Gill 3: Is run-away warming likely? Has carbon dioxide always been the main climate driver?

Collection of five Surrey Mirror Group Website Articles written by Peter F Gill and posted from about March 2015 to January 2016. They now no longer exist on the Internet unless archived by someone.

In previous contributions (scroll down to previous of my blogs if you need to catch-up) I have described and, in a limited way, discussed the first four of the main six hypotheses that form the overall Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) hypothesis. Now we shall move on to the final two which I listed as: (v) further atmospheric heating will release methane from permafrost causing run-away global warming and finally (vi) the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is and always has been the main climate driver.

AGW Hypothesis (v) further atmospheric heating will release methane from permafrost and cause run-away global warming

In one sense, we may regard this aspect of concern as a consequence of warming (of any origin) like increased sea levels. However because it is thought that the release of methane would lead to even more warming such a consequence maybe classed as a positive feedback which some have argued could lead to a tipping point and runaway warming.

Atmospheric methane (CH4) levels are very much lower than carbon dioxide (CO2) levels by volume. Whereas carbon dioxide levels are measured in parts per million (currently circa 400ppmv), methane levels are measured in parts per billion (currently circa 1825 ppbv). As with the origin of the CO2 increase, there is not universal acceptance about anthropogenic versus natural contributions. CH4 is a more potent Green House Gas (GHG) than CO2 by a variable factor currently close to about 30 times.

Whilst there has clearly been warming since the depths of the Little Ice Age (LIA) compared to previous recent warm periods the present warm period is not as far as proxy data shows anything extraordinary. The Roman Warm Period (RWP) was almost certainly warmer than the present warm period. The Medieval Warm Period (MWP) was probably warmer than the present warm period. Going back earlier in the present Holocene era the Holocene optimum was very much warmer than the present. In all of these cases, there is no evidence of runaway warming due to CH4 released from permafrost.

As we have raised the subject of feedbacks, it is worth mentioning some others. Interestingly those who favour the overall AGW hypothesis tend to concentrate on positive feedbacks of which CH4 release is clearly one. Loss of snow and ice reduce the amount of electromagnetic energy that is reflected from the Earth and therefore such warming causes further warming. However, that said I suspect that the elephant in the room is the negative feedbacks due to water in its various forms clouds and precipitation from clouds in particular.

AGW Hypothesis (vi) the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is and always has been the main climate driver.

When I first got involved in the whole notion of AGW back in the 1990s the climate change community readily admitted that there were many factors driving climate change and changes in atmospheric CO2 was just one of them. Things have apparently changed in recent years. I attended a two-day meeting at the Royal Society in October 2011 entitled “Warm climates of the past – lessons for the future?” Although the meeting only concerned itself with very recent times (the last circa 50 million years) it was concluded that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is now and has in the past been the main climate driver. This is the most recent main claim by those supporting the AGW hypothesis, which as far as I can see goes contrary to most of the proxy data available for the last 600 million years. In concluding this part of the discussion below, I provide a composite picture of data from C.R. Scotese who generated the average global temperature data and R.A. Berner who generated the atmospheric carbon dioxide data.



I could make many points about this data. However, in relation to the main thrust of the Royal Society meeting the following are appropriate:

  1. Whilst the uncertainty in proxy data is large, it is clear that over the last 600 million years there is no obvious correlation between atmospheric carbon dioxide and temperature.
  2. The period chosen by the Royal Society for its meeting was one in which in the movement of both temperature and CO2 were broadly in the same direction. For most of the rest of the period, this is clearly not the case.
  3. For approximately 80% of the period the Earth’s average temperature has been some 6-80C above the present average. This was true in the late Devonian and the early Carboniferous despite rapidly reducing atmospheric CO2.
  4. The fact that there seems to be a limit on average global temperature around 220C suggests a negative feedback mechanism in place for which, in my opinion, water vapour effects are favourite.
  5. Average Earth temperatures in the last part of the Ordovician were quite a lot lower than the current average temperature despite the fact that atmospheric CO2 content was circa 4000ppmv i.e. ten times current levels.
  6. The huge changes in climate evident from the proxy data require understanding beyond a simplistic CO2 in charge mantra.

Next time I hope to answer some comments people have made and to move on to a discussion of the missing science in climate change.

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Gill 2: Greenhouse Gases and Climate Sensitivity

Collection of five Surrey Mirror Group Website Articles written by Peter F Gill and posted from about March 2015 to January 2016. They now no longer exist on the Internet unless archived by someone.

Heat moves from hotter to cooler places in three ways – by conduction, convection and radiation. In a garden greenhouse, sun light passes through the glass (or plastic) roof and walls heating the ground by radiation. The air layer in contact with the soil warms by conduction and then starts moving upwards by convection. It is also true that some of the energy coming off the heated surface is electromagnetic radiation in the infrared part of the spectrum. The physical barrier of glass (or plastic) which stops the warm air escaping by convection is the main reason that a greenhouse works. Any retention of heat by limiting the escape of infrared radiation from the ground is very much a secondary effect.

The third and fourth hypotheses I listed previously (scroll down blogs) as forming the overall Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) Hypothesis directly concern the two main so-called greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere. Just to remind you I listed these two hypotheses as:

(iii) As a greenhouse gas CO2 absorbs upwelling infrared radiation from the Earth and re-emits in all directions effectively causing warming.

(iv) The increase in heat (caused by the CO2 warming) evaporates more of the primary greenhouse gas, water vapour, this multiplying the effect of CO2 increase by a factor of about three.

As you can probably appreciate, the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) effect that one hears about in the context of global warming involves rather different mechanisms than what goes on in actual greenhouses. The central idea, but not the only one, is that some types of molecule absorb certain frequencies of upwelling electromagnetic infrared radiation from the warmed surface of the Earth (water, soil etc). Such molecules then re-emit infrared radiation in all directions, including back to the ground. For reasons to do with the laws of physics and thermodynamics in particular, I prefer to describe the effect as one which changes the rate of loss of heat to space which results in a slightly different temperature than if the absorbing gases had not been present. The main infrared absorbing gases present in the Earth’s atmosphere are water vapour (highest absorber by far) followed by our old friend carbon dioxide (CO2) as a poor second. Others include methane, nitrous oxide and ozone.

The idea that some part of the Earth’s atmosphere effectively keeps us warmer than could otherwise be expected is attributed to the brilliant French mathematician and physicist Joseph Fourier (1768-1830). John Tyndall (1820-1893) identified water vapour and carbon dioxide as the “heat –trapping” components of the atmosphere. Svante Arrhenius (1879-1927) reasoned that because water vapour fluctuated continually cycling in and out of the atmosphere carbon dioxide is the key component. He argued that increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide would cause warming and this would cause increased evaporation of water. As you can therefore see, the basic idea is far from new.

Water is a remarkable compound. According to its position in the Periodic Table of Elements, oxygen hydride (chemical formula H2O) should be a gas at room temperature. Indeed the hydrides of the next three elements in the same series, sulphur, selenium and tellurium are all gases at room temperature. Only the hydride of polonium, the next element in the series, is a liquid at room temperature. Water is in fact rather like a polymer with the formula n (H2O) with a small amount of ionised component giving it a pH value of seven. In fact, I suspect that the anomalous behaviour of water features in disagreement s between scientists on the sign and extent of the GHG effect.

The changes of state of water, from ice to liquid water, from liquid water-to-water vapour and vice versa, involve large changes in energy, referred to as latent heat. The amount of sunlight reflected from the Earth’s surface, called its albedo, depends crucially on the surface type and if H2O its form being high when the form is snow and ice. All these factors play important roles in the Green House Gas (GHG) Effect. However as mentioned there is considerable argument about the overall effect of GHG on the Earth’s energy balance. The majority opinion favours a reduced rate of loss of heat as GHG increase although both effective warming and cooling take place. There is a minority view suggesting a slight overall cooling effect. Unlike politics consensus means nothing in science and so it is possible that the minority are correct. However, for the purpose of the discussion below I shall assume increased GHG have an overall warming effect.

Scientifically the big issues are climate sensitivity to changes in radiative forcing and the nature and extent of positive and negative feedbacks in the climate system. The term “sensitivity” is often used specifically for estimates of the increase in equilibrium atmospheric temperature, when the amount of atmospheric CO2 is doubled. The range of estimates for sensitivity is very wide from typically 0.6 0C to 4.5 0C and perhaps confusingly in computer models it includes for the compounding effect of increased water vapour expected for the increase in temperature caused by the increase of CO2 by itself. Interestingly, although one would expect an increase in the Earth’s atmospheric water vapour content for increasing temperature (for whatever reason), this has not been observed as far as I am aware although it is generally agreed that the Earth has warmed up by almost one degree Centigrade in the last 200 years.

There is a great deal of science hidden in the above remarks and I plan for the moment at least to make just a few comments which I may elaborate on in future. Firstly, when the quantity of any particular infrared absorbing gas increases in the atmosphere each new molecule has less effect than the one before it. The relationship is logarithmic. Secondly, unlike a real greenhouse there is no physical barrier to radiation finding its way to space it just takes a little longer than if there were no GHG present. Thirdly, in recent years despite continuing increases in atmospheric CO2 there has been no significant change in the Earth’s temperature. It had been thought that the effect was being hidden by aerosols, which have a shielding effect on sunlight. However, although real, this effect has been shown to be far less important than previously assumed. In fact, the only place where there is catastrophic global warming (CAGW) is in computer climate models which have been departing considerably from measured values for many years.

Until I have discussed the final two AGW hypotheses I will hold off on two important topics – alternative mechanisms for climate change and appropriate policies for dealing with the consequences of climate change. However, before leaving the CO2 water vapour issue I will relate a short story, which you may find interesting, frustrating or shocking depending on your understanding and point of view.

In late February 2010, I attended a two-day discussion meeting at the Royal Society in London. The title of the meeting was “Greenhouse gases in the Earth system: setting the agenda to 2030”. Before attending, I had not seen the list of papers. However, I expected that since water vapour is largely responsible to the so-called greenhouse effect on Earth there would be a number of papers on the subject. I was looking forward to those addressing water vapour variability especially since increased water vapour levels are linked to increased CO2 levels and an enhanced greenhouse effect. I was disappointed that there was not one single paper on water vapour, its variability or indeed any on the multiplying effects inherent in one of the main AGW hypotheses. Consequently, at the first opportunity, I asked why there were no such papers. The only answer that I received was that climate models fully account for water vapour. Sadly you will not be able to check exactly what I asked or indeed the response I received because these days the “Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society do not actually include a record of the question, answer and discussion sessions although for the progress of science these are often the most important parts of a meeting.

In the coffee break immediately following my water vapour question, I got into conversation with David MacKay (then Chief Scientific Advisor of the Department of Energy and Climate Change) in connection with one of my learned society roles. After dealing with that matter and another related topic about which we disagreed, David commented about my question to the meeting – “Very rude” he said.

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Gill 1: Changing Climates

Collection of five Surrey Mirror Group Website Articles written by Peter F Gill and posted from about March 2015 to January 2016. They now no longer exist on the Internet unless archived by someone.

Climate change is what Earth’s climate does and for a large variety of reasons. Many causal factors have origins external to Earth. These include: the gravitational induced changes to the Earth’s orbit around the Sun (probably largely the influence of Saturn and Jupiter); the changing cosmic conditions as our local solar system orbits our own galaxy; the changes in solar emission of electromagnetic radiation and particles (mainly alpha and beta particles which are Helium nuclei and fast electrons respectively): the changes in the magnetic fields of the Sun and Earth and their coupling : the gravitational effects of the Moon.

Internally because of our rotation and the complex chaotic interplay between our atmosphere and our oceans further variability in climate is inevitable. This would be true in a lifeless environment. However, living things have had a major effect on the composition of our atmosphere notably the increase in oxygen content. Mankind is not an exception but are we the dominant cause of climate change which is the current claim by many. Local climates have clearly been modified by mankind for thousands of years mainly through changes in land use, particularly de-forestation. Since the 1970s mankind’s effect on the climate has increasingly been focused on the consequences of burning fossil fuels and in particular our emissions of carbon dioxide which is a so-called greenhouse gas. The subject probably first came to the public’s attention through warnings of global warming or Anthropogenic (mankind induced) Global Warming (AGW) or the rather direr scenarios of catastrophic AGW (CAGW).

In my first article, published in the paper on February 19th, I explained that quite a number of individual hypotheses comprised the overall AGW notion. By its very nature an hypothesis is a reasonable speculation of a correct explanation of one or more facts. In science it is not a truth or a belief just a working idea and maybe the first step towards a theory and onto a law of science.

I listed six of the main hypotheses that form the overall AGW hypotheses as follows:

  1. the increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) over the last 200 years has been caused by the burning of fossil fuels,
  2. effectively all anthropogenic CO2 emissions since the beginning of the industrial revolution remain in the atmosphere,
  3. as a greenhouse gas CO2 absorbs upwelling infra-red radiation from the Earth and re-emits in all direction effectively causing warming,
  4. the increase in heat evaporates more of the primary greenhouse gas, water vapour thus multiplying the effect of CO2 increase by a factor of about 3,
  5. further atmospheric heating will release methane from permafrost – a tipping point at which it is postulated run-away global warming will occur,
  6. the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is and always has been the main climate driver.

The idea for subsequent columns was to examine and challenge each of the AGW ideas with new facts and alternative hypotheses and to deal with any questions arising.

The second column published on 12th March questioned whether the increase in CO2 over the last 200 years has been caused by burning of fossil fuels. Further articles will appear only on the web site and will deal with the other five hypotheses listed above.

AGW Hypothesis (i) the increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) over the last 200 years has been caused by the burning of fossil fuels

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a trace gas in our atmosphere weighing about 3,000 Giga tonnes. This may seem a lot but, put another way, over 99.95% of our atmosphere is not CO2. There is about 50 to 60 times more CO2 in the seas than in the atmosphere. The gas is responsible for life on Earth. You breath in about 400 parts per million (ppm) with every breath. You then breath out about 40,000 ppm of CO2! That’s about a third of a tonne per year of CO2 each.

There is a continuous interchange between CO2 in the atmosphere, in the seas and soils caused by many factors, particularly life itself. In any one year, completely natural emissions, mostly from equatorial areas, can be 600 Giga tonnes with considerable variability from year to year. Our current contribution from all our activities is circa 30 Giga tonnes. Of course, the seas, soils and the ecosystem absorb a similar quantity to yearly emissions but there is never a perfect balance and so atmospheric levels follow trends created by many factors.

Over the past 200 years, atmospheric CO2 has been increasing. This period coincides with industrialisation and the increased burning of fossil fuels. There is evidence that the nature of atmospheric CO2 is changing because fossil fuels are richer in a lighter form of carbon (for more detail research the isotopes C12, C13 and C14). It would therefore appear reasonable to assume that we are to blame for the increased CO2 levels.

However, the same period is characterised by us coming out of a Little Ice Age when there were ice fairs on the Thames. Natural variability caused the two most recent warm periods – the Roman Warm Period and the Mediaeval Warm Period and so why not the present warm period? Well this is where things get contentious and it’s partly to do with the solubility of CO2 in water and the chemical reactions that take place particularly in sea water.

Carbon dioxide is very soluble in cold water. As temperature increases solubility decreases. Solubility depends on the pressure of the CO2 over the water. So let’s assume that sea out-gassing is the reason for the increase in CO2 in a warming world. If we burn fossil fuels, the CO2 released contributes to the pressure of CO2 and consequently prevents what would otherwise have come out of the sea. The overall result could be similar to the natural emissions. If you would like to look into this matter in more detail Google Henry’s Law.

AGW Hypothesis (ii) effectively all anthropogenic CO2 emissions since the beginning of the industrial revolution remain in the atmosphere

This hypothesis is a more extreme version of the hypothesis that all the increase of atmospheric CO2 is anthropogenic in origin. It uses two assumptions. Firstly, that pre-industrial levels of CO2 were more or less constant around 280ppm and that this level represents a “correct” amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. It is argued that the increase in the quantity of the light form of carbon (isotope C12) relative to the heavier carbon (C13) demonstrates that the increase in the gas is a consequence of fossil fuel burning. This is not a wholly credible hypothesis for a number of reasons. The assumption of constancy of past CO2 levels comes from ice core data. This has some known problems. Secondly, the amounts of CO2 emitted and contained in the atmosphere do not tie up. Thirdly, thirty plus experiments, using different methods, have shown that the range of residence times, that an individual molecule of CO2 remains in the atmosphere, is from 4 to 25 years with 5-6 years being typical. There is a further argument about residence times suggesting that it will take many hundreds of years for atmospheric CO2 to return to pre-industrial levels. Perhaps I will return to this notion at a later date. Most likely it can be covered when discussing the reason that the International Panel on Climate Change has set-up and its consequent approach.

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Russians funding the Greens

DYPS2sHX4AA8_Dy.jpg largeFor years, it’s been obvious to me that the people who stand most to gain from the global warming scam are:

  1. Those in the UK with their snouts in the trough
  2. Oil & Energy companies who get a massive boost to profits whenever energy prices go up
  3. Foreign governments like China and Russia who want to undermine the west, and particularly those like Russia who sell us oil, and want us to become massively indebted to foreign energy suppliers.

And I note the following:

  1. Whilst the BBC excluded all sceptics, there was a Chinese citizen on the board of 28 determining BBC policy on global warming.
  2. The Russians were caught red handed funding greengroups
  3. There is persuasive evidence of Saudi funding of anti-fracking groups.
  4. Oil companies were a major backer of the global warming campaign.
  5. And there’s an awful lot of people who do this …


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An N-dimensional space representation of the problem of initial values with ensemble forecasting

We are all familiar with the concepts of 2 dimensional graphs with an x and y axis. It is not too difficult to understand how we might add a third and have a z axis. On such graphs a point represents a combination of 2 or 3 parameters (x,y) or (x,y,z). For orthogonal variables of equal scale we can use an analogy of distance between points in that the distance is √(x2 + y2 + z2). As such we can refer to any set of parameters where this relationship is expected to exist using the concept of “space”. This concept can be extended beyond three dimensions to 4, 5 or even much higher.

A digital model of the atmosphere consists of a large array cells. Each cell contains a set of parameters. If these are linear and can be scaled, then they can be represented by a distance. For n cells, each with m parameters, these can be represented by n.m dimensional space, and the set of parameters characterising the atmosphere can be plotted as a point in n.m space.

When an ensemble forecast is run using a ray of initial values, these initial values correspond to a set of points in the n.m space and in order to explore this space they are chosen to be widely dispersed.

The butterfly effect

A_Trajectory_Through_Phase_Space_in_a_Lorenz_AttractorThe butterfly effect is a phenomenon whereby small perturbations in the atmosphere tend to grow to become larger and larger. This means that if we go back far enough, these perturbations will be so small that they are smaller than the highest precision that can be reasonably used in a model. These perturbations are represented in n.m space by points, but just as phenomenon like the flap of a butterfly’s wings can grow in the atmosphere, so within n.m space, starting conditions that are so close together that they cannot be distinguished tend to grow to expand more and more space.

However, because is constrained by what is physically possible, if some parts of the space being to expand, then other parts must shrink.

PrintThe effect is that whilst the initial set of conditions of a ensemble forecast may be reasonable well spaced in n.m space, as small areas of the space expand due to the butterfly effect, the space occupied by the initial perturbations destroys and no longer becomes evenly spread. The result, is that fairly quickly the initial perturbations are no longer exploring a well spread area of but are instead bunched and at the extreme they become denser and denser areas leaving large unexplored areas of potential futures.

Thus in order to explore new spaces that open up, it is necessary to have a mechanism to redistribute the model points in n.m space.

One mechanism, is to add small perturbations – in the manner that a molecule in a heated gas is constantly knocked out – so that the ensemble forecast points tend to redistrubute themselves more evenly in n.m space.

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Simple 1/f noise generator

It’s often useful to be able to play around with things to get a feel for how they work. One of these is 1/f noise. There’s a very simple algorithm for generating this type of noise.

We set up n storage locations. To start a random value (-1 to 1) is stored in each location, Then every 2nd step, the first one changes to a new random value (-1 to +1), every 4th step the second changes, every 8th step the third, every 16th the fourth, etc. until the last one change in the middle of the run.

If we then set it so that at each step only one storage location is changing, then if we sum all the locations we have a random value that changes only by a random value between (-1 to +1) at each step.

For the equivalent of 10 years of daily readings we need ~4000 steps and when graphed for a scale of years we should have something like this:

1-fgeneratorI’ve included a openoffice calc file and xls

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It’s snowing again – again!

A while back I wrote an article saying it was the snowiest winter we had had. We then got the so called “beast from the east”. That brought Scotland to a standstill. For a few days it looked like it might melt away.

It’s now snowing and settling again.

I will be spending some serious money preparing for next winter.

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Small but significant risk of major loss of life in Scotland

Before the snow deluge, this winter had been worse than any in the 20 years we’ve lived in this location. It arrived earlier it remained cold and we had frequent period of snow that lay for a few days. But we had had deeper snow one year. That’s now changed and we’ve still got at least 3 more days of colder weather.

That is not the problem, like most people we stocked up on food and toilet rolls before the roads shut. And having bought snow chains (everyone laughed as we live in a suburb of Glasgow), it would take just five minutes to get to roads that are “drivable”.

The problem is that there is no way on earth the global warming obsessed Scottish government or local government could ever conceive of the amount of snow we’ve already had. They weren’t prepared for the last few winters when people were stuck up to 8 hours of motorways, they aren’t prepared for this. We have certainly got a few more days of this snow, but whilst there’s a couple of days has a maximum of 4C, that may be no where near enough to melt the snow. If people cannot restock their larders, cannot do minor repairs, and then there is even more snow as forecast … Continue reading

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BBC Newsnight hit by PIW (Politically Incorrect Water)

For years the BBC have carried what seemed to be an endless propaganda campaign on global warming. I gave up complaining when they falsely called us “deniers” but I can never forgive them for likening those of us who are rightly sceptical of “data” coming from the eco-zealots running NASA to paedophiles. Even for the Biased Broadcasting Company that has become a beacon of bigotry on subjects as wide ranging as Global warming to Scottish Independence (which I disagree with) and Brexit (which I agree with), that was a new low.

So, you can imagine I have been delighted to read the tweets from a well known Scottish BBC presenter Kirsty Wark who is now stuck on a train going no where.



Is that snow I see? No it can’t be snow! According to the BBC, that snow disappeared years ago and anyone denying that is a global warming denier.

No that’s not snow – it’s merely politically incorrect water.

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It’s snow (again)

I’ve already declared this our snowiest winter in the last 20 years living here. The road is covered again. Whilst we don’t get as much snow as some would think (due to prevailing wind off the warm seas), we do usually get one or two snow falls that settle. We once had several weeks of frost – but that was one large snowfall which turned to ice.

This year however, the winter started early and we’ve had repeated snow showers.

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