As well as Chapman’s silly ice-age article, the Australian published a news story about it, treating it as if it was a legitimate paper and failing to get comments from climate scientists. The ABC acted like a real news organization it its report:

DAVID KAROLY: This is not science.

EMILY BOURKE: David Karoly from Melbourne University’s School of Earth Sciences is outraged.

DAVID KAROLY: This is misinterpretation or misrepresentation and miscommunication of the factors that influence global temperature.

It appears to be an opinion of Phil Chapman and he’s welcome to his opinion, but in terms of climate variations and an approaching ice age, he is sadly misinformed.

EMILY BOURKE: He argues the figures have been misinterpreted and he dismisses the theory.

DAVID KAROLY: Yes, the climate system did cool from January 2007 to January 2008 quite dramatically. That cooling was associated with changes in the ocean temperatures in the Pacific, a well known phenomenon, the El Nino to La Nina switch. It isn’t unprecedented.

EMILY BOURKE: But you’re not attributing that in any way to sunspot activity.

DAVID KAROLY: We know it is not due to sunspot activity. Sunspot variations do not lead to the sorts of temperature variations seen from January 2007 to 2008. They don’t lead to those large temperature variations, even on an 11-year sunspot cycle.

And so in terms of increasing greenhouse gases, we can also see that effect because the most recent La Nina, the current La Nina, is warmer than earlier La Nina episodes of the same strength. We’re actually seeing a warming even in these cool periods associated with La Nina.

Karoly has written a more detailed response:


Response to Opinion piece by Phil Chapman “Sorry to ruin the fun, but an ice age cometh”

By Professor David Karoly, School of Earth Sciences, University of Melbourne and Member, Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists

It is excellent to have well-informed opinion pieces published in our newspapers. It is a pity when opinion pieces contain significant errors or misleading information, and then draw mischievous conclusions from them. The opinion piece written by Phil Chapman in The Australian on 23 April appears to contain a number of factual errors, misleading statements and incorrect conclusions.

Paragraph 2: All four agencies that track Earth’s temperature (the Hadley Climate Research Unit in Britain, the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, the Christy group at the University of Alabama, and Remote Sensing Systems Inc in California) report that it cooled by about 0.7C in 2007. This is the fastest temperature change in the instrumental record and it puts us back where we were in 1930. If the temperature does not soon recover, we will have to conclude that global warming is over.

The above paragraph is based on some information on web sites in the US. It is true that these data sets show a pronounced cooling from January 2007 to January 2008 of a little less than 0.7C. It is an error to state that this is unprecedented, as similar dramatic falls occurred from 1998 to 1999, and from 1973 to 1974. It should also be noted that in those data sets that provide monthly estimates, the global average temperature has warmed substantially, by more than 0.3C from January 2008 to March 2008. In addition, the annual average temperature for 2007 was within 0.1C of the average temperature in 2006 and 2005; no dramatic cooling there.

So what caused this rapid cooling over 2007, and also from 1998 to 1999, and from 1973 to 1974; what was common to all those periods? In each case, the common factor was a rapid change from El Nino to La Nina conditions, warm temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean to cold temperatures in the same region, which has a major effect on global climate patterns and global average temperature. La Nina is associated with below normal global average temperature, and 2008 is likely to be about 0.3C cooler than the average of the previous few years, because of the influence of La Nina.

The new cycle, No.24, was supposed to start soon after that, with a gradual build-up in sunspot numbers.
It didn’t happen. The first sunspot appeared in January this year and lasted only two days. A tiny spot appeared last Monday but vanished within 24 hours. Another little spot appeared this Monday.

I don’t know where these sunspot numbers came from but they are in error. The best source of data for current sunspot numbers is the World Data Center for Solar Terrestrial Physics at the National Geophysical Data Center in Boulder CO. That gives an average number of sunspots per day in January 2008 of 3.4, 2.1 in February and 9.3 in March 2008. The minimum was in October 2007.

So, are variations in global average temperature directly related to sunspot numbers on a monthly, annual or decadal timescale? Certainly not on a monthly timescale and the effect, if any, on a year-to-year time scale is very small, as can be found by correlating the variations of global average temperature on monthly or annual timescales with the sun spot numbers. Any relationship between sunspot numbers and global average temperatures is much much smaller than the clear relationship between interannual variations of equatorial Pacific sea surface temperatures and global average temperatures, showing the effect of the El Nino-La Nina cycle.

However, the major flaw in this opinion piece is trying to infer understanding of long-term climate trends from short term (one year) variations of global temperature. It is well known (by climate scientists) that there are very large interannual variations of global temperature caused by a number of factors, including El Nino, or major volcanic eruptions, or just the chaotic variability of the climate system. It is not possible to make conclusions about long term climate trends from interannual climate variations. Many lines of evidence support the conclusion in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report in 2007 that “warming of the climate system is unequivocal”, referring the warming over the last 100 years. Even when we consider only the global average temperatures during La Nina episodes, such as the current cool period, we find that this La Nina is experiencing the warmest global temperature of any strong La Nina episode in the last 100 years, again showing a clear long term global warming.

Analysis of climate variations over the 20th century shows:
the strongest influence on year-to-year variations in global temperature is El Nino cycles, sunspot cycles have a much smaller influence on global temperature,
the recent decrease in global temperature is due to the occurrence of La Nina, and
we can infer almost nothing about longer term temperature trends from variations over one year.

There has been a clear warming trend in global average temperature over the last 100 years, with most of this warming due to the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This long-term increase in global average temperature will continue throughout the 21st century due to increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Comments

  1. #1 Steve
    April 23, 2008

    The Australian also published this article
    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,23584525-11949,00.html

    yesterday, which states that emissions trading will cost $22billion a year.

    From what I can tell, the economist (Taxation Institute director Dr Michael Dirkis) in the article just used $37.70 per tonne (the apparent EU price), and then multiplied that by Australia’s total emissions (560 million tonnes).

    Obviously that is not how emissions trading works.

    Liable parties have to buy emissions to get under their assigned permitted level. Maybe their permits will allow them to emit 99% of their current emissions in the first year. So the cost will be
    1% of their emissions * the cost per tonne of abatement.

    The article states the price of 100% offsetting Australia’s emissions.

  2. #2 Justin Wood
    April 24, 2008

    > Obviously that is not how emissions trading works.

    > Liable parties have to buy emissions to get under their assigned permitted level. Maybe their permits will allow them to emit 99% of their current emissions in the first year. So the cost will be 1% of their emissions * the cost per tonne of abatement.

    Actually, in any given year firms do have to surrender permits that cover 100% of their emissions. And remember the ETS covers the permit to emit; while the permit price logically tracks marginal abatement costs, it’s not exactly the same thing. The only way your description would work Steve (as far as I can see..) is if permits were granted for free. But as Garnaut has pointed out in the ETS discussion paper, the end result on prices is the same because businesses simply pass on the opportunity cost of not selling such permits on the open market.

    I’m not arguing that Dr Dirkis is right in terms of the values he cites necessarily, but I think he is essentially correct in assigning costs to 100% of emissions. That is, to applicable sectors; initially that will not be all sources anyway.

    In any case, while those numbers sound big, how significant are they in terms of the overall economy? And then there’s the usually ignored very real costs that GHG emissions represent (externalities).

  3. #3 davidp
    April 24, 2008

    Do you have a URL for David Karoly’s more detailed response quoted above ?

  4. #4 Hank Roberts
    April 24, 2008

    I haven’t found one conclusive list of sunspot cycle lengths, and I think this is because they overlap and there’s considerable uncertainty about the overlap period.

    One example:
    http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2006/15aug_backwards.htm

    There are sites that have very definitive statements about the exact length, apparently — I’ve seen lists claimed to be such in blog posts claiming to refute warming.

    But those so-definite lists that I’ve seen ignore the overlap periods. I haven’t found anything definitive on science sites, perhaps because the scientists don’t know exactly.

    Nothing wrong with not knowing exactly. Nature does that.

  5. #5 dhogaza
    April 24, 2008

    I’m not arguing that Dr Dirkis is right in terms of the values he cites necessarily, but I think he is essentially correct in assigning costs to 100% of emissions.

    Many countries have stopped treating rivers as open public sewers where business can dump their crap free of charge (if at all).

    Why should the atmosphere be any different?

  6. #6 kent
    April 24, 2008

    The sunspot numbers are not daily numbers they are numbers for the month. cycle 23 is slowly comeing to an end. El Nino gave us the 1998 high and La Nina gave us the 2007 drop. Seems like the two have much more effect than CO2.
    With regards to the two events we are not sure of what drives them.
    We are just comming out of a thirty year warming period and are starting to enter a thirty year cool period.
    Lets hope the La Nina effect increases food production in Australia.

  7. #7 dhogaza
    April 24, 2008

    El Nino gave us the 1998 high and La Nina gave us the 2007 drop. Seems like the two have much more effect than CO2

    This is wrong. ENSO adds a lot of VARIABILITY which adds noisiness to the warming signal that comes from CO2 forcing.

    However, the 1998 El Niño was very strong, giving us the warmest year on record to that point.

    While the continuous crowing by the denialsphere over the difference between a very warm Jan 2007 vs. a cooler Jan 2008 appears to cause many to be unaware that this La Niña period is warmer than the last such La Niña of comparable strength.

    We are just comming out of a thirty year warming period and are starting to enter a thirty year cool period.

    And this is just absolute bullshit. There are plenty of people who will accept a bet that you’re wrong, though, if you’re really convinced. Check out the longbets site.

    Apparently you’re unaware that the trend since Jan 2008 likewise proves that the earth will be too hot for life in just a few decades, too … (sarcasm off).

  8. #8 bi -- Intl. J. Inact.
    April 24, 2008

    cycle 23 is slowly comeing to an end.

    Eh, solar cycle 24 already started … in January. I’d have thought that with the efficiency of the inactivists’ mindless regurgitation network, they’d have updated their talking points long ago.

  9. #9 Robert
    April 24, 2008

    bi wrote:

    cycle 23 is slowly comeing to an end.

    Eh, solar cycle 24 already started … in January.

    Solar cycles can overlap. 24 has begun, but it is correct to say that 23 is slowing coming to an end.

  10. #10 Phoca
    April 24, 2008

    El Nino gave us the 1998 high and La Nina gave us the 2007 drop. Seems like the two have much more effect than CO2. With regards to the two events we are not sure of what drives them. We are just comming out of a thirty year warming period and are starting to enter a thirty year cool period. Lets hope the La Nina effect increases food production in Australia.

    You’re not making any sense here. El Nino and La Nina redistribute temperature across the surface and ocean depths of the Earth, they do not create or destroy heat. El Nino brings relatively warm water from the Western Pacific and spreads it across the surface of the Central and Eastern Pacific while La Nina brings cooler water from the depths of the Central and Eastern Pacfic to the surface. The total amount of heat remains the same, it’s only because we generally measure surface temperatures that we see a major difference. That’s not the total picture, but it describes it in a nutshell.

  11. #11 James Wimberley
    April 24, 2008

    Can we please spell correctly, even The Australian: it’s El Niño (neen-yo) not El Nino (neen-oh), La Niña (neen-ya) not La Nina (neen-ah). I’m not a linguistic fundamentalist – I say Lisbon not Lisboa, but if you use Lisboa because that’s the way the locals put it, you have to try to pronounce it right.

  12. #12 James Wimberley
    April 24, 2008

    PS: Apologies to dhogaza who got it right.

  13. #13 luminous beauty
    April 24, 2008

    James,

    Not everyone knows how to produce a tilde, Señor. In OS X it’s (option + n).

  14. #14 kent
    April 24, 2008

    La Nina (english spelling) is not yet over so it is speculation to say that it is warmer. Just to give you warmists more to deny, what is happening off the coast of PERU?
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/240685/smart_car_vs_ferrari/
    The cold upwelling started about 2 weeks ago start from April 3 and watch the progression.
    Nutshell? not really. What causes this cold water to upwell? El Nino is probably caused by a lack of upwelling. What is cooling off the bottom water? Do you think it has anything to do with the cooling effect of polar freeze up?

  15. #15 Boris
    April 24, 2008

    Can we please spell correctly, even The Australian: it’s El Niño (neen-yo) not El Nino (neen-oh), La Niña (neen-ya) not La Nina (neen-ah).

    Can we please not use a comma splice?

  16. #16 Harold Pierce Jr
    April 24, 2008

    RE: The PDO, The 800 Pound Pacific Climate Gorilla.

    What’s the current state of PDO? Is it shifting to a hot or cool phase? Or is it just spinning its wheels in neutral?

  17. #17 dhogaza
    April 24, 2008

    La Nina (english spelling) is not yet over so it is speculation to say that it is warmer.

    More bullshit. La Niña (proper spelling) is weakening.

  18. #18 Harold Pierce Jr
    April 24, 2008

    ATTN: dhogaza

    Clean up your mouth, young man, or I wash it out with a double scrubbing of Grandma’s Lye Soap!

    La Nina typical weakens at this time of the year due to NH entering summer, but it could regain strenght in late fall and early winter as the NH tips away from the sun and enters winter.

    Go check Klaus Wolter’s really nice MEI chart at:

    http://www.cdc.noaa.gov/people/klaus_wolter/MEI/

  19. #19 kent
    April 24, 2008

    Sorry about the wrong address here is where you see what is off the coast of Peru. Looks like a 2 degree anomaly http://www.osdpd.noaa.gov/PSB/EPS/SST/climo.html

    I agree that the current La Nina is weakening butwe are almost into May.

  20. #20 dhogaza
    April 24, 2008

    Clean up your mouth, young man, or I wash it out with a double scrubbing of Grandma’s Lye Soap!

    It’s not your blog.

  21. #21 bi -- Intl. J. Inact.
    April 24, 2008

    Robert:

    Solar cycles can overlap. 24 has begun, but it is correct to say that 23 is slowing coming to an end.

    Hmm… I stand corrected.

    Anyway, at this point, the inactivists are just hoping for some sort of miraculous divine intervention that’ll bring on a “global cooling” trend.

    No ice age yet, but it’s winter (metaphorically) for the inactivists.

  22. #22 Chris O'Neill
    April 24, 2008

    Harold:

    La Nina (english spelling) is not yet over so it is speculation to say that it is warmer.

    This and this are not speculation.

    What causes this cold water to upwell? El Nino is probably caused by a lack of upwelling. What is cooling off the bottom water? Do you think it has anything to do with the cooling effect of polar freeze up?

    Now THAT’s speculation.

  23. #23 Heretic
    April 25, 2008

    Any link yet for Karoly’s article?

  24. #24 Amaranthus
    April 25, 2008

    Karoly’s article is here: http://www.aussmc.org/ScienceBlog.php

  25. #25 Tim Lambert
    April 25, 2008

    Karoly emailed the article to me.

  26. #26 Phoca
    April 25, 2008

    What causes this cold water to upwell? El Nino is probably caused by a lack of upwelling. What is cooling off the bottom water?

    You can learn a lot more about El Niño (thanks for the reminder on the tilde, Wimberley) here:

    http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/tao/elnino/el-nino-story.html

    Check the comparison between Sea Surface Temperatures (SSTs) in El Niño years and La Niña years.

    You can also learn more about upwelling here:

    http://ww2010.atmos.uiuc.edu/(Gh)/guides/mtr/eln/upw.rxml

    Note that cessation of upwelling in El Niño years is almost certainly an effect rather than a cause of El Niño – the since you can detect El Niño (think of the Kelvin wave – won’t anyone think of the Kelvin wave!) before the upwelling is shut down, that would make the cause after the effect, which is possible in some epistemologies, but not the more commonly accepted ones.

    Nothing is really cooling off the bottom water – cooler water is more dense, so it sinks. It is cooled before it reaches the bottom, usually by currents bringing it to colder latitudes such as the Norwegian Sea or Weddell Sea. The average temperature of bottom waters deeper than 2 miles is around 4°C.

  27. #27 kent
    April 25, 2008

    Chris;
    There is a difference between world wide temperatures / anomalies and current sea surface temperatures.

    Phoca; Will look into the site you provided but I do find it hard to believe that the upwelling is prevented by the warming of the surface sea temp. The upwelling would mix and cool the warming sea surface. If however the upwelling slowed down, the sea surface would tend to warm.
    So much of the theory makes little sense to me. I feel that the upwelling a result of hydrolic pressure not wind. Where does this hydrolic pressure come from?? Cold water at the poles sinking.

  28. #28 Chris O'Neill
    April 25, 2008

    There is a difference between world wide temperatures / anomalies and current sea surface temperatures.

    Considering that the correlation between world wide temperatures / anomalies and worldwide sea surface temperatures over the last 128 years is 0.93, I’d say the difference is not particularly significant.

  29. #29 Phoca
    April 25, 2008

    I do find it hard to believe that the upwelling is prevented by the warming of the surface sea temp.

    I find Quantum Physics hard to believe but I don’t go around telling physicists how I think it works.

    The upwelling would mix and cool the warming sea surface. If however the upwelling slowed down, the sea surface would tend to warm. So much of the theory makes little sense to me. I feel that the upwelling a result of hydrolic pressure not wind.

    I don’t really know why feelings come into it. Ekman didn’t introduce feelings when he developed the concept of Ekman transport, nor do oceanographers’ feelings enter into it when they observe its effects.

    You can do the math yourself if you like from data available here:
    http://www.pfeg.noaa.gov/products/PFEL/modeled/indices/transports/transports.html

    Where does this hydrolic pressure come from?? Cold water at the poles sinking.

    You can find out more about global deep water circulation here:

    http://www.pik-potsdam.de/~stefan/thc_fact_sheet.html

    The big drivers of thermohaline circulation are heat and density. If you want to consider the heat and density factors that control hydraulic pressure, then it’s the same thing by another name. The important thing to realize is that loss of heat from waters in cold latitudes causes most of the downwelling and gain of heat in warm latitudes as well as wind action causes most of the upwelling. But the upwelling is extremely dependent on wind in the Central and Eastern Pacific. Think about it: warm water will not sink under cold water because cold water is more dense. We observe that when the winds are strong, the upwelling of cold water is also strong (a prediction of Ekman’s mathematics) – we also observe that when the winds weaken, upwelling is weak. If cold water only rose because cold water was sinking elsewhere, the wind would be irrelevent.

  30. #30 Phoca
    April 25, 2008

    The 2nd web address has underscores in it. Try copying and pasting:

    http://www.pik-potsdam.de/~stefan/thc_fact_sheet.html

  31. #31 mr_ed
    April 27, 2008

    -> Hank Roberts
    > I haven’t found one conclusive list of sunspot cycle lengths, and I think this is because they overlap and there’s considerable uncertainty about the overlap period.

    I don’t know how certain they are, but NOAA’s people at the National Geophysical Data Center provide this:

    ftp://ftp.ngdc.noaa.gov/STP/SOLAR_DATA/SUNSPOT_NUMBERS/maxmin.new

    (The link doesn’t display correctly, but it should work okay when clicked)

    -> Kent
    > The sunspot numbers are not daily numbers….

    For daily, monthly, and annual numbers:

    http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/stp/SOLAR/ftpsunspotnumber.html

  32. #32 Dr Duck
    April 28, 2008

    David Karoly appears to misunderstand Chapman’s argument about sunspots.

    Chapman is claiming that there is a relationship between global temperature and the length of the sunspot cycle. The new cycle (24) is indicated by the appearance of sunspots that are of opposite polarity to old cycle sunspots. Both old and new cycle sunspots can occur at the same time, but as the new cycle is established spots with the new polarity dominate.

    In addition to any effect of the magnitude of the sun’s activity as measured by sunspots, which Karoly addresses, Chapman’s main argument is that longer cycles are associated with cooling events such as the Dalton Minimum. He is making the point that new cycle sunspots have just started to appear, and that as yet they are few in number and fleeting. On April 14 and 15 sunspot 990 was a tiny speck but was definitely a cycle 24 (new cycle) spot. The only previous cycle 24 spot was in January. We don’t yet know for sure when the current minimum will bottom out because there needs to be enough data available for the smoothed sunspot number to be calculated (it’s a running average), so we will know some months after it happens. However, the new cycle is somewhat later than was expected, with many projections predicting that it should have occurred around the end of 2006.

    To be fair, the argument about impact of the length of the cycle on temperature is not as clearly put in Chapman’s piece as it could be, perhaps as a result of editing by someone who does not understand the material.

    There is a fair bit of commentary and argument out there around this, but I don’t have time right now to provide links.

    However, I thought it would be useful to point out some of Karoly’s commentary is at cross purposes with Chapman’s argument.

  33. #33 Chris O'Neill
    April 29, 2008

    David Karoly appears to misunderstand Chapman’s argument about sunspots.

    It would probably make it a lot easier to understand Chapman’s argument, assuming he had one that made sense, if he could leave out the factual errors, i.e.:

    Chapman: “The first sunspot appeared in January this year and lasted only two days. A tiny spot appeared last Monday but vanished within 24 hours. Another little spot appeared this Monday.”

    Karoly points out: “I don’t know where these sunspot numbers came from but they are in error. The best source of data for present sunspot numbers is the World Data Centre for Solar Terrestrial Physics at the National Geophysical Data Centre in Boulder, Colorado. According to it, the average number of sunspots a day last January was 3.4, followed by 2.1 in February and 9.3 in March. The minimum was in October2007.”

    In any case, the low temperature in January had very, very little to do with sunspots and far, far more to do with La Niña, in spite of any of Chapman’s suggestions.

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