What is the earth’s temperature?

Global warming is an increase in the amount of the sun’s energy that earth retains. This then may cause an increase in the temperature of the planet, referred to as global warming. Why “may cause”? Because the temperature of the earth is affected by many things that act to increase and reduce the amount of energy retained. It’s not just a single factor.

Temperature is the average thermal energy of a material’s molecules. Most of the time, temperature is expressed in degrees C (celsius) or F (Fahrenheit). There is also Kelvin (K), which does not use the designation of degrees because it is an absolute scale (zero K is where all molecular movement stops–a fascinating idea, I always thought*). People generally regard the measurement of temperature as what feels “hot” and “cold” rather than the thermal energy of a material.

Temperature is measured in various ways:

There were the liquid-filled tubes, originally containing mercury. Later, it was a colored liquid. I have always regarded these as most accurate since they are simple and straightforward. I really don’t have any evidence this type of thermometer is usually quite accurate except it’s simplicity and fewer moving parts seems to indicate less chance of error.

There were bi-metal thermometers, copper with steel attached to each other. The metal expand at a known rate as temperature rises and falls. Adding a couple of additional metal pieces allowed for min/max measurement without one actually having to be reading the thermometer at that exact point. Now, many thermometers are digital, based on electrical resistance. Based on my experience with various digital measuring devices, these seem the least accurate and require frequent calibration.

For AGW, there are also satellite measurements, requiring mathematic calculation to convert to temperatures. These give us a more global picture.

How many points are measured? With a satellite, you basically have full coverage of the globe. With land, you do not. The arctic and antarctic, remote areas and so forth have very, very few stations. The USA, Europe and much of North America have coverage while the southern hemisphere is much more sparse. One hears the complaint that North America, as in the US, is not global, but the stations are heavily weighted to the US. So in a sense, North America is a proxy for global, as much as those pine trees and their rings were.

Ocean temperatures have been added to global temperature calculations, but unfortunately, as is the case in so much of climate research, there exist two measuring systems which are completely and utterly different and do not correlate nor back up each other. There’s the ancient “bucket from a ship method” where temperatures were originally measured by literally dropping a bucket from a ship and taking the water temperature. Modern techniques based on this idea are better but still subject to large margins of error. Then there are the buoys a fortune was spent on but the buoys didn’t give the desired result of showing warming, so they seem to have been dropped out, another wasted fortune on climate research. (Eventually, they may prove valuable. One never knows.) All of this means there is no true measurement of “global temperatures”, just measurement where convenient or practical.

What about missing points? If one is using a grid to homogenize and average the temperatures before further averaging, you have to fill in missing points. How? I learned they were called “fudge factors” and were basically “scientific” guessing when I was in college. Now, we call it kriging and other high tech terms. With the aid of computers, we have lead ourselves to believe we can quite magically know what we do not know. Temperatures vary widely, even over short distances. To vainly believe one can estimate accurately is just hubris. Now, it might be “close enough” (like horseshoes and hand grenades “close enough”) but if the error bars are included, it looks pretty shaky. Plus, when we get to averages and anomalies, we’re talking a tenth of a degree as significant. We simply do not have the accuracy to make such claims, even though such claims are constantly made to that effect.

Temperatures used are generally min/max, homogenized and averaged. Homogenized is great for milk, but I am very unsure that it works for the betterment of temperature distributions. Ignoring extremes ignores the reality of temperature on this planet which again, varies widely even in small areas. There seem to be different methods calculating the averages and what gets homogenized. There’s also conflicting arguments about raw data showing more warming than homogenized or homogenizing creating warming. This is the problem with records, adjustments and statistics. It’s far too easy to adjust data to fit the theory. At this point, since there is only one theory that is accepted by many, manipulation in the direction of supporting warming is bound to happen, deliberate or not.

Reducing temperatures to min/max has problems. There is no way to know if the day was 70 degrees for several hours, or 50 degrees then 70 for an hour. There are many days where the min/max is only a point on the scale and not at all representative of the actual temperatures for the day. I realize we lack the capacity to calculate using the massive number of data points using all the temperatures for a day would involve, but get an accurate picture, that is necessary. After all, this is used to determine whether or not the earth is retaining more heat, the original stated goal. What we are doing now is short-cutting to help bolster a theory.

It’s very doubtful that using min/max combined is useful. Separating them would let us see where the warming is occurring more accurately. When the min and max are separated, nighttime temperatures are what seem to be going up. The Urban Heat Island effect can explain much of this, as well as the helping to explain the increase in daytime temperatures. Wind turbines can do the same thing on a windy night. AGW and wind advocates argue this does not matter and is local, but if one’s “local” increases are going into the overall average, there is a very real chance there is an effect. Satellites measure further up in the atmosphere, but still, using min and max rather than a daily average of say hourly temperatures may give a very incorrect average overall. I have read that measuring further up in the atmosphere is not useful since we don’t live there, but it’s perfectly fine for determining the energy budget. The objection is really irrelevant to the theory and only relevant to what happens with humans and ground temperatures.

There are other questions and concerns with the temperature measurments, calculations, etc that will be addressed later. This will be something of a series on global warming, an informal one albeit.

(It was said there are no negative Kelvins, but in 2013 it was determined there are negative Kelvins. Negative Kelvins are actually hot, not cold. There is no temperature below 0 Kelvin but there are negative Kelvins. It’s all very bizarre!)

Leapin Lizards Lilly, it’s cold!

All this talk of global warming and now we see this:


and this:


On the “hot side”:


Wiki defines a heat wave as:

“A heat wave is a prolonged period of excessively hot weather”

AMS says it’s weather over 90F degrees.  In the Middle East, it’s considerably warmer that much of the time.  So many terms in climate have very, very fluid meanings.  If it’s over 85F and we need a reminder of how dangerous global warming is, then that’s a heat wave.  My question is “why do we care about the heat wave and then ignore the freezing temperatures”?  Because it doesn’t fit the global warming beliefs or because global warming is a hard sell to cold tourists visiting Jackson, Wyoming?  Probably both.  Talk about “cherry picking”.


Off topic and truly frightening

From a comment section on a news site—”It is said by many scientists that we have already passed the tipping point and in roughly 100-125 years, there will be no humans left on the planet. We aren’t needed, we have nothing offer except harm, death and destruction. The earth doesn’t need us and would clearly be far better off without us. We are the most heinous and most malignant beings to ever happen to our mother.”

The self-louthing here is incredible.  How can anyone espouse a philosophy that says they are hideous parasites that would be better off dead?  I sincerely hope this person did not reproduce.  Think about this—warming belief can lead to self-hatred and despising of the human race.  Why in the world are we trying to save the planet for this?  Who in their right mind follows such a philosophy?  This is on the level of Jim Jones and his cult that killed themselves.  Be afraid.  Your future is being dictated by people who hate you and want you dead.

Watch the language

I have written on why I use “global warming” and not “climate change”.  I ran across another statement that is frequently made that makes skeptics look, to put it bluntly, stupid.  “They want us all to stop breathing”.  This was concerning the goal of an agency (NAS) saying emissions must be reduced to zero to save the planet from dangerous warming.

This statement does NOT mean they want people to stop breathing.  Breathing takes in CO2 already existing in the air and puts it right back where it came from, plus a small amount of CO2 created by the body.  However, there is no net change in the concentration of the CO2 in the carbon cycle as there is in burning fossil fuels, which are considered sequestered CO2 sources.  The proper response is:

“You mean you want to shut down all of modern society—stop all fossil fuel usage and concrete manufacture.  You want the evil fossil fuel barons who are rich and unfairly so (wait, where did Al Gore get his money?—sorry, I digress) to lose their ill-gotten gains and we will all live in squalor the way God intended.”

Of course, the speaker will then deny the charge, which can then lead to asking how else can this turn out, etc.  Many global warming advocates do not see this as needing to go to zero, but for those who do, the proper discussion is the hellhole people will end up living in if we actually were to follow their advice.


Another story I noted popping up was that Denmark would be “off fossil fuels” by 2020.  This may or may not be true, especially if part of their grid is covered by nations that do burn coal.  To be 100% true, Denmark would have to produce all their on energy, alone, and not tie into the grid.  That won’t happen.  Also, this cannot be applied to any other nation if:

1.  The nation is larger than Denmark.  Scale does matter.

2.  The nation has a different grid setup.  Infrastructure matters.

3.  The nation has an economy based on manufacturing, etc.

Denmark also is not “off fossil fuels” because they buy products from countries that use fossil fuels.  You are lying if you say you don’t use fossil fuels and then buy from someone who does.  It’s a very common lie and one few people ever really seem to catch.  So, Denmark will NOT be off fossil fuels by 2020 unless their grid and their economy is  100% self-contained or any trade is with another 100% renewable country.  You will NOT see this, of that I am certain.  There can also be no diesel generators, no batteries unless manufactured with ONLY renewables……As you can see, the claims are just outright lies.

Correctly put, Denmark may not be using any fossil fuels by 2020 but will continue to reap the benefits of others using them for many, many years thereafter.

As the science spirals…..

Once upon a time, there was a group of scientists who discovered what they believed to be a warming of the planet, caused by humans burning fossil fuels.  This elite group of scientists spent years studying the subject, had very advanced degrees and numerous published papers.  They were the best of the best–the supreme and infallible authorities on climate change and how humans were destroying the only planet they had.

Then came the skeptics.  Those pesky people asking uncomfortable questions about the science. How dare they????  These were Authorities–one does not question authorities.  Yet skeptics did and the skeptics refused to back down and go away.

The climate scientists supporters started simply saying that NO ONE who did not have a degree in or has worked for years in climate science and published beaucoup papers was a valid authority. This would eliminate most of the skeptics and the others would not amount to a threat.  And for a while, that seemed to work.  People knew the difference between “real science” and those pesky wannabes out there questioning climate change.

All was not well in the kingdom, however.  The skeptics kept hitting on plateauing temperatures.  The climate scientists started using words like “stalling” and assuring everyone the warming would pick up again.  Some went so far as to say nature might temporarily be overwhelming what we humans were adding, though that would not continue indefinitely.

The biggest change, however, was the newly defined “authority” or perhaps “who is okay to listen to” would be a better term.  It began with a psychologist writing a paper about conspiracy theories and skeptics (which is totally irrelevant to the science and basically name-calling) which did apparently finally get published somewhere.  This allowed into the arena “social science” in place of the “hard science” of the past.  No longer did climate change scientists care if it was getting warmer, only how to make people believe it was.  Then there was the graduate student who created a new hockey stick–in his doctoral thesis.  He was hailed as vindication for Mann.  He had no “years of experience” .  His degree was not climate science.  After that, a blogger became the new hero.  This was for his “citizen” science–an internet survey to prove 97% consensus on authorities believing in climate change.  (Is it not interesting that the 97% number remains constant over years and years and whatever the approach to measuring consensus?  Almost unheard of in the world of surveys and polling, yet there it is, over and over and over.)  This blogger that clearly indicated he “was not a scientist” (thought he does have a degree in physics).  This blogger that now is associated with a university in Australia.  His qualifications seem to be “well-known” so people recognize his name and appears to agree with everything climate change tells him.  His “research” was an internet survey.

In the last couple of years, climate science has gone from “expert with advanced degree and years of experience and peer-reviewed journals” to “any guy who agrees with us and we can use to further our cause using internet surveys or whatever it takes”.  This is good news for skeptics.  No longer can the climate change advocates claim that skeptics are not “qualified”.  Many, many skeptics have degrees in science, some write blogs.  Of course they don’t agree with the climate change science, but that is the only qualification they lack.  Since it’s science we are talking about , that agreement is actually considered “unscientific”.  After all, Darwin and Einstein didn’t poll scientists to get consensus before presenting their theories. Nor did they take consensus polls after presenting the theory.  Scientists who disagreed with Einstein were not vilified (probably not so Darwin, but that, like climate change, had more to do with science eliminating God and replacing Him with science).  Only religion forbids disagreement.  So the “agreement” qualification is moot.  Virtually everything advocates objected to in skeptics has become part of the advocate side now.  No years of experience, writing on things outside climate science if they sell your cause, and blogging as a gateway to becoming a bona fide climate science researcher.

When climate change advocates start claiming lack of experience or lack of degree disqualifies skeptics, just say “Lewandowski”, “Marcott” and “Cook”.  When the discussion of the current “pause” in warming comes up, just say “nature overwhelming manmade”.  It seems climate science has become that which they criticized.  Desperate measures for desperate times, I think.

Graph Wars

Scientific Badger

Scientific Badger

A reader alerted me to the current exchanges between WtD (Watching the Deniers) and WUWT (Watts Up With That). Since the exchanges continue, at least at WtD, I may have to update as things develop.

The exchange appears to have started in WtD with a headline “Anthony Watts: it is necessary to use correct sea-ice graphs to avoid misleading the public.” The “misleading” part was the graph does not include the SD (standard deviation) shading. I am uncertain how many people actually understand or even notice the SD shading, but it appears that WtD feels this is essential.

Later the same day, another entry on WtD discussed what the blogger had learned from the WUWT incident. It is interesting that he describes “friendly debate” and couches the remainder of the article in language befitting an army general leading troops to war (science is now war?) He proceeds to analyze what he has learned about leading troops into battle and the only thing to fear from skeptics is “our own fear”. My best guess at the meaning of this is: “if we have no fear, they can’t hurt us”. In the real world, that philosophy has proven to not be true in many cases (Custer come to mind). It does make a great war cry, but that’s about it. One would have hoped more would have been learned in the exchange.

Next, he “outs” the scoundrel who ratted out the blog posting to WUWT. What?!?!? What is it in this climate change discussion that people write a blog on an extremely controversial topic and then complain about the controversy. Better yet, the scoundrel who ratted out WtD would have been allowed to return to commenting, but not anymore. Punishment for “telling on” the blogger was swift and sure. Do these people really have egos that big that forbidding someone to comment on a blog is considered retaliation or punishment? Never mind—that may be self-evident.

Now today, WtD “discovered” an inflammatory comment at WUWT and is demanding an apology (actually more or less whining and hoping that works). The blogger actually said he “occupies the moral high ground”. The only people who write statements like that are people NOT occupying the moral high ground who are hoping their declarations will fool you. He is angry about a comment that implies he is gay. WtD quickly notes that “gay is okay”, yet writes an entire entry on how insulting the comment was meant to be and why it should be removed. Double think? In actuality, I probably would have moderated the comment (removed or modified it) because it is a personal attack and has nothing to with the subject at hand. However, if WUWT allows personal attacks, I see no problem. If “gay is okay”, then it really wasn’t an insult anyway, but a reflection on the commenter.

What was WUWT doing throughout this exchange? There was a post concerning the accusation by WtD and a statement that the graph was not fabricated. The commenter from WtD stated he lodged a formal complaint concerning the matter with the Australian Press Council. I’m not sure how much good that does–there seems to be a large number of such claims from both sides, but perhaps it will help. WUWT also clearly posted links to the graph used—this is one of the “official “ graphs from NSIDC. There is one graph with SD and one without. There was no deception in the first place.

A similar objection was lodged by a commenter on this blog concerning a graph I posted a link to: http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2013/06/global-warming-in-a-few-slides.php The graph does not match data from Rutger’s Climate lab. I have attempted to find the source of the graph, but to date have not been successful.

The objection, however, was to the graph using November to April, leaving out May, June, October and maybe more. Rutgers uses “spring”, “fall”, and “winter”, which I am guessing (and it’s just a guess) is that Rutgers means calendar periods, not the more generic use of the terms. The graph should have been labelled with actual dates for the data range in order to remove all doubt. Both sides truncate data to their advantage and use terms that work for them. We need to educate people to ask questions about the graphs and look at the data instead of fighting over what is and is not a “deliberate misrepresentation”. Another important problem with the graph was overlooked entirely: the Y axis has no label for the units used. The numbers are too large to be square miles or square kilometers based on the Rutgers graph. For now, I am labeling that graph as questionable on the blog entry.

One last note: WtD says “If the NSIDC has elected to present information in one format as their preferred means of communication, it is beholden to all of us to follow their model.” Science is not “Follow the Leader” or “Simon Says”. It is utterly unscientific to lock data into a specific format for graphing. It cripples the ability of scientists and readers to make comparisons in the graphing and to possibly discover new trends in the data . The statement is indicative of how very little science is found on WtD.

Examining science, part 1

We will be starting with definitions and other such things so hopefully the discussion will progress more smoothly if we are all using the same terminology. Please feel free to comment and let me know if the definitions are not clear.

Climate change: The theory that humans are contributing to changes in the climate through CO2 and feedback mechanisms. The theory is generally associated with James Hansen and the IPCC

Natural climate change: The variations in the climate that have always existed, with or without human CO2 contributions

The following terms refer to changes due to human activity, mostly CO2. If I am referring to these phenomena as part of a natural cycle, I will use the modifier “natural”
Sea level rise
Glaciers melting
Temperatures rising
Coral reefs dying
Ocean acidification

Settled science: I have been told these two points are settled: 1. CO2 raises temperatures and 2. Humans are causing global temperatures to rise due to the CO2 put into the air.
I accept that CO2 raises temperatures and that humans contribute to this phenomena. I do not accept that this means a catastrophic rise in global temperatures will follow and do not consider this settled.

To be clear, I do believe the temperatures rise, glaciers melt, coral reefs die, but I do not find the evidence that human beings are the main cause of this, nor is there cause for alarm. This series covers the reasons why.

Logical Fallacies:
I am including a section on logical fallacies to pre-empt (hopefully) the use of these arguments. Such arguments, if presented, will be dismissed immediately.

A. Ad Hominem—name calling, personal insults and attacking the speaker
Example: You are so stupid. You know nothing. My dog is smarter than you (unless you can prove your dog is smarter than me.) Flat-earther. You know nothing about science.

B. Poisoning the well: using one belief a person has in an unrelated area to dismiss everything the speaker says
Example: You cannot believe John’s work on paleoclimatology because he believes there is a conspiracy surrounding 9/11. His beliefs on political conspiracies does not mean his work on climate is suspect. This is a common fallacy thrown at both climate change advocates and questioners.

C. Argument from authority. As a deductive argument, it is always a fallacy. There is currently an informal use that an appropriate authority is acceptable for common usage. My belief remains that “argument from authority” is a fallacy, even where the authority is an expert. One may use the authority as a guideline, but that is all. Authority is not the definitive proof of a scientific theory, the data and methodology are.

D. Straw Man: Using a larger, more outrageous belief or idea to impugn someone’s beliefs
Example: Skeptics question climate science. Therefore, skeptics refuse to believe science.
Using the broader statement is designed make the disagreement irrational.
These arguments are often used in conjunction with ad hominem attacks.

E. Argument from persecution: This fallacy most often shows up in religious arguments, but Michael Mann seems to have found it worth a try:

Attacks (i.e. persecution) do not prove you are right. In fact, if we follow that logic, skeptics are attacked too, so this proves two mutually exclusive ideas (AGW and lack of AGW).



While not a fallacy (at least not as it generally stated) there is the “follow the money” argument. While it is always prudent to check out all sides of a debate, including who paid for it, it is NOT automatically proof that the speaker lacks a valid argument. This is very popular for dismissing anyone who questions climate science, and I have seen it applied by skeptics. (Advocates say oil money, questioners say government money. However, I have seen oil companies pay for research into wind energy storage, so the money is not always an indicator.)

Correlation does not prove causality, but causality does require correlation.

Proving a negative:
One cannot prove negatives such as “Prove ghosts do not exist” or “Prove there are no unicorns”. However, finding a ghost or unicorn proves the statement false.

One can indirectly prove a negative such as: I am housebound so I did not steal the car. In this case, one proves the premise (that I am housebound) and the conclusion follows (I did not steal the car).

I include this because I am often confronted with a misunderstanding of how scientific methodology works. A scientist presents an hypothesis, the data to support it and then awaits comments and questions. It is the responsibility of the scientist to answer these questions. It is not his responsibility to point out possible errors or alternative theories. Demands to prove that humans are not the cause of climate change are asking one to prove a negative. The only thing science can do is show one theory, humans or nature, has the higher probability. That is how science works. If sun activity shows higher correlation to temperature increases than does CO2, the CO2 is a less likely cause. Remember, causality requires correlation. The item with the lower correlation is less likely to be the cause.

Climate science presents some unique problems. Much, if not most, of climate science is based on mathematics. Actual readings of temperatures, sea level, etc are used, but subjected to a great deal of statistical manipulation before a conclusion is reached. This makes it much more difficult to understand than say, gravity. Gravity is a physical phenomena that is clearly demonstrable. Climate change is not. We have limited data, various models and a system so complex a super computer is required to run the data. All of which can introduce error and serial error. While climate science likes to say it is “certain”, it is anything but certain. The only result one can produce is a probability coefficient or a confidence interval. These may be as high as 95%. They may be much lower. Results can fall outside the interval and the theory still be true, but not over and over again. It’s so much more difficult than dropping a hammer.

I will cover these items in more detail in future postings.

(Comments and ideas are welcome if presented in a polite, respectful tone.  This is science.)