I have been working on the energy balance of the earth and this week the class is on paleoclimate.  At this point, I can’t really write much up–virtually everything so far is what I have already read on my own.  Hopefully, the paleoclimate will be enlightening.  In the meantime, I have questions.  These are sincere, honest questions.  I want to understand.  If any one has an answer that is clear and informative, I would appreciate answers.  (If, on the other hand, the best you have is “It’s obvious”, “You don’t understand science” etc, you will not be allowed to comment and any comments of that nature will be deleted.  Comments that “no one knows” are not going to be helpful either.  That’s where I’m sitting at now–I can’t find the answers.  So show me the math.  Explain the processes.)

1.  When was the earth’s energy “in balance”?  Everything so far says it never was.  So I am guessing that it is statistically so far out now that it is perceived as a problem.  I then run into the problem of using proxies for what appear to be extremely precise temperature measurements when in reality there does not seem to be support for that practice.  In the past, proxies were an approximation of the past, not precise representation.  Yet now, they seem to be “precise”.   Out of balance seems the norm.

2.  Why is “average” the proper statistic for the temperature of the earth?  Average really is not useful over a range of -134 to +134 over millions and millions of square miles.  Why is it used?

3.  How do we know what the “optimal” average global temperature is?  We only know what we have seen and extrapolated from proxies.  If the oceans rose, people would move inland (they would not be refugees–sorry.)  How do we know that the average temperature should not fluctuate or increase or decrease.?  It’s done so all along.  Again, I hear the statistically significant argument, but I don’t see the math presented to support this.

Enough for now.  Some of you may find this annoying, but if you want me to support the global warming position, I need answers.


35 comments on “Questions

  1. Glenn Tamblyn says:


    ” it is frustrating to see academics making claims high school chemistry taught us were wrong”

    Such as, unless you are referring to the use of ‘acidification’ which I discuss above?

    If your concern was with the use of acidification, them supposedly suggesting that the oceans will actually become acidic, then they aren’t making that claim. But they may be not coping with a limitation of the English language very well. Many academics are not naturally good communicators to non-academics.

    Did you ask any questions about this in the class, raise it in the on-line forums etc?

    • It would have to be raised in the forms as there is no “real” class. They are basically Powerpoint type classes with narration. There is a transcript also.
      I did not raise it in the forums. The forums are mostly about problems and politics, which was not supposed to be part of the class (and mostly is not). They are not searcheable and difficult to follow. It’s not a venue that seems to work for me. At least not at this time.

  2. Glenn Tamblyn says:

    wrt the term Acidification in this context, it is important to note that there is no correct word available in the English Language.To ‘acidify’ something means to make it acidic.

    There is no word available that labels the act of changing the pH of something from more alkaline to less alkaline without it actually becoming acidic. Changing pH from 8 to 6 say can be labelled acidification. Changing pH from 8 to 7.5 has no label – no such word exists.

    So the term ‘acidification’ has been co-opted to try and convey a slightly different meaning since it is the closest possible word even if not really correct. Some term for it needs to be used after all.

    And no scientist using the term is unaware of this. The Ocean Chemists who study this are well aware that the changes expected involves drops in pH that might go below 8 but will certainly not go below 7. Its just they have no other way of labeling it.

    And the changes in pH per se are not the real issue here. It is the corresponding changes in the concentrations of carbonate and bicarbonate that arise as a consequence of this pH change that are the crux of the matter. Changes that potentially impact on the ability of some types of shell forming marine creatures to maintain their shells and not have them start to dissolve back into the ocean.

    Unfortunately this is all to complex to be expressed in a word that can be used to label it. So the closest, although not accurate word has been co-opted. No researcher in this field is suggesting that the oceans will become acidic. But the limitations of the English Language leaves there hands tied when trying to communicate this.

    • I understand that the changes in the concentrations of carbonate and bicarbonte that arise are the crux of the matter. I also understand that some marine creatures appear to have difficulty with this.

      I can see no reason why one word is necessary–less alkali describes what is happening perfectly and could have been used. They chose not to and instead to go with a “scary” term that is not accurate. The language works just fine if they would use it.

  3. I want to note that people should not avoid reading the warmest sites and should not accept everything that is on the skeptic sites. It still comes down to making sure you understand the science and question everything before accepting it, as you noted.
    As far as some to the journalists and papers go, always double-check these. While many journalists are careful, some don’t adequately research (or may have a bad day). I am not familiar with all those listed in your comment, so I cannot say I endorse or do not endorse those in this list.
    Lastly, you do need to read Skeptical Science, Real Climate, the IPCC report (this is essential–and not just the political report but all of it), and some of the warmist blogs. The IPCC report is essential or you won’t understand what is being taught and pushed. I realize that reading these can be frustrating and difficult, but you need to understand what climate science is. Not everything the climate scientists state is wrong–a lot of it follows science. The problems arise in the models and the certainty presented by these sources. If you don’t understand the modeling, the ideas being pushed by these sites, and what is being said about skeptics, you can’t respond to the claims. Bare minimum, you need to understand what the margins of error are in the models and how much of this is based on actual data.
    I am taking a class on climate science now–and it is frustrating to see academics making claims high school chemistry taught us were wrong. But this is part of climate science and people need to understand.
    My personal advice is to read whatever you can and try to understand where the problems occur. Then, you can decide for yourself what you believe. (The one thing missing from this “science” is the willingness of warmists to debate skeptics. It’s virtually impossible to find such a debate. That’s sad, because a debate would make clear each side’s position.)

    • Gary The Swan says:

      ‘I am taking a class on climate science now–and it is frustrating to see academics making claims high school chemistry taught us were wrong.’

      Interesting. Are you saying you were taught wrong at school?

      Which course, who are these academics and what have they said?

      • One supposes that depends on one’s point of view. My view says I was taught correctly. The facts remain the same. The use of language has changed in order to meet a political end. The major point of contention currently is the use of the term “acidification” in respect to the ocean. The ocean has a pH of around 8.1. That is a base. It cannot become more “acidic” if it’s a base. It can only become less alkali until the pH drops below 7. Either these people do not know the difference between an acid and a base, or they are deliberately using a term they know to be wrong because it sounds scary and serves their purpose. Unless the scale on the pH range has been modified recently, what I was taught was correct and what is being called “acidification” is not acidification but rather loss of alkali or a decrease in pH. People may want to just brush this off, but this indicates either a lack of knowledge or a willingness to lie when it suits one’s purpose. Either way, it speaks poorly for the integrity of the science.

        The class is online, MIT12.34x Climate Science. There are several professors who narrate the videos, online discussions and problem sets to work on. On the up side, the professors often have done a good job of presenting the generally accepted graphs and theories, and have in several cases been very clear that this is not settled science and discussed the limitations of the science. It has provided a great deal of material for me to research and learn more about.

  4. jaymam says:

    Marcus Toynboyalé has kindly made a couple of lists. P.S. I have swapped his lists around, of course!

    The first practical thing we can do is provide a guide for the confused, a list of reads-if-you-have-the-times and avoids-even-if-you-do-have-the-times. If science – and its confusion-lowering effects – is to be affirmed, a list of what people should be reading, viewing and attending to to lower their confusion (and remember only scientific insight can lower confusion) ought to include:

    Steve McIntyre of the Climate Audit blog
    Anthony Watts of the Watts Up With That blog
    Andrew Montford of the Bishop Hill blog
    Anything by Lords Monckton and Lawson
    The GWPF website
    The UK’s Daily Mail & Telegraph, the USA’s Wall Street Journal, Australia’s The Australian
    The Jo Nova blog
    Anything by Judith Curry, Roger Pielke Jr, Richard Tol, Donna Laframboise, Fritz Vahrenholt, Andrew Bolt, James Delingpole, Christopher Booker, Tim Worstall, Bjorn Lomborg, Matt Ridley, Benny Pieser, Ben Pile, Barry Woods, Geoff Chambers, Willis Eschenbach and Matt Briggs.
    The Register website
    Conferences and literature by the Heartland Institute
    Anything by Jonny Ball

    Conversely, a list of sources people ought to avoid to keep confusion to a minimum should include:

    Australia’s ABC
    UK’s BBC & Guardian
    USA’s New York Times
    Real Climate Blog
    Skeptical Science website
    IPCC report
    The international COP meetings
    Michael Mann’s twitter feed and facebook page
    Anything by the UK’s Royal Society and Sir Paul Nurse
    NGO websites (Greenpeace, FoE, 10:10, us)
    Anything by Stephan Lewandowsky and COIN
    Anything by Lily Cole

  5. Jaymam: WtD does not list those he considers to be deniers. He has some listed under the conspiracy tab and regularly writes about those with whom he disagrees. The “d” label is used generally on anyone who disagrees with peer-reviewed literature or the idea of AGW in general. At least that’s what I get from reading his posts.

    One reason there are not such lists is most skeptics are looking at the science (or lack thereof) and not the person speaking. Even Michael Mann was right on some things, as was James Hansen. My criteria for “bad behaviour” is when the labels start being tossed about and insults fly, the science isn’t there. I cease to listen at that point. Plus, the definition of a denier varies from person to person, including skeptics. Judith Curry is called a “luke-warmer” in places, Science of Doom is considered “warmest” in most places. Kind of like global warming itself, the labels are very subjective.

    I try not to delete comments, but rather to address the ideas. I think it’s more important to understand how science works and be able to spot bad science when you encounter it, rather than labeling specific people as right or wrong. Comments are deleted only for rudeness as a general rule.

    There are lists of outrageous claims made by journalists, activists, etc, but I guess I just find the lists and comments quite depressing at times and totally without merit. I don’t really want to give them more “airtime” unless there is a specific reason (such as Al Gore saying there would be Cat 6 hurricane designations in the future).

  6. jaymam says:

    I must admit that I was intrigued by the title of this blog and that is the main reason I came here. I assumed that the “watchers of d*niers” would have a list of d*niers, but I can’t see one on their website, although another site has a big list.

    I have always wondered why nobody seems to have made a good list of the names of the most outrageous climate alarmists and their organisations. I’d like to see a list of climate alarmists who keep getting in the news, and whose science really can’t be trusted. The list could be ranked in descending order of outrageousness (e.g. Mann at the top) or the names could be in alphabetic order with a rating by their name (e.g. Myles Allen***, William Connolley*, Peter Gleick****, James Hansen*****, Phil Jones***, Michael E. Mann******, etc)

    Here’s a start that someone (probably Connolley) has done:

    I would propose that the list be published regularly with the latest rankings of outrageousness.
    I have suggested such a list on sceptic blogs and my suggestion has been deleted. If such a list is a bad idea feel free to delete this post and I won’t be offended!

  7. jaymam: No hockey stick there!

    Here is a document I found on line:

    You may be able to find others. Some universities have data sets their students use. If we could combine all of the data from various locations and compare trends without averaging, then we might actually be able to see a trend that is based in reality and whether or not this truly is “global” and “warming”. So many problems with homogenizing, averaging and calculating the difference from a mean that moves every thirty years…..

  8. jaymam says:

    I loathe averages, mostly. One of my many projects is to get raw data for a variety of sites around the world, and plot it on graphs properly. I don’t even want to average Tmax and Tmin – I will plot them separately. Yeah there will be lots of points on the graph, but any one outlier point will not influence the other points.

    • If you obtain the data and plot it, I’d love to have you do a guest post here if you’d like. It’s something I think many people would be interested in seeing.

      • jaymam says:

        Here’s some data that I reckon the warmists can’t ever adjust. It’s printed out in my local newspaper office, and is now online:

        GISS don’t seem to have the last 20 years data for Auckland (why not?) but if I plot the four seasons separately, they look believable:

        Where’s the hockey stick?
        Missing data around 1940 has messed up the graph a bit, I need to redo it.

  9. youkipper says:

    You may find this useful for your paleoclimate;

    It is a BBC Horizon documentary about the Snowball Earth and was recommended viewing for the Future Learn Climate Change course from Exeter Uni.

    • Thank you! I will watch it as soon as possible. Looks very interesting.

    • youkipper says:

      “I can reject any words I want.”

      Of course you can. And you can hold in your own mind your own interpretations and definitions of words above that of groups like the UN. But don’t be surprised if people start relating to you in the same way you would to someone who calls a large grey animal with big ear and a trunk a giraffe.

  10. Glenn–Use of the word refugee is absolutely unacceptable. It’s a word meant to cause emotion and detract from the reality of life. People are mobile–they live virtually everywhere on the planet except the poles, the cold areas. There are people living in the hottest parts of the planet. I haven’t yet found a calculation of where people would end up moving, but I did find a graphic that showed how little land we would lose if all the ice melted. It is no where nearly as catastophic as it is presented. People moving does not in any way constitute a situation similar to fleeing a war-torn nation. It’s intellectually dishonest to use the word. Technically, if we use your word, my mother was a refugee because the government changed the river path to run over where she lived as a child. I reject that usage. They are not refugees.

    Also, much of my experience in Wyoming does apply to other parts of the world. I apply it where I find it accurately belongs. I will research your information on crops and temperature.

    While I do appreciate your input and I learn from you, you continue to make assumptions about me that are not accurate. I read everything you write and research it. I have always been curious why “skeptics” are willing to take classes and ask questions on AGW even when they doubt it to be true, while wondering if believers would take a class explaining why it’s wrong. If so, would you quietly take the class, or would you try to understand the position of the professor, or would you try to prove the professor wrong? I am studying this from a viewpoint I don’t share and it takes a great deal of time. Would you do the same?

    I do thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. You provide me with much information and make me research things I had not considered or ran into before.

    • Glenn Tamblyn says:


      The use of the word refugee in my mind isn’t unacceptable. It is a description of a possible reality. People are mobile for many reasons.

      Some are free choices – ‘Gee wouldn’t it be nice to move to Sweden for a while and experience what that country is like’

      Others are not free choices – ‘Our well has run dry, our crops will fail, if we stay here we will starve. We have to go somewhere else and hope we can survive. We wont survive here’

      The ‘reality of life’ is that some parts of the human population experience suffering as their ‘reality of life’. If suffering shouldn’t evoke emotions within us, what does that make us. While we need to strive to be dispassionate in analyzing WHETHER such suffering might occur, to suggest we should be unemotional about considering its ACTUAL occurrence is inhuman.

      Simple basic point RC. The reality of life IS emotional!

      And I am totally open to those with other views presenting solid evidence that might counter these views. It is just that in nearly a decade of talking about climate change I have never seen it. What I have seen is endless parades of sloppy logic, cherry picking and just plain lack of information on the part of those making the argument. Skeptics have been given the opportunity for a very long time to make a case. They never have. If they had real arguments and evidence that could withstand scrutiny, don’t you think they would have advanced them? That they haven’t is telling.

      • I am always surprised (well, possible mildly) when global warming advocates use terms such as “denier” and “refugee” and then claim it’s just reality, while when questioners use terms like “socialist agenda” and “political science” the advocates scream loudly. I have long ago learned that inflammatory terms can be used when describing skeptics but never believers.

        Yes, life is emotional. When we start using that to further an agenda, we call that politics. Which is why skeptics call global warming a political agenda. It’s not about the science, it’s about winning any way you can. Which is one of the reasons I question–science does not behave this way. Politics does. I will not get into this here. I spent three days arguing the point on Jo Nova’s blog and decided many, many people in this debate on BOTH sides are bullies and irrational. It’s about the science, pure and simple. What we do with the science is called “politics”. So if you care to argue a political agenda, you’ll have to wait a bit before I engage again.

        Actually, if you just substitute “Believers” for “Skeptics” in your last statement, we are pretty much in agreement. One of the problems with believers is they don’t allow open discussion–see SkS. It’s very reminescent of Russian schools (or maybe ours now…..) where only the approved “truth” could be taught. Yes, that’s a deliberate illustration of using an emotional term to make a point. (I could have said that they do not allow alternate theories and discussion of the flaws in the those theories, which would have scientific. A true scientist would listen to any argument and then discuss the flaws. And not use the term “cherry picking”.)

    • youkipper says:

      You cant reject words just because you don’t like the image associated with it – that is sort of the point. Saying people are mobile is a bit of a strange defence since the fact that they are mobile is what can make the refugees.

      “The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) defines environmental refugees as “those people who have been forced to leave their traditional habitat, temporarily or permanently, because of a marked environmental disruption (natural and/or triggered by people) that jeopardized their existence and/ or seriously affected the quality of their life.” According to the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), an environmental refugee is a person displaced owing to environmental causes, notably land loss and degradation, and natural disaster.”

      I’d like to see the “graphic that showed how little land we would lose if all the ice melted”.

      “If all the ice in Greenland were to melt, the sea­ l­evel would rise by about 21 feet (6.5 meters), and th­at water would submerge 80 percent of the cities around the world” .


        I can reject any words I want. If I started referring to global warming advocates as Nazis, as did Roy Spencer, you’d reject that word and definition. People define things to suit their life views in many ways. Refugee is an emotional appeal designed to frighten people. These are people who are displaced due to their previous area becoming uninhabitable, generally over a long period of time.

        I am unable to verifiy the 80 percent of cities number, other than on HowStuffWorks.

        Remember, these changes are over centuries, not overnight. National Geographic says it could take 5000 years for all the ice to melt. Sea level is rising currently at around 3mm per year. Even if this triples to 9mm, the increase is quite slow. To reach 1 foot (305mm) in rise, even at 9mm per year, would take 33 years. People can adapt to this. It’s not instantaneous.

        In addition, the HowStuffWorks talks about the Dust Bowl and people being displaced. This would lend credence to the idea that climate has always been a factor in where people live and that we have always adapted. There are underwater cities from the past, also. A rise of one ft or less in 33 and possibly 5000 for the 216 foot rise seems fully possible to deal with. The idea that people should be able to live wherever they want and the climate should not move them is not realistic. Climates have always moved people. So have volcanoes, earthquakes and many other aspects of nature. Nature is not kind. It just is.

  11. youkipper says:

    Actually, I have been thinking about your average question and Glenns answer when he states “scientists don’t just look at one statistic” and I can’t help wonder if you skipped the part of your course about the equator-to-pole temperature difference, where clearly average temperatures are not being used.

    • No, youkipper, I did not miss said part of the course (keep in mind I’m only on my third week). No, I do not see that the antropogenic contribution will cause an uptick for decades. In part, because at this point the models I have seen are extremely simplistic. If that’s all that global warming is based on, then there’s a serious problem.

      I do understand the equations and can do the math. I can also see that there are other scientists who do not agree with the presented view and I need to understand why they don’t agree. While people keep saying it’s physics, it’s not just physics. Every choice made effects the outcome and I need to understand the whole picture. A conclusion is only valid if all the premises are correct and present. Missed or skipped premises can change the truth value/correctness/probability of the conclusion. This is extremely important to understand.

      As for why not ask questions on the forum, why limit my learning? Perhaps someone has a better way of explaining things here and I could benefit from it. I did take the course to learn and I am learning. And I will learn more by posting here and have people input their ideas. I never intended to “post the interaction” on this blog. I did say I would write about what I was learning. (The class is still open for sign up until March 12, so you can still sign up and watch the videos, work the problems and read the forums for yourself. Then you’re not depending on me.)

      I notice you did not supply any additional input other than to wonder if I can “apply this to reality”. More scientific input and less “wondering” would be much more useful if I am to believe that this idea is “applicable to reality”.

      • Glenn Tamblyn says:

        In one respect RC the models actually don’t need to be very complex. The energy balance is a very simple thing and as I point out in the post I linked to is driven very strongly towards equilibrium. Energy in is sunlight less that part lost to reflection (Albedo). Energy out is governed by surface temperature and the GH effect of GH gases and clouds

        If Albedo were not to change then any change caused by the GH gases would require a corresponding increase in temperature to compensate for that change. It is almost a one line calculation.And since we are talking about the energy content of the atmosphere here, that is directly reflected in average temperature.

        Where things get more complex is in that simplifying assumption ‘If Albedo were not to change’ – obviously it will change and a major part of what the models are doing is trying to estimate what the albedo change will be. And this is more complex – snow and ice cover changes, vegetation changes, dust and desertification, cloud changes etc.

        The other thing the models are trying to do is work out the detailed trajectory of the warming. How quickly/slowly will the changes proceed, what will the geographical distribution of change be. In this the oceans are the key – how quickly/slowly will they warm as they distribute heat within the depths. Also understanding the Carbon Cycle is needed to understand how much GH forcing we will actually get for the amount of gas we inject into the atmosphere.

        So the key thing the models are pursuing is the impact of the flow-on consequences on the heat balance. If the flow-on consequences have no impact then the problem is very very much simpler to analyze which is the point of the preliminary models they have shown you in your course.

      • youkipper says:

        Comment deleted for violating stated rules.

        (This is your last warning. If you resort to insults again, you will no longer be allowed to comment. I have cut you all the slack I intend to. Considering the global warming blogs allow no ideas not in line with global warming belief, you have been granted something here that I am denied on the global warming scene. Sadly, you don’t seem to value this.)

  12. youkipper says:

    Well I could answer your questions too but two things have occurred to me when reading this post;

    The first is why are you posting questions here when you are doing a related course with MIT! If you are genuinely looking for answers then surely the course forums are the perfect place to pose such questions where there will be interaction with fellow students and the possibility of answers from the highly qualified tutors. Once posted the interactions and answers between you and the other forum members could be used as a really interesting post. After all isn’t the reason you decided to do this course to learn about Global Warming Science and have any questions answered?

    The second point is that the post has left me wondering if you can take what you say you understand and apply it to reality. If you understand the energy balance of the earth, the equations for the various energy fluxes and radiative-equilibrium of surface temperature then you must have realised how much more energy is entering the climate system for increases in GHGs causing changes to atmospheric emissivity.

    Using the equations and model supplied you should realise, even if you cant work it out, that the increase in GHG every decade from pre-industrial will result in a pronounced upward tick of additional energy in the system. This is all Anthropogenic and much of the energy will be expressed as temperature. The basic physics and maths you say you understand leave no room for doubt – Anthropogenic Global Warming must occur, and can be measured and projected into the future for given values of planetary albedo and atmospheric emissivity.

    • I answered some of your comment below, but I will add two additional responses here: On the forums, there is not always an answer to the posted questions. Eventually there may be. Also, the answer is often: Wait and see. It will be covered later in the course.

      Second, as I have repeatedly said, the point of this blog is to get people thinking. Sharing questions I don’t have answers to can allow people who do have answers to present them and may get others to think about global warming science. This is not a blog that spoonfeeds answers.

  13. Glenn Tamblyn says:

    “How do we know what the “optimal” average global temperature is”

    The question is ‘optimal’ compared to what? Optimal for whom?

    Optimal for reptiles? They would prefer a warmer climate – we might even eventually see a return of Dinosaur like creatures.

    Optimal for mammals? They would probably prefer the climate that we have had up until now. That is what they are adapted to.

    Optimal for plants? Well the temperature/productivity curve for photosynthesis plays a big part in that. Too cold or too hot and photosynthesis stalls. So the optimum for them is where the largest range of habitats fall within the optimum temperature range for photosynthesis.

    Optimal for the oceans? Well, up to a point colder is better. Henry’s Law governs the concentration of oxygen in water and it is temperature dependent. Colder water can hold more gas dissolved in it. Like oxygen. Its no accident that the best fishing resources are in the high latitude oceans or near cold currents – they are more oxygenated. The crystal clear waters of the tropics are crystal clear for a reason – they have very little life in them because they are too warm.

    Optimum for humans? The climate that allows us to feed the maximum number of people! And since we tend to eat plants, mammals and seafood rather than reptiles that suggests the current climate or maybe slightly cooler.. And we then don’t have to worry about frying to death either.

    We can cope with cold – more blankets, jackets, mittens. But coping with hot is harder. If we have taken all our clothes off, we are sitting in the shade in a breeze and we are still too hot, we have run out of options. If it is too cold we can put on another jumper, wrap another bear skin around us. Cold we can take action about. Hot we can’t.

    • Glenn: I see your point, but WE can put on a jacket, plants cannot. Plants grow best in the tropics and the warm areas. Up north, we don’t grow much food and if we do, it’s all very short season (Mexico can produce more food than Canada–and all of this depends on politics, of course, as well as climate). Most of our food is grown in the warmer states, though Canada does produce some vegetables. Much of the produce comes from Mexico. If we stop using fossil fuels, growing in greenhouses becomes much less practical. I guess I’m looking at the food supply and seeing warmer is better. Living in a state where all my plants have 90 days or less to mature and must withstand -30F if they’re perennial, cold does not seem better. Plus, people are mobile, growing areas are not. People live in hot areas without air conditioning but not in cold areas without heat. My concerns run toward food and shelter also, but I see a different outcome from warming. Now, if we could use nuclear power in an unlimited fashion, I would probably say that it would be okay to be colder (if we teach people in Georgia to drive in snow–there is the problem of lost productivity and extreme cost for snow in area people are not used to. I’m not sure right now you can get people on board with the idea of colder.)

      Thank you for the answer. It makes a lot of sense (I seriously doubt the dinosaur-type creatures idea, though that was a nice dramatic flair). Now I will have to research what temperatures in the past were optimal for humans and food and shelter!

      • Glenn Tamblyn says:

        The thing to remember when looking at food supply is to be careful to not bring a developed nation bias to our thinking. 1/2 the worlds food supply comes from grains and much more of our own diet is grains based than we realize – stockfeed that gives us meat, chicken, eggs, milk and cheese, and hidden fillers in processed foods. And most of the grain crops don’t grow in the tropics. Rice is the major exception but in many areas rice is grown near the upper end of its temperature range.

        Research into the yields of some of these major crops has shown a small yield increase for a modest temperature rise then typically a 10% per Deg C fall in yield above that.

        Also Google ‘photosynthesis temperature’ for some graphs highlighting the relationship between temperature and photosynthesis.

        Also ” Plus, people are mobile”. Up to a point. For most people in the world being mobile is not a very easy option – its called being a refugee. What happens politically, militarily, if a few hundred million Indians become ‘mobile’ into China for example

        Current temperatures in the hottest regions are within our tolerance range. That is because the wet bulb temperature ( seldom goes above 32 Deg C any where in the world. When it is much hotter it is also drier. Prof Steve Sherwood at the University of NSW has estimated what is likely to happen to maximum WBT as the world warms. For every degree of warming the maximum WBT rises by around 3/4 of a degree. So if there were 4 degrees of warming the peak WBT would be 35. And the WBT is the minimum temperature that something can reach from purely evaporative cooling. So, at that temperature it is only 2 Deg C below the bodies core temperature. The capacity of our bodies to loose heat would be substantially diminished and core body temperature would rise.

        And the only thing one could do about it would be to stay in an air-conditioned space which doesn’t depend on the limits of evaporative cooling. But that again is a very 1st world answer, not an option for several billion people. And even then it would hugely curtail what sorts of activities could be undertaken, with flow on economic consequences.

        Be careful not to project your experiences in,Wyoming onto the rest of the world.

  14. Glenn Tamblyn says:

    “Why is “average” the proper statistic for the temperature of the earth”

    Well firstly if you are only going to a single statistic then the average is about the best. Obviously the scientists don’t just look at one statistic – here it is important to distinguish between all the data they work with and the highlight/headline data that is reported.

    But more importantly the average is looking at something important thermodynamically. From my previous comment, temperature is proportional to the heat content of a substance. And we can meaningfully ask what the heat content of something is; it a bit like asking how much water is in a bath. But we can’t directly measure energy, only its effects. By measuring temperature and then averaging it we can estimate a corresponding heat quantity.

    It is important here to ask how we do such averaging. If we simply take a series of readings and do a basic arithmetic average of those readings then we produce a really dubious result. Each reading may be an indicator of a very different area or volume being measured. For example a weather station in Boston likely has a significant number of weather stations relatively close to it. In Wyoming the weather stations are likely further apart. So the Boston station should be treated as sampling a smaller area than a station in Wyoming. Similar ideas apply when we look at 3 dimensional data such as ocean temperatures.

    But so long as we do Area (or Volume) Weighted averaging we get a useful result. We get a number that is an estimate of heat content. And all the major climate statistics are weighted averages using differing techniques.

    That’s why average temperature is a useful general statistic. It is an indirect way of measuring changes in heat quantity.

  15. Glenn Tamblyn says:


    I will post more this evening (Eastern Australian time) but you might start by reading a post I wrote recently on just this point, the importance of the energy balance. Here:

    And the basic point being that the system will always tend to return to balance – it is inherently self correcting. This because of some very basic thermodynamics

    If anything, the earth, any other object, is not in thermal balance then the two energy flows into and out of it aren’t equal (lets leave out any energy generated internally for the moment). If this is so then the total energy within the object is changing.

    – If energy in is GREATER than energy out then extra energy is accumulating within the object; this is the case at present
    – If energy in is LESS than energy out then internal energy is being lost by the object; this is the case during the cooling phase of a glacial cycle for example.

    When the energy content of something changes its temperature changes. Add energy to something and its temperature rises. This is because for any given substance temperature is directly, linearly proportional to internal heat; the temperature of something is really an indirect measurement of the heat content of that thing.

    So if heat is accumulating in an object it’s temperature is rising. And as its temperature rises how much heat that object radiates away increases.So if an object is gaining heat because energy out is smaller than energy in, that object will warm and energy out will increase, bringing it back towards balance with energy in. Restoration of balance is the intrinsic behavior of a thermodynamic system – that is the essential import of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.

    That is not to say that perfect balance will always be maintained. Different new perturbations may regularly disrupt the balance forces and the system will start seeking a new balance point. But the key point is that it requires disrupting factors to create an imbalance, otherwise the system will naturally tend back to balance.

    Disruptions to either or both energy flows may cause the imbalance but the object always responds by having its temperature change to restore the balance.

    So the Maunder Minimum and the eruption of Mount Tambora combined to reduce the energy flow in from the Sun. The Earth cooled as a result during the Little Ice Age.

    Conversely today the Sun has cooled ever ever so slightly, reducing energy in but at the same time GH gases are restricting the flow of energy out to a greater extent so the Earth is in an imbalance that is a net warming. So heat is accumulating as evidenced by the heat build up in the oceans.

    Imbalances must always be caused, they don’t just occur at random.

    More later…

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