Climate kerfluffle reprised in southern hemisphere

With no rain in sight, and only modest temperature fluctuations ahead, some reading material is presented to you today with commentary today, a “soapbox day.”

Cloud photos from yesterday are at the bottom if you want to skip to that and avoid thinking about things because its too early in the morning to get riled up.

I will start with an opinion piece concerning climate change and climate science from Australia.   It also mentions a recent event in the climo community concerning a Southern Hemisphere temperature reconstruction and the apparent rejection of what would have been an important paper by the peer-reviewed journal it was submitted to after crucial errors were found by an outsider/reviewer.  The author of this opinion article also mentions “climategate” a chapter of science that had a profound effect on this writer.  Now there are polemical aspects, not all of which this writer would agree with, still, its worth reading:

Speak Loudy and Carry a Busted Hockey Stick

The link to this article was circulated to our Atmos Sci Dept by one of my best friends, and really a science hero to me, Mark Albright, the former Washington State climatologist.  Mark was a mild-mannered researcher lurking in the background at the U of WA for many years until he got upset over what he (later joined by two allies there) was to show were vastly exaggerated journal-published and media accounts of snowpack losses due to GW in his own backyard, in the Cascade Mountains of Washington and Oregon.  Mark felt science had been corrupted by dogma, perhaps the pursuit of funding; he has not been the same since.  Believe me, I know what he has been through.

A retired distinguished professor at the U of WA Atmospheric Sciences Department circulated a counter articleto the one that Mark circulated, also worth reading for the “other side.”  It appears below, along with that professor’s note about the article Mark circulated.  I felt this note by the professor should be included, too:

“Worth reading is this article by a Reagan/Bush Science board appointee. It demonstrates objective science versus the Australian article which is full of vituperation, accusations without substance, slander, and very little science.”

In the headline of this second article,  the word “denier” is used in its title as a pejorative, mass label for those who question some of the global warming publicity stunts (assigning particular storms like Sandy to GW) down to results published in peer-reviewed journals, such as reports of exaggerated snowpack losses.  Not good, and that headline tells you where that article is headed: criticism is not to be tolerated.  But it also shows that the majority of science being published on climate change supports the finding that a warmer earth is ahead.  But there is a reason for that; its being pushed by the monumental amounts of money being poured into that climate research domain.

There are many of us out there that do believe that funding is pushing the research on global warming in one direction in this job-poor era we’re now in, just as it did, and still does, in the cloud seeding domain:  no one ever got a job saying cloud seeding doesn’t work.  In my own career–yes, Mr. Cloud Maven person had a professional research one, and one spiced with controversy1 over several decades–the opinion article from Australia rings true in many aspects about how science works and what influences a preponderance of “conclusions” that get published in journals.

In the climate funding domain, don’t look for more funds if you conclude a million dollar study by indicating that you didn’t find any sign of warming over the past 30 years, as is the actual case in the Pacific Northwest.  NO ONE is going to touch that hot potato and serve a finding like that up to a climate journal.  Its not gonna fly.  It makes explaining global warming difficult.  And as Homer Simpson advises, “If something’s hard to do, its not worth doing.”

But at the same time, a counter finding to global warming presents to those of us who try to be truly ideal, disinterested scientists, a fabulous opportunity to look into something that is not immediately explicable.  As scientists, we should live for opportunities like this!

But will it happen, will some brave soul at the University of Washington or elsewhere delve into this counter trend and try to explain why its happened in a journal article? Its hoped so.

But those of us, still on the GW bandwagon, if grudgingly so due to the actions of some of our peers, know that regional effects of GW are dicey.  Some areas will warm up more than others; cooling is possible if the jet stream ridges and troughs like to hang out in different positions than they do today.  And of course, if we smog up the planet too much, all bets on warming up much are off since clouds act to cool the planet, and pollution makes clouds last longer, especially over the oceans where pollution can interfere with drizzle production, which helps dissolve shallow clouds, and pollution causes more sunlight to be reflected back into space.  The cloud effects are being more carefully, precisely evaluated in our better computer models.


It is ironic, too, that the second article, the one passed along by the professor, ends with the mention of plate tectonics “as the ruling paradigm of science” as it is.
But, some word about how that paradigm came about; it was a “long and winding road.”

Alfred Wegener, a meteorologist,  first proposed the theory of continental drift/plate tectonics around the turn of the century.  A nice account of this science chapter about origin of the theory of plate tectonics is found in the book, Betrayers of the Truth, by then NYT science writers, Nicholas Wade and William J. Broad.

Because Alfred Wegener was a meteorologist, however, and NOT a geographer, namely was an outsider to the official science community studying the continents and how they got that way, his ideas were laughed at, not taken seriously for more than 40 years!  Only in the 1960s was the idea of plate tectonics accepted.

I mention this tectonic chapter of science because there is a similar chapter that reappears constantly now in the climate debates.  Several of the strongest critics of GW results, critics that have delved deeply behind the scenes into published findings of climate change in a scientific manner, much as this writer did concerning cloud seeding experiments in the 1970s-1990s, are criticized for being “outside of the group”, just  Alfred Wegner was in his day rather than those “in the group” considering and acting on whether the findings of outsiders are valid.

Fortunately, this is beginning to change because, guess what?  Outsiders have found some pretty important stuff that HAD to be addressed in spite of the desires of some idealogues out there pretending to be objective, disinterested scientists.   Science as a whole, still works.

A cloud note: Alfred Wegner is also known for proposing the idea that ice crystals in the presence of supercoooled water (a common event in the atmosphere) grow and fallout, leading to precipitation at the ground, known as the Wegner-Bergeron-Findeisen mechanism.  Every 101 meteorology textbook points this out.

The last photo below is a demonstration of that effect; those sunset supercooled Altocumulus shedding a few ice crystals that grew within them.


 Yesterday’s clouds

7:33 AM Cirrus fibratus radiatus. Sometimes perspective makes banding look like its converging or radiating. I estimated that this was not the case here.
4:31 PM Parhelia-Sundog-Mock Sun in an ice cloud with hexagonal plate llike crystals, ones that fall face down and cause the light to be refracted and separated. Here’s is a link explaining this phenomenon.
5:24 PM. A classic Arizona sunset due to the under lighting of Altocumulus perlucidus. Some very fine virga from these clouds can also be seen. When the virga is this fine, the concentrations, as you would imagine are very low and the crystals falling out are especially beautiful because they have not collided with
other crystals and broken into pieces as happens in heavy virga shafts.


1Some examples of the controversy the writer has been involved with:

“We don’t hate you but we don’t love you, either.”

This quote from a leading US cloud seeding scientist to the writer at an American Meteorological Society  conference on cloud seeding and statistics after his cloud seeding experiments had been reanalyzed by the writer.

“I want you to leave my office and don’t come back.  Just do your own thing.”

This quote from THE leading cloud seeding scientist of the day when I went to his country to see for myself the clouds he was describing in peer-reviewed journal articles, descriptions that I had doubts about. His descriptions were later shown to be far from reality.

And, from an outside observer, and well-known cloud researcher at the National Center for Atmos. Research in Boulder, a comment to the writer when he visited the University of Washington:

“I think the (cloud seeding) community sees you as a ‘gadfly’.”

From the Oxford Concise Dictionary, “gadfly”:

“A cattle-biting fly; an irritating, harassing person.”

Q. E. D.


By Art Rangno

Retiree from a group specializing in airborne measurements of clouds and aerosols at the University of Washington (Cloud and Aerosol Research Group). The projects in which I participated were in many countries; from the Arctic to Brazil, from the Marshall Islands to South Africa.