Can you have a consensus if no one agrees what the consensus is?

Over at the Blackboard, Lucia has a post with a growing set of comments about anthropogenic warming and the tropical, mid-tropospheric hotspot.  Unlike many who are commenting on the topic, I have actually read most of the IPCC AR4 (painful as that was), and came to the same conclusion as Lucia:  that the IPCC said the climate models predicted a hot spot in the mid-troposphere, and that this hot spot was a unique fingerprint of global warming (“fingerprint” being a particularly popular word among climate scientists).  Quoting Lucia:

I have circled the plates illustrating the results for well mixed GHG’s and those for all sources of warming combined. As you see, according to the AR4– a consensus document written for the UN’s IPCC and published in 2007 — models predict the effect of GHG’s as distinctly different from that of solar or volcanic forcings. In particular: The tropical tropospheric hotspots appears in the plate discussing heating by GHG’s and does not appear when the warming results from other causes.


OK, pretty straight-forward.   The problem is that this hot spot has not really appeared.  In fact, the pattern of warming by altitude and latitude over the last thirty years looks nothing like the circled prediction graphs.  Steve McIntyre does some processing of RSS satellite data and produces this chart of actual temperature anomalies for the last 30 years by attitude and altitude  (Altitude is measured in these graphs by atmospheric pressure, where 1000 millibars is the surface and 100 millibars is about 10 miles up.


The scientists at RealClimate (lead defenders of the climate orthodoxy) are not unaware that the hot spot is not appearing.  They responded about a year ago that 1)  The hot spot is not an anthropogentic-specific fingerprint at all, but will result from all new forcings

the pattern really has nothing to do with greenhouse gas changes, but is a more fundamental response to warming (however caused). Indeed, there is a clear physical reason why this is the case – the increase in water vapour as surface air temperature rises causes a change in the moist-adiabatic lapse rate (the decrease of temperature with height) such that the surface to mid-tropospheric gradient decreases with increasing temperature (i.e. it warms faster aloft). This is something seen in many observations and over many timescales, and is not something unique to climate models.

and they argued 2) that we have not had enough time for the hot spot to appear and they argued 3) all that satellite data really has a lot of error in it anyway.

Are the Real Climate guys right on this?  I don’t know.  That’s what they suck up all my tax money for, to figure this stuff out.

But here is what makes me crazy:  It is quite normal in science for scientists to have a theory, make a prediction based on this theory, and then go back and tweak the theory when data from real physical processes does not match the predictions.  There is certainly no shame in being wrong.  The whole history of science is about lurching from failed hypothesis to the next, hopefully improving understanding with each iteration.

But the weird thing about climate science is the sort of Soviet-era need to rewrite history.  Commenters on both Lucia’s site and at Climate Audit argue that the IPCC never said the hot spot was a unique fingerprint.  The fingerprint has become an un-person.

Why would folks want to do this?  After all, science is all about hypothesis – experimentation – new hypothesis.  Well, most science.  The problem is that climate science has been declared to be 1)  A Consensus and 2) Settled.    But settled consensus can’t, by definition, have disagreements and falsified forecasts.  So history has to be rewritten to protect the infallibility of the Pope the Presidium the climate consensus.  It’s a weird way to conduct science, but a logical outcome when phrases like “the science is settled” and  “consensus” are used as clubs to silence criticism.

84 thoughts on “Can you have a consensus if no one agrees what the consensus is?”

  1. Off topic, a bit, soplease accept my apology. Has anyone noticed that Cryosphere seems to be offline lately? I cannot get to the home page or the comparison tool.
    It is very likely a technical glitch, but I have tried from two different internet connections and get timed out everytime.
    As to the topic, since AGW promoters are not selling science but policy, they do not give a hoot about the science. AGW has been a social/political movement using science when convenient to achive a social policy outcome.

  2. This kind of behavior is childish and feeds skepticism (and for a good reason – honest scientists just wouldn’t behave this way).

  3. Let’s follow their logic a baby step further. If such a hotspot is predicted to be the result of any warming, and there is no such hotspot, well then, doesn’t that tell you that: a) either the model is wrong or b) there has been no significant atmospheric warming? Pick your poison Gavin.

  4. I have frequently wondered how the so-called “consensus” is defined. I would agree that there is a consensus that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and that other things being equal, increased CO2 in the atmosphere will increase global temperatures. However, Al Gore and company want people to believe that the consensus is that man-made CO2 will eventually catastrophic warming. I do not believe that there is any meaningful consensus regarding this proposition.

    If the IPCC is supposed to represent the consensus, it is not very helpful as its range of scenarios include relatively benign warming to catastrophic warming.

  5. Well they thought if you can do it once, if you can re-write history and get away with, why not now. I refer of course to the re-writing of history wrt the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age. Their re-write was the ludicrous Hockey Stick produced by that famous team of Mann and the Scary Climate Hysterics.

    History belongs to the biggest government organization with the wildest scary story that must be re-crisised over and over to keep the money and trips to Bali going.

  6. It’s an old saw that the enemy of science is not error, it is muddle. Muddle and fraud. The two enemies of science are muddle, fraud and appalling incompetence. The three enemies of science….

  7. joshv: But “and they argued 2) that we have not had enough time for the hot spot to appear..” Perhaps it will only appear just before the tipping point, or as Hansen continually says “in ten years time.” It’s rather like the mythical bar advert “free beer tomorrow.”

  8. As always, we have here a strange mix of wilful misunderstanding and simple falsehoods. I think you actually have to try quite hard not to understand the figure you reproduce from the IPCC. It does not compare the pattern of warming expected from different sources of equal magnitude. It is a breakdown of the contributions to the observed warming from different sources. If only you’d read the caption.

    “The problem is that this hot spot has not really appeared. In fact, the pattern of warming by altitude and latitude over the last thirty years looks nothing like the circled prediction graphs”

    Actually it does. I wonder just how long it will be before you repeat your false claim though.

    “they argued 2) that we have not had enough time for the hot spot to appear”, well, you’ve just made that up, haven’t you. They have said nothing of the sort.

  9. Jennifer,

    He has actually provided a plot of what the temps are. Either dispute the plot, provide you own data, or shut up. Your style of saying people lied, then providing positively no evidence of such is childish and stupid.

  10. I good to see that common sense is winning over the so-called “consensus” of those “natural climate cycle skeptics” like Al Gore.

  11. Jennifer,
    This subject is not new. Lord Mockton and Ross McKitrick brought it up almost 2 years ago. So please, either refer to the actual data and hypothesis or go somewhere else. Gavin et. als. are muddying the waters. Remember, Dr Mann is also a founding member of RC, and to this day RC stands behind MBH9X. If the HS is correct, the amount of anthropogenic forcings due to GHGs have been so intense in recent decades that 30 years is quite long enough for the hot spot to appear (per the 2007 IPCC TAR). The IPCC I thought was quite clear on this. Also, Gavin failed to show any significant changes in the adiabatic lapse rate(s) of tropical tropesheric soundings over time. He as usual just hypothosized.

  12. Err Jenny, the post is quoting someone else, you appear to have missed that. Or do you think Lucia does not understand?

    Oh if only you had read the post!

  13. When AGW promoters get busted by the failure of their predictions, they always claim there is not time sufficient for a trend, or simply lie and claim they never made the prediction.
    The believers, as we see, are well trained and aggressively ad hom anyone who dares point out the failure of yet another AGW prediction.
    What is striking in all of this is that *if* I actually thought an apocalypse was possibly at hand, and I found out that in fact it was not, I would be very happy to be wrong.
    The AGW community, by contrast, clings to their failed apocalyptic predictions with a religious tenacity.

  14. Jennifer:
    I for one totally agree with your statement. Why would the Team at RC make such claims? Telling us that IPCC AR4 was missrepresenting the facts. You know I myself do not know what has become of these people. Sending out false information and denying normal climate change. The nerve of some people to think that they can see climate change on such short periods of time. Can they not see that 30 or 150 or 1000 years is to short of a period to determine climate patterns? Why can they not see that the globe has been coling for the last 5000 years since the HO and weather is constantly changing? And these people call themselfs Climate scientists. What is our educational institutes comming to?
    Who to belive? Confusing is it not? Do not worry they will wake to reality some day!

  15. JoshV:
    A couple more options available.
    – The theory could be wrong
    – The theory could be incomplete, (negative or positive).
    No matter what, people have should be asking questions and NOT base extremely expensive policy on incorrect conclusions, no matter how strong that gut feeling is. Unless of course one has alterior motives. Hmmmm

  16. Apparently the spam cop intervened, will try again. Remove spaces appropriately.

    Gavin Schmidt et al 2005
    http: // www.

    “Tropospheric warming is a robust feature of climate model simulations driven
    by historical increases in greenhouse gases (1–3). Maximum warming is predicted
    to occur in the middle and upper tropical troposphere.”

  17. Well, as a practical matter, as long as we don’t know for sure what’s going on, we may as well keep right on pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. We can always move to another planet if there’s a problem.

  18. Paul MM:
    You got that right. At present there is no alternative to fossil fuel. The only viable alternative for power generation is nuclear, and that will take decades to plan, build and commission. Even then, nuclear can only take up some of the growth in power consumption, not replace existing power generation to any degree. To ban CO2 emitting power sources, is to force loss of income, living standard, and ultimately life, onto the human population, predominantly on the poor. So yes, we may and must, continue to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The alternative is unacceptable. Get real and deal with it.

  19. If AGW promoters were rational, they would be glad that their prediciton of apocalyptic changes to the climate due to human generated CO2 has been falsified by this piece of good news on the troposphere.
    They are not glad about this because AGW is not rational.
    They want their apocalypse.
    We will see, as the veneer of science covering AGW continues to fall away, just how little about science this has been.
    AGW is about an elite imposing a new order by way of carbon policy.

  20. Ha ha, that’s quite funny. You misunderstood the figure, misinterpreted it as saying something it didn’t, and then rather than just admit you were wrong, you claim that there has been a ‘Soviet-era need to rewrite history’. I wonder if we’ll ever see the day when a denier admits they screwed up and didn’t understand the science.

  21. Jennifer, you said “It does not compare the pattern of warming expected from different sources of equal magnitude. It is a breakdown of the contributions to the observed warming from different sources. If only you’d read the caption.” The caption says the it is the breakdown of the contributions of current warming according to the PCM model. The PCM model total is the “f” box. If measurment data does not support the results the PCM model predicted, box f, then obviously the PCM model is falsified. How can you come to a different conclusion?

  22. kuhnkat – well if I really need to spell it out… it’s a graph about observations from 1890-1999, not a graph of an experiment to try to replicate the observed warming with different forcings. What the graph shows is the effect of volcanoes, solar changes, aerosols, greenhouse gases and ozone changes, individually and all together, on global temperatures from 1890-1999. Greenhouse gases dominated the climate forcings during that time, so the graph for them individually looks a lot like the graph of the sum of all forcings.

    Anyone here have the integrity to admit they misunderstood?

  23. RPJ. Read the caption: temperature change from 1890 to 1999 as simulated by the PCM model.

    Reads clear to me: a model simulation that has failed to replicate the measured data. Do you have the integrity to admit that you misunderstood?

  24. RPJ, I speak as someone who has read the IPCC report(s).* Misunderstanding is not something that is limited to skeptics. My understanding of Figure 9.1 is that it is not historical data – certainly we do not have records of temperature by latitude and altitude from 1890 – but rather the graph is an exercise in backcasting from the PCM model.
    Although I do not have citations handy, I do recall that John Christy published an article in which he pointed out that the tropospheric hot spot, predicted by GCMs, has not been observed in the real world. Subsequently, Global Warming Pessimists made a statement that went something like this: “Historical data has been corrected, and the inconsistency between observations and model outputs has now been resolved.”
    * A couple of disclaimers: My eyes did grow weary at times in reading FAR and TAR, and although I am not inclined read the entire reports again, I am willing to revisit issues that others believe that I might have misunderstood or missed. Overall, I emerged from reading these reports with less concern of dire consequences from AGW than the level of concern I had before.

  25. Elmer Gantry:

    “Give me your money and do as I say or you will go to hell.”

    Al Gore:

    “Give me your money and so as I say or the planet . . .”

  26. RPJ has demonstrated a very common AGW believer fallacy- of mistaking models for observations.
    The models in this case were specific predictions made by AGW promoters. The models are wrong, when compared to the data.
    Instead of welcoming the news that yet another predicted apocalypse is not happening, we see in RPJ the odd AGW response to prefer the climate apocalypse over reviewing why the predictions have failed.

  27. An Inquirer – yep, the figures are hindcasts based on observed forcings over the time period. They show that unless our observations are way wrong, then greenhouse gases are the dominant forcing from 1890-1999. They do not show that a tropospheric hotspot is a unique fingerprint of greenhouse gas-related warming, and I’m still waiting for a single person to admit they misunderstood that point.

    Who are “Global Warming Pessimists”? Are they the ones who seriously believe that all the world’s scientists are stupid and that random blog writers understand things better? That would be pretty pessimistic.

    Posters should keep in mind that ‘Raven’ is some kind of fantasising busybody.

  28. RPJ,
    Painting yourself into a corner over the use of model projections regarding the troposphere by calling them ‘observed forcings’ or ‘hindcasts’ does not make the corner any less of a dead end.
    The global warming pessimists are those who claim that world’s climate is driven by CO2 and that the climate, despite billions of years of evidence tot he contrary, is poised for a runaway due to relatively small changes in CO2.
    That scientists are human and can get caught up in stupid ideas is not new or news. It has happened before, and it will happen again.
    The assertion you make of ‘all the world’s scientists’ believing in AGW is simply wrong, but you knew that.

  29. Billions of years of evidence eh? Wow, you must have some data source the rest of the world hasn’t yet been told about. Nice try at dodging the point, but now how about you answer this simple question: the graphs in the original post do not show that a tropospheric hotspot is a unique fingerprint of greenhouse gas-related warming – true or false?

  30. Boy am I glad that I stopped by here today. This looks like fun!
    RPJ: WOW! We now have GWA’s and GWP’s thats neat but alas I tend to dissagree. You see if I were to sepperate the sides and say there were two sides to this issue (which I absoluty do not). I would have to give the sides the discriptive names of Realists And Dreamers (Fantisisers). You see that some people on our globe live in a world of fantasy or non reality. Those people tend to belive in the conspiracy that human life is evil and technology is destroying the planet by realeasing the posioness CO2 into the atsmophere.
    On the other hand the realists belive in actual real world effects and historical evedince of climatic fluctuations over long periods of time. Some even go so far as to belive that evidence has been provided to show that climate follows cycles due to atmosphere, ocean, and solar interactions that occure naturally.

    This brings me to the point regarding your recent post. First I would like to recognize that for the graph the IPCC only ysed the output from one GCM as it was middle of the road to show what should have happened if GHG forcing was the cause of warming between 1890 and 1999. I really think they should have proofed what tey were stating for alas their statement was a work of fantasy not science unless you want to attach the discriptor of fantasy to it. The Ipcc also used 22 models to provide a reference to future scenerios. You see they had to use 22 because no signle one was able to back cast climate history but using 22 would allow a wide range into which any possible climate would fit. Really scientific!IMO!NOT!
    Of course that brings us to one of my favorite topics. GWP! For your information (There really is a lot out about this)it seems that the bricks are falling out of the wall that GWA’s are trying to build showing the substance of their arguements. If you want to build a house out of toilet paper. You should do it where the wind of reality does not blow.
    I personally enjoy science fiction and fantasy but know the difference between that and reality.
    That sounds like a good book: Realizing the Reletivity of Reality! I wonder if someone wrote already?

  31. RPJ,
    It is irrelevant if a hotspot is a unique fingerprint.
    What is relevant is that the AGW leadership predicted one and that they are wrong.
    I am dodging nothing, and as much as you try, neither are you.
    Since Hansen is the one making insane comparisons between Venus and Earth, and asserting that Earth will become like Venus if our wicked coal keeps getting sent to power plants, please talk to him about runaways. It is his delusion, and he can try to defend it.
    If you are going to assert now that there were in fact CO2 driven runaways in the past, but that Earth recovered from them, please feel free to expand on your speculation.
    And that you can’t admit the difference between models and data is simply trollish on your part.

  32. Mike Davis – you write like a ten year old, and your outpouring seems quite unrelated to the point at hand.

    hunter – “It is irrelevant if a hotspot is a unique fingerprint.” – no, it isn’t irrelevant, it’s the whole point of this post. Duh!

  33. RPJ,
    No, the point of the post is that once again AGW promoters have made a claim that has not been supported by facts. The AGW promoters used the troposphere hot spot prediction as proof of their impending apocalypse.
    They are wrong.
    Parse all you wish at whether or not it is unique. That is not relevant. Just as Hansen now embarrasses himself when talks about storms strengthening, this is yet another topic where the AGW community must spin away awkward results.
    You seem to have trouble distinguishing between models and data. I wish you well in learning the difference.

  34. RPJ:

    As usual, we have reached the point in this topic where you deliver a post with all personal attacks and no actual arguments. Good job, you made it to over 40 comments this time.

    Your getting better at this “logical argument” thing all the time. Next step is to actually read some of the posts that you dislike, and then we’ll move on to making rational arguments without flame spam.

    I have faith in you, I know you can do it.

  35. hunter – nope. You misunderstood the point of the post. Misunderstanding something that’s a misunderstanding in itself is quite impressive. And simply saying ‘they are wrong’ is woefully inadequate. Links? Evidence? Can you not even provide basic substance here?

    cfdman – bad grammar + no science = pointless post.

  36. RPJ:
    The point of the post is that this graph from IPCC AR4 shows what was expected by back casting a model using assumed forcings. For the period 1890 to 1999. The IPCC claims that the graph in the lower rignt hand corner is the sum of all forcings and would be the signature/ fingerprint of AGW. The signature failed to develop. Ask someone who belives in AGW why it did not develop.
    The facts speak for thier selfes.

  37. RJP:
    One more comment:
    The history of the earths climate is known and recorded. Is it possible that you have not studied geology. My other observation is that you seem to doubt statements made by the IPCC. Therefore claiming that IPCC does not know what they are talking about. You have been telling people that are relating the IPCC’s point of view That that point if view is wrong.

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