San José State University

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Thayer Watkins
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Catastrophic Global Warming:
Science or Dogma?

To answer this question one does not have consider esoteric elements of climatology. One need only consider the essence of the scientific process. A hypothesis generates predictions. If the predictions are confirmed the degree of confidence in the hypothesis is enhanced. If they are not confirmed then science recognizes that the hypothesis is in error. On the other hand no matter how many times dogma fails to be confirmed it is not modified.

Consider the record of the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere over the period 1998 to 2015.

Compare this with the record of average annual global (AGT) temperature over the same period:

Obviously AGT is marching to different drums besides that of CO2 concentration. And of course it is not CO2 concentration per se which is important. It is at each location the total concentration of greenhouse gases weighted according to their effectiveness in absorbing thermal radiation. A molecule of H2O is 50% more effective in absorbing thermal radiation than a molecule of CO2.

The concentration of H2O varies widely over the surface of the Earth, supposedly from 0.04 to 4 percent. But supposedly the average concentration is stable over time. There is a great reluctance to specify what that average concentration of H2O is, but 0.5 of 1 percent would be of the right order of magnitude. That is a concentration of 5000 parts per million. If a molecule of H2O is 50% more effective at absorbing thermal radiation than a molecule of CO2 the X parts per million of CO2 is equivalent an additional (2/3)X parts per million of water vapor. The record of greenhouse gas (H2O+CO2) concentration expressed as equivalent H2O concentration for the period 1996 to 2015 appears as follows.

Although it is inappropriate deal with an average global concentration of H2O the above was just to illustrate that the increase in CO2 does not amount to an explosive expansion of the greenhouse effect for the Earth. The concentration of CO2 increased from an estimated 280 parts per million in pre-industrial times to a measured 407 parts per million in 2016. That is an increase of slightly over 45 percent. But in terms total greenhouse gas concentration expressed in terms of equivalent H2O concentration it is an increase from 5187 parts per million to 5271 parts per million; an increase of 1.63 percent. This is hardly an explosive increase.

However the relationship between greenhouse gas concentration and the proportion of thermal radiation absorbed is nonlinear.

The increase due to anthropogenic CO2 depends upon the natural concentration of greenhouse gases. In the graph below C denotes the natural concentration, primarily of water vapor, which results in a proportion p being absorbed. The anthropogenic CO2 increases the concentration of greenhouse gases to D and raises the proportion of thermal radiation absorbed to q.

But the concentration of water vapor varies greatly around the Earth and therefore the effect of anthropogenic CO2 varies with it.

In deserts and the polar regions anthropogenic CO2 may have a substantial effect but almost no effect in the humid regions. This why such a high proportion of the detected global warming occurred in the winter at night in places like Siberia.

Despite the failure of global temperature to increase in the period 1996 to 2015 along with the increase in CO2 concentration there was not one iota of consideration that the models and the hypothesis might be flawed. If anything the rhetoric became more strident. The lack of any attempt at revision is prima facie evidence that the global warming alarmists are dealing with\ dogma rather than science. Even worse some are trying to revise (fudge) the data to create a continuation of upward trend AGT. With 70 percent of the Earth's surface covered with ocean and having very little in the way of direct temperature measurements there is a lot of room for fudging. Fortunately we have the satellite-based temperature measurements of the lower atmosphere compiled at the University of Alabama at Huntsville and they show the hiatus in global warming.

The climate models are in error not because of anything that is in them, but because of what is left out. There is evidence that there is a Mid-Pacific Thermal Vent. But more crucially the models leave out the Multidecadal Pacific Oscillation (MPO), a cycle of an approximately sixty year period that is sort-of a big brother to the El Niño effect. It is well known that the climate models leave out the El Niño phenomenon, so no one expects the climate models to give accurate forecasts of the AGT for the El Niño years of 1998, 1910 and 2016. However, whereas an El Niño event effects only one or two years the Multidecadal Pacific Oscillation produces about 30 years of increasing AGT and about 30 years of decreasing AGT.

There is no doubt that there is a cycle in the data for estimated AGT that goes back to the early 19th century. From about 1942 to 1975 AGT was decreasing and Steven Snyder, who later became a prominent Global Warming Alarmist, published a book entitled "The Coming Ice Age." But in 1975 the cycle turned and AGT started to increase. The cyclic increase combined with the moderate global warming due to human activities to give the impression of possibly catastrophic global warming. This was the source of the false perception of catastrophic global warming.

Expanding the climate models to allow for the natural phenomena of the Mid-Pacific Thermal Vent, the El Niño effect and the Multidecadal Pacific Oscillation would put the climatological analysis back in the realm of science and take it out of the realm of dogma.


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