Robert Lee Hotz global warming article
Sunday, January 11, 2009 12:33 PM
From: "Arnold Nelson"
To: "WSJ Letters" Chicago IL
Sunday PM, January 11, 2009
Editors, Wall Street Journal
The Wall Street Journal's Friday, January 2 article "The Warming Earth Blows Hot, Cold and Chaotic" gives some interesting opinions on global warming/climate change. If the second and third words of that title leave any doubt of the opinion of the author, Mr. Robert Lee Hotz, on the subject, the last two words of the very short first paragraph "our warming world" should clear them up.
But Mr. Hotz must still have some doubts about the rest of us, since the article has 19 temperature trend descriptions attempting to back up his claim, starting with the second paragraph's "The year's average global temperature was the 9th or 10th warmest , and the coldest since the turn of the 21st century...."
Leaving aside the indecision of '9th or 10th warmest', but "coldest since the turn of the 21st century...?" Is Mr. Hotz playing games with us?
But he recovers, with a sensible statement of the length of the trend: "since reliable record-keeping began in 1850." Now 158 years is certainly a long time - there is no reliable report of any human ever living that long. But then. the earth is 4.5 billion years old, and there was sure no thot of global warming for the first 3.8 billion years, since there was no human around to think it.
And even after that, it was 699,999,585 years before Galileo got around to inventing the thermometer so humans could record two different temperatures and decide that one was higher than another.
Big numbers confuse, so to understand these better I stuffed those 4.5 billion years into the 80-year life span of a hypothetical human being; that gets the first humans on the scene 12 years 162 days ago. And Galileo's toy? Three minutes, 53 seconds ago. But don't worry, the 158 years "since reliable record-keeping began"? A whole one minute 28 seconds of an 80-year-old's lifetime.
Further in the article is this delicious quote by a researcher at the National Snow and Ice Data Center: "Ice loss is happening faster than the climate models are showing." This reminds of a Thursday, November 4, 2004 WSJ article quoting a Kerry staffer's remarks on early exit polls: "We felt pretty good until the actual votes were counted." T
he article quotes Ohio State University researchers that "Since 2000, Greenland alone has lost 355.4 square miles of ice -- an area 10 times the size of Manhattan." It's also six times the size of Chicago, so what. And ice is three dimensional - how thick is that 355.4 square miles?
Further: "In another sign of polar thaw, researchers have detected new seeps of methane bubbling up from formerly frozen seafloor lodes...." The center of the earth is said to be eight-thousand degrees, and the oceans are at least thirty-two degrees (if they were any colder, they would be ice) yet this article claims that before global warming the sea floor was frozen?
"But on the hot plate of planet Earth, that warming isn't evenly distributed. Changing sea ice, ocean currents and winds mute or accelerate regional temperatures changes by redistributing the heat in the atmosphere." Mute or accelerate - no wiggle room there.
This article is just one amazing claim after another: "After analyzing 40 years of wintertime data, researchers at the University of New Hampshire found that ... The number of snow days each winter dropped ... 8.9 days per decade...."
A search for 'snow days' gave a list of ten different kinds of 'snow days', from 'snow days Vail' to 'snow days in Chicago' with a total of 7.6 million hits. But the largest single group was 'snow days school', nearly half, 3.57 million hits. That's it! The New Hampshire U researchers have brought in the secret weapon of global warming justification: it's for the children.
Arnold H Nelson Chicago IL
The next AM (Monday) I got an email from the WSJ author of the article:
Dear Mr. Nelson, (From Robert Lee Hotz WSJ Monday, January 12, 2009 8:36 AM)
Thank you for your note, which was forwarded to me this morning. I appreciate your interest in this topic. There is an adage that I favor in technical matters: "What did happen could happen." Paleoclimate data reveal that the earth has gone through many radical climate transformations in the past, caused no doubt by many different things. I'm not sure anyone knows just why at this point -- orbital changes, solar variations, ocean currents, asteroid & comet collisions, intergalactic dust, fluctuating levels of greenhouse gases such as CO2 and methane -- all of the above perhaps and probably many things yet undiscovered. The atmosphere is a very complex system, so it should hardly come as a surprise to us that there is more than one physical process at work, more than one cycle in operation, more than one feedback loop…, or more than a single chemical reaction in play, and that there are many uncertainties about what is going in the Earth's protective envelope. As you know, 1000s of scientists have been working in good faith to better understand these interlinked processes. Nor is it a static system. Humankind, as the planet's dominate life-form, is part of the process and is affecting the atmosphere in ways that we do not yet understand. That's why I think it useful in my column to periodically air some of the most recent climate research, as it evolves in its understanding, as good science always does. My most recent column was intended to sum up the new scientific research on the topic of the observed climate as of 2008, as reported at a major scientific conference by those who specialize in the study of the planet. In other words, these studies analyzed actual temp records as measured worldwide by weather stations and satellites over the last 30-50 years, not the theoretical predictions of computer models.
The overall point of my column was that single data points are almost always misleading if not taken in the context of the longer trend, whether than trend is heading up or down or chaotic or staying flat and that there is considerable regional temp variation. Multi-year studies… can serve as our best guide to that unfolding trend, like those new studies that I shared with you in the column. We are of course in the middle of the current climate trend and it might, with the hindsight of centuries, look different than it does to us today. In the meantime, it seems prudent to be guided by what we can measure today…
So far the only cause for the current trend as revealed by scientific study, if trend it continues to be, appears to be the byproducts of our industrial and agricultural activity. Scientific studies, of course, are often flawed and subject to correction by subsequent findings but they are, when it come to technical matters, a step up from raw opinion. As you would no doubt agree, the best thing for us to do is to move forward, to do what humans do best and innovate our way out of our pressing problems.
As it happens, the data I cited from The National Climatic Data Center, NASA and the World Meteorological Organization are the best measurements we have of the behavior of our modern climate. For those like you with a greater interest in technical detail than can be easily handled in the confines of a column, I always include links to the technical papers that I discuss, when they are available online…
Here they are, for your convenience. Just click on the highlighted links. The U. S. Climate Change Program at… analyzed North America's climate records for the last 56 years in "Reanalysis of Historical Climate Data for Key Atmospheric Features: Implications for Attribution of Causes of Observed Change"… and found yearly average temperature for the continent increased by 1.6º Fahrenheit.
The program's researchers also assessed the chances of catastrophic climate changes during the next century in "Abrupt Climate Change," at… released last month. The past year through was the coolest year since 2000, says the 2008 summary at… by NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies. The U. S. National Climate Data Center said the year 2008 is on track to be one of the ten warmest years on record for the globe at… The World Meteorological Organization… says 2008 is likely to rank as the 10th warmest year on record since the beginning of its instrumental climate records in 1850.
I hope these are of some help. Let me know if the links don't work for you.
I thot that ws pretty nice of the guy to send me a nice long note like that, so I replied to that note:
Wednesday, January 14, 2009 11:33 PM From: "Arnold Nelson" To: "Hotz, Lee"
Mr. Hotz, your Monday 1/12 response...
...to my Sunday letter about your Friday, January 2 column, was the biggest surprise of my adult life. And even the surprise was far surpassed by the honor. Thank you so much.
Your list of links is much appreciated, and especially impressed two of my most respected friends, one even asking if I would read all the links and maybe change my mind.
But I already accept the truth of all your statements on climate trends, and the veracity of their backups. I question only that, even the longest of the trends you present (158 years) is irrelevant, when applied to a 4.5 billion-year-old planet. I don't have a link to anyone else who has made that point, since I don't know anyone else who has made the point. But I have made it to a number of associates, many not particularly impressed with my thots, and have not had one objection. I note that in your fine email to me you don't address it either. I sent a letter on that to the New York Times back in August, and they didn't print it either. It was especially satisfying to me because I remembered a gaffe they made in 2000 about ice thawing at the north pole resulted in open water there for the first time in millions of years. A week after printing that they needed to print a correction, admitting that it happened regularly.
Another point you didn't address in your note to me was the idea of a frozen seabed thawing because of global warming. Isn't that statement just wrong, and aren't wrong statements in WSJ explicitly corrected in a corrections column? The fact that your global warming position is shared w/ at least 50K real scientists I can no more explain than the fact that 55% of voters recently elected to the most management- intensive office on the planet a man who has yet to make the first executive, buck-stops-here, decision of his life.
And I wonder about those 50K scientists. I have a strong feeling that to be considered one you must have at least one advanced degree, yet their leader, the guy who got the Oscar and the Nobel, has only an undergrad degree, on the way to which he had only two science courses, and one of those was named "Man's Place in Nature" (Washington Post, Sunday, March 19, 2000, link follows.) To his credit, I have never heard Al Gore refer to himself as a scientist.
There are certain points you make in your note that I must comment on: "As you know, thousands of scientists have been working in good faith to better understand these interlinked [climate] processes."
[No, I do not know that. It is my opinion that anyone, scientist or otherwise, who thinks trends based on temperature are significant in predicting how our planet will be in the future, are not "working in good faith," since we have only had the ability to measure and record temperature for 415 years. My analogy may sound super simple, but that conceit is analagous to a guy sitting in a doctor's waiting room taking his pulse, then four minutes later taking it again, and announcing to the Doctor: "Doc, my pulse went up 2 beats per minute in the last four minutes. If this increase keeps up, will I be dead by the end of the week?"]
"Humankind, as the planet's dominate life-form, is part of the process and is affecting the atmosphere in ways that we do not yet understand."
[I think I know what you're getting at, but I would not want to claim that humankind is the planet's dominant life form until I checked w/ the cockroaches. As far as humans "affecting the atmosphere," that is another conjecture based on at most 415 years of study. If we can affect the atmosphere, why can't we control it, at least as far as terrible storms are concerned? We can't even correct a situation where we inadvertently built a city of 400K people, 5 feet below sea level, in a well known hurricane track, and when a hurricane finally does what hurricanes do, all we can do is point fingers.]
"In other words, these studies analyzed actual temperature records as measured worldwide by weather stations and satellites over the last 30-50 years, not the theoretical predictions of computer models."
[Aren't the "theoretical predictions of computer models" based on those 30-50 years of temperature records? Aren't, in fact, computer models a big part of global warming theory? You quoted an arctic researcher in your article, apparently in support of your total global warming point saying "I do believe we are entering a new state...." You then quote her: "Ice loss is happening faster than the climate models are showing." So I guess you thot that was as funny as I did.]
"In the meantime, it seems prudent to be guided by what we can measure today." [
I'm all for being prudent, too, but throwing away our present life style because of data observed over a one 10 millionth part of the history of the planet is not the least prudent. What would you say to the guy in the doctor's office I mention above?]
"Scientific studies, of course, are often flawed and subject to correction by subsequent findings but they are, when it come to technical matters, a step up from raw opinion."
[As soon as I read that I thot of the next to last 'graf of your January 2 article: "So many subtle changes in so many different places, building up decade after decade, add up to something more than the weather's natural variation."
That sounds to me like 'raw opinion', based at best on guess and/or wish.]
But you are a fine writer and a major credit to the Wall Street Journal. I look forward to reading your ideas for a long time to come.
Arnold H Nelson Chicago IL
Here is the link to the WaPo Al Gore education article http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&contentId=A37397-2000Mar18
Here is the letter I sent to the New York Times about temperture trends in the history of Earth.
Chicago IL Thursday, August 28, 2008 11PMcdt
Editors, New York Times
Gentlepeople: Your Thursday, August 28 article "As Arctic Sea Ice Melts...."brought back amusing memories of a similar Times article of Saturday, August 19, 2000, John Noble Wilford's "The North Pole is melting" that breathlessly declared: "[A]n ice-free patch of ocean about a mile wide has opened at the very top of the world, ... more evidence that global warming may be real...."
That was followed only four days later by an equally bedazzled climate change enthusiast's Op-Ed "In the (Un)Frozen North" that started right out: "The 19th century's dream of an open polar sea has become the 21st century's nightmare." But then five days later, Mr. Wilford wrote another article (Tuesday, August 29, 2000) quoting another expert: "[T]here's nothing to be necessarily alarmed about. There's been open water at the pole before."
Finally, the Times made honest journalists out of themselves with this Correction: "A front-page article in the August 19, 2000 edition ... about the sighting of open water at the North Pole misstated the normal conditions of the sea ice there...."
But there still seems to be a problem with the most recent article, that starts out "[Officials have] reported that sea ice in the Arctic now covers about 2.03 million square miles" pointing out that this could be on the way to a new "record" since "the lowest point since satellite measurements began in 1979 was 1.65 million square miles, last September."
Folks, the earth is 4.5 billion years old, and you are concerned with the possibility of a record... for the last 29 years? A little simple arithmetic shows that the last 29 years of 4.5 billion years is equivalent to the last 8 seconds of a 40-year-old human's lifetime. If a doctor detected a pulse rate change in that subject over such a period, would he declare “We’re moving ... beyond a point of no return” as the head of a "multinational scientific assessment of Arctic conditions" is quoted in the article?
Arnold H. Nelson Chicago IL
I didn't get a response to that, either, but I still think they should print a correction on the frozen sea-bed, and so wrote:
Saturday, January 17, 2009 3:59 PMFrom: "Arnold Nelson" To: "WSJ Letters"
Is it fair to blame global warming... for something that wasn't frozen to begin with?
Editors, Wall Street Journal:
On Sunday, January 11, 2008 I sent a letter to you about the Friday, January 2, article "The Warming Earth Blows Hot, Cold and Chaotic". In that letter I quoted the statement in the article "In another sign of polar thaw, researchers have detected new seeps of methane bubbling up from formerly frozen seafloor lodes...." pointing out that the center of the earth is said to be eight-thousand degrees, and the oceans are at least thirty-two degrees (if they were any colder, they would be ice.)
I questioned how global warming could thaw anything that apparently wasn't frozen to begin with. The reason for my claim is a paragraph on page 383 of the 2009 World Almanac and Book of Facts (a not too shabby authority):"The temperature inside the earth increases about 1 ºF with every 100 to 200 feet in depth, in the upper 100 km of Earth, and reaches nearly 8000-9000ºF at the center." The 32ºF minimum temperature of ocean water I deduced from a college physics class 50 years ago. After thinking this over I would think this is an actual factual error. I went back reading your corrections since then, and have not seen one on this point. Others must have seen this too, and I would think a newspaper with a well-deserved 119-year reputation for accuracy and accountability would share our concern.
Arnold H. Nelson Chicago IL