Friday, October 07, 2005

Climate change on Mars

In the second part of the article, we discuss the climate change on Mars; see also global warming in the rest of the Solar System. But let us start with:

Dutch journalism award: Kyoto is junk

Congratulations to Marcel Crok - the author of the Dutch article whose English version is here (12 pages). He was awarded by the prestigious Dutch scientific journalism prize from the Free University of Amsterdam (VU), its Medical Center, and Hogeschool Hindesheim. The prize includes 10,000 euro and a piece of art.

Steve McIntyre proudly announced the news here. An automatic translation of the Dutch news to English is here.

Crok's article - that I remember pretty well - explains that the analysis of the "hockey stick graph" revealed that this main pillar of the "global warming theory" was nothing else than a result of flawed statistics and raised questions about the integrity of the world climate research.

His description is very detailed - he even discusses the the secret "CENSORED" directory that Michael Mann apparently used to "hide" the data that were inconvenient for their pre-determined main conclusion - namely their bold claim that the present era is exceptionally warm compared to the temperatures in the last 1000 years. More concretely, the content of this directory effectively proves that Mann knew that the "hockey stick" and "unprecedented global warming" disappears if the bristlecones are removed from their ensemble.

What about Mann and Bradley? (Let me omit Hughes who is a bit separated.) While everyone else knows that their paper was flawed, they still seem to deny and misunderstand everything.

Martian warming II

What's the newest article on their "RealClimate" blog? It's an article that tries to deny "global" warming on Mars. I find it incredible that so many people are able to buy this stuff. Why? It has been established, beyond any reasonable doubts, that intense warming - and let's admit that most likely a natural one - has been taking place on Mars in the last few years, to say the least; this trend disagreed with the mainstream climate models, at least by May 2005; the dry ice caps are retreating with an enormous speed; these gigatons of sublimating carbon dioxide are slightly more important than SUVs on Earth especially because carbon dioxide represents only 0.038% of our atmosphere but 95% of the Martian atmosphere; don't try to claim that CO2 and its greenhouse effect can be neglected on Mars, especially if you say that even the tiny fraction is important here on Earth.

Nevertheless, Steinn Sigurðsson - who is an astrophysicist who studies binary stars - does not find it painful to argue that the obvious and massive shrinking of the Mars' South Polar Cap is "almost certainly a regional climate change, and is not any indication of global warming trends in the Martian atmosphere". Here on Earth, a piece of ice melts somewhere in the Arctic region and these people, ignoring the opposite trend in Antarctica (which is the place that many of them should actually study), convince hundreds of journalists to publish a pile of naive articles that the melting ice proves "global warming" and a "global catastrophe behind the corner".

When the very same thing happens on Mars, with the speed that is far more obvious than the speed here on Earth, they tell you that "it is almost certainly just a regional climate change".

Incidentally, it is not just Mars and Earth that have been warming in the last 20 years or so. Triton, Neptune's largest moon, as well as Pluto are warming. Jupiter is undergoing a major climate change and the equator temperatures will probably increase by 10 Celsius degrees in a decade. From an astrophysical viewpoint, it is really hard to argue that climate change is usually anthropogenic.

Do they have some scientific explanation why they treat the very same observed phenomena - including the same sign - on two planets so differently? I don't think so; unless they will join their creationist friends in arguing that the Earth is special as described in the Holy Scripture. You can always create two different climate models that will be used for two different planets, to better fit your religious agenda - but it's not yet science. The best thing we have are the observations and they show the same general kind of natural climate dynamics on both planets. Also, the models that are incompatible with the observed fact that dynamics on Earth and on Mars are qualitatively similar are simply experimentally disfavored.

Let me ask the same question once again. Does Sigurðsson offer some evidence for his statement that the warming on Mars is "less global" than the warming on Earth? Unfortunately, the answer is disturbing. What Sigurðsson offers are demonstrably untrue statements. He cites Colaprete at al. in Nature, May 2005 who are supposed to show that the warming trend on Mars is local and very different from Earth. He mentions that "subscription is required" and apparently relies on the fact that most of his readers won't be able to verify his claims. If you check them, you will see that these guys, on the contrary, argue that the climates on Mars and Earth are similar - and Barnes, one of the authors, explains that their work not only tries to explain why the dry icecaps are absent near the Southern pole, for the first time (in contradiction with another claim by Sigurðsson), but also "raises the possibility of global climate change on Mars". These comments about their viewpoint on the trends is only mentioned in various interviews and press releases; there is no direct research of the multi-year trends in the actual article that focuses on the geographic features of the icecaps only (including the apparently different climates on the Western and Eastern hemispheres). Nevertheless, Sigurðsson uses this particular paper as the (only) argument for his (currently unjustifiable) claim that the warming on Mars is not "global", unlike the warming on Earth. Don't you find it worrisome? I do. And I've erased a moral appraisal that was a part of this sentence because too many readers wanted me to erase it. ;-) Incidentally, I appreciate that S.S. did not try to hide the criticism from the readers of "RealClimate" and that he came to this blog to try to reply, too.

What's equally striking is that the team of ten "RealClimate" scientists who claim that they understand the climate is not able to write anything about the issue of the Martian global warming. Instead, they invite a "guest blogger" who is himself a binary star specialist i.e. who has professionally nothing to do with the climate models whatsoever. The very same people whose only argument against the scientific articles that they find inconvenient is their statement that the author is not their colleague (and moreover, may be paid by ExxonMobil, right?) suddenly have to rely on the opinion of an astrophysicist who studies binary stars.

Well, when he writes things that they find useful for their ideology, suddenly it does not matter that he is a climate layman. Of course that at the end, I can't blame S.S. for his particular opinion. It is the RC team who should be blamed for their selective process of choosing the "convenient opinions".

It's completely obvious that if they had some terrestrial climate models whose conclusions could be trusted, they could just change a couple of parameters, make a few improvements, and they could also predict the Martian climate, at least approximately. (NASA probably has the best Martian climate models in the world but they are not giving quite the right results yet.) The fact that they can't tell you anything about it and that they must rely on the opinion on a guest non-specialist is telling your something, isn't it?

If someone claims that he understands the terrestrial climate perfectly enough so that he can predict the future in 2050 including the variations, but simultaneously has no idea at all what may be happening on Mars, then it's analogous to a "nuclear physicist" who tells you that she understands everything about the Lithium nucleus - and she can predict the new excited levels - but has no idea about the Helium nucleus. In both cases, the relevant physics is based on universal effects.

The reason behind this apparent "contradiction" is not hard to see. There are no climate models that can make useful long-term predictions. What they have are models that have enough parameters that by adjusting them, you may obtain a rough agreement with the past data and nearly arbitrary "predictions" for the future. (It's slightly easier for them to predict warming right now, so they decided that warming is the type of "catastrophe" that will arrive soon.)

They can't verify any predictions, the predictions differ from reality, and the "modellers" always say that the disagreement is caused by noise. Nevertheless, the noise is supposed to evaporate when they make even more speculative predictions for the far future - which is the regime in which people should suddenly trust them. And they're simply satisfied with this kind of "understanding".

What these people write on "RealClimate" is not science. It is a consensus of several average people with strong political commitments. It's a whole church of Mother Earthism or a political party and "RealClimate" is its ministry of propaganda.


  1. I've erased a meaningless personal debate initiated by Belette who is really William Connolley from RealClimate. Please, try to follow the topics here - it is about investigate journalism concerning climate science and about the Martian climate here.

  2. Whatever Belette wants to say, let it be heard and let it be debated. Meanwhile, on my blog I have detailed calculation to explain why I am not willing to bet him on 400 ppmv of CO2. You are wellcome to go there and comment:

    A case for the 400ppm CO2 limit

    I wish we spend more time debating the problem of oil depletion, which is much more meaningful and relevant, rather than global warming, which is irrelevant and meaningless and purely hypothetical.

    CO2 will not go beyond 400 ppmv under any circumstance, period.


  3. You're making ad hominems about the qualifications of an astrophysicist to comment on solar system dynamics and the resulting climate change.

    You're a string theorist commenting on climate change.

    That's really all that needs to be said.

  4. Dear theo,

    I think that you completely misunderstood my point.

    I believe that Steinn who is an astrophysicist knows much more about the Martian climate models than the team of 10 "climate scientists" and "modellers".

    I am the last one who would make a silly comment that someone must be wrong just because he or she got a degree for a different thing.

    In fact, I even believe that the RC team would agree with me that they know less than Steinn about this issue. This seems to be a fact, and I think it is a worrisome fact.

    They picked Steinn's opinion because it supports their ideological position about a scientific question that they have no idea about.


  5. Dear theo,
    Questioning someone's qualifications is NOT an ad hominem attack, as it is directly related to the argument. Saying that you know nothing about climate change because you don't know what an ad hominem is and you eat your buggers is an ad hominem attack because it has nothing to do with climate change.