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November 05, 2006

Monckton on Climate Change

This is really rather fascinating. Christopher Monkton  has a large piece (with more to come next week) in the Telegraph on climate change. His back up document and sources are here (.pdf).

He's delving deep into the science behind the climate models, an area I'm not competent to follow into. The items that stand out are the value of lambda:

Even a 0.6C temperature rise wasn't enough. So the UN repealed a fundamental physical law. Buried in a sub-chapter in its 2001 report is a short but revealing section discussing "lambda": the crucial factor converting forcings to temperature. The UN said its climate models had found lambda near-invariant at 0.5C per watt of forcing.

You don't need computer models to "find" lambda. Its value is given by a century-old law, derived experimentally by a Slovenian professor and proved by his Austrian student (who later committed suicide when his scientific compatriots refused to believe in atoms). The Stefan-Boltzmann law, not mentioned once in the UN's 2001 report, is as central to the thermodynamics of climate as Einstein's later equation is to astrophysics. Like Einstein's, it relates energy to the square of the speed of light, but by reference to temperature rather than mass.

The bigger the value of lambda, the bigger the temperature increase the UN could predict. Using poor Ludwig Boltzmann's law, lambda's true value is just 0.22-0.3C per watt. In 2001, the UN effectively repealed the law, doubling lambda to 0.5C per watt. A recent paper by James Hansen says lambda should be 0.67, 0.75 or 1C: take your pick. Sir John Houghton, who chaired the UN's scientific assessment working group until recently, tells me it now puts lambda at 0.8C: that's 3C for a 3.7-watt doubling of airborne CO2. Most of the UN's computer models have used 1C. Stern implies 1.9C.

Now, if that's true, then there really is something rather odd going on. The second part is that in the .pdf file he is all over the way in which Mann and co. manage to airbrush the Medieval Warm Period out of their temperature reconstructions. This all rather relies upon the McKittrick work which many seem to have already been demolished (or seem to think has been so).

This is all way outside of my ability to tell who is right or wrong. I rather look forward to people like Tim Lambert and William Connelly telling me whether these critiques have value to them or not. It would be interesting to have such without reference to who said what where and when and to get simple answers to the two points posed:

1) Why is lambda different in the models from what Monckton claims it must be?

2) If the MWP did indeed exist, why doesn't it show up in the Mann hockey stick?

(BTW, I can already see one slightly odd thing about Monkton's thinking: he talks about sea levels going down in the Pacific during recent El Ninos, a time of warming in those areas. Well, yes, that's because one of the effects of an El Nino is to reduce sea levels in those areas, it's not anything to do with temperature either way.)

November 5, 2006 in Climate Change | Permalink


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If the MWP did indeed exist, why doesn't it show up in the Mann hockey stick?

Past temperature depend on proxies ( no thermometers when Harold had his eye shot out)

Proxies are such things as tree ring widths, ice cores tree growth lines etc etc.

There are various problems with these proxies
1 Some are unreliable, in fact some of the Mann proxies (bristlecones) have been shown to be very poor
2. Proxies cover limited amounts of geography, so deriving global - wide inferences is difficult.
3. Cherry picking, ie using proxies that support your case & ignoring those that don't

4. Poor statistical methods

5. Correlation between proxies & measured temperatures have been tweaked in ways favourable to the "hockey - stickers".

6. The proxies have not been compared against real temperatures for the past twenty years, so what would seem top be fairly vital confirmation of proxy validity has simply not been done.

There are other issues but these seem to be the main ones.

Check out climate audit for the full shocking story!

Posted by: jp | Nov 5, 2006 8:55:14 AM

I trust you are joking when referring to Tim Lambert and William Connelly, your chances of getting a scientific or unbiased opinion from either is zip.

The Mann crowd would have you believe that they have "demolished" the M&M criticisms, but unfortunately for them they haven't even addressed the criticisms. Apart from remarkably poor statistical methods, the prime driver of the MBH98 & MBH99 shape is the presence of a set of proxies, the bristlecone pines (and some foxtail sites) that, get this, aren't even temperature proxies. Remove these proxies, and for good measure correct other misattributions, and the "hockey stick" shape entirely disappears.

As the previous poster suggests, visit the Climate Audit site and read. And better yet, follow up with your own investigations into the data and methods, don't be satisfied with an arguement from authority, find out as much as you can yourself. I suggest you will be staggered at the level of, let us say, studied mendacity in the field.

Tim adds: Connelly I would indeed trust to offer me a clear and honest opinion. Tim Lambert? WEll, I'd still be interested in what he had to say but I would be more sceptical.

Posted by: Ed Snack | Nov 5, 2006 9:04:01 AM

Now, even Mann accepts that MWP existed - at least in Europe.

Goosse et al 2006

“The origin of the European “Medieval Warm Period”
H. Goosse, O. Arzel, J. Luterbacher, M. E. Mann, H. Renssen, N. Riedwyl, A. Timmermann, E. Xoplaki, and H. Wanner”

"Proxy records and results of a three dimensional climate model show that European summer temperatures roughly a millennium ago were comparable to those of the last 25 years of the 20th century, supporting the existence of a summer “Medieval Warm Period” in Europe. Those two relatively mild periods were separated by a rather cold era, often referred to as the “Little Ice Age”."

Posted by: Kit | Nov 5, 2006 9:33:53 AM

Monckton says: "There was little ice at the North Pole: a Chinese naval squadron sailed right round the Arctic in 1421 and found none." Oddly enough, he doesn't give a source for this. But it's obviously from Gavin Mezies fantasies. I'm sorry, but I can't take Monckton seriously.

If you want to find out about climate sensitivity this post by James Annan is worth reading -- there are multiple independant pieces of evidence suggesting that it's about 3 degrees for a doubling of CO2.

And if Monckton wants to argue for a low sensitivity he should be embracing the hockey stick graph, because it implies a low sensitivity.

Posted by: Tim Lambert | Nov 5, 2006 11:15:23 AM

If it is true that Mann's algorithm will output a hockey stick even if you input random data, the search for the flaw is secondary: the work can anyway be binned.

Posted by: dearieme | Nov 5, 2006 12:14:17 PM

My God Tim - didn't you read the NAS and Wegman reports on the 'Hockey Stick' on Mann and M&M??!! Where do you get your information from??!!

Tim adds: No, I haven't read those reports because I don't have the background to understand who is right. The economics I'll argue with anyone as I am at least marginally competent at that.

Posted by: Steve | Nov 5, 2006 1:37:19 PM

'This is really rather fascinating. Christopher Monkton has a large piece '

Why are you telling us this?

'He's delving deep into the science behind the climate models, an area I'm not competent to follow into.'

Neither is he, as he read history at university.

Posted by: james C | Nov 5, 2006 4:18:41 PM

"James C": Monkton may have read history at university, but he appears (at least to me) to be a perfectly competent mathmatician - which he'd need to be, as apparently Number Theory is one of his hobbies.

Posted by: pogo | Nov 5, 2006 7:04:46 PM

"And if Monckton wants to argue for a low sensitivity he should be embracing the hockey stick graph, because it implies a low sensitivity"??
The purpose of the hockey stick construction was to demonstrate how sensitive the climate is to human generated CO2 and to airbrush out any form of natural climate change.

Posted by: DocBud | Nov 5, 2006 10:02:17 PM


Monckton's claim to fame was the eternity puzzle.

James C

Posted by: james C | Nov 5, 2006 11:46:17 PM

Tim asks: "1) Why is lambda different in the models from what Monckton claims it must be?"

The whole issue of anthropogenic global warming, in a simplified (averaged) form comes down to this.

It is, effectively, the efficiency of warming of the earth by the sun. [As an analogy, consider the MPG you get out of your car, with the engine tuned in some particular way.]

The AGW battle is, as waged with such average numbers, competing advertising claims that "their model is best".

As with car tuning/MPG, there is a truth. The trouble with global warming is that we do not yet know it: only somewhat informed ball-park guesses.

However, as with MPG, those who make their claims using only the equivalent of measurements going downhill strike me as less reliable than those who use more thorough approaches. Even worse are those who do not conceive of hills affecting MPG.

Then there is the prospect of legal compulsion to buy the much more expensive car with the "better MPG", when in fact there is no adequate reason to assume it is significantly better on MPG, let alone worth the money.

Best regards

Posted by: Nigel Sedgwick | Nov 6, 2006 8:32:07 AM

The fact that he chose to publish his reveleations in The Daily Telegraph tells me enough... Newspapers are not the forum for serious scientific debate, regardless of subject science reporting in them is with very few exception so bad the stories should be treated as pointer to something that may contain actual information, and nothing more.

Posted by: teme | Nov 6, 2006 8:52:13 AM


Agreed, that newspapers are not the place for serious scientific debate, but as all the proper fora have been hijacked by the "Church of AGW" you're about as likely to get a paper like Monkton's published in one of them as you are to get a vote of thanks to the Pope proposed and seconded in the Hampstead Mosque.

Posted by: pogo | Nov 6, 2006 5:39:47 PM

Pogo, there are off mainstream (way off) theories in every branch of science, climatology not being an exception. And these are cracy junk in more digits of 99% of the time than I care to type. The reason that there are editors, peer review, etc. is precisely to filter out noise like this. This is considered information management, although reader sanity preservation might be more accurate, except by the people whose work gets rejected who invariably consider it political manipulation.

If Monckton has found a serious flaw in the models, he can go and argue about it with people who actually understand the models. It is not as if such flaws are not published all the time. Or at least have the decency to publish in a popular science mag whose editors have a clue.

Posted by: teme | Nov 7, 2006 6:47:01 AM

Teme... Have you read what Monkton has said? Or bothered to look at his full 40-page paper? If climatologists were certain of their position they'd have no need to "massage" their figures as Monkton contends.

It's not exactly "bozo science" to state that, for instance, lambda derived from the Stefan-Boltzman Law has been "redefined" (to use a polite term) from the value that's been accepted for over 100 years to one 3 to 4 times greater in the UN report and in the extreme to 7 times greater (Stern Report) - whereas using it at its original value causes the existing models to track the actual temperature rise for the 20th century quite accurately... "On the UN's figures, the entire greenhouse gas forcing in the 20th century was 2 watts/m2/s. Multiplying by the correct value for lambda gives a temperature increase of 0.44 to 0.6C, in line with observation. But using Stern's 1.9C per watt/m2/s gives 3.8C. Where did 85% of his imagined 20th Century warming go?". That's not crazy, it's good basic arithmetic - something that appears to be sadly lacking in the Church of AGW.

Posted by: pogo | Nov 7, 2006 11:37:11 AM

That the oceans have thermal inertia ("where did all the warming go?") is hardly shocking news, to even an interested layman such as myself. As for the lambda stuff, when I compare his argument to the IPCC definition of the usage, I quite simply loose track of what he is foaming about:
“The radiative forcing of the surface-troposphere system due to the perturbation in or the introduction of an agent (say, a change in greenhouse gas concentrations) is the change in net (down minus up) irradiance (solar plus long-wave; in Wm-2) at the tropopause AFTER allowing for stratospheric temperatures to readjust to radiative equilibrium, but with surface and tropo-spheric temperatures and state held fixed at the unperturbed values”. http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar//wg1/214.htm#611

The climate sensitivity parameter (global mean surface temperature response Ts to the radiative forcing F) is defined as:

Ts / F = lambda (6.1)

Posted by: teme | Nov 7, 2006 2:44:42 PM

Interesting article, but I was not impressed by the bit you quoted - the bit about "lambda" contained enough scientific detail to look impressive but not enough for a reader with A-level physics to actually see what he was talking about.
RealClimate.org is the best source for the mainstream view without the media hype, and sure enough, they provide a persuasive debunking of that part of the article (short version "The Earth is not a Black Body"), while ignoring the rest.

Posted by: Andrew McGuinness | Nov 10, 2006 4:00:47 PM

Hi Tim. Thanks for the compliment. Monckton is talking nonsense about lambda, as I think someone else has pointed out, this is zapped at:


Essentially, Monckton is just plugging things into equations which have the right units but aren't going to get the clim sens out the far end.

As for MWP, he has that wrong too, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MWP_and_LIA_in_IPCC_reports may be of interest.

Posted by: William Connolley | Nov 15, 2006 11:49:54 AM


Posted by: tom collins | Nov 26, 2006 3:28:34 PM

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