Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Phil Jones Interview

Note Updated Information in Comments Pertaining to Question "D."

The blogosphere has lit up today over the interviews published by the BBC with Dr. Phil Jones whose emails are central to Climategate and who, next to Dr. Jim Hansen of NASA, was probably the strongest scientist-advocate of 'global warming.' As a result of the Climategate emails, he is suspended from his position at the UK Climate Research Unit.

Because there has been so much reporting and opining about the interview today, I have decided to post the interview so readers can read his words for themselves.  The questions are in bold, Dr. Jones' responses in regular type, and my comments in red.  I have not altered the text in any way except to delete some non-pertinent questions. The entire interview is here. Because of the length, I am posting in three parts.

Phil Jones is director of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia (UEA), which has been at the centre of the row over hacked e-mails.
The BBC's environment analyst Roger Harrabin put questions to Professor Jones, including several gathered from climate sceptics. The questions were put to Professor Jones with the co-operation of UEA's press office.
 A - Do you agree that according to the global temperature record used by the IPCC, the rates of global warming from 1860-1880, 1910-1940 and 1975-1998 were identical?
An initial point to make is that in the responses to these questions I've assumed that when you talk about the global temperature record, you mean the record that combines the estimates from land regions with those from the marine regions of the world. CRU produces the land component, with the Met Office Hadley Centre producing the marine component.
Temperature data for the period 1860-1880 are more uncertain, because of sparser coverage, than for later periods in the 20th Century. The 1860-1880 period is also only 21 years in length. As for the two periods 1910-40 and 1975-1998 the warming rates are not statistically significantly different (see numbers below).
I have also included the trend over the period 1975 to 2009, which has a very similar trend to the period 1975-1998.
So, in answer to the question, the warming rates for all 4 periods are similar and not statistically significantly different from each other.
Thank you, Phil Jones. I have made this exact point over and over. The period of the recent big warming, from 1976 to 1998, is nothing unusual. We have seen similar rates of warming for similar durations that no one denies are “natural.” So, the rate of warming that everyone has been so alarmed about is nothing unprecedented.
The most basic unanswered question in the entire GW debate is, "If Mother Nature could produce those rates of warming in the past, why couldn't Nature produce the 1976-2008 warming?"
Here are the trends and significances for each period:
B - Do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming
Yes, but only just. I also calculated the trend for the period 1995 to 2009. This trend (0.12C per decade) is positive, but not significant at the 95% significance level. The positive trend is quite close to the significance level. Achieving statistical significance in scientific terms is much more likely for longer periods, and much less likely for shorter periods.
Agree. But, the pro-GW community has been pummeling us for pointing out the lack of warming.

C - Do you agree that from January 2002 to the present there has been statistically significant global cooling?
No. This period is even shorter than 1995-2009. The trend this time is negative (-0.12C per decade), but this trend is not statistically significant.
Fair enough. But note, he does not disagree there has been cooling. Something about which most of the pro-GW community has been in denial.

D - Do you agree that natural influences could have contributed significantly to the global warming observed from 1975-1998, and, if so, please could you specify each natural influence and express its radiative forcing over the period in Watts per square metre.
This area is slightly outside my area of expertise.
This is somewhat disingenuous, in my opinion. If you can’t tell the difference between human and natural influences, then you have no businesses opining that humans are likely responsible. 

When considering changes over this period we need to consider all possible factors (so human and natural influences as well as natural internal variability of the climate system). Natural influences (from volcanoes and the Sun) over this period could have contributed to the change over this period. Volcanic influences from the two large eruptions (El Chichon in 1982 and Pinatubo in 1991) would exert a negative influence.
It is my scientific opinion that this is backwards. Dr. Joe D’Aleo (his PhD is in meteorology and is a certified consulting meteorologist) has documented that, in spite of these two very large eruptions, volcanic activity was below normal during this period. Below normal volcanic activity enhances warming.
Solar influence was about flat over this period. Combining only these two natural influences, therefore, we might have expected some cooling over this period.
There is at least one peer-reviewed paper by Germany’s Planc Institute that says solar activity was the “highest in 8,000 years.” I don’t think we have even a moderate level of confidence in solar influence on earth’s climate.
So, I disagree with Dr. Jones, but I don’t think anyone has much confidence understanding solar influences.

UPDATE: Monday afternoon, February 15th.  New information on this topic at Watts Up With That that further reinforces that the sun may have been responsible for some or all of the warming the 20th Century.  

E - How confident are you that warming has taken place and that humans are mainly responsible?
I'm 100% confident that the climate has warmed.
"I’m 100% confidence it is warmer than the 50’s," but that is not saying much.  The temperature was warmer in 1940 than it was in 1950 based on the best data we have.
I agree that it is warmer now, but for reasons that have been stated on this blog, I believe the warming is somewhat less than in the NASA GISS and Jones’ HADCRUT data.
As to the second question, I would go along with IPCC Chapter 9 - there's evidence that most of the warming since the 1950s is due to human activity.
An accurate answer. There is “evidence” (primarily computer models) that it is human-caused and evidence it is not. 
More to come tomorrow. 

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