Maybe all that ice isn’t melting as quickly as some say. Photo licensed to Brian Zinchuk via Storyblocks

 

Note: This column is somewhat technical and contains a number of uncommon terms and abbreviations.  I have provided a glossary of abbreviations at the end.

Climate alarmists are on a roll just now. The heat waves and wildfires of the past year fit comfortably with their predictions about the adverse impacts of global warming and their fears about the imminent onset of climate related catastrophes. Admittedly, it does seem like the combined effects of human caused (anthropogenic) global warming and a particularly strong El Niño event have combined to produce unusually high temperatures and droughts which have contributed to wildfires and crop failures in North America and Europe.

I expect the hot summer of 2023 will make it more difficult than ever to change the minds of climate crusaders. That’s unfortunate, especially since there continues to be new research published suggesting that the scenario-based climate modeling system employed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) may be seriously deficient.

A paper published in Geoscience Frontiers this year by Nicola Scafetta, a research scientist from the University of Napoli Federico II in Naples, Italy, claims the IPCC’s climate models overestimate the role of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in global warming and seriously underestimate the effects of changes in solar radiation cycles on the world’s climate.

If Scafetta’s ideas prove correct, they will overturn one of the key theoretical assumptions underpinning the IPCC’s climate models and predictions about future climate conditions. According to Scafetta, the IPCC supports the anthropogenic (human caused) global warming theory (AGWT), “and estimates that almost 100 per cent of the observed warming of the Earth’s surface from 1850-2020 was caused by man-made emissions.”

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The global climate models (GCMs) employed by the IPCC actually do include a solar irradiation function. But, according to Scafetta, the solar irradiance assumptions used by the IPCC fail to fully reflect the cyclical oscillations that characterize a number of sun-related mechanisms. The GCMs incorrectly indicate that solar radiation has remained virtually constant for 200 years – right up until the period from 1970 to 2020 when they inexplicably show it decreasing. Scafetta’s research, on the other hand, shows solar influence has been increasing since the 1970.

Scafetta claims that among other omissions the GCMs do not account for solar processes related to magnetic activity such as solar winds, cosmic rays and interplanetary dust. He addresses these deficiencies by evaluating several solar irradiation processes identified by astronomers and physicists that the GCMs do not account for. The alternative models explored by Scafetta also consider factors such as sunspot records, faculae records (faculae are the bright spots on the sun that precede sun spots) and records for various cosmic and solar particle streams that affect magnetic fields. He selected three of these alternative total solar irradiation (TSI) models and compared them with global surface temperature records going back to 1850. The year 1850 is assumed by climate modelers to be the approximate time that first clearly reflects the climate effects of the big increase in fossil fuels consumption spawned by the Industrial Revolution. The results generated by Scafetta’s selected TSI models closely conform to the global temperature changes since 1850 that the IPCC attributes to man-made global warming.

If Scafetta’s finding are correct, the IPCC has a big problem. If two very different types of phenomena – 1) GHG emissions and 2) various solar mechanisms not fully accounted for in the GCMs, are both correlated with temperature increases since 1850 – which of the two, if either, is the cause? Are both forces working in combination? Or, are there other factors not yet understood that might also play a role?

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The two figures presented below compare the data generated by Scafetta’s three selected TSI models with the results generated by the climate models used by the IPCC. These figures were produced and published by Geoscience Frontiers (2023)  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gsf.2023.101650.

Figure 1 Source: Geoscience Frontiers (2023) https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gsf.2023.101650.

Figure 1(A) shows the increase in GHG emissions (blue) and volcanic eruption effects since 1850. These are two of the factors the IPCC assumes “force” changes in the global climate. Figure 1(B) shows the fluctuations in solar radiative “forcings” identified by the three TSI models employed by Scafetta (red, yellow and black) compared with the less rigorous TSI model used in the GCMs employed by the IPCC (green). The image clearly shows that the oscillations associated with Scafetta’s TSI forcings are more intense than those shown in the IPCC’s GCMs. Furthermore, the intensity of the oscillations reported by Scafetta has been increasing over the past 100 years, whereas the solar effects generated by the GCMs have shown a decline that began around 1970. Indeed, the increasing intensity of solar effects between the 1970s and today that Scafetta’s TSIs capture mirrors the hockey stick graph for increasing GHG emission rates and temperatures. The hockey stick graph shows global temperatures shooting upward since around 1970, presumably in concert with increasing GHG emissions.

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Figure 2(A) provided below presents a comparison of the average for six GCM models and the HadCRUT5* global climate record (black). The GCM average is based on an ensemble of six of the most current climate models employed by the IPCC. This average is referred to as the CMIP6 (Coupled Model Intercomparison Project). The green curve shows the results CMIP6 generates for solar irradiative forcing and excludes consideration of GHG emissions.

* The HadCRUT5 global climate record was developed by the Hadley Centre for climate change research, Exeter, UK. The Hadley Centre was launched by British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher was an Oxford educated chemist and early supporter of anthropogenic global warming theory. Scientists from the Hadley Centre have been critical of research published by Scafetta in the past

 

Figure 2 Source: Geoscience Frontiers (2023) https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gsf.2023.101650.

Figure 2(B) uses an energy balance model to compare the HadCRUT5 temperatures with Scafetta’s “alternative solar model.” Scafetta’s alternative model accounts for irradiative cycles and other solar effects of the three TSI models he uses which are not considered in the CMIP6 models. As noted previously the CMIP6 models generate less variable and less intense solar effects.

The green curve in Figure 2(B) reflects the outcomes predicted using the CMIP6. The shape of the curve differs from the line in Figure 2(A) due to Scafetta’s use of an energy balance model for Figure 2(B).

(see Real Climate, March 23, 2022 https://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2022/03/issues-and-errors-in-a-new-scafetta-paper/ )

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Scafetta concedes the causal connections between the more intense solar radiative forces he identifies and global temperatures have not been conclusively explained. One of several alternatives being considered is the effect of solar-related mechanisms on cloud cover. If the effects not accounted for by the IPCC are conclusively shown to be large, Scafetta says “current GCMs will be unsuitable to model climate change.”

Notwithstanding the need for additional research, Scafetta concludes that about two-thirds of current GCMs greatly overestimate the role of human caused warming in climate change. He adds that other processes such as solar-magnetic modulation of cosmic rays and various other particle flows could account for additional warming which the IPCC currently attributes to GHG emissions.

Scafetta has been questioning the validity of the AGWT theory for well over a decade. In a 2010 study, published in the Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics, Scafetta showed how multi-decadal climate cycles on Earth have astronomical origins. For example, “large 20–60 year climate oscillations with peak-to-trough amplitude of about 0.1 and 0.25 degrees C are synchronized with the orbital patterns of Jupiter and Saturn.” One of the cycles attributed to solar orbital effects is the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) which typically runs for about 60 years.** In another instance he shows how a 9.1 year climate cycle synchronized to the moon’s orbital cycles. He also shows how interplanetary tidal effects, orbital shifts and the shifting location of the gravitational center of the solar system can affect the Earth’s climate. Scafetta then explains how the astronomical phenomena he studied can be effectively used to reconstruct global temperature oscillations since 1850 “and to make partial forecasts for the 21st century.”

**FYI: My own published research has shown that a cycle of approximately 60 years comprised of 30 dry years followed by 30 wetter years associated with the PDO was affecting irrigation agriculture in southwestern Saskatchewan from the 1890s until 2010.

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According to Scafetta, his partial forecasts indicate the climate may stabilize or cool until 2030-2040. The discussion of additional studies presented below suggests Scafetta’s partial prediction may have placed the period of stabilization too far into the future. A 12 year period of stable average global temperatures was already well underway when his 2010 study was published. Or, perhaps the 12 years of stable temperatures is merely a preview of what’s to come later this century.

The findings presented in Scafetta’s 2010 study raised eyebrows among AGWT adherents. This is not surprising given he concluded, “that at least 60 per cent of the global warming observed since 1970 has been induced by the combined effects of … natural climate oscillations.”

Critics of the climate modeling system employed by the IPCC, in addition to Scafetta, have been pointing out GCM shortcomings for years. There was, for example, a flurry of controversy about climate models in response to the period from 2000 to 2012 when global temperatures remained stable. The period is referred to as the “global warming hiatus.” In 2013, James Hansen, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, questioned the reliability of the IPCC’s temperature projections “given that global temperatures had been flat over the preceding decade.” The GCMs predict the planet will warm in concert with increasing GHG emissions. It was assumed Earth would warm by approximately 10 C for each doubling of atmospheric CO2 levels. Temperatures remained flat for 12 years despite the fact GHG concentrations had been increasing prior to and throughout the hiatus. It was obvious GCMs were missing something significant.

Not surprisingly, the hiatus sparked research claiming the climate was responding to higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in ways that were not expected under IPCC projections. The Economist reports that in 2013, Ed Hawkins from Reading University in Britain, claimed the 2000-2012 warming hiatus underlined the fact that global temperatures were already at the lower end of the range of projections derived from the IPCC’s scenario-based climate models.

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The IPCC’s 40 scenarios incorporate various assumptions about things like the levels of GHGs that might be emitted over the course of the 21st century. The highest risk models assume humans will burn more and more fossil fuels over the course of the century. The lower risk models reflect Steven Guilbeault’s Utopia, they assume we will put an end to almost all fossil fuel consumption. The various GCMs are created by running each of the scenarios through incredibly large and complex computer simulations that include factors such as global climate records and assumptions about the interactions of climate related systems such as ocean currents and weather patterns. Each of the various GCMs is based upon different scenario-based assumptions. The way this process works is mentioned by few media commentators. Possibly because they don’t understand it. The idea that there is a huge scientific consensus in support of any single model is false. This is because there is so much uncertainty about which of the scenarios will best reflect human emissions behavior in the future.

The Norwegian government funded a study released in 2013 by The Research Council of Norway which used a modeling methodology that differed from the systems employed by the IPCC. The report concluded that there was a 90 per cent probability that CO2 emissions could double over the course of the 21st century without increasing global temperatures by more that 1.2 to 2.90 C above the average temperature in 1850. The top of the Norwegian study’s range was well below the highest temperature projections (30– 40 C) derived from IPCC scenarios. There are many scientists and environmentalists who fear average global temperatures at or above 30 C more than the average global temperature in 1850 could generate runaway feedback effects that would dangerously warm the planet. The Norwegian study suggests we can most likely avoid the 30 threshold even with emissions rates that are twice the 2013 level. If more widely reported this sort of information could do a lot to reduce climate anxiety levels.

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Climate scientists who relied on IPCC endorsed modeling to make projections about climate conditions in the future scrambled to come up with explanations for why the GCMs could not account for the 2000-2012 hiatus. Some proposed that the oceans must be absorbing more heat than researchers had anticipated. Others suggested that the reduced reflectivity of clouds was to blame. They were handicapped because it turns out that there are many climate related phenomena not incorporated in global climate models. For example, the GCMs do not account for the effects of glacial ice sheet melting. Climate alarmists frequently warn that later this century, when the Greenland ice sheet melts, millions of people living on the world’s coasts will be treading water.*** It turns out the IPCC doesn’t even include that particular (remote) possibility in its climate change scenarios.

*** If you are interested in knowing what’s really going on with ice in the Arctic Ocean and Greenland, I highly recommend the US National Snow and Ice Data Center’s Arctic Sea Ice News and Analysis website http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/ . This site provides daily maps of ice extent in the Arctic Ocean. The maps are derived from satellite imagery that is collected daily. Listening to media reports this summer one might think there was no ice left in the Arctic Ocean. It turns out that so far this year the sea ice melt rate is running below the 1981-2022 record set in 2012. Interestingly, I checked last week and discovered the Northeast Passage (north of Russia) is late opening this year. Hopefully, that’s been frustrating Putin’s oil shipments. Those of us looking for a tidewater port for oil might be interested in knowing the dates when the Hudson’s Bay opens and closes to shipping.

Photo licensed to Brian Zinchuk via Storyblocks

 

The failure to anticipate or explain the warming hiatus has generated a lot of conjecture and some interesting data that hints at what might have happened. But the jury is still out. There is no single, widely accepted explanation. It turns out there are things that supposedly “decided science” cannot yet explain.

The scientific research described in this column challenges the validity of climate orthodoxy and the utility of the scenario-based computer modeling systems endorsed and employed by the IPCC. Unfortunately, this sort of information gets lost in the flood of media distorted, environmentalist exaggerated hype that constitutes conventional wisdom about global warming. If it turns out that GHG missions actually fail to account for a significant portion of the warming that’s occurred since 1850, it will show the mad rush to abandon fossil fuels is an unfortunate overreaction. Readers of Pipeline Online have been convinced of this for years – but it’s still nice to know there is science that supports our position.

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Glossary of abbreviations

AGWT: anthropogenic (human caused) global warming theory

CMIP6: Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (an ensemble of six scenario-based global climate models)

GCMs: global climate models

GHGs: greenhouse gasses

HadCRUT5: Hadley Centre’s global climate record

IPCC: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

PDO: Pacific Decadal Oscillation

TSI: total solar irradiation

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Brian Zinchuk: How a real life Hoth ice base in Greenland in the 60s calls CO2 concerns into question today

Danielle Smith: Grand sweeping fairytales that threaten Canadians ability to keep the lights on are no way to speed things up