New Book: Doubt And Certainty in Climate Science

  • Date: 21/09/15
  • Climate Etc.

Doubt and Certainty in Climate Science is an important new book that everyone should read.  And its free.

It is a privilege to make available to you the book Doubt and Certainty in Climate Science, by Alan Longhurst [link Longhurst final  to download the book].

The book is 239 pages long, with 606 footnotes/references.  The book is well written, technical but without equations – it is easily accessible to anyone with a technical education or who follows the technical climate blogs.

In this post I provide a brief overview of the book, biosketch of Alan Longhurst, some additional backstory on the book, and my own comments on the book.


The Preface provides some interesting history, here are some excerpts:

But more recently, I became troubled by what seemed to be a preference to view the climate as a global stable state, unless perturbed by anthropogenic effects, rather than as a highly complex system having several dominant states, each having a characteristic return period imposed on gradual change at millennial scale. The research of H.H. Lamb and others on the natural changes of regional and global climate of the Holocene appeared to be no longer of interest, and the evidence for anthropogenic climate change was being discussed as if it was reducible to change in a single value that represented global surface temperature.

The complex relationship between solar cycles and regional climate states on Earth that was central to classical climatology (and is still being discussed in the peer-­‐reviewed literature) had been replaced with a reductionist assumption concerning radiative balance, and the effective dismissal of any significant solar influence. I found this rejection of an entire body of scientific literature troubling, and looked for a disinterested discussion of the balance between natural and anthropogenic effects, but could not find what I wanted -­‐ a book that covered the whole field in an accessible and unprejudiced manner, and that was based solely on the scientific literature: I found text-­‐books on individual topics aplenty, together with a flood of others, either supporting or attacking the standard climate change model, but none that was based wholly on studies certified by peer-­‐review -­‐ and whose author was inquisitive rather than opinionated.

One thing led to another and this text is the result. My intention has been to examine the scientific literature that both supports – and also contradicts -­‐ the standard description of anthropogenic climate change, and its effects on Earth systems: I undertook the task with an open mind concerning the interpretation of the evidence presented in individual research reports, and collectively by those who have been tasked to report to governments on the progress of climate change and to predict future states.

Because of my experience, this review leans very heavily on discussion of the role of the oceans in controlling climate states, but I make no apology for this: their role is central and critical and too often ignored. 

Anthropogenic modification of climate, especially of micro-­‐climates, is undoubtedly occurring but I have been unable to convince myself that the radiative contribution of carbon dioxide can be observed in the data, although modellers have no trouble in demonstrating the effect. 

Because there will certainly be some who will question my motive in undertaking this task, I assure them that I have been impelled by nothing other than curiosity and have neither sought nor received financial support from any person or organisation in the prepaatio and distribution of this eBook. 

Table of Contents

1 –The crisis in climatology

  • 1.1 -­‐ Climate change science: new paradigm or new community?
  •  1.2-­‐ Estimating certainty levels in the scientific literature
  •  1.3-­‐ Numerical climate simulation

2 -­‐ Radiative forcing of atmospheric processes

  1. 2.1 -­‐ Radiative forcing by active molecules
  2. 2.2 -­‐ Carbon dioxide
  3. 2.3 -­‐ Methane
  4. 2.4 -­‐ Nitrous oxide.
  5. 2.5 -­‐ Water vapour
  6. 2.6 -­‐ Sulphur dioxide, and volcanic activity: a special case
  7. 2.7 -­‐ Aerosols and particles, natural and anthropogenic

3 – Earth’s climate is not a closed system

  • 3.1 -­‐ The consequences of the variable geometry of the solar system
  • 3.2 -­‐ Environmental consequences of the Wolf sunspot cycle
  • 3.3 -­‐ The relationship between solar cycles and regional climate state
  • 3.4 -­‐ The 1470-­‐year Bond cycle and the glacial-­‐interglacial transitions
  • 3.5 -­‐ Was there a role for CO2 in the orbitally-­‐forced glaciations?
  • 3.6 -­‐ The probable effects of the coming solar cycle
  • 3.7 -­‐ Lunisolar tidal cycles and global temperature
  • 3.8 -­‐ The Holocene CO2 and CH4 anomalies

4 – Can a global mean temperature be measured?

  • 4.1 -­‐ Consequences of patchy observations and doubtful assumptions
  • 4.2 -­‐ Adjusting the observations and extrapolating over a global grid
  • 4. 3-­‐ Sea and land surface temperatures are incompatible
  • 4.4 -­‐ Regional patterns of warming of the troposphere
  • 4.5 -­‐ Cooling of the stratosphere

5 – The ocean: main global sink of solar heat

  • 5.1 -­‐ How does heat enter the ocean and how is it stored there?
  • 5.2 -­‐ Progressive warming of the ocean
  • 5.3 -­‐ Cloud cover-­‐ a difficult-­‐to-­‐measure variable aperture
  • 5.4 -­‐ Does global cloud cover respond to solar and galactic forcing?

6 – Regional patterns of temperature change over land surfaces

  • 6.1 -­‐ Regional anomalies in the evolution of SAT during the 20th century
  • 6.2 -­‐ The use of proxies to understand the past: the trees do still speak clearly
  • 6.3 -­‐ The thermal footprint of changes in land use and vegetation cover
  • 6.4 -­‐ The thermal consequences of urban development
  • 6.5 -­‐ The regional effects of anthropogenic heat of combustion

7 – The North Atlantic: moderator of climate states

  • 7.1 -­‐ Consequences of changing wind patterns over the North Atlantic
  • 7.2 -­‐ The density-­‐driven circulation

8 -­‐ The top and bottom of the world: two special cases

  • 8.1 -­‐ Arctic ice cover during previous centuries
  • 8.2 -­‐ Is surface air temperature really increasing over the Arctic Ocean?
  • 8.3 -­‐ Why is the Arctic climate and ice cover so strongly variable?
  • 8.4 -­‐ Is the loss of the Greenland ice cap imminent?
  • 8.5 -­‐ The bottom of the world

9 – Intensification of extreme weather events

  • 9.1 -­‐ The variability of cyclonic storms
  • 9.2 -­‐ Droughts, floods and the ‘expansion of the tropics’
  • 9.3 -­‐ Concerning storminess to come

10 – The ocean: sea level and acidification

  • 10.1 -­‐ Rising sea levels
  • 10.2 -­‐ On living on islands and coasts
  • 10.3 -­‐ Acidification of sea water: uncertainty levels
  • 10.4 -­‐ Experimental evidence for acidification effects

11 – Attribution and detection: natural or anthropogenic?

  • 11.1-­‐ Formal attribution of cause
  • 11.2 -­‐ Conclusions

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