August 18, 2017 | David F. Coppedge

More Sources of Error in Climate Models

We continue examining findings that call into question the certainty of scientific consensus about global warming. Here are interesting papers from leading peer-reviewed science journals.

Ozone depletion following future volcanic eruptions (Geophysical Research Letters). This paper concerns the ozone layer, another atmospheric phenomenon blamed on humans. What about volcanoes? “If HCl, a chlorine-containing compound often present in large quantities in volcanoes, were to reach the stratosphere following a future explosive eruption, substantial ozone loss could result, regardless of the year in which the eruption occurred.” Have humans really been the culprit?

Satellite snafu masked true sea-level rise for decades (Nature). This data point seems to favor the consensus. “Revised tallies confirm that the rate of sea-level rise is accelerating as the Earth warms and ice sheets thaw,” Jeff Tollefson reports. The reason for the correction, however, might undermine confidence in other types of data gathering methods:

Now, after puzzling over this discrepancy for years, scientists have identified its source: a problem with the calibration of a sensor on the first of several satellites launched to measure the height of the sea surface using radar. Adjusting the data to remove that error suggests that sea levels are indeed rising at faster rates each year.

River networks dampen long-term hydrological signals of climate change (Geophysical Research Letters). Here’s another non-trivial factor that was not given adequate consideration in current climate models. [Anecdote: The Fraser River is shown in the salmon migration episode of the Illustra Film, Living Waters.]

River networks may dampen local hydrologic signals of climate change through the aggregation of upstream climate portfolio assets. Here we examine this hypothesis using flow and climate trend estimates (1970–2007) at 55 hydrometric gauge stations and across their contributing watersheds’ within the Fraser River basin in British Columbia, Canada. Using a null hypothesis framework, we compared our observed attenuation of river flow trends as a function of increasing area and climate trend diversity, with null-simulated estimates to gauge the likelihood and strength of our observations. We found the Fraser River reduced variability in downstream long-term discharge by >91%, with >3.1 times the attenuation than would be expected under null simulation. Although the strength of dampening varied seasonally, our findings indicate that large free-flowing rivers offer a powerful and largely unappreciated process of climate change mitigation. River networks that integrate a diverse climate portfolio can dampen local extremes and offer climate change relief to riverine biota.

Influence of shale-total organic content on CO2 geo-storage potential (Geophysical Research Letters). This paper concerns efforts to store excess carbon dioxide in shale rock, but indicates that how it stores the gas is poorly understood. Might natural carbon storage be more variable than thought?

Shale CO2-wettability is a key factor which determines the structural trapping capacity of a caprock. However, the influence of shale-TOC [total organic content] on wettability (and thus on storage potential) has not been evaluated despite the fact that naturally occurring shale formations can vary dramatically in TOC, and that even minute TOC strongly affects storage capacities and containment security. Thus there is a serious lack of understanding in terms of how shale, with varying organic content, performs in a CO2 geo-storage context.

Land surface albedo bias in climate models and its association with tropical rainfall (Geophysical Research Letters). This paper’s opening sentence undermines confidence in climate models by admitting, “The influence of surface albedo on tropical precipitation is widely appreciated, but albedo bias over snow-free areas in climate models has been studied little.” Even if modelers find ways to compensate for this factor, what other factors have been “studied little”?

Glacial weathering, sulfide oxidation, and global carbon cycle feedbacks (PNAS). These authors found a negative feedback loop that could prevent runaway glaciation, so often worried about in the climate change literature. In addition, these researchers consider large climate changes over a million years, when man had nothing to do with big changes in global temperatures.

Record Temperature Streak Bears Anthropogenic Fingerprint (Geophysical Research Letters). Despite the uncertainties and unknowns listed above, many climate scientists overstate their confidence that the consensus is right. A look at the statistical methods in this paper, however, shows a fair amount of selective data manipulation to come up with probability numbers that the authors infer point to anthropogenic causes. Then notice the lead author: Michael Mann, a staunch advocate of the consensus whom some conservatives feel is so tainted with political bias as to be untrustworthy.

We think the public deserves to know how much error and uncertainty goes on behind the curtain of the science wizards. Think of the money and the global political fallout downstream of the trust world leaders put in the scientists modeling climate change. What if much of it is fake science? What if it impossible to gauge the extent to which humans are responsible? What if natural processes will warm the climate no matter what humans do about it? These are important questions. It’s not our place to decide human fault on this issue; we just report what we run across in the literature, and as you can see, a lot of it is much more uncertain than the media make it out to be. With our 20 years of experience watching a consensus overplay Darwinism, we have reason to doubt the credibility of scientists’ judgment on such a global, complex issue. And we certainly doubt their credibility as prophets! None of them will be around in a century to see whether their forecasts of warming will come to pass or not.

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