Willie Soon, trained as an Aerospace Engineer, has been acclaimed among climate deniers as a new Galileo of climatology. And an expert on Polar Bear Biology.  As yet he has not announced a cure for AIDs of the common cold, like his research colleague, “Lord” Monckton.
(In Denier-ville it’s good to do double duty, as their numbers are shrinking rapidly..)

You can see Gavin Schmidt’s take on the science elsewhere on this page, but then there’s a more human response.

Willie Soon is ideologically correct, I’m sure that gets him a lot of gigs.  But he’s just not very bright. And he assumes, with good evidence, that his audience is likewise.
Below, Adam Frank relates the same kind of reaction I’ve had when meeting with supposedly fierce climate deniers.
Is this the best they’ve got?

Astrophysicist Adam Frank for NPR:

…let’s review a little background about Soon. First, he is not an astrophysicist or a climate scientist. He holds a degree in aerospace engineering. What really matters, though, is that Soon is a climate skeptic with a Ph.D (from University of Southern California in 1991.) That makes him extremely valuable to the forces of climate denial. Soon is often a speaker at conferences focusing on climate doubt — and he’s been invited to testify before Congress.

When it was announced that Soon was giving a talk at the University of Rochester, I knew it would be interesting. I was more than willing to hear what the man had to say. The whole point of being a scientist is, after all, to try to leave your preconceptions at the door and let the work speak for itself. I also wanted to understand Soon’s own thinking about the role he was playing as a public skeptic.

On all counts I was disappointed.

Taken as nothing more than a scientific talk, Dr. Soon’s presentation was, in my opinion, pretty bad. I watch a lot of these things. It’s part of my job. If Soon had been giving a Ph.D defense, he would have been skewered. I was left without a clear line of argument or clear justifications for his claims. More importantly, for a topic this contentious there was insufficient discussion of the voluminous and highly detailed response critics have offered to his claims that solar activity accounts for most observed climate variability. Many of my colleagues listening to the talk said they felt the same way. I came away thinking, “Is that the best they have?”

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As many will have read, there were a number of press reports (NYT, Guardian, InsideClimate) about the non-disclosure of Willie Soon’s corporate funding (from Southern Company (an energy utility), Koch Industries, etc.) when publishing results in journals that require such disclosures. There are certainly some interesting questions to be asked (by the OIG!) about adherence to the Smithsonian’s ethics policies, and the propriety of Smithsonian managers accepting soft money with non-disclosure clauses attached.

However, a valid question is whether the science that arose from these funds is any good? It’s certainly conceivable that Soon’s work was too radical for standard federal research programs and that these energy companies were really taking a chance on blue-sky high risk research that might have the potential to shake things up. In such a case, someone might be tempted to overlook the ethical lapses and conflicts of interest for the sake of scientific advancement (though far too many similar post-hoc justifications have been used to excuse horrific unethical practices for this to be remotely defendable).

Unfortunately, the evidence from the emails and the work itself completely undermines that argument because the work and the motivation behind it are based on a scientific fallacy.

Putting aside papers where Soon was only a minor contributing author, and the hopelessly slanted ‘forecasting principles’ papers with Green and Armstrong (see here for why they add nothing to the discussion), most of Soon’s work has been related to finding correlations of a very specific solar reconstruction (see figure below) to some observational time-series. There are very real criticisms that can be made of the solar forcing time-series he uses, and of course, of the cherry picking of specific time-series without mentioning that correlations to others (such as the global mean) are very low, but even accepting all that, there is a much more fundamental problem.

It is most succinctly highlighted in an article Soon wrote ‘It’s the Sun, stupid’ (not sure if it was ever really published anywhere, but he did send it to his contacts at Koch Industries). Towards the end he states:

The evidence in my paper is consistent with the hypothesis that the Sun causes climatic change in the Arctic.

It invalidates the hypothesis that CO2 is a major cause of observed climate change – and raises serious questions about the wisdom of imposing cap-and-trade or other policies that would cripple energy production and economic activity, in the name of “preventing catastrophic climate change.”

It is the leap from the first to second sentence that drives Soon’s research – the notion that if you can find enough correlations to solar forcing, the impact of CO2 must be diminished, if not obliterated altogether. But this is a fallacy. It is equivalent to arguing that if total caloric intake correlates to weight, that exercise can have no effect, or that if cloudiness correlates to incident solar radiation at the ground, then seasonal variations in sunshine are zero. The existence of one physical factor affecting a variable in a complex system says nothing whatsoever about the potential for another physical factor to affect that same variable.

Even if the correlations existed at the level Soon claims (and they don’t – see figure), it would still not indicate that CO2 had zero effect, and indeed, it could never do so. The impacts of CO2 on radiative transfer have been studied since the 1860s, and modern spectroscopic databases date to Air Force calculations for heat seeking missiles in the 1950s and have been validated by an enormous number of observations, both in situ and via remote sensing. The vertical fingerprint of the impact of increasing CO2 (warming troposphere, cooling stratosphere) was calculated in 1967 by [2], decades before it was observed. None of this science disappears because a regional temperature series correlates for some short time with something else.

Figure 1. Updating the Soon (2005) correlations by correcting for an obsolete and almost certainly incorrect solar reconstruction (replacing with the SORCE reconstruction) and extending the temperature data to the present, shows an almost complete collapse of the initially impressive correlation (click for larger version). – See more at: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2015/02/the-soon-fallacy/#sthash.OZQWkudc.dpuf (click for larger)


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Wall Street Journal:

PARIS—Engineering firm Areva SA said it expects its 2014 net loss to widen to about €4.9 billion, or $5.6 billion, from a year earlier, as delays to a reactor project in Finland and low demand for nuclear projects continue to hammer the company.

The French firm’s latest profit warning follows three successive years of reported losses stemming from delays to a nuclear reactor project in Finland and a big write-off after a mine acquisition went sour. The company was also hampered by the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan, when many utilities shelved or delayed plans for nuclear power plant construction.

Areva, which is 85%-owned by the French state, on Monday said preliminary financial information shows a full-year net loss of about €4.9 billion, compared with a loss of €494 million in 2013. The estimated loss is bigger than Areva’s current market capitalization of about €3.7 billion, raising speculation as to whether the French state will need to inject capital into the company.

French Energy Minister Ségolène Royal said Monday that she wants Areva to find synergies with state-controlled power utility Électricité de France SA and the state Commission for Atomic Energy. “I want the creation of a French nuclear team that would position itself on international markets to win contracts,” she said.

Financial Times:

Areva has been hit by cost overruns on its flagship Finnish Olkiluoto 3 reactor, which is due to come online in 2018, 10 years behind schedule. The project has so far been the subject of €3.9bn of impairment charges — with analysts expecting more writedowns at the group’s full-year results.

In a statement on Monday, Areva, which has a 10 per cent stake in the Hinkley Point nuclear project in the UK, said its 2014 impairment charges were also related to its new French uranium conversion plant Comurhex II.

The company also warned of further provisions on renewable energies contracts, having already incurred charges of €373m on its discontinued solar business.

Areva declined to comment on a possible state bailout. People close to the matter said a rescue package had not been finalised.

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“Slick Willie” Soon, climate Denial Darling, has been taking some lumps in the media this week, and well deserved.
Documents released in a Freedom of Information action showed that Soon classified his scientific work as a “deliverable” for corporate clients, who are responsible for all of his income.

Rising to his defense, the rabid right, and Roger Pielke Jr., famous for his pseudo-scientific presentations to congress poo-pooing climate impacts.  Pielke says Congressional Testimony, like climate denial pseudo science, is, in fact, a “deliverable”.

There has been pushback.


Obama Vetoes Keystone Bill

February 24, 2015

NBC weatherman in conversation with Larry King. He gets it.


Popular Science:

In fact, according a recent report from the National Climate Data Center, this has been the sixth warmest winter on record. That’s bad news for businesses like ski resorts, who rely on snow and cold weather. But while ski resorts can get a helping hand from snow machines, other places aren’t quite so fortunate. In Alaska, warm temperatures and a lack of snow on the ground forced the Iditarod to move its starting point from Willow, Alaska, to Fairbanks, 300 miles to the north.*

WGRZ Buffalo:

Professor Stephen Vermette coordinates the Meteorology and Climatology Program at SUNY Buffalo State. He says we can blame these extreme weather patterns on the jet stream.

“It’s been stuck in place and that’s week after week after week, especially February we’ve been getting some very cold temperatures while places like Montana and Idaho and California, even Alaska, are getting much warmer temperatures,” he says.


Vermette says more than four-thousand warm temperature records have been set out west just this month alone. But on our side of the map, there have been about 250 cold temperature records set.

“We have a winter severity index here at the college. We calculate it at the end of the year. And this is going to be one of the worst winters given the cold temperatures, and the amount of snow, the snow pack that’s been persistent. It’s going to be one of the worst winters we’ve had,” says Vermette. “We’re stuck into this pattern as far out as we can see.”

Vermette is hopeful that we will see warmer temperatures by March 21 when spring starts.

Climate Central:

“I think it is safe to say that the warmth so far in 2015 really is a continuation of the warmth in 2014,” NOAA climatologist Jake Crouch said in an email.

The past month was 1.39°F above the 20th century average of 53.6°F,  second only to 2007 in the agency’s records, which go back to 1880. The Japan Meteorological Agency had January 2015 tied with both January 2002 and 2007, while NASA data put the month in second, also just behind 2007.

Different agencies handle global temperature data in slightly different ways, leading to small differences in monthly and yearly global temperature rankings.

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New Siberian Sink Holes Found

February 24, 2015

crater1It’s a remote area, so probably no surprise that, now that people are looking for them,  more of these have been discovered.  Still not possible to characterize what these processes are, and what they mean.

Barents Observer:

Scientists say they have discovered another eight sinkholes in a 10 km radius from the Bovanenkovo field. The craters are all located around the major hole discovered by oilmen in July 2014, Yamalpro.ru reports.

The sinkholes could pose a serious challenge to the quickly expanding gas industry in the area. Gazprom has invested billions in the development of the Bovanenkovo field, the biggest gas structure in the peninsula with an estimated 4,9 trillion cubic meters of resources. A new railway now connects the field with the national rail grid, and a west-bound pipeline brings the gas to European buyers.

That infrastructure could be put in jeopardy if more local craters appear.

Gazprom is in the process of developing several more gas fields in the area, and also other companies are heavily represented, among them Novatek in the Yamal LNG project and Gazprom Neft in the Novoportovsky project.

The first Yamal sinkhole made headlines all over the world. A crater with a diameter of up to 60 meter, the phenomenon was soon branded the Black Hole of Yamal. Scientists believe that the hole was created following the release of gas methane and subsequent collaps of permafrost.

The eight new sinkholes are smaller in size than the one discovered in July last year. The researchers believe that the bigger sinkholes are likely to be surrounded by smaller ones, and are now mapping the peninsula in order to be able to predict the sites for new holes.

Huffington Post:

Now, with the help of satellite imagery, researchers have located four additional craters–and they believe there may be dozens more in the region. That has them calling for an urgent investigation to protect residents living in the area.

I am sure that there are more craters on Yamal, we just need to search for them… I suppose there could be 20 to 30 craters more,” Prof. Vasily Bogoyavlensky, a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and deputy director of the Moscow-based Oil and Gas Research Institute, told The Siberian Times. “It is important not to scare people, but to understand that it is a very serious problem and we must research this.”

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I’m back in my warm house after shooting some video at sunrise this morning.

How cold was it?
So cold that my iphone was totally confused, poor thing.
Just knew it wasn’t happy.
Below see Stefan Rahmstorf’s tweet. Stunning is right. Read the rest of this entry »

John Cook’s Skeptical Science team has put together a Massive Open Online Course on climate denial.
Video above is the intro.

It will include all of the historic interviews that we did in San Franciso in December, at the American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting.

Sign up here.

Collin Maessen at RealSkeptic:

That climate change is real and that we’re causing it is the conclusion scientists have come to based on the evidence. The very same evidence is what makes scientists also very concerned about what the consequences will be if we continue adding greenhouse gasses to our planet’s atmosphere.

If up to 97% of scientists agree on this why is there so much controversy and debate about climate change? Where does this gap between the public and scientists come from? Are there psychological and social drivers that explain this? How can we get around these effects to increase acceptance of well established science? What kind of role has climate science denial played in influencing public perceptions and attitudes towards climate change?

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