A Litmus Test For Met Office Meeting

  • Date: 26/08/10

There is a meeting scheduled September 7-9 2010 in the United Kingdom in Exeter titled

Surface temperature datasets for the 21st Century

This meeting has a set of white papers to frame the meeting.

However, at the very start of the meeting, it presents the bias of the organizers of this meeting as they write

“To meet 21st Century requirements it is necessary to reconsider our analyses of historical land surface temperature changes. This is about much more than simply re-engineering existing datasets. These datasets were adequate for assessing whether climate was changing at the global scale. This current exercise should not be interpreted as a fundamental questioning of these previous efforts. But these pre-existing datasets cannot answer all the questions that society is now quite rightly asking. They do not constitute a sufficiently large sample to truly understand our uncertainty at regional scales. At monthly resolution they are also of limited utility in characterising extremes in climate and their changes.”

The  statement that “These datasets were adequate for assessing whether climate was changing at the global scale“, yet “They do not constitute a sufficiently large sample to truly understand our uncertainty at regional scales” is scientifically flawed. The global average trends are composed of the summation of the regional trends!  The data cannot be adequate on the global scale (as an average) but not on the regional scale.

While we need to wait to see what they actually accomplish at this meeting, the above statement indicates the organizers are persisting in assuming any regional variations are random and that a clear signal emerges when the surface temperature data are globally averaged.  More generally, they appear to be ignoring research that conflicts with their findings.

The Chair of the organizing committee is Peter Thorne and the other members are listed here along with the agenda. This committee includes John Christy, so there will be some ability to present alternative views of the surface temperature trend data.  However, a number of the attendees already have shown a bias in their viewpoints and even explicit successful attempts to suppress alternative viewpoints (e.g. Tom Peterson who is now President Commission of Climatology and NOAA NCDC Chief Scientist and Peter Thorne who is Chair of this meeting and now also works at NOAA NCDC).

I propose a litmus test to ascertain if this meeting is just another exercise by these scientists to endorse the analyses that they have already reported on in the 2007 IPCC WG  and the CCSP reports, or is finally an honest attempt to examine the existing biases and uncertainties.  One test will be how they respond to the peer-reviewed issues we raised in our papers

Klotzbach, P.J., R.A. Pielke Sr., R.A. Pielke Jr., J.R. Christy, and R.T. McNider, 2009: An alternative explanation for differential temperature trends at the surface and in the lower troposphere. J. Geophys. Res., 114, D21102, doi:10.1029/2009JD011841.

Klotzbach, P.J., R.A. Pielke Sr., R.A. Pielke Jr., J.R. Christy, and R.T. McNider, 2010: Correction to: “An alternative explanation for differential temperature trends at the surface and in the lower troposphere. J. Geophys. Res., 114, D21102, doi:10.1029/2009JD011841″, J. Geophys. Res., 115, D1, doi:10.1029/2009JD013655

Pielke Sr., R.A., C. Davey, D. Niyogi, S. Fall, J. Steinweg-Woods, K. Hubbard, X. Lin, M. Cai, Y.-K. Lim, H. Li, J. Nielsen-Gammon, K. Gallo, R. Hale, R. Mahmood, S. Foster, R.T. McNider, and P. Blanken, 2007: Unresolved issues with the assessment of multi-decadal global land surface temperature trends. J. Geophys. Res., 112, D24S08, doi:10.1029/2006JD008229.

Pielke Sr., R.A., C. Davey, D. Niyogi, S. Fall, J. Steinweg-Woods, K. Hubbard, X. Lin, M. Cai, Y.-K. Lim, H. Li, J. Nielsen-Gammon, K. Gallo, R. Hale, R. Mahmood, S. Foster, R.T. McNider, and P. Blanken, 2009: Reply to comment by David E. Parker, Phil Jones, Thomas C. Peterson, and John Kennedy on “Unresolved issues with the assessment of multi-decadal global land surface temperature trends. J. Geophys. Res., 114, D05105, doi:10.1029/2008JD010938.

If they ignore these papers and others papers by our colleagues (e.g. McIntyre et al 2010), or dismiss them without a thorough rationale why, this will confirm that this meeting is just a self-justification exercise. If they seriously consider this other work, however, it would be an important step forward to achieving a more robust land temperature assessment.  I am not optimistic, unfortunately.

Finally, we will be reporting on several new papers in the coming weeks and months that will provide further documentation of the serious issues with the use of the land surface temperature  data to assess multi-decadal trends. This will include the quantitative analysis of the well- and poorly- sited USHCN sites that Anthony Watts and volunteers have been instrumental in surveying.

Climate Science: Roger Pielke Sr., 23 August 2010

see also: Comments On The Ecomonist Article “Green View: Could Temperature Be Less Intemperate?”


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