Thursday, April 2, 2015

#1 Mtn warming? - CC/Steele Landscapesandcycles Debate

A virtual debate with Jim Steele based on his interview at Heartland Institute: 
Jim Steele, Heartland Daily Podcast - January 27, 2015 
Research Fellow H. Sterling Burnett (for the National Center for Policy Analysis) interviews Jim Steele, ecologist, director emeritus of the Sierra Nevada field campus of San Francisco State University
Steele:  "And we trust the scientific theory because it been fairly tested by others - the theory must out perform all alternate explanations, eliminate confounding factors plus lively debate.  But, what I was finding was the scientific process was being defiled when scientists refused to debate in public. ... and any attempt to prevent that debate, in our schools, in the media, in peer reviewed science, it's only denigrating the scientific process.  ... And I think those public debates would help create real climate literacy ..."
Well then OK Mr. Steele, let's have our Great Global Warming Science Debate.  I will accept these responses as your opening round.  I'll offer my rebuttals along with evidence and questions.  

Let's see if you live up to your own challenge, I agree to share your response without editing any of your words in a stand alone post.  This first installment looks at your introduction and your pet theory about rising CO2 not impacting Sierra Nevada temperatures.

Heartland Burnett: Jim, Thanks for being with us today.  If you would, tell us about your background.
Steele:  I'd be glad to, it's not a simple answer, it'll take me about five minutes.  While I was working on my masters in biology I worked summers at SFSU - Sierra Nevada field campus.  It's a rustic environmental education and research center about 40 miles north of Lake Tahoe.  Dr, James Kelley was the Dean of Science at the time.  He saw my passion and skills and appointed me as the new director.  I'd planned on pursuing a PhD, but that position allowed me to generate my own research and build the whole program.  So I served as director for the next 25 years.
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At the outset I want to mention that from my communications with various folks I understand that Mr. Steele left behind nice memories.  He did good work and was the inspiration and organizing force behind a large meadow restoration project that did a lot of good, (though it hasn't 'saved' that meadow from their current drought).  He is also recalled as an accomplished bird watcher and a friendly guy to work with.

I want to make clear that I have no issue with that guy.  My concern is with the malicious LandscapesandCycles horror stories and the uncalled for slander that he is actively inflicting on respectable professional scientists.  

I want to force the question: Why is it OK to broadcast misinformation and these malicious lies intent on confusing rather than clarify the available science?  

Climate science is sound and We The People have a right to hear about it without the constant crossfire of shrill malicious lies and slander.
Steele:  I was soon hired by the US Forest Service, to monitor bird populations in the Tahoe National Forest.  One of our meadows began drying out and suffered a population crash and now people were saying that's just what global warming theory was saying,
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Isn't it true that this meadow had long standing hydrology issues related to a timber railroad grade and drainage features that were put in many decades earlier?

Who was saying that Meadow's drying was because of global warming?  Source please?  Newspaper, talk, or a scientific study?
Steele:  but after examining temperature data from the near by USHCN  network I discovered the maximum temperatures at Tahoe which was near us and Yosemite were actually lower than they had been in the early 1930s and 40s.(b)  To believe that global warming was causing detrimental heat stress maximum temperature would have had to been much higher.  But, they weren't, so that was one of my first steps.
~ ~ ~ 
You haven't established who was suggesting that particular meadow was dying because of global warming.  Was it a couple Letters to the Editor or did it come from a more reputable source?  Does it matter to you?
Steele:  It also became obvious that the claims that a rising average temperature was driven by rising minimum temperatures.  Minimum trend is usually driven by landscape changes and urbanizing effects.   
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Where do you get that idea?  You're mistaken.

While urbanization and landscape changes do increase local minimums, so does atmospheric greenhouse gases, although night clouds play the greatest role and both do it on a global scale.

Jim, why are you trying to dumb down the public?
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Record Warm Nighttime Temperatures: A Closer Look 
By David Kroodsma |  August 2nd, 2011

Even though repeat heat waves brought sizzling hot days, overnight temperatures broke far more records: According to the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), in July there were 6,106 record high minimum temperatures, and "only" 2,722 record high daytime temperatures. ... 
I spoke with Phil Duffy, Climate Central’s chief scientist, about why nighttime lows are warming faster than the daytime highs. He replied that the answer isn’t straightforward, and then he referred me to research that has shown that an increase in cloudiness (as well as a few other factors) has warmed nights more than days.  
During the day, clouds both warm and cool, as they act like a blanket to reflect heat back to the surface (warming), but they also reflect sunlight back to space (cooling). At night, they only warm temperatures, acting like an insulating blanket. Thus, nights warm more than the days, and this is exactly what climate models predict. In fact, this is a good example of climate models making a prediction (warmer nights), and then having the prediction born out by the data. ...  link to the full story
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Incidentally Jim, what do you think of the current grim reality unfolding in California? 

Do you really think that's unrelated to decades old global warming trends?  

How are local landscapes going to be independent of that?

Lake Tahoe: 
Drought, climate change threatening winter, way of life at iconic landmark.  
Julia Prodis Sulek | March 14, 2015
Steele:  So although it was undeniable that CO2 was rising and CO2 is undeniably a greenhouse gas, but climate sensitivity to CO2 climate sensitivity is a matter of great debate.
~ ~ ~
No it's not.

Jim, you are leaving out that the disagreements have to do with the upper and lower extremes while the central most probable number remains surprisingly constant.

There is no legitimate question, increasing CO2 is causing significance warming along with it's cascading consequences.

How sensitive is our climate
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 Professor Steve Sherwood, Climate Research Centre, UNSW
Steele:  And from what I was seeing up there, was that the climate in Sierra Nevada's was not very sensitive to rising CO2.  Without a rise in maximum there was no evidence to support the theoretical arguments that CO2 was accumulating heat.
~ ~ ~
You silly, that's not how it works!
Increasing greenhouse gases hold in more heat and energy on a "global" scale.  That increasing heat is diffuse but it gets herded up and moved around the global according to atmospheric pressure systems, currents and weather patterns and yes local landscapes.  Still you simply can't expect a direct correlation between global greenhouse gas levels and some local record.  

But, please notice what happens as you pull back from the local to the regional scale.  Plenty of indicators of global warming there.  Why do you ignore that?

~ ~ ~
"theoretical arguments that CO2 was accumulating heat???
Jim, why are you trying to dumb down the public?

To me, this is one of your most contemptible refrains, considering the depth of confusion and the precious irreplaceable time it is squandering from focusing on the real issue the future is facing.

Greenhouse Gas physics are thoroughly understood as has been explained and demonstrated hundreds, thousands of times over.  All you need is a willingness to learn about it, then you'll understand why.

There's nothing theoretical about it, it is basic physics, no model needed! 

Observational determination of surface radiative forcing by CO2 from 2000 to 2010
Feldman, Collins, Gero, Torn, Mlawer &  Shippert

Scientists have observed an increase in carbon dioxide’s greenhouse effect at the Earth’s surface for the first time. The researchers, led by scientists from the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), measured atmospheric carbon dioxide’s increasing capacity to absorb thermal radiation emitted from the Earth’s surface over an eleven-year period at two locations in North America. They attributed this upward trend to rising CO2levels from fossil fuel emissions.
The influence of atmospheric CO2 on the balance between incoming energy from the Sun and outgoing heat from the Earth (also called the planet’s energy balance) is well established. But this effect has not been experimentally confirmed outside the laboratory until now. The research is reported Wednesday, Feb. 25, in the advance online publication of the journal Nature.

The results agree with theoretical predictions of the greenhouse effect due to human activity. The research also provides further confirmation that the calculations used in today’s climate models are on track when it comes to representing the impact of CO2.
Nature 519, 339–343 (19 March 2015)
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Lesson to be learned from the warming "hiatus"


Supplimental material.
More details on California's warming trend: 
The identification of distinct patterns in California temperature trends 
Eugene C. Cordero · Wittaya Kessomkiat · John Abatzoglou · Steven A. Mauget 
Received: 28 August 2009 / Accepted: 4 November 2010 © Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011  
4.2 Comparison of annual trends: 1918–2006 with 1970–2006
It is understood that forcings (i.e., natural and anthropogenic) may interact in a nonlinear fashion, thus affecting temperatures across different time and spatial scales. To evaluate this, we compared annual trends across different regions for two different time periods, 1918–2006 and 1970–2006.  
The most prominent feature in this comparison (Fig. 5) was accelerated warming trends from 1970–2006. Statewide Tmax trends between 1970–2006 (+0.27C dec−1) were more than three times as large as the trend between 1918–2006 (+0.07C dec−1), while Tmin trends between 1970–2006 (+0.31C dec−1) were almost twice as large as trends between 1918– 2006 (+0.17C dec−1). 

Department of Meteorology and Climate Science
San Jose State University, College of Science


"Another study finds that drought will hit California hard as the planet keeps warming"
Monday 30 March 2015

There’s a rapidly growing body of scientific research finding that California is in the midst of its worst drought in over a millennium, global warming has made the drought worse, and decades-long mega-droughts could become the norm in the state later this century. A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) by scientists at Stanford University adds to this bleak picture for the Golden State. ...
... This is a subject of debate – some studies have found evidence of a human ‘fingerprint’ in the high pressure ridge that’s diverted storms away from California over the past three years. ...

... However, evidence indicates that California is in the midst of its worst drought in over 1,200 years. The new PNAS paper helps reconcile these two facts. As an accompanying commentary notes,   (link to complete article)



citizenschallenge said...

I have sent Mr. Jim Steele an email inviting him to actively participate in this debate.

Considering he's made a habit of ignoring the few emails I've sent him over the past year, it'll be interesting to see how this attempt to engage the man's words plays out.

Anonymous said...

Well done. I expect little response beyond cries of "ad hom!" and "out of context!" emanating from Heartland's warm bosom.