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Posted at 10:45 AM ET, 02/23/2009

MIT Group Increases Global Warming Projections

By Andrew Freedman

Report: High odds of warming over 5°C (9°F) if no action

Warming possibilities for "no policy" and policy scenarios between 1990 and 2100. Size of pie slice indicates the likelihood of a given amount of warming under the different scenarios. Graphics courtesy MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change.

New research from MIT scientists shows that in the absence of stringent reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, 21st century climate change may be far more significant than some previous climate assessments had indicated.

The new findings, released this month by MIT's Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, showed significantly increased odds that by the end of the century warming would be on the high end of the scale for a so-called "no policy scenario" as compared with similar studies completed just six years ago. The main culprits: the cycling of heat and carbon dioxide in the climate system are now better understood and projections of future greenhouse gas emissions have increased.

The results also showed that even if nations were to act quickly to reduce emissions, it is more likely that warming would be greater than previous studies had shown. However, the increase in projected temperatures under the "policy scenario" was not as large as for the no policy scenario.

Keep reading for more information about MIT's revised projections...

The modeling experiments are not meant to provide precise forecasts of future temperature changes, but rather to serve as what one related MIT study calls "thought experiments" to help policymakers and the public understand how decisions regarding emissions reductions may affect the magnitude of climate change. They show how human activities are loading the dice in favor of a warming climate, and cast doubt on the feasibility of limiting temperature increases to the lower range of what the influential U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projected in its most recent assessment report in 2007.

To update their findings that were first unveiled in 2002, the MIT researchers used an in-house computer model known as the MIT Integrated Global System Model that incorporated new insight into how the climate system functions.

A main conclusion is that feedbacks within the climate system, which MIT says can be more accurately simulated in the updated version of its model, may act to increase the magnitude of climate change in response to increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. The more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, MIT researchers reported, the more significant the feedbacks may be.

Results of the studies are depicted online in MIT's "Greenhouse Gamble" exercise that conveys the "range of probability of potential global warming" via roulette wheel graphics (shown above). The modeling output showed that under both a "no policy" scenario and one in which nations took action beginning in the next few years to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the odds have shifted in favor of larger temperature increases.

For the no policy scenario, the researchers concluded that there is now a nine percent chance (about one in 11 odds) that the global average surface temperature would increase by more than 7°C (12.6°F) by the end of this century, compared with only a less than one percent chance (one in 100 odds) that warming would be limited to below 3°C (5.4°F) .

The median warming value, with even odds of the temperature increase being above or below that value, was 5.1°C (9.2°F). For comparison, the same research group's no policy scenario yielded a median value of just 2.4°C (4.3°F) in 2002.

"The take home message from the new greenhouse gamble wheels is that if we do little or nothing about lowering greenhouse gas emissions that the dangers are much greater than we thought three or four years ago," said Ronald G. Prinn, professor of atmospheric chemistry at MIT. "It is making the impetus for serious policy much more urgent than we previously thought."

According to the research group, there was no single factor that caused the new computer modeling to project a greater amount of warming compared with their 2002 simulations.

"In our more recent global model simulations, the ocean heat-uptake is slower than previously estimated, the ocean uptake of carbon is weaker, feedbacks from the land system as temperature rises are stronger, cumulative emissions of greenhouse gases over the century are higher, and offsetting cooling from aerosol emissions is lower," the group's web site states. "Rather than interacting additively, these different affects appear to interact multiplicatively, with feedbacks among the contributing factors, leading to the surprisingly large increase in the chance of much higher temperatures."

Under the policy scenario, in which global carbon dioxide concentrations would reach about 550 parts per million by 2100 (the current level is about 385 ppm), the projected magnitude of climate change is significantly less than under the no policy scenario, but it still would warm more significantly than the 2002 projections. Under the policy scenario, there is a 90 percent chance that climate change could be limited to below 3°C (5.4°F), compared to just a one percent chance of that occurring in the no policy case.

"If greenhouse gas emissions are controlled to relatively low levels then the Earth systems feedbacks are much lower and the slight difference in Earth system properties is not as important -- again a result of the way in which these different factors interact multiplicatively," the researchers stated.

As with any computer modeling work, there are uncertainties involved in the projections, and MIT researchers went to great lengths to quantify them in their estimates of temperature increases and future greenhouse gas emissions. Prinn said that rather than obscuring the uncertainties, the roulette wheels "give our best shot of showing what the uncertainties are and at the same time showing the value of a policy."

The MIT research is sponsored by a consortium of government agencies, including the Department of Energy and U.S. EPA, as well as companies that include several major oil companies such as ExxonMobil and Chevron.

Technical papers accompanying the results can be found here and here.

What do you think of the use of a roulette wheel to convey the odds of a warming climate? Might that approach be applicable to weather forecasts too? You're welcome to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

By Andrew Freedman  | February 23, 2009; 10:45 AM ET
Categories:  Climate Change, Freedman, Science  
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One factor ignored in GW projections seems to be the cooling from albedo in winter due to increased snow cover. This year, we're having a colder winter due to more snow cover to our north. Unfortunately, this highly zonal flow in the upper air does not seem too conducive to coastal storm development for us.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | February 23, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

I guess we can now expect a long response from Mr.Q. pointing out all the errors in MITs study. Lucky us.

Posted by: VaTechBob | February 23, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

VaTechBob - Loved your comment. I was thrilled that I was able to get to the end of the post this week without being subjected to the usual 7 or 8 diatribe postings from Mr. Q hoping to confuse the issue.

Personally I think probability is a great way to express climate change models... it's easier to understand if you're not a scientist but it doesn't diminish the accuracy / validity of the findings.

Posted by: AD12 | February 23, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse

How is this report new from what was posted 11/14/07?

Based on a "business as usual" scenario (no reduction in CO2 emissions), his research indicates that the median prediction of the mean global temperature increase by the end of this century is 4.9°C, with a 90% confidence interval of 3.0-7.7°C. This is sharply higher than the results presented in the latest IPCC report of a range of 2.0°- 4.5°C for a doubling of CO2.

Posted by: CapitalClimate | February 23, 2009 3:55 PM | Report abuse

*seconds AD12*

Before he-who-must-not-be-named shows up, I do want to express my thanks for the Global Warming posts, Andrew. They're always informative and worth the click to read. Thanks for keeping us all informed, even if the news is not good. Better to light a candle, etc., etc.

Posted by: ErikaFroh | February 23, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

CapitalClimate: You post in 2007 was based on preliminary data from a power point presentation. The new findings as reported here are based on the final versions of the "greenhouse gamble" roulette wheel that were published earlier this month, as well as the submitted versions of the two technical papers accompanying them. There are differences between the numbers in the version you cited and the final projections that are online.

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | February 23, 2009 4:40 PM | Report abuse


Where are you getting your information? I'm not aware of any serious climate model that neglects snow albedo. Quite the contrary, it's a very important term in the equations...

Posted by: AuntSally | February 23, 2009 5:15 PM | Report abuse

Aunt S,
Don't want to pick on Bombo, but his comment has an astonishing concentration of false assumptions, almost as many as a George F. Will column.
- models do include albedo
- snow cover is not particularly widespread
- although January was cold, it was not extreme
- the last 90 days have been only borderline negative in this region
- the majority of the U.S. has been above average for the last 90 days
- upper flow is not zonal and has not been for much of the winter
- even if none of the above were true, short and intermediate regional weather trends have little or no direct connection with global warming

Posted by: CapitalClimate | February 23, 2009 5:26 PM | Report abuse

Man-made global warming is a hoax that threatens our future and the future of our children. The Pope is right about the dangerous dogma of the environmentalist movement. So is Vaclav Klaus, president of the European Union, when he states that "environmentalism is the new communism and climate change is a DANGEROUS myth."

In agreement with the Pope and Klaus, more than 650 international scientists dissent over the man-made global warming claims. They are more than 12 times the number of UN scientists (52) who authored the media-hyped IPCC 2007 Summary for Policymakers.

Additionally, more than 31,000 American scientists have signed onto a petition that states, "There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate…"

"Progressive" (communist) politicians like Obama seem determined to force us to swallow the man-made global warming scam. We need to defend ourselves from the UN and these politicians, who threaten our future and the future of our children. Based on a lie, they have already wasted billions and plan to increase taxes, limit development, and enslave us.

If not stopped, the global warming scam will enrich the scammers (Gore and Obama’s Wall Street friends), increase the power of the U.N. and communists like Obama, and multiply poverty and servitude for the rest of us.

Posted by: AntonioSosa | February 23, 2009 5:33 PM | Report abuse

My, my, looks like the wind just blew open the door of the echo chamber. If you must regurgitate, please have the courtesy to use quotation marks.

Posted by: CapitalClimate | February 23, 2009 5:46 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, previous link should have been this one. George Will must have been doing the fact-checking.

Posted by: CapitalClimate | February 23, 2009 5:48 PM | Report abuse

wow - good catch capitalclimate. you were right on top of that one with the echo-chamber comment. like i said elsewhere, you've got to admire their ability to get the talking points out and stay on message.

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 23, 2009 6:18 PM | Report abuse

Want to know what AntonioSosa really thinks?

Some goodies, in his own words

On November 4, 2008, tragedy struck the U.S. and the Free World. North Americans were fooled just like the poorest and most ignorant Venezuelans, Bolivians and Ecuadorians. Through lies, manipulation, fraud, and a bribed or corrupt media, a Marxist president was elected in the U.S.

Barack Hussein Obama’s background, words and deeds indicate that he will help Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez spread the cancer of “socialismo del siglo XXI” (Marxism) in Latin America and prevent U.S. friends from defending themselves. Chavez and his allies — Marxist dictators, guerrillas, Islamic terrorists and Russians — are all hoping for an Obama victory.

I hope it’s not too late and Americans realize that Obama is a Marxist with ties to Islamic terrorists, just like Castro, Chávez, Morales, Correa and Odinga.

See it all

Now who do you want to take seriously, Andrew or the likes of this commenter??

Hows this for credibility??

Posted by: SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | February 23, 2009 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Lets see, who was funding this project? Was it the NSF, DOE, EPA, and NASA? With this lineup would one really need a computer to figure out what the results would be? Or was the roulete wheel used, you know, the one with (7* C) in every one of the 38 pockets.

What would Galileo, the father of modern science, say about AGW issues if he were alive today.

The supposed consensus – “In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual”

A skeptic - “Doubt is the father of invention”

The Kyoto Protocol and curbing CO2 emissions - “Nature is relentless and unchangeable, and it is indifferent as to whether its hidden reasons and actions are understandable to man or not.

Posted by: skepticjoe | February 23, 2009 7:44 PM | Report abuse

thanks for a link that tells truth and not lies. you global warming scammers bring out something in me, that i never thought was in me. you will not take this country with out a fight. "give me liberty or give me death" i have direct ancestors that fought in the revolutionary war and will fight in ther honor, until my last breath.

Posted by: deveinmadisonva | February 23, 2009 7:57 PM | Report abuse

So this is what the "science" of global warming has come down to......little, colorful circus-carnival spin-wheels?

And we're going to alter world economies for THAT?

No wonder Mr. Q posts the kind of stuff he does......I don't blame him. I'm starting to feel the same way.

Go to it, Q.

Posted by: MMCarhelp | February 23, 2009 8:26 PM | Report abuse

Not only that, but AntonioSosa, while I don't entirely agree with him, also makes at least some sense. Obama did get elected, at least in part, by a number of the reasons he outlines.

Posted by: MMCarhelp | February 23, 2009 8:31 PM | Report abuse

It is important to examine the consequences of these projected degrees of warming. We can refer to Mark Lynas book "Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet" He speaks to each degree but a few may be summarized as:

3 degrees

A drought in the Amazon.
The whole Amazonian ecosystem collapses in a conflagration of fire and destruction – desert and savannah eventually take over where the world’s largest rainforest once stood.
Huge amounts of carbon pour into the atmosphere, adding another degree to global warming. Water runs short in Perth, Sydney and other parts of Australia away from the far north and south.
Hurricanes strike the tropics half a category stronger than today’s, with higher windspeeds and rainfall.
Agriculture shifts into the far north – Norway’s growing season becomes like southern England is today. But with declines in the tropics and sub-tropics due to heat and drought, the world tips into net food deficit.
The Indus river runs dry due to glacial retreat in the Himalayas, forcing millions of refugees to flee Pakistan.
Possible nuclear conflict with India over water supplies.

4 Degrees

Most of the Nile Delta threatened by rising seas, as is a third of Bangladesh. Tens of millions more become climate refugees.
West Antarctic ice sheet potentially collapses, pumping five metres of water into global sea levels.
Southern Europe becomes like the Sahara, with deserts spreading in Spain and Portugal.
People move north into temperate refuges in Scandinavia and the British Isles, which become increasingly overcrowded, resulting in further conflict.
All glaciers disappear from the Alps, further reducing water supplies in central Europe.
Permafrost melt in Siberia releases methane and carbon dioxide, meaning that global warming spirals upward.

5 degrees

Five degrees of warming is the same magnitude of change as at the height of the last ice age, when it was five degrees colder and much of Europe and North America were buried under ice sheets. This makes it hotter than at any time for 55 million years on the planet.
And further lists some scenarios for 5 degrees:
Desert belts expand from the subtropics into temperate regions.
Civilization collapses as humanity is unable to cope.
Some nations try to shift their populations towards the poles.
Might the US invade Canada and China invade Siberia?
Methane hydrate release and associated tsunamis push warming into a further spiral.
Most of the world is uninhabitable.

Perhaps MIT can do further studies on this.

Posted by: richardpauli | February 23, 2009 9:04 PM | Report abuse

Is GW really occurring? Guess we'll know which side is right by 2100, of course I doubt any of us will b alive to say I told you so. All we can do is look at the info & form our own opinions, pro or con. Guess we went from being ruled by a Nazi to being ruled by a Commie.

Posted by: VaTechBob | February 23, 2009 10:55 PM | Report abuse

OK, just because I am curious ...

What is it about "global warming"/"climate change" (pick your name of choice) that so inflames people's passions? I've seen a lot of debates about different topics, but I don't think I've ever seen such vehemence from people about this topic.

My take on the issue ... whether or not you believe in artificial climate change, it seems to me that removing pollutants from our atmosphere is a good thing. Finding ways to do so that makes money is even better.

Posted by: joshnva | February 23, 2009 10:55 PM | Report abuse

@joshnva -- Great comment. Along with you, I don't get why some people become so apoplectic about this topic.

And thanks, CWG, for keeping the spotlight on.

Posted by: natsncats | February 23, 2009 11:12 PM | Report abuse

My sentiments exactly! For some people, this topic seems to infuriate them to a scary level. I could care less if this is truly political. If you're seriously a defender of polluted air, foreign oil, dirty rivers, and blowing up mountains to get your coal, then I think you need to take a step back and come out from under that political curtain you've cloaked yourself so deeply in. I have no idea if GW is real or not. Honestly, I don't care. But if it leads to us creating new forms of energy and going green - something that will create our own energy industry that will create jobs and make life just so much more enjoyable - then why not??

Posted by: schrute | February 23, 2009 11:26 PM | Report abuse

Frankly, the approach MIT took is dumb, because any temperature rise above about 2C will end civilization and result in a cull of humans due to the routine failure of non-irrigated crops from record heatwaves:

"We underestimated the risks ... we underestimated the damage associated with temperature increases ... and we underestimated the probabilities of temperature increases." -- Sir Nicholas Stern, author of "The Stern Report," April 17, 2008

"Few seem to realise that the present IPCC models predict almost unanimously that by 2040 the average summer in Europe will be as hot as the summer of 2003 when over 30,000 died from heat. By then we may cool ourselves with air conditioning and learn to live in a climate no worse than that of Baghdad now. But without extensive irrigation the plants will die and both farming and natural ecosystems will be replaced by scrub and desert. What will there be to eat? The same dire changes will affect the rest of the world and I can envisage Americans migrating into Canada and the Chinese into Siberia but there may be little food for any of them." --Dr James Lovelock's lecture to the Royal Society, 29 Oct. '07

There is a simple and cheap way to cool the Earth immediately: just add a little sun dimming aerosol to the upper atmosphere. "The alternative (to geoengineering) is the acceptance of a massive natural cull of humanity..." -Lovelock, Aug08

Posted by: dobermantmacleod | February 24, 2009 3:59 AM | Report abuse

The National Academies of Scientists of China, Russia, the UK, Brazil,Canada, the US, - in fact every significant related scientific body on the planet - have signed statements stating that made-made global warming and climate change are real, and yet people like so many above have been suckered by well-funded lobbyists into thinking that the science world has simply fallen under a 'spell' cast by outspoken people like Hansen and Gore. How sad for humanity.

Posted by: rickmc1 | February 24, 2009 7:52 AM | Report abuse

the reason people are so passionate about global warming is that if it's "true" and caused by humans, we have to radically alter our lifestyles. if it's "false" or not caused by humans and there's nothing we can do about it, we can go on eating ice cream (oil).

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 24, 2009 9:32 AM | Report abuse

Skeptic Joe:
The web can answer simple questions like "who was funding this project":

And it looks like only 1/3rd of the funding comes from government organizations. Though why do you think that NASA, NSF, and DOE would have a bias towards anything except good science?

Posted by: goaway4 | February 24, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse

"goaway4": Just a quick addition to your comment - as noted in the article, some of the MIT project's funding also comes from corporations, including major oil companies.

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | February 24, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

I'll take MIT scientists any day over GW. The Post did a great disservice allowing GW to comment as though he were a science expert/reporter on climate change. It allows convenient inaction to continue. Unfortunately this MIT article and more true science will not be able to undo the damage GW did. Please POST, be more responsible.

Posted by: realgreengirl | February 24, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Andrew thanks for posting this, the MIT revisions are not getting sufficient attention in the media. I deal with risk mitigation in my work, and I don't get why it seems so hard for people to grasp that the climate issue is NOT about certainty -- one way or the other. It's all about dealing with risk in a responsible way, for the same reasons that we buy insurance -- if the unmitigated risk is too great then take actions to mitigate it. And the MIT roulette wheels graphics conveys the risk assessment in an immediately accessible way that their 50 page report can't.

Posted by: lgcarey | February 24, 2009 1:08 PM | Report abuse

vatech bob and ad12:
if i may be so humble, i think you can thank me for mr. q's absence. i've been keeping him busy over on the "global warming is a scam" thread about the scientific consensus for global warming for 66 posts now. i warn you, i've conceeded him victory because i was not able to produce a list longer that his 1,100 (or 30-some or 15-some thousand) scientists. i'm sure the oreskes study wouldn't "count" because it's less "signatures"...

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 24, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Walter, thanks 4 all your hard work. Mr. Q has presented the same point of view over & over on this site, & adds nothing new everytime he shows. Guess he thinks we aren't intelligent enough to understand this point of view, so he just keeps stating it over & over. Who's right, only time will tell, then all the retoric will mean 0.

Posted by: VaTechBob | February 24, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

@vatechbob, and others in the reality based community:

i didn't bother mentioning it, but mr.q is probably even aware of the oreskes study, but some people are silly enough to say that's only 75% of 928 "real scientists" and therefore a list of "only" 696 signatures....

have you heard of "project steve"? if not google it.

i thought project steve was such a clever way to "rebut" the obvious "denial" of the case/truth for the "scientific consensus" on evolution. (and those denialsists LOVE lists!) i'm almost sure a similar consensus exists in the case of "global warming". the percentage may not be 99% like in project steve, it must be up there. CAN YOU SUGGEST A FORUM for the idea of maybe a "PROJECT AL" (though al gore has problems) for global warming?

btw, go hokies!

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 24, 2009 5:16 PM | Report abuse

"project jim"?

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 24, 2009 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Dare I say it?

Project Q

Posted by: John-Burke | February 25, 2009 12:22 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Freedman wrote, "To update their findings that were first unveiled in 2002, the MIT researchers used an in-house computer model known as the MIT Integrated Global System Model that incorporated new insight into how the climate system functions."

If you follow the link that Mr. Freedman provided in that sentence, you will find this sentence and another link -
"The configuration and capabilities of the IGSM Version 2 are described in Sokolov et al., 2005 (Report 124) An earlier version is documented in Prinn et al. (1999)."

If you click on the link embedded in that sentence, it will take you to a page which has the full report (description of their climate model) in pdf format. That pdf is here.

I don't know how many of you know it, but the primary and most abundant greenhouse gas is water vapor. And if you recall, NASA admitted back in 2004 that the current climate models are over estimating the increase in water vapor from warming. It just isn't there. And bear in mind that water vapor is the most powerful greenhouse gas.

If you download the pdf and read it, you will find that they have not corrected for the over estimation of the water vapor increase identified by NASA. If you don't have time to read the whole pdf, start on page 16, where they compare their current climate model to the prior climate model. You are looking for a change in the anticipated amount of water vapor compared to previous models - remember the problem was not discovered by NASA until 2004.

If you continue reading all the way to the bottom of page 27 and the top of page 28, you will find this sentence -
"Differences in evaporation at low latitudes occur mainly over the ocean and are related to the larger surface warming in IGSM2.2. The increases in evaporation over land are quite similar in the two IGSM versions, except in the northern high latitudes, even though the representation of land processes was substantially revised."

Continued below in my next comment

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 25, 2009 1:07 AM | Report abuse

Continued from my previous comment

Now take a look at figure number 20(d), the figure representing evaporation. The blue line shows their climate model version 1. The black line represents their climate model version 2.2. Notice that in their new climate model, they are predicting INCREASED evaporation. When they said substantially revised, they didn't mean decreased, they meant increased! But the Aqua satellite from 2004 shows that the current models over estimate the water vapor increase! Quoting from the NASA study, "A NASA-funded study found some climate models might be overestimating the amount of water vapor entering the atmosphere as the Earth warms."

Instead of reducing the projected increase in water vapor, they INCREASED it. And if you increase the water vapor, which is the primary and most powerful greenhouse gas, you will see a rise in temperature.

Their study took what was already identified as being in error (the projected water vapor increase), and amplified it. Of course they received the results they did.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 25, 2009 1:09 AM | Report abuse

This one goes out to Dr. T. and everyone who thinks I don't have a sense of humor!

There is no
catastrophic man made
global warming.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 25, 2009 1:20 AM | Report abuse

I finally see the light There really is no man-made, catastrophic global warming.

It's the women of the world that are leading us down the path of doom and destruction. It's the women who are promoting coal fired power plants, insisting on production of gas guzzling automobiles, urging destruction of the earth's rain forests, etc., etc. It's the women who have no concern about the fate of polar bears, rising sea levels, melting glaciers, etc - not us men!

After all, isn't it the women who allow the the roast beef to burn to a crisp in the oven. Ever since women received the right to vote, they have been tireless turning the heat up on mens dominance in all aspects of life.

So what are we men to do? We can't do without women, right? We can't allow BIg Government to suppress are freedoms in the face of the coming global catastrophes, right?

The only way out is to convince the world that global warming is just a cruel hoax. Never mind facts to the contrary, the more and louder we rant on with our knowingly brain dead denials of of global warming, the more we divert attention away from the subject, the more we question the credentials of the world's top climate scientists, the more we succeed in hijacking the likes of CWG's blog, the more likely we'll be able to defend our woman folk, even if they are responsible for the coming catastrophe.

Posted by: SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | February 25, 2009 9:05 AM | Report abuse

And by the way, I actually do share Mr. Q's issues with the MIT model and the validity of the conclusions drawn from it, especially with the reliability of the uncertainty estimates

But one model in isolation is far from the full realm of climate science and spectrum of climate modeling.

Posted by: SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | February 25, 2009 9:13 AM | Report abuse

walter-in-fallschurch wrote, "if i may be so humble, i think you can thank me for mr. q's absence."

I hate to burst your bubble/ego sir, but the wind has more affect on where I go and what I do than you do. And I mean that quite literally.

I have a very full and busy life. And I find it helpful to first do my homework/research and THEN comment. So if you ever wonder where I am, I am either -
1. living my life
2. doing the necessary research
3. completely uninterested in the column and/or comments

Wherever I am and whatever I am doing, I can guarantee that it has nothing to do with anyone here.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 25, 2009 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Dr Tracton,

Your tongue in cheek post only helps Mr. Q's position. When you try to deflect criticism of the the catastrophic AGW theory instead of answering it, the more shallow your scientific case becomes.

One does not rebut charts that purport to show cooling by mocking our "womenfolk" tongue in cheek, one does it with hard facts. Or are there none to rebut Mr. Q?

I think your post did a disservice to both your intellect and the catastrophic AGW theory.

Posted by: RMVA | February 25, 2009 9:32 AM | Report abuse

i think people often insert the word "catastrophic" to muddy the waters. it prevents us from all talking about the same thing. what's catastrophic? we don't know. all these projections on possible ranges of temperature increases cannot really assess the impacts on ecosystems of whatever amount of temp increase we get. one degree may be catastrophic if you're a (insert species here). who knows what removing that one species from the ecosystem will have on other organisms (including humans)?

on the other hand, previous temperature swings (on the long scale time scale) have resulted in mass extinctions, but have been followed by widespread speciation as new species fill newly-vacated ecological niches. this "repopulation" has usually taken on the order of hundreds-of-thousands to many millions of years.

so if we pump up the temp nice and high, then let nature "shake things out", in a million or so years we could have a whole range of new life forms we can't even conceive of right now. so in this sense, in the long run, AGW could be a good thing....

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 25, 2009 10:08 AM | Report abuse

glad to hear about your fulfilling life.
;-) we should all be so lucky.

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 25, 2009 10:12 AM | Report abuse

In addition to over estimating the increased water vapor, the MIT study is too new to include the latest research from Peter Caldwell and Christopher Bretherton. Their study was just published last January and the MIT climate model is from 2005.

In the paper by Peter Caldwell and Christopher Bretherton, they show that the models have the current cloud formation wrong. The current models anticipate that cloud formation will decrease as the Earth warms. When those clouds decrease, more sunlight strikes the planet and the temperature increases. But their paper shows that is incorrect. As the Earth warms the clouds will increase. More clouds means that more sunlight is reflected back in to space and the temperature decreases.

The MIT model does not account for that new information.

If the underlying math/science is wrong, it really doesn't matter who runs the model, the result will be wrong.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 25, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Do you honestly believe that these agencies are purely scientific with no hidden political agenda, especially when global warming and CO2 are involved.
Lets take Jim Hansen of NASA for example, taking a political active position and encouraging people to violate the law if necessary to disrupt the building of coal power plants.

Clearly the scientific evidence suggests that mankind look elsewhere for dominant influences on our climate. CO2 is our friend.

1) Ice core data - temperature drives CO2 (thru 650K yrs and many glacial- interglacials)
2) Last 150 years of non-correlation (54% a flip of a coin) between temperature and CO2
3) Last 10 years of flat and/or falling temperatures with rising CO2
4) Jim Hansen climate models blaming CO2 for temperature rise – Wrong, Wrong, Wrong by not adequately modeling the most abundant GHG, water vapor, and by not seriously considering clouds.

Posted by: skepticjoe | February 25, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

does mr. q have a point? anybody?
i may not understand some other issue, but if there are more clouds isn't that more "water vapor" (and therefore more greenhouse gas)? i remember PV=nRT, so maybe higher temps affect pressure/cloud formation? i understand the "albedo" effect of clouds too, so do they cancel out? or is albeo stronger or weaker than water vapor? i'm way out on a limb here, and i guess this is where i depend on scientists to sort it out.
steve-t? scientists?

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 25, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

"water vapor": #23
3 down, only 50 more to go!

Posted by: CapitalClimate | February 25, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

man! capitalclimate - you're good. will you keep track of these as they bring them up? i really think we CAN make it through the list.

any body else? any other scientific opinions on this?

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 25, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

can you assign numbers to skepticjoe's items 1), 2), 3) and 4)? i think we've already touched on ice core "lag".

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 25, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

"hidden political agenda":
And who said irony was dead? What a wonderful textbook example of projection. (Additional history here.)

Posted by: CapitalClimate | February 25, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse

absolutely capitalclimate - projection is a very prevalent characteristic of denialists (in all realms of thought). as is "conspiracy theory".

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 25, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse

capitalclimate, I followed the link you provided, went to #23 on your list and followed that link, and found this -
--begin quote--
"Water vapour is indeed the most dominant greenhouse gas. The radiative forcing for water is around 75 W/m2 while carbon dioxide contributes 32 W/m2 (Kiehl 1997). Water vapour is also the dominant positive feedback in our climate system and a major reason why temperature is so sensitive to changes in CO2.

Unlike external forcings such as CO2 which can be added to the atmosphere, the level of water vapour in the atmosphere is a function of temperature. Water vapour is brought into the atmosphere via evaporation - the rate depends on the ocean and air temperature and is governed by the Clausius-Clapeyron relation."
--end quote--

Nothing there contradicts what I wrote. It supports it! They wrote that water vapor is indeed the most powerful greenhouse gas.

What they wrote does not agree with the findings from NASA and the Aqua satellite, but that site was using older studies.

Thank you for providing documentation that supports what I wrote, but you really didn't need to. I think I am doing alright on my own.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 25, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Hubris and flawed logic are indeed a powerful aide to some.

Posted by: John-Burke | February 25, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

The discussion is missing a key point. If the MIT or other climate models were run (actually done in some cases) with the water vapor constrained to current climatological values, global warming due to carbon dioxide does not go away!!!

Posted by: SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | February 25, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

According to the peer reviewed scientific literature, there is considerable uncertainty (which was clearly laid out in the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report) regarding how climate change will alter cloud dynamics. The uncertainties center on the varying radiative properties of clouds - basically, some clouds 'trap' more heat in the atmosphere than they reflect, whereas others exert a net cooling influence on the lower atmosphere/earth's surface. How thick a cloud is, how much extent it covers, what altitude it is located at, and what size/type particles it is comprised of, all affect a cloud's radiative balance. For more info on this, check out this NASA web site on the subject.

Few scientists dispute that the models need a lot of work regarding cloud feedbacks and other relatively uncertain aspects of the climate system. Still, as Steve Tracton points out, there are relatively few climate scientists who think the cloud feedbacks would actually negate the net warming influence of human greenhouse gas emissions.

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | February 25, 2009 4:05 PM | Report abuse

SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang wrote, "The discussion is missing a key point. If the MIT or other climate models were run (actually done in some cases) with the water vapor constrained to current climatological values, global warming due to carbon dioxide does not go away!!!"

How old are those studies? Did these studies factor in the increased cloud cover?

I would be very interested in reading those studies. They sound intriguing. Can you please cite your source(s), Dr. Tracton?

Thank you,
Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 25, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang wrote, "Still, as Steve Tracton points out, there are relatively few climate scientists who think the cloud feedbacks would actually negate the net warming influence of human greenhouse gas emissions."

Can you please cite your source for that assertion?

Thank you,
Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 25, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

if you didn't find enough in the list of 53, here's some more: How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic, all neatly organized by:

    * Stages of Denial,
* Scientific Topics,
* Types of Argument, and
* Levels of Sophistication.
Knock yourself out, but remember, "You can lead a horse's [a-word] to water, but you can't make him think."

If anyone is actually interested in learning something, there is an extensive list of accessible tutorials at the left of the main page of CapitalClimate, including the link above.

Posted by: CapitalClimate | February 25, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Yes, it does take a special kind of hubris to read something in plain English, quote it back, claim it says precisely the opposite, and then expect to be taken seriously.

Posted by: CapitalClimate | February 25, 2009 4:40 PM | Report abuse

thanks capitalclimate

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 25, 2009 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Mr Q: I believe your Aqua reference may be out of date:

(note that one study should rarely be used as proof/disproof of an issue: however, I believe that this is not the only paper that has revised that earlier Aqua result)

Posted by: marcusmarcus | February 25, 2009 4:52 PM | Report abuse

"there are relatively few climate scientists who think the cloud feedbacks would actually negate the net warming influence of human greenhouse gas emissions."
Mr Q: the above statement can mostly be proved by noting that there have been large climate changes in the past: if clouds were a large negative feedback on the climate system, the climate would have been much more stable to small changes in solar insolation over the past million years.

Posted by: marcusmarcus | February 25, 2009 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Thanx for the link. Dessler is quoted here discussing the survey article he published last week in Science.

Thus, although there continues to be some
uncertainty about its exact magnitude, the
water vapor feedback is virtually certain to be
strongly positive, with most evidence supporting
a magnitude of 1.5 to 2.0 W/m2/K, sufficient
to roughly double the warming that
would otherwise occur.

Posted by: CapitalClimate | February 25, 2009 5:43 PM | Report abuse

The full GRL paper is also available from Dessler.

Posted by: CapitalClimate | February 25, 2009 5:52 PM | Report abuse

Dessler only addressed half of the issue. He failed to address the shortwave feedback.

--begin quote--
The Rest of the Story: Shortwave Feedback

The other half of the feedback story which Dessler et al did not address is the reflected solar component. This feedback is mostly controlled by changes in low cloud cover with warming. The IPCC admits that feedbacks associated with low clouds are the most uncertain of all feedbacks, with positive or negative feedback possible…although most, if not all, IPCC models currently have positive SW feedbacks.

But I found from the CERES data a strongly negative SW feedback during 2002-2007. When added to the LW feedback, this resulted in a total (SW+LW) feedback that is strongly negative.

Is my work published? No…at least not yet…although I have tried. Apparently it disagrees too much with the IPCC party line to be readily acceptable. My finding of negative SW feedback of around 5 W m-2 K-1 from real radiation budget data (the CERES instrument on Aqua) is apparently inadmissible as evidence.

In contrast, Dessler et al.’s finding of positive LW feedback of 2 W m-2 K-1 inferred from the AIRS instrument is admissible.

But whether my SW feedback work is published or not misses the main point. Unless you know both LW and SW feedbacks, you don’t know the sensitivity of the climate system, and so you don’t know how much global warming there will be in the future.

The modelers would probably even claim that everyone already knows water vapor feedback is positive, and so it didn’t need any further observational verification.
--end quote--

source of the above quote

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 25, 2009 6:12 PM | Report abuse

Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang wrote, "Still, as Steve Tracton points out, there are relatively few climate scientists who think the cloud feedbacks would actually negate the net warming influence of human greenhouse gas emissions."

I thought it seemed a bit presumptive to claim to know what others think. So I replied with, "Can you please cite your source for that assertion?"

To which marcusmarcus replied, "Mr Q: the above statement can mostly be proved by noting that there have been large climate changes in the past: if clouds were a large negative feedback on the climate system, the climate would have been much more stable to small changes in solar insolation over the past million years."

Aren't you making two assumptions -
1. That your theory, as stated above, is correct
2. That all/most climate scientists know it and agree with you

How can you make such sweeping assumptions?

It seems to me that the only way one can know what others think is to ask them. I think any other approach/argument is flawed.

Do I understand you correctly? Are you saying that the climate is not stable to small changes in solar insolation??? Doesn't that go against the current AGW theory and agree with the scientists who blame solar output? And do you agree with the Russian scientists who claim we are headed into another ice age?

I have never cited those "no sun spots - brace yourself for another ice age" claims because I thought they seemed a bit of a stretch.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 25, 2009 6:51 PM | Report abuse

Spencer's Folly
Spencer’s Folly 2
Spencer’s Folly 3

"To me, this seems rather ridiculous. But I get the distinct impression that Spencer actually believes it. Which illustrates starkly that when one wants to believe (or disbelieve) something for ideological reasons, the ability to fool oneself can amplify to impressive force.
It also illustrate why it’s so easy to “cloud” the issue of global warming, and so difficult for the layman to be confident when well-crafted misinformation is so prevalent. Spencer makes a very slick presentation. It’s taken me 3 installments to address his folly without making any single blog post prohibitively long. Now imagine that you’re a reasonably well-educated and informed lay reader who sees his presentation. It’ll seem to make perfect sense — unless you have lots of time and motivation to consider it in detail and the necessary skill to analyze what’s really going on. Spencer’s presentation isn’t the kind of “obvious” mistake, like “there’s more CO2 emitted by volcanos than by human activity,” which is easily debunked in a few lines simply by looking up some real data. It’s the sophisticated mistake, which the lay reader can’t generally see through with a quick and easy google search. Which is not folly — it’s a pity."

Posted by: CapitalClimate | February 25, 2009 6:59 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, I didn't define "small changes in solar insolation": I was referring to the magnitude of the solar changes between glacials and interglacials due to orbital variations, which, while "small" on the grand scheme of things (certainly smaller, though more targeted to northern ice caps, than anticipated anthropogenic GHG forcing), are much larger than any solar changes we expect in the next hundred years.

Also, as long as we are discussing the MIT study, MIT does not make any apriori assumption about clouds: rather, they use the Forest et al. work to adjust the cloud parameterization to match the past 100 years of hemispheric and oceanic temperature records.

Again, this is one model and one model result, but the fact that the cloud feedbacks from the Forest work match the feedbacks derived from glacial/interglacial paleoclimate work, along with a history of large temperature changes in the paleoclimate record, make it unlikely that cloud and water vapor feedbacks will be small or negative like you claim.

Posted by: marcusmarcus | February 25, 2009 6:59 PM | Report abuse

man, this is interesting. thanks for playing along marcusmarcus and capitalclimate.

marcusmarcus, if you don't mind, what do you do for a living?

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 25, 2009 9:40 PM | Report abuse

Thanx for your persistence, walter.

Posted by: CapitalClimate | February 25, 2009 10:12 PM | Report abuse

capitalclimate: thanks for your patience.

marcusmarcus: i'm not asking you to divulge anything personal (that you don't want to). i'm wondering if you're a "scientist."

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 25, 2009 10:54 PM | Report abuse

marcusmarcus, am I correct in inferring that you are completely dismissing the paper by Peter Caldwell and Christopher Bretherton out of hand?

Thanks for the info on Forest et al. I will need a day or two to read those papers. I am assuming that you are referring to the same Forest et al. papers listed in the footnotes of "The MIT Integrated Global System Model (IGSM) Version 2: Model Description and Baseline Evaluation" report.
Specifically -
Forest, C. E., P.H. Stone, A.P. Sokolov, M.R. Allen, and M. Webster, 2002: Quantifying
uncertainties in climate system properties with the use of recent climate observations.
Science, 295: 113-117.
Forest, C.E., M.R. Allen, A.P. Sokolov and P.H. Stone, 2001. Constraining climate model
properties using optimal fingerprint detection methods. Climate Dynamics, 18: 277-295.
Forest, C.E., M.R. Allen, P.H. Stone and A.P. Sokolov, 2000. Constraining uncertainties in
climate models using climate change detection techniques. Geophysical Research Letters,
27: 569-572.

I want to compare those Forest et al. papers and the MIT Integrated Global System Model report to the Dessler study. I need to attempt to understand the reason for the increase in evaporation in model 2.2 vs model 1. I am assuming that is derived from Forest et al. I need to find that in Forest et al. and then compare that to Dessler.

Even if Dessler shows that there will be some positive feedback from water vapor, is the amount of that feedback consistent with the MIT model?

It will take a couple of days and tomorrow is already completely booked. The earliest I could possibly get to it would be Friday. But I will read them and write back here, if you are interested.

I hope you didn't somehow infer that I was suggesting that MIT made apriori assumptions about clouds. I was not.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 26, 2009 12:03 AM | Report abuse

On reflection, Forest et al. may not contain the rationale for the evaporation increase in model 2.2. If anyone knows the rationale for increasing the evaporation, could you please post it and the source. And if anyone knows how that rationale squares against Dessler, could you please comment on that as well.

As it stands right now, I suspect the evaporation increase will fall outside Dessler and bias the results on the high side.

And I am not so quick to dismiss the paper by Peter Caldwell and Christopher Bretherton. Their paper is more current than Forest et al.

Until Friday,
Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 26, 2009 1:16 AM | Report abuse

Considering that the majority of Americans claim to believe in one or another god or deity (and this, more than 126 years after Darwin's death!), it's no wonder that global warming--and the manmade nature of much of it-- is meeting with a great deal of resistance.

I'd be willing to bet that all of the negationists are also fervent religidiots.

Why do we allow the proudly ignorant and willfully superstitious to guide our public discourse?

Posted by: itchy2008 | February 26, 2009 3:34 AM | Report abuse

yo itchy2008 - i can answer your question. we woefully ignorant folk, called flat-earthers by the enlightened climate alarmists out there, guide the discourse mostly because we are fervently trying to squeeze out of this ridiculously dry rag of yours any information that actually supports your theories.

In other words, all we hear is "this may happen" or "that could happen"... Andrew, Dr T. and CapitalClimate, along with their CC Apostle, James Hansen of NASA, can't prove their theories. They speak authoritatively thrusting upon on us all their so-called facts, which are only supposition in disguise. for every paper or study they can cite, Mr Q. has a come back and a study of his own that completely dissolves theirs.

Look, pollution is a problem - that's a fact. If you want to talk about limiting CO2 from coal plants, vehicles, cows, swimming pools, etc. , we're all there - you can count us in.

But you say mankind is quantifyingly affecting the weather - whoa, stop right there. That's an unsubstantiated claim, and a weak one at that.

Posted by: bryanmcoleman | February 26, 2009 10:05 AM | Report abuse

they can't say anymore than "may happen" and "could happen" BECAUSE they're scientists. it's not logic or math. they, more than any layman, know the uncertainties and assumptions made in order to make any approximation (model). it would be irresponsible to say anything is "for sure". what i hear them saying is "there's pretty darn good chance" and "all the evidence suggests" towards the lower end of their predictions, and more dire forcasts are "may","might", "could" and so forth. it's just responsisble science.

now one negative effect of all their equivocating is that the lay public hears "may" and "might" and thinks (or can be convinced by skeptics and oil companies) scientists don't know what they're talking about or that they're just guessing.

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 26, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

i agree that it seems like a disproportionate number of GW deniers are people of faith. but as they say re:CO2/temp: correlation is not causation.... but seriously, among the faithful, these are the SCIENCE deniers in general. probably literalists. their mindset is a general distrust of those know-it-all atheist scientists who gave us the "evolution myth" and the "billions of years myth". it is easy for them to think scientists are out to fool them. believe me, i interact with people like this on a near-daily basis. (anecdotal evidence only...) i think the faithful could go either way. republicans got hold of them in the 80s, but the faithful could "frame" GW as a stewardship thing. it's important to take care of god's creation.

the real "correlation" is between republicans and GW denialism. they think it will be expensive to deal with GW.

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 27, 2009 8:55 AM | Report abuse

i can't comment intelligently on "mr.q has a comeback" that "completely dissolves" the GW i'll comment unintelligently...(there's a softball for ya) it doesn't SEEM like mr.q is refuting the scientific arguments. it seems like the studies he cites have left something out or are stating something else or are not relevant or are already factored in.

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 27, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 28, 2009 11:39 PM | Report abuse

I am busy reading -
1. Jones, P.D., and A. Moberg, 2003.
2. Moberg et al. 2005
3. Dessler et al. 2008

It is rather technical. It will take some time.

If you need something to fill your time, try this


this (that one goes out to Mr. Freedman)

or, and this is my favorite (a salute to you and CapitalClimate),

Water Vapor Confirmed As Major Player In Climate Change

Maybe you and CapitalClimate can go show Science Daily #23. I'm sure they will appreciate it.

I quote, "man! capitalclimate - you're good. will you keep track of these as they bring them up? i really think we CAN make it through the list."

Don't expect any direct replies from me in the future.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | March 1, 2009 1:39 AM | Report abuse

You know, looking back at some of the comments, I can't help but wonder where CWG and the critics from last week are. It is puzzling.

According to CWG, name calling is strictly forbidden. I guess "a horse's [a-word]" and "fervent religidiots" doesn't qualify as name calling. I bet if someone on my side of the debate had said either of those it would qualify as name calling. Any takers?

And where are all of the critics from last week? Last week I asked Mr. Freedman if he had any shame at all. And for that I was accused of being mean and nasty. But where are those critics today?

If you want to be taken seriously, you have to adopt a standard and apply it evenly and fairly to all. You can't apply to those that you disagree with and then turn a blind eye when those that you agree with violate your standard. If you do that, no one will take you seriously. Nor should they.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | March 1, 2009 1:53 AM | Report abuse

sorry i hurt your feelings. i enjoy your contributions to the site.

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | March 1, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

in the link mr.q. addressed to me (, shunichi akasofu seemed to be using a combination of #1 (it's the sun) and #5(models are unreliable) and #50(it's solar cycles). am i missing something?

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | March 3, 2009 9:05 PM | Report abuse

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