Letter: Pounding the data to set the record straight
September 25, 2014
Pounding the data to set the record straight
A mentor's words — "When the facts are on your side, pound the facts. When not, pound the table" — resonated while reading Auden Schendler's attack column ("Where were the fact checkers on Sturm column?" Commentary, Sept. 16, The Aspen Times) in response to Melanie Sturm's delightful Sept. 11 column ("Inconvenient truths denied by climate faithful," Commentary, The Aspen Times).
Pounding hard, Schendler accuses Sturm of "falsehoods," "sleight of hand," "misinformation," and "cherry-picking" while urging the Aspen Times to "defend the truth." You'd think Sturm's column was error-packed. It was not.
Schendler derided two of Sturm's claims: Global temperatures have ceased rising for nearly 18 years, and Arctic sea ice has rebounded over the last two years by an "Alaska-sized expansion." Both claims are uncontroversial among the climate-change community and are thus inconsistent with Schendler's claims of dishonesty.
The nearly 18-year "pause" in global temperatures can be seen in Remote Sensing Systems' lower troposphere (satellite) temperature series, which is updated monthly (http://www.remss.com/research/climate) and is well below even the lower confidence bounds of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change climate models.
Other major global temperature data sets confirm a statistically significant warming pause of 16 to 26 years: The English HadCRUT 4 — the most often-cited temperature record — shows 19 years; UAH satellite data shows 16 years; and RSS data show 26 years. This data from professor Ross McKitrick's peer-reviewed paper (published in the August 2014 Open Journal of Statistics) confirms Sturm was not "cherry-picking" data.
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In fact, it's Schendler who ignores the very surface temperature data that 1980s and '90s era warmists predicted would increase — it no longer supports their theory.
Instead, Schendler believes excess heat is going into the oceans, which is one of countless theories warmists posit to explain zero warming since my high school senior was born. Though possible, the oceans top 2,000 feet show no warming, according to ARGO ocean temperature monitoring floats, over their 12-year life.
That the heat might be going into the "deep" oceans below 2,000 feet is a recent theory, and hardly "debunks" Matt Ridley's Wall Street Journal piece. Data debunks theories, not vice versa.
How about Arctic sea ice? This year's rebound from 2012's summer minimum has been dramatic and is viewable at University of Illinois' Cryosphere Today website. But the real dialogue should be about global sea ice as the earth contains two poles: Arctic and Antarctic. Global sea ice is today (Sept. 22, 2014) 470,000 square kilometers above the 35-year average. One day is too short. The last 12-month average shows roughly 400,000 square kilometers more sea ice than average.
It is true that there's been a decline in average Arctic sea ice over the last 35 years, but there's also been a roughly equal rise in Antarctic sea ice, currently setting record highs.
Put into context, earth has had roughly 20,000,000 square kilometers of seasonally varying sea ice over the last 35 years, displayed and updated daily by Cryosphere Today. Down 7 percent in 2011 — its lowest year — sea ice is currently about 2 percent above its 35-year average.
This small variance in global sea ice coverage is inconsistent with hysteria over climate change — unless, of course, one looks at only one pole or cherry picks data.
The data is the data: Earth's surface has warmed a modest 0.8 degrees Celsius over the last 160 years. Atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased from 280 ppm to 400 ppm due mainly to the burning of hydrocarbons. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that should cause a warming of the atmosphere, which has been modest to date. Global sea ice coverage has bounced up and down a few percentage points. There has been no increase in the average occurrence of global hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, droughts, etc http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/admin/publication_files/2013.20.pdf
These facts, which Schendler ignores, are not controversial. Before accepting doomsday predictions — such as the claim I heard while a 1980s Colorado high school student that there'd be mass starvation by 2000 — become familiar with the past.
Lets put a climate-change debate on the Aspen events fall calendar. I can't imagine a better place to hold an informative and thoughtful dialogue.
Cherry Hills Village, Colo.