Tony Thomas: When Scientists Still Did Science

Posted: December 4, 2015 by tallbloke in alarmism, Ice ages, predictions, Temperature

My thanks to Tony Thomas for this illuminating piece of science-history, first published at Quadrant online.

A great embarrassment to the warming-catastrophic community is that 40 years ago the climatology scare was about cooling and onset of an ice age. Warmists today go, “Pooh! That cooling stuff  then was just a few hyped-up articles in magazines. Cooling never got any traction in the real science community!”

Really? Then explain this away…

perito_moreno_glacier_patagonia-sLetter from the Australian Federal Minister for Science, W.L. (Bill) Morrison, to the President of the Academy of Science,  Professor Badger,  January 9, 1975:

Dear Professor Badger,
I am writing on this occasion to enquire if the Academy could assist the Government by examining, and reporting on, claims recently made in the media, and apparently also by competent scientists that the earth’s climate is changing and that a new ice-age could be on the way.

The Prime Minister [Gough Whitlam] is very interested in this subject and is anxious to obtain the best possible advice about it. As an interim measure towards that end, I sought, and obtained, a short report from Dr Gibbs, Director of Meteorology, and Dr Priestley, Chairman of the CSIRO Environmental Physics Research Laboratories…I am now anxious to have the subject examined in more detail and at greater length…Since the enquiry stems primarily from concern about man and the possible effects of climatic changes on him [I think Bill means ‘him or her’] , it seems to me that it should reflect not only the input of those expert in the physical sciences but also that of those expert in the biological sciences…I would be most grateful to have your views at your earliest convenience.

Hard to get more top-level concern about the possible ‘ice age cometh’ than this letter… Prime Minister Whitlam badgering the Academy President Badger for an answer. Cyclone Tracy had devastated Darwin three weeks earlier; Rex Connor was telexing a Pakistani con man who lived on peanuts and potato crisps, asking him to raise $US4 billion; Jim Cairns was nipping at Gough’s heels as PM-in-waiting. But Gough wanted to know about the global cooling scare.

The Academy swung into action, mustering eleven of its finest minds and a three-man secretariat for the job. The eventual report[i],  delivered a year later, ran to 80 pages.[ii]

Good Lord, the stuff you can find in the body text! For example:

In the 1960s some scientists extrapolated from the warming trend evident between 1895 and 1940 and predicted the melting of the ice caps and the consequent flooding of the world’s seaports. There was then thought to be some rational justification for their warnings, namely the warming effect associated with the global increase of CO2 caused by the burning of fossil fuels (Matthews et al, 1971). However, since 1940 the temperature curve has reversed its direction [despite significant increase in CO2 emissions – TT]. It is just as precipitate now for scientists to postulate that the present downturn presages an imminent glaciation as it was for their collegues (sic) to forecast the melting of the ice caps 20 years ago [1955]…Nevertheless the historical record…does not preclude a change lasting for some decades or even centuries to a regime colder than what is called by some northern hemisphere climatologists the ‘climatic optimum’ of the 1940s-50s. (page 14)

The terms of reference for the global freezing examination were:

To consider and report to Council on:

  1. reports from overseas to the effect that marked changes in global climate are currently occurring;
  2. the extent to which man’s activities may be causing or contributing to climatic changes;
  3. whether the climate of Australia is currently undergoing change, and the predictability of future changes;
  4. the consequences of postulated climatic changes for agricultural production and rangeland management in Australia
  5. …social and economic implications.

The Academy team consulted far and wide (including Norwich and Grenoble), grilling experts on everything from paleoclimate to “man made influences” and tree rings – this pre-dating the “tree-ring circus” of Michael Mann in the now-notorious 2001 IPCC report.

The Academy report began,

During the past few years, there have been reports of a persistent cooling trend in the higher latitudes of the northern hemisphere, crop failures in the USSR, severe droughts in the Sahel region of Africa, and failures in the Indian monsoon rains. Some scientists have interpreted these events as showing that the global climate is changing [i.e. cooling, TT] in such a way as to make conditions of man more difficult and these views have received widespread publicity through the mass media.

Following the concern expressed at the World Food Conference in November 1974 about the possible effects of this predicted climatic change on agricultural production and the world’s food supply, the Australian Government requested the Academy to report to it on these assertions. The Government was especially interested  in their possible significance for Australia…

The  report comes to a ringing conclusion:

We conclude that there is no evidence that the world is now on the brink of a major climatic change. There is ample evidence that the world’s climate has changed widely during the geological past, and while there is every expectation that it will continue to change in the future, the time scale of these changes is in the range of thousands to hundreds of thousands of years rather than decades or centuries.

It cannot be too strongly emphasised that year-to-year variability is an inherent feature of global and regional climates and that…large fluctuations leading to severe droughts and floods are bound to occur from time to time. (My emphasis; page 9)

The report’s summary affirmed that the cooling reports were coming from “some climatologists”[iii], as distinct from media beat-ups. It affirmed that cooling from 1940 to 1975 had dropped global temps by 0.3degdC, and together with various droughts, monsoons and other stuff, “has led some climatologists to suggest that the world’s climate is progressing rather rapidly towards another glacial phase, or at least another ‘Little Ice Age’.” Any such  global rapid-cooling threat to the planet could cause damaging shifts in rainfall patterns and “the spread of glaciers and ice sheets to the countries of Europe and North America.” P7

The report debunks the claims that various weather events, such as the Sahel drought and the 1972 Ukrainian wheat failure were evidence for global cooling: “Impartial examination has failed to support these hypotheses.” Today’s warmists who want to attribute Hurricane Katrina and increased shark attacks to global warming, please note.

Today’s finest climatologists like Will Steffen and David Karoly — the latter at it again in today’s Fairfax press — are all about doom and gloom. Yesterday’s equivalents in the Academy were not so down in the mouth.

The dire consequences predicted for the supposed cooling trend in the northern hemisphere would be unlikely to occur in Australia…a slight cooling might produce a climate more, rather than less, suitable for human activities.  (Page 9)

Among   prescient statements in the report:

  • The influence  on climate of the eleven-year sunspot cycle and the  22 year solar magnetic cycle “is indeed plausible, though the physical mechanisms  involved remain obscure” and their “utility is not yet established”.
    (These factors, largely dismissed by the IPCC, are now getting serious attention in lieu of problematic CO2 causation).
  • A “major difficulty” with  numerical climate models is “inadequate representation of the many feedback processes which occur in the atmosphere”.
    (In the past 25 years the IPCC has been unable to refine its  huge uncertainty range about climate sensitivity to CO2 doubling).
  • Models can simulate a 50% increase in CO2 but “a problem..is that a forecast must be made of the variation of ‘external’ factors, and this is not always possible.”
    (IPCC modellers still have no handle on cloud cover and feedbacks, nor long-cycle ocean temperature oscillations).
  • “We see no prospect of any quick break-through into reliable and accurate climate forecasting.”
    (97% of  IPCC models run too hot and none predicted the 19-year current halt to warming).

In a startling admission – though not seen as an ‘admission’ at the time – the report says:

Weather records have been maintained in Australia for over 100 years [i.e. back to 1875]. There does not appear to have been any general rise in temperature in this continent between 1890 and 1940…Temperatures in Australia, New Zealand and the Antarctic coast appear to have risen very slightly since 1940, in contrast to the downward trend in the northern hemisphere…

While there is some evidence for the occurrence of cycles in weather patterns over the years, their recurrence is unreliable. In the present state of knowledge, it is not possible to make useful forecasts of future climatic trends.”  (page 8)

Now, of course, climatologists prove stuff  by playing with models on their computers.

The Academy also saw the importance of “the bank of Australian meteorological data” and said it should be “maintained, improved by quality control, and subjected to more detailed systematic analysis…The maintenance and improvement of this data bank is of national importance.” Interesting that the Turnbull government last September killed an external audit of the Bureau of Meteorology’s highly contentious adjustments and “homogenisations” of the records, which have also been truncated at 1910. The Academy’s 1975 report includes graphs of temperature back to 1875.

The report says that despite uncertainties about the climate, judgements based on physical grounds must be relied on to steer the best course between complacency and alarm.

These grounds must be as objective as possible, and preferably quantified wherever the opportunity exists.

Unlike today, when science and activism have become indistinguishable.

The report said there was no evidence yet that man-made influences had changed the global climate, but if emissions and other human influences kept increasing, they were more likely to create warming than cooling. Fair enough.

The degradation of climate science in the 40 years since that common-sense Academy report is a wonder to behold.

Tony Thomas blogs at No BS Here (I Hope)

Comments
  1. oldbrew says:

    Some climatologists are too easily convinced that natural variations are evidence of a long term temperature trend in one direction only, which they then try to blame on human factors.

    This kind of logic will always fail in the end.

  2. craigm350 says:

    Reblogged this on WeatherAction News and commented:
    “account must be taken of psychological reactions—even in the influential research community—to the variations towards greater or less warmth as and when they occur.” Hubert H Lamb

  3. […] Source: Tony Thomas: When Scientists Still Did Science […]

  4. Graeme No.3 says:

    Professor Badger was an eminent Chemist and meeting him you were struck by his intelligence and common sense (and his sense of humour).
    None of these characteristics are evident in today’s climatologists.

  5. graphicconception says:

    Tony Heller’s site has links to ten years worth of global cooling articles in newspapers and magazines. However, the usual rebuttal is that there are no scientific papers on the subject. This, combined with the fact that Fourier started investigating the greenhouse effect in 1824, allows the believers to completely disregard any cooling claims by arguing that no scientists believed in the cooling.

    It is possible to find the occasional quote from Hubert Lamb but are there any cooling papers?

  6. “A great embarrassment to the warming-catastrophic community is that 40 years ago the climatology scare was about cooling and onset of an ice age. Warmists today go, “Pooh! That cooling stuff then was just a few hyped-up articles in magazines. Cooling never got any traction in the real science community!””
    is not supported by the conclusion of the scientists:
    “The report comes to a ringing conclusion:

    We conclude that there is no evidence that the world is now on the brink of a major climatic change. There is ample evidence that the world’s climate has changed widely during the geological past, and while there is every expectation that it will continue to change in the future, the time scale of these changes is in the range of thousands to hundreds of thousands of years rather than decades or centuries”

    I’m afraid that “Some scientists have interpreted these events as showing that the global climate is changing [i.e. cooling, TT” is just not evidence!!

    Who said this? – names or at least an paper would be more acceptable.

  7. Val says:

    An excellent review. A more appropriate title, however, would be “When Scientists Were Still Scientists”. In today’s Australia, they are pseudo scientists – because, with their focus on social justice, that’s all our universities can produce.

  8. catweazle666 says:

    graphicconception says: “Tony Heller’s site has links to ten years worth of global cooling articles in newspapers and magazines. However, the usual rebuttal is that there are no scientific papers on the subject.”

    Here is one of many peer reviewed papers predicting a coming ice age.

    ATMOSPHERIC CARBON DIOXIDE AND AEROSOLS:
    Effects of Large Increases on Global Climate.

    Abstract.

    Effects on the global temperature of large increases in carbon dioxide and aerosol densities in the atmosphere of Earth have been computed. It is found that, although the addition of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere does increase the surface temperature, the rate of temperature increase diminishes with increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. For aerosols, however, the net effect of increase in density is to reduce the surface temperature of Earth. Becuase of the exponential dependence of the backscattering, the rate of temperature decrease is augmented with increasing aerosol content. An increase by only a factor of 4 in global aerosol background concentration may be sufficient to reduce the surface temperature by as much as 3.5 deg.K. If sustained over a period of several years, such a temperature decrease over the whole globe is believed to be sufficient to trigger an ice age.

    The rate at which human activities may be inadvertently modifying the climate of Earth has become a problem of serious concern . In the last few decades the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere appears to have increased by 7 percent . During the same period, the aerosol content of the lower atmosphere may have been augmented by as much as 100 percent .

    How have these changes in the composition of the atmosphere affected the climate of the globe? More importantly, is it possible that a continued increase in the CO2 and dust content of the atmosphere at the present rate will produce such large-scale effects on the global temperature that the process may run away, with the planet Earth eventually becoming as hot as Venus (700 deg. K.) or as cold as Mars (230 deg. K.)?

    We report here on the first results of a calculation in which separate estimates were made of the effects on global temperature of large increases in the amount of CO2 and dust in the atmosphere. It is found that even an increase by a factor of 8 in the amount of CO2, which is highly unlikely in the next several thousand years, will produce an increase in the surface temperature of less than 2 deg. K.

    However, the effect on surface temperature of an increase in the aerosol content of the atmosphere is found to be quite significant. An increase by a factor of 4 in the equilibrium dust concentration in the global atmosphere, which cannot be ruled out as a possibility within the next century, could decrease the mean surface temperature by as much as 3.5 deg. K. If sustained over a period of several years, such a temperature decrease could be sufficient to trigger an ice age!

    Schneider S. & Rasool S., “Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide and Aerosols – Effects of Large Increases on Global Climate”, Science, vol.173, 9 July 1971, p.138-141

    Those results were bases on a climate model developed by none other than James Hansen, incidentally.

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