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More amateur climatology from Andrew Bolt

November 11th, 2006

Andrew Bolt cites NASA data from the troposphere and stratosphere to show that global warming isn’t happening. He starts with the troposphere and makes what’s now a standard denialist talking point, that global temperatures “peaked in 1998″ (a year of an exceptionally strong El Nino). Of course, until the last few years, denialists were (correctly for once) making the point that you couldn’t attribute all of the exceptional temperatures of 1998 to long-term climate change.

But Bolt’s new ace is the stratosphere, which is actually cooling. The graph here looks pretty convincing. Has Bolt discovered something that all the scientists have missed? Should he be publishing his findings in Nature. Well, no.

As NASA explains here, stratospheric cooling is also the result of human activity. The most important effect is from the destruction of the ozone layer, but CO2 emissions also play a role. Remember that the effect of greenhouse gases is to trap heat. This warms up the atmosphere below (in the troposphere), but reduces it above (in the stratosphere). There’s disagreement over the magnitude of this effect, but the direction is clear.

It would have taken Bolt five minutes with Google to find this out. Does he not know, or not care? Either way, he ought not to have a job with any responsible media organisation.

Note on comments: If you want to disagree with NASA, complain about the hockey stick, or otherwise dispute mainstream climate science, please follow the course I’ve suggested for Bolt and write to Nature. Or, if you really must attack science here, ask me nicely and I’ll put up an open thread. But for the purposes of this post, I’m going to take the assessment of the scientific evidence as presented by NASA and the IPCC as definitive. Comments disputing the science will be deleted.

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  1. November 17th, 2006 at 14:53 | #1

    proust – “Probably not. They could just discount that person’s opinion as uninformed. They’d be far more hurt by someone who is in a position to judge.”

    You said that YOU judged the work to be of poor quality. Are we to discount this as you do not really know what you are talking about?

    “I retracted. Replace “climate scientistâ€? with “climate modelerâ€?”

    Keep retracting proust – climate modellers are also scientists. You are going to be back to climate reporters if you keep going.

    “Take it up with Crutzen. He’s the one with the Nobel prize.”

    Just because the person has a Nobel Prize does not mean automatically that we should all drop everything and go for it. Yes we should consider it however a Nobel Prize does not mean all this person says will be gospel.

  2. SimonC
    November 17th, 2006 at 14:54 | #2

    Prost have you checked the credentials of those driving the debate? I had a quick look at the authors of the IPCC 4AR. I chose Chapter 2 of the Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis and checked the credentials of some randomly selected Authors:
    V. Ramaswamy – Group Head Amtospheric Physics and Chemistry, Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab,
    David Lowe – BSc, Physics, PhD Atomspheric Chemistry,
    Ronald Prinn – BSc, Chem & Pure & Applied Maths. Sc.D. from MIT in Chemistry
    David Fahey – not sure his background but his current research is the measurement of nitric acid uptake on cirrus and contrail particles and the measurement of hydrochloric acid as a tracer of stratospheric ozone in the upper troposphere.

    And yep I’m sure that most do some modelling to some degree but they’re all ‘hard’ sceientists. Also wouldn’t you agree that with a lot of science the aim of the research is to develop a consistent and testable model that describes observations and is able to predict outcomes?

  3. proust
    November 17th, 2006 at 16:05 | #3

    “You said that YOU judged the work to be of poor quality.”

    Oh, I see; your question was not rhetorical. You wanted to know if they’d be insulted by me expressing the view that their science was poor.

    To clarify, the science divides into two parts: modeling and interpretation.

    I have no reason to believe that the models are not “state-of-the-art” in the sense that they incorporate our best understanding of the physical processes that they can, so in that sense the science is fine.

    But when it comes to interpretation they are weak. They don’t put adequate error bars on the model predictions, or really try to understand the sensitivity of their models to parameterizations. Some groups do, like climateprediction.net, but then when they see high sensitivity in the models they come out with alarmist press releases claiming high sensitivity in the real climate, whereas they should conclude that there are problems with the models.

    Whether they’d be insulted by me pointing this out in person, I don’t know. It would depend how diplomatic I was about it. I should probably try it sometime.

    “Keep retracting proust – climate modellers are also scientists.”

    Indeed, but not all climate scientists are climate modelers, which is the point of my retraction: I had bagged all climate scientists, when my issue is more specifically with the modelers (and the environmentalists, although they’re barely worth wasting keystrokes over).

    “a Nobel Prize does not mean all this person says will be gospel.”

    You like to play the Nobel card when he supports your world view.

  4. SimonC
    November 17th, 2006 at 16:20 | #4

    Please Proust you’re the one said:

    “I am not after “best of the bestâ€?. Best alive today is fine.

    Names please. ”

    And we gave you some Nobel prize winners. We didn’t play the Nobel card we simply answered your question.

  5. November 17th, 2006 at 18:13 | #5

    proust – “Oh, I see; your question was not rhetorical. You wanted to know if they’d be insulted by me expressing the view that their science was poor.”

    No that part was rhetorical. The bit about what basis do YOU judge the work to be of poor quality was not. So how do you judge it to be poor?

    “They don’t put adequate error bars on the model predictions, or really try to understand the sensitivity of their models to parameterizations.”

    So show us some examples with explanations of where the error bars are two wide and how that effects the conclusion.

    “but not all climate scientists are climate modelers”

    No but what was your point initially?

    “You like to play the Nobel card when he supports your world view.”

    Sorry never have once. If Nobel winning scientist said that AGW is proven and true this is no more endorsment than any other for exactly the same reasons. AGW is not proven and true, no scientific theory ever is. It is however the best working framework that we have for connecting a series of known and deduced facts. It may turn out to be a load of crap as many theories of the past have done but RIGHT NOW is explains the facts and gives better predictions than any other so it is accepted by a majority of scientists.

  6. Brian D. Branch
    August 26th, 2008 at 22:51 | #6

    I’m a right-winger (well in a majority of areas) invading your webspace (yeah go boo & hiss at me you lot).
    Anyway AB. You all know that he’s a warming sceptic etc. Today Bolt published some outrageous claims about organic farming. I made the mistake of calling him on it. As punishment, his assistants declared by I’m abusive.

    What they have taken offense at is as follows. Walston is probably less than truthful in his claims. And Bolt has allowed his bigotry in this area get in the way of common sense.

    Yep that’s enough to be tagged.

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