A New Low in Climate Science
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"Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote -
"Our years are turned upside down;
In 1995, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its 5-yearly report on climate change , in a blaze of publicity, which contained the now infamous phrase that there was "a discernible human influence on global climate".
In their previous 1990 report , the IPCC illustrated their, then, understanding of how global climate had changed, not just during the previous 95 years, but also the past 1,000 years. In so doing they presented this graph (Fig 1.) of temperature change since 900 AD.
Fig.1 - Global temperature since 900 AD
This graph asserts that temperatures during the Medieval Warm Period were higher than those of today (as suggested by the opening lines to the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer), while it was much cooler during the Little Ice Age (as suggested by John King). Historical records from all over Europe, and Greenland attest to the reality of both events, and their profound impact on human society. For example, the colonisation of Greenland by the Vikings early in the millennium was only possible because of the medieval warmth. During the Little Ice Age, the Viking colonies in Greenland collapsed, while the River Thames in London often froze over, resulting in frequent `frost fairs' being held on the river ice.
The dating of these two climatic events depends to some extent on what one regards as `warm' and `cold' in comparison with present temperatures, but the following dating approximates these events -
1) `Medieval Warm Period'
(AD 700 - 1300)
As to what caused these two major climatic events, the most probable candidate is the variable sun, particularly with respect to the Little Ice Age. This is because we have direct observations of sunspot counts going back to 1600 AD, which allows us to compare variations in the sun with variations to global climate. Fig.2 shows how the sun has changed over time, the radiation being greatest during a sunspot maximum and least during a sunspot minimum, both recurring on an 11-year cycle.
Fig.2 - The Solar Cycle since 1600 AD
The most striking feature of the above 400-year record of solar variability is the Maunder Minimum, a 70-year period on the sun in which there were practically no sunspots at all. It's as if the sun had `stopped breathing'. But even before 1640 when the Maunder Minimum started, the cycle was clearly fragmented and irregular in contrast with the solid rhythmic cycles of subsequent years after 1710. When we compare this extraordinary solar event with the climate record from Fig.1, we can see the Maunder Minimum occurred at exactly the same time as the lowest point of the Little Ice Age.
The inference is clear. The variable sun caused the Little Ice Age and in all probability caused the Medieval Warm Period too. Carbon 14 isotopes are used as a proxy for solar activity prior to 1600 AD and this indicates a high level of solar activity during the medieval period, resulting in climatic warmth, and also a reduced level of activity during a cold period called the `Sporer Minimum' centered around 1350 AD.
This account of climatic history contains two serious difficulties for the present global warming theory.
1) If the Medieval Warm Period was warmer than today, with no greenhouse gas contribution, what would be so unusual about modern times being warm also?
2) If the variable sun caused both the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age, would not the stronger solar activity of the 20th century account for most, if not all, of the claimed 20th century warmth?
Both propositions posed a serious threat to continued public acceptance of the climate modeller's catastrophic view of future climate. This is because new findings in solar science suggested that the sun, not greenhouse gases, were the primary driver of 20th century climate trends.
The power of the sun to modulate our climate has been reinforced by a large body of recent research that shows it is not only the cyclic warming and cooling of the sun (manifested by the 11-year sunspot cycle) causing our climate to change, but also changes in the solar spectrum towards greater ultra-violet radiation compared with visible or infra-red light (see Fig.3)  .
Fig.3 - The sun since AD 1600
The disproportionate enhancement of the ultra-violet part of the solar spectrum affects the ozone layer and other atmospheric chemistry, which may amplify any warming. In addition, recent changes to magnetic activity on the sun influence cosmic radiation reaching Earth which in turn modulates low level cloudiness and therefore temperature .
In other words, solar scientists have now identified three separate mechanisms by which the sun could warm or cool the earth, and it is these that are now believed to have been responsible for the Medieval Warm Period, the Little Ice Age, and the 20th century climatic trends.
These new solar findings were either ignored by greenhouse theorists or treated with hostility, since a warming sun in the 20th century would leave little or no room for trace greenhouse gases to be cited as an explanation for the claimed 20th century warmth.
In 1999, a new paper published in `Geophysical Research Letters'  altered the whole landscape of how past climate history was to be interpreted by the greenhouse sciences. It stood in stark contrast to the challenge posed by the solar scientists.
The infamous `Hockey Stick' was unveiled for the first time.
The `Hockey Stick'
Dr Michael Mann of the Department of Geosciences, University of Massachusetts was the primary author of the GRL paper, and in one scientific coup overturned the whole of climate history .
Using tree rings as a basis for assessing past temperature changes back to the year 1,000 AD, supplemented by other proxies from more recent centuries, Mann completely redrew the history, turning the Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age into non-events, consigned to a kind of Orwellian `memory hole' . Fig.4 shows Mann's revision of the climatic history of the last millennium.
Fig.4 - The `Hockey Stick'
From the diagram, the Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age have disappeared, to be replaced by a largely benign and slightly cooling linear trend in climate - until 1900 AD.
At that point, Mann completed the coup and crudely grafted the surface temperature record of the 20th century (shown in red and itself largely the product of urban heat islands) onto the pre-1900 tree ring record. The effect was visually dramatic as the 20th century was portrayed as a climate rocketing out of control. The red line extends all the way to 1998 (Mann's `warmest year of the millennium'), a year warmed by the big El NiŮo of that year. It should be noted that the surface record is completely at variance with the satellite temperature record . Had the latter been used to represent the last 20 years, the effect would have been to make the 20th century much less significant when compared with earlier centuries.
As a piece of science and statistics it was seriously flawed as two data series representing such different variables as temperature and tree rings simply cannot be credibly grafted together into a single series.
In every other science when such a drastic revision of previously accepted knowledge is promulgated, there is considerable debate and initial scepticism, the new theory facing a gauntlet of criticism and intense review. Only if a new idea survives that process does it become broadly accepted by the scientific peer group and the public at large.
This never happened with Mann's `Hockey Stick'. The coup was total, bloodless, and swift as Mann's paper was greeted with a chorus of uncritical approval from the greenhouse industry. Within the space of only 12 months, the theory had become entrenched as a new orthodoxy.
The ultimate consummation of the new theory came with the release of the draft of the Third Assessment Report (TAR-2000)  of the IPCC. Overturning its own previous view in the 1995 report, the IPCC presented the `Hockey Stick' as the new orthodoxy with hardly an apology or explanation for the abrupt U-turn since its 1995 report. They could not even offer any scientific justification for their new line.
Within months of the IPCC draft release, the long-awaited draft U.S. `National Assessment' Overview document featured the `Hockey Stick' as the first of many climatic graphs and charts in its report, affirming the crucial importance placed in it by the authors and by the industry at large. This is not an esoteric theory about the distant past, marginal to the global warming debate, but rather is a core foundation upon which a new publicity offensive on global warming is being mounted.
Two issues are raised by Mann's `Hockey Stick'.
1) Why did the climate community fail to critically review the validity of the new theory, indeed to uncritically embrace it in its entirety?
2) Is any of it true? Or is it a means of disposing of the inconvenient Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age, and thus avoid the problem of the role of the sun in climate history?
The Origins of the `Hockey Stick'
Tree rings are the primary proxy behind the `Hockey Stick', particularly the earlier part of the millennium. Tree rings are only laid during the growing season, not the whole year, and so they tell us little or nothing about annual climate. For example, this year (2000) there was a warm winter and early spring in the north-eastern USA, followed by an unusually cool summer and fall. Since the two events are largely self-cancelling, the year may finish as fairly average, but the tree rings would only record the cool summer and thus give a completely false impression of the full-year temperature. Tree rings do not even record night temperatures since photosynthesis only occurs in the daytime. Yet winter and night temperatures are an essential component of what we understand by the concept `annual mean temperature'.
All a tree ring can tell us is whether the combined micro-environmental conditions during the growing season were favourable to tree growth or not. This is because tree rings are influenced by numerous factors other than temperature, such as rainfall, sunlight, cloudiness, pests, competition, forest fires, soil nutrients, frosts and snow duration. Thus they are not even a good daytime temperature proxy for the few months of the growing season. Other proxies such as isotopes in coral, ice, minerals and sediments are vastly superior.
Trees only grow on land. Since 71% of the planet is covered by oceans, seas and lakes, tree rings can tell us nothing about the maritime climate, even though the oceans are known to be the prime determinants of climate conditions throughout the world.
In other words, historical climate simply cannot be described without taking into account the winter and adjacent months temperatures, night-time temperatures, and ocean sea surface temperatures. Tree rings, no matter how carefully they are measured and examined, cannot provide information on any of these key parameters, and are a doubtful proxy even for daytime temperatures on land in summer.
A final weakness arises when calibrating the tree rings against temperature. When measuring the width or density of a tree ring, exactly what temperature is represented by that measurement? This can only be determined by calibrating recently laid rings against known temperatures that existed at the time. Even this is problematic as the `known temperatures' can mean using a temperature series seriously contaminated by heat island and other local errors. If the calibrating temperatures are wrong, the whole tree ring temperature reconstruction for the distant past is also compromised.
There are many sub-specialties within the greenhouse sciences, `dendrochronology' (study of tree rings) being one of them. That particular sub-branch has both prospered and been highly successful in projecting itself to the broader climatic community on the basis of what is a very weak proxy.
In respect of Europe and Greenland, the IPCC and `National Assessment' do not challenge the existence of the Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age as they are too well recorded in other proxy indicators and historical accounts of the time. Instead, these events are now presented as being purely local to Europe and Greenland, but completely absent elsewhere in the world.
In general, the greenhouse industry disregards historical evidence, claiming them to be merely `anecdotes'. However, the idea that historical evidence can be easily dismissed as `anecdotes' in favor of questionable proxies like tree rings is to suggest that professional historians cannot be trusted to be objective.
Objectivity comes from how the evidence is treated, not the nature of the evidence itself. Historians can be just as objective as any scientist. Indeed most of them regard their work as science. As a prominent Finnish scientist remarked about a historical military event in his country's distant history, "if `anecdotal' ice is thick enough to carry a whole army, we can infer the ice was both thick and durable as an objective conclusion based on a documented historical fact."
First published at http://www.john-daly.com/hockey/hockey.htm
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