Atmospheric Layers, The Biosphere, The Boundary Layer, Microclimate and Inadequate Tim Ball thinking

I was - I still am - going to write a post about my recent adventures in "skeptic" land, but I've got distracted by Atmospheric Layers, The Biosphere, The Boundary Layer, Microclimate and Inadequate IPCC Models which is comically incompetent. To a degree that I found hard to believe. There's an open goal there waiting for shots, yet Tim Ball hits every one wide. Lets go: (oh, but don't miss the update at the end)

Milankovitch Effect

TB begins by complaining

During a university presentation I said the climate models do not include the Milankovitch Effect... My mistake was I forgot to say I was talking about Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) models.

He then continues - just to prove that he's already been told the correct answer, but is too dumb to understand it - "An IPCC climate modeller told me the time scale was not appropriate to include the Milankovitch Effect". Which is correct: Milankovitch cycles have their shortest period at ~20 kyr; over the typical IPCC runtime of 1850 to 2100, the change is too small to be worth worrying about. Incidentally, I could point out that in this, rare, case the reason for not adding the effect is only that its too trivial to be worth it, not because of increased runtime or such.

Climate below 2 m

We're now talking about the boundary layer, and then the near-surface layer. Most people when talking about GCM resolution focus on the horizontal (typically ~100-300 km) and forget about the vertical. Martin et al., in Geosci. Model Dev. Discuss., provide some helpful info about The HadGEM2 family of Met Office Unified Model Climate configurations, so we can discover that the lowest model level is at 10 m and (scroll down to fig 2, and bump up the magnification) the next one up is at 50 m. The problem here isn't the time-lag that TB identifies, its just that you can't throw too much resolution at the near-surface because it would use up too much processing time. How much of a problem is it? Not as much as you might think, because the boundary layer is parameterised - the model is not relying on its own native resolution to get things right.

There's a more interesting issue with the thickness of the ocean surface layers and the effects on ?tropical evaporation? but I forget the details; that one *is* related to the time-lag problem.

...and CO2

That one was a bit so-so. But TB totally blows it with:

Other near surface measures like CO2 are taken above 2 meters. “Air samples at Mauna Loa are collected continuously from air intakes at the top of four 7-m towers and one 27-m tower.” How does that help understand energy flows in the atmosphere?

WTF? GHGs like CO2 are well mixed - at least, they're well mixed enough for the purposes of a GCM. Yes, I know, if you look closely you can see variations in space or time, but look at the scale. We're back to his failure to understand the Milankovitch forcing; its the new Aristoleans all over again. If you want to understand something, and make progress, you have to not insist on getting every teensy tiny thing right down to the finest level of detail. Trying to do that leaves you as stuck as Greek Science.

Fundamental Problem

(This is TB's ection header, not mine) TB then helpfully explains that models run on a discretised grid, and that this is a problem because

There is virtually no weather data for some 85 percent of the world’s surface. Virtually none for the 70 percent that are oceans... It’s worse in the vertical with virtually no data in space and time and constantly changing very complex conditions.

The more data we have the better of course, but the lack of "weather" data isn't a great problem. The data we already have (on, say, sea ice extent) is enough to know that the models have flaws. Describing this as a "fundamental" problem is wrong. Or, less esoterically, you can just look at the seasonal MSLP (mean sea level pressure) pattern, which we know very well from the reanalyses. Or warm biases in the tropopause. None of these are strongly affected by lack of obs; all of them are enough to show up model errors.


Not having a proper stratosphere is a bit of a model problem. But TB manages to mangle even this. After a brief- presumably obligatory, but irreleveant - fling at Mann, coupled with a brief genuflection towards the adored Lamb he continues

We know from Pinatubo and all other major eruptions a significant factor is the amount of dust injected into the stratosphere. The IPCC models don’t appear to include the stratosphere as they state "Due to the computational cost associated with the requirement of a well-resolved stratosphere, the models employed for the current assessment do not generally include the QBO."

Yes, that's right: TB doesn't really know if the models have a stratosphere or not; he has to rely on the IPCC to tell him, obliquely. But he's missed "well-resolved". The Martin et al. paper does discuss how increasing stratospheric resolution improves the QBO. But at this point, TB is talking about aerosols, which are prescribed in the models, so the need for higher resolution in the stratosphere isn't obvious.

Lower Layers of the Atmosphere

We've been up, we come back down (I'm following TB's sequence, not anything logical :-). TB complains:

Boundary layer; Surface fluxes are computed from bulk relationships with transfer coefficients according to Monin-Obukhov similarity theory... What are they using to create parameterised values? Most of the references in reports are to 1990s material.

Errm, yes: an Euclid was written more than 2000 years ago, but is still valid. The point is that boundary layer theory was largely worked out some time ago, though I'm sure many exciting problems still remain.

The top two meters of the Earth’s surface and the bottom two meters of the atmosphere are the most critical layers... Too bad they are the least measured or understood of all the layers and omitted from the IPCC models.

Well they're certainly not the least measured. The fact that they're so near the ground tends to mean they get measured a lot. Nor are they least understood - they are more complex, though, unlike the more free-flow stuff higher up. And "omitted" isn't quite right either, as discussed above.

And finally

All you "skeptics" out there... I'm a little shaky on all this, its been seven years after all. If you can't pick decent holes in this post, you may as well give up.


>My opinion on the Global Climate Model clique feedback loop


There's an other even more like totally-wacky-maaaan post at WUWT, Steve Burnett’s Hard vs. the Soft Sciences Essay; An Ongoing Debate Central To Climate which is Tim Ball trying to explain to the Watties why they shouldn't look down on him for being a geographer. But in the course of it he goes even further overboard in demonstrating he knows nothing about parameterisation in GCMs.

More like this

Climate models do model the lower stratosphere, which is where most of the volcanic aerosols are.

To model the Quasi Biannual Oscillation (QBO), you need a high-top model going up to 80 km. That is no longer standard; that is computationally expensive. Getting the QBO right is not a high priority, not many people life in the tropical stratosphere.

By Victor Venema (not verified) on 19 May 2014 #permalink

Actually a number of the latest models self generate QBOs - HadGEM3, GISS-E2 - but you do need higher stratospheric vertical resolution than was standard in CMIP5 and improved gravity wave drag parameterisations. We have it with models with tops at 0.1mb (~55km same as CMIP5) and higher, 80+ layers. There are many CMIP5 models with tops above the stratopause.

I expect the models do include some of the Milankovich effects, by using reconstructed and measured values of solar irradiance, which *are* affected by Milankovich cycles.

I stopped reading this piece when I came to William Connolley's adolescent remark that Dr. Ball, " is too dumb to understand it." This is an example of exactly what I was speaking about in my piece in Hawaii yesterday - see… . Shame, William, stooping to such a nasty remark.

[Why hello; no substantive comment I see -W]

By Tom Harris (not verified) on 19 May 2014 #permalink

Ah, yes, Tom Harris, who thinks that climate scientists "seem to not know that half of North America was under a vast ice sheet only 22,000 years ago." Really?

Tom Harris from SourceWatch:
Tom Harris, International Climate Science Coalition Executive Director; Harris was formerly the Executive Director of the Natural Resources Stewardship Project and a Director of Operations of the Ottawa office of the High Park Group (HPG), a Canadian PR and lobbying firm.

Also interesting to note: "According to the ICSC website,
"Since its formation in 2007, ICSC has been funded and supported exclusively by private individuals... We have never received financial support from corporations, foundations or government."

Yet ICSC received $45,000 from the Heartland Institute in 2007, according to Heartland's Form 990 for that year. "

Color me shocked. Shocked I tell ya.

By Kevin O'Neill (not verified) on 19 May 2014 #permalink

Thanks Kevin. You demonstrate the point I am making very well in my article at… . Do you really not understand what a logical fallacy is, or are you hoping your readers do not? What ICSC did, or did not do (I have tried to correct SourceWatch in the past when they made obvious mistakes but there were not interested in information from their targets) before I started with them in 2008 is irrelevant.

[Ah, I get it: you're a Tim Ball pusher. But he's a joke. And no-one - not even you - can pretend to believe The most comprehensive reports about the current state of climate science are those of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) -W]

By Tom Harris (not verified) on 19 May 2014 #permalink

It would be nice if Tom Harris would provide some evidence that William's comment about Tim Ball is not justified and based on a clear evaluation of the facts. After all, if William, a whole 7 years after he stopped working with climate models, can already rebut the nonsense Tim Ball spouts, what does that make Tim Ball, who supposedly has been studying this stuff for so many years already?

I ended up here quite by accident. I went over and read the Ball essay and your criticism. Frankly, Ball doesn't strike me as incompetent or dumb, but you come off as pompous and an idealogue - just sayin.
Ball appears to be making the point that the models haven't been very accurate so far. I don't see where you disagree. Why don't you tell us why the models aren't working - that might be worth something.

[You might need to start by reading this. Then try re-reading the bits about CO2 and Milankovitch. If you don't understand why TB is completely wrong on those points - completely, embarrassingly wrong - then do come back and ask for a fuller explanation -W]

By William Holder (not verified) on 20 May 2014 #permalink

Harris: “Ten thousand years ago… temperatures rose as much as 6 degrees Celsius in a decade — 100 times faster than the past century’s 0.6 degrees Celsius warming.”

Strange. The entire global mean temperature swing from the last glaciation was no more than 6 C (some estimates are less), taking about 8,000 years to complete. We're headed for that warming within a couple of centuries to be conservative. It would be a remarkable discovery to find that the global mean temperature rose 6 C in a decade. I suspect Harris is referring to something like Younger Dryas termination, events that while common enough in the geological record, are very unlikely to occur any given century on its own, or a single decade for that matter (although perturbation from increased GHGs increases the odds). And while I suspect Harris is concentrating on a certain region like Greenland, which had abrupt change during that brief period (change being far more gradual or even limited elsewhere), I just can't imagine anyone would be foolish or dishonest enough to compare global mean temperature change (0.8 C over the last century) with change at one location.

Ironically, what deniers don't understand is that studying past climate change makes climate scientists more concerned that the climate is more sensitive to modern warming from greenhouse gases.

The opinion piece gets worse from there, a gish gallop that looks like Poe's Law in action.

Recommended reading for Mr. Harris would be books from Dr. Richard Alley, who has published a lot of studies on past climate change.

Earth: The Operators' Manual

The Two-Mile Time Machine: Ice Cores, Abrupt Climate Change, and Our Future

We see more of the sort of poisoning of the debate I speak about in my article at… when "W" hijacks my posting and adds the nasty logical fallacy: "[Ah, I get it: you're a Tim Ball pusher. But he's a joke. And no-one - not even you - can pretend to believe The most comprehensive reports about the current state of climate science are those of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) -W]"

Really, W, do you not understand the concept of logical fallacies either? Are you not able to moderate a discussion without hijacking people's postings?

[Dahling, as someone spamming this thread with your posts, you can't complain about hijacking. Nor can you complain about anyone taking the piss out of the NIPCC; its what its for -W]

By Tom Harris (not verified) on 20 May 2014 #permalink

NewYorkJ does not seem to understand the meaning of quote marks. The statement about a 6 deg warming was a direct quote from Prof. Patterson.

By Tom Harris (not verified) on 20 May 2014 #permalink

Next I see MMM misquoting from my article. I never said that "climate scientists seem to not know that half of North America was under a vast ice sheet only 22,000 years ago.” I said, "If anyone could rationally be labeled climate change deniers, it is those who hold the absurd view that our climate was relatively tranquil until the arrival of humans. They seem to not know that half of North America was under a vast ice sheet only 22,000 years ago."

Really, you people are very careless in your attacks. Or are you assuming readers won't actually check to see if what you are saying is even remotely true.

[You denialists are seeking to redefine language, but I don't think anyone is going to be fooled. I'd rather not repeat myself, so see here -W]

By Tom Harris (not verified) on 20 May 2014 #permalink


" is those who hold the absurd view that our climate was relatively tranquil until the arrival of humans."

I've never come across anyone who holds that view.

"We hear it over and over, “Climate change is real. Only industry-funded ‘deniers’ disagree.”"

Never heard that one either.

By Steve Milesworthy (not verified) on 20 May 2014 #permalink

Harris: "And, as Patterson has written..."

which clearly implies you endorse his errors. Own it.

Perhaps you should have prefaced the quote with "Patterson has written the following claims that no serious scientist would support".

A very small percentage of qualified scientists are deniers, but what is notable is that the small minority also tends to make the most scientifically unsound arguments. You also reference McLean.…

Galileo? No. Sagan can help.

"The fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown."—Carl Sagan

"I’ve never come across anyone who holds that view."

over human-civilisation scales (ie. since the end of the last glacial period), it really has been remarkably stable. cf. Marcott et al. 2013. i suggest that the polite Mr. Harris might have been somewhat careless with regards to context.

One party in this thread is getting paid to write tripe.

By Kevin O'Neill (not verified) on 20 May 2014 #permalink

So it appears Tim Ball needed protection to avoid being gored and trampled?

"If you can save the rider and then proceed to "play" with the bull and put on a show, it looks better on you, and you are more likely to get paid more, as well as offered more jobs."
-- How to Become a Rodeo Clown

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 20 May 2014 #permalink

Harris is one of the more dishonest of the AGW deniers. He was censured for teaching a course in AGW denial at Carleton University. Of course his buddy Patterson, who he quotes above, was responsible for this academic travesty.

By Ian Forrester (not verified) on 20 May 2014 #permalink

Tom Harris: here's some great info about you;

You look like an oil shill to me. Does that pay well? Do you get Dental?

Are you still upset about Tim Ball losing his first law suit against the Calgary Herald, and a professor in Lethbridge? You know.. the one where they said he lied, and he was unable prove he didn't lie.

"There’s a more interesting issue with the thickness of the ocean surface layers and the effects on ?tropical evaporation? "

Maybe he means Olver Wurl's tropical' pneumonuestron':

The sea-surface microlayer (SML) represents the interfacial layer between the ocean and atmosphere and covers about 70% of the world's surface. Gel-like transparent exopolymer particles (TEP) in the SML were studied in oceanic and estuarine SML and subsurface water samples from South East Asia. The TEP enrichment factor, determined as the ratio of the TEP concentration in the SML to that in the corresponding subsurface water, was in the range of 0.39 to 2.43 (1.31 ± 0.52 mean ± standard deviation) and 0.29 to 9.72 (1.77 ± 3.03) in the oceanic and estuarine samples, respectively. Sulfate half-ester groups in the TEP showed a higher enrichment (3.29 ± 2.36) than the less strongly binding carboxyl groups (1.12 ± 0.71). Enrichment processes of TEP to the SML are discussed including diffusion to the SML, bubble scavenging and higher production rates of TEP in the SML than in subsurface waters. The results of a general enrichment of gel particles support the concept of a hydrated gelatinous interfacial layer with a complex matrix of dissolved organic matter rather than a more classical model of organized layers of “wet” and “dry” surfactants.

[No, nothing so slimey :-). It was closer to, but not that either -W]

It's shameful that Tom Harris and Tim Ball are the best Canada has to offer the anti-science community. Oh when will we find our own Willard Tony?

I am not going to bother following this thread anymore. It is intellectual baby-talk, riddled with lies. It is completely false for "Ian Forrester to assert, "He was censured for teaching a course in AGW denial at Carleton University." In fact the university supported me so strongly that I was asked to teach the course four times, even though my initial contract was only to teach it once while Professor Patterson was away on research leave. The attack on us was prepared by amateurs completely out of their field who made so many mistakes no rational person could take what they say seriously. I discuss the attack on TV here:

[We're not children here; we have a memory; this isn't WUWT; re-writing history by asserting that you weren't censured wont play. But feel free to flounce out in a huff if you like -W]

By Tom Harris (not verified) on 22 May 2014 #permalink

" assert, “He was censured for teaching a course in AGW denial at Carleton University.” In fact the university supported me so strongly that I was asked to teach the course four times..."

Is this a tacit admission of teaching denial?

Paging CRUhack Tom

By Quiet Waters (not verified) on 23 May 2014 #permalink

Tom Harris is correct for once:

I am not going to bother following this thread anymore. It is intellectual baby-talk, riddled with lies

There are a lot of lies and misinformation on this thread but Harris is responsible for all of them. He is one of the most dishonest people in the denier camp.

For his information and to show both his dishonesty in what he taught at Carleton and his dishonesty in denying that he was censured here is a link to a 98 page report outlining all the dishonest nonsense he taught while teaching that course:

This report details an audit of a course taught at Carleton University in the 2010/11 academic year. The
course, "Climate Change: An Earth Sciences Perspective" (ERTH 2402) provides an unbalanced and, in many cases, factually inaccurate view of anthropogenic global warming which detracts from the high quality of teaching at Carleton University. We highlight 142 incorrect or equivocal claims and cite the relevant scientific literature to correct those statements. While the principle of academic freedom remains paramount, it is nonetheless imperative that university students be presented with accurate scientific

The fact that Patterson hired Harris in the first place and knew full well what he was teaching shows that Patterson is just as dishonest when it comes to climate science as Harris. It does not put Carleton University in a good light to find out the dishonesty that was going on there for at least four years.

By Ian Forrester (not verified) on 23 May 2014 #permalink


... the content of this particular course is heavily biased against the scientific consensus concerning the anthropogenic causes of dangerous climate change.

Through an extensive audit of the course material, we identify 142 claims made during the lectures by the instructor, Mr Tom Harris, and various guest lecturers, that run counter to established scientific opinion.

We review these claims and provide corrections, citing peer - reviewed scientific publications where appropriate.
This course is taught with little reference to the primary literature and is largely presented to non-science majors.

We note that other courses at Carleton University teach the established science on climate change, with instructors who have been involved with the IPCC and sharing in the Nobel Peace Prize that that organisation was awarded.

We acknowledge the need for academic freedom and the promotion of multiple viewpoints on course material – particularly in such an important area as climate change. However, it is important to note that the unbalanced nature of the course, the lack of peer-reviewed literature cited, and the non-science audience mean that the course fails to constitute 'promotion of debate‛ and instead merely presents a biased and inaccurate portrayal of contemporary climate science.

That's the Long Con approach -- focus on nonscientists and feed them profitable fiction.

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 23 May 2014 #permalink