Global Warming, Signal to Noise, and the History of Doubt

A smart graduate student in our Physical Ocean Science and Engineering program (lets call him/her XXXX) sent me an e-mail yesterday night

Hi Andreas,

I stumbled upon this article tonight and thought you might find it interesting: http://www.climatedepot.com/a/12797/Exclusive-Nobel-PrizeWinning-Physicist-Who-Endorsed-Obama-Dissents-Resigns-from-American-Physical-Society-Over-Groups-Promotion-of-ManMade-Global-Warming

XXXX

I have been reading a lot on this very subject the last weeks and find that the intersection of science, policy, communication, politics, and history a fascinating area of new learning. My response to XXX was thus

XXXX:

This is sad, but neither news nor particular interesting. Dr. Giaever received his Nobel prize in physics for work he did on semi-conductors over 50 years ago. Based on his statements on religion, I am pretty sure, that he has not kept up with the modern peer-reviewed literature on statistics, climate dynamics, or any geophysical field.

He may have missed (or willfully ignored?) work such as Santer et al. (2011): “Separating Signal and Noise in Atmospheric Temperature Changes: The Importance of Timescale” to appear in JGR later this year. I placed a copy of the paper (in press) at

http://muenchow.cms.udel.edu/classes/MAST811/Santer2011.pdf

as it is hard to find right now, even though it is causing a storm in the blogosphere.

If you want to follow critical, skeptical, and credible discussions on climate and its variability (and perhaps the above paper) of actually active atmospheric scientists that fall neither into an “alarmist” nor a “denying” camp, then you may find Dr. Judith Curry’s (University of Georgia)

http://judithcurry.com/2011/09/12/santer-on-timescales-of-temperature-trends/

or Dr. Roger Pielke, Sr. (Colorado State University)

http://pielkeclimatesci.wordpress.com/2011/09/07/comments-on-the-new-paper-separating-signal-and-noise-in-atmospheric-temperature-changes-the-importance-of-timescale-by-santer-et-al-2011/

If you are interested in the historical and political content of this pseudo-debate, you may find Oreskes and Conway (2010) book entitled “Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming” at

http://www.amazon.com/Merchants-Doubt-Handful-Scientists-Obscured/dp/1596916109

I read the book over the weekend and could not put it down. Dr. Santer is an atmospheric scientist working at Los Alamos National Laboratory and has been a lead-author of the IPCC since 1995 while Dr. Oreskes is a science historian working and teaching at UCSD/Scripps.

andreas

One response to “Global Warming, Signal to Noise, and the History of Doubt

  1. Funny, I had just read an article about Dr. Gaiever before I opened your blog. The article I read didn’t peg him as denying climate change per se, but reported that he was unhappy with the use of the word “incontrovertible” in reference to the evidence for climate change. It really is all about the messaging, isn’t it?

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