Listener lambasted concerning climate claims

An excellent sceptical letter sent to the NZ Listener on 14 May and copied today to Climate Conversation.

Rupert Wyndham in New Zealand

To the Editor
NZ Listener

quill pen

14th May 2011

Dear Ms. Stirling,

I am a visitor to New Zealand, and only yesterday had sight of your 14 May edition of the New Zealand Listener with its entertainingly fanciful lead story, accompanied by appropriately lurid graphics.

Since this is a topic which raises much controversy, let me try and see if I can encapsulate in a few lines what it is that you would wish your readers to believe. You propose, it would seem, that marginal increases in the concentrations of what is no more than a trace gas, amounting in total not to 10% of the earth’s atmosphere, not even to 5% — nay, not even to 1%, can bring about cataclysmic changes in global climate.

So, what exactly is the percentage concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere? Why, to be sure, it is a gasping, asphyxiating 1/27th part of a single percentage point. But even that’s not the complete picture, is it? After all, as someone (such as you) who has addressed the data for herself will know, even human-induced climate change proselytisers acknowledge that, by itself, the radiative potential of CO2 (vanishingly small anyway) fails to account for the “scenarios” promoted by them and by unquestioning and compliant organs of the media — such, indeed, as The New Zealand Listener.

So, to get over this little inconvenience, what should be done? Why, to be sure, invoke another critical, life-affirming compound (dihydrogen oxide) to provide a “positive forcing”, thereby adding to the so-called greenhouse effect. Regrettably, the very scientists (well, anyway, let’s call them that for the sake of convenience) can’t actually tell you whether the forcing resulting from atmospheric water vapour is positive (so allegedly bringing warming) or negative (so allegedly bringing the opposite). Clouds, for example, have a cooling effect. Have these ‘climate scientists’ with their rinky dinky computers ever managed to incorporate them in their so-named General Circulation Models? Answer: the heck they have!

And neither still is that the whole story, is it? For, while CO2 might have some modest radiative potential, that potential is governed by a relationship to concentration that is logarithmic, not linear. In simple layman’s terms, the more you shove in, increasingly less do you get out. In other words, the system is self limiting — well, well, fancy that!

So, to you, let me pose a multi-part question. Even at first sight, does this seem plausible? Possible? Or, is it, perhaps, just stark barking?

Listener cover

Finally, let’s pause briefly on your Gotham City phantasmagoric cover photo. This, from its appearance, could quite easily be a fictional montage designed, of course, to promote a propagandist scaremongering agenda to an ill-informed public. In any event, and as far as New Zealand is concerned, as a journalistic professional dealing with a matter of major public importance, you personally should be fully aware that the Flinders University, Adelaide, trans-Pacific tidal buoy project, after ten years of careful monitoring, was wound up a year or two ago after failing to find evidence of any increase whatsoever in rates of sea level rise. These data have since been confirmed by satellite readings — much disliked by AGW propagandists, since they usually undermine the party line. Neither are such contra-indicative findings confined to the S. Pacific. If, in the face of such scientific findings, you have published your story, then you are guilty of lying. If you were unaware of such data, you are guilty of professional negligence, and I speak as a one-time journalist myself in publications somewhat more elevated (or, at any rate, more globally celebrated) than the New Zealand Listener.

Actually, let’s be candid. Your piece is not journalism at all, is it? It is mere agit-prop. In essence, as between what you have published (and, I suspect, publish routinely) and what your counterparts disseminated in Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia and Maoist China any difference is negligible.

Rupert Wyndham

22 Thoughts on “Listener lambasted concerning climate claims

  1. Richard C (NZ) on June 6, 2011 at 2:39 pm said:

    “Clouds, for example, have a cooling effect. Have these ‘climate scientists’ with their rinky dinky computers ever managed to incorporate them in their so-named General Circulation Models? Answer: the heck they have!”

    Actually they have to a degree but low level cloud has not been modeled. This led to the attribution of mid to late 90s warming to CO2 when the reality was that cloud cover (particularly low level) reduced allowing more insolation, but now that those clouds are back the warming has been inhibited.

    This is one of the major model failures due to neglect of natural cycles and variations that render the IPCC AR4 set of simulations invalid and of no consequence until they are reconfigured and new runs carried out.

    Clouds seem to be making a mockery of a certain faction of climate science on a regular basis. Dr Renwick (NIWA) made his 2010/11 summer prediction of “cloudless skies” and “drier air”. This was immediately followed by 97% humidity in Auckland and cloudy skies for most of summer in NZ (the departure from that prediction was more radical in Queensland) except for a brief late summer period.

    On the other hand, Phillip Duncan (WeatherWatch) and even the manic warmist Georgina Griffiths (NIWA) were spot on with their rain, humidity and cloud predictions but true to form, Griffiths could not resist the opportunity to refresh our perspectives by announcing that NZ was running “HOT HOT”. Griffiths could do herself a favour by swatting up on the heat retaining properties of moist air.

    That saga is documented here:-

  2. Richard C (NZ) on June 6, 2011 at 2:52 pm said:

    The Hot Topic parrot is still squawking madly.

    A Perfect Moral Storm

    by Bryan Walker on June 2, 2011

    Humanity is facing an extreme risk from unabated climate change. The science is widely understood and accepted. Yet we seem paralysed when it comes to reducing the threat: in spite of 20 years of international talk emissions continue to rise alarmingly………………

    No Bryan, we are not paralysed when it comes to “reducing the threat” (but have a cracker anyway Polly).

  3. Flipper on June 6, 2011 at 3:06 pm said:

    Hi Richard C…
    From discussion with R C E Wyndham following his demolition of the Listener I am sure he would not question your qualification re clouds. But there was not room in his relatively punchy response.
    Good stuff tho.
    Hot Topic is a worry. Flat Earth Society may be a more appropriate name.

  4. Andy on June 6, 2011 at 5:35 pm said:

    As an aside, I was recently informed that our house may be up to 50cm more above sea level than it was before Feb 22nd. Other parts of Christchurch may be the same, but in the opposite direction.

    This all happened within 20 seconds. Yet the media would have us believe a similar change in sea levels over a 100 year period is the biggest crisis facing this country.

  5. Richard C (NZ) on June 6, 2011 at 9:25 pm said:

    Flipper, that’s the difficulty with letters to the editor and comments below articles where there are word or character count limits. How to communicate an impeccable and credible refutation in the space allowed? Meanwhile, gormless journalists get acres of column space.

    Wyndham has made good use of his allocation. Roger Tattersall (Tallbloke) writes a scientific case but it has a word count of 1222 and 6188 characters:-
    What caused global warming in the late C20th?

    1) Downwelling longwave radiation from greenhouse gases (mostly water vapour, plus co2) can’t penetrate the ocean surface beyond it’s own wavelength. This is well known physics. But the assumption has been that the warming of the surface by this longwave ‘back radiation’ is ‘mixed down’ into the ocean. This is incorrect. When pushed, the physics people supporting the idea of co2 driven warming say that rather then ‘back radiation’ warming the ocean, the effect of additional co2 is to raise the altitude at which the bulk of radiation to space takes place at. This will have the effect of ‘thickening the blanket’ and hence causing the ocean to cool at a slower rate than the rate energy from the sun enters it, causing warming. However, I’ve done the calcs, and the extra height comes to about 150-200m. This isn’t going to make a big enough difference to account for the amount that the ocean warmed from 1980 to 2003.

    2) According to data gathered from weather satellites, and measurements of how much of the sunlight hitting Earth gets reflected onto the moon, cloud cover, particularly in the tropics, reduced from 1980 to 1998, and then started increasing again. This allowed more sunlight to get to the ocean (and land) surfaces. Unlike ‘back radiation’ from greenhouse gases, the radiative energies in sunshine penetrate deep into the ocean (up to 150m) and transfer their energy into the seawater. At those depths, wave action, internal currents and tidal flows mix the energy well down into the briny, creating a relatively linear dropoff in temperature from the near surface waters down to the thermocline, between 35m in the tropics, down to 1000m in the higher latitudes. it is this increase in ocean temperature which has caused around half the sea level rise since 1980, due to thermal expansion. The surface temperature of the ocean (70% of Earth’s surface) has risen in proportion to the increased ocean heat content (OHC) in the upper 700m, maybe deeper.

    3) The surface of the ocean is on average several degrees warmer than the near surface atmosphere. On average, a net amount of about 65 Watts of energy per square meter is being transferred from the ocean to the atmosphere. The sea surface temperature (SST) thus drives the atmospheric temperature, notwithstanding the relatively small amount of solar radiation absorbed directly by the water vapour and co2. The dominance of the ocean is easily demonstrated by comparing time series of SST and near surface air temperature. The changes in air temperature lag behind changes in SST by several months globally. The ocean contains as much energy in the top two meters as the entire atmosphere above it. This is because the specific heat capacity of water is much, MUCH higher than air [4000:1]. The ocean drives the atmosphere, the tail does not wag the dog.

    4) The big uncertainty in climate science is the overall feedback from clouds. High cloud holds heat in at night and makes things warmer. Low cloud blocks sunlight out and makes things colder during the day. Proponents of the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis (AGW) are convinced the overall cloud feedback is positive, and that warmer temperatures mean more evaporation and clouds, trapping heat in – a positive feedback. This is the only way they can get the co2 driven model to work. Co2 on its own isn’t enough, there has to be a positive feedback from water vapour and clouds. Empirical work done by renegade climate scientists such as Dr Roy Spencer[2] and Professor Dick Lindzen empirically find the opposite from satellite data – that cloud feedback is negative, and predominantly cools the Earth down by reflecting sunlight out. Logically, if cloud and water vapour feedback was strongly positive, the Earth’s climate system would be inherently unstable, and the oceans would have boiled 550 million years ago when co2 levels were twenty times higher than now.

    5) The AGW proponents say the Sun can’t be responsible for late C20th global warming because the amplitude of the solar cycles has been diminishing since the late 1950′s. There are several problems with this view. Firstly, although the peaks of the solar cycles have been getting lower, the cycles were shorter than average (around 10 years rather than the 11 year average) and the upramps and downramps were steep, and the minima between them brief. This means the average sunspot number over the period about 70 was well above the longterm average of around 40. What I have discovered, is that by making empirical comparisons between SST and the sunspot number (SSN), we find that there is a consistent relationship between the sunspot number and ocean surface temperature when the effects of the oceanic oscillations are accounted for. This means two things: Firstly, there is a relationship between solar activity levels and cloud cover, since small changes in cloud cover make a much bigger difference to the amount of sunlight hitting the ocean than solar variation does. Secondly, there must be a level of solar activity, as indicated by the sunspot number, at which the ocean neither cools nor warms. I have empirically determined this to be around the same value as the long term average sunspot number, about 40SSN. Another problem with the ‘solar cycles diminishing since the ’50′s argument is that Dr Leif Svalgaard (NASA)[3] has used solar magnetic records (derived from geomagnetic records) to determine that Waldmeier, who was in charge of counting the sunspots from 1945 until the mid ’80′s was overcounting by around 20%. Correcting this flattens the previously apparent drop in solar activity a lot.

    6) Recently, some experiments have been done at Aarhus in Denmark[4], and at CERN in Switzerland, which support Henrik Svensmark’s hypothesis that solar activity levels affects the number of cosmic rays getting into Earth’s lower atmosphere and seeding clouds. More active sun, stronger solar wind, less cosmic rays reaching Earth. I have discovered that there is a close correlation between solar activity levels and the specific humidity level up near the tropopause. This will have a bigger effect on the altitude at which radiation of heat to space from Earth occurs at than changes of the atmospheric concentration of co2 from 0.027% to 0.039% will. High altitude specific humidity has been falling since the late 50′s in proportion to the drop in the peak amplitude of the solar cycles. Hungarian physicist Ferenc Miscolzci[5] has determined that the overall optical depth of the atmosphere has stayed pretty much constant, and so the reduction in specific humidity at higher altitude has been matched by an increase at lower altitudes – more lower cloud now the sun has gone quiet. All this means that the solar signal is amplified by terrestrial mechanisms, and indeed this has been shown empirically by Professor Nir Shaviv[6], who used the oceans as a calorimeter to determine the size of this amplification. However, this amplification is masked in the surface temperature record because of the phasing of ENSO, El Nino’s build during solar cycles and release their energy into the atmosphere when the sun is at minimum, La Nina’s often occur near solar maximum. There has been a big El Nino following solar minimum for the last 5 cycles at least. This anti=phase masking has helped lead to the facile (and incorrect) conclusion that the Sun’s variation doesn’t affect climate much.
    I’m planning a similar case to present to Sir Peter Gluckman at PMSAC and the Office of Climate Change incorporating the recent findings of the influence on climate of clouds, cosmic rays and ocean oscillations that make the IPCC AR4 climate model simulations obsolete.

    Given that the response to previous cases has been muted (crickets….. birds chirping…….), I’m wondering how best to couch the information for full effect.

  6. Andy on June 6, 2011 at 9:40 pm said:

    I’m wondering how best to couch the information for full effect.

    Richard C, this is of course the $64 question.

    Your post makes so many good points, but how many of the “twitter generation” will have the attention span to even grasp 1/10th of what you say?

    We are dealing with a religious dogma here, in my view.

  7. Ian Cooper on June 7, 2011 at 12:33 am said:

    Excellent letter to the editor. I like his style. No mucking around.

    Just as an aside, and while someone was mentioning Dr Georgina Griffiths. I was bemused by her appearance on TV 1’s morning programme last week where she was using the high temperatures of May around the country as evidence that we were experiencing global warming first hand. This was before the numbers were finally in. As I pointed out to the Weather Watch site, this May warmth is not inprecedented at all. For my area I have the mean of Palmerston North at 17.6C this year but in 1962 the mean was 17.9!

    There are a lot of continuing similarities between this year and ’62 as well. The striking one is the predominence of winds from the northerly quarter which look to continue for some time. Back in 1962 the northerlies were dominant until December! Although the direct data I have is for Ohakea air base, one can take it as read that a large chunk of the North Island and most of the South Island would be experiencing a similar scenario.

  8. Jim Mck on June 7, 2011 at 3:46 pm said:

    The CO2 figures at Mauna Loa which peak annually in May are just out. They show the smallest annual increase in atmospheric CO2 since 1999 — which incidentally had followed an aberationally high figure in 1998.

    While I think the only real significance is that there is no sign of an acceleration I had been hoping for a headline like “GLOBAL WARMING IS SLOWING DOWN”. I fear I will be disappointed.

  9. Andy on June 7, 2011 at 5:24 pm said:

    “Smallest annual increase in CO2 since 1999”

    Yet in the parallel universe occupied by The Guardian, we read…

    Worst ever carbon emissions leave climate on the brink
    Exclusive: Record rise, despite recession, means 2C target almost out of reach

    Wonder why it’s an exclusive?

  10. Jim, I’ve looked at but I can’t locate the figure you’re referring to. Do you have a reference?

  11. Richard C (NZ) on June 7, 2011 at 8:03 pm said:

    I’ll send Tallbloke’s original hypothesis complete with references, author attribution and his contact address off to PMSAC/CC Office one day soon. I’ll do a follow up with the other science that’s come to light when I find time.

    As for the Twitter generation, I’ll confine any argument to – “Name one of the 7 key climate metrics that is following the AGW prescription?” That gives them enough rope to hang themselves.

  12. Richard C (NZ) on June 7, 2011 at 8:29 pm said:

    So for Georgina Griffiths, warm La Nina temperatures around New Zealand are evidence of GLOBAL warming?

    A quick peek at AMSU-A shows near surface 0.12 C cooler than this day last year and mid-trop 0.49 C cooler, much as it has been since January.

    Griffiths’ pronouncement is unprofessional, unethical, dishonest, misleading and incorrect. Was she speaking on behalf of NIWA or on her own volition (but on whose time?). Salinger was fired for similar rantings.

  13. Jim Mck on June 8, 2011 at 12:32 pm said:

    Yes I should explain

    The monthly figure is the average of the five weekly May figures being 394.00, 392.94, 394.78, 394.97, 394.07 average 394.15. The site is still showing the April monthly figure of 393.18 but all the numbers are there to calculate May.

    The 2010 May monthly peak was 392.96 so the increase was 1.19. The annual growth data gives historic.

  14. Jim Mck on June 8, 2011 at 3:53 pm said:

    Hold the phone this is peak to peak and historic numbers are annual means. I think the conclusion is still correct but more work required.

  15. Jim Mck on June 9, 2011 at 2:09 pm said:

    Hi Richard,
    Looking at the May peaks in CO2, May 2011 did show the lowest annual increase in ten years. In fact April on April did as well. The moving averages are moving down but have not yet broken long term trend lines.

    The raw data set is the “Monthy Mean”. It is in fact not a mean at all, it is the average of weekly figures which in turn are the averages of daily measures.

    This raw data set is manipulated in various ways one of which is the “annual mean rate of growth”. It is (roughly) the change in the seasonally adjusted average of the 4 months bunched around the end of each calendar year with the four months bunched around the start of the calendar year and is calculated once a year. Not a particularly useful number.

    There inevitably has to be a break out from the medium term straight line trend in atmospheric CO2. Because the data exhibits a nice regular 12 month pattern a straightforward 12 month moving average of the raw data is the best way to monitor that.

    I have down loaded the Maui sequence to excel. Please email me if you would like a version

  16. rob r on June 15, 2011 at 11:27 pm said:

    Richard C

    Salinger might have been fired but NIWA are using him in a consulting role so that dismissal was mainly window dressing.

  17. Window dressing for what? An attempt to appear in control, do you think?

  18. I’d just like to thank Richard C for his endorsement of the piece I wrote and ask him if he did send it to the PMSAC/CC Office. If he did, I’d be very interested to know about any response he got.

    Keep up the good work down there, and well done on getting NIWA back on the straight and narrow with the NZ temperature record!

    Regards to all


  19. We’ll see. I think Richard C will see this.

  20. Richard C (NZ) on September 3, 2011 at 12:14 pm said:

    I added the ratio incorrectly, should be 4:1 in this sentence (my VERY bad).

    “This is because the specific heat capacity of water is much, MUCH higher than air [4000:1]”

  21. Richard C (NZ) on September 3, 2011 at 2:06 pm said:

    Roger, great to have you check in to this blog..

    No I haven’t send the piece you wrote to either offices (yet, see below) mainly because the Prime Ministers Science Advisory Committee does not respond except to say they have received it so it’s like feeding information into a black hole. It is also difficult to engage our public institutions at a level of discussion (or any discussion) where scientific issues are addressed on their merits (i.e. if the IPCC don’t say it it ain’t so). I ‘m also finding it difficult finding the time to put the arguments together at the moment due to work and keeping up with climate science developments.

    I have however gained a little traction by changing tack and approaching our Ministry for the Environment, Climate Change Office in the first instance with Cc to the PMSAC that has produced an exchange of letters. Robin Pittman, a NZ Elec. Engineer who checks in here from time to time has done similarly by presenting the latest Lindzen and Choi, Knox and Douglass and Spencer – Braswell papers to MftE CC but the difficulty is to elicit an informed and non-consensus response. Robin received a response that ignored K&D and S-B and addressed L&C’s PREVIOUS paper citing a RealClimate blog article by Trenberth, Fasullo and O’Dell: “Lindzen and Choi Unravelled”. So you see what we’re up against (an uninformed propaganda office).

    I don’t want to overdo my approaches to MftE CC in case my avenue of engagement is cut off but given the CERN CLOUD results and solar grand minimum predictions (the latter sent to the PMSAC), your 6 point case is a useful approach that can be updated and used in the near future possibly.

    In the meantime I’m in the process of replying to the latest MftE CC response to a challenge I made that they publish 7 key climate metrics on an on-going basis for this century overlaid with IPCC/AGW predictions so that the public can monitor the validity of the predictions. Understandably there has been some reluctance by them to do so saying “they are widely available” (apparently).

    I have extracted a concession from them however in that they cite Easterling and Wehner 2009 who say we should expect natural variability to dominate climate now and then for periods of up one or two DECADES (!). I see this as a fall-back or face-saving position in view of recent climate not following predictions (also a tactic being employed by the UK Met Office BTW). On the other hand they characterize my cases for each of the 7 metrics not going to plan as blog science because I lifted some text from blog articles (they CITE blog articles but that’s OK if it’s RealClimate it seems). My reply will be to list all 20 peer-reviewed papers that I cited. I’ve been meaning to get the reply away but other things have got in the way.

    What I have been spending time on is investigating (and you might be interested in this Roger) the heating effect of GHG DLR vs solar SW on geologic materials (water, rock etc) in conjunction with Trenberth, Fasullo and Kiehl’s (TF&Ks) “Earth Energy Balance” where they ascribe 333 W.m2 to GHG DLR and 161 W.m2 to solar SW. I contend that the GHG DLR is an ineffective heating agent compared to solar SW due to the difference in spectral range and energy transmission ability and that the energy balance is erroneous (you touch on this re water in point 2 of your case). You can follow my investigation down the thread starting here:-

    There’s some errors in it (yes water absorbs DLR but only minimally) but I don’t think I’m that far wrong on most of it. I note too that a group is studying heat flow from the earth’s core i.e. the heat gradient from core to surface and they say “Even in the absence of the sun the lowest few metres of the atmosphere would warm by about 282 degrees on average (that is, to 9 deg.C) due to the heat coming from the crust”. I don’t know how accurate that is but TF&K do not account for for anything like that from memory, see:-

    Climate Forcing from the Earth’s Core

    What Physics says about CLIMATE CHANGE

    It would be best to discuss this topic in the “Just One Fact” thread linked above dealing with TF&K (I think it was discussed in a thread at WUWT but I can’t remember where, not being much of a visitor there).

    Cheers, Rich.

  22. Hi Richard,
    Yes, my own views on the ability of DLR to affect ocean heat content have developed since writing that piece. In a nutshell, the only way changes in DLR can affect the temperature of the ocean bulk is via air temperature. This is a very slow way to change it, and the change in the ocean heat content of the upper 700m in the period 1976-2003 before the ocean started cooling again is not going to be accounted for this way. Conversely solar SW is direct and efficient at heating the ocean and cloud cover in the tropics fell 1979-1998.

    Postma’s ideas concerning the inadequacy of a diurnal average of insolation have merit if (as I suspect) the effect of SW on the ocean is non-linear. However the way Postmas ideas have been presented along with Claes Johnson’s have not been well recieved (on eiher side) and I doubt you’ll get anywhere with govt bodies quoting their work.

    The KISS principle is the best way to deal with officials in my experience.

    All the best


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