Questions for a “jewel in the crown” of U.K. (and global) science

Posted: April 24, 2013 by tallbloke in solar system dynamics

Hilary Ostrov takes MET Office climate scientist Richard Betts to task for his vague and evasive statements…

The View From Here

The Met Office is a jewel in the crown, of British science and global science. As a nation we should be more aware of that, and proud of it, than we are. […] Your excellence is an asset for British diplomacy, enhancing our soft power leverage on climate change all over the world.

John Ashton, “Climate Change and Politics: Surviving the Collision
Met Office, Exeter, 11 April 2013

I don’t know whether the U.K. Met Office’s Richard Betts was in the audience or not when E3G’s Ashton, who is “equally at home in the worlds of foreign policy and green politics”, delivered his epic exhortations to the troops at the Met Office on April 11. But I do know that he’s a nice guy; a climate scientist who – unlike his colleague Myles Allen – has sense of humour:

Thanks Josh. Fame at last 🙂

I’ll print…

View original post 1,686 more words

  1. I’ve responded on Hilary’s blog.

    [Reply] Thanks Richard, I copy your response here.

  2. tallbloke says:

    Here is Richard’s response on Hilary’s blog:

    Richard Betts says:
    April 24, 2013 at 12:54 am
    Hi Hilary

    Thanks for calling me a “nice guy” 🙂

    I didn’t attend John Ashton’s speech – I was in another meeting at the time.

    To answer your questions:

    a) On the retracted brochure, I don’t remember exactly but I think it was between 1 and 2 years ago when it was recognised (by me) that the graph in question wasn’t properly representing the uncertainties in the palaeo reconstruction.
    b) It was withdrawn shortly afterwards, on my suggestion.
    c) As far as I’m aware there is nothing specific on the Met Office website about errors / omissions, but a new brochure is published towards the end of each year for the UNFCCC COP meetings (like the Copenhagen one).

    On my tweet about Steve McIntyre’s remark about PAGES2K, my concern was not with his scientific criticisms (that’s fair enough – scientific debate is healthy) but with what I perceived as his hinting that there was something amiss with the peer-review process. I note that commented “R” on Climate Audit also picked him up on this. Richard Tol put it quite nicely in his tweets to you:

    @hro001 Do authors try to influence editors? All the time. Are editors and referees aware of the IPCC deadlines? Sure.

    @hro001 Would an editor risk journal reputation for a chance of a citation in the IPCC? Unlikely.

    I haven’t read the PAGES2K paper yet, for similar reasons why it took me a while to read Marcott (ie: that particular area of science is not a priority for me). However this doesn’t mean I have no opinion on the way the debate about it is framed (i.e: a purely scientific debate vs. a debate grounded in presumptions about how it came to be published).

    I don’t know why the headline on the Marcott paper is still there on My Climate and Me. The original post about it was removed at my request. It was a mistake to post about an area of science that the Met Office does not work on – we have asked My Climate and Me to stick to areas of Met Office expertise in future, and they will do this.

    On the fact that I sometime “skim” blogs – well of course I do, because if I took time to read all climate blogs in detail, I’d never have time for anything else! 🙂

  3. tallbloke says:

    This is ‘the retracted brochure’ the MET Office put out shortly before the Copenhagen (90 days left to save the planet!) Climate Conference in 2009

    Click to access UK.Met.quick_guide.pdf

    And here’s the headline and intro to the thoroughly discredited Marcott et al Hockey Stick paper still on the ‘myclimateandme’ website:

    Given the more sober and realistic assessment concerning the possible causes of the frozen spring this year the MET Office put out a few days ago, and the less than alrming new MET Office 5 year forecast revealed here at the talkshop in Early January, I think the MET Office would be wise to dissasociate itself from the climate alarmism being peddled by the ‘myclimateandme’ website.

    Regarding the ‘under the wire’ acceptance of the PAGES paper just in time for inclusion in IPCC ar5, The inclusion of the utterly discredited Gergis et al reconstruction (which was effectively withdrawn despite the ‘in revision’ tag) should have led to the rejection of the PAGES paper. The fact that it didn’t speaks volumes about the whole issue of the governance of mainstream climate science .

  4. hro001 says:

    Hi Roger,

    Thanks for picking up on this! Btw, I’ve struck your malformed strike from the record so that your comment here corresponds to your comment there 🙂


  5. Richard,

    Glad to see you are still on the enlightenment path.
    There is some questioning going on in Parliament, that you may wish to shed some light upon.

  6. tallbloke says:

    Thanks Hilary. There seems to be a wordpress bug. It messed up my code after I hit the reblog button. Re-editing didn’t help, the wordpress system insisted on borking the closing tag each time I tried and put a strike through all subsequent text on the entire page!

  7. Kon Dealer says:

    Richard’s problem is that he tries to be all things to all men.
    On “Bishop Hill” he tries to come over as the voice of moderation.
    However when speaking in public and I suspect to Policy Makers, there is a strident alarmism to his voice.
    Listen to this
    for example.

    I’m not usually of the Biblical turn of phrase, but I think that Matthew 6:24 is appropriate here.
    “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.”

  8. Kon Dealer

    That podcast is from 2009 – I think my views (and hence tone) have evolved a bit since then. While I still remain convinced that AGW exists and will continue, ongoing work by myself and others (particularly on the impacts of climate change) has refined my views. So it’s not that I say different things to different people – it’s more that what I say has changed over time.

    For example the paper I currently have in review here contradicts one of the papers presented at the 2009 conference from which that podcast was taken – my work suggests that the impacts of climate change on water scarcity may not be such an issue as indicated at the 2009 conference.

    Moreover, my paper also looks at the issue of land use (including bioenergy) in the so-called “aggressive mitigation” scenario. We find that, in the model, the global-scale pattern of land ecosystems is affected more by land use than climate change – so the implication is that if policymakers wish to minimise impacts of climate change on biodiversity, they need to remember that some mitigation methods (like bioenergy) may themselves have an even greater effect on biodiversity in some cases!

    So while I do think that anthropogenic climate change is a real problem that needs to be addressed, we need to be careful in how to address it. It’s not for me to say *how* to address it, as that’s a political and personal judgement call, but I can hopefully continue to do research which helps to inform this judgement call, by being clear about the potential impacts of climate change and also the impacts of potential mitigation options (in cases where such impacts come within my area of expertise).

    Also of course “climate impacts” is not just about AGW, it’s also about impacts of natural climate variability.

  9. A C Osborn says:

    Mr Betts, you say “So while I do think that anthropogenic climate change is a real problem”.
    Do you still believe that AGW is caused by our CO2 contribution to the Atmosphere?

    If so, how do you explain the last 17 years of CO2 increase without the relevant warming that is supposed to go with it?

    If it is being overcome by “Natural Variability”, do you therefore concede that CO2 cannot be as powerful as proposed by the IPCC and that the Climate Sensitivity is not as high as they stated?

    In which case why would we waste money trying to reduce something that has such a small affect (if any)?

  10. tallbloke says:

    Hi Richard,
    Thanks for your comment regarding the evolution of your views. When you say:

    “I can hopefully continue to do research which helps to inform this judgement call, by being clear about the potential impacts of climate change”

    Could you give us some idea of how different you see the impacts being from when you made the podcast in the “90 days left to save the world” era of pre Copenhagen fever pitch.
    For example, what do you think now of the likelihood of “temperature increases in the Arctic of 12,13,14C or more by 2100” which you ventured back then? If your view is now radically different, then what in the scientific assessment has led to that sea-change in your professional opinion?

  11. A C Osborn

    I think that CO2 and other GHGs have probably been the dominant contribution to warming over the last few decades, with further influences (both adding to this and opposing it) from aerosols and land use, and some from natural variability too. I think land use effects have been largely overlooked until recently, including in AR4 (I’ve published with Roger Pielke Snr on this) but I don’t think they are a dominant influence on recent warming. The 1990s warmed faster than the models predicted on the basis of AGW alone, whereas the 2000s of course have warmed rather slower, but both of these are still (just about) within the range projected by the models arising from differences in climate sensitivity and natural variability.

    The recent slowdown does have an effect on the likely range of future warming – the upper end of the range of possibilities now appears less likely, so the earliest date that we could expect to reach (say) 2 degrees C relative to pre-industrial has been pushed back by about 5 years or so.


    My view on the possible range of rates of warming has changed a bit due to the recent slower warming (see my response to A C Osborn above), but not hugely. The main thing I meant in my reply above was some of the actual impacts, specifically water scarcity. See the paper I link to above. The other issue is the likelihood of climate-driven impacts on the Amazon, which again seem less likely than previously thought. I think the issue in tropical forests is more to do with interactions between climate change and direct deforestation, rather than climate change alone.

  12. J Martin says:

    @ Richard Betts

    “..but both of these are still (just about) within the range projected by the models arising from differences in climate sensitivity and natural variability.”

    And if temperatures decline as per the Met Offices recent 5 year projection, is that “just about still within” ?

    But what if, as many are projecting, temperatures continue to decline for a much longer period ? Surely you will then have to admit that the models are useless and have failed.

    What price co2 sensitivity then. Zero perhaps.

  13. J Martin

    The Met Office’s recent 5 year projection does not show temperatures declining – they show them either similar to the last decade, or warmer – see here.

    If there is indeed an actual decline in global temperatures in the long term (i.e.: the next decade is cooler than the last), without some external cause such as a large volcanic eruption or widespread increased aerosol pollution, then obviously that would be outside what the theory and models suggest. Let’s see what’s happened by 2020.

  14. Kon Dealer says:

    Tut, Tut, Richard. Playing the double-talk game again.

    In your post, above, you say:
    “That podcast is from 2009 – I think my views (and hence tone) have evolved a bit since then”

    Yet only a month or so ago on “Bishop Hill” you said about that same podcast;
    “I stand by my comments of 4C or more global warming being possible by the end of this century, with local warming higher in some places, up to 15C in the Arctic as an extreme but plausible case”.

    Who are you, Richard?

  15. oldbrew says:

    Warmers need a big El Nino soon, it’s their only hope IMO.

  16. tallbloke says:

    Richard: There does appear to be a link between low solar activity and increased volcanic activity, well attested in paleo literature, so I wouldn’t take this type of natural variation to be a chance event. The principle problem I see with the models is that their underlying physics on atmosphere-ocean coupling is incorrectly modeled. This has led to an underestimation of the multi-decadal influence of cloud variation linked to solar variation. The currently fashionable explanation for the near fatal failure of the models is that the alleged radiative forcing of the surface from increased co2 is disappearing into the deep ocean. No explanation of why the alleged co2 forcing of the 1990’s wasn’t similarly diffused into the deep ocean is forthcoming, and it smacks of ad-hoc hypothesising to save the theory.

    Trenberth’s missing heat is most likely somewhere past alpha Centauri by now, as the increased top of atmosphere outgoing longwave radiation measured by CERES shows. But then, because this observational fact doesn’t fit the co2 theory, Trenberth tells us that “The data are surely wrong”. Standing the scientific method on its head like this is not likely to lead to better understanding, as Feynman told us years ago.

  17. tallbloke says:

    OB: There will be another big el Nino, around 2017, but rather than having a nice strong Sun to recharge the Pacific Warm Pool quickly as happened in the positive phase, it will leave the oceans depleted of heat content, and the mother of all la Nina’s will follow on behind it.

  18. Kon Dealer

    This is not “double talk”. I very clearly said above that the main way in which my view has changed was to do with the impacts such as water scarcity and ecosystems. I also said that the maximum rate of warming that I’d expect would be a bit slower (about 5 years for the earliest time of reaching 2 degrees). This doesn’t at all affect my statement that 4 degrees by the end of the century is possible (my paper for the conference suggested that the earliest time of plausibly reaching 4 degrees was in the 2060s, so a delay of a few years still keeps that within this century). NB That’s the estimated earliest time of reaching 4 degrees – we may reach it later if the transient climate response is smaller or carbon cycle feedbacks are weaker, or indeed not at all if emissions do not follow the “high” scenario that we looked at in there. This is all in the paper from the conference.

  19. oldbrew says:

    Warmist projections are getting further away from reality every year and that’s one trend that shows no sign of changing. If they don’t get it now they probably never will.

  20. Kon Dealer says:

    Richard call it what you will, but it is an increasingly implausible scenario.
    If I were likely to be around in the 2060’s I would bet you £1000 to your penny that the global average temperature would be within 1 degree C of todays.

    Tallbloke puts it very nicely-

    Trenberth’s missing heat is most likely somewhere past Alpha Centauri by now.

    In other words Stefan–Boltzmann rules.

  21. tallbloke says:
    April 24, 2013 at 9:18 pm

    “OB: There will be another big el Nino, around 2017, but rather than having a nice strong Sun to recharge the Pacific Warm Pool quickly as happened in the positive phase, it will leave the oceans depleted of heat content, and the mother of all la Nina’s will follow on behind it.”

    That’s the sort of confident statement that I like. Just gut feel or is there sometging backing this up that you could share?

    Bob Tisdale looks for patterns

  22. tallbloke says:

    Hi Lord B. Think of it as a weather forecast and treat accordingly. I’m basing it on what I’ve discovered about the relationship between the Solar cycle and ENSO. On average, there are three el Nino’s per cycle. There has been a big one starting soon after solar minimum for at least the last 6 cycles, although the one following El Chichon in the 80’s was less distinct because there was a low level ongoing El Nino following the eruption which meant the PWP wasn’t so well charged up when solar min came around. Then there’s usually a smaller one just after solar max, but with the nature of the weak solar cycle we are in, I doubt that’ll do much this time. Then the third is usually halfway down the downslope of the cycle. I think that is the one we’ll see around 2017.

    The underlying factor is that the ocean takes the opportunity to get rid of energy via el Nino when there is a lull in the Solar input to the ocean. The uncertainty here is the question of when the next big northern hemisphere stratospheric volcano is going to occur. Iceland is rumbling and Katla is overdue. The Kamchatkan peninsula volcanic range has been more active recently. There are ~90 yr (Gleissberg) and ~110 yr cycles in Solar activity which seem to be linked to periodic upticks in volcanic activity.

    I made a comparison plot of the late 1800’s to the 2000’s a couple of years ago. It shows that when the Solar cycles take a downturn, some big El Nino’s occur. This maintains near surface air temperatures as the ocean loses heat. The ocean’s massive heat capacity means that air temps can be maintained for years, but while the Sun is putting out less energy, the overall ocean heat content will diminish, and average sea surface surface temperature will fall. That means colder winters as there is less energy coming out of the ocean in the winter hemisphere to maintain air temps. This is because the current bringing warm water up the Antlantic from the southern hemisphere in Austral summer will be less vigorous. That is what will make the effects of the la Nina following the next big El nino particularly harsh.

    Of course, mainstream climate scientists will make up some bollocks about the less vigorous ocean circulation being due to ‘changes in the atmosphere’, but it should be obvious to anyone who thinks about it that it is the ocean which drives the atmosphere, not the other way round. The top two metres of ocean has as much heat capacity as the entire atmosphere above it. Near surface air temperature lags a couple of months behind SST. The tail does not wag the dog. But since the mainstream climate scientists don’t understand cause and effect with changes in co2 following changes in temperature (at all timescales), they don’t understand that atmospheric changes are a consequence of solar induced oceanic changes rather than their cause either.

    This is mostly because traditionally, meteorology has been an atmospheric study, and because the atmosphere is more easily accessible and amenable to measurements than the oceans. It’s natural for professionals to believe the object of their specialism is at the root of the chain of cause and effect, because it makes them feel more self important, and their publicly funded salaries and research better justified. This is why there is strong resistance to accepting that the principle climate drivers are above and below the atmosphere, rather than in it.

  23. michael hart says:

    “jewel in the crown” of U.K. (and global) science….

    Hmmm…… Is that a “jewel in the crown” at the 95% confidence level? Or just a jewel in a modeled crown? 🙂

  24. TB

    Good reasoning, I’m of the persuasion that we will see at least a year of neutral ENSO before a drawn out La Nina. That’s when we will see how much energy is being absorbed in the system, in what happens next.

  25. tallbloke says:

    Lord B: Agreed on neutral for now. And that will keep everything in suspension. The top of the curve.

  26. oldbrew says:

    Here’s an easy-to-read chart for all weather forecasters, climate pundits and the like.

  27. hro001 says:

    For the record, re questions arising from the Mar. 12, 2013 My Climate and Me post on Marcott et al …

    There’s a new “improved” version which virtually “disappears” all trace of any problems with this peer-reviewed paper – unless one happens to read the comments on that post. For details, pls see:

    BREAKING: No comment will be heard from “jewel in the crown” … alarmist headline intact

    Hilary Ostrov

  28. tallbloke says:

    Thanks Hilary, fair comment I think. Richard Betts has blocked me on twitter. I didn’t use any rude words. In fact, I was simply questioning the mainstream attribution methodology by pointing out that sensitivity studies are jumping the gun because the issue of cause and effect hasn’t been settled.

    So much for outreach and engagement.

    the ‘myclimateandme’ and me website is an embarrassment to the majority of MET Office scientists who don’t engage in alarmist propaganda. Mind you they don’t speak out against it either. I suspect they have been told to keep quiet by senior personnel such as CEO john Hurst and chief science officer Julia Slingo.

  29. Tallbloke supporter says:

    This is confusing:

    Richard Betts says above (re SMc)

    “….my concern was not with his scientific criticisms (that’s fair enough – scientific debate is healthy)…”


    RB’s attitude as displayed here:

    “Thanks Hilary, fair comment I think. Richard Betts has blocked me on twitter. I didn’t use any rude words. In fact, I was simply questioning the mainstream attribution methodology by pointing out that sensitivity studies are jumping the gun because the issue of cause and effect hasn’t been settled.”

  30. Tallbloke, I haven’t blocked you on twitter. I don’t know where you got that idea from. You seem to have stopped following me though. Feel free to follow me again.

    [Reply] Thank you Richard, I’ve just re-checked and found I can follow you again now. Some twitter strangeness I assume.

  31. Hello again. Actually I’ve just discovered it’s the other way round – you have blocked me! If you unblock me, we can talk again.

    [Reply] I’ve no idea how that happened. Some sort of finger trouble on my part by the look of it. I’m glad we can start arguing again. 🙂

  32. Great, thanks Roger!

  33. tallbloke says:

    Thank you for pointing out the problem. Now, about the fact co2 changes follow temp changes at all timescales… 😉

  34. hro001 says:

    Well, I’m sure glad you guys got that one sorted out! I was afraid that I’d have to come in and play peacemaker instead of troublemaker 😉

  35. No problem Roger. Doing family stuff today, but will respond on CO2/ temp lead/lag later or tomorrow.

  36. Tallbloke supporter says:

    Just wondering if that lead/lag question got resolved? I’m not on twitter.

  37. tallbloke says:

    TBS: No, but the door is still open when Richard finds some time to discuss it.

  38. Tallbloke supporter says:

    bumping RB – or has the lead/lag thing been answered on twitter now?

  39. tallbloke says:

    TBS: No, Richard just said my logic was incorrect without providing an analysis of where it allegedly fails.

  40. Tallbloke supporter says:

    That’s a shame – I’m back to the confused state wrt RB’s views on scientific debate. You’d think that a foundational point like this would just take a paragraph of referenced expert comment to settle it. Oh well.