A good example of an AGW scare paper

Defenders of the orthodox sometimes suggest that I publish my own work in peer-reviewed journals, and that by doing so I will have ‘an effect’. I decline, for all sorts of good reasons, but mostly because on this website I am not addressing scientists or governments but interested citizens, and they don’t read the various journals anyway. But I do, and I thought it might be useful to show what I have in mind about the generality of ‘journal articles’ that are thought to be important in climate science. So here is one, announced only the other day via a press release from the University of Hawaii.

The press release headline is ‘Extreme Pacific sea level events to double in future’, and that is scary enough. The article is by Matthew Widlansky and Axel Timmermann at the University of Hawaii and Wenju Cao of the CSIRO, and, as so often with university press releases, although there is a citation to Widlansky et al 2015, you won’t find such a paper if you search for it, even in Google Scholar. It is presumably about to be released. So you have to go with versions of the press release.

What does it tell us? The University’s statement informs the reader that Many tropical Pacific island nations are struggling to adapt to gradual sea level rise stemming from warming oceans and melting ice caps. Now they may also see much more frequent extreme interannual sea level swings. I hope that passage is not in the article, because it is misleading. Those island nations that are struggling are doing so because the freshwater lens they rely on for fresh water is diminishing because of over- population, and/or because of tourism and its less beneficial consequences (see, for example, here). But there has been nothing striking in sea-level changes in the Pacific. Here is a graph for Tuvalu, whose leader keeps claiming that it is sinking into the ocean. Kiribati as much the same, as are the islands closer to Australia.


The press release goes on: The culprit is a projected behavioral change of the El Niño phenomenon and its characteristic Pacific wind response, according to recent computer modeling experiments and tide-gauge analysis by Widlansky and his colleagues. And at once my sensitivity to language goes into high alert, because modelling exercises are not ‘experiments’ at all. Modelling is simulation, and modelling outcomes are not experimental results.

The authors assert that el Nino conditions mean the lowering of tides in parts of the ocean that can be as great as 30 cm, and if the water level stays low enough long enough it leads to the exposure of  shallow marine eco-systems, parts of which can die. Yes, that is the case. Now comes the AGW scary stuff.

The team of scientists recently asked, how will future greenhouse warming affect the El Niño sea level seesaws? The scientist used state-of-the-art climate models, which accounted for increasing greenhouse gas concentrations, together with simulations of the observed climate and tide-gauge records to verify the model results. They determined that projected climate change will enhance El Niño-related sea level extremes. By the end of this century the experiments show that the intensified wind impacts of strong El Niño and La Niña events are likely to double the frequency of extreme sea level occurrences, especially in the tropical southwestern Pacific.

Now the press release is silent on all the technical stuff here, and since the paper hasn’t been published I can’t delve into it myself, other than to point out, again, that modelling runs are not ‘experiments’. But we can at least recognise that so-called ‘state of the art climate models’ have not shown themselves to be all that good in predicting actual temperature, as you can see from the next graph, one I’ve used before.


In fact, these CIMP5 (state-of-the-art) models routinely over-estimate temperature, and that is probably because they over-estimate the importance of carbon dioxide.

Widlansky et al apparently don’t know of the discrepancy, or just ignore it, because they claim that their results are consistent with previous findings that showed the atmospheric effects of both El Niño and La Niña are likely to become stronger and more common in a future warmer climate… The possibility of more frequent flooding in some areas and sea level drops in others would have severe consequences for the vulnerable coastlines of Pacific islands.

There’s a lot of conditionals in all this: ‘likely’, ‘would have’ and ‘possibility’ don’t sit comfortably with the claim in the headline: ‘Extreme Pacific sea-level events to double’. But it’s the heading that causes anyone to read on. So let’s ask other experts whether or not it is likely that a future warmer climate should produce stronger el Nino and la Nina effects. This is what the IPCC said in its AR5 (page 21 of WG1):

Due to the increase in moisture availability, ENSO-related precipitation variability on regional scales will likely intensify. Natural variations of the amplitude and spatial pattern of ENSO are large and thus confidence in any specific projected change in ENSO and related regional phenomena for the 21st century remains low.

That’s not exactly strong support for Widlansky and co., is it. I doubt that the authors mentioned it in their paper. Why would the IPCC be so tentative? Well, it is agreed (even by the IPCC) that knowledge about clouds and water vapour is low. That means nobody really knows what happens when there is more cloud, as there would be in a warmer world, since more warmth leads to more evaporation from the oceans. More clouds and water vapour do mean a greater greenhouse effect (more warmth trapped below the clouds for longer), but they also mean a higher albedo for the planet (more white surfaces reflecting sunlight, leading to a cooler world). What’s the likely net outcome? I don’t know, and nor does the IPCC. Since the oceans cover a little more than 70 per cent of the earth’s surface, this is not a trivial matter. It is also why ‘climate sensitivity’ is such a vexed question.

So there you are. Here is a paper that went through peer review, that magical process beloved of the orthodox. All we have is the media release, which is overblown and full of misleading and one-sided stuff. No matter, few news organisations are likely to go to the actual paper when it comes out. The university’s media release will be the real source of whatever ‘news’ comes out of this piece.

There are so many ‘peer-reviewed’ papers like this one.They assume that there will be a warmer climate, and then use models to tell us that scary things might happen. What we the people need are papers that go past all this rubbish to find out out exactly what ‘natural variation’ is all about. In the meantime, we in Australia are probably going to have a hot dry summer, and though la Ninas tend to come on the heels of el Ninos, we should expect drought conditions in more of eastern Australia and an enhanced bushfire risk.

Footnote: While this sort of stuff is being published in peer-reviewed journals, the public seems uninterested, as this graph suggests.


Perhaps there’s a connection.

Further footnote:  David Evans, a modeller who has come to distrust the global circulation models, is writing a series of essays on what he sees as their faults. You can see them on Jo Nova’s website, here, for example. I won’t be able to comment on them for about a month, but those interested in models should certainly check these essays out.

Join the discussion 37 Comments

  • Neville says:

    Lomborg and his large team looked at this nonsense about inundated
    pacific and Indian ocean islands years ago. And his work has been backed
    up by the NZ and OZ unis study that shows that the majority of these
    islands have increased in size over the last 60 years.

    BTW the tide gauge at Fort Denison Sydney now shows a SLR of about 0.65mm a year, or about 55.25 mm by 2100 or about 2.2 inches.

  • Bryan Roberts says:

    I have commented on sea level rises (or absence thereof) previously, so won’t repeat myself. However, in terms of scare tactics, has anyone noticed that announcements or warnings of natural events, like cyclones or typhoons, are now commonly preceded by the adjective ‘super’, or some such. Thus “Dujuan was categorised as a “super typhoon” by regional forecasters…but…was downgraded to a “moderate typhoon” by Taiwan’s central weather bureau as it crossed the island”. Similarly ‘The Conversation’ weighed in with “Are we heading for a worrying Super (sic) El Nino”, a question backed up by nothing more than assertions that such events would become more frequent and severe as “the world warms”.

  • David says:

    An open minded treatment of this topic would could discuss exaggerations on both sides of the debate. For example conspiracy theories posted by Dr Marohasy, or Abbott’s prophesies of economic doom.

    And by posting statements like “95% of models agree the data must be wrong”, really does your credibility a disservice.

  • Neville says:

    David I’m not interested in discussing religious nonsense with you or anyone. Just this observation that satellites show no warming for 17 yrs 11 mths over OZ and the BOM is heading in the opposite direction. Hottest month, hottest year etc.
    Bottom line is that I don’t trust the BOM, but you can believe if you choose to I suppose.

  • ColA says:

    Dr Jennifer Marohasy (Ideology adds heat to the debate on climate change, 29/9) claims that sites prone to Urban Heat Island effect, such as Melbourne, have been used to adjust the temperature records at sites such as Cape Otway.

    This is indeed absurd, but true. Of the 104 sites used for climate analysis, 22 have been adjusted at least in part by comparison with sites whose artificially raised temperatures make them unsuitable for use in that same climate analysis.

    The Bureau of Meteorology lists eight sites which are not used in climate analysis because their records exhibit Urban Heat Island effects: Townsville, Rockhampton, Sydney, Richmond (NSW), Melbourne, Laverton RAAF, Adelaide, and Hobart.

    According to the Bureau’s “ACORN-SAT Station adjustment summary”, seven of these sites are still used as comparison sites when adjusting raw temperatures at other locations. Adelaide is used at Snowtown and Port Lincoln; Townsville at Cairns, Mackay and Charters Towers; Rockhampton at Townsville, Mackay, Bundaberg and Gayndah; Sydney at Williamtown, Bathurst, Richmond, Nowra, and Moruya Heads; Laverton at Orbost, Sale, Wilson’s Promontory, Melbourne and Cape Otway; Melbourne at Orbost, Sale, Wilson’s Promontory, Laverton, Kerang, and Cape Otway; and Hobart at Launceston, Eddystone Point, Cape Bruny, Grove, and Butlers Gorge.

  • David says:

    Saturday’s grand final was the hottest in the AFL’s history. Yep, “the pause”, if it ever existed, is over.

    • whyisitso says:

      Traditionally the AFL/VFL Grand Final was on the last Saturday in September. Winter has always transitioned to summer very swiftly at this time of the year. This year’s max temp was 0.6 degrees warmer than the previous record on 26 September1987 (a whole week earlier). Apples with apricots, David.

    • JMO says:

      Hi David
      Yes it never ceases to intrigue me how we can have below average temperatures for weeks (eg we had the coldest winter in 15 years – 30 tears for Tasmania) yet this is regarded as weather variability (which it is) but one day above average –ah ah that is climate change!!
      One example, in Canberra we had a 41.7 C day on 18 Jan 2013 – highest temperature on record was announced – but did not mention the “record” was based on a little over 4 years when the weather station was move from Fairbarn airport to Canberra airport all prior year records were ignored But when we had the coldest winter in 15 years, all of a sudden the prior year records were considered. All this is par for the course to stoke the global warming narrative
      Oh, you did nor mention the AFL was a week later than all other years, I think this is important – see what I mean!

  • Neville says:

    Another top post from Ken Stewart pointing out the absurd adjustments from the BOM.

  • Neville says:

    More silly nonsense from people who don’t understand the science of weather events.http://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/10/05/satellite-image-shows-south-carolinas-once-in-a-thousand-years-flood-was-due-to-a-complex-meteorological-event/
    In fact you have to wonder if these people can read. HATS UP to WUWT and Bob Tisdale once again.

  • Neville says:

    More delusion and extremism from their ABC. Don’t forget the UAH V 6 satellite data shows no OZ warming for 17 yrs 11 mths and no global warming for over 18 years. And Prof. Ross McKitrick has calculated from RSS two years ago that there has been no statistically significant warming for over a quarter of a century.

  • David says:

    Don ,

    The silly thing about this diagram that you pull out ad infinitum is that everyone of those un-referenced dotted lines appears to begin at 1983. So what the graph “shows” is that these so called state of the art models, which were developed 35 years ago, are no longer current. And for some reason every model perfectly predicts the temperature in 1983. As a piece of analysis it does not pass the sniff test.

    • dlb says:

      David, that spaghetti graph comes from Dr Spencer. What he has done is force each model to run through the start of the satellite measurements. If you want a graph where the models are not forced through a point see below. Tells the same story though, that the models are now running high.

      • David says:

        Completely different.

        1. The observations are in the “middle” of the predicted temperatures. Some years the models over predicted (eg 1990’s) and other years they under predicted (2005 to 2010).

        2. They cant all be “state of the art”. As time goes by old models will be rejects and new and improved models will replace them.

        3. And 2014 and 2015, which are not shown on your graph, are record highs.

        • David says:

          Sorry other way around

          Some years the models under predicted (eg 1990’s) and other years they over predicted (2005 to 2010).

          My point is the same

        • dlb says:

          1. If you go by the satellite observations since 1980, the models consistently over predict.
          2. CMIP5 models are state of the art, they are the ones which were used in the latest IPCC report. They might have it all figured out by CMIP10 and discover CO2 is only small beer.
          3. 2014 doesn’t appear as anything special in the satellite data, it will interesting to see whether 2015 eclipses 1998 in the satellite stakes.

          • David says:

            dlb, you are telling me up is down. 🙂

            Go to 1992 on your chart. The models are under predicting the observations.

          • dlb says:

            The models are under predicting the Hadley surface observations in 1992. The satellite temperatures are much lower.

  • Donald Burgess says:

    The paper was published in Science Advances 4 sept as stated in http://www.hawaii.edu/news/2015/09/25/extreme-pacific-sea-level-events-to-double-in-future/e as recovered by goggle 28/10/2015

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