Sorry, Deniers, the Earth Just Keeps Warming — Thanks to Us

More Climate B.S. at Forbes: Hiding the Energy Imbalance of the Planet

Dr. Peter H. Gleick, in a HuffPost re-post

On July 1st, I published a blog entry here about climate distortions and misrepresentations at Forbes, which regularly publishes biased and misleading opinion pieces on climate issues. That entry described a remarkable piece by serial climate science conjurer Patrick Michaels and showed his clear misrepresentation of data on food production and climate risks. This falls well into the category of climate B.S. (bad science).

While I have no misconceptions about the likelihood of Forbes trying to apply any error-checking or fact checking to these opinion pieces, I was somewhat astounded to read today another piece by Michaels on the Forbes site, in which he makes even more egregious and outrageous claims and errors.

In this new piece, Michaels poses and then tries to answer a rhetorical question: “Why Hasn’t The Earth Warmed In Nearly 15 Years?

I am not going to go into the detail of why his specific arguments in his opinion piece are wrong, self-serving, or serious misinterpretations of good, peer-reviewed science.

Why? Because his fundamental premise — his initial rhetorical question — is wrong. Very simply, the Earth has warmed over the past 15 years. Significantly.

Michaels’ essay is like trying to prove why the sun goes around the Earth. Or why gravity doesn’t work. Or how the U.S. faked the moon landing. It doesn’t matter what his arguments are: his initial premise is wrong.

There are really only two simple pieces to this: the actual temperature record; and all of the other ways the planet is screaming to us that the heat balance of the planet is out of whack. On both of these accounts, Michaels is simply wrong.

First and most simply: the temperature of the Earth has risen substantially over the past 15 years.  As reported by the BBC, data and observations show that global temperatures have warmed by around 0.19˚C between 1995 and 2010.  This warming has a statistical confidence level of 95 percent, which means that there are one in twenty odds that the trend came about by chance.

Second: scientists also know that “warming” is only one of many indicators of a screwed up planetary heat balance. We know that an important part of the energy imbalance of the Earth caused by humans doesn’t go toward raising global temperatures. Substantial excess energy is going into the oceans and unprecedented Arctic ice melt. Additional energy is going into raising the sea level relentlessly at over 3 millimeters per year. Added energy is going into intensifying precipitation patterns and storm intensity. And there is new evidence that some of the imbalance is being temporarily masked by new pollution from China’s coal plants.

We also know that periods of slower or faster warming will occur, simply because of natural variations in temperature, and that these periods say nothing about the growing influence of humans on climate.

Michaels has been around the climate debate long enough to know all of these things. Or he should, if he really cared about understanding the science. What does this imply about his continued misrepresentation of the science, and increasingly desperate efforts to explain away the facts? I can’t speculate. As for Forbes, they’ve seemingly decided that ignoring or misrepresenting climate science is in their political or economic best interest, even if it isn’t in the planet’s.

Dr. Peter H. Gleick

Joe Romm:  The overwhelming majority of human-caused warming has ended up right where scientists have always projected — the oceans.  As a 2009 NOAA-led study, “An observationally based energy balance for the Earth since 1950” (subs. req’d, release here), concluded:

[S]ince 1950, the planet released about 20 percent of the warming influence of heat-trapping greenhouse gases to outer space as infrared energy. Volcanic emissions lingering in the stratosphere offset about 20 percent of the heating by bouncing solar radiation back to space before it reached the surface. Cooling from the lower-atmosphere aerosols produced by humans balanced 50 percent of the heating. Only the remaining 10 percent of greenhouse-gas warming actually went into heating the Earth, and almost all of it went into the ocean.

Note that this Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres study was done “without using global climate models.”

“Total Earth Heat Content [anomaly] from 1950 (Murphy et al. 2009). Ocean data taken from Domingues et al 2008.”

Another JGR article, “Global hydrographic variability patterns during 2003-2008” (subs. req’d, draft here) details an analysis of “monthly gridded global temperature and salinity fields from the near-surface layer down to 2000 m depth based on Argo measurements.”  Background on Argo here.   Their findings are summed up in this figure:

Time series of global mean heat storage (0-2000 m), measured in 108 Jm-2.

Still warming, after all these years!  And just where you’d expect it.  The study makes clear that upper ocean heat content, perhaps not surprisingly, is simply far more variable than deeper ocean heat content, and thus an imperfect indicator of the long-term warming trend.

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