Science at its worst!

Early in my research I came across the topic of CO2 lagging behind the temperature data in the ice core data. This is generally only seen in the major changes in climate. The beginning and ending of glacials (ice ages). The little scale warmings and coolings of the Earth like what is happening now do not really matter in the full scale of the Earth’s climate. They are simply weather systems of the hundred year scale.

The big changes that take place on the 10,000 year scale are very significant to the Earth’s climate. It is these big changes that cause CO2 levels to change. When a glacial (commonly called an ice age) ends the temperature of the Earth rapidly increases for thousands of years. Well after the Earth starts warming the CO2 level starts to increase.

I came across a little article that states the following:

The reason has to do with the fact that the warmings take about 5000 years to be complete. The lag is only 800 years. All that the lag shows is that CO2 did not cause the first 800 years of warming, out of the 5000 year trend. The other 4200 years of warming could in fact have been caused by CO2, as far as we can tell from this ice core data.

The 4200 years of warming make up about 5/6 of the total warming. So CO2 could have caused the last 5/6 of the warming, but could not have caused the first 1/6 of the warming.

Some (currently unknown) process causes Antarctica and the surrounding ocean to warm. This process also causes CO2 to start rising, about 800 years later. Then CO2 further warms the whole planet, because of its heat-trapping properties. This leads to even further CO2 release.

This is the type of thing that is getting counted as climate “science.”  This my favorite example of misinformation.  The simple statement that CO2 could be responsible for 5/6, but not 1/6 is intellectually and scientifically dishonest.

This is a really special piece here. I normally will not take great offense to things, but this one really irked me. The combination of saying that an unknown process (which is a blatant lie) starts the initial warming which is then taken over after 800 years by the CO2 feedback is absurd. There is no basis that the original cause of the warming ends.

Any person looking at a chart of the warming will see that the warming is an uninterrupted event that lasts the entire period, 5,000 years being a reasonable average for the length of the warming. Here is an overlay of the Vostok ice core temperature and the associated CO2 levels.

Inconvenient Skeptic

CO2 Lags Temperature during warming and COOLING periods.

CO2 clearly lags the warming that took place 135,000 years ago and even more importantly, it also lagged the cooling that ended the Eemian interglacial (warm period between glacial periods) 117,000 years ago. That is right, the Earth re-entered the last Ice Age while CO2 levels remained high. If CO2 caused the warming, then why didn’t it stop the last glacial period from happening?

Fortunately the answer to that is easy.  That is why I wrote my book.  To explain why the Earth’s climate goes through these changes.  All the information is out there, but it is scattered all over the place.  Help get the word out by helping me get the book published.

Posted in Fear and Misinformation and Science Articles - Global Warming by inconvenientskeptic on September 19th, 2010 at 11:55 pm.


This post has 3 comments

  1. inconvenientskeptic Oct 19th 2010

    Posted by Glenn, but on another page.


    Let me address some of the comments you made to Phil’s last post. ( and in my usual style, I am rather prolix)

    Firstly to the article at RealClimate that seems to have got under your skin. Consider our previous discussion about reporting of science and levels of complexity and the inaccuracies that can arise during the simplification process rather than from the underlying science. Also that Scientists are often the worst reporters of their science to a general audience. The RC post was written in 2004, not that long after RC had started running. I imagine they were still finding their feet as to the level of reportage appropriate for the site. And this was a guest post by Jeff Severinghaus, not one of their regulars.

    You took exception to a part of the post saying “This is the type of thing that is getting counted as climate “science.” This my favorite example of misinformation. The simple statement that CO2 could be responsible for 5/6, but not 1/6 is intellectually and scientifically dishonest.”

    Why is this dishonest. Jeff is making the observation that since CO2 could not have contibuted to the early 1/6th of the warming/cooling because its level hadn’t changed but it could well have contributed to the later 5/6ths of the warming/cooling. Note particularly, he is referring to the fraction of the time duration of the changes, not the magnitude of the change. CO2 cannot contribute to the early part of the change since its level had not yet altered. How is that dishonest?

    Here is the rest of Jeff’s comments which you didn’t include (My Emphasis)
    “It comes as no surprise that other factors besides CO2 affect climate. Changes in the amount of summer sunshine, DUE TO CHANGES IN THE EARTH’S ORBIT AROUND THE SUN THAT HAPPEN EVERY 21,000 years, have long been known to affect the comings and goings of ice ages. Atlantic ocean circulation slowdowns are thought to warm Antarctica, also.

    From studying all the available data (not just ice cores), the probable sequence of events at a termination goes something like this. Some (CURRENTLY UNKNOWN) process causes Antarctica and the surrounding ocean to warm. This process also causes CO2 to start rising, about 800 years later. Then CO2 further warms the whole planet, because of its heat-trapping properties. This leads to even further CO2 release. So CO2 during ice ages should be thought of as a “feedback”, much like the feedback that results from putting a microphone too near to a loudspeaker.

    In other words, CO2 does not initiate the warmings, but acts as an amplifier once they are underway. From model estimates, CO2 (ALONG WITH OTHER GREENHOUSE GASES CH4 and N2O) causes about HALF of the full glacial-to-interglacial warming.

    So, in summary, the lag of CO2 behind temperature doesn’t tell us much about global warming. [But it may give us a very interesting clue about why CO2 rises at the ends of ice ages. The 800-year lag is about the amount of time required to flush out the deep ocean through natural ocean currents. So CO2 might be stored in the deep ocean during ice ages, and then get released when the climate warms.]

    He does mention Milankovitch cycles although not by name. But he is unwilling to commit strongly to ascribing things to that(CURRENTLY UNKNOWN) – typical conservative scientist! At this point in time (2004) during the debate on the ice core record, Milankovitch was not as strongly accepted as a factor in the scientific community as it is today in 2010. And certainly not as well quantified as now. A lot of water and research has flowed under the bridge since then. Aren’t you judging him on what was said in the past based on more recent understanding? What could we all be accused of from our past statements when understanding was different. Finally he does put a figure on the contribution of CO2 and others to the total glacial cycle at around half – the figure I have seen more recently is 40%. And this is the contribution of CO2 and others, INCLUDING the feedback processes that magnify their effect!

    So I feel your statement that “That RealClimate article (linked in my post at Vostok chart) is INTENTIONALLY written to keep people from understanding Milankovitch” is unjustified.

  2. inconvenientskeptic Oct 19th 2010


    While the simplification argument could have some validity, I don’t buy it in this case. The scientific basis for the Milankovitch cycles was strongly established in 1976:

    Variations in the Earth’s Orbit: Pacemaker of the Ice Ages
    Author(s): J. D. Hays, John Imbrie, N. J. Shackleton
    Source: Science, New Series, Vol. 194, No. 4270, (Dec. 10, 1976)

    Anyone studying climate after that period should be very aware of the Milankovitch cycles. If a person is fully aware of the cycles and the very clear cause and effect that the orbital cycles have the Earth’s climate, trying to say that the orbital part is really only responsible for 1/6th of the warming is intentionally misleading.

    I am not sure if you have read the introduction on my website, but when I dove into this topic. I had no preconceived notions. When I initially read that article it didn’t bother me, but later as I learned more I realized how intentionally misleading it is.

    Remember that it was written 30 years after the basic cycle of the glacial/interglacial cycles was established. There is not excuse for that.

    I try to build upon articles. I write about one thing and then later articles build upon them. That article did the opposite.

    I understand that this point is a particular irritant to me and I recognize that I might be a little overboard on it, but it was 30 years after Pacemaker.


  3. Glenn Tamblyn Oct 19th 2010


    Just because an article is published at a certain point in time does not mean that the broader scientific community has necesarily accepted the validity of it. My understanding of the process is that it was in the period after the Ice Core data was being obtained that early work such as this on Milankovitch was being reconsidered, from something considered a possible climate factor to one that has additional supporting evidence and is considered likely. The clincher I understand was the good correlation in the timing of Glacial cycles in the cores with the peaks & troughs of Milankovitch.

    However any such change of understanding in the scientific community takes time before it is widely accepted. And it is only when it has been widely accepted that a scientist would give strong support for it in communications with the broader public. The opinion in that article was the opinion of one scientist, at that point in time, filtered through the conservatism with which they communicate their science to the public.

    Has later understanding firmed up the views about Milankovitch. Yes.

    Does a more equivocal statement by one scientist, communicating outside his normal channels of communication, with justifiable concerns that a lay audience would read too much or too little into his words and not approach them with the nuance a scientist is trained to do, communicating his own personal views at a time when this acceptance was developing, mean he is guilty of deliberate dishonesty. No.

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