Questions: What we do not know about the climate?

Citizen Scientist Willis Eschenbach is a prolific poster on climate issues at Watts Up With That. In a New Years post of reflection on where we are in climate science and where we need to go, Willis has posted a number questions; what we do not know now, or know in the future, with a list of his most important questions. For those of you who are not regular WUWT reader I am posting Willis questions for you thoughts and comments

Willis writes:

With that as a prologue, let me give at least a partial list of what we don’t know about the climate. Now, bear in mind that I’m not saying we don’t have theories about any number of these questions. Everyone has theories about some or all of these unanswered puzzles, including myself. But there is no agreement, no so-called “consensus”, about the following matters:


• Why the earth has been generally cooling since we came out of the last ice age.

• Why the earth generally cooled from earlier in the millennium to the “Little Ice Age” in the 1600-1700s

• Why the earth generally warmed from the “Little Ice Age” in the 1600-1700s to the present.

• Why the warming of 1910-1940 was as large and as fast as the warming of 1975-1998.

• Why the warming that started in 1975 plateaued in the last couple decades.

• What the current generation of climate models are missing that made them all wrong about the current plateau.

• Why there has been no increase in extreme weather events despite a couple of centuries of warming.

• Why the albedo of the northern hemisphere is the same as the albedo of the southern hemisphere, year after year, despite radically different amounts of ocean and land in the two hemispheres.

• Why there has been no acceleration of sea level rise despite numerous predictions that it would occur.


• Whether the earth will warm over the next decade.

• Whether the earth will warm over the next century.

• What the climate of 2050 or 2100 will be like. Wetter? More windy? More droughts? Calmer? More hurricanes? Fewer tornadoes? We don’t have a clue.

• Whether a couple of degrees of warming would be a net bonus, a net loss, or a catastrophic Thermageddon.

• Whether predicting future climate is a “boundary problem”.

• If predicting future climate is a boundary problem, what the boundaries might be and what their future values might be.

• Whether the evolution of the climate is predictable even in theory over anything but the short term.


• Why the system is so stable in the very short term (decadal), e.g. the net top-of-atmosphere (TOA) imbalance hasn’t varied by much more than half a watt per square metre over the last 14 years of the CERES records.

• Why the system is so stable in the short term (centuries), e.g. a variation in surface temperature of only ± 0.1% over the 20th century.

• Why the system is so stable in the longer term (millennia), e.g. a variation in surface temperature of only ± 0.5% over the Holocene.

• Why the system is so stable in the even longer term (a million years), e.g. a variation in surface temperature over the period of the ice ages of only ± 1% over the last million years.

• Why the system is so stable in the longest term (a half billion years), e.g. the sun has increased in strength by 5% over that period, an increase of about 13 W/m2. According to the accepted theory such an increase in forcing should have led to a surface temperature increase of 13°C over that period … why didn’t that increase happen.

• Why we are no closer to getting a value for the so-called “climate sensitivity” than we were thirty years ago. After uncountable hours of human labor, after huge increases in the size and complexity of our models, after unprecedented increases in computer power, after millions and millions of dollars spent on the problem, the error bounds on the answer have not narrowed at all … why not?

Your thoughts on the these questions by  Citizen Scientist Willis Eschenbach are most welcome, here or at WUWT.

C3: Latest Research: EU & Russian Scientists Confirm Medieval Period Warmer Than Modern Global Warming

Latest Research: EU & Russian Scientists Confirm Medieval Period Warmer Than Modern Global Warming

The UN’s IPCC claims that modern global warming is “unprecedented” continues to be robustly discredited by the newest scientific research – another peer reviewed study confirms that the Medieval Warming (plus the Roman and Minoan) periods had significantly warmer summers (Kamchatka, Siberia) than our current period, which has atmospheric CO2 levels exceeding 350 ppm

Read here. Scientists from Europe and Russia reconstructed temperatures from a Kamchatka Peninsula sediment core that contained chironomids. As the chart on the right depicts, the scientists determined that there were extended periods, well before CO2 atmospheric CO2 levels of 350 ppm and greater, when summer temperatures were well above modern temps.

“A paper published in Quaternary Science Reviews reconstructs Arctic temperatures in Kamchatka, USSR over the past 4,500 years and finds the highest reconstructed temperatures were about 3.8°C warmer than modern temperatures. The authors find “the highest reconstructed temperature reaching 16.8 °C between 3700 and 2800 years before the present,” about 3.8°C above “modern temperatures (∼13 °C).” In addition, the data shows temperatures between 2500 – 1100 [during the Medieval and Roman warming periods] were about 1-2°C above modern temperatures of ~13°C.” [Larisa Nazarova, Verena de Hoog, Ulrike Hoff, Oleg Dirksen, Bernhard Diekmann 2013: Quaternary Science Reviews]

Additional climate-history and peer-reviewed articles. Other historical-temperature charts.

via C3: Latest Research: EU & Russian Scientists Confirm Medieval Period Warmer Than Modern Global Warming.

via C3: Latest Research: EU & Russian Scientists Confirm Medieval Period Warmer Than Modern Global Warming.

Climate Change and the Light Switch – A Geologist View

Russ Steele

whole storyI just finished reading The Whole Story of Climate:  What Science Reveals about the Nature of Endless Change  by E. Kirsten Peters on my Kindle Fire.  After learning about the book on a climate change blog, I down loaded it from Amazon and started reading it immediately and just could not put it down.  The author introduces biographical portraits of lead scientist who made major climate indicator discoveries, and then examines the circumstances of their discoveries.  A  detective story or sorts.

Dr. Peters introduces the  important contributions that geologist have made to our understanding of climate change in very kitchen table conversational style. Even the scientifically challenged readers will find this an enjoyable read. What emerges is a much more complex and nuanced picture of climate change issues than are usually presented in the main stream presses thirty second sound bites.

“If we view climate changes as our enemy we will always be defeated, for climate will always change. Natural climate change is frequent, often extreme, and sometimes rapid. Industrial CO2 is a real problem just as you have heard, but it’s only a fragment of the whole story of climate. In other words, I’m not a global warming denier – I want to add to the discussion of climate change from the point of view of geology and natural change. What may matter most is not our carbon policies, but whether we invest in adaptive strategies that can serve us well when change inevitably arrives on our doorstep.”

Dr. Peters points out that geological history, including the ice cores, has shown that climate change can be surprisingly rapid, coming in five, ten, or fifteen years.  Climate change is more like flipping a light switch, going from warm to cold in a decade. Or, from cold to warm in a decade. We live in a chaotic world and the climate can shift rapidly, regardless of human actions.

” . . . natural history reveals that rapid shifts from hotter to cooler climes can occur over mere decades, and, if not for recent carbon pollution, an ice age might be just around the corner.”

Dr Peters explains her views in this short video:  Including some ideas on how to mitigate CO2 emission by snuffing out the coal field fires that are emitting tons of CO2 every day around the globe.

I agree with her views that we should be preparing for a climate shift, regardless of the direction. However, if we accept her light switch analogy while residing in a warm world, then we have to assume that the next flip of the switch will bring on a much colder world.  A much colder world that can emerge in a just a decade. A climate change that we could experience in a life time.  It has happened in the past and will happen again, according to Dr. Peters.  She presents some historical examples.

The Whole Story of Climate is essential reading if your want to understand one of our most important contemporary debates — global climate change.  Policy makers are spending billions to mitigate global warming, when in fact we may be on the cusp of global cooling, if not the next ice age.  It is important that more citizens understand the larger picture, and prepare accordingly.

More HERE.

Heavy Snowfall Rejuvenates Himalayan Glaciers

New Evidence Undermines Climate Alarmism

With high-altitude mountains in Himachal Pradesh experiencing up to 100 cm fresh snowfall in November month after 10 years, the abundance of snow on mountains has rejuvenated nearly one thousand Himalayan glaciers and has ensured uninterrupted supply of water for drinking, irrigation and hydel projects. While scanty snowfall and rising temperature in the last decade had sparked the possibilities of fast shrinking of glaciers, good spells of snowfall in last three years have changed the trend with glaciers almost growing to their original size. –Suresh Sharma, The Times of India, 3 December 2012

A Mayan Tale of Climate Cycles

Russ Steele

National Geographic News has an interesting discussion of how climate change resulted in the Mayan decline and inland demise.

The latest Maya climate-change study, published Friday in the journal Science, analyzes a Belizean cavern’s stalagmites—those lumpy, rocky spires on cave floors—to link climate swings to both the rise and fall of the empire.

Formed by water and minerals dripping from above, stalagmites grow quicker in rainier years, giving scientists a reliable record of historical precipitation trends. One sample used in the new study, for example, documents fluctuations as far back as 2,000 years ago.

Among the trends revealed by the Belizean stalagmites: “The early Classic Maya period was unusually wet, wetter than the previous thousand years,” according to study leader Douglas Kennett, an environmental anthropologist at Pennsylvania State University. “During this time, the population proliferated,” aided by a surge in agriculture.

During the wettest decades, from 440 to 660, cities sprouted. All the hallmarks of Maya civilization— sophisticated political systems, monumental architecture, complex religion—came into full flower during this era.

(Read about the rise and fall of the Maya in National Geographic magazine.)

Climate Shift Sparks Conflict

But the 200-year-long wet spell turned out to be an anomaly. When the climate pendulum swung back, hard times followed.

“Mayan systems were founded on those [high] rainfall patterns,” Kennett said. “They could not support themselves when patterns changed.”

The following centuries, from about 660 to 1000, were characterized by repeated and, at times extreme, drought. Agriculture declined and—not coincidentally—social conflict rose, Kennet says.

The Maya religious and political system was based on the belief that rulers were in direct communication with the gods. When these divine connections failed to produce rainfall and good harvests, tensions likely developed.

Within the scant 25 years between 750 and 775, for example, 39 embattled rulers commissioned the same number of stone monuments—evidence of “rivalry, war, and strategic alliances,” according to Kennett’s study.

But times would get even harder.

The stalagmite record suggests that between 1020 and 1100 the region suffered its longest dry spell of the last 2,000 years. With it, the study suggests, came Maya crop failure, famine, mass migration, and death.

By the time Spanish conquistadors arrived in the 16th century, inland Maya populations had decreased by 90 percent, and urban centers had been largely abandoned. Farms had become overgrown and cities reclaimed by forest.

You can read the rest of the article HERE.

This is more evidence that climate change is cyclical, with warm and cold periods, wet and dry periods. The Sierra has experienced long periods of drought lasting 200 to 2000 years long. We are currently living in a moderate period much like the Maya from 440 to 660.  The notion that humans can control the climate is just pain foolish, a political wet dream that can be used to scare us in to paying carbon taxes.

On the Cusp?: Antarctic Station Observes New Low: -100.8F

Russ Steele

University Of Wisconsin Antarctica South Pole 

P Gosselin has the story at the No Tricks Zone: 

According to the University of Wisconsin, Madison here, on June 11, 2012, the South Pole Station measured a new record low temperature.

Antarctica weather station. Photo source:

The mercury dropped to -73.8°C/-100.8°F, breaking the previous minimum temperature record of -73.3°C/-99.9°F set in 1966.

H/T to No Tricks Zone.

Looking For Killing Summer Frost Events

Russ Steele

My friend George Rebane, a Phd systems scientist, an I often discuss climate change and the onset of the next grand minimum.  In George’s view a June killing frost in America’s bread basket will be clear indicator the next grand minimum has arrived. Therefore, I keep track of June frosts events. Here is the latest: Eastern Idaho spuds hit hard by early summer frost

Blackfoot Idaho — Potato crops throughout Eastern Idaho were heavily damaged by cold temperatures early June 7.

Aberdeen grower Ritchey Toev estimates 100,000 acres in the region covering Bingham County, the Fort Hall Indian Reservation and north to Bonneville County were potentially affected.

Toevs said about 300 acres of his own crop sustained vegetation damage.

“North of Aberdeen, every field is at least burnt. Some are burnt clear back,” Toevs said. “They will re-grow with less bulk to them. The cold kind of roughens up the crop, too.”

Driving past fields of potato plants with wilted, black foliage, Blackfoot area grower David Cooper explained his spuds likely survived the brief spell of frigid weather, but he guesses it set the crop back about three weeks. He also anticipates his yields will be down 75 to 100 hundredweight per acre, and spud quality will be impaired.

You can read the rest of the story HERE.  This was not a killing frost, nor was it in the America’s Breadbasket, but close.

Study of Old Climate Records Shows That Baghdad Was Quite Chilly a Millennium Ago

Re-blogged from Popular Science    Article written by Rebecca Boyle

An unexpected cold wave in July 920 sent the people of Baghdad back under their blankets, forcing them to leave their summertime roof beds and go back inside, according to a new study by Spanish researchers. The temperature dropped about 16 degrees F compared to average July temperatures, the study found. That was in 920; there’s no “1” in there.

Arabic historians’ records chronicle life in Baghdad in the Middle Ages, and some of the reports mention the area’s climate. Now scientists have interpreted them for the first time, and found some surprising meteorological events in the areas now known as Iraq and Syria. It used to snow more often, with at least six snowfalls between 902 and 944. (There has been only one snowfall in Baghdad in modern times, on Jan. 11, 2008.) The Arabic historians also recounted droughts, floods, heavy rains and frost, not a common occurrence in the fertile crescent.

The researchers, led by Fernando Domínguez-Castro in the physics department at the University of Extremadura, believe a couple volcanic eruptions in central America could have been to blame for the July 920 cold snap. During some of those nights, temperatures never rose above 64 degrees F — pretty cool for a Baghdad July.

The Guagua Pichincha volcano in Ecuador erupted around 910, and the Ceboruco volcano in Mexico erupted around 930. Eruptions like that have been shown to affect global temperatures. But more evidence is needed to confirm this hypothesis, Domínguez-Castro said.

This is interesting in part because this is a time and a place about which very little is known, the researchers say. But along with their historical significance, these records could help scientists’ understanding of future climates. Knowledge of past trends and abnormalities improves climate models, for instance. Time and again we have seen how old records can paint a fuller picture of our modern lives — in this case, by looking at in the Middle East in the years before the first crusades. The research appears in the journal Weather.

Note,  this record took place at the end of a known cold period before the beginning of the Medieval Warming Period. It should have been cooler over a longer period, before this reported incident of a cold July. 

Next Ice Age Starts in 2014?

“Forecasters predict that a new ice age will begin soon,” says this article on

“Habibullo Abdusamatov, a scientist from the Pulkovo Observatory of the Russian Academy of Sciences considers that the sharp drop in temperature will start on the Earth in 2014.

“According to the scientist, our planet began to “get cold” in the 1990s. The new ice age will last at least two centuries, with its peak in 2055.

“It is interesting, that the same date was chosen by the supporters of the theory of global warming.

“The expected decrease in temperature may … become the fifth over the past nine centuries, reports Hydrometeorological Center of Russia. Experts call this phenomenon the “little ice age”, it was observed in the XII, XV, XVII, XIX centuries. This cyclicity makes the theory of upcoming cold weather in XXI century look like truth.”

H/T to Ice Age Now for this report.