Dan's Wild Wild Science Journal
Welcome at » Another Climate Myth, Long Dead, is Finally Buried

Another Climate Myth, Long Dead, is Finally Buried

One of the most frequent myths I hear about climate is that the “satellites show cooling”. This myth lingers on in spite of the fact that the initial discrepancies have been reconciled. Don’t just trust me on this, read the report from the U.S. Climate Change Science program:


Click image to read entire report- Update Nov. 2009. I have received a communication from Dr. Christy that he still believe a significant discrepancy exists (esp. over the tropics). I have written and addendum to this blog (at the end). The science has continued to evolve since the report imaged above. The question of how much the surface record and satellite derived troposphere records match is still being debated.

There has been a lot of interest in satellite measurements of the troposphere because most climate models show it should warm significantly, and perhaps more than the surface in some regions (especially the tropics). The reasons for this are latent heat. Here is a simple explanation of how latent heat warms the air.

If you want to turn a pan of water on the stove into water vapor, what do you do? Well you can wait a few weeks and the warmth of the air will do it for you, or you can add heat. A lot of heat. Boil it away. Here is the most important thing- when that water condenses back to a liquid, ALL the heat that went into boiling it off, will be released back into the air. The vapor had heat locked up inside it.

You may think a thunderstorm cools the air, and if you are under it on the ground, it does! In reality though, a thunderstorm releases tremendous amounts of heat high in the atmosphere. This is also how hurricanes form. The release of latent heat expands the air and drops the pressure. Lower pressure sucks in more muggy air into thunderstorms and the cycle continues until a deep tropical storm forms.

Some of the most interesting research  in Climate is called fingerprinting. One of the top experts is Dr. Ben Santer of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories. I had the chance to meet him at a climate seminar in Chicago in April. Fingerprinting answers questions like “how do we know it’s the carbon dioxide and not the sun causing the Earth to warm?”.

Take a look at the graphs below- courtesy of Dr. Santer. You can use climate models to simulate the response of the planet to different forcings. You can model the response of temperatures in the atmosphere to the changes in the sun over the last century. You can do the same for volcanos and aerosols from pollution and do it for Ozone and increasing greenhouse gases.

Notice, that if it were just the sun causing the temperature rise, we would see warming throughout the atmosphere. If it’s greenhouse gases, we see warming in the troposphere and cooling in the stratosphere. The last panel is an estimate of all the forcings,  modeled from the real world.

Courtesy Dr. Ben Santer L. Lvr. N. Labs.

Courtesy Dr. Ben Santer L. Lvr. N. Labs.

So what do we see in the real world?? The stratosphere (above the troposphere) is cooling and the Troposphere below is warming.


Actually measuring the temperatures of the troposphere and stratosphere has turned out to be very difficult.

The Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit (AMU) on NOAA satellites sees a little of both layers and separating this out is not easy. Using radiosondes launched on balloons is not easy either, because the sensors have changed over the years. At first, it looked liked the troposphere was cooling. Turns out that better sun shields on the sensors caused this.

The first satellite measurements of the troposphere were made here in Huntsville by Dr. John Christy at UAH. At first the data looked like it showed cooling, but as you can read in the above report, the errors were spotted. The Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) group in California and others were instrumental in finding the errors.

The hordes of people who spend their time reading these junk science sites that deny climate change, and call it a hoax, have jumped on any inconsistencies they could find. Science meanwhile did what it always does. It kept looking for the truth. Slowly but surely the truth has shown itself, and the predictions made by the climate models, and Anthropogenic Global Warming theory have once again shown to hold.

The final funeral for the doubters can be planned now. Order the flowers, and pay the preacher to say something nice over the deceased he never knew. Why? Because yet another paper has shown using a different method of looking at the data, that indeed the stratosphere is cooling and the Troposphere is warming. The abstract and the site is below:


From AGU Journal G.R. Atmospheres click image for link.

Why were scientists so sure that the early measurements were wrong. Easy, the laws of Physics said otherwise. Neil deGrasse Tyson the renowned astrophysicist said it best. “The laws of Physics are real- everything else is just opinion.”

Why can’t I write brilliant things like that!



Reconciling the differences- US Climate Sci. Program (Linked above)
Personal Communication Dr. Ben Santer LLNL
Global Warming- Understanding the Forecast by David Archer
IPCC A.R. 4  2007

Addendum 22 Nov 2009:
Dr. Christy has emailed me and included a new paper he and others have just published in GRL. To understand what this paper is about some quick background.

Climate model and basic physics indicate that the troposphere should warm more than the surface as greenhouse gases increase. The factor is probably around 1.2 for the globe as a whole. The satellite temperature data from UAH (Christy’s group) does not show this, while another groups data comes much closer. (RSS).

The paper by Christy and Klotzbach et al. reasons that this is due to a bias caused by not only increasing greenhouse gases, but also land use and cloud cover/moisture changes caused by urbanization. The merits of this idea will be debated in the peer review ad nauseum, and a geek like me will read it all avidly. There has been some criticism of his paper already (see below). This is likely to be the most controversial part of their paper since there has been a lot of published science that shows the corrections for urban stations are good. See Watts Wrong With That? – Plenty.

What  I should make clear here is that after my communication with Dr. Christy, it’s clear he does not believe the discrepancies have been resolved satisfactorily and I have changed this blog post to put on this addendum.

I wrote this post above in response to the very often heard claim that  “The satellites show cooling, not warming!

This is not true and the paper that has just been published does not make that claim. The paper acknowledges that one of the reasons for the discrepancy may be increasing greenhouse gases.

The satellites show warming in the troposphere and cooling in the stratosphere (Cooling is what you would expect with increasing greenhouse gases in the stratosphere and this has been documented.)

If you want to get to the nitty gritty of it all then read 2009_Klotzbach_etal. There are several critiques in the bogosphere that I suspect will end up as comments in the journals. The one I think makes most sense is by James Amman, a climate scientist working in Japan. Another interesting note on it is by Dr. Michael Tobis here. He brings up a point that I feel requires an explanation by the authors. That may be the subject of a newer post.

  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon
  • Live
  • Technorati
  • email

17 Responses

  1. Nadine

    “Why can’t I write brilliant things like that!”… you should read your own blog some day and find out that you already write brilliant things!


  2. While I indeed said “The laws of physics are real – everything else is opinion,” I am surely not the first to say so. -NDTyson


    Dan Satterfield Reply:

    Pardon me folks while I pick myself up off the floor!
    To say I am honored is an understatement!

    Tyson’s book “Death By Black Hole” is a MUST read.


  3. somethinginteresting

    The full report was published over 2 years ago:


    Very strange of you to bring a draft of it up for discussion now…

    FROM DAN: Reason is the new paper in AGU Atmospheres see link in post.


  4. Chanda

    Another anti-GW data set I’ve seen recently (though I can’t tell you where, though I’ll see if I can dig it up) is that a comprehensive set of ocean data disagrees. Something about buoys at all levels in the ocean, all around the world? Do you know about that? Can you comment on it? I’ll see if I can find the link . . ..

    When is your “must read” book going to be published???


  5. Chanda

    Aha! I found the blog source where I first read about the data . . .


    Any comments?


    Dan Satterfield Reply:

    Two comments:
    1. Getting science from a newspaper or political based blog that mentions Al Gore in each post is not likely to be reliable.
    2. It reminds me of the situation with the satellite measurements (see current post). You have dozens of independent verifications of warming and one that doesn’t fit. The logical approach is to look for a problem with the data that doesn’t fit. Logical of course unless you run one of these junk science sites…

    Lastly the mismatch is not really a mismatch now. Here is what Gavin Schmidt of NASA GISS had to say about it: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2008/11/mountains-and-molehills/langswitch_lang/in

    Great links at the bottom of it to real science in real journals..


  6. ChadJ

    Quote: “Slowly but surely the truth has shown itself, and the predictions made by the climate models, and Anthropogenic Global Warming theory have once again shown to hold.”

    Excuse me, but weren’t these the same models that predicted catastrophe, and still show warming trends too high (even with the development of newer ‘better’ models)? The abstract says 0.092 K/decade, give me a break! That’s less than 1 degree C over the next 100 years, hardly measurable. What happened to the 4 to 7 or even 10 degrees over the next 100 years.


    Dan Satterfield Reply:

    You are confusing mid tropospheric temperature rise with surface temperature rise, and you are also forgetting that the rate of increase itself will increase as greenhouse gas levels rise. i.e. The current rate of increase will itself continue to increase.

    Not sure where you are getting the 4-7 degrees. Confusing Celsius and Fahrenheit?? The IPCC 4th asses. projects 1.7-4.4C SURFACE warming for the A1B scenario.

    Sea level rise is currently 3mm per year and rising at a rate well exceeding IPCC projections and Arctic ice levels continue to drop at a rate exceeding the IPCC projections. See here: http://twitpic.com/93v4a

    Even the models run from the 70’s have done an excellent job of forecasting the climate and if anything have underestimated the rise in temps. I can cite several peer reviewed papers that show it if you are interested.


  7. ChadJ

    But, is it not true that CO2, itself, is not really the culprit in the models making the temps rise over the next 100 years? {Rest redacted}…
    Reply from Dan:
    No it absolutely not true and there is no scientific question about it. The Physics of CO2 have been understood for well over a century now. There is nothing about this kind of claim in any mainline scientific journal. I have redacted the rest of this entry, and I want the author and my readers to know why.

    Anytime I write on climate change, I get comments like this. More popular blogs get tons of these. There are about a dozen or so of these people who spend heir time putting out this kind of junk science. It’s really as David Archer put it “Politics dressed up to look like science”.

    Most writers allow these posts in the interest of a free and open discussion. I have decided to use more editorial control of these comments. If your aim is to spread this kind of disinformation I will not be publishing it.

    On the other hand, all comments and questions are welcomed.

    I will try and use the digital eraser rarely, but if you are a well known poster of junk science on Real Climate and other sites, and are repeating the same old junk, then don’t waste your time here. Instead, I suggest taking a physics course at your local college. Try reading the IPCC report, they answer most of these silly arguments.

    I do realize that many people hear these kind of things from friends, and even in mainline newspapers (Usually on the op ed pages), and are confused. I will try and spot these and at least reply privately with info on where they can get real science.


  8. ChadJ

    Wow, expected more from you. False info, eh? I suppose you won’t post this either – no sense in the reader making up their own mind. BTW – I have taught several physics classes in my day…


    Note from Dan:
    From now on published comments need to have first and last name.


    Dan Satterfield Reply:

    I have read that paper in the Journal of Climate in 2008.
    Nice summary and discussion of it here:


  9. Bama

    Wow! Neil DeGrasse Tyson. I love the new NOVA Science show. You rock man.

    We are in our 12th year of this heat splat and 2009 will easily be in the top 10 for global land & ocean surface temperatures. So it seems that suddend heat spikes (like the one in 1998 that never went away) is how global warming is going to play out. Can you take a guess as to when the next heat spike will be?


  10. Dan Satterfield

    Yes, but mine are based on Science and not political opinion.


  11. Dan Satterfield

    Your submission was not on topic- see the guidelines in the comments section above.


  12. Bama

    Opps. Sorry about being off topic.

    When I heard Dr Roy Spencer of UAH on the Radio a few years ago making the claim that the Earth is getting cooler I knew that couldn’t be right. Then I found out he was not measuring surface tempeartures. It seemed to me that the surface tempeartures are all that matters. That’s where we live. When the surface warms, that’s when all the bad things happen.

    Are these troposphere and stratosphere measurement really necessary? If someone is trying to discredit AGW then all they have is a claim of more heat from the sun. But all that excess incoming radiation would be very easily detected would it not? I mean it would be a LOT of excess short wave radiation right?


    Dan Satterfield Reply:

    The Satellite and surface temps. agree very well with each other now and the sun is/has been very stable. Paper after paper has shown very robustly that the Sun is responsible for almost none of the warming over the past 35 years.
    One of the experts on this is Ben Santer of Lawr. Livermore labs. I have posted some of his research before. The other is Judith Lean of the U.S. Naval Observatory.

    Judith has a paper in press at Geophysical Res. Letters now. We presented at the AMS Climate Seminar in June in Portland, so I finally got to meet her)

    I have not read it yet, but it looks like another fascinating bit of research. You can see a presentation she did on solar influence on the AMS Env. Science Seminar web site.

    No serious scientist gives ANY credence to these “It’s the sun” claims anymore- it’s just propaganda put out by those with a political viewpoint to promote.


Leave a Reply

Current CO2 Level in the Atmosphere