Guest Opinion: Dr. Tim Ball
Many problems plagued climatology since climate science took over in the 1980s. Each specialist in a different area suddenly became an expert in climate and climate change. They brought their different perspectives, sometimes helpful, but usually unhelpful and even distorting. Most came for funding opportunities, but many for the political objectives. They all lack awareness that climatology is a generalist discipline. It involves putting together, in a systems approach manner, all the studies from specialists who, because they get involved in climate studies, call themselves climate scientists. This piecemeal approach reflects the problems of creating computer climate models. Modellers assemble as many facts as they think apply, or will achieve their result and then, with improper or inadequate connecting mechanisms, put together what they think represents global climate. It is as Henri Poincare said,
Science is built of facts the way a house is built of bricks; but an accumulation of facts is no more science than a pile of bricks is a house.
How we view and interpret those facts depends on our personal views regardless of the supposed objectivity claims of most scientists. One thing I learned from working with Chinese climatologists is that they see and therefore assess the world from a completely different perspective. They are aware, because of long historical records of climate and crop production, of the cyclical and widely fluctuating nature of climate.
The Greeks studied and talked about climate, in fact, the word comes from the Ancient Greek ‘klima’ meaning inclination. In other words, they knew the angle of the sun determined the climate and identified three average zones, warm, temperate, and cold. The concept of climate effectively disappears until the 20th century. At the beginning of the 20th century, weather became important, mostly through the need for accurate forecasting, but that meant it was restricted to the knowledge of the physics of the atmosphere, the definition of meteorology.
In the 20th century, people knew about meteorology and associated it with weather forecasting. This was because official forecasting began during WW I with the introduction of flying in warfare. The relationship between forecasting and meteorology continues today as all media outlets have meteorologists, not climatologists on staff. There are very few climatologists at most national weather departments. Until very recently few took any training in climate and climate change. This explains why most media and government weather people know little about climate and fall in line with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) deception.
It wasn’t until Hubert Lamb opened the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) in 1971 and Reid Bryson established the UW-Madison Institute for Environmental Studies, now known as the Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies in 1970 that climate became a focus of academic interest. Interestingly, both worked as forecasters in WW II, and both knew the limitations of forecasting. Both understood the need for long-term weather records if you were to understand the patterns and mechanisms to improve forecasting. Despite this, climate was mostly ignored and only practiced obliquely by keeping weather records that were used to determine averages. The public talked about the climate of a region or a place, but few knew, as is still true today, what the difference is between climate and weather, or meteorology and climatology.
There were a few pioneers identifying climate change, but that was on a long-term scale, such as Louis Agassiz’s identification of Ice Ages in1840, and James Croll’s seminal 1864 work on Sun/Earth relationships and climate change. Then there is a significant gap of approximately 100 years in the study of climate until Milankovitch published in the 1930s but set aside by WW II. During that time meteorology became firmly entrenched, and climate only reappeared academically post-war with Lamb and Bryson.
Over the period from 1930 to 1970 a new applied mathematical technique called statistics developed and was applied to all the social sciences. This was when the conflict developed between, the ‘hard’ sciences and the application of the scientific method and techniques to other disciplines. It was and is still very clear that most mathematicians and physicists believe that no other discipline could understand climate or climate change. The fact is that climatology, as an integrative discipline, was taught as part of physical geography.
The application of statistics across the social sciences is part of logical positivism. Wikipedia defines it as,
“…a school of philosophy that combines empiricism, the idea that observational evidence is indispensable for knowledge of the world, with a version of rationalism incorporating mathematical and logico-linguistic constructs and deductions in epistemology.”
Ludwig Wittgenstein conceived the idea at the turn of the 20th century. Wikipedia notes,
“Wittgenstein’s influence has been felt in nearly every field of the humanities and social sciences, yet there are widely diverging interpretations of his thought.
Some of the responses to this concept indicate the problem people had with its absolutism. Evan Esar said,
“Statistics: The only science that enables different experts using the same figures to draw different conclusions.”
Or mathematician and philosopher A. N. Whitehead’s observation that
“There is no more common error than to assume that, because prolonged and accurate mathematical calculations have been made, the application of the result to some fact of nature is absolutely certain.”
All this had a great influence on the study of climate change because climate is the average of weather in a place or its change over time. After WW II climate was only about averages. Then, starting in the 1960s, and in consort with other social sciences especially economics, trends became important as predictive tools. The climate at the time was in a cooling trend that began in 1940 so, using simple linear trends, they assumed this would continue. Consider this quote from Lowell Ponte’s book The Cooling.
“It is cold fact: the global cooling presents humankind with the most important social, political, and adaptive challenge we have had to deal with for ten thousand years. Your stake in the decisions we make concerning it is of ultimate importance; the survival of ourselves, our children, our species.”
Notice it applies today by changing “cooling” to ‘warming.’ The cover of the 1977 book The Weather Conspiracy said,
“What does it mean? Many of the worlds leading climatologist’s concur. We are slipping towards a new Ice Age.”
This cooler period is the one the people at the CRU and RealClimate ignored, then said there was no consensus and finally, falsely claimed, it was caused by human addition of sulfates to the atmosphere. These are the same people who later said the warming trend that began in 1980 would continue forever unless politicians took dramatic remedial action. Now, along with social sciences in general, they are ignoring the third part of statistics, variation. Every change in statistics indicates change, but you need a good understanding based on adequate data, long records, and the relationship between mechanisms and change. The IPCC does not have any of these, as their failed projections attest.
A few years ago, when hijacking airplanes was the scare of the day, I pointed out the value of geography to my students. If you take over a plane, fly in the proper direction. Go one way, and you are designated a hijacker, go the other, and you are a political refugee. Of course, the political views of the commentator distort the assessment.
Now, we have a classic example of political bias about direction in the global warming debate brought about by increased variation. Recently NASA GISS reported
“From February 2016 to February 2018 (the latest month available) global average temperatures dropped 0.56°C. You have to go back to 1982-84 for the next biggest two-year drop, 0.47°C—also during the global warming era.”
Both temperature drops need perspective to understand their significance in the global warming debate. Note that the alarmist claim of unprecedented warming in the blade of the hockey stick was that temperature rose 0.6°C in approximately 120 years. Compare that with the 0.56°C drop in two years. Add to that the fact that the range of error for the 0.6°C figure was ± 0.2°C or ± 33.3%. Here is how the IPCC report and illustrate the claim.
The global average surface temperature (the average of near surface air temperature over land, and sea surface temperature) has increased since 1861. Over the 20th century the increase has been 0.6 ± 0.2°C (Figure 1a).
Figure 1 (Source IPCC Figure 1a)
This warming became the blade of the hockey stick, a device created to prove there was a dramatic temperature increase in the 20th century. It also claimed to prove that the latter part of the 20th century was the warmest and a that a previously claimed warming known as the Medieval Warm Period didn’t exist. The IPCC claimed that human CO2 explained the overall increase in global temperatures since 1950. If that is true, then how do they explain the 0.56°C drop in just two years, while they claim CO2 levels continued to rise? You can be sure that if the temperature increased by that much, all AGW alarmists would be shouting it to the world. But we won’t hear a word because it is going in the wrong direction. We might hear a concocted response if we ask the question loud enough.
Phil Jones, Director of the CRU at the time 1000 of their emails were leaked, produced the 0.6°C figure. Jones is a hydrologist. Here is what his bio at CRU says,
· BA in Environmental Sciences, University of Lancaster (1973)
· MSc in Engineering Hydrology, University of Newcastle Upon Tyne (1974)
· PhD in Hydrology, University of Newcastle Upon Tyne (1977)
Despite this, he claims to be a climatologist in the same bio. Maybe that is the problem, because except under rare circumstances water goes in one direction, whereas temperature is always changing direction. This is the same Jones who rejected requests for his data by Warwick Hughes saying he wanted to find fault. Hughes’ objective was, as with people’s requests for Michael Mann’s material, the desire to carry out the standard scientific test of producing reproducible results. This is the same Jones who claimed extreme distress over the leaked emails. Here is what The Guardian reported.
“Jones, who told the Sunday Times he had considered suicide over the controversy caused by the release of the emails, said he could not comment on allegations that the university mishandled requests for his data under Freedom of Information Laws.”
Why did he consider suicide when he claimed he had done nothing wrong? This is the Jones who, when finally cornered, announced he had lost the data.
This is the same Jones who in the leaked emails wrote,
“PPS Our web server has found this piece of garbage – so wrong it is unbelievable that Tim Ball wrote a decent paper in Climate Since AD 1500. I sometimes wish I’d never said this about the land stations in an email.”
My chapter in “Climate Since AD 1500” was good because I am a climatologist. My “piece of garbage” was also good for the same reason, but now it didn’t fit the direction he was taking. He changed direction, not me; just as the temperature data is changing because of natural climate change. The increased variability is associated with natural changes that presage global cooling. Meridional flow increases, and variation increases as all variables change. Jones analysis was wrong because he is a specialist in hydrology, not climatology and the politics destroyed his objectivity.