May 22, 2022

Climate Change News

Saving The Planet

Unstable history of US temperature in Steve Koonin

No doubt regular readers will have noticed that here at the Great White Con, we publish a series of reviews on Steven E. Koonin’s new book “Unsettled”? Today we move on to the topic of surface-to-surface air temperature (LSAT to summarize). Here is an excerpt from the first page of the book:

Yes, it is true that the planet is warming and that humans are influencing it. But beyond that, paraphrasing the classic movie The Bride Princess: “I don’t think ‘Science’ says what you think it says.”

For example, both the research literature and government reports summarizing and assessing the state of climate science clearly state that heat waves in the U.S. are no longer common than they were in 1900 and that warmer temperatures in the United States they have not increased in the last fifty years. When I say this to people, most are incredulous. Some snorts. And some become downright hostile.

Here is another excerpt from page 23 of the Kindle edition of Steve’s book:

He [IPCC] evaluation reports literally define The Science for non-experts. Given the intense processes of creation and revision, any reader would naturally expect their assessments and summaries of the research literature to be complete, objective, and transparent, the “gold standard”. In my experience, the reports largely respond to this expectation, and much of the details in the first part of this book, the history of science, are drawn from it.

First of all, let me remind Steve that the United States does not constitute the whole of our planet. In particular, the Arctic is warming much faster than mid-latitudes in general and the U.S. in particular. Using WRIT once again to produce our own time series, we can compare and contrast long-term temperature records between the continental United States and the Arctic (including both land and ocean above the Arctic Circle):

Also note that, for some reason, Steve makes no mention of the “cooler temperatures” and / or “cold waves” in the U.S. since 1900. I don’t know about you, but the chart above certainly suggests to me that the warmest temperatures in the US to own it has increased in the last fifty years ”.

Let’s see how Steve explains. To do this, we have to wait until chapter 5, entitled “Hyping the Heat.” No mention is made of recent temperature rises in the Arctic, but in the introductory paragraphs we can read that:

We can all agree that the planet has warmed over the last few decades. Here is another summary statement from the IPCC AR5:

[S]by about 1950 it is very likely that the number of cold days and nights has decreased and the number of warm days and nights has increased. . . there is an average confidence that worldwide the length and frequency of warm spells, including heat waves, have increased since the mid-20th century. (IPCC. AR5 WGI Section 2.6.1.)

Below is a lengthy discussion of what Steve apparently perceives as shortcomings in the “most recent U.S. government assessment report, the 2017 Special Report on Climate Science (CSSR).” Steve is apparently well versed in physics, so is he presumably able to understand these equations?

  • USA ≠ Global
  • CSSR AR5

For those of you who are less familiar with the arcane language of mathematics and physics that translates to “the climate of the continental United States is not identical to the Arctic climate nor is it typical of the climate of planet Earth in general” and therefore “U.S. government climate reports are not necessarily typical of” intergovernmental “climate assessments.

Here’s a look at what Steve’s “The Gold Pattern of Science” has to say on this topic. According to section 2.6.1 of the fifth evaluation report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, as quoted by Steve:

A wealth of evidence continues to support the conclusion that most of the global land areas analyzed have experienced significant warming of both maximum and minimum temperature since 1950 (Donat et al., 2013c). Changes in the appearance of cold, warm days (depending on maximum daily temperatures) are generally less pronounced (Figure 2.32):

Figure 2.32 | Trends in the annual frequency of extreme temperatures during the period 1951-2010, for a) cold nights (TN10p), (b) cold days (TX10p), (c) warm nights (TN90p) and (d)
warm days (TX90p) (Table 2.4, Table 1). Trends were calculated only for grid tables that had at least 40 years of data during this period and in which the data ended before 2003.
Gray areas indicate incomplete or missing data. Negative plus (+) signs indicate grid boxes where trends are significant (i.e., a zero trend is outside the 90% confidence interval).
The data source for trend maps is HadEX2 (Donat et al., 2013c) updated to include the latest version of the European climate assessment dataset (Klok and Tank, 2009). Next to
each map is the almost global time series of annual anomalies of these indices with respect to 1961–1990 for three sets of global index data: HadEX2 (red); HadGHCND (Caesar et al., 2006; blue) and updated to 2010 and GHCNDEX (Donat et al., 2013a; green). Global averages are only calculated using grid tables where all three data sets have at least 90%
of data over the period of time. Trends are significant (i.e., a zero trend is outside the 90% confidence interval) for all global indices shown.

Paraphrasing The Princess Bride once again: “I don’t think ‘The Science’ says what Steven E. Koonin says in ‘Unsettled.’

Disturbing, right?

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