Putting Climate Models in Their Place

A previous post Chameleon Climate Models described the general issue of whether a model belongs on the bookshelf (theoretically useful) or whether it passes real world filters of relevance, thus qualifying as useful for policy considerations.

Following an interesting discussion on her blog, Dr. Judith Curry has written an important essay on the usefulness and limitations of climate models.

The paper was developed to respond to a request from a group of lawyers wondering how to regard claims based upon climate model outputs. The document is entitled Climate Models (here) and is a great informative read for anyone. Some excerpts that struck me:

Climate model development has followed a pathway mostly driven by scientific curiosity and computational limitations. GCMs were originally designed as a tool to help understand how the climate system works. GCMs are used by researchers to represent aspects of climate that are extremely difficult to observe, experiment with theories in a new way by enabling hitherto infeasible calculations, understand a complex system of equations that would otherwise be impenetrable, and explore the climate system to identify unexpected outcomes. As such, GCMs are an important element of climate research.

Climate models are useful tools for conducting scientific research to understand the climate system. However, the above points support the conclusion that current GCM climate models are not fit for the purpose of attributing the causes of 20th century warming or for predicting global or regional climate change on timescales of decades to centuries, with any high level of confidence. By extension, GCMs are not fit for the purpose of justifying political policies to fundamentally alter world social, economic and energy systems. It is this application of climate model results that fuels the vociferousness of the debate surrounding climate models.

Evolution of state-of-the-art Climate Models from the mid 70s to the mid 00s. From IPCC (2007)

Evolution of state-of-the-art Climate Models from the mid 70s to the mid 00s. From IPCC (2007)

The actual equations used in the GCM computer codes are only approximations of the physical processes that occur in the climate system. While some of these approximations are highly accurate, others are unavoidably crude. This is because the real processes they represent are either poorly understood or too complex to include in the model given the constraints of the computer system. Of the processes that are most important for climate change, parameterizations related to clouds and precipitation remain the most challenging, and are the greatest source of disagreement among different GCMs.

There are literally thousands of different choices made in the construction of a climate model (e.g. resolution, complexity of the submodels, parameterizations). Each different set of choices produces a different model having different sensitivities. Further, different modeling groups have different focal interests, e.g. long paleoclimate simulations, details of ocean circulations, nuances of the interactions between aerosol particles and clouds, the carbon cycle. These different interests focus their limited computational resources on a particular aspect of simulating the climate system, at the expense of others.

Overview of the structure of a state-of-the-art climate model. See Climate Models Explained by R.G. Brown

Human-caused warming depends not only on how much CO2 is added to the atmosphere, but also on how ‘sensitive’ the climate is to the increased CO2. Climate sensitivity is defined as the global surface warming that occurs when the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere doubles. If climate sensitivity is high, then we can expect substantial warming in the coming century as emissions continue to increase. If climate sensitivity is low, then future warming will be substantially lower.

In GCMs, the equilibrium climate sensitivity is an ‘emergent property’ that is not directly calibrated or tuned. While there has been some narrowing of the range of modeled climate sensitivities over time, models still can be made to yield a wide range of sensitivities by altering model parameterizations. Model versions can be rejected or not, subject to the modelers’ own preconceptions, expectations and biases of the outcome of equilibrium climate sensitivity calculation.

Further, the discrepancy between observational and climate model-based estimates of climate sensitivity is substantial and of significant importance to policymakers. Equilibrium climate sensitivity, and the level of uncertainty in its value, is a key input into the economic models that drive cost-benefit analyses and estimates of the social cost of carbon.

Variations in climate can be caused by external forcing, such as solar variations, volcanic eruptions or changes in atmospheric composition such as an increase in CO2. Climate can also change owing to internal processes within the climate system (internal variability). The bestknown example of internal climate variability is El Nino/La Nina. Modes of decadal to centennial to millennial internal variability arise from the slow circulations in the oceans. As such, the ocean serves as a ‘fly wheel’ on the climate system, storing and releasing heat on long timescales and acting to stabilize the climate. As a result of the time lags and storage of heat in the ocean, the climate system is never in equilibrium.

The combination of uncertainty in the transient climate response (sensitivity) and the uncertainties in the magnitude and phasing of the major modes in natural internal variability preclude an unambiguous separation of externally forced climate variations from natural internal climate variability. If the climate sensitivity is on the low end of the range of estimates, and natural internal variability is on the strong side of the distribution of climate models, different conclusions are drawn about the relative importance of human causes to the 20th century warming.

Figure 5.1. Comparative dynamics of the World Fuel Consumption (WFC) and Global Surface Air Temperature Anomaly (ΔT), 1861-2000. The thin dashed line represents annual ΔT, the bold line—its 13-year smoothing, and the line constructed from rectangles—WFC (in millions of tons of nominal fuel) (Klyashtorin and Lyubushin, 2003). Source: Frolov et al. 2009

Anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change is a theory in which the basic mechanism is well understood, but whose potential magnitude is highly uncertain. What does the preceding analysis imply for IPCC’s ‘extremely likely’ attribution of anthropogenically caused warming since 1950? Climate models infer that all of the warming since 1950 can be attributed to humans. However, there have been large magnitude variations in global/hemispheric climate on timescales of 30 years, which are the same duration as the late 20th century warming. The IPCC does not have convincing explanations for previous 30 year periods in the 20th century, notably the warming 1910-1945 and the grand hiatus 1945-1975. Further, there is a secular warming trend at least since 1800 (and possibly as long as 400 years) that cannot be explained by CO2, and is only partly explained by volcanic eruptions.


There is growing evidence that climate models are running too hot and that climate sensitivity to CO2 is on the lower end of the range provided by the IPCC. Nevertheless, these lower values of climate sensitivity are not accounted for in IPCC climate model projections of temperature at the end of the 21st century or in estimates of the impact on temperatures of reducing CO2 emissions.

The climate modeling community has been focused on the response of the climate to increased human caused emissions, and the policy community accepts (either explicitly or implicitly) the results of the 21st century GCM simulations as actual predictions. Hence we don’t have a good understanding of the relative climate impacts of the above (natural factors) or their potential impacts on the evolution of the 21st century climate.


There are a series of posts here which apply reality filters to attest climate models.  The first was Temperatures According to Climate Models where both hindcasting and forecasting were seen to be flawed.

Others in the Series are:

Sea Level Rise: Just the Facts

Data vs. Models #1: Arctic Warming

Data vs. Models #2: Droughts and Floods

Data vs. Models #3: Disasters

Data vs. Models #4: Climates Changing

Climate Medicine

Climates Don’t Start Wars, People Do


Beware getting sucked into any model, climate or otherwise.

Adapt, Don’t Fight Climate Change

The Dutch solution to floods: live with water, don’t fight it. The same thing applies to climate change.

Recently visiting again in the Netherlands, I was reminded that adapting is the only way to contend with natural forces. Praying or paying indulgences like carbon taxes does not stop nature, so we humans must prepare for the most probable extremes that can come our way.

Top-down, global initiatives like the IPCC and the Paris Accord are called “Mitigation”, an attempt to prevent warming of temperatures by reducing fossil fuel emissions. In fact, the 1 degree Celsius warming over the past 150 years has been a blessing for human civilization, and a further 1 degree will also be beneficial.

It was warmer than now in the Medieval Warm Period, warmer still in the Roman Warm Period, and warmest of all in the Minoan Warm Period.  Before that was the Holocene Optimum lasting many centuries with still higher temperatures.  Evidence indicates that 7000 years ago the Sahara desert was a savannah with several large lakes.  Human life and the biosphere prosper in warm ages, and we are presently sub-optimal. Cold is the greatest threat to the biosphere and the longer term trend is in that direction.

Even in the unlikely event that the Paris Accord results in lowering emissions, it is additionally uncertain how temperatures will be affected. It is rational to argue that we should burn more fossil fuels if we are sure that warming will result.

In any case, leaders and alarmists have in the past repeatedly declared deadlines for stopping climate change (oh, what hubris). With Trump’s election there is now the opportunity for rational climate policy. History shows us that there will be future periods both warmer and colder than the present, and prudent policy makers should prepare for both.

Trump and his advisers should not cede the high ground to climatists. Instead this administration should announce that it is serious about protecting the American people against future climate extremes, especially the cold.

The US has been blessed recently with tranquility instead of typical levels of hurricanes and tornadoes. That can not be expected to continue, and the first priority is to rebuild a robust infrastructure, suitable to at least confront a return of 1950’s weather. I am pleased to see PE Trump already talking about this.

The second key to adapting is ensuring reliable and affordable energy. It is now obvious that electrical power grids are crippled by shackling them with intermittent, expensive feed-ins from windmills and solar panels. Rational energy policy will rely on clean coal, nuclear and hydro for electricity, oil and gas for transportation, with various other energy sources added on when and where they make economic sense. It appears Trump’s advisers are also on top of this priority.

Let them not say they will do nothing about climate change;  they will do the only thing that makes sense.  Trump has the potential to become the real environmental president, who makes the EPA get results on its real mission: Clean Air and Clean Water without actual pollutants.

More on Dutch Adaptation:

“The Dutch are extremely proud of their water management and we have eight million people [almost half the population] living below sea level who depend on it. We have learned a lot from floods in the past, especially from 1953, the big flood which Britain also had, when we had a lot of damage and 1,800 casualties. We started the delta programme then and put a lot of flood protection in place.

“Our organisation is very important. We have regional water boards with their own tax system who are in charge of dredging and of the programmes of dyke maintenance. We have adapted climate change into urban planning, and development on flood plains has not been allowed since the 80s. More and more we are working with nature – on the coast, management is about building up the sand dunes and beaches.

More evidence that Adapting Works, Mitigating Fails


Election in US Flyover Country

Many American jet set businessmen are bi-coastal, commuting between New York and LA. This week most of the people in their bubble voted heavily for Clinton and woke up shocked and distraught.

All of the states in between California and the Northeast are called “fly over country.” Here’s how elections look in the US:

County by county voting 2012 Presidential Election.

This map shows how the nation voted county by county in the 2012 Presidential election, Blue is Democrat and Red is Republican. Do you notice something of a split between rural and urban settlements? This is not new, the folks in those red counties have been in the minority culturally and nationally for decades. (2016 map at the bottom of this post)

Some journalists in those tiny blue spots (major cities like Chicago) are saying Trump is not their President because he hasn’t won the popular vote. How maniacal is that? Firstly, he may yet get more votes, Hillary is only 200,000 ahead with several states undeclared. Secondly, California gave Hillary a margin of 2,500,000 votes. By Chicago logic, none of the other states matter, just wait for California’s choice.  It is not a direct democracy; states elect the President, weighted by the number of congressmen, get over it.

The chickens have come home to roost. And it is a good thing. The disparity between urban dwellers and those in the hinterland is disgraceful, and dare I say, unsustainable. If you want to hear how life and the world looks when you live in the rust belt, or small-town America, hit the link below for an eye-opener from David Wong who came from there (here).  h/t Ivan

I was born and raised in Trump country. My family are Trump people. If I hadn’t moved away and gotten this ridiculous job, I’d be voting for him. I know I would.

That map makes it look like Obama’s blue party is some kind of fringe political faction that struggles to get 20 percent of the vote. The blue parts, however, are more densely populated — they’re the cities. In the upper left, you see the blue Seattle/Tacoma area, lower down is San Francisco and then L.A. The blue around the dick-shaped Lake Michigan is made of cities like Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and Chicago. In the northeast is, of course, New York and Boston, leading down into Philadelphia, which leads into a blue band which connects a bunch of southern cities like Charlotte and Atlanta.

Blue islands in an ocean of red. The cities are less than 4 percent of the land mass, but 62 percent of the population and easily 99 percent of the popular culture. Our movies, shows, songs, and news all radiate out from those blue islands.

And if you live in the red, that f**cking sucks.

“Nothing that happens outside the city matters!” they say at their cocktail parties, blissfully unaware of where their food is grown. Hey, remember when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans? Kind of weird that a big hurricane hundreds of miles across managed to snipe one specific city and avoid everything else. To watch the news (or the multiple movies and TV shows about it), you’d barely hear about how the storm utterly steamrolled rural Mississippi, killing 238 people and doing an astounding $125 billion in damage.

The Rural Areas Have Been Beaten To Shit. I know, I was there. Step outside of the city, and the suicide rate among young people f**cking doubles. The recession pounded rural communities, but all the recovery went to the cities. The rate of new businesses opening in rural areas has utterly collapsed.

See, rural jobs used to be based around one big local business — a factory, a coal mine, etc. When it dies, the town dies. Where I grew up, it was an oil refinery closing that did us in. I was raised in the hollowed-out shell of what the town had once been. The roof of our high school leaked when it rained. Cities can make up for the loss of manufacturing jobs with service jobs — small towns cannot. That model doesn’t work below a certain population density.

If you don’t live in one of these small towns, you can’t understand the hopelessness. The vast majority of possible careers involve moving to the city, and around every city is now a hundred-foot wall called “Cost of Living.”

And if you dare complain, some liberal elite will pull out their iPad and type up a rant about your racist white privilege. Already, someone has replied to this with a comment saying, “You should try living in a ghetto as a minority!” Exactly. To them, it seems like the plight of poor minorities is only used as a club to bat away white cries for help. Meanwhile, the rate of rural white suicides and overdoses skyrockets. Shit, at least politicians act like they care about the inner cities.

The rural folk with the Trump signs in their yards say their way of life is dying, and you smirk and say what they really mean is that blacks and gays are finally getting equal rights and they hate it. But I’m telling you, they say their way of life is dying because their way of life is dying. It’s not their imagination. No movie about the future portrays it as being full of traditional families, hunters, and coal mines. Well, except for Hunger Games, and that was depicted as an apocalypse.

Hillary, meet the Deplorables.

More from David Wong at Cracked (here)

Trump Appreciation: The Wisdom of Dilbert

The insightful blog of Scott Adams (creator of Dilbert cartoons like the one above) was just referred to me by John Hultquist (many thanks). Scott has blogged for more than a year on the Trump phenomenon, and his posts provide needed perspective for those who succumbed to the media brainwashing during the campaign to defeat him.

Now that Trump will be President, many people (both those pleased Hillary lost and those wanting her to win) need to step back and take a more reasoned look at the man. Think of it as a course in Trump Appreciation.  Think of the studies in Art or Music Appreciation we took as youngsters needing a context to understand what we were hearing or seeing.

The directory of Scott’s posts (here) is very informative, as suggested by these insightful observations popping up here and there:

The Two Candidates

But something is different this year. This year we don’t have an election between two candidates that offer roughly the same outcome. This time we have a swamp-draining outsider looking to institute term limits. And this outsider has been successfully branded by his opponent as the second-coming of Hitler.

Ironically, we have the two “worst” candidates of all time, according to their favorability ratings. But those two worst candidates have given us two of the best (clearest) choices we have ever had as a country.

Sure, both candidates are flawed, but both have the capability to deliver on their main propositions. Clinton probably can give you a third term of Obama(ish) and Trump probably can drain at least some of the swamp. If you step back from the negativity of the election for a moment, you can be grateful that our Republic served up these two options. That’s how it is supposed to work.

Contrasting Leadership Styles

Clinton’s message is that we are “stronger together.” That’s true, but the message is not about you. It’s about the power of a group. And in this context, unfortunately, the “stronger together” theme has mostly served to embolden Clinton’s supporters to bully Trump supporters because there is safety in numbers. Clinton also talks about her place in history as perhaps the first woman president. But that is more about Clinton, and history, than you.

Yes, Trump is a bully, but he’s offering to provide that service on behalf of the country. When leaders do it, we call it leadership. (Think LBJ or Steve Jobs.) Trump isn’t encouraging his supporters to bully Clinton supporters. But Clinton has painted Trump and his supporters as Nazi-like deplorables, and that creates moral cover for the bullying you see all over the country against Trump supporters. It wouldn’t be a bad thing to bully a Nazi, would it? That’s the dangerous situation Clinton has created.

While Obama is out talking about his legacy, and Clinton is out talking about making history as the first woman president, Trump (the narcissist) asks for the American people’s help in draining the swamp and making America great again. That’s one heckuva contrast to end on.

Why Trump Surprised

The social bullying coming from Clinton’s supporters guaranteed that lots of Trump supporters were in hiding. That created the potential for a surprise result, so long as the race was close.

The business model of the news industry guarantees lots of “scandals” on a regular schedule. Small things get inflated to big things, and I assumed there would be plenty of them. Trump has the skill to overcome medium-sized scandals and bumps in the road.

Last year, when many observers were saying Trump was a stupid, under-informed clown, I was saying he was a Master Persuader. Pundits said he ignored facts because he didn’t know them or because he was a liar. I said he ignored facts because facts are useless for persuasion. Trump could learn lots of facts if he wanted to do so. But he knew it was a waste of time.

Readers of this blog might recall that months ago I predicted that Trump would soften his immigration proposals. That’s because I saw him from the start as a Master Persuader, not a crazy person, and not a common flip-flopper.

In my opinion, Trump might be the safest president we have ever had. He can lead the dark parts of his base toward the light (as Nixon went to China) and he has no incentive for war. Claims about his “temperament” are mostly about his penchant for insults, and that isn’t a mortal danger to anyone.

The Presidential Trump

Economies are driven by psychology. If you expect things to go well tomorrow, you invest today, which causes things to go well tomorrow, as long as others are doing the same. The best kind of president for managing the psychology of citizens – and therefore the economy – is a trained persuader. You can call that persuader a con man, a snake oil salesman, a carnival barker, or full of shit. It’s all persuasion. And Trump simply does it better than I have ever seen anyone do it.

Most of the job of president is persuasion. Presidents don’t need to understand policy minutia. They need to listen to experts and then help sell the best expert solutions to the public. Trump sells better than anyone you have ever seen, even if you haven’t personally bought into him yet. You can’t deny his persuasion talents that have gotten him this far.

Clinton’s team of cognitive scientists and professional persuaders did a terrific job of framing Trump as scary. The illusion will wear off – albeit slowly – as you observe Trump going about the job of President and taking it seriously. You can expect him to adjust his tone and language going forward. You can expect foreign leaders to say they can work with him. You can expect him to focus on unifying an exhausted and nervous country. And you can expect him to succeed in doing so. (He’s persuasive.) Watch as Trump turns to healing. You’re going to be surprised how well he does it. But give it time.

Great America

Amusement park in California.

Finally, a new day and a new beginning beyond politics as usual. For the first time in decades, the “deplorables” get their turn to ride on the carousel powered by tax dollars.  As we all know, Trump’s slogan was “Make America Great Again”, while Hillary’s boiled down to “More of the Same.”

People are going to be surprised by Trump’s presidency. The US campaign is a full-contact, blood sport. Trump showed he can get down and dirty in the trenches and duke it out. But he is a man with several personas, and we will get to watch the transformation into elected leader, statesman, national governor, and commander-in-chief.  If politics is making deals in order to get things done, then let’s see in action a man who built his wealth and reputation on “The Art of The Deal.”

No doubt there will be missteps since he has never done any of this before. But for the first time in modern US history, the presidency will be re-invented by someone not schooled in the system, and little beholden to vested political interests.

One excited millennial womon in Times Square last night (before the result): “He’s not in this because he is a politician, and not because he needs the money. He’s in it because he loves this country.”

The voting pattern will be dissected and analyzed in the days ahead. So far we know that Hillary mostly matched her poll projections while Trump surpassed his by about 4%. It may turn out that advance polls based on “likely” voters missed a constituency of angry, fed-up middle-class white males who were expected to stay home as usual, but turned out in large numbers to determine Trump’s victory. I will also be curious to see what millennials did.

US politics will be fun again. No more politicians (“adults in the room”) lecturing to us what we should think, how we should talk, who we should like and dislike, and what we should care about (e.g. “climate change is a bigger threat than radical Islam”)

Fasten your seat belts for the roller coaster ride is about to begin.

Climate Debate Is On

Senator Malcolm Roberts:

H/t Jo Nova

Finally, a public airing of empirical flaws in consensus climate science. Senator Malcolm Roberts is doing Australia and the entire world a service by applying critical intelligence to IPCC climate science as espoused by CSIRO, Australia’s climate agency.

The scientific debate between Roberts et al. and CSIRO is documented in depth for all to peruse at Climate Change – One Nation’s response to CSIRO  (here).


Senator Malcolm Roberts in his maiden speech asserted that CSIRO had no empirical evidence that human emissions of CO2 caused any significant global warming.  A meeting was arranged between CSIRO and Senator Roberts’ staff where CSIRO presented their empirical evidence.  The linked document is a detailed review of that empirical evidence and has raised many questions, as well as indicating some points of agreement.

Excerpts below with images suggest that finally we have an intensive and worthwhile debate about the state of climate science, and a reasonable assessment of uncertainties in our present levels of human understanding of climate operations. Statements and images below are only examples of the extensive commentary and numerous exhibits provided.

CSIRO: Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas.

The natural greenhouse effect makes the planet habitable: the average temperature of the earth is 33°C warmer than it would be in the absence of greenhouse gases.

The laws of physics and direct measurements confirm that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas.

Roberts: Accepted that CO2 is a Greenhouse Gas if that just means it absorbs long wave infra-red radiation.

We will not contest the use of the term greenhouse effect but are unaware of any evidence that the atmosphere behaves similarly to a physical greenhouse. Some reasons for our hesitation follow.

The Greenhouse effect, as a product of back radiation heating against the thermal gradient and in violation of Fourier’s Law, is yet to be confirmed by explicitly relevant and controlled experiment.

CSIRO: Carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere have increased.

Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have increased by more than 40% since pre-industrial times

Roberts: Accepted that CO2 levels have risen since 1800 but this benefits plants and animals.

Annual atmospheric CO2 background level from 1856 to 2008 compared to SST (Kaplan, KNMI); red line, CO2 MBL reconstruction from 1826 to 1959 (Beck 2010); CO2 1960-2008: (Mauna Loa); blue line, annual SST (Kaplan) from 1856 -2003; SST= sea surface temperature

Increase in dry weight of major crop plants when atmospheric CO2 concentrations are raised. The data presented is based on large numbers of scientific studies.

CSIRO: The extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere comes from human activities.

CO2 in the atmosphere has increased as human emissions have increased (the two are correlated).

Roberts: It is accepted that much of the recent extra CO2 probably comes from human activities but the CSIRO evidence does not seem to support the implied certainty.

These estimates of CO2 sinks are not empirical evidence and will more likely be revised as more data comes in from the Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2 satellite system

Deriving an average CO2 concentration for the whole world may be as controversial as the temperature average.

CSIRO: The additional carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere by human activities has enhanced the greenhouse effect: less energy is leaving the top of the atmosphere in the wavelengths absorbed by carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Roberts: The evidence provided doesn’t seem to support the stated conclusion.

The IRIS instrument was 1970 and the IMG instrument 1997. There is only the slightest change in methane and no significant change in CO2. [link]. This would seem be be empirical evidence that CO2 has no effect on brightness temperature.

Decadal variations in atmospheric water vapor.

Even a two percent variation in atmospheric water vapor will equal the total amount of supposed greenhouse effect of all human CO2 production.

CSIRO: The earth has warmed.

Graph: Global Surface temperature vs Time 1900 – 2015 increasing 1°C per century

Roberts: independent replication of experiment, observation and analysis is a vital part of the scientific method.

Maximum temperature is generally considered a better measure of regional temp variability and this allows better comparison with the following graph.

A trend of 0.44°C per century is indicated.
The reanalysis tried to be free of arbitrary adjustments and the trend per century was reduced from 0.88°C to 0.44°C.  The methodology of the reanalysis is explained in the attachment to this point.

CSIRO Graph: Ocean Heat Content increasing since 1975

Roberts: Accepted that the earth has warmed since the Little Ice Age but is still cooler than the Roman Warm Period and much cooler than the Holocene Thermal Maximum.

Pacific Ocean Heat Content is at the lowest for 8,000 years

We show that water masses linked to North Pacific and Antarctic intermediate waters were warmer by 2.1°C and 1.5°C, respectively, during the middle Holocene Thermal Maximum than over the past century. Both water masses were ~0.9°C warmer during the Medieval Warm period than during the Little Ice Age and ~0.65° warmer than in recent decades.”

CSIRO: Observed changes in the climate system are consistent with an enhanced greenhouse effect. Other forcings (e.g. volcanoes, the sun, internal variability) cannot explain the magnitude, timing and distribution of observed trends.

Roberts:  While there is strong correlation between CO2 and temperature when looking at the four last ice ages, CO2 does not appear to lead temperature. Looking at shorter timescales the correlation disappears and in the short satellite age data there appears to be no correlation with any greenhouse effect, enhanced or otherwise.

CO2 and temperature swings post 1850 show some correlation and some divergence

CO2 and temperature swings in the satellite age show little short term correlation

El Nino temperatures correlate well with satellite temperatures

CSIRO: Models can reproduce the record of global averaged temperature if we include the effects of increased greenhouse gas forcing, but cannot do so with natural forcings alone.

Roberts: It is the model predictions that seem to be inconsistent with the observed changes which rather disqualifies the models as a basis for expensive action.

Only the Russian model INM-CM4.0 can approximately reproduce the record of global averaged temperatures since 1977.

Summary — On the topic of dangerous warming from fossil fuel emissions

MR: Well, Greg Hunt – and I’m looking at Alex here, not for an explanation but just to emphasise that Greg Hunt in particular has said that his climate policies rely entirely on the CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology and the IPCC. And so he’s saying, we will end up in danger unless we do something to cut the use of hydrocarbon fuels. And so, if he relies upon the CSIRO’s advice, is that where he’s getting his imminent danger from?
CSIRO said that the interpretation of danger is up to the Australian public, and the Minister

MR: So, the Minister has drawn those conclusions. ….. independent of the CSIRO. You’ve presented him with the temperature changes and the causal analysis and he’s gone: Oh my God, we’ve got to do something.
CSIRO said it’s probably best to ask the Minister if he’s done that.

MR: Okay.
Ministerial Adviser indicated that the Minister would be happy to have a conversation about that and advised that’s definitely a conversation for the Minister not for the CSIRO.

MR: Sure. Okay. So, the CSIRO just presents the data and leaves the policy decisions to the Ministers?
CSIRO confirmed that is correct.



El Nino’s Hottest Year

With just 2 months to go, it could well be that 2016 replaces 1998 as the “hottest year ever.” With the Pacific Blob only now dissipated, and La Nina delaying her appearance, it is becoming likely that the inevitable cooling will come only next year. That may result in an annual GMT surpassing 1998 in the satellite record.

Fossil fuel activists and consensus climate scientists will claim this proves CO2 is causing global warming, but knowledgeable people know they are once again dissing the Ocean in order to push their agenda.

Actual data, rather than computer models, show that ocean oscillations, not CO2 have produced the bulk of warming in the temperature record. ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) produces sea surface temperature anomalies (SSTa) resulting in most of the variability in global averages.

Climatists will blame the rise on so-called “greenhouse gases” asserting several unproven notions:

  • CO2 induces atmospheric warming which raises SSTs;
  • Higher SSTs increase evaporation and clouds that trap LW radiation, thereby further raising surface temperatures;
  • ENSO warming and cooling cycles cancel out each other leaving CO2 as the sole warming agent.

As the final results for 2016 come in, expect the media to bombard the masses with declarations along these lines. The purpose of this post is inoculation (like a flu shot) to protect against the feverish reporting ahead.

How El Nino Affects Surface Temperatures

Roy Spencer and William Braswell looked at the data in their 2014 published article (here)
The Role of ENSO in Global Ocean Temperature Changes during 1955-2011

Roy Spencer May 13, 2014 on WUWT (here):

Based on global area-average ocean signatures, the observational evidence regarding the *global oceanic* signature of El Nino is this:

1) El Nino involves a decrease in the overturning in the 0-200 m layer, which leads to warming of the upper 100 m and cooling of the 100-200m layer. We calculate this is 2/3 of the source of surface warming.

2)El Nino surface warmth is partly driven by a decrease in cloud cover letting more sunlight in…This is 1/3 of the surface warming, and it also appears to contribute to longer-term deep ocean warming if there are stronger El Ninos and weaker La Ninas than average..

In the same thread Bob Tisdale comments:

ENSO impacts when and where sunlight reaches the surface of the oceans and penetrates into the oceans. . . ENSO also impacts how energy is released from the oceans to the atmosphere which further impacts the energy balance.

Keep in mind that the majority (about 90%) of the heat released from the ocean is through evaporation. During an El Nino, more of the surface of the tropical Pacific is covered with warm water, which yields more evaporation. And the opposite holds true during a La Nina.

Ocean Heat Also Rises

When there are super-El Nino years such as 1998 and 2016, climatists insist on attributing warming to fossil fuel emissions. Obsessed with CO2 and radiative energy flows, they are unable to see and affirm this oceanic climate driver. An extended discussion at Climate Etc. (here) included a series of comments by Kristian that provide a synopsis of El Nino’s role in global warming.

This is what the data consistently shows: surface temps up (or down) > tropospheric temps up (or down) > OLR at ToA up (or down).

This is how the heat from the sun actually flows through the earth system. Surface warms first, then the troposphere, then, as a consequence of this, the radiative output to space increases. There is NO observational evidence anywhere for the opposite process to occur: OLR at ToA down >tropospheric temps up > surface temps up.

Radiatively active gases in the atmosphere do not enable it to WARM. It would’ve warmed with or without them, simply by being directly convectively coupled with the solar-heated surface. This connection is never broken as long as there is air present, a gravity field and sunshine heating the surface.

Radiatively active gases, however, DO enable the atmosphere to adequately COOL to space. Because this can only be done through radiation.

So an atmosphere without radiatively active gases would still WARM from the surface up, but wouldn’t be able to adequately COOL to space.

It’s not the so-called ‘GHGs’ that trap the surface heat. It’s the 99.5% of the atmosphere NOT being significantly radiatively active at ‘earthly’ temperatures that would do that. Because this part can STILL be warmed conductively, convectively and latently, but it can’t to any real extent radiate it away again.

ENSO Discharges and Recharges Ocean Heat Content

Image: La Niña is characterized by unusually cold ocean temperatures in the central equatorial Pacific. The colder than normal water is depicted in this image in blue. During a La Niña stronger than normal trade winds bring cold water up to the surface of the ocean. Credit: NASA

Image: La Niña is characterized by unusually cold ocean temperatures in the central equatorial Pacific. The colder than normal water is depicted in this image in blue. During a La Niña stronger than normal trade winds bring cold water up to the surface of the ocean. Credit: NASA

As a rule of thumb, El Niños cause global warming but drain global heat (actually, ‘energy’) content. El Niño: global surface/troposphere temps UP, global internal energy DOWN.

Why the distinction? Because most of the stored-up (solar) energy of the earth system is to be found at depth in the oceans, that is, AWAY FROM the surface. What an El Niño does is to pull a significant amount of this energy up from its hiding place in the deep and instead spreads it out across a huge area on the surface, raising its temperature in the process, laying the energy bare, so to speak, to be lost from the ocean to the atmosphere (and ultimately to space) through evaporation (deep/moist convection) and conduction. Radiation also occurs but to a much lesser degree.

So, the depths of the ocean – well, basically of the IPWP (the Indo-Pacific Warm Pool) – is drained of energy during an El Niño, it ‘cools’, while the surface in the tropics of the Central and East Pacific (where the NINO3.4 region is located), warms up immensely, the SST here shoots up.

Following this significant tropical Central and East Pacific surface warming, the troposphere above it warms from the vastly increased transfer and freeing of latent heat. The warming of the tropical Pacific also affects the atmospheric circulation over the rest of the tropics through so-called ‘atmospheric bridges’, indirectly inducing a lagged warming also in the Atlantic and Indian ocean basins.

From the tropics/subtropics, part of the El Niño released ocean heat is then transported (mostly via the atmosphere) out to the extratropics, eventually ending up in the polar regions (well, in reality it mostly ends up in the Arctic, not in the Antarctic, the reason being a profound difference between northern and southern hemisphere extratropical circulation.)

The massive amount of energy released onto the world during an El Niño event is neither generated by nor absorbed during the event itself. The energy of course originally came from the sun and it was stored up during the La Niña normally preceding the El Niño.

It’s the La Niñas (and often also during neutral ENSO conditions, much more resembling the cool events than the warm events) that builds ‘global heat content’. They soak up the solar energy and store it at depth. The El Niños subsequently release it again.

Global Warming Since 1970 Due to Major El Ninos

Since 1970 we have seen four ENSO sequences where a strong and solitary El Niño is surrounded by (preceded AND succeeded by) La Niña-events. In each sequence, the storing up of energy during the often extended/prolonged La Niña periods has far outdone the energy depletion during the strong, but mostly short El Niño-events.

1. During the period 1970-76 only one year saw an El Niño (1972/73). The rest of the years, 1970-72 and 1973-76, were mostly La Niña-dominated.

2. During the period 1983-89, two years back-to-back saw El Niño-conditions (1986-88). The years 1983-86 saw either cold neutral or La Niña-conditions and the year 1988/89 saw one of the strongest La Niñas of modern history.

3. During the period 1995-2001 only one year saw an El Niño (1997/98). The rest of the years, 1995-97 and 1998-2001, were mostly La Niña-dominated.

4. During the period 2007-14 only one year saw an El Niño (2009/10). The rest of the years, 2007-09 and 2010-14, were mostly La Niña-dominated.

5. Beginning in 2015 another major El Nino event occurred, peaking mid 2016.  From past experience, we expect a La Nina to follow in coming months.  Over the next few years it will be evident whether or not a new step level results from this event.

The periods in between these sequences of clustered distinct cool and warm ENSO events, 1976-83, 1989-95 and 2001-07, were all neutral to warmish, with much smaller variations from the mean state and prominently without any clear extended cold events, lacking the strength to create a global signal.

El Nino temperatures correlate well with satellite global temperatures


The oceans are not some passive reservoir where the solar energy just comes and goes as it wants and always in complete balance. No, they are quite dynamic and the absorbed energy is held back or is released, according to their own internal processes. If the climatic conditions (the coupled ocean/atmosphere system) in the Pacific basin are such that they promote net storage of solar energy over several decades, well, then that is what will happen. Quite naturally. That doesn’t mean that these conditions will prevail forever.

We KNOW that large-scale and fairly abrupt climate shifts occur in the (pan-)Pacific basin at certain intervals. In fact, there has been no additional global warming OUTSIDE of these sudden hikes, from 1970 till today. That means, the ENTIRE modern global warming seen since 1970 is contained within the steps up during the Great Pacific Climate Shift of the late 70s and the two following ones in 1988/89 and 1998/99.

The ENTIRE modern global warming is found in these three sudden hikes alone, all occurring within the time-span of less than a year.

El Nino Spreads Warming From Sea to Sea

How did global warming progress from 1975/76 to 2001/02? Follow the data. No preconceived ideas about mechanisms.

First of all, there is no question that there is a definite East Pacific signal plastered all over the global temperature series. Compare with NINO3.4:


In fact, global temperatures tend to lag NINO3.4 SSTa by several months. And everyone knows that this particular correlation also speaks causation. Not just from the consistent and tight lead-lag relation, but from the thoroughly explicated oceanic/atmospheric mechanisms by which we know the large-scale and integrated ENSO process creates global warming and cooling. I’m talking here about the major swings up and down that we see all along from 1970 till today.

What went on in 1978/79, in 1988 and in 1998? What was so special about these three short time segments? Why is the ENTIRE ‘modern global warming’ contained within them?

Bob Tisdale:
Those upward shifts are the long-term responses to the discharge phases of ENSO that occurs during strong El Niños. As part of the discharge phase of ENSO, the El Niño takes warm water from below the surface of the western tropical Pacific and places it on the surface (warm water that was created by the increased sunlight during the prior recharging La Niña). The discharged warm water floods into the East Pacific, where it temporarily raises sea surface temperatures during the El Niño, but causes little long-term trend there.

And at the end of the El Niño, the warm water is redistributed by the renewed trade winds, ocean currents and the downwelling Rossby wave into the West Pacific, Indian Ocean and eventually the South Atlantic. The East Pacific represents about 33% of the surface of the global oceans, and the South Atlantic-Indian-West Pacific covers another 52%. That leaves the North Atlantic, which has another mode of natural variability called the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. The Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, according to NOAA, can contribute to or suppress global warming. And so far, the only global surface warming we’ve seen was in the South Atlantic-Indian-West Pacific subset and that warming was caused by discharge of sunlight-created warm water released from below the surface of the West Pacific Warm Pool during El Niño events.

For data on ocean-air heat exchanges see: Empirical Evidence: Oceans Make Climate



Carbon Recycling

Clive Best has done a great (the Best?) post on a complicated topic: Earth’s cycling of carbon, especially CO2 through natural sinks and sources, including humans burning fossil fuels. I have read many posts and papers on this, along with long argumentative threads, hoping against hope I could understand and write something half as clear as he has done.

The article is Carbon Recyling at his blog (here)

Some Excerpts to encourage you to go and read the whole thing:

If you sum up all the sources and sinks then you find that about half man-made emissions are being absorbed each year. That means that only about half of the CO2 emitted by humans remains in the atmosphere. The strange thing is that this ratio hasn’t changed at all in 50 years, despite rapid increases in emissions.

Today we are emitting about twice as much carbon dioxide as we did 30 years ago, yet only half of it survives a full year. That means that currently, an amount of carbon dioxide equal to the total annual emissions of 30 years ago is being absorbed each year. Why is this and what does it mean? Part of the answer lies with the greening of the earth, but far more importantly the answer lies in how the oceans are responding.

There are 3 independent Carbon cycles which in total must balance.
1. Dissolution/Absorption of CO2 at  Ocean surfaces.
2. Biological re-cycling of CO2
3. Geological re-cycling of CO2

Increasing the carbon dioxide concentration of the atmosphere therefore causes the oceans to take up (inhale) more carbon dioxide. Because the oceans surface layer mixes slowly with the deep ocean (hundreds of years) the increased carbon dioxide content of the surface ocean will be mixed very slowly into the large carbon reservoir of the deep ocean. The rate of our adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere is too fast for the deep ocean to be a significant reservoir. So as the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere rises, so too does the concentration in the ocean surface.

The total mass of living plants and animals and carbon in soil, at any given time represents a temporary store of carbon. This is comparable to the mass of CO2 in the atmosphere. Life thrives in warmer climates with higher CO2 levels and suffers during colder more arid glacial periods with  low CO2.

SiO2 and CaCO3 are insoluble and will settle to the ocean floor where they are moved by plate tectonics to subduction zones, carried deep into the Earth and heated converting them back into metamorphic rocks and releasing carbon dioxide. When these rocks and their associated carbon encounter Volcanic eruptions or Mid Ocean vents they return the CO2 to the atmosphere, thus ending the cycle.

Just how confident  are climate scientists that they really understand the carbon cycle? Can they, for example, explain why lower levels of CO2 occurred during ice ages? This is what AR5 says on the matter.

AR5: “All of the major drivers of the glacial-to-interglacial atmospheric CO2 changes (Figure 6.5) are likely to have already been identified. However, Earth System Models have been unable to reproduce the full magnitude of the glacial-to-interglacial CO2 changes. Significant uncertainties exist in glacial boundary conditions and on some of the primary controls on carbon storage in the ocean and in the land. These uncertainties prevent an unambiguous attribution of individual mechanisms as controllers of the low glacial CO2 concentrations.”

So the simple answer is no they don’t really understand the carbon cycle. Nor can they determine why CO2 levels in the atmosphere are naturally so low at <0.03%. A proper understanding of the carbon cycle should at least be able to determine why 280ppm is the natural level for today’s climate. I think this is the fundamental challenge for Carbon Cycle modellers.


In my opinion the BERN model has a logical flaw. It assumes that a fixed 22% of the Anthropogenic increase in CO2 will remain in the atmosphere for hundreds of thousands of years, waiting for  geological weathering – but why would it?  What possible justification is there to image that  it is a fixed percentage,  independent of amplitude?

It is only when the partial pressures of carbon dioxide between the atmosphere and the ocean re-balances that a new ‘geological’ balance of CO2 be reached. That happens rather fast and the net increase is small compared to glacial cycle variations, which as we have seen, climate scientists don’t yet understand.
See Also  Carbon Sense and Nonsense (Viv Forbes), and
Much Ado about CO2 (Murry Salby)



October Arctic Ice Report and Outlook


Imagery date refers to Google Earth capture of land forms. MASIE ice extent for October 31, 2016 is displayed. Click to zoom in.

After showing resilience in September, Arctic ice growth faltered in October. The graph shows MASIE ice extents in 2016 in comparison with other years and with SII.


Last year was above average recovery, while both SII and MASIE showed October 2016 well below average, and dropping down to 2007 levels.  Interestingly, MASIE and SII show virtually the same October average extent at 6.1M km2. This amount is 10% below the MASIE Oct. ten-year average, but that figure is 21% below SII ten-year average for Oct.

6.1M km2 is still higher than 2007 by 260k km2 despite the slower recovery this year. There is an anomaly in the 2007 record: a leap of almost 800k km2 on day 303, including E. Siberian Sea adding 460k km2 to more than double its ice extent on that day. Kara also jumped up 50% adding 100k km2. More about those two seas below.

The table shows by region the differences from ten-year MASIE averages for day 305, October 31.

Region 2016305 Day 305 Average 2016-Ave.
 (0) Northern_Hemisphere 7283405 8865912 -1582506
 (1) Beaufort_Sea 769445 998163 -228718
 (2) Chukchi_Sea 276157 506472 -230315
 (3) East_Siberian_Sea 600113 1001404 -401291
 (4) Laptev_Sea 897773 897591 182
 (5) Kara_Sea 162641 559477 -396837
 (6) Barents_Sea 24522 120163 -95641
 (7) Greenland_Sea 319983 446472 -126489
 (8) Baffin_Bay_Gulf_of_St._Lawrence 262586 260072 2514
 (9) Canadian_Archipelago 728911 782867 -53956
 (10) Hudson_Bay 76561 90864 -14303
 (11) Central_Arctic 3155443 3190140 -34696

Clearly in the table and in the image at the top, ice is missing mostly in the BCE region on the Asian side (Beaufort, Chukchi, E. Siberian) and in Kara and Barents on the European side.

What’s Up with Arctic Ice

For some answers let’s turn first to Dr. Judah Cohen of AER.  His analysis is thorough and interesting (here).  Excerpts:

Arctic sea ice reached its annual minimum on September 10th. Despite an initial spurt of ice growth, overall Arctic sea ice has been expanding at an anemic rate. One area to note on the North Atlantic side is in the Barents-Kara Seas, where negative sea ice anomalies have been growing (Figure 13). Recent research has shown that regional anomalies are important and the sea ice region most highly correlated with the winter AO is the Barents-Kara seas region where low Arctic sea ice favors a negative winter AO. Given that sea ice is running well below normal, this currently favors further expansion Eurasian snow cover in the coming weeks, followed by a strengthened Siberian high and a weakened polar vortex/negative AO this upcoming winter.

Sea ice anomalies also remain well below normal in the East Siberian, Chukchi and Beaufort seas. This could favor positive geopotential height anomalies near Alaska forcing downstream troughing and cold weather across eastern North America.

Additional context is provided by Ted Scambos in an article at Discover Magazine (here).  Excerpts below.

An animation of satellite images shows differences in sea ice in the Beaufort Sea off Alaska’s coast between Oct. 14, 2014 and Oct. 12, 2016. The first image, captured by the Terra satellite in 2014, shows extensive snow cover around Alaska’s Brooks Range (to the left), and sea ice forming offshore. The second image, from the Aqua satellite in 2016, shows the same region — mostly snow- and ice-free. (Images: NASA Worldview. Animation: Tom Yulsman)

An animation of satellite images shows differences in sea ice in the Beaufort Sea off Alaska’s coast between Oct. 14, 2014 and Oct. 12, 2016. The first image, captured by the Terra satellite in 2014, shows extensive snow cover around Alaska’s Brooks Range (to the left), and sea ice forming offshore. The second image, from the Aqua satellite in 2016, shows the same region — mostly snow- and ice-free. (Images: NASA Worldview. Animation: Tom Yulsman)

Arctic sea ice has been been growing much more slowly than average during October. Its geographic extent is now in a rough tie with 2007 and 2012 for the lowest in the satellite record for this point in the year.

According to Ted Scambos, a senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center, two big Arctic storms in August contributed significantly to the very low minimum extent in September. They probably did this by “breaking up the ice and stirring a trace of warmth up from deeper levels (5-10 meters below the surface),” Scambos says.

Not too long after the storminess subsided, the surface water refroze fairly quickly, accounting for the rapid expansion of sea ice after the low point in September sea ice

That rapid freeze-up happened in the heart of the Arctic Ocean, where temperatures would normally be coldest. Meanwhile, more at the periphery — particularly in the Barents, Kara and Laptev seas — “the ice edge has barely changed,” says Julienne Stroeve, who also serves as a senior research scientist at NSIDC.

Sea ice has expanded somewhat in the Beaufort Sea, off Alaska’s north coast. But the edge is still far short of the long term average in the region.

Arctic Oscillation Index (relative air pressures) hovered around neutral before dropping strongly negative mid Oct., about when ice growth stalled.

Why has Arctic sea ice been growing so slowly in the past couple of weeks? Once again, Scambos thinks the warm sea surface temperatures that have been retarding ice growth also have been warming the air directly above the water. 

“It is not surprising that it is extremely warm in the weeks following near-record minimums [in sea ice extent], because open water beneath the atmosphere buffers the air temperature at near the freezing point for several weeks until several centimeters of ice are formed,” Scambos says. “In this case, I would say that the high air temperature anomaly is an effect, not a cause, of slow sea ice growth, and that the leading cause is ocean temperature.”

What’s the Winter Outlook

Dr. Judah Cohen provides his seasonal forecast here.

Snow cover advance across Eurasia continued consistently above normal for the entire month of October. Also because much of the advance has occurred at latitudes south of 60°N, the snow advance index is also well above normal. Above normal snow cover extent, especially south of 60°N, favors a strengthened Siberian high and a weakened polar vortex/negative AO this upcoming winter with cold temperatures across the continents of the NH.

Predicted winter surface temperature anomalies for the United States Dec-Jan-Feb 2016/17 in degrees Fahrenheit. The model is forecasting colder than normal temperatures for much of the Eastern United States, with warmer than normal temperatures for the Western United States. The model uses October Siberian snow cover, sea level pressure anomalies, predicted El Niño/Southern Oscillation anomalies, and observed September Arctic sea ice anomalies. October Siberian snow cover has so far this month advanced at an above normal rate. This is an indication of an increased probability of a weakened polar vortex or a sudden stratospheric warming, and a predominantly negative Arctic Oscillation during the winter and cold temperatures – especially east of the Mississippi. This is a preliminary forecast and not the official winter forecast as the model requires full monthly values for snow cover and sea level pressure anomalies. The forecast will be updated next month. Current forecast produced on October 19, 2016.


Both Cohen and Scambos explanations are consistent with the lack of ice both in BCE on the Asian side (Beaufort, Chukchi, E. Siberian), and in Kara and Barents on the European side.

Warm ocean water reduces ice extents, the air is warmed and moistened, and then snowfall increases. The conditions for winter ice formation are shaping up, though somewhat later than usual, perhaps because of August storm activity.

Lastly, it’s important to realize that two weeks is a short period of time, and Arctic sea ice could start forming up at a more normal rate for this time of year. In fact, that’s what Scambos predicts: “Now I expect that sea ice growth will take a more typical path (typical for the past 5-8 years, at least).”

One more time: Remember the 3 Ws when it comes to Arctic ice extents.  Firstly it’s the Water, and then the Wind circulation, and the Weather.  Air temperatures are an effect not the cause.

For more on this see:

Arctic Sea Ice: Self-Oscillating System

Arctic Not a Refrigerator

Petroleum Age Just Beginning

Activists often say to stop burning fossil fuels now because we will run out soon anyway. In fact, we are only starting to tap into such fuel resources. From the Scientific American blog (here):

The Age of Cheap Oil and Natural Gas Is Just Beginning

We believe the period of excessively high oil prices has come to an end. The international spread of two revolutions will assure much ampler oil supplies, and will deliver prices far below the highs that reigned between the end of 2010 and mid-2014.

Beginning less than a decade ago, the shale revolution – a result of technological breakthroughs in horizontal drilling and fracking – has turned the long run declining oil production trends in the US into rises of 88% from 2008 to 2015. Despite current low prices and the damage done to profits, an exceedingly high rate of productivity improvements in this relatively new industry promises to strengthen the competitiveness of shale output even further.

A series of environmental problems related to shale exploitation have been identified, most of which are likely to be successfully handled as the infant, “wild west” industry matures and as environmental regulation is introduced and sharpened.

Geologically, the US does not stand out in terms of shale resources. A very incomplete global mapping suggests a US shale oil share of no more than 17% of a huge geological wealth, widely geographically spread. Given the mainly non-proprietary shale technology and the many advantages accruing to the producing nations, it is inevitable that the revolution will spread beyond the US.

We have assessed the prospects of non-US shale oil output in 2035, positing that the rest of the world will by then exploit its shale resources as successfully as the US has done in the revolution’s first ten years. This would yield rest of world output of 20 million barrels per day in 2035, which is similar to the global rise of all oil production in the preceding 20 years – a stunning increase with far-reaching implications in many fields.

Another related revolution is beginning to see the light of the day, but news about it has barely reached the media. It is being gradually realized that advancements in horizontal drilling and fracking, technologies normally associated with shale, can also be applied to fuller extraction from conventional, but old and tired, oil fields. If the rest of the world applies these techniques to conventional oil, as the US has done in recent years, this would yield a further addition of conventional oil amounting to 20 million barrels per day by 2035.

By Marian Radetzki, Roberto F. Aguilera on May 3, 2016
“The views expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of Scientific American”  (Anyone surprised? At least they allowed publication)

Historical Background

Dr. David Deming provides the historical context (here)

Peak Oil is the theory that the production history of petroleum follows a symmetrical bell-shaped curve. Once the curve peaks, decline is inevitable. The theory is commonly invoked to justify the development of alternative energy sources that are allegedly renewable and sustainable.

It’s time to consign Peak Oil theory to the dust bin of history. The flaw of the theory is that it assumes the amount of a resource is a static number determined solely by geological factors. But the size of an exploitable resource also depends upon price and technology. These factors are difficult to predict.

The U.S. oil industry began in 1859 when Edwin Drake hired blacksmith Billy Smith to drill a 69-foot-deep well. Subsequent technological advances have opened up resources beyond the limits of our ancestors’ imaginations. We can drill offshore in water up to 8,000 feet deep. We have enhanced recovery techniques, horizontal drilling and four-dimensional seismic imaging. Oklahoma oilman Harold Hamm is turning North Dakota into Saudi Arabia by using hydraulic fracturing technology. U.S. oil production has reversed its 40-year decline. By the year 2020, it is anticipated that the U.S. will be the world’s top oil producer.

Share of Fuels in the Global Energy Mix Across Modern History

Nine years ago, I predicted that the age of petroleum has only just begun. I was right. The Peak Oil theorists, the malthusians and the environmentalists were all wrong. They’ve been proven wrong, over and over again, for decades. A tabulation of every failed prediction of resource exhaustion would fill a library.

Sustainability is a chimera. No energy source has been, or ever will be, sustainable. In the 11th century, Europeans anticipated the industrial revolution by transforming their society from dependence on human and animal power to water power. In the 18th century, water power was superseded by steam engines fired by burning wood. Coal replaced wood, and oil and gas have now largely supplanted coal. In the far distant future we’ll probably use some type of nuclear power. But for at least the next hundred years, oil will remain our primary energy source because it’s abundant, inexpensive and reliable.


Petroleum is the lifeblood of our industrial economy. The U.S. economy will remain stagnant and depressed until we begin to aggressively develop our native energy resources. As Hamm has said, “We can do this.” What’s stopping us isn’t geology. What’s stopping us is ignorance and bad public policy.

Deming is a geologist with a Ph.D in geophysics  and an associate professor of arts and sciences at the University of Oklahoma.