Sky-high hole blown in AGW theory?

posted at 1:50 pm on July 28, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Two stories have dropped that may blow big holes in the anthropogenic global warming argument — one of which is literally sky-high.  Forbes reports on a peer-reviewed study that uses NASA data to show that the effects of carbon-based warming have been significantly exaggerated.  In fact, much of the heat goes out into space rather than stay trapped in the atmosphere, an outcome that started long before AGW alarmists predicted:

NASA satellite data from the years 2000 through 2011 show the Earth’s atmosphere is allowing far more heat to be released into space than alarmist computer models have predicted, reports a new study in the peer-reviewed science journal Remote Sensing. The study indicates far less future global warming will occur than United Nations computer models have predicted, and supports prior studies indicating increases in atmospheric carbon dioxidetrap far less heat than alarmists have claimed.

Study co-author Dr. Roy Spencer, a principal research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and U.S. Science Team Leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer flying on NASA’s Aqua satellite, reports that real-world data from NASA’s Terra satellite contradict multiple assumptions fed into alarmist computer models.

“The satellite observations suggest there is much more energy lost to space during and after warming than the climate models show,” Spencer said in a July 26 University of Alabama press release. “There is a huge discrepancy between the data and the forecasts that is especially big over the oceans.”

In addition to finding that far less heat is being trapped than alarmist computer models have predicted, the NASA satellite data show the atmosphere begins shedding heat into space long before United Nations computer models predicted.

It should be noted that Dr. Spencer is a longtime AGW skeptic, but that doesn’t negate the NASA readings on which this study’s conclusions are based.  If heat is escaping into the atmosphere at much higher rates than AGW computer models predict, then the outcome of AGW models will be highly biased towards the catastrophic outcomes.  The problem, as Spencer notes in the press release, is that AGW theory makes too many assumptions based on incomplete data:

A major underpinning of global warming theory is that the slight warming caused by enhanced greenhouse gases should change cloud cover in ways that cause additional warming, which would be a positive feedback cycle.

Instead, the natural ebb and flow of clouds, solar radiation, heat rising from the oceans and a myriad of other factors added to the different time lags in which they impact the atmosphere might make it impossible to isolate or accurately identify which piece of Earth’s changing climate is feedback from manmade greenhouse gases.

“There are simply too many variables to reliably gauge the right number for that,” Spencer said. “The main finding from this research is that there is no solution to the problem of measuring atmospheric feedback, due mostly to our inability to distinguish between radiative forcing and radiative feedback in our observations.”

That could explain why global temperatures have failed to soar over the last 20 years as predicted, too.

Spencer’s study rebuts some poor but probably sincere assumptions from AGW theorists.  Not every researcher falls into that category, however.  The AP reports today that one researcher whose work “galvanized” AGW hysteria over the fate of polar bears has suddenly been suspended as his work on that claim has come under scrutiny for potential scientific misconduct:

A federal wildlife biologist whose observation in 2004 of presumably drowned polar bears in the Arctic helped to galvanize the global warming movement has been placed on administrative leave and is being investigated for scientific misconduct, possibly over the veracity of that article.

Charles Monnett, an Anchorage-based scientist with the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, or BOEMRE, was told July 18 that he was being put on leave, pending results of an investigation into “integrity issues.” But he has not yet been informed by the inspector general’s office of specific charges or questions related to the scientific integrity of his work, said Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. …

Documents provided by Ruch’s group indicate questioning by investigators has centered on observations that Monnett and fellow researcher Jeffrey Gleason made in 2004, while conducting an aerial survey of bowhead whales, of four dead polar bears floating in the water after a storm. They detailed their observations in an article published two years later in the journal Polar Biology; presentations also were given at scientific gatherings.

In the peer-reviewed article, the researchers said they were reporting, to the best of their knowledge, the first observations of polar bears floating dead offshore and presumed drowned while apparently swimming long distances in open water. Polar bears are considered strong swimmers, they wrote, but long-distance swims may exact a greater metabolic toll than standing or walking on ice in better weather.

The IG hasn’t published any conclusions about the investigation, and indeed hadn’t published that there is an investigation.  It came to light when PEER announced that it would sue to reinstate Monnett, claiming that he was being persecuted for political reasons.  That would be a rather interesting charge to make in an administration that wants to impose AGW-based policy in part on Monnett’s work.  Had the probe started during the Bush administration, it might be a little easier to believe that it was politically motivated.

AGW advocates insist that people respect the scientific consensus that we’re all going to kill Mother Earth if we don’t take radical action now to stop emissions of a natural substance into the atmosphere.  However, we don’t have consensus, and what little we do have seems less and less scientific as data emerges.

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