Solutionizing And The Near-Death Of Watts Up With That

Recently, there’s been plenty of gnawing of climateblogging teeth for the silliest of reason. Simply, Willis “Rooster Cogburn” Eschenbach took umbrage of Tallbloke and posted at WUWT what was later revealed an act in some kind of psychodrama (with plenty of censored comments – my own comment to the latter, including a “GET A LIFE” exhortation, hasn’t has finally seen the light of day as yet).

Tallbloke has responded here and here. The end result has been that WUWT has apparently transmogrified into Climate Progress, after celebrating its 100M hit. Not sure how long I’ll hang around it, unless things change.

And the topic that has caused so much heating? If there is any gravitational explanation for the “greenhouse effect”. Cue millions of words written for nothing.

The actual problem as I see it is called “solutionizing”.

People tackle the problem of why bumblebees fly, some ideas are thrown around, those ideas are incomplete, so people come to the conclusion that since there is no solution to the problem, bumblebees don’t fly.

In the meanwhile, bumblebees fly. Back to square one.

In management circles, this is all pointed out as a fundamental error…the fact that you don’t have a solution doesn’t mean the problem is impossible to solve. It simply means you should concentrate on analysing the problem and in collecting more data, rather than immediately try to identify a solution.

For those harder in understanding, the observation is that independently from the composition of the atmosphere and the presence of a solid surface underneath it, every planetary atmosphere in the solar system has a “troposphere”, defined as the part where downward lapse rates are positive, i.e. temperatures increase as the distance from the top of the troposphere increase.

The same thing applies to any self-standing gas cloud anywhere in the universe. There is always a surface “below” which temperatures increase with pressure. Otherwise stars won’t ever ignite.

Now if this is because of whatever Hans has said, or N&Z, or it’s Tooth Fairies, that is not a question that will ever be answered in blogs (and especially, in their comment sections). But anybody stating that what the whole cosmos is alight by is “impossible”, they do have a problem telling truth from fantasy.

Do Climate Forcings Exist? Map And Territory In Climate Science

Some interesting ideas that are surfacing at Judith Curry’s “Cloud wars” blog post, leading to the conclusion that there might as well be no such a thing as a “pure” climate forcing.

A “pure” climate forcing (i.e. one that occurs only as a forcing to the climate system, not also as a feedback) is of course an independent input to the system. IOW it is an independent variable that will provide its “push” in a specific direction whatever the value of all other variables.

It sounds obvious (maybe not to the average Climate Believer) that a great deal of so-called forcings aren’t: clouds of course (both a forcing and a feedback, perhaps on different timescales); but also CO2 emissions (as noted by commenter Eric Ollivet), water vapor, and pretty much anything that happens in the atmosphere.

One is left with the influence of other planets, of volcanoes, and of course of the Sun. But are those true and “pure” forcings, really?

For example, who’s going to demonstrate that the atmosphere will respond predictably and progressively if the Sun input to it varies, and everything else remains equal? For all we know, the Sun could be a positive forcing up to a point, then negative, then positive again, or simply positive but by different amounts following a complex multi-step function that moves up and down, all according to the atmosphere’s initial status.

Actually, we can be pretty sure of all that complication, thanks to the Mpemba effect (and the Leidenfrost effect).


Every reduction and simplification seems poised to destroy our ability to understand the climate itself. We might be ending up trying to apply statistics and/or computer models simply to distract us from the underlying truth: perhaps, in climate science, the only good map IS the territory. And the only hope to understand the climate, is by considering it whole.

How to Be Right About the Climate: Always!

(originally published on Nov 17. 2007. The Italian version is here.)

Vincenzo Ferrara, the scientist advising the Italian Environment Minister up to April 2008 on Climate Changes, explains how to become a famous Climatologist in a 1982 article (on the ”Rivista di Meteorologia Aeronautica”, Vol XLII n. 1, Jan-Mar 1982).

The following is an abridged translation:

If you are a climatologist and you want to survive as a climatologist, perhaps even increasing your reputation, all you have to do is provide the exact diagnosis and prognosis that people expect.

To the question “Is the climate changing?“, by all means, never, ever reply “No, everything’s normal“, or “It’s just fakery pumped up by newspapers and on television“: because people would unanimously conclude that you understand nothing about metereology, and nothing about climate.

It would be the end of your career.

The only sensible answer is: “Of course it is changing! It’s a well-known fact, scientifically confirmed and one that none cannot argue against“. You can then launch yourself in forecasting for the next hundred years a climate identical to the current one, amplifying the latest phenomena to extreme consequences.

If it is cold you’ll therefore predict “ice ages“, if it’s warm a “torrid period“, and if there are signs of strong variability “short-term climatic extremes” and more-or-less the same climate in the long term.

You may be wondering, how can a serious climatologist provide impossible, mutually-excluding forecasts without looking silly? Fear not: science will provide all the support needed.

Because climatology has already thought of everything and will supply the right solution in every circumstance, even in the most hopeless cases.

So if it is cold, here’s what you will have to say: “The climate is changing and we are approaching an Ice Age.

This fact has already been scientifically assessed because since 1940, the average temperature of the northern hemisphere has diminished by approximately 0,4°C, probably because of a decrease in atmospheric transparency due to air pollution.

The cooling of the air causes an increase in the extension of glaciers and of snow fields, furthering lowering temperatures with their highly reflecting (high albedo) surfaces. Glaciers therefore increase even more, in a positive feedback that will bring us to a new Ice Age in a hundred years or even less“.

What if it is warm? Then the discourse becomes: “The climate is changing and we are approaching a Torrid Age.

This fact has already been scientifically assessed because since 1850 the carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere has progressively increased and just in the last twenty years has gone from 315 to 334 parts for million. That means that in 2020 the accumulation of carbon dioxide will have more than doubled, taking into account the continuously increasing energy demands and consumption of fossil fuels.

The increase of carbon dioxide reduces the Earth’s long-wave emissions to space (greenhouse effect) so within half a century the average air temperature will increase by approximately 2 or 3°C; the polar ice will dissolve and a sizeable sea level increase will submerge several coastal cities“.

A climatology joke is in order…

My (Mauled) Letter Published on the IHT

From today’s ( Oct 8 ) printed International Herald Tribune:

I understand Thomas Homer-Dixon and David Keith (“The ultimate sun-block,” Views, Oct. 7) when they state that it is better to study global-warming-related geo-engineering now rather than waiting. But what I do not understand is the interest in “flooding the atmosphere with manmade particles.”

Throwing colossal amounts of particles more or less at random into the sky, with no chance of retrieval, is surely a recipe for environmental upheaval.

Maurizio Morabito Orpington, England

Of course the above is a brutally shortened version of my full letter, as published in blog “Only Controllable Geo-engineering, Please!” where I did make the point that it is vital for all human anti-warming interventions to be fully controllable.

And before anybody refers to the ongoing atmospheric experiment called “the emission of additional CO2 from fossil fuels” let me clearly re-state the following: if we really need to combat the effect of the “CO2 emissions experiment” it makes no sense to experiment with a different set of emissions.

Alpine Melt Reveals…There's Nothing Special About Today's Climate

An interesting piece of news from the BBC that screams out very loud “there is nothing special about today’s climate“.

Yet, it’s all to be read between the lines, as the “greenhouse gases” are taken as the current warming’s culprit as a matter of course (i.e. without thinking).

Basically, alpine archeologists are having a field day (ha! ha!) with retreating glaciers exposing very, very ancient human artifacts. It should go without saying that if humans were up there at a time when gore-tex had not been invented and mountaineering superstores were not around, it must have been considerably warm. Also, everything buried under a glacier must have been there before the glacier trundled by.

So it must have been warm around 3,300BC and 4,500BC. How about the rest of the time? I have found this graph online. Once again, it’s in Italian, but should not be difficult to decypher. It shows how temperatures have changed in the Western Alps during the last 11,000 years (Western Swiss Alps, I understand, as the graph is supposed to be from the University in Berne):

Western Alps temperatures during the last 11,000 years

Western Alps temperatures during the last 11,000 years

Quick analysis:
  • Present temperatures are relatively high compared to the past
  • The 16C threshold has been touched, for the 5th time in 10,000 years
  • It’s the 7th time that temperatures are on the way up, even without considering the increase immediately following the last Ice Age

Furthermore: whoever put that arrow shooting skywards, must be a comedian (or an involuntary comedian). Climatechangeology is a naked science indeed.

Climate Models Are Correct (And Useless)

Climate models are correct indeed. Because, as Bill Clinton would love to say, it depends on what the definition of “correct” is.

In the real world, climate models cannot be falsified by a single observation (modelists say it’s “only weather”), or by a set of short-term observations (they call it “just a specific trajectory”).

In theory, one could wait a sufficient number of years in order to statistically check if the world has actually got warmer, but in practice models don’t include volcanoes, clouds, solar activity, etc: therefore, even if observations diverge from the models, all the modelists will do is find a “culprit” that can justify the discrepancy.

For the 1940-1970 cooling climate, they say “it was the aerosols”. Never mind that it could be a made-up story.

RealClimate’s own Gavin has said in the recent past, there is no interest in verifying if models are correct or not. Instead, the “right question” appears to be: “are there analyses that will be made over the next few years that will improve the evaluation of climate models?”

It should go without saying that in such a situations, models have no predictive capability beyond chance and they are for all intents and purposes useless.

Imagine modelling a human being as a heart pump with tubes coming in and out, and then when the patient dies of tuberculosis, having the superciliousness to state “the model is correct” instead of understanding that humans have a pulmonary system too (and a lot of other systems).

Why Climate Change is Unbearably Naked

What do I find so impossibly sloppy to bear, about Climate Change in its contemporary definition, as the result of human activities (also known as “Anthopogenic Global Warming” or AGW, and usually associated to CO2 emissions caused by humans)?

Yesterday’s incredible (counter-)discovery by Anthony Watts on CO2 measurements getting corrected upwards after having gone downwards “for the first time in history” provides an opportunity for a non-exhaustive list (I may add links to each point next week) of all that depaupers Climate Change of actual meaning:

  • Climate models are all based on forcings, something that cannot be measured. The tool has become the cause.
  • Those same models are demonstrably “right” whatever happens, either warming or cooling (once again, as all they show is that forcings are supposed to do)
  • Proponents are fixated on negativities (not just the newsmedia and the Stern Report…I have some interesting findings about a recent book on Climate Change, and I will publish them this week or next)
  • Climate change is improbably comprehensive in its effects, and yet “Attribution”, the ability to pinpoint a particular change as having something to do with Climate Change, is still up in the air
  • The IPCC itself cannot see much evidence for change in 2/3 (two-thirds!) of the planet
  • The “truth” is that temperatures are going up but if one looks at actual measurements, they are continuously adapted and adjusted. Measurement stations are not increasing in the number, and locations are far from perfect.
  • And now of course, on-the-fly upward adjustments of CO2 data appear just as values begin to go “the wrong way”.

I personally agree with Watts when he writes: “While nefarious motives may not be there, its just damn sloppy IMHO, and given this is the crown jewel for CO2 data I expect far better“.

And please don’t get me wrong…I am perfectly aware that such generalized sloppiness is part-and-parcel of modern Science, with genetists looking for Mendelian transmission of what is not Mendelian and a whole generation of Cosmologists trained on calling 96% of the Universe as “Dark Matter” and “Dark Energy”, two names for the same thing (“Total Ignorance”).

“Institutionalized Science” is of course 80% rubbish, as per the famous 80/20 rule.

But the whole Climate debate is much more than Science. And for that, there is still so much it needs to be dressed with, before it can be shown as properly thought of, and ready for being a solid basis for a revolution in societal mores.

If I read about “scientists demonstrating that train travel is impossible” I may get a laugh, as people at the time surely did. But when I see all the massive propaganda machine put in place to convince people to turn carbon-free by way of guilt, there isn’t much to be amused of.

If the keys to absolute gullibility are ever found, we may as well all turn back to live up the trees.

Why the NASA Planetary Atmospheres Website Doesn’t Mention Greenhouse Gases

Discussions with people holding a different view are obviously quite likely to help bring one’s reasoning forward (as long as there is no name-calling or other infantilism).

For an example of what can happen, look no further than this exchange with Ed Darrell at his Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub. The topic is, what is the relevance of the fact that the NASA Planetary Atmospheres website (PDS-A) doesn’t mention greenhouse gases.

To which my answer has been:

if the experts in the field don’t take it into consideration, I surely want to know why!!

Ed has replied with an interesting suggestion:

The site doesn’t pretend to be an exhaustive resource for all studies of all atmospheres everywhere. It’s a site to get a line into work NASA has actually done.

But if that’s true, it means that in all these years, NASA has seldom if ever looked at ways to investigate the same greenhouse effect that keeps Earth’s average temperature above freezing, and Venus with a surface temperature higher than an oven. And furthermore, there is a dearth of data in this most practical of planetary atmospheric fields!!


Let’s try to figure out if Ed’s interpretation is right. In its About page, the PDS-A site says “As an additional service, the Atmospheres Node provides information on relevant planetary atmospheres topics for educational purposes”.

There are links for Educators, including to the NASA Planetary Data System College Student Investigators (CSI) webpage that states

The objective of this activity is to involve undergraduate students in research and development projects related to the holdings of NASA.s Planetary Data System (PDS). Through the PDS College Student Investigators activity, the PDS strives to prepare the next generation of PDS science investigators.

A recent proposal is about investigating the role of dust in the thermodynamics of the Martian atmosphere. Neither there nor elsewhere there is any mention of greenhouse gases, a topic that evidently and mysteriously does not interest “next generation of PDS science investigators”.

Going back to PDS-A, there are educational links also to “Broker Forums“. One of them is the web site for the “Sun-Earth Connection” at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center, curiously linking to another website “Space Weather” containing a few unorthodox remarks on the Sun and Earth’s climate.

Another link for the Broker Forums goes to NASA’s Solary System Educational website where (finally!) there is some serious content about the greenhouse effect (GH).

And what does that refer to? Step forward ESA’s Venus Express, that lists among its scientific objectives the investigation of

what is the role of the radiative balance and greenhouse effect in the past present and future evolution of the planet?


Chapeau to Ed Darrel, then…for all intents and purposes, NASA has dedicated no mission to the study of the greenhouse effect. That’s why there is no mention of it in the PDS-A site, the Planetary Data System for Atmosphere: simply, there is no data to report. Because nobody ever looked for those.

Is the current state of Climatology on this planet and everywhere else sad or what? If Goddard’s Director and climate worrier James Hansen is unable to gather funds for a terrestrial or planetary mission on the greenhouse effect; or worse, if even he is not interested enough to put one together: then how solid will the science of the climate ever be?

ps Still, the PDS-A Encyclopedia could have had a page on the GH effect. Its equations albeit simplified, still are possible

Against-AGW-Consensus Article on the FPS Before Monckton's

I can’t help but laugh at the incredible somersaults being performed by the Council of the American Physical Society (APS) to reaffirm thieir unshakeable belief in AGW, after allowing the publication in their “Forum on Physics & Society” (FPS) of an article by Christopher Monckton, “Climate Sensitivity Reconsidered“.

Note: there is one thing I agree with the APS. Monckton’s paper has not undergone any scientific peer review. You see, he’s a Lord (a Viscount, no less) whilst on the ”Council of the APS”‘s side there is obviously no trace of nobility. They have been “discorteous” indeed.

Time will tell about the position (and nobility) of Jeffrey Marque, the Editor of the FPS that has seen his July 2008 comments severely rebuked by the Executive Committee of the FPS. Who’s going to choose what will be published in the October 2008 issue, is anybody’s guess.

Interestingly, the FPS and the APS did not make too much of a fuss in the past, when publishing “heretical” climate-related opinions. For an example, see Gerald E. Marsh’s “Climate Stability and Policy” in April 2008.

Mr Marsh is not exactly your average AGW proponent: he argues that current CO2 levels are too low and contributing to climate instability, suggests that even 750ppmv could still be not enough to stop an upcoming, catastrophic Ice Age. and recommends that the IPCC switch its focus towards “determining the optimal range of carbon dioxide concentrations that will stabilize the climate, and extend the current interglacial period indefinitely”.

For some reason, the above did not cause any digestive pain at the FPS, either with its Editor, with its Executive Committee, or with the Council of the APS itself.

Is Monckton’s paper simply too hot to handle? Plenty of nutrients for conspiracy theorists there, no doubt.

NASA Planetary Atmospheres Website Doesn't Mention Greenhouse Gases

Looks like there is at least one NASA website dedicated to planetary atmospheres, that cares not a zilch about the greenhouse effect.

The Planetary Atmospheres Node (Atmospheres Node, or Atmos) of the Planetary Data System (PDS) is responsible for the acquisition, preservation, and distribution of all non-imaging atmospheric data from all planetary missions (excluding Earth observations). The primary goal of the node is to make available to the research community the highest quality data possible. To this end, data are reviewed and re-formatted where necessary in order to meet the documentation and quality standards established by the PDS

The Education/Outreach section at least, says nothing at all about the greenhouse effect, whilst going into the details of lots of other things, such as how to compute the adiabatic lapse rate (dry).

CO2 and “greenhouse” are vaguely mentioned in few of the Abstracts but for some reason haven’t made it to the Education pages.

ADDENDUM: I am discussing the above with Ed Darrell at his Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub.

ADDENDUM (2): It seems that we have an answer. That site doesn’t mention the GH effect because no interplanetary probe has bothered yet to study it. Things may be a-changing with ESA’s Venus Express.

Greenhouse Gases: The Laboratory Fallacy

It is often said that the greenhouse effect by anthropogenic CO2 emissions is an established fact, as laboratory studies have been showing the interaction between CO2 and infrared radiation since before the times of Arrhenius.

That’s not necessarily true.

I am not saying that all those experiments have been wrong or that there is an international cover-up on the lack of greenhouse properties by carbon dioxide. That’s obviously not true, or else there’s something very wrong with quantum physics…

What I am referring to is the logical fallacy of stepping from the laboratory to the real world.

For an example of established chemical reactions that fail to live up to expectations outside of the laboratory, just look at the history of “Antioxidants“, an entire class of molecules supposed to slow down aging and prevent diseases.

Only, they don’t. Or if they do, it’s hard to tell. Perhaps some of them might even shorten one’s life.

This has not prevented the birth and sustainance of a whole industry of dietary supplements, just as the complexity of the real atmosphere mean nothing to those trying to take advantage of the carbon taxes or markets.

The underlying tragedy is that there may be something important about antioxidants/micronutrients, under specific conditions, but the true knowledge about it has been buried for decades by too quick claims disseminated for public health concerns: yet another analogy with CO2-based greenhouse warming…