A Meteorologist Falls for the Sunspot Argument and Fails to See the Light
Recently I was made aware of an email message sent by a fellow meteorologist who was under the false impression that sunspots were causing the modern day global warming. Worse, he also believes that global warming due to human activities is an elaborate hoax. I decided to give him a chance to become educated but sadly, he chose not to. My rebuttal to his intial email follows and all links I provided appear at the end of this post.
My name is Scott A. Mandia and like you, I am a meteorology graduate from Penn State. I have been teaching weather and climate courses for 23 years and I have extensively studied the research related to the causes and the impacts of modern day climate change. I have a robust website and a blog regarding this topic where the latest climate research is cited.
I wish to correct some of the statements you have made in an email sent to XXXXXXX. Your statements are shown in bolded red text. Because you are a scientist, I could have been more technical here but I used simple language so that you could forward this to non-scientists who do not have the grasp of the underlying physics that you do.
The climate system (atmosphere, surface, and ocean) will change its temperature if there is a heat imbalance. A heat imbalance occurs if the incoming radiation and outgoing radiation do not equal. The climate system is warming and has been warming for decades. Global air temperatures have been increasing at a rate of 0.17C ±0.03C per decade since the 1970s. All the major global T data measured by surface and satellites (GISS, HadCRU, NCDC, UAH, RSS) agree. Globally, the surface ice is rapidly melting. Most importantly, the oceans are gaining heat and have been doing so for decades. (See link #1 for more details and many illustrations of above.)
The oceans, surface, and atmosphere are gaining heat from somewhere. This can only happen if there is more incoming heat from the sun or less heat being lost from Earth to outer space. According to the IPCC (2007) current estimates suggest that only 0.1 oC of the 0.8 oC of warming since the late 1800s is due to solar irradiance. More importantly, since direct satellite measurements (1980 – present) solar contribution to the observed rapid warming is negligible. Sunspot cycles (typically 11 years) cannot be blamed because the cycles feature warming for about 5.5 years followed by cooling on the next 5.5 years. How does one explain how there has been a 30 year warming trend due to an 11 year cycle? The past several years have featured one of the deepest solar minima in a century yet temperatures are still warming. A study from 2009 showed that even if the sun fell into a Maunder Minimum for the rest of the century, it would only put a dent in the warming expected due to increases in CO2. (See link #2 for more details and illustrations.)
Furthermore, nights are warming faster than days and while the troposphere is warming, the three layers above are all experiencing cooling. These observations are not consistent with an increase in solar radiation but they are consistent with a decrease in outgoing heat from the planet.
CO2 is about 4% in its contribution to controlling global temps. 95% is water vapor.
If you are referring to the greenhouse effect of each gas this is incorrect. According to Schmidt, et al. (2010), and summarized by Chris Colose, the total greenhouse effect between various radiatively active substances in the atmosphere is:
1. Water vapor: 50%
2. Clouds: 25%
3. Carbon dioxide: 19%
4. Others: 7%
Under clear sky conditions:
1. Water vapor: 67%
2. Carbon dioxide: 24%
3. Others: 9%
Water vapor is naturally cycled into and out of the atmosphere on a relatively short time cycle so it is not considered to be a major component of long-term climate change. As a meteorologist you understand that adding water vapor eventually leads to saturation which results in clouds and precipitation which then removes the excess vapor.
The planet must warm before water vapor increases. Water vapor cannot force the climate to change but it is a strong feedback mechanism because when the planet warms, more water vapor is evaporated from the surface. Assuming a constant RH, that means there will be more water vapor in the air and thus more heat-trapping. The warming planet is the horse and increased vapor is the cart. (Please see link #3 for details)
Sun activity has the biggest impact on regulating water vapor content.
As described above, the planet must warm to increase water vapor but the sun cannot be the primary cause of this warming.
Man’s contribution to global CO2 is about 10%…so man’s activities contribute a whopping 0.4% to regulating global temps, which is probably not enough to cause a tipping point to our climate.
Global CO2 can be changed by nature and by humans. The latest measurements show that the natural carbon cycle is observed to be net carbon neutral meaning that natural emissions are balanced by natural carbon removal mechanisms. Yet, carbon is increasing. The increases cannot be from natural sources. They are from human activities and we are adding about 2ppm CO2 per year. (Please see link #4 and #5 for details.) These increases in carbon are responsible for most of the warming since the 1970s. Almost all climate scientists agree and every international academy of sciences made up of tens of thousands of scientists agrees. (See link #6)
I would also argue for more global warming…if we can get it and higher CO2 content…as it would enhance agricultural production by freeing up more cultivatable land farther north.
Increasing CO2 may appear to be “plant food” but the negative effects of increased CO2 far outweigh any benefits. As climate rapidly warms, there will be more frequent and more intense drought and floods which cannot benefit plants. Water shortages are already occurring world-wide due to a combination of loss of snowpack and glaciers that feed rivers, a warming climate that evaporates more fresh water sources, and population growth that stresses supplies. Warming the planet further cannot be beneficial to agriculture when all factors are considered. (See link #7 for more details about water.)
Regarding more cultivatable land farther north. Are you suggesting that it is ok to move the climate that furnishes US agriculture now into Canada?
What happened to the Mid-evil warm period when the Vikings were farming on s. Greenland between 1000 and 1400. The planet is about 5 F cooler today then during that period.
The MWP was not warmer than today. Many different studies from many different scientists using many different techniques shows that modern day temperatures are the warmest in the previous 1000-2000 years. (See link #8 for more details.) Are you aware of how little area of Greenland was actually being cultivated? Not much. The growing season was also quite short and quite harsh. (See link #9 for more details.)
The manmade climate science fraud has already been exposed. It’s the scientists who are funded to pervert the science, the liberal media and government wishing to further control business and our lives that perpetuates this lie.
This statement is not consistent with common sense. How can one think that tens of thousands of scientists are all conspiring to fool billions of people? As you know, scientists are people who are curious about how things work and get their greatest joy comes from discovery. Furthermore, we are skeptical by nature and we “get famous” for proving others are wrong. Think Galileo, Darwin, and Einstein, to name a few. Scientists did not wake up one morning and exclaim that the planet was warming due to increases in CO2. The “discovery” of global warming has occurred over a century’s worth of time after much scientific skepticism and each year the scientific evidence keeps mounting that humans are the primary drivers of modern day global warming.
Scientists cannot get rich from public funding. (See link #10 and #11 for details.) How many research scientists do you know that live in huge houses and drive BMWs? I work with some of these people and none of them is rich. The research money available to climate researchers is approximately 0.04% of the revenues of fossil fuel industries. (See link #12)
If government created a hoax to move us off oil and toward green technologies in order to control our lives why has there been absolutely no movement in Congress in that direction? In fact, Congress is moving the other way. Meanwhile we keep importing oil while also massively subsidizing the fossil fuel industry. Imported fossil fuels make up almost half of our national trade deficit. It is certainly not pro-American to be pro-fossil fuel. Your claims are without merit and they are insulting to scientists across the world who are doing their jobs and trying to further discovery.
We are entering another weak sunspot cycle…slowly over the next 10 to 15 years I expect the global warming crowd will become an extinct species…as the earth climate cools contrary to the CO2 driven models. This climate change is going to be a disaster for mankind as food production shrinks due to shorter growing seasons.
We are now in cycle 24 with the number of sunspots expected to increase for a few years but still remain low. (See link #13 for details.) As already explained sunspots cannot possibly be responsible for the warming observed in the past few decades, especially when one considers that in the second half of the previous decade sunspots were extremely low and yet the climate warmed. The warming due to increases in CO2 is now dwarfing the effects of the solar cycle.
You appear to be confident that the climate will cool in the coming decade. You are free to take the $10,000 bet that warming will continue offered by Zeke Hausfather here: http://rankexploits.com/musings/2011/bastardis-wager-you-bet/
I highly recommend that you take some time to read The Scientific Guide to Global Warming Skepticism freely available at: http://www.skepticalscience.com/The-Scientific-Guide-to-Global-Warming-Skepticism.html
I also encourage you to drill down through the skeptic arguments that are debunked here: http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php In fact, “It’s the Sun” is the #1 incorrect argument. Please read all three versions of this argument: Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced.
My closing arguments should appeal to your scientific sensibilities:
If increases in CO2 are not causing modern day global warming then two things must be true:
1. Something unknown is suppressing the well-understood greenhouse effect (and doing so during massive increases in GHGs).
2. Something unknown is causing the warming that mirrors the GHE.
So we can accept what we know to be true (AGW) or we accept two unknowns.