the increase in heat days and length of heat waves, however, is due to a phenomenon called the "urban heat island effect.
--end quote--

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr. Q. | September 30, 2008 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Mr Q: It wasn't Dr. Tracton (Steve) that posted about another dataset that was more consistent with the land-based record, it was CWG.

CWG responded by providing the link to the RSS dataset which documents a warming of 0.17 degrees C/decade in the lowest layer of the troposphere (over the last few decades) which is consistent with the rate of warming at the surface in the land-based record.

There is not a separate source of satellite data (and there was no intent to imply that), just a different dataset which provides an independent analysis of the MSU data. You chose to only link to the UAH dataset, whereas there is also the RSS dataset which shows more warming. That was the point.

Posted by: Capital Weather Gang | September 30, 2008 5:13 PM | Report abuse

I would suppose justification for great fear if we were not experiencing climate change. Climate change has been an absolute for millions of years and will continue.

Our intelligence is inadequate to completely understand the forcing involved since the mid 1970's.

This interesting info. from the National Academy of Sciences touches on some of the mysteries and illustrates an often experienced beneficial effect during periods of warming.

For those who believe that the rate of recent warming is almost unheard of, nothing could be more removed from reality.
My goodness folks, recent warming has been slow compared to times during the past.

This info. from NOAA reveals an 18F increase in Greenland during a ten year period around 11,500 years ago!

There is nothing unusual about rapid climate change

Posted by: Augusta Jim | September 30, 2008 5:29 PM | Report abuse

The UAH data set continues - as I've noted before without challenge - to ignore (purposely or otherwise) the bias in in the global average temperature trends that arise from including the the erroneous cold satellite temperatures over the Antarctic

Any invocation of the UAH temperature records should be totally discounted unless this blatantly misleading data set is corrected !!!!

Posted by: Steve Tracton | September 30, 2008 5:38 PM | Report abuse

I have a big problem with the whole global-warming issue, NOT because I am a so-called "skeptic", but because the whole issue and science of land/water/atmosphere temperature interaction is so complex that even supercomputers can't figure it out. Now, if the greatest computing machines and models ever made my man, using the most advanced mathematics and equations, cannot get a real handle on what's happening, and why, then what makes Al Gore and some of his followers here at Capital Weather so sure they THEY know so much....and have the answers?

Sorry, guys, but I just don't see it that way. It's just too complex an issue, with too many factors, both known and unknown, involved.

Posted by: Mike from Vienna | September 30, 2008 5:43 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Q,

Why can't you come out and just answer Dr. Tracton's questions: YES or NO??

It is about you, since you continually use tactics designed to divert attention to biased and or misleading information and ignore all else.

As I see it, Dr. Tracton, Mr. Freedman,nor GWG more generally, have any axe to grind either way - you obviously do. They are willing to acknowledge and accept the uncertainties in the IPCC report while apparently you cannot even consider that possibility that global warming is real.

So, please answer the Yes/No question. If that means you must come out of a deniers closet, so what. Why be ashamed?

I can only surmise that by acknowledging being a true blood denier, you risk not having anyone seriously interested/concerned paying any further attention to you - which no one should be doing anyway.

Posted by: TBull | September 30, 2008 6:01 PM | Report abuse

Dr. Tracton wrote, "The UAH data set continues - as I've noted before without challenge - ..."

I saw your previous comment where you complained about the UAH graph. I spent a little time, not a lot, trying to ascertain the facts, if any, behind your complaint. I was unable to find anyone who held a similar opinion. So I chose to not comment on your complaint.

Dr. Tracton continued, "... to ignore (purposely or otherwise) the bias in in the global average temperature trends that arise from including the the erroneous cold satellite temperatures over the Antarctic."

What is your source or reason for stating that the satellite temperature over the Antarctic is erroneous?

Are you aware that UAH uses both NASA and NOAA satellite data?

Do you also have a problem with the NOAA data by itself?

I will email Dr. Spencer and get his response to your concern.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 30, 2008 6:52 PM | Report abuse

Capital Weather Gang wrote, "You chose to only link to the UAH dataset, whereas there is also the RSS dataset which shows more warming."

You have to be aware that your system will only permit so many hyperlinks per post. That forces me to pick and choose what I link to.

Does it really come as a surprise to you that I would choose the UAH data over the RSS data? You really think that when forced to limit the hyperlinks I would pick the one which showed 0.03 more warming????

Aside from the fact that I am limited in the number of hyperlinks I can include in any one post, there is the issue of quality. UAH claims that they have the highest quality satellite data available.

--begin quote--
The UAH dataset is the only satellite-based temperature dataset that has multiple, independent studies verifying its accuracy.

"Ours is the only dataset that has been compared to non-satellite data," said Christy. "This gives us confidence in its results. Several different radiosonde-based products have been compared to the satellite data and the results of those studies have been published."

In 1992, Christy and Spencer published a study in which they compared the satellite data to a set of U.S. radiosondes.

In 1997, the Hadley Center of the United Kingdom's Meteorology Office did an analysis using data from 400 radiosonde sites around the world. There was extremely close agreement between that radiosonde data and the UAH dataset.

Additional studies comparing the satellite and radiosonde data have appeared in reports published by the IPCC and the National Research Council.

Another comparison was published in 2003 in the Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology. In each case, the satellite data and the radiosonde data show a high level of agreement.
--end quote--

source of the quote -

Can you make the same claim on behalf of the RSS data set?

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 30, 2008 7:11 PM | Report abuse

To some extent, I feel like obsessing over the exact cause of climate change is so much smoke and mirrors at this point. Personally, I think man-made emissions have a significant role to play - whether they are a 80% factor or a 40% factor, I really don't know.

But to me it doesn't matter that much. Why? Because reducing man-made greenhouse gas emissions CERTAINLY CAN'T HURT! Most of these gasses come from combustion of fossil fuels, which pollute in other ways as well. Moving towards clean energy has so many benefits aside from greenhouse emissions (air quality in general, energy prices, national security, etc) that its a no-brainer regardless! Now is the time to tackle this problem in earnest regardless - global warming is just the icing on the cake.

The other thing I would point out, is that the research project Steve discusses in his article is likely a good idea. REGARDLESS of whether man is at fault for global warming or not. Because no one debates that, as a factual matter, the earth is getting warmer. The debate is on WHY it is getting warmer. If the skeptics turn out right, and natural processes do happen to be at work here, that means the warming cannot be halted or reversed! Which makes the research project even MORE important. Regardless of what precisely is causing warming, it only makes sense to study it on a more local level so potential negative effects can be identified and responses planned.

Posted by: Jim in Blacksburg | September 30, 2008 7:16 PM | Report abuse

Jim in Blacksburg:
Your last sentence contains wisdom.

"study it on a more local level so potential side effect can be identified and responces planned"

THIS IS A CLASSIC FROM BJORN LOMBORG, though I'm sure you did not intend this.

Welcome back!!!! Winter is soon!!

Posted by: Augusta Jim | September 30, 2008 8:19 PM | Report abuse

I must respectfully ask once again that CWG refrain from using the term "denier".

"Denier" conjures up the notion of "Holocaust Denier", a most abhorrent class of people. It is not wise to so insult those from whom you seek a hearing.

Posted by: AC | September 30, 2008 8:40 PM | Report abuse

First, the geeky part: The problem is not in this case with NOAA or any other satellite system from which atmospheric temperatures are determined. The satellites measure radiation which must be "inverted" directly or indirectly to arrive at temperature. This is a very complex process subject to physical constraints. One of these is that it essentially impossible to reliably determine temperatures above highly elevated and variable terrain, especially when the surface is largely ice/snow covered. It's just a fact of life.(Since this is hard to explain in non geeky terms, those seriously interested in this subject can contact me at a temporary email address,

Now for the non geeky part: take a close look at the UAH figure at:

For the sake of argument, cover up the lower part of the figure, i.e., the Antarctic continent (spread out in this type of map projection).

Clearly the remaining area is almost totally dominated by the brownish, above normal category.

If this doesn't do it for you, any further discussion is an utterly useless and totally hopeless exercise in futility - better to use your time and save keystrokes with some down time viewing the TV Weather Bloopers
(Snow lovers will especially like the last one)

P.S. Mr Q
Still waiting for your YES/NO answer.

Posted by: Steve Tracton | September 30, 2008 8:57 PM | Report abuse

I am with you re: burning of fossil fuels
that results in the Global Warming phenomenon. IF there is such a thing as
global warming, I would want to look more
at "over development" as a major cause.
Everytime some developer has a big swath
of trees torn down for buildings, etc.
that is that much less oxygen, etc. being
drawn into the atmosphere.

Posted by: Dennis | September 30, 2008 9:08 PM | Report abuse

60 minutes ago I posted a reply to Jim in Blacksburg. I intentionally included grammatical errors to measure the attention span of anyone opposed.

Obviously the interest in this weekly
exercise in futility is waning.

Goodnight everyone, and hopefully we will soon have some real stuff to talk about!

Posted by: Augusta Jim | September 30, 2008 9:19 PM | Report abuse

AC: I also personally don't like the use of the term denier in the context of global warming for the reasons you state. But, in the spirit of free expression, we're not going to ban the use of words here due to mere association. I don't think the people that use the term 'denier' mean to equate global warming deniers with holocaust deniers... they're just using the word for its literal meaning.

Posted by: Jason, Capital Weather Gang | September 30, 2008 9:34 PM | Report abuse

While I feel our contribution to the increased atmospheric CO2 is the primary cause of the increase in temperature we're seeing I still feel the sun plays a part in this. I realize reports say otherwise, but, if the sunspot cycle is beginning increased activity as a recent report indicates, I feel we'll be in for a hot time. On the other hand solar activity is lower than it's been for at least 50 years. The last time the sunspots were very low it got quite cold in Europe and North America. The Maunder Minimum in the 17th century was known as the little ice age in Europe. What concerns me is that, if there is cooling, our beloved congressmen will opt for pumping more CO2 into the atmosphere so that, when things get back to normal, we'll really suffer.

Posted by: Jay | September 30, 2008 9:44 PM | Report abuse

My caution regarding the use of "denier" is not to censor, rather to remind you that inartful use of labels like this turn off the people you are trying to convice, if indeed you still wish to convince them.

If I ran a blog that casually labeled you a Nazi or a Baby Killer, how often would you return?

Posted by: AC | October 1, 2008 5:36 AM | Report abuse

American Heritage Dictionary - Cite This Source - Share This
de·ni·er 1 (dĭ-nī'ər) Pronunciation Key
n. One that denies: a denier of harsh realities.

Posted by: Steve Tracton | October 1, 2008 8:25 AM | Report abuse

In his new book, "Hot, Flat, and Crowded", Thomas Friedman states the following statistics, based on information from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): For the 10,000 or so years prior to the Industrial Revolution (about 1750), the atmosphere had about 280 ppm of CO2(carbon dioxide). Today our atmosphere has 384 ppm of CO2. Even in the periods of glacial to interglacial transitions, the concentration varied from 180 ppm to 300 ppm and then back to 180 ppm. And 6-degree celsius temperature swings went along with these CO2 concentration changes. For the past 670,000 years, average temperature has always increased with increased CO2 concentration, and decreased when the CO2 concentration decreased. But now we are at 384 ppm, a concentration the earth has probably not seen for the last 20 million years, and it has happened over a period of about the last 50 years. And we seem to be on track to add another 100 ppm during the next 50 years. We know from carbon dating that this CO2 increase is coming from humans burning fossil fuels and from deforestation. Does anyone know what it would be like to live in a world with over 500 ppm of CO2? Would life as we know it continue if our average temperature went up more than 3 degrees Celsius? Isn't the risk of finding out too great a risk to take? There are steps that governments and peoples can take to reduce this risk, and it only seems prudent to pursue these steps with increased energy and passion and haste.

Posted by: A.C.Tanner | October 1, 2008 11:28 AM | Report abuse

There was an error in the UAH site mentioned above (extra .)

Should be:

Posted by: Steve Tracton | October 1, 2008 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Dr. Spencer has not replied, as of yet, to my email. But Dr. Christy has, and Dr. Christy has granted me permission to quote him.

Below is the first response from Dr. Christy.
-- begin quote --
The UAH data have been tested more than any other dataset and have shown to be the most consistent with independent datasets. We specifically looked at Antarctica where 10 radiosonde stations were available - UAH and the sondes were almost identical in trends (better than RSS for example). I don't know the basis for Tracton's assertion - its a myth really, but attached are some recent publications that describe the error characteristics of a number of datasets and show UAH is preferred.
-- end quote --

In my first email to Dr. Christy I included your base assertion, Dr. Tracton, that the data over the Antarctic was erroneous. In my second email I included your statement from above. I quoted you verbatim.

Dr. Christy replied to that statement with -
-- begin quote --
We do not do inversions - rather we calculate direct relationships between the digital counts and the on-board and external calibration temperature targets (this is all explained in our publications.) There is indeed greater noise over Antarctica due to the high terrain, but the background is homogeneous, so this is mostly removed in the anomaly calculation. One of the reasons we did the radiosonde comparisons in Antarctica was to check this potential problem out (but the correlation was extremely high: 0.975 for monthly anomalies 1979-2001 see attached - hence our methodology was shown to be appropriate here as well as in our several journal publications.) Unfortunately, the map projection we provide exaggerates the actual area of Antarctica.

The global temperature trend for the lower troposphere since Dec 1978 is +0.13 C/decade, so one would expect to see more regions that are positive than negative. However, this magnitude is a good bit less than simulated by climate models using current greenhouse gas theory.
-- end quote --

Dr. Christy included some pdf's in his replies. I will try to find those on the web and then post links to those pdf's.

As you can see Dr. Tracton, your fears were unfounded. They do not do inversions.

I have addressed your concerns about the UAH data and proven them unfounded. You have yet to address the abysmal scientific rigors/standards of the individual weather reporting stations and Dr. Hansen's ever changing manipulation of the temperature record.

I continue to have more faith in the UAH satellite data than the land based data from NASA.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr. Q. | October 1, 2008 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Dr. Christy included four pdf's as attachments in our email exchange.

Here is one of the pdf's.
Tropospheric temperature change since 1979 from tropical radiosonde and satellite measurements

Here is another of the pdf's.
Satellite and VIZ–Radiosonde Intercomparisons for Diagnosis of Nonclimatic Influences

Still working on locating the other two pdf's.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr. Q. | October 1, 2008 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Q

I've had enough for this week.I know how UAH derives their temperatures (that's the problem) and glad to see you were able to uncover my "error".

Suppose I grant that the coldness over Antarctica is valid. If you so strongly trust the UAH data and look my comments above, it's difficult to see how you could not believe the lower atmosphere is warming , exclusive of the Antarctic

Still waiting for your YES/NO answer.

Signing off for now on this subject. I have better things to do.

Posted by: Steve Tracton | October 1, 2008 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Here is another of the pdf's.
Using limited time period trends as a means to determine attribution of discrepancies in microwave sounding unit–derived tropospheric temperature time series

The last pdf is a single page which contains a single graphic. It is proving a challenge to locate on the web. I will have to look for that one later this evening. Out of time for now.

Before I go, I would like to quickly reply to A.C.Tanner's comment.

CO2 lags temperature, NOT the other way around. In other words, FIRST the temperature rose, THEN 800 years later, there was an increase in CO2. Not the other way around.

The myth that temperature lagged CO2 was disproved years ago. Not even the people at dispute that. Read this at realclimate from 2004.

If I were you, I would be asking myself why former Vice President Gore is not making an effort to dispel the misconception that you have. ;)

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr. Q. | October 1, 2008 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Dr. Tracton,

Your attitude and tone on this blog is very unprofessional. You seem to be reacting like a spoiled teenager. I'm sincerely disappointed in your level of professionalism and feel that your recent comments do a disservice to your employer and your colleagues.

Posted by: RM | October 1, 2008 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Dr. Tracton, I will reiterate my response to your "YES/NO" question one last time.

You want to make me the focus of attention. Which is a common tactic for people who argue your side of the debate. People on your side of the debate love to attack the people who disagree with them.

I have no desire to become the focus of the debate. I would prefer to make the science and the facts the focus of the debate. What I believe or do not believe will not change the science or the facts.

So can we please just stick to the science?

Your constant effort to shift the focus to me is really starting to creep me out (in an Internet stalker kind of way).

Got to fly for now.

Until later.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr. Q. | October 1, 2008 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Q: It should be pointed out that you continue to cherry pick. The RSS satellite record (which you continue to dismiss in favor of the UAH) has a warming trend of 0.17 degrees C per decade which is about the same as the Hansen "land-based" record you like to knock (and it's not simply a land-based record as it also includes ocean surface data). You choose to only focus on Hansen's record, but there are two other "land-based" records which also give trends of about 0.17 degrees (GHCN and HADCRU). There are also weather balloon (radiosonde) records which show this much warming. Are all of these records corrupt? Again, please read CCSP 1.1 (and see Table 3.3).

Let's say they're all corrupt (due to a grand scientific conspiracy to make the data warm), they're only different from your beloved UAH dataset by 0.05 degrees/decade. Every observational network out there has warming...some a little more, some a little less. That's science--there's uncertainty in data and data analysis.

So, at the end of the day, what's your point? Is it that we can dismiss global warming as a risk because there is one dataset that shows slightly less warming than the others and because you, Mr. Q., think it's the best (irrespective of what scientists who work with and develop this data think)?

Posted by: Capital Weather Gang | October 1, 2008 7:00 PM | Report abuse

The only reason I used the word "denier" is because you labeled me as such. There is plenty of evidence to support my theory, just as there is evidence supporting yours. I used the words "I think.." because I don't know -- just like you don't know. As far as calling me close minded, sometimes we need to look into the mirror before saying anything...

You're getting very upset at others' point of view... relax.

Addressing MDreader's post... you said it yourself that the changes occur over a period of hundreds to thousands of years. Let's take the past 2000 years for example. The 500-600s, they saw a period of much colder weather. 800-900 saw the temperature increase dramatically (back to the norm). Then around the 1400s was the "Little Ice Age". Many different ebb and flows of the temperature within less than a 1000 year period. Who is to say that that isn't the case now?

Global cooling -- Introducing massive amounts of very cold water into the ocean circulations will inevitably cause disruption of our main temperature transport. Extremely hot temperatures near the equator to 25°, extremely cold temperatures 60°-90°. Such a strong temperature gradient, to the likes that we as humans have never seen before.

Posted by: CTWx4caster | October 1, 2008 7:04 PM | Report abuse

RM and CTWx4caster

Believe me, I'm perfectly relaxed. And, as a wise sage once said "I don't have an attitude problem. You have a perception problem."

I'll admit that that your perception, though erroneous, might be justified from the serious tone of my comments. Let me just say this: I'm having a great time with the back and forth with, e.g., Mr. Q.

Too bad you can't see the smiles on my face while banging the key board - especially when I realize my goal of drawing out the crusaders with replies that are sitting ducks for challenge with the objective reality of unbiased, non-cherry picked store of science knowns and unknowns (uncertainty).

If you are familiar with the majority of my feature articles and commentary, you'll recognize I have a strong tendency towards the humorous side of things, even when the subject is serious. But, being serious on a serious subject can itself be humorous, albeit sometimes hidden.

Posted by: Steve Tracton | October 2, 2008 11:35 AM | Report abuse

I have posted my reply to the last Capital Weather Gang comment. It is awaiting approval by the blog owner.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr. Q. | October 2, 2008 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Rather than wait on someone at CWG to release my comment for publishing, I will try to post it with fewer hyperlinks. Maybe it will work with only three. I have also corrected my math. In the comment being held I wrote, "39 years". That was a math error. I should have written "29 years".

Below is my last comment with fewer hyperlinks.

Capital Weather Gang said, "It should be pointed out that you continue to cherry pick."

You can't possibly be serious, are you?

Have you guys given fair and unbiased coverage to all the errors in former Vice President Gore's film "An Inconvenient Truth"?

Have you guys given fair and unbiased coverage to the Vostok ice core temperature reconstructions? How many of your readers know that the Vostok ice core shows that the CO2 changes occured approximately 800 years AFTER the temperature changes, and not before the temperature changes?

Have you guys given fair and unbiased coverage of the pathetic conditions of many of our land based temperature monitoring stations? If I don't point that out, who will? You?

Have you guys given fair and unbiased coverage of the temperature manipulations being performed on the historical record by Dr. Hansen?

Have you guys given fair and unbiased coverage of the that we have been experiencing the last few years?

Have you guys given fair and unbiased coverage of the debate raging over pine cone proxy data and the hockey stick?

Have you guys given fair and unbiased coverage of the recent concerning Dr. Mann's use of 'decentred’ PCA?

How many of your readers know about the Wegman report? Will they hear about it from you?

How many of your readers know that as recently as 1995 the Medieval Warm Period was considered warmer than today, according to the Second Assessment Report of the IPCC??? I dare say none of them know that. Are you going to be the ones to tell them?

I could go on for days and days! The facts you choose to ignore are truly stunning.

And then when I make use of what is undeniably the most accurate Lower Troposphere temperature available for the last 29 years, you accuse me of cherry picking!!!


I am almost speechless.

Your temerity knows no bounds.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr. Q. | October 2, 2008 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Two more corrections.

This -
"Have you guys given fair and unbiased coverage of the that we have been experiencing the last few years?"

should have been -
"Have you guys given fair and unbiased coverage of the global cooling that we have been experiencing the last few years?

and -
Have you guys given fair and unbiased coverage of the recent concerning Dr. Mann's use of 'decentred’ PCA?

should have been -
Have you guys given fair and unbiased coverage of the recent comments by Ian Jolliffe concerning Dr. Mann's use of 'decentred’ PCA?

I botched the original while removing the original hyperlinks. My apologies.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr. Q. | October 2, 2008 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Mr Q: Andrew (and Dr. Tracton if/when he fills in for Andrew) chooses to write about climate change topics that interest him and that he thinks will interest our readers. He provides a mainstream perspective--based on vetted scientific assessments.

As climate change is usually covered just once a week or so, there is no way to cover all aspects of climate science...especially the questions you've posed, most of which have already been addressed by the science community via assessments from the IPCC, National Research Council and U.S. government (CCSP).

Furthermore, some of the issues you raise are ultra-technical, and would be of absolutely no interest to the casual reader. Folks interest in that level of discussion should frequent -- which we include in our list of blogs worth reading.

Posted by: Capital Weather Gang | October 2, 2008 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Almost speechless? LOL

Posted by: John - Burke | October 2, 2008 7:45 PM | Report abuse

Since you will not answer the YES/NO question, let's put it this way.

The IPCC concludes that global warming is occurring and that there is 90% chance it is largely the result of human activities. I agree, do you?

We're only asking that you cut to the chase and tell us what you conclude after weighing all available evidence at your disposal - not why for now - just a brief succinct statement of what conclusions you've drawn.

You're perfectly welcome to my opinion, but, if you have one that differs, let's hear it - not why you agree or disagree with this data set or that, etc. - just what you conclude from your perceptive analysis.

If your conclusions differ from that of the IPCC, please be clear on where you disagree. We can revisit the whys later. I'm sure most readers would appreciate you sharing your wisdom in readily comprehensible and simplistic terms - without having to sort through your citations and references.

Posted by: Steve Tracton | October 2, 2008 7:59 PM | Report abuse

On the above, I inadvertantly left out the salutation;
Mr. Q.

Posted by: Steve Tracton | October 2, 2008 8:02 PM | Report abuse

Dr. Tracton,

I am not the one trying to convince others of my opinions. That would be you and Mr. Freedman. In doing so you implicitly invite criticism. And, I might add, the establishment publishing your opinion explicitly invites criticism.

I quote, "We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features."

I realize that you would dearly love to make me and what I believe the focus of the debate. I, on the other hand, have no desire to have my opinions analyzed and debated. I feel that would do nothing more than serve as a distraction to the science and the facts. So, as I have stated before,
--begin quote--
I have no desire to become the focus of the debate. I would prefer to make the science and the facts the focus of the debate. What I believe or do not believe will not change the science or the facts.
--end quote--

I really don't know how I can phrase that in a more comprehensible way. What is it about that statement that you just can't seem to comprehend?

I wish I had the time to continually respond to your solicitations for my opinion, but I honestly do not. I do have a life.

I wish you well Dr. Tracton and I hope you understand if I simply ignore any future requests for my opinion. I don't think my opinion is relevant to the science and the facts.

Please try to focus on the science and the facts, and not my opinion.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr. Q. | October 3, 2008 2:31 AM | Report abuse

Dr. Tracton,

I am truly flattered that you place such a high value on my opinion that you would continually solicit it. I am very honored.

Sadly, I don't feel that my opinion is appropriate for the current debate. But thank you very much for the constant solicitation of it.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr. Q. | October 3, 2008 2:45 AM | Report abuse

I checked out the site recommended by Mr. Q and found that temperatures do begin to rise about 800 years before the increase in CO2, but what he failed to mention was that the temperature then continues to rise for the next 5,000 years. The article states that although CO2 increases probably didn't cause the temperature to begin to rise, it almost certainly aided and abetted the temperature increase in years 801-5000. I believe these facts still support my contention that we need to limit CO2 increases to keep the temperature from rising.

Posted by: A.C.Tanner | October 3, 2008 4:56 PM | Report abuse


I know that the person at realclimate who acknowledged that the CO2 levels rose 800 years after the temperature levels rose, also argues that the CO2 could have caused the warming after it started rising. But if that were true, would it be possible for temperature to go down while CO2 either remained flat or increased?

I am heartened that you took the time to follow the link I provided. That is encouraging to say the very least.

Temperature has indeed gone down while CO2 remained flat. Try this link.

And kudos to you for doing your own research. I wish more people were like you.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr. Q. | October 4, 2008 12:32 AM | Report abuse


This is an excellent reference also.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr. Q. | October 4, 2008 12:48 AM | Report abuse

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