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Errors in Royal Society of NZ climate change paper

Errors in Royal Society of NZ climate change paper

The Royal Society of New Zealand has again nailed its sorry little tail to the mast of a sinking global warming ship, with a statement designed to convince news media, politicians and the public that the science behind climate change is sound.

The latest paper comes in the wake of embarrassing errors discovered in the UN’s AR4 report, and of course the Climategate disaster which revealed scientists conspiring to prevent studies they disagreed with from being published.

What makes the latest RSNZ paper embarrassing are some basic errors and cobbled together assumptions. Let’s take a look at a couple.

The RSNZ prefaces its points with these words:

“The evidence pointing towards AGW comes from multiple independent lines of argument, each pointing in the same direction. It is not the intention of this article to labour this point, but a few examples follow:”

Professor Keith Hunter, FNZIC, FRSNZ, Vice-President - Physical Sciences, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology, Royal Society of New Zealand, says this is one of those incontrovertible facts:

“The amount of extra carbon accumulated in the ocean and the atmosphere matches the known quantity emitted by the combustion of fossil fuels.”

Except, he appears to have forgotten that there’s a discrepancy between what’s been emitted and how much remains in the atmosphere, known as “the missing carbon sink”. In other words, the Royal Society is wrong. The emissions don’t match.

The Royal Society’s Hunter also states:

“It is also clear that the oceans absorb about 85% of the excess heat resulting from this radiative forcing by greenhouse gases (as well as about 40% of the carbon dioxide). Detailed measurements of the changes in oceanic heat content, and the temperature rise that accompanies this, agree quantitatively with the predicted radiative forcing.”

Which would be fine, except that the oceans are not warming up much at all, which the Argo project, discussed in Air Con, found, and which has also been detected in another study last year:

“Annual mean heat storage values have been determined for the full period 1999–2005 (Table 2) and these indicate that the heat storage change is not significantly different from zero within the error of the estimate for all boxes.”

Indeed, in 2008 the Argo project’s Josh Willis was forced to admit there had been no warming in the upper 700 metres of the oceans for four years. One analysis even found a slight cooling:

Even the appalling SkepticalScience site beloved of the AGW community admits through gritted teeth that we are not witnessing spectacular ocean warming at present:

“The bottom line is there is still uncertainty over the reconstruction of ocean heat. Generally, the various reconstructions show the same long term trends but don't always agree over short periods. The uncertainty means one cannot conclude with confidence that the ocean is cooling. Independent analysis seem to indicate that over last half dozen years, the ocean has shown less warming than the long term trend...”

So I’d be fascinated to know who gave the Royal Society of New Zealand the daft advice not only that the oceans are significantly warming, but that they are warming demonstrably and primarily as a result of greenhouse gas emissions. A cite should be provided for Professor Hunter’s claim that: “Detailed measurements of the changes in oceanic heat content, and the temperature rise that accompanies this, agree quantitatively with the predicted radiative forcing.”

Given that there are massive discrepancies in the radiation budget, it seems a surprisingly silly statement for the Royal Society of New Zealand to make.

Here’s how the more qualified (than Keith Hunter in this area) Dr Roy Spencer puts it:

“The main point I am making here is that, no matter whether you assume the climate system is sensitive or insensitive, our best satellite measurements suggest that the climate system is perfectly capable of causing internally-generated radiative forcing larger than the “external” forcing due to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. Low cloud variations are the most likely source of this internal radiative forcing. It should be remembered that the satellite data are actually measured, whereas the CO2 forcing (red lines in the above graphs) is so small that it can only be computed theoretically.

“The satellite observed trend toward less energy loss (or, if you prefer, more energy gain) is interesting since there was no net warming observed during this time. How could this be? Well, the satellite observed trend must be due to forcing only since there was no warming or cooling trend during this period for feedback to act upon. And the lack of warming from this substantial trend in the forcing suggests an insensitive climate system.”

Spencer is not the only one to pick some kind of “internally-generated radiative forcing” that’s stronger than CO2, with a new study out this week suggesting exactly that. Additionally, it turns out computer models relied on the UN IPCC may have been badly programmed on cloud impacts.

Clouds appear to play a much bigger role in regulating the heat that reaches the oceans and which leaves the sea surface. Additionally, oceanic heat is not being primarily affected by “radiative forcing by greenhouse gases” but by natural oscillations.

Then Keith Hunter says this:

“Furthermore, satellite altimetry shows clearly that the sea level has risen by the amount expected as a result of the warming-induced thermal expansion of the ocean.”

If he’s trying to suggest sea level increase is unusual or rapidly increasing, then in a word, “rubbish”.

Professor Hunter concludes his “best pieces of global warming proof” analysis with this:

“Finally, in recent years it has become clear that salinity increases in the tropical ocean from enhanced water evaporation, and parallel decreases in salinity at higher latitudes as the enhanced water vapour condenses again, consistent with the higher heat content of the tropical ocean and with observed changes in the atmosphere.”

Sounds great, but what does it actually mean? Seriously? He’s describing the hydrologic cycle of evaporation and rainfall, something that has been happening on earth for, oh, I don’t know, the last four billion years.

If this is the best evidence the Royal Society of New Zealand can muster in support of climate change, God help the Key administration and his beleaguered science advisor Peter Gluckman, because the people advising National and Gluckman on climate are NIWA and the Royal Society.

The news media would be wise to treat with caution the Royal Society’s ongoing flawed pronouncements on climate change.

(This has been posted online with working hyperlinks at )


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