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Exceptions that disprove the AGW 'rule'

By Anthony Cox and Joanne Nova - posted Tuesday, 2 October 2012

One of the world's greatest scientists, Richard Feynman said (The Meaning of it All, 1999):

The exception proves that the rule is wrong. That is the principle of science. If there is an exception to any rule, and if it can be proved by observation, that rule is wrong.

The dominant argument for AGW contradicts Feynman's "principle of science". This dominant argument is that a majority of scientists, a consensus, support it. There are many recent papers which are "exceptions" to AGW; any one of these papers satisfies Feynman's principle that a consensus is defeated by just one bit of evidence.


AGW is the increase in global average temperature [GAT]. AGW relies on 2 processes to cause this increase in GAT; forcings and feedbacks.

A forcing is a factor external to or introduced to the climate system which affects the radiative balance at the Tropopause, the boundary between the Troposphere and the Stratosphere. The IPCC recognises 2 main types of forcings; greenhouse gases, the most dominant one being CO2, and solar radiation. A feedback is a change in another quantity in the climate system as a response to a change in a forcing. The IPCC assumes that an increase in forcing from an increase in anthropogenic CO2 causes a feedback by an increase in water vapour [AR4, FAQ 1.3]. This process is measured by the change in GAT.

The following papers clarify AGW's uncertainty between forcings and feedbacks and show that AGW science is not clear about the distinction or effects. The papers show the IPCC assumptions about the role of CO2 and water vapor, particularly in the form of clouds, are incorrect and that the IPCC conclusions about GAT are both exaggerated and wrong. In doing so, these papers also vindicate Feynman's principle.

1 Lindzen and Choi 2011.

If global warming is going to happen it will be due to feedbacks. If the feedbacks are positive it means that as the world warms, atmospheric conditions would have to change to keep even more of the sun's energy inside our system. But Richard Lindzen and Yong-Sang Choi show that as the world warms Earth's dynamic system changes to let more of the infra red or long-wave energy out to space. It's like a safety release valve. This means that the system has negative feedbacks (like almost all known natural systems). The changes dampen the effects of extra CO2. If there is no net amplifying positive feedback there is no catastrophe. Because Lindzen & Choi are looking at long-wave radiation leaving the planet, this is a way of assessing all forms of feedbacks at once. They don't isolate which part of the system is responsible: clouds, humidity, ice-cover or vegetation, but we know the net effect of all of them together is that when the world warms, more energy escapes from the planet.

2 Spencer and Braswell


Spencer & Braswell's papers in 2008, 2010 and 2011 took a different approach to Lindzen & Choi. Spencer & Braswell looked more closely at the nature of feedbacks and forcings and the difficulty of putting a value on feedbacks. The IPCC models assume that clouds change in response to GAT, so they are a "feedback" [AR4, WG1,]. But as Spencer & Braswell show in their papers clouds can be a forcing factor as well. This means that if something other than temperature affects cloud cover (like changes in ocean currents or air circulation) the change in clouds would then force the GAT to change in the opposite direction.

Spencer and Braswell found that the forcing and feedback effect of clouds on GAT are both negative to increases in GAT.

3 R.S. Knox and D.H. Douglass

The current level of the GAT contradicts AGW because it is too low and AGW theory assumes the "missing heat" is being stored in the oceans. Knox and Douglass show this assumption is unfounded.

Knox and Douglass show the connection between the ocean radiative rate of change [Fohc] and the radiative rate of change at the top of the atmosphere [Ftoa]. Based on empirical evidence they prove that the Fohc has been negative, which means more radiative energy has been leaving the ocean than being stored.

Knox & Douglass conclude that because "90% of the variable heat content resides in the upper ocean" the Fohc can accurately infer the Ftoa. Therefore if Fohc is negative then Ftoa is as well; this has been confirmed by Lindzen and Choi's work. A negative Ftoa is contrary to AGW's assumption of "missing heat" being stored in the oceans. Without missing heat AGW has greatly overestimated the effect of global warming.

4 Miskolczi

Miskolczi 2007 and 2010 measure "the true greenhouse-gas optical thickness" [Abstract, Miskolczi 2010]. This is made up of two parts which are depicted in 2010, Figure 4.

a. τA -- is defined as "the total IR flux optical depth" [page 5 Miskolczi 2007]. This is a measure of the total amount of infra-red or long-wave radiation which is absorbed between the surface and the top of the atmosphere.

b. A -- is the flux absorbance [page 3 Miskolczi 2010] and is a measure of what wavelengths of long-wave radiation are being absorbed and transmitted in the atmosphere by 11 greenhouse gases [page 7, Miskolczi 2004].

Together τA and A are the optical depth of the atmosphere The optical depth is a kind of proxy measure of the greenhouse effect. Global warming says that more CO2 will increase the optical depth. Miskolczi showed that available empirical measurements of the optical depth are consistent with no change in 61 years. This means that even though CO2 has increased over the 61 years of measurement and increased the optical depth slightly, "variations in water vapor column amounts" [Figure 11, Miskolczi 2010] have decreased the optical depth by a similar amount. Paltridge et al. have confirmed a decrease in water vapor for this period.

If the optical depth has not increased overall, it suggests the slight warming of the 20th C has not been due to an increase in the greenhouse effect.

5 McShane and Wyner 2011.

McShane and Wyner attempted to replicate Michael Mann's infamous hockeystick using Mann's own data. The hockeystick first appeared in Mann's 1998 paper and has been a centre-piece of global warming evidence ever since. The hockeystick is important because it supposedly shows recent warming is exceptional and "unprecedented". The hockeystick is based on dendro-climatic proxies or tree-rings which supposedly provide evidence for past temperatures. Mann's hockeystick shows basically flat temperature until the 20th C and then a sudden and rapid increase.

Mann's data was highly problematic. Mann had used the wrong type of tree, and at times, hardly any samples. Some of the tree-ring records even show the opposite "temperature" trend to what thermometers show suggesting those trees don't make a good or accurate alternative to thermometers.

McShane &Wyner tried to create the same graph from the same data but could not. They conclude:

"Using our model, we calculate that there is a 36% posterior probability that 1998 was the warmest year over the past thousand. If we consider rolling decades, 1997-2006 is the warmest on record; our model gives an 80% chance that it was the warmest in the past thousand years. Finally, if we look at rolling thirty-year blocks, the posterior probability that the last thirty years (again, the warmest on record) were the warmest over the past thousand is 38%."[page 37]

So, even using Mann's dubious data and employing a variety of statistical methods, McShane & Wyner's model suggests that there is only an 80% chance that one recent decade was the warmest of the last 1000 years, and 1998 is most likely not the warmest year [64% against] and the last 30 year period is also unlikely to have been the warmest [62% against]. In other words, the type of weather we have now has all occurred before, and in the not too distant past when CO2 was supposedly low.

6 McKitrick, McIntyre, Herman 2010

If the IPCC models are right about the feedbacks, we would see a hot spot 10km above the tropics. AGW theory says this should happen because more water will have been evaporated to this part of the atmosphere and would have caused rapid warming.

McKitrick et al found that the model predictions are about 4 times higher and outside the error bars of the weather balloons and satellites measurements.

McKitrick et al's findings have been replicated by Fu et al who also find a discrepancy between the models and observations about Troposphere warming, although not to the same extent as McKitrick et al do. However, in a follow-up paper, McKitrick and Vogelsang not only confirm that the predictions of warming by the models have been exaggerated but also show the small amount of recent warming was due to a natural climate shift in 1977. This climate shift has been noted by many other researchers and means global warming is playing an even smaller role then predicted by the models.

7 Anagnostopoulis, G.G., Koutsoyiannis, D., Christofides, A., Efstratiadis, A., and Mamassis, N.

If McKitrick et al shows that the IPCC global computer models can't model the present and therefore the future, Professor Demetrius Koutsoyiannis and his team show those models can't even model the past

In his 2008 paper Koutsoyiannis compared the model predictions from 1990 to 2008 and whether those models could retrospectively match the actual temperature over the past 100 years. This test of retrospectivity is called hindcasting. If a model has valid assumptions about the climatic effect of variables such as greenhouse gases, particularly CO2, then the model should be able to match past known data.

Koutsoyiannis's 2008 paper has not had a peer reviewed rebuttal but was subject to a critique at Real Climate by Gavin Schmidt. Schmidt's criticism was 4-fold; that Koutsoyiannis uses a regional comparison, few models, real temperatures not anomalies and too short a time period.

Each of Schmidt's criticisms was either wrong or anticipated by Koutsoyiannis. The period from 1990-2008 was the period in which IPCC modeling had occurred; the IPCC had argued that regional effects from global warming would occur; model ensembles were used by Koutsoyiannis; and since the full 100 year temperature and rainfall data was used in intra-annual and 30 year periods by Koutsoyiannis anomalies were irrelevant.

In 2008 Koutsoyiannis found that while the models had some success with the monthly data all the models were "irrelevant with reality" at the 30 year climate scale.

Koutsoyiannis's 2010 paper "is a continuation and expansion of Koutsoyiannis 2008". The differences are that (a) Koutsoyiannis 2008 had tested only eight points, whereas 2010 tests 55 points for each variable; (b) 2010 examines more variables in addition to mean temperature and precipitation; and (c) 2010 compares at a large scale in addition to point scale. The large, continental scale in this case is the contiguous US.

Again Koutsoyiannis 2010 found that the models did not hindcast successfully with real data from all the 55 world regions not matching what the models produced. The models were even worse in hindcasting against the real data for the US continent.

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About the Authors

Anthony Cox is a lawyer and secretary of The Climate Sceptics.

Joanne Nova wrote The Skeptics Handbook, 160,000 copies of which have been distributed in four nations and translated by volunteers into six languages. She's a freelance writer, blogger and also an analyst for The Science and Public Policy Institute in the USA. She was a prize winning graduate of molecular biology, and a former associate lecturer in Science Communication at the ANU. Her new blog, JoNova, has reached 140,000 people already this year with over 400,000 page views and 6000 comments. She has spoken about climate science communication in New York and to Senate Staffers in Washington, and attended the UNFCCC in Bali, 2007. Joanne has done over 200 radio interviews, and hosted a science series for children on Channel Nine.

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