More trouble with climate models

Over the last few days there has been much discussion in the newspapers and the Internet of a new paper about ‘the pause’ (in global warming), the authors arguing that it is the trade winds which are doing it, and that when the winds stop the warming will return with a vengeance. That paper will be addressed in my post on Friday, but in preparation I want to look again at the GCMs, the global circulation climate models that are at the heart of all the prognostications about the future of the planet’s climate,rainfall, drought, frying, and all the rest of it.

I wrote about this subject a few months ago, and I’m going to illustrate what follows with the newest version of a graph that I used then, constructed by Dr Roy Spencer, of the UAH  satellite temperature dataset. It looks like this:


The ‘spaghetti’ trails describe the proposed temperature up to 2030 from the 90 models of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 set of climate models, and they are the ones on which the IPCC largely relied for its 5th Assessment Report. The black dotted line represents the mean of these projections, while the green dots show the actual surface temperature observations up to the end of 2013, and the blue dots the satellite measurements of the lower troposphere (the lowest part of the atmosphere containing clouds, water vapour and aerosols). The zero point on the vertical axis is the global temperature anomaly, not measured against the customary 1960 to 1990 baseline, but against a much shorter four-year 1979-1983 average.

While the models and observations were close together in 1998, by the end of 2013 only a couple of models were near actual observations, no matter which dataset, and it is worth noting that HadCRUT4 comes from the Hadley Centre, and can be thought of as the dataset most preferred by the AGW orthodox. Dr Spencer says: I am growing weary of the variety of emotional, misleading, and policy-useless statements like “most warming since the 1950s is human caused” or “97% of climate scientists agree humans are contributing to warming”, neither of which leads to the conclusion we need to substantially increase energy prices and freeze and starve more poor people to death for the greater good. Yet, that is the direction we are heading.

The important message from the graph, as far as Dr Spencer is concerned, is that the climate models that governments base policy decisions on have failed miserably. They are supposed to tell us what is in store for us ten, twenty and more years down the track. I like to stick with global warming, because it is the base of the AGW scare. If temperatures are to rise, say the modellers, then they can tell us all sorts of worrying things that might follow. But if the models can’t even predict the trend of the actual warming that has occurred, why are they of any use in developing useful policies?

He goes on: Whether humans are the cause of 100% of the observed warming or not, the conclusion is that global warming isn’t as bad as was predicted. That should have major policy implications … assuming policy is still informed by facts more than emotions and political aspirations. And if humans are the cause of only, say, 50% of the warming (e.g. our published paper), then there is even less reason to force expensive and prosperity-destroying energy policies down our throats.

His final paragraph sets the scene for the paper I want to discuss next time, because it is about the oceans and their character:

And even if the extra energy is being stored in the deep ocean (if you have faith in long-term measured warming trends of thousandths or hundredths of a degree), I say “great!”. Because that extra heat is in the form of a tiny temperature change spread throughout an unimaginably large heat sink, which can never have an appreciable effect on future surface climate. If the deep ocean ends up averaging 4.1 deg. C, rather than 4.0 deg. C, it won’t really matter.

The problem for the orthodox is that the models aren’t much chop, so it is important for those who believe in them to find reasons why they really are good but something unexpected has darkened their horizon. The new paper is a good example. By the way, Dr Spencer’s own paper, highlighted above, is a most worthwhile read, on the ‘climate sensitivity’ issue.

[I saw the need to add ‘climate’ in the title of this post, after I had published it …]

Join the discussion 24 Comments

  • Mike O'Ceirin says:

    The ABC’s science unit, 2006:

    The vast looping system of air currents
    that fuels Pacific trade winds and climate from South America to
    Southeast Asia may be another victim of climate change, scientists
    say…. This important system has weakened by 3.5% over the past 140
    years, and the culprit is probably human-induced climate change…

    The ABC’s science unit, 2014:

    Stronger than normal trade winds in the central
    Pacific are the main cause of a 13-year halt in global surface
    temperatures increases, an Australian study reveals.

    Who forgot what they the ABC said 8 years ago or did they think their audience would have?

  • Walter Starck says:

    Spencer’s graph is unequivocal. The models are wrong and the climate “experts” who still claim they have been accurate are either grossly uniformed or must be blatantly lying. Either way what they they are now engaged in constitutes a fraud of unprecedented proportions. The evidence is clear. This is no longer just a matter of differences in professional opinion. That the alarmists make no attempt to address Spencer’s evidence and simply treat it as if it did not exist is scientific malpractice. Even worse, it is a deliberate misrepresentation which could only be intended to misinform the public and mislead parliament.

    In the realms of business, finance and personal affairs behaviour of this nature would bring down the full weight of law with multiple charges of criminal misbehaviour. While the right of academic freedom is highly important to maintain, it also involves an obligation to truth, full disclosure and most certainly does not extend to a license for fraud.

    The public interests at stake are enormous. Prima facie evidence of fraud is apparent. It should be the duty of relevant authorities to investigate.

    • Don Aitkin says:

      I wouldn’t call it fraud, exactly, but perhaps ‘an unexplained and hard-to-justify indifference to data’.

  • Barry says:

    You should follow Warwick Hughes’ blog “Errors in IPCC Science”

    • Don Aitkin says:

      I’ve met Warwick, and think he does excellent stuff on his website. But 14 AGW websites are enough, unless you think I should replace one with his! Actually, I’m preparing a post on the sites on my blogroll. It should be up in a week or so.

  • David says:

    I notice for the period 2012-2913, Dr Spencers preferred dataset (Had CRUT4 and UAH Lower Troposphere) show a sharp rise in temperature. It seems like the “pause” has finished 🙂

    • Don Aitkin says:

      Go to his site and look for latest temps. You’ll see that things are pretty steady.

      You’d better do it yourself. This is pretty small.

      • David says:

        You must think I came down in the last shower.
        a. The horizontal axis only begins at 1979!
        b. What you call “pretty steady” is in an increase. Most of the temps above 0 occur after 1998 and most of the temps below 0 occur before 1998.

        • Mike O'Ceirin says:


          What are you on about? a. UAH data starts in 1979 because the satellite was not functioning before then. b. A variance of about ± 0.1º is steady as far as I am concerned. I seem to have missed HADCRUT4 and UAH data for the 28th century perhaps you could give a reference.

          I suggest you also have a long hard look at the policies of our Greens and other environmentalist groups. There is an incredibly strong theme which will if implemented cause many billions to die. In fact at the core there is a strong misanthropic agenda as stated by leading members. I view them as the enemies of civilisation. For starters imagine if we abandon fossil fuels and adopted the farming practices of the 18th century. Our civilisation would collapse or should I refer to as the human virus as is popular with eco types.

          • David says:

            My response is as follows

            1, “UAH data starts in 1979 because the satellite was not
            functioning before then.”

            Yes but estimates of temperature existed before 1979. So if you try to analyse 10 years of temperature changes in the narrow context of 30 years of data as opposed to say 200 years of data you may arrive at different conclusions.

            2. “A variance of about ± 0.1º is steady as far as I am concerned.”

            There is no relationship between the variance and slope. A function with given variance could have a positive, negative or “steady” slope. It is obvious to the naked eye that those data indicate a rise in temperature over the years 1979 to 2014, for the reasons I have outlined

            3. I am not a member of the Greens although I do agree with many of their policies. But for the record

            I do not advocate abandoning fossil fuels.

            I do not advocate re instating 18th century farming practices.

            Nor would I support policies that would cause “many billions to die” as you put it.

  • John Nicol says:


    I am engaged on The Conversation with the task of showing how stupid this paper by England is. I respect Matthew England and he has been helpful in that a long time ago when I was looking for papers which showed that carbon dioxide could actually cause, or was causing, global warming, he had the courtesy to send me the Harries paper which has I believe been thoroughly debunked and had no real prospect of showing anything because of large errors.

    However, his claims here that the energy of “warming” is going into the oceans at up to about 300 m depth does not seem to fit with the fact that all of the measurements by ARGO buoys over the past several years, appear to show a lower rate of warming of the oceans,than was the case between 1979 and 1996 when global surface warming must be acknowledged as being very rapid and not, supposedly, subject to exceptional losses to the sea. If that situation has changed, then one would expect the upper layers of the sea to warm more quickly from 2001 to the present. The fact that this is not so and that the sea level is not rising as rapidly as it has over times in the past, must surely indicate that English’s hypothesis is very seriously flawed.

    I have uploaded some images without comment at where the points I am making about slower rates of temperature rise in the oceans since about 2004 can be seen from graphs prepared by NODC – there must be a delay because of the thermal inertia of the oceans. English acknowledges the “hiatus” as starting in 2001.
    John Nicol


    • Don Aitkin says:

      Good luck with The Conversation which refused to accept something I wanted to write on the ground that I was out of my field. My own post tomorrow touches on some of the points you are making.

      • Lysander says:

        Good luck on any such site; now that even CSIRO has over 52% of Aussies not believing in AGW – do you think we will start to see an editorial shift?
        Time to get off the bandwagon.

  • David says:


    When you decide to include the following quote from Dr Spencer

    “Dr Spencer says: I am growing weary of the variety of emotional, misleading, and policy-useless statements like “most warming since the 1950s is human caused” or “97% of climate scientists agree humans are contributing to warming”, neither of which leads to the conclusion we need to substantially increase energy prices and freeze and starve more poor people to death for the greater good. Yet, that is the direction we are heading.”

    don’t you look at Dr Spencer’s claim that people who accept AGW have EVER proposed that we

    “…we need to substantially increase energy prices and freeze and starve and freeze and starve more poor people to death for the greater good.”

    is just a little intemperate! Do you think that this claim is in anyway a fair characterisation of what has been proposed by people concerned by AGW? If so please provide a link.
    Don you do yourself a real disservice when you quote statements like this.

    • Don Aitkin says:

      I left it in for good reason: it shows the depths of his feeling. If you Google ‘deaths from cold temperatures’ you’ll get a series of reports about recent deaths because of the freeze in parts of the Northern Hemisphere. Spencer argues that raising the price of energy through carbon taxes and their counterparts increases the numbers who die from cold, while giving over cropland to grain for the production of ethanol reduces the amount of food that can be provided to famine relief. I would use my own language, but these points are valid, I think. He is saying that the failure to recognise that the models don’t provide a good basis for such policies is a failure both of honesty and compassion. I think he’s right.

      • Don Aitkin says:

        Further on cold, there is a post in WUWT today directly relevant to the issue, and in the comments you will find a long list of papers devoted to deaths from cold:

      • David says:


        While “feelings” are important, they are no substitute for analysis. Spencer is a climatologist, not a social scientist, when he starts to chance his arm about how best to deal with global warming he is writing way outside his area of expertise.

        If Spencer’s and your argument is that a carbon tax, ETS etc. will cause harm to poor people, give it your best shot. However, Spencer needs to rewrite that sentence because no one is advocating that people should freeze and starve for the greater good.

        • Don Aitkin says:

          Of course not. Perhaps you should write to him.

          Surely you’re not suggesting that carbon taxes don’t cause harm to the poorest members of any society. Those with least money place a high value on their marginal dollar, and paying more for energy, which is a fundamental part of living, must reduce their other opportunities.

          • David says:

            “Surely you’re not suggesting that carbon taxes don’t cause harm to the poorest members of any society. ”

            Yes I am.

          • David says:

            a. The costs of AGW will be most felt by the poor.

            b. There are compensatory measures to offset the incomes effects of tax

            1.. Internationally the developing world are given reduced targets

            2. There is also a proposal to subsidize their use of Green

            3. Domestically for example there are income transfers for the poor to offset the cost of the ETS.

            Don surely you not suggesting that denial-ists like Abbott and Nick Minchin are motivated by any concern for “the poor”


      • David says:

        Btw as far as I know ethanol is not proposed as a solution for AGW. Burning it releases CO2 the same as any other hydrocarbon.

        • Don Aitkin says:

          You are right in that it is not proposed as a solution for AGW, but of course I didn’t say that it was.

          In my view ethanol is a waste of time, energy and money and I expect it to be phased out in time. But,’Since ethanol contains a lot of oxygen in its chemical structure, it burns pretty cleanly. Added in small amounts (typically one part ethanol, nine parts gasoline) to the gasoline that fuels our cars, it reduces greenhouse emissions like carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides.’ You’ll find other statements like that, including references to lower CO2 emissions. I don’t think that there’s much in it, frankly.

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