IPCC use of non-peer reviewed material?

This is my first contribution for "Ask Stoat", and I'm doing it because it is low hanging fruit :-). I was going to do the even lower-hanging "airbourne fraction" but that will come. This is for Brian.

So, the issue is in the news because of the 2350 / 2035 kerfuffle, and links to Brian's other question, "What do you think of WG II?" I'll answer that one first, because I can think of a cutting answer, which is "I don't". Oh, cruel. But true: when I was in the game, I was interested in WG I stuff, which is to say, the physical basis. Someone has to be interested in impacts and adaption, of course: but not me.

As I wrote off in Planet 3.0 recently,

Everyone knows that the WGII and WGIII reports are nowhere near as good as WGI. In fact, taking this further, everyone knows that releasing the WGI, II and III reports at the same time is silly. WGI is supposed to provide the physical science, which should be an input into the other reports. But II and III don't want to miss the limelight and get released a year later, as they should be.

That is a touch over-harsh, but only a touch. WG I would never have made the mistake WG II made over this 2350 / 2035 stuff, for two reasons. Firstly, they are subject to line-by-line scrutiny because people actually *care*. And second they just do a better job with better people. The only even vaguely comparable issue I can think of is fig 7.1.c in IPCC '90, and the skeptics rather dislike drawing the obvious moral over that. Before you mistake me, I'm not saying that WG II is rubbish, or valueless: not at all. It's just not as good as WG I.

[RG in comment 8 has valuable things to say about the variation in quality within WG II; I think he has said enough to convince me that I'm being unfair tarring the whole report with the same brush -W]

So what about the use of non-P-R material? This seems to have been one of those things that everyone knows that turns out to be false. The IPCC *is* allowed to use non-P-R literature. perhaps it shouldn't be; I don't much care, as long as the literature is of good quality. But the WWF report should not have been used. The (fairly full) version of the story as I understand it is at [[Criticism of the IPCC AR4#Projected date of melting of Himalayan glaciers.3B use of 2035 in place of 2350]] (that is an oldid so won't change; I've done that in case some wazzock breaks it, you never know with wiki; be sure to check the current version too). However, the reason the WWF report should not have been used is because its not very good, not because it isn't P-R. The "original" source, which has the 2350 claim in it, is an ICSI report. that would probably count as good enough by the std "P-R rules", and no-one would have raised an eyebrow. However, what no-one else has pointed out (as far as I can see) is that the 2350 claim in there is trash - it is based on wildly unreliable extrapolation and has no value at all.

Let's have a look at that, shall we?

The degradation of the extrapolar glaciation of the Earth will be apparent in rising ocean level already by the year 2050, and there will be a drastic rise of the ocean thereafter caused by the deglaciation-derived runoff (see Table 11 ). This period will last from 200 to 300 years. The extrapolar glaciation of the Earth will be decaying at rapid, catastrophic rates-- its total area will shrink from 500,000 to 100,000 km² by the year 2350. Glaciers will survive only in the mountains of inner Alaska, on some Arctic archipelagos, within Patagonian ice sheets, in the Karakoram Mountains, in the Himalayas, in some regions of Tibet and on the highest mountain peaks in the temperature latitudes.

But that is from the summary about GW impacts at the end of the ICSI report. The source for 2350 there appears to be earlier at:

Taking air temperature records of the Tien Shari Weather Station and assuming that the same linear trend is to keep up (unfortunately, linear extrapolation is inevitable here), we may find that the mean annual temperature in Central Asia may go up 1.5° C by the year 2350. Proceeding from these rough estimates, in Tables 10, and 11 we have derived figures for glaciation shrinkage DS, changes in the specific glacier melt runoff Rd and the volume of this runoff QRd, as well as for the overall rise of the ocean level Z SL. These data apply to Central Asian glaciers and all of the extrapolar glaciation of the Earth.

Which is why I say it is trash: extrapolating trend form one weather station to 2350 is clearly an utter waste of time and completely invalid. Incidentally, I've no idea where table 11 is.

However, whilst use of non-P-R stuff is clearly within the rules, this seems to have surprised lots of people, including IPCC authors. So clearly the culture is to use P-R. Clearly the IPCC is embarassed:

It has, however, recently come to our attention that a paragraph in the 938-page Working Group II contribution to the underlying assessment2 refers to poorly substantiated estimates of rate of recession and date for the disappearance of Himalayan glaciers. In drafting the paragraph in question, the clear and well-established standards of evidence, required by the IPCC procedures, were not applied properly.

Notice that they aren't, formally speaking, apologising for using non-P-R and I think that is correct: that isn't the problem: the problem is that they used a low-quality source, and they shouldn't have.

Tim Lambert has some more on the issue, including a link to John Nielsen-Gammon who says, correctly:

The article calls the statement that glaciers would disappear from the Himalayas by 2035 a "central claim". As I noted in my analysis of the error, it was not a central claim of the IPCC report; it was not mentioned in the chapter summary, let alone the summary for policymakers. However, it has gained much more emphasis since the IPCC report was published.

Other people may also have said useful things. But I am far far behind on my blog reading.

But I'm rambling now. Brian pushes his luck and asks, "why does the stratosphere cool under global warming?" This is an issue that confuses many many people. If you want to watch a climate person squirm, try asking them to explain this. but not me: as it happens, I answered that years ago (tsk, Brian, where is your due diligence :-). However, I am uneasily aware that Gavin doesn't believe my (well, actually it is Howard Roscoe's) explanation, and I'm also aware that though my theory and code does produce a cooling when run through my model, the cooling doesn't look big enough. You might be better off at RealClimate. Though now I look it seems to have caused *them* (what do I mean, them? I was one of them, then) some trouble too: their first go carries the disclaimer "This post is obsolete and wrong in many respects". I'm not sure the explanation that they end up linking to is any better than mine. So I'm sticking with mine.

[Update: on the strat stuff, Eli points me to his Stratospheric cooling rears its ugly head.... which sort-of agrees I'm right, but also contains some info on the strongly related question of "was it the ozone or the GHG's?". CIP also weighted in but not, I think, usefully -W]

More like this

Newspapers such as the London Times are reporting that the IPCC is about to retract something from the AR4 WG2 report: A central claim was the world's glaciers were melting so fast that those in the Himalayas could vanish by 2035. The claim was indeed wrong. John Nielsen-Gammon has written a…
It am all de rage, as they say. But is it any good? And who are the IAC anyway? Go on, hands up, before they were asked to do this: had anyone heard of them? Thought not: I certainly hadn't. This is an organisation so well-known that the wikipedia article on [[IAC]] (note: that is today's version;…
The revelation that at least one group of authors working for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change would rely on grey literature or even popular media sources for their reporting could end up being a real blow to the Nobel prize-winning organization. If you haven't heard by now, a section…
The Indian government seems to be making a minor speciality in boosting voodoo science, presumably caring less for their reputations and more for fighting off any restrictions on coal burning. Or it may be all a matter of tedious internal politics and corruption, who knows. This springs again from…

Well, "New Scientist" has been promoted to a "science journal"
in the news coverage of this stuff:


"A little-known scientist Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, Syed Husnain who first issued the doomsday warning, has admitted that it was based on a news story in a science journal.

Pachauri, however, washed his hands off the report saying Husnain was not working with him but in the New Delhi-based Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) when he published it

"Husnain was with JNU when the report was published in 1999. I am not responsible for what he did in his past, can't say anything now. Have to assess facts first," Pachauri replied when asked if the misleading report was an embarrassment for The Energy and Resources Institute.....

And the victims come forward for vengeance:


Censorship threatens truth on climate
23 Dec 2009, 0200 hrs IST, Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar, ET Bureau

Censorship is always imposed in the supposed public interest, to protect people from being corrupted by errant views. In fact it is a device for the powerful to silence dissenters and manufacture an artificial truth.

Patrick Michaels, a member of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has accused the climate establishment of trying to manufacture a consensus in peer-reviewed academic journals by censoring or squeezing out dissenters. He should know he is a victim. ..."


"EU taxpayers are funding research into a scientific claim about glaciers that any ice researcher should immediately recognise as bogus....
... The cash was acknowledged by TERI in a press release, issued on January 15, just before the glacier scandal became public, in which Pachauri repeated the claims of imminent glacial melt.

It said: ""According to predictions of scientific merit they may indeed melt away in several decades."

The same release also quoted Dr Syed Hasnain, the glaciologist who, back in 1999, made the now discredited claim that Himalayan glaciers would be gone by 2035.

He now heads Pachauri's glaciology unit at TERI which sought the grants and which is carrying out the glacier research.

Critics point out that Hasnain, of all people, should have known the claim that the Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2035 was bogus because he was meant to be a leading glaciologist specialising in the Himalayas.

Any suggestion that TERI has repeated an unchecked scientific claim without checking it, in order to win grants, could prove hugely embarrassing for Pachauri and the IPCC.

The second grant, from the EU, totalled £2.5m and was designed to "to assess the impact of Himalayan glaciers retreat".

It was part of the EU's HighNoon project, launched last May to fund research into how India might adapt to loss of glaciers.

In one presentation at last May's launch, Anastasios Kentarchos, of the European Commission's Climate Change and Environmental Risks Unit, specifically cited the bogus IPCC claims about glacier melt as a reason for pouring EU taxpayers' money into the project.

Pachauri spoke at the same presentation and Hasnain is understood to have been present in the audience...."

And then there's this misunderstanding


"... For 1970-2005, however, he found a 2% annual increase which "corresponded with a period of rising global temperatures,"...

Muir-Wood was, however, careful to point out that almost all this increase could be accounted for by the exceptionally strong hurricane seasons in 2004 and 2005. There were also other more technical factors that could cause bias, such as exchange rates which meant that disasters hitting the US would appear to cost proportionately more in insurance payouts.

Despite such caveats, the IPCC report used the study in its section on disasters and hazards, but cited only the 1970-2005 results.

The IPCC report said: "Once the data were normalised, a small statistically significant trend was found for an increase in annual catastrophe loss since 1970 of 2% a year." It added: "Once losses are normalised for exposure, there still remains an underlying rising trend."

Muir-Wood's paper was originally commissioned by Roger Pielke, professor of environmental studies at Colorado University, also an expert on disaster impacts, for a workshop on disaster losses in 2006. The researchers who attended that workshop published a statement agreeing that so far there was no evidence to link global warming with any increase in the severity or frequency of disasters. Pielke has also told the IPCC that citing one section of Muir-Wood's paper in preference to the rest of his work, and all the other peer-reviewed literature, was wrong. ..."

Another bogus claim is that the bogus Chapter 10 claims were buried away in the middle of an unimportant corner of the WG2 reports. In fact the transparently bogus (and contradictory) claim that Himalayan glaciers 'will likely shrink from the present 500,000 to 100,000 km2 by the year 2035' featured in the AR4 WG2 Technical Summary: 'If current warming rates are maintained, Himalayan glaciers could decay at very rapid rates, shrinking from the present 500,000 km2 to 100,000 km2 by the 2030s.'

[It is in the AR2 technical summary http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg2/en/tssts-4-2.html but it isn't in the AR2 policymakers summary, or in the chapter 10 summary. If you're trying to demonstrate that it was prominently displayed, you'll need to try harder -W]

By the way, I haven't seen this mentioned anywhere yet:


[I'm not surprised, it looks pretty weird. UNder "causes of glacial change it has "Others attribute the cause to pollution: A Times of India headline declared..." - this is supposed to be a scientific report? And it is quoting newspapers? -W]

By Vinny Burgoo (not verified) on 21 Jan 2010 #permalink

Maybe rather off-topic but why does the stratosphere get warmer at higher altitudes if the ozone layer is more towards the bottom of the stratosphere?

[If you're meaasuring "ozone layer" by amount of ozone, rather than fraction of ozone, that is part of the answer. and another part is likely that the higher up ozone gets first dibs at the UV -W]

My OU S199 reference (so probably not the best sort of reference) seems to indicate the tropopause varies from about 11km at poles to 20km at equator.

[20 km sounds weird -W]

Your old blog post says
>"The stratosphere comes next, temperatures *increase* with height (the temp min defines the interface, called the tropopause) until the mid-strat, then declines again to - I think - the stratopause."

Hmm. My reference indicates that the Stratosphere temperature increases with height from -57C to 0C (annual average at mid latitudes) at the stratopause (approx 50km high) then temperature decreases with height to about -90C in the mesosphere up to the mesopause (approx 80km high). Then temperature increases with height in the thermosphere.

Also "[in stratosphere] there is virtually no convection" and "The warming in the higher layers of the stratosphere is caused by the absorbtion of UV radiation by the ozone layer. Most of the ozone is concentrated between 20 and 30Km altitude."

Are those sentences as contradictory as they at first appear? The high energy from UV may need to disperse a bit before you get CO2 radiation but I don't really see where that gets me.

[I don't see what you tink is contradictory -W]

The explanation seems much more in accord with how you say the temperatures change.

seems more in accord with my refs version.

[Does http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stratosphere help? -W]

Let me recast Brian's question. Did people predict stratospheric cooling using physical reasoning, or is it something that just kept popping out of the model results, leaving people scrambling to pin down why the model was doing that?

[I can't find a ref, and I doubt I've ever seen one, but my best guess would be that people predicted this long before it was modelled -W]

I'm a little disquieted over WG 2 and 3. I've barely ever looked at them; they aren't my interest. I hope this incident is atypical.

By carrot eater (not verified) on 21 Jan 2010 #permalink

William and Eli scrapped over this many years ago. It turns out there are two effects cooling the stratosphere. The first is ozone depletion and it is the major part of the puzzle at lower altitudes in the strat, near the ozone layer (bfs).

The second is the CO2 driven cooling which goes something like this. The emission to the stratosphere in the CO2 bands comes from the skin layer, which is high in the troposphere. As the concentration of CO2 increases, the skin layer moves up, and the temperature at which the skin layer emits becomes colder (e.g. there is less emission which can be absorbed by the CO2 in the stratosphere, so less energy is absorbed.

The emission of CO2 in the stratosphere is controlled by the local temperature, which is a function of both the ozone absorption of UV light and the amount of IR radiation from the troposphere that can be captured by the CO2 (there is little convection in the stratosphere, and since it is bone dry, very little transport of latent heat). The net is that the stratosphere cools if CO2 increases

Eli: I can accept how you explain it here. But I have some trouble with the additional statement on your page, that having the extra CO2 in the stratosphere makes it easier for the stratosphere to emit radiation.

[That is disappointing, because that is exactly my explanation too:

* once you get high enough that the air is radiatively thin, adding more radiative mass to a layer increases its ability to radiate (as well as its ability to absorb).
* if the heat source for that layer is radiation of a different wavelength to that which your addition can absorb (viz, UV) then adding the extra doesn't increase the heat in, but does increase the heat out
* so it cools


While that may be true, is it relevant? If the stratosphere is at steady state, the radiation absorbed (IR coming from below and UV coming from above) is equal to the radiation emitted. So if the absorption of radiation in the stratosphere is decreased because of the shenanigans of the tropospheric CO2, and also the decrease in stratospheric O3, then the total emission will also decrease. So having extra CO2 around gives you extra emitters, but you don't need them. So they're not relevant.


By carrot eater (not verified) on 21 Jan 2010 #permalink

For a molecule to emit it must first be vibrationally excited by collision. The probability of one molecule doing so is determined by the vibrational energy, the temperature of the surroundings and, of course, if the molecule can emit

N2 can be vibrationally excited by collision, although the probability is low because the vibrational energy is large compared to atmospheric thermal energy, but it cannot emit in the IR. For CO2 the bending vibration is only three or four times the average thermal energy even in the stratosphere, and the molecule can emit in the IR.

The total emission is the probability of any one molecule emitting multiplied by the number of such molecules. Sorry for being so dry, but Eli is weary. Too much carrot juice.

"IPCC procedures, were not applied properly." One procedure they could drop is calling those who accurately point out errors voodoo scientists.

[{{cn}} -W]

The WGII "not as good as" WGI can be unpacked a bit. WGII in AR4 had global impacts, adaptation and vulnerability papers up front, regional chapters in the middle and thematic issue chapters at the end. The front and end chapters have an international author list, the regional chapters have regional authors. Some regions have authors who are more experienced than others. The early chapters and some of the regional chapters have applied as high standards as in WGI. The regional and final chapters will be reliant more on reportage (say for adaptation) and social sciences, which have different burdens of proof and a fair amount of contestability. Some of the subjects in the final chapters e.g., adaptation and mitigation relationships, were very exploratory. Rigour in the social and physical sciences are applied differently (but can learn from each other)
There are lessons to be learnt from this error.
1. The same standards should be used for quantification of biophysical assessments throughout the report. Primary references only for original data
2. The regional chapters when reporting such information should be seeing that it is consistent with the sectoral chapters by working with those authors e.g., water, ecology, ice agriculture etc.
3. Grey literature can continue to be used (e.g. policy documents etc) but their context needs to be better understood. For example, externally refereed reports are generally of fairly good quality. The IPCC also produces its own grey literature (e.g., papers before and after expert meetings.)

By Roger Jones (not verified) on 21 Jan 2010 #permalink

Well, the question that immediately surfaced in my mind about this issue was "Where were the IPCC 'expert' reviewers when they were needed? You know, the people like Courtenay, Monckton, Gray, ..."

[Yeeeessss... well, they only do the "sexy" bits -W]

"but my best guess would be that people predicted this long before it was modelled"

I started to take a look. On paging through Manabe and Moeller, 1961, some hints pop up. They cite Gowan (1947), Moeller (1943), Dobson (1946), Goody (1949) and probably Ohring (1957) as having included CO2 in attempts to understand the temperature profile through the troposphere and stratosphere (as well as over latitude). Several of these papers were contradictory to each other; it was early days, but they're all considering the balance between radiative warming and radiative cooling in the stratosphere. The authors note, "The importance of the 15 um band of carbon dioxide as a cooling effect in the stratosphere has already been emphasized by London et al. [35] and Ohring [48]."

I don't know if any of those guys in the 1940s explicitly asked the question "what happens in the stratosphere if you increase CO2?", but if they had asked that question, at least some of them would have gotten it right. Manabe (1961) itself shows tropospheric warming and stratospheric cooling for increased humidity, at least, if not increased CO2 (if I understand the figure, at least).

So the answer to "Who first predicted strat cooling, and how did they do it" is probably in there somewhere.

By carrot eater (not verified) on 22 Jan 2010 #permalink

I understand what WMC and Eli are saying, but let me try my objection a different way.

Suppose CO2 was well-mixed within the stratosphere and within the troposphere, but there was some magical barrier preventing mixing between those two layers.

Suppose the concentration in the stratosphere were unchanged, but the concentration throughout the troposphere were increased. I posit that the stratosphere would still cool. By how much, in comparison to the fully-mixed case? Er.. Modtran doesn't let me play that game, but that's really what I'm after.

[I think the strat would not cool. Probably it would warm -W]

By carrot eater (not verified) on 22 Jan 2010 #permalink

On the history of "predict[ing] stratospheric cooling using physical reasoning, or is it something that just kept popping out of the model results", examination of Manabe and Wetherald (1975) 'The effect of doubling the CO2 concentration on the climate of a general circulation model', J. Atmos. Sci., 32, 3-15" may turn something up, because the UKMO say that that model "produc[ed] many of the features seen in current models â stratospheric cooling, enhanced warming at high latitudes and an enhanced water cycle."

P. Lewis:

From that 1975 paper, "large cooling occurs in the model stratosphere. This is caused by the increase in the emission from the stratosphere to space resulting from the increase in the concentration of CO2. Since the total amount of CO2 above a given level decreases with increasing altitude, the absorption of the emission from above also decreases correspondingly."

(The latter point addresses variation within the stratosphere itself)

Is there anybody who has been working on climate for longer than Manabe? They say their 1967 paper shows something similar, but as above, I think some people in the 1940/1950s would have gotten the right answer, if they had tried to answer the question.

By carrot eater (not verified) on 22 Jan 2010 #permalink

Re the 1967 paper. There's an essay here on "Manabe, Syukuro and Wetherald (1967) 'Thermal equilibrium of the atmosphere with a given distribution of relative humidity' J. Atmos. Sci. 24, 241-259" in which it says:

... Manabe and Wetherald presented a radiative-convective model of the atmosphere with a given distribution of relative humidity in order to investigate the important issue of climate sensitivity.
They also pointed out that the stratosphere would be expected to cool with increasing concentrations of CO2.

P. Lewis: I'm glad I'm not the only one interested in this question. Apologies to everybody else.

I think this shows us that my original question was ill-posed. Physical insight and modeling proceeded together, hand-in-hand.

By carrot eater (not verified) on 22 Jan 2010 #permalink

I don't know what happened there. There was a bit missing (and an inadvertent inconsequential error).

The error first: "Manabe, Syukuro and Wetherald" should have read "Manabe and Wetherald". Doh!

The missing bit: The actual Manabe and Wetherald 1967 paper can be found here.

RE #7 (William): here's your citation:


But surely you already knew that.

[Oh, I've seen that. But that isn't a report pointing out the IPCC's errors: that is indeed a rather poor Indian report; see http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2009/11/india_arrogant_to_deny_global.php . RKP's words are, in retrospect, rather poorly chosen (did he really say "voodoo science"? I'm not sure I trust NS as a source for that. The report is poor, but not voodoo), but the {{cn} remains -W]

By Jonathan Baxter (not verified) on 22 Jan 2010 #permalink

RE #17 (William): you're just being pedantic. NS reported the "voodoo science" quote. That's a good enough citation pretty much anywhere else on wiki.

[No, you're missing the point. That quote is about the Indian report; it is *not* RKP accusing the people that found the error -W]

By Jonathan Baxter (not verified) on 22 Jan 2010 #permalink

William, perhaps Jonathan is confused about what "voodoo science" described because when Paul Kelly stated the mistake above, your reply was, er, terse?

The error above, Posted by: Paul Kelly
> calling those who accurately point out errors voodoo
> scientists.
The reply: [{{cn}} -W]
Google Result-- about 1,420,000,000 for {{cn}}

((cn))? Obviously a popular term, but what does it mean?

"Citation needed"

The point is that WC has two points:

1) that Pachauri calling the Indian report, which was indeed not very good, "voodoo science", was perhaps a little over the top, and
2) that this was not the report that identified the 2035-2350 error. That was Graham Cogley (who bothered to go the extra mile; pretty much all of glaciology knew there was some fishiness here, but not its pedigree).

It's the second point that is the real point.

By Martin Vermeer (not verified) on 22 Jan 2010 #permalink

cn - citation needed.

{{}} - wiki geekspeak (note curly braces - always a clue. also double square brackets: [[]])

By Jonathan Baxter (not verified) on 22 Jan 2010 #permalink

I don't buy it William.

The other thing Pachauri said (according to NS) was:

"we have a very clear idea of what is happening [in the Himalayas]."

Sounds to me like he is going into bat for the false IPCC claims.

[Oh, I don't think RKP has covered himself in glory over this - he has clearly said some regrettable things. He is, however, entirely correct to say "we have a very clear idea of what is happening [in the Himalayas]" - that is present tense. We have a passable idea of what might happen in the future; but the WG II report section whatever is wrong about it :-) -W]

By Jonathan Baxter (not verified) on 22 Jan 2010 #permalink

"Sounds to me like he is going into bat for the false IPCC claims. "

Given that WG1 and the controversial paragraph in WG2 are inconsistent with each other, one requires extra context to know what he was talking about.

Did the Indian report specifically quote any part of the IPCC report? It could have been strange in itself, yet still show recognition of the oddity in WG2.

[The bizarre hing about the Indian report, as I recall, is that it pretty well ignores the IPCC report. But that, I think, was pure politics. See my blogging of it -W]

By carrot eater (not verified) on 22 Jan 2010 #permalink

Astronomers like to think in terms of opacities of matter to the transmission of light. Our standard formula is

Flux = (4ac/3 kappa rho)* T^3 * dT/dr

where kappa is the opacity, rho is the density, a is the radiation constant. If the flux to be carried out is fixed (equal to the incoming solar flux) then if the opacity *increases* (extra absorption) then the temperature gradient must necessarily *increase*.

In other words, hotter in the lower atmosphere, cooler in the upper atmosphere.

Is there some reason why this doesnt work?

[But you say: the temperature gradient must increase. So if the lower atmos gets warmer, and the T gradient increases, how can you tell (from that alone) how the upper atmos T changes (and, I've already told you, in a grey atmos the whole atmos warms with inc CO2 -W]

On the Raina report:

Before anything, a disclaimer: I've read the report, and WC's post thereon, and the post to which that refers - but I've never looked into glaciology and so really am utterly unqualified to judge the science. That said...

I think the dismissal of the report as being bad may be a bit unfair. First, I think by 'state of art review' I think Raina might have meant 'a review of the state of the art of Himalayan glaciology' rather than 'a review which is state-of-the-art'; I say this because that's what the report appears to be - a description of what people really know about Himalayan glaciers, of the forces at work, etc. I think this is a linguistic issue (the whole report suffers from being the un-proofed work of a non-native speaker of English). That would also explain the lack of focus on the IPCC.

Second, the focus of the report is on the uncertainties of attribution inherent to measuring glacial advance and retreat - and much of what is written sounds at least plausible. Raina repeatedly argues that the Himalayan glaciers are made up of high-altitude ice that responds very, very slowly to changes in climate. How far that is true I don't know (though it sounds highly reminiscent of, say, certain former members of the British Antarctic Survey laughing off the idea of Antarctic melting by the end of the century!), but his claim is not that the Himalayan glaciers are not retreating but that at this point this retreat is not likely to be attributable to global warming. He doesn't deny the warming itself - just says that it will take a much longer time for the Himalayan glaciers specifically to show the effects of that warming with any confidence.

As I said, I'm not qualified to judge that - but the huge variations in retreat rates that he documents (even for linked and adjacent glaciers) suggest a noisy signal to me. Which in turn suggests that his point re. confidence in attribution is probably pretty strong.

I'm well aware that there are other glaciologists who show more confidence than Raina in attributing Himalayan glacial retreat to current warming, but so what? Exactly the same debates are playing out in other areas among scientists who accept the basic reality of AGW and agree on the trends but who debate the issue of attribution and rates of change. I cite the sea ice betting as an example:)

Raina's report is horribly badly written. It also reads more as something written for the lay reader than for a scientific audience - which it is, having been written for the government. But is it actually weak scientifically?

In the Raina report take a look at the retreat rates in Figure 6. Compare the mass balance and resultant retreat rates in Table 7. Take a look at the retreat rates in Table 9. There is good terminus data on 51 glaciers from Himachal Pradesh just south and east of the Karokoram to Bhutan across the main front of the Himalaya, all 51 glaciers are retreating, the average rate is 19 meters per year. Raina notes most all of these. What is not realistic is to not attribute the mass loss and retreat to the observed warming. The report is quite poorly written. I have reviewed many papers in the glaciology in the region in the last few years that are quite good. These should have been cited by Raina if the attempt was genuinely good science. I link to some of these nice papers in examinations of Khumbu Glacier, Gangotri Glacier, and Zemestan Glacier. keep in mind the ice core work from Thompson that shows an issue with the lack of accumulation even at high elevation. Also note the summary with some good explanation from the WGMS .

What gets me is that whoever gullibly believed 2035 had no grounding in reality (or at least failed to look at the Himalayan glaciers on Google Earth and think for a few seconds). Though the fact that AR4 continues to fail so miserably on glaciology is unsurprising. This reminds me as well of the ludicrously exaggerated claims of sea-level rise by James Hansen and environmental organizations, which forced Pfeifer et al. to wake them up to reality. To its credit, I hear that the next IPCC report will be far better in this area.

[Though the fact that AR4 continues to fail so miserably on glaciology is unsurprising seems rather broad-brush. Is it rally that bad overall? WGI was always fine on Antarctica, ish. Since they are thinking mostly of the SLR stuff they don't care much about the titchy ones -W]

By Andy Wickert (not verified) on 23 Jan 2010 #permalink

Though the fact that AR4 continues to fail so miserably on glaciology is unsurprising.

I love it. One reference in the impacts portion of the report, WG2, and AR4 "fails so miserably on glaciology".

Meanwhile, of course, the physical scientists of WG1, which is the definitive review of the science for AR4, have got it right, and y'all totally ignore that.

Just gotta love it.

"These should have been cited by Raina if the attempt was genuinely good science.

And by the same argument, we know the IPCC makes no attempt at "genuinely good science" given its inclusion of ludicrous estimates of glacial retreat.""

And by the same argument, there isn't much left of the denialist
evidence, is there? Not that "good science" seems to be high on the list of important factors.

[Alas, this comment may be hard to understand, because it refers back to a comment I deleted for being ludicrous -W]

Thanks for answering my questions, William! Too bad I still don't understand stratospheric cooling though. Maybe I'll have to actually exert myself to read the references.

I found one clear-if-simplistic explanation from none other than Roy Spencer - yes, I know, and maybe it's wrong as well as being clear, but here it is:

"Infrared absorbers like water vapor and carbon dioxide provide an additional heating mechanism for the atmosphere. But at least as important is the fact that, since infrared absorbers are also infrared emitters, the presence of greenhouse gases allow the atmosphere â not just the surface â to cool to outer space.

When you pile all of the layers of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere on top of one another, they form a sort of radiative blanket, heating the lower layers and cooling the upper layers. (For those of you who have heard claims that the greenhouse effect is physically impossible, see my article here. There is a common misconception that the rate at which a layer absorbs IR energy must equal the rate at which it loses IR energy, which in general is not true.)

Without the convective air currents to transport excess heat from the lower atmosphere to the upper atmosphere, the greenhouse effect by itself would make the surface of the Earth unbearably hot, and the upper atmosphere (at altitudes where where jets fly) very much colder than it really is."


[I think that is fair enough, though since it omits ozone it is partial. It does stress the key point however - that CO2 emits as well as absorbs, and more CO2 emits more -W]

Mauri Pelto

Thanks for responding. I've started reading those refs - and am getting something of an idea of the evidence Raina seems to have wilfully (?) overlooked. Nice to get beyond 'he said, she said'... The irritation at Raina's report is beginning to make more sense. Thanks!!

"And by the same argument, there isn't much left of the denialist
evidence, is there?"

I think you meant "skeptic". There are madmen on the skeptical side just as there are madmen on the "consensus" side. But I haven't seen any global, skeptical scientific body generating reports on which world governments rely.

As for what is "left" of the skeptical case: nothing much has changed scientifically, but politically we're being taken more seriously. The uncertainty in sensitivity is still as high as ever.

[No, there is no skeptical body. Because there is no coherent skeptical case.

As to climate sensitivity - no, you're wrong. The uncertainty reduces. You should be happy - much of the top end-stuff is gone, courtesy of JA -W]

By Jonathan Baxter (not verified) on 24 Jan 2010 #permalink

Jonathan found room to include the spin, but not Lal's actual statement. Here it is:

"âIt related to several countries in this region and their water sources. We thought that if we can highlight it, it will impact policy-makers and politicians and encourage them to take some concrete action.

âIt had importance for the region, so we thought we should put it in.â"

Lal knew it hadn't been peer-reviewed, but saying it was purely for political pressure implies he knew it was wrong.

Incredibly biased article, btw.

Re:William's response to me: yes, it was being broad-brush. I'm just unhappy that they ignored glacier dynamics for both large (Antarctica, Greenland) and small ice, which does have large implications for SLR.

The bigger problem was not the IPCC's fault, really. They said that they didn't include melting ice because they couldn't find a consensus, which is fair, though evasive. But in response to the IPCC's dodging of the question, those who failed to read (taking the IPCC numbers to be total SLR) reported in the news media that there wouldn't be much sea level rise, and in response, some enviros made off-the-wall predictions of doomsday SLR. The IPCC left the gate wide open, and the mad cows got loose.

[Ah, that is what you mean. OK, also broad-brush, but I'd braodly agree. The consensus model somewhat broke down there, and where there was no agreement they went for saying nothing: regrettable -W]

By Andy Wickert (not verified) on 24 Jan 2010 #permalink

> incredibly biased article

Soon to be followed by a similar official report, it says:

"an analysis of those 500-plus formal review comments, to be published tomorrow by the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), the new body founded by former Chancellor Nigel Lawson ..... Benny Peiser, the GWPFâs director, said the affair suggested the IPCC review process was âskewed by a bias towards alarmist assessmentsâ.

I bet He Who Must Not Be Named is incredibly jealous.

Didn't know {{cn}} either. JB's cite doesn't connect JKP's "voodoo science" to the 2035 correction. They were conflated elsewhere, but not again by me.

"Jonathan found room to include the spin, but not Lal's actual statement"

I picked the most relevant sentence from the article, to which I linked. I report, you decide :-)

By Jonathan Baxter (not verified) on 24 Jan 2010 #permalink

[there is no coherent skeptical case -W]

Of course there is: climate sensitivity has not been estimated with anything approaching enough accuracy to justify wholesale decarbonization of the world economy.

[As to climate sensitivity - no, you're wrong. The uncertainty reduces. You should be happy - much of the top end-stuff is gone, courtesy of JA -w]

You mean the Bayesian stuff? I think you're overcrediting. As far as I could tell that study added little beyond what was already known (the long-fat-tail was always an artifact of how the PDFs were parameterized - putting a distribution on f with positive support at 1 and then computing 1/(1-f) is not a good way to represent our prior knowledge).

And where recent studies have reduced uncertainty, it had been towards the no-cause-for-alarm end of the spectrum (eg, Schwartz 2008)

By Jonathan Baxter (not verified) on 24 Jan 2010 #permalink

> Soon to be followed by a similar official report

Oops, my misreading, it's not an official group; Sourcewatch identifies the group.

Benny Peiser has already announced the result of the report.

WC could use some skepticism. Apparently climatology is a branch of science where skepticism is incoherent (and somewhere on Rush Limbaugh level). Scientists are cautious but you are trying to filter proofs according to your preconceived view of world. I really don't like how you and your partners have messed up wikipedias articles about global warming. Ok its warmed about a degree, but it doesn't excuse one sided crap how pretty much all areas of life get worse.

[You're attacking a strawman. I don't think you 've even read the articles. I suggest you attempt to provide a single diff to support this "all gets worse" stuff - you will fail -W]

Ive seen you dismiss US government reports but same time be ok with using your own research, real-climate's articles and someones quote (global warmings effect on politics?) that GW will cause more conflicts in 21st century, as OK proofs. But on the other side it is being incoherent with climate-gate, if they don't' t like censoring. Like when tree ring data stopped being in correlation with climate change, then it is ok to fill out the difference. If such data manipulation is ok then why shouldn't anyone have skepticism with the data and conclusions.

This is probably a dumb question, but I'm dumb and it's sincere, so please bear with me. If the Himalayan glaciers won't be gone by 2035, when will they be gone?

[That isn't a stupid question. I'll do a whole post on it - why not? -W]

On stratospheric cooling - I thought I saw it in the 1956 paper by Plass the last time I read it...


Is this section of your blog a contribution to answering the question of whether the IPCC should be dissolved?

Two cuts so far that I've noticed, and they're both paper cuts. Rumors of death appear exaggerated.

Want to know what chairman Peiser of this new private group thinks about climatology? Well look at his archives:

Oops, only up through 2006.

Some of his most, erm, revealing material showing his personal spin cycle isn't there. Someone should ask him to put it all out in public for those who haven't watched it go by in email.

Page down the list of comments by selected readers and see who his fans are. The "Iron Sun" guy stands out.


So far it's glaciers, the Amazon rain forest, African drought and disaster costs. Much, if not most, of WGII relies on non scholarly articles from magazines that are house organs of advocacy groups who use the WGII as an authority for fund raising and grant seeking.

W seems to be willing to abandon WGII. You should too.

[No, I think this is wrong. By being so broad-brush, you comment and viewpoint loses usefulness. WG II isn't wrong about all glaciers, as far as anyone has said only the Himalayan bit is borked. As for the rest, you should get in the habit of providing links for your assertions - apart from anything else, it will slow you down, and prevent you just smoothly running over thing you think you understand but actually don't -W]

W seems to be willing to abandon WGII. You should too.

Even if this were a rational position, the fact that WGII impacts conclusions are unreliable would, if you're rational, lead one to plan for the worst possible impacts, not the best.

WGI is sound scientific review. It holds no real basis for optimism for the newly-minted "WGII denialists".

So as a rational person, now that I know the glaciers won't disappear by 2035 (or 2200 per W), I should plan for them disappearing by 2025.

By Paul Kelly (not verified) on 25 Jan 2010 #permalink


Still smoking, but I haven't given up on giving it up. As to the snark, dhogaza's comment was so illogical that - oh forget it.

By Paul Kelly (not verified) on 26 Jan 2010 #permalink