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Climate of Fear

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:15 PM GMT on April 18, 2006

An opinion piece titled, "Climate of Fear: Global-Warming Alarmists Intimidate Scientists Into Silence" appeared in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, criticizing the "iron triangle" of of climate scientists, advocates and policymakers responsible for raising the alarm over the threat posed by global warming. The article's two main points:

1) Climate scientists who are raising alarms over global warming are exaggerating the danger in order to get funding.

2) "Scientists who dissent from the alarmism have seen their grant funds disappear, their work derided, and themselves libeled as industry stooges, scientific hacks or worse. Consequently, lies about climate change gain credence even when they fly in the face of the science that supposedly is their basis."

I'm not familiar with the scientists Dr. Lindzen discusses who have lost their funding because they are greenhouse skeptics, and he does not provide any quotes or references to support this point. So, to keep this discussion shorter, I will only focus on his first argument--that climate scientists are exaggerating the threat of global warming in order to get funding.

Who is Richard Lindzen?
First, a little background on the author. Dr. Richard Lindzen is Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT, a member of the National Academy of Sciences panel of experts that advises the President on climate change science, and was a lead author of the most recent UN-sponsored Climate Assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that is used as the "official" benchmark of the expected amount of climate change this century. He has written many excellent and highly regarded peer-reviewed scientific papers during a career spanning over 40 years.

Much of his recent work has focused on climate change. Dr. Lindzen hypothesizes that global warming will not increase Earth's temperature significantly because increases in upper-level cloud cover will result from increased thunderstorm activity, and this increased cloud cover will act to reflect away more incoming sunlight, cooling the planet. This "Iris Effect" is named after the ability of the human eye to control the amount of light entering the eye by changing the diameter of its iris. His theory is difficult to prove or disprove, as the water vapor-cloud feedback is one of the hardest things to get right in climate models, and is a key source of uncertainty in them. To my knowledge, his Iris theory has not been disproven, but is thought to be incorrect by most climate scientists.

Dr. Lindzen continues to champion his Iris Effect theory, and has been one of about ten famous outspoken "greenhouse skeptics" who are skeptical of the dangers posed by climate change. He opposes the Kyoto Protocol and efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions. He has testified in front of Congress multiple times, authored many opinion pieces on the matter, and been a paid consultant for major oil and coal companies. In Ross Gelbspan's 1998 book, The Heat is On, the author discusses a 2-hour interview he did with Lindzen. In the interview, Lindzen estimated that he made $10,000 per year doing consulting work, and typically charged $2500 per day to fossil fuel interests. For example, a trip to Washington D.C. in 1991 to testify in front of a Senate committee was paid for by Western Fuels, a $400 million coal consortium. Gelbspan describes Dr. Lindzen as "exceedingly gracious and hospitable" in person, but relates several instances of unwarranted attacks he has made on scientific opponents.

Some good points
Dr. Lindzen's essay is a typical example of greenhouse skeptic writing, which unfortunately for me, I've read a lot of. Intermingled are scientific truths, scientific distortions, difficult to verify accusations, and some legitimate nuggets of complaint, all wrapped in a fiercely emotional tirade intended to sway the emotions of the reader. Several of Dr. Lindzen's concerns in his article are valid ones. For instance, he complains of "repeated claims that this past year's hurricane activity was another sign of human-induced climate change", which is a concern of mine, as well. A single extreme weather event, or an even a series of extreme hurricanes in one ocean basin during a single year, are not valid indicators of climate change. Lindzen also criticizes the world's most prestigious scientific journals, Science and Nature, for bias against papers by global warming skeptics. This bias is difficult to prove or disprove, but I believe there is probably some substance to this claim. I've seen a number of complaints that ring true about this from the greenhouse skeptic scientists.

Some bad points
While Dr. Lindzen is an excellent scientist, the piece he wrote for the Wall Street Journal is written in emotional, not scientific language. The article contains oversimplifications, distortions, and errors, and would fail the scientific peer review process needed to be published in a scientific journal. Let's look at three of these problems:

1) Dr. Lindzen refers to the "barely discernible, one-degree increase in the recorded global mean temperature since the late 19th century." I would hardly characterize our recent warming as "barely discernible." By measures such as the significant warming of the Arctic in recent decades, the several-week increase in the growing season and early arrival of Spring over most of the globe in recent years, the widespread retreat of glaciers worldwide, and the significant die-off of coral reefs worldwide due in part to record warm sea surface temperatures, a one-degree increase in global temperature is very discernible.

2) Dr. Lindzen says that global warming will lead to a decrease in extratropical cyclones. However, this is not a consensus view among climate scientists. Some model results have shown a decrease, but other models show that global warming will increase the intensity and frequency of El Nino events, which would lead to an increase in extratropical storms over the North Pacific and western U.S. Global warming may also increase the positive phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) pattern, creating increased extratropical storms in the North Atlantic and Western Europe.

3) Lindzen criticizes arguments by other researchers that global warming will increase hurricane intensities thusly:

"The problem with this is that the ability of evaporation to drive tropical storms relies not only on temperature but humidity as well, and calls for drier, less humid air. Claims for starkly higher temperatures are based upon there being more humidity, not less--hardly a case for more
storminess with global warming."

I asked Dr. Andrew Dessler, a professor at Texas A&M University whose research focuses on climate change and water vapor, to comment on this. He responded:

The rate of evaporation from the surface, which is one determinant of the strength of a hurricane, is determined by (q*-q), the difference between saturation specific humidity and the specific humidity. You can convince yourself that this makes sense by thinking of the two limits: if the air is saturated, then q*=q and evaporation is zero, which makes sense since saturated air cannot hold any more molecules. If the air is extremely dry, then q is about 0 and evaporation
is at a maximum, again as you'd expect.

The climate, on the other hand, is sensitive to q in the mid-troposphere. There's not really a simple explanation for this. I can give you a few good references if you want to check this out further (e.g., Held, I. M., and B. J. Soden, 2000: Water vapor feedback and global warming. Ann. Rev. Energy Environ., 25, 441-475).

Lindzen's argument ignores the differences and suggests that if q*-q decreases at the surface, then q must decrease in the mid-troposphere. That argument is so far outside the realm of scientific reasonability or common sense, that it's my opinion that Lindzen is acting as a policy advocate rather than a scientist. Like most advocates, he takes advantage of the lenient rules of policy debates (e.g., no peer review or other vetting mechanism to test for scientific accuracy of arguments), to make patently false scientific arguments as a way to advance his preferred policy position (he opposes any policy to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions).

Dr. Lindzen claims that "Ambiguous scientific statements about climate are hyped by those with a vested interest in alarm, thus raising the political stakes for policy makers who provide funds for more science research to feed more alarm to increase the political stakes." The words "alarm" or "alarmist" or "anti-alarmist" appear 16 times in the editorial, and Dr. Lindzen is clearly trying to provoke an emotional reaction against those Chicken Littles guilty of raising the alarm.

Speaking as an atmospheric scientist, I can tell you from long experience that we are not the wild-eyed, alarmist lot that Dr. Lindzen makes us out to be. This makes for some very dull parties (if you're not excited about discussing quasi-geostrophic theory), when we get together for a big bash. Very little alarming behavior takes place. (In fact, after I dragged my wife to three straight devastatingly dull departmental Christmas parties while I was in graduate school, she forbade me from ever requiring her to go to another.) Atmospheric scientists are not an alarmist lot--put us in quiet room with a window and give us a computer and pile of data to analyze, and we'll be as happy as a clam at high tide. Atmospheric scientists are generally not motivated by money--they selected science as a career out of a genuine curiosity about how the world works, plus a desire to help understand the significant dangers posed by pollution and climate change. If more money to do research really was a primary concern, wouldn't these scientists stop calling for action against global warming, and instead emphasize the uncertainties and claim that more research is needed?

Dr. Gavin Schmidt, a climate modeler at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, posted this response to Dr. Lindzen's accusations that scientists feed alarmism to get funding: "Lindzen has frequently claimed that within the scientific community "alarm is felt to be essential to the maintenance of funding". I have yet to see any empirical evidence of this, and a brief perusal of active NSF grants related to climate change reveals a lot of interesting projects but none that jump out as being 'alarmist'. Having sat on panels that decide on funding allocations and as a reviewer of proposals for both US and international agencies, my experience has been that these panels actually do a very good job at deciding which proposals are interesting, tractable and achievable. I have not seen even one example of where the degree of 'alarmism' was ever a criteria in whether funding was given. (NB. I don't regard my own grants (viewable here) as remotely 'alarmist' and I don't have too much trouble getting funding (fingers crossed!))"

Environmental scientists have in the past issued false alarms over environmental problems that did not materialize as expected. However, we should expect and tolerate some degree of false alarms, given the uncertainty in forecasting these events. If our scientists never issue a false alarm, then the tolerance for issuing alarms is not correct. Would you expect the National Weather Service to stop issuing tornado warnings when a possible tornado signature is spotted on Doppler radar, since less than half of these signatures result in in an actual tornado touchdown? No, some degree of false alarms must be tolerated. The NWS forecasters are dedicated public servants, doing their job of warning the public when their best scientific judgment indicates that there might be a significant threat. It is no different with our climate scientists who issue warnings on the dangers of climate change.

Skeptics commonly like to claim that atmospheric scientist "Chicken Littles" in the 1970s warned that the next ice age was coming. While there were some articles in the popular press about this, the scientific literature never made such a claim. This is one of the myths perpetuated by the greenhouse skeptics that crumbles under analysis.

A Public Relations Campaign?
Dr. Lindzen's article appeared at about the same time as similar op-ed pieces by syndicated columnists Robert Novak (April 3) and George Will (April 2). A large number of additional anti-global global warming editorials have appeared in the opinion pages of many newspapers in the past week, including the Washington Times, Detroit News, and Arizona Star. Given Dr. Lindzen's history of accepting consulting money from the fossil fuel industry, it would be no surprise if his article was paid for by the fossil fuel industry as part of an orchestrated public relations campaign that included the appearance of all these op-ed articles. I am sure the industry is very concerned about the recent media attention on global warming that has hurt their position. Scientific studies published this year showed unexpectedly large amounts of melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. A cover story last month in Time magazine headlined, "Be Worried. Be Very Worried", warned that we may be at the "tipping point" for uncorrectable climate change. A episode of 60 Minutes reported that scientific reports on climate change written for Congress were being modified by a White House chief of staff, who changed key phrases of the reports to make climate change appear less threatening (the staffer in question has since resigned to go work for Exxon Mobil). James Hansen of NASA and many scientists working for NOAA and NASA have complained of being gagged by the Bush Administration on climate change issues in recent months. It would be an obvious move for the fossil fuel industry to mount a PR campaign this month to try to push back.

The fossil fuel industry has spent tens of millions of dollars on many such campaigns in the past. The most notorious of these campaigns was launched in 1991, when the Information Council on the Environment (ICE), a creation of a group of utility and coal companies, launched a PR campaign whose goal was to "reposition global warming as theory rather than fact". The campaign targeted "older, less-educated men" and "young, low-income women" in electoral districts who had a congressperson on the House Energy Committee. The PR campaign hired four "greenhouse skeptic" scientists--Patrick Michaels, Fred Singer, Robert Balling, and Sherwood Idso--to generate op-ed pieces, broadcast appearances, and newspaper interviews. Gelbspan writes: "The plan was clever if not accurate. One newspaper advertisement prepared by the ICE, for example, was headlined: 'If the earth is getting warmer, why is Minneapolis getting colder?' (Data indicate that Minneapolis has actually warmed between 1 and 1.5 degrees Celsius in the last century.)" Another print ad featured a cowering chicken under the headline "Who Told You the Earth Was Warming...Chicken Little?"

Environmental groups do their share of public relations campaigns, as well. One recent estimate I saw put the spending of the five major environmental groups on climate issues at about $2.1 million per year (Environmental Defense Fund, NRDC, Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists, and the World Wildlife Federation). Exxon Mobil alone spends over $1 milion per year to fund think tanks like the Competive Enterprise Institute and the George C. Marshal Foundation that generate frequent anti-global warming reports (Gelbspan, 2004).

Flashback to 1974
On June 28, 1974, Sherry Rowland and Mario Molina, chemists at the University of California, Irvine, published the first scientific paper warning that human-generated chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) could cause serious harm to Earth's protective ozone layer. They calculated that if CFC production continued to increase at the going rate of 10%/year until 1990, then remain steady, CFCs would cause a global 5 to 7 percent ozone loss by 1995 and 30-50% loss by 2050.

They warned that the loss of ozone would significantly increase the amount of skin-damaging ultraviolet UV-B light reaching the surface, greatly increasing skin cancer and cataracts. The loss of stratospheric ozone could also significantly cool the stratosphere, potentially causing destructive climate change. Although no stratospheric ozone loss had been observed yet, CFCs should be banned, they said. At the time, the CFC industry was worth about $8 billion in the U.S., employed over 600,000 people directly, and 1.4 million people indirectly (Roan, 1989).

Critics and skeptics--primarily industry spokespeople and scientists paid by conservative think tanks--immediately attacked the theory. Despite the fact that Molina and Rowland's theory had wide support in the scientific community, these handful of skeptics, their voices greatly amplified by the public relations machines of powerful corporations and politicians sympathetic to them, succeeded in delaying imposition of controls on CFCs for over a decade. Scientists who advocated CFC controls were accused of being alarmists out to get research funding. One CFC industry magazine stated in 1975, "The whole area of research grants and the competition among scientists to get them must be considered a factor in the politics of ozone" (Roan, 1989).

DuPont, which made 1/4 of the world's CFCs, spent millions of dollars running full-page newspaper advertisements defending CFCs in 1975, claiming there was no proof that CFCs were harming the ozone layer. The chairman of DuPont commented that the ozone depletion theory was "a science fiction tale...a load of rubbish...utter nonsense." (Chemical Week, 16 July 1975). The aerosol industry also launched a PR blitz, issuing a press release stating that the ozone destruction by CFCs was a theory, and not fact. This press release, and many other 'news stories' favorable to industry, were generated by the aerosol industry and printed by the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fortune magazine, Business Week, and the London Observer (Blysky and Blysky, 1985). The symbol of Chicken Little claiming that "The sky is falling!" was used with great effect by the PR campaign, and appeared in various newspaper headlines.

The CFC industry companies hired the world's largest public relations firm, Hill & Knowlton, who organized a month-long U.S. speaking tour in 1975 for noted British scientist Richard Scorer, a former editor of the International Journal of Air Pollution and author of several books on pollution. Scorer blasted Molina and Rowland, calling them "doomsayers", and remarking, "The only thing that has been accumulated so far is a number of theories."

Sound familiar?

In a 1984 interview in The New Yorker, Rowland concluded, "Nothing will be done about this problem until there is further evidence that a significant loss of ozone has occurred. Unfortunately, this means that if there is a disaster in the making in the stratosphere we are probably not going to avoid it." The very next year, all the "Chicken Little" scientists were proved right, when the Antarctic ozone hole was discovered. Human-generated CFCs were indeed destroying Earth's protective ozone layer. In fact, the ozone depletion was far worse than Molina and Roland had predicted. No one had imagined that ozone depletions like the 50% losses being observed by 1987 over Antarctica were possible so soon. Despite the continued opposition of many of the skeptics, the Montreal Protocol, an international agreement to phase out ozone-destroying chemicals, was hurriedly approved in 1987 to address the threat. By 2003, it appeared that the ozone hole had stopped growing, thanks to the quick action. Molina and Rowland were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1995. The citation from the Nobel committee credited them with helping to deliver the Earth from a potential environmental disaster.

According to Wikipedia's biography of Richard Lindzen:

The November 10, 2004 online version of Reason magazine reported that Lindzen is "willing to take bets that global average temperatures in 20 years will in fact be lower than they are now." Climatologist James Annan, who has offered multiple bets that global temperatures will increase, contacted Lindzen to arrange a bet. Annan offered to pay 2:1 odds in Lindzen's favor if temperatures declined, but said that Lindzen would only accept a bet if the payout was 50:1 or better in his favor. No bet occurred.

I would agree with Dr. Lindzen, there is about a 50:1 chance that global average temperatures in 20 years will in fact be lower than they are now. This would most likely occur as a result of a major volcanic eruption that would put up enough stratospheric aerosol dust to cool the climate for a few years. The effect would be temporary, and the Earth would go on warming as before once the dust dissipates.

Climate scientists are not alarmists out to get research funding. They are raising the alarm because they see a genuine major threat to the planet. Dr. Lindzen's voice needs to be considered, because he is a good scientist looking at the same data as the "alarmist" scientists, and is coming up with a different conclusion. But consider that his voice, and voices of the 10 or so famous "greenhouse skeptics", are in the extreme minority. Their voices are greatly amplified by the public relations machinery of the fossil fuel industry, and the politicians sympathetic to them. Thus, it seems like there is more of a scientific controversy than there really is. As a society, we need to decide--do we do the same thing we did for the ozone depletion crisis? Do we take the 50:1 odds, betting on the dark horse because some very loud voices are urging us to do so? Or is it smarter to bet on the favorite?

We got very lucky with the ozone hole. The lifetime of CFCs in the atmosphere is a few tens of years, and the quick action to eliminate emissions has kept ozone destruction from reaching severe levels. Carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere hundreds of years, and 25% of what we add stays there essentially forever. By the time it is obvious we are severely damaging the planet, it will be too late to avoid much of the damage.

Jeff Masters

My next blog will be Thursday or Friday, to give people time to comment on this one.

For further reading
The climate scientists who run realclimate.org have an interesting discussion on the op-ed piece by Dr. Lindzen, as well the one by George Will and Robert Novak. I also wrote an opinion piece titled, The Skeptics vs. the Ozone Hole, which presents a more complete comparison of how the skeptics attacked the science of ozone depletion and succeeded in delaying CFC emission controls for many years.


Blyskal, J., and M. Blyskal, "PR: How the public relations industry writes the news", William Morrow and Co., New York, 1985.

Gelbspan, Ross, The Heat is On, Perseus Books, Cambridge, MA, 1998.

Gelbspan, Ross, Boiling Point, Perseus Books, Cambridge, MA, 2004.

Roan, Sharon L., Ozone Crisis: The 15-year Evolution of a Sudden Global Emergency, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, 1989.

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

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587. verity
3:20 AM GMT on April 10, 2007
For Jim Masters:

This is my first blog on WU although I've been a somewhat erratic member of WU for several years.

First, JM, you are to be congratulated on being one of the founders of this site and the initiator of its blogging capability.

However, this post is to discuss what I see as a few apparent distortions of your view of Prof. Lindzen and his work.

The WSJ article was not meant to be a scientific paper, but a piece for the lay audience to read and think about.

You must know by now that he has a similarly non-scientific piece in the current issue of Newsweek. At the end of this piece Newsweek produced the following brief bio:

Lindzen is the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His research has always been funded exclusively by the U.S. government. He receives no funding from any energy companies.

How does this square with these somewhat libelous implications from the Ross Gelbstan book that you saw fit to quote in your piece? In recent statements by Gelbstan he ascribed to anonymous sources that three (unnamed) supporters of GW skeptics received at least $1 million for their testimony at a hearing in MN! Now the energy industry does pay modest fees for speakers whose talks are not intended to be scientific dissertations, but do (usually) reflect the speakers points of view. I understand that Lindzens standard fee for such infrequent appearances is $2,500. This is a far cry from the 6+figure amounts asserted by Gelbspan.[BTW, did Gelbspan write his book pro bono?] Am I to believe that only pro-GW speakers would be acceptable? As for CEI, the amount of their budget that they provide to those engaged in the science of global warming is around 1% of their gross income.

Ross Gelbspan is hardly a scientist, he is a self-described 'journalist' (actually a reporter, and later an editor) who has worked for the Washington Post, Philadelphia Bulletin, Boston Globe and occasionally provided articles for The Nation, all of which are very much to the Left of center and staunch supporters of GW or AGW. Gelbspan is considered a pro-warming extremist by most of the moderate and a few skeptical scientists I engage with. He had no trouble including himself among the Pulitzer Prize winners as a co-recipient even though he wasnt named by the Pulitzer Committee. See the details here. He later explained that the publisher of the Boston Globe told him that as a member of the Globe's staff (though not one assigned to the winning series of stories about a black ghetto) he, Gelbspan, deserved a share of the reward! Is this the type of ethically challenged character you choose to believe, rather than Dr. Lindzen?

As for the intensity of extra-tropical storms. In Meteorology 101 you learn that the jetstream is driven by the temperature gradient at right angles to it. In the NH under zonal flow this is evidenced by a westerly current with the speed of the jet proportional to the north-to-south temperature gradient across the jet (colder air to the north). GW computer models are in [rare] agreement in forecasting the rise in temperatures being greater at the higher (north) Latitudes than in the Tropics where little, if any warming is projected. Its not rocket science to conclude that the weaker the Polar/Equatorial temperature gradient, the weaker the jetstream, and the less kinetic energy available to drive storm systems. Ergo, under such GW conditions, extra-tropical storm systems will be weaker, not stronger than at present. This argument does not apply to Tropical Storm systems whose dynamics are quite different with the energy derived largely from convection and the release of latent heat and not the ambient wind field.

Finally, as to the just released IPCC report: Although there are many competent scientists in the various WGs (Working Groups), the commission is directed by just a handful of scientists and an overwhelming majority of politicians who represent the 120 nations that comprise the Panel. This latter group is responsible for the SPM (Summary for Policy Makers). The WG reports usually run to about 30-50 pages; the SPM about 5-10. The SPM was released in February. The WG report issued last Friday was actually in completed draft form almost a year ago last May and was available on the Net shortly thereafter. If there are differences in the thrust of the SPM and WG reports, the differences must be settled before the combined (Synthesis) Report is issued, and differences there were. Now if you really want to see how sausages are made, the regulations for accomplishing this can be found in paragraphs 4.3 to 4.4 of Appendix II: Procedures for the Preparation, Review, Acceptance, Adoption, Approval, and Publication of IPCC Reports. Now here is the kicker: Any differences between the science WGs and the mostly politically orchestrated SPM Panel must be resolved in favor of the SPM! What that means is that its the politicians, not the scientists who have the last word. This makes a complete mockery of what science is all about.

I could go on, but this is enough to start with. It is commendable that this site does provide both sides of the GW debate. But I find it puzzling to me as to why you (JM) personally seem to have already determined that the IPCC and Gore are on the correct side.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
586. JasonO
4:11 PM GMT on April 25, 2006
More questions for Masters:

1) You mention the $ amounts spent by pro man-made GW groups...have you considered the public relations benefit (and equivalent dollar value) from the face-value acceptance and dissemination of your position by worldwide electronic & print media? Uncritical media exposure of your cause amounts to billions in annual free advertising worldwide.

To pretend that scientists who "care about climate change" would not logically welcome media fueled hyperbole re: man made global warming is laughable.

2) Given the fact that ideologues in the media have 100% embraced your cause, isn't it likely that dissenting opinion would be completely excluded/unheard without private support? Money=Free Speech, Masters.

3) The "models tell us" is a recurring theme of man-made global warming "evidence." Would you explain the amount and type of user defined inputs as you preprocess those models? Is it possible they could be "tweaked" to demonstrate a predetermined outcome?

If someone tells you "I care about X," then it's reasonable to assume that there's a high probability that they think, a priori, that something is wrong with X. A tenuous platform for dispassionate analysis of data.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
585. Wilma
12:34 AM GMT on April 25, 2006
Please don't take the route - even unintentionally - of mixing two issues, and then trying win one by arguing the other. One does not have to be a weather scientist to recognize that issue #1: 'whether the earth has entered (or, is heading into) a period of global warming period', is very distinct, and independent from issue #2: 'whether the contribution of human activity is significant or negligible in influencing global climate changes, short, medium or long term'.

Trying to make points on issue #2 by arguing issue #1, is not scientific. Why not argue the two issues separately.

I am not qualified to make scientic observations in this matter. Thus, I try to assess the credibility of contributors and learn. Based on your blogs durind the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, you start off at a very high level of credibility. During Wilma I relied solely on your predictions, which were well supported by data, and logical arguments based on that data, including the - unfortunately unavoidable - uncertainty component. Please start over n this issue, and apply the same high level of discipline. Try winning this argument with evidence, data, and logic applied there to, and without the emotial component of big business bashing, another political and unscientific approach to win otherwise unwinnable arguments.

(Name chosen in memory of
the 2005 hurricane season
when your blog was invaluable.)
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
584. Mysticdog
4:37 PM GMT on April 24, 2006
"I think the Skeptics should be allowed their voice, beliefs and arguments. I also believe that well-constructed Skeptic theories should be published alongside the Non-Skeptic theories in scientific publications. This way other scientists and the public in general truly has an unbiased and objective perspective."

All they have to do is pass a peer review that shows their science to be good. The fact that so few even attempt that, much less pass that test, says volumes about the quality of their positions.

You can find a "scientist" willing to say anything in a newspaper or press release for a buck. The peer reviewal process real science uses as a reporting mechanism has centuries of solid performance behind it, and contrary to the contrarian rheotric, has allowed many, many alternative theories and even entire paradigm shifts from old theory to new.

Equality and fairness does NOT dictate that we must let every crackpot with a corperate endowment get equal speaking time. They have the same opportunity to present real science as every other scientist. If they can't hack that, then they can stick to publishing screeds in newspapers, magazines and john stossel "documentaries".
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
583. Mysticdog
4:28 PM GMT on April 24, 2006
"JeffB - Do you really think that we were responsible for creating, and then closing, a hole in the ozone layer within a few short years? This is the Earth we're talking about...25,000 miles around, 8,000 miles across. Its huge! And it just couldn't be changed in a few short years."

Jeff, the part of the earth that is relevant to us is a scant 10 mile band at the surface. That is the area capable of supporting meaningful life, about 5 miles down to 5 miles above the oceans surface.

Yes, this rock is big compared to humans. But we are just the algae on the surface of the bould, and what happens below the surface doesn't matter much.

Take a piece of paper, and with a very sharp pencil, draw a circle from edge to edge. The part of the planet we are talking about is less than the thickness of your line.

We are de-sequestering billions of tons of stored carbon, while at the same time reducing forests that could help resequester it.

Humans can convert a mountain into a pit, dry up an inland sea, clear a continental forest,pull the ocean away from huge tracts of land, cause the ocean to erode away other whole tracs of land, and hunt entire species into extinction - why on earth would think we cannot affect climate? We even see our large cities affecting the climate around them. Your incredulity makes no sense.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
582. cieldumort
10:05 PM GMT on April 22, 2006
Happy Earth Day by the way!
Thanks for the great read!
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
581. Jarod120
1:36 PM GMT on April 22, 2006
Dear Dr. Jeff Masters,

Thank you for you starting this tropical weather blog. I am currently in college for physics. After reading your posts for about a year now I have decided to take my education in the direction of meteorology. That along with the fact that Katrina and Wilma both made direct hits on my home, the sparks are flying and I tip my hat off to you for doing a wonderful job. Your an inspiration to us all.
Thank you
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
580. GaryH
11:31 PM GMT on April 21, 2006
Personal note to Dr. Masters. I noticed in your Bio. that you flew into Hurricane Gilbert - well, I looked up (from the southerly wall of the eye) and didn't see you. HA! Was on Cozumel - whew, now that was a storm. Have also chatted a bit with Chris Landesea about Gilbert.

On the issue of funding, this comment from Dr William Gray made last fall in an interview with Discover.com - adds a bit of spice to the question.

Are your funding problems due in part to your views?
G: I cant be sure, but I think thats a lot of the reason. I have been around 50 years, so my views on this are well known. I had NOAA money for 30 some years, and then when the Clinton administration came in and Gore started directing some of the environmental stuff, I was cut off. I couldnt get any NOAA money. They turned down 13 straight proposals from me.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
579. ForecasterColby
6:47 PM GMT on April 21, 2006
TPaul, the GS is alive and well. Looked at a SST map recently?
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
578. HurricaneMyles
4:05 PM GMT on April 21, 2006
There's so many things wrong with using Pascal's and Bernoulli's formulas for this idea is not even funny. Even if this idea does work, you need way more complicated formulas then Pascal and Bernoulli's.

You need more complicated equations because you cant make the necessary assumptions needed for those two principles -
Pascal needs: Uniform density, which different temperature sea water is not.

Bernoulli needs: No friction(impossible), steady flow(possible, but not completely steady) closed system(which open pipes in an open ocean are not.)

You're are trying to use closed system equations in an open system and it just doesn't work.

Like many people have said before, you are not educated enough in these fields to even know whether it can work or not. You need to find people smarter then you or I and let them do the math. And leave us alone, we can't help you. Most of us believe they dont work anyways, so stop bringing them up!
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
577. TPaul
3:50 PM GMT on April 21, 2006
Cyclonebuster said,
Read the next post after that statement

I did, and nothing in that statement changes that you have invalidated your idea, which you had done a month or so before when some of us on here went through a whole set of equations showing that your idea would not work as you had stated.
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576. TPaul
3:47 PM GMT on April 21, 2006
I did, it changes nothing.
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575. TPaul
3:43 PM GMT on April 21, 2006
Cyclonebuster said,
The whole column of water is moving in the gulfstream even at depth and the flow is somewhat linear through the tunnels so I dought it would slow. Certainly no more than what we are presently doing with the warming problem which the tunnels would reverse anyways.

The Gulf Stream is slowing actually do to the change in salinity caused by the melting ice which adds fresh(no salt) water to the upper end of the circulation.

Again, your tunnels are going to change nothing.
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573. mctypething
3:39 PM GMT on April 21, 2006
I am of the opinion that alarmist, sensationalist media is literally taking over every information medium in this country. Want evidence? Just go to MSNBC.com, every other article is about sea ice melting, global warming, bird flu, or the "energy crisis." The fact of the matter is that it is entirely possible that many scientists are using global warming as a red herring to obtain more funding, something this despicable is certainly not outside the realm of possibility in today's society. If you have seen "Bowling for Columbine" or read "State of Fear", I'm sure you received a nice wake up call.

The bottom line is this. The common, average person is powerless to change the climate, or reverse global warming. Our country is not a democracy, it is not run by the people. It is run by corporations and lobbyists, whose sole intention is to get richer, and richer, and richer. If I buy a Toyota Prius versus a Yukon, it makes no difference in the overall affect. Change has to come from the top, and it never will. The government does not regulate fossil fuel emissions because it all comes down to money. There is a reason that Exxon had record setting profits last year. The common man is essentially a pawn in a chess game between the government and corporate big-wigs to see who can get richer.
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571. Cregnebaa
3:16 PM GMT on April 21, 2006
Buster you still have not addressed the effect of adding cold water to the gulfstream.
The have stated that the cold water will mix with the warmer gulfstream, which again has not been proven.
Say if all this happens and you introduce extra volume to the gulfstream through mixing, this will slow the gilfstram down.
why? because force of flow = volume x speed of current.
As you increase the volume of the gulfstream, and the force behind it will remain unchanged, the speed must slow!
Any gains you might would be immaterial compared to shuuting down the gulf stream
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570. TPaul
3:03 PM GMT on April 21, 2006
Cyclonebuster said,
One must remember the tunnels are at rest submerged within an open system (The Ocean)with two open ends thus making the tunnels an open system also.

So you have just invalidated your idea. You can't just call the pipes an open system but then use the rules of a closed system to move the water through them.
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569. xealot
2:57 PM GMT on April 21, 2006

I respect your conclusions as a scientist and I feel it important to mention a few things with regards to this.

I do see an increasing alarmist bias in the scientific community, but not the loud-mouthed, money grabbing one Dr. Richard Lindzen paints.

I believe this bias is a more subtle one, perhaps the scientists aren't even directly aware of their own bias in this regard. They see skeptics as mouthpieces of the oil industry or big business. Certainly many of them probably are, but many are also truthful scientists who only offer a differing point of view based on the data available.

You see this sort of silencing effect on the part of biased scientists who believe a differing hypothesis carries with it a pro-pollution agenda when that is not necessarily the case. It's not that the global warming scientists are loud mouthed chicken littles, but rather that they are people who believe their theories are actual truth and any differing conclusions must be wrong and therefore worthy of condemnation. I do not offer specific examples, as this is a hard thing to document in a specific incident, but I do appeal to your reason here.

I think the Skeptics should be allowed their voice, beliefs and arguments. I also believe that well-constructed Skeptic theories should be published alongside the Non-Skeptic theories in scientific publications. This way other scientists and the public in general truly has an unbiased and objective perspective.

On one side of this argument you have the potential fate of our planet, and on the other side you have the potential of economic disaster and excessive regulation. And in between the data just isn't conclusive enough to really say for certain what's going on. So this sort of thing must be weighed carefully.

In this sense I agree with many of your points, but I also agree with many of Dr. Richard Lindzen's points as well.

As for me personally, I am a Skeptic. I believe much of our global warming is part of an overreaching natural cycle, and that man likely affects the climate far less than nature. But I also admittedly only an amateur hobbyist, albeit a well-educated one. I remain open-minded to this issue and want to see it resolved conclusively one day. I feel that can only be done if we have both sides of the argument working together. But then as much as we like to pretend we are emotionless, logical thinkers... it's really hard to be completely objective... even for a scientist.
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568. Esarhaddon
2:53 PM GMT on April 21, 2006
I thought this thread was a very good discussion of the Tunnel idea, There doesn't seem to be enough kinetic energy created by the tunnel to lift the heavier cold water all the way to the surface.

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564. TPaul
1:57 PM GMT on April 21, 2006
The flaw in your (and I won't call it a theory, because it is not) thinking is that you are attempting to apply the laws of a closed system to an open system. That is the theory you need to make and prove, how you can get an open system to behave like a closed system.

Fluid pressure

Fluid pressure occurs in one of two situations:

an open condition, such as the ocean, or a swimming pool, or
a closed condition, such as a water line or a gas line.
Open conditions are considered to be "static" or not moving (even in the ocean where there are waves and currents) because the fluid is essentially "at rest." The pressure in open conditions conform with principles of fluid statics.

Closed bodies of fluid are either "static," when the fluid is not moving, or "dynamic," when the fluid is moving, like through a pipe. The pressure in closed conditions conform with the principles of fluid dynamics.

The concepts of fluid pressure are predominantly attributed to the discoveries of Blaise Pascal and Daniel Bernoulli. These concepts are given in greater detail in the remainder of this article.
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563. TPaul
1:40 PM GMT on April 21, 2006
Cyclonebuster said,
Prove this idiot wrong mathmatically then I'll leave you alone!!Fair enough?

Actually in science it is not about proving a theory wrong, it is about proving it plausible. In this case you have never even layed out a good theory let alone a practical way to what you are suggesting, you have taken some proven science and made a hugh leap in saying that proves your theory when it clearly does not.

Simply put, it is not for anyone else to prove you wrong, it is for you to prove your theory plausible.

I won't call you an idiot because at this point I am more concerned based on your behavior on this topic. My personal oppinion, and I say this with total sincerity, is that you may want to consider sitting down with a profesional to discuss why you feel the way you do because I have a feeling I know why.
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561. Cregnebaa
1:26 PM GMT on April 21, 2006

Petrol in the UK up to US$7 a US gallon in some places, imagine paying that!
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560. TPaul
1:21 PM GMT on April 21, 2006

Cyclonebuster said

Actually that person did not figure into his equations that such an event will happen sooner because of global warming.As the oceans rise inch by inch the effect will worsen and thus that senerio will happen much sooner than he thinks. Added pressure and erosion will occur and eruption will happen sooner.

Actually the size of this wave would be such that current sea level increases over the next 200 years would be inconsequential to the amount of destruction caused. Beyond 200 years I don't trust current science to tell us if sea level is going to rise or fall by any specific amount.

Either way even if your tunnel idea worked, and we have all seen the numbers so we know it won't work as you have put it forth, your tunnels would not stop the collapse of the western flank of this island or the amount of destruction caused.
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558. Oceanwx2
12:12 PM GMT on April 21, 2006
TO: hometownhero36547
Given that the hurricanes have been here longer than mankind, perhaps man's lack of wisdom building homes near the beach or building a city below sealevel might be part of the problem.
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557. ProgressivePulse
12:05 PM GMT on April 21, 2006
St. Augustine grass is the most durable, can handle the heat and all the water in the summer. Stocking up on some plywood would be a great idea. We run a cabinetry business and always order double at the start of the summer.
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556. rxse7en
11:41 AM GMT on April 21, 2006

As usual nothing happening in Jax. Our radar is down and there is a 20% chance of t-storms this afternoon. Better start raining regularly or I am going to stop watering my lawn and start cultivating dollar weeds. Why is St. Augustine grass so popular down here? Back in New York we called it crab grass and it sure isn't as comfortable as, say, a nice Kentucky Blue Grass. On a side note, the heater in my African cichlid tank went haywire this week and cooked all of my cichlids--leaving me with danios and a pleco. I'm done with St. Augustine and African cichlids.

Anyone else in Florida contemplating getting some plywood ready before the season starts? I contemplate it this time every year, but I have a feeling this is the year I'm going to need it...

Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
555. ProgressivePulse
11:18 AM GMT on April 21, 2006
92 in West Palm yesterday and mid to upper 80's for the rest of the weekend. Looks like old mother nature is trying to get those sst's back up to normal in a quick hurry here in the deep south.
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554. ProgressivePulse
11:13 AM GMT on April 21, 2006
Those are some pretty juicy thunderstorms in eastern Texas.
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553. hometownhero36547
7:03 AM GMT on April 21, 2006
Sorry I wrote that link incorrectly...

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552. hometownhero36547
7:01 AM GMT on April 21, 2006
We have a little slide show on our site that will give you just a glimpse at what we do. Our focus has really been community education, volunteerism, and developing community response plans.

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551. kerneld
6:42 AM GMT on April 21, 2006

Sounds like you are doing some good things for people effected by disasters. I am sure we all hope that nothing like Katrina happens again regardless of faith. Whatever makes you stronger is good with me.
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549. hometownhero36547
6:16 AM GMT on April 21, 2006
Wow. I couldn't sleep and decided to do some late night reading. Some very deep conversation on this blog; including the great debate of creation vs. science. I am the Executive Director of ecumenical disaster ministry started after Hurricane Ivan. I've worked the past 18 months to minister to the needs of people affected by disaster. The overwhelming question is, "Why did God allow this to happen?" I can't answer that question, and in all honesty, I think we'd all be foolish to try to answer that question outright. But what I do know is that truth is in the Word of God. Job 1:21 tells us the Lord gives and He takes away. Philippians 4:13 tells us that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. What wonderful truth. I can -- survive 18 hour work days -- through Christ who strengthens me. I can -- minister to others -- through Christ who strengthens me. I can -- rejoice in good times, mourn in bad times, and give glory to Him at all times -- through Christ who strengthens me.
We can sit here and debate reasons all day long (or in this case all night). But the truth is, God is sovereign and He controls the future. Already our area of the Gulf Coast is becoming anxious about the upcoming season. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't worried myself... that's why I'm on here to glean a little more knowledge about conditions that cause storms. Thank you all for sharing your information.
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545. kerneld
5:40 AM GMT on April 21, 2006
Hopefully spreading useful info as to how we can move in the right direction will shortly become a new objective of the media.

Skypney, I like the idea, but I am not sure that is the medias responibility, although they should play a role. It should be the reponsibility of governments and international bodies to ensure this information is obtained, and presented in a media friendly way, and maybe some government sponsored community service announcements (Are they really effective? I have my doubts), and some leadership dirven media campaigns. I mean if the President can tour the country selling the rational for warantless tapping (Please, this is not a cue for a talk on the merits/flaws of that topic), then selling some things that we can do to minimise the effect on the environment, and probably have have some good benefits to the economy too should easily be doable.
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544. Skyepony (Mod)
5:33 AM GMT on April 21, 2006
Another obsticle to getting products out there that can get us off oil is the stuggles the green companies are facing from other companys. For example UCSY. They haven't been around long & have subsituaries that make machines that turn air into drinkable water, solar house curtains & solar chargers for electronics (the latter at more than compeditive prices). The solar curtain one recently won a large sum from a oil company for attempting to run them from an area they had gained a toe hold on converting (article no longer in arcives of places I go). Most recently they have won another case where the air water subsituary was being wrongfully slandered.
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543. snowboy
5:19 AM GMT on April 21, 2006
thanks for the link to the article, Skyepony... I'm off for tonight.
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541. snowboy
5:15 AM GMT on April 21, 2006
no correlation, but high SSTs and low shear are conducive to tropical storm (and ultimately hurricane) development
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540. Skyepony (Mod)
5:07 AM GMT on April 21, 2006
This article out today has a good point about all the recent discovies, events & what not behind the rise in a move to take action against adding large amounts of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

Just recently, Lubchenco said, a series of studies have made several points clear, including:

There are demonstrated increases in both atmospheric and ocean temperatures that can be directly attributed to human activities, carbon emissions and the greenhouse effect.

Global sea levels are rising.

The intensity of hurricanes has increased, due to warmer tropical ocean waters.

Snow and ice sheets are melting more rapidly.

Dramatic changes are taking place in vegetation, species distribution and ranges.

Changes are happening in precipitation patterns, leading to more droughts and floods.

The acid content of the oceans is increasing.

Also add in how many outcomes, readings & record were predicted consiquences of GHG except it's come to pass sooner than predicted.

Unforchanately, now that the effects are being seen & finer tuned research is being done, along with the discoveries of feedbacks that makes evident the situation we are in~ the last year or so has added alot of bad news that anyone that discounts the science & readings or sides with oil, gas, coal can use to claim those enviromentalist are screaming chicken little again.

Though two of those in the list some will never believe (just as the ozone hole has gone), there are many other factors such as oil dependancy from other countries, war & what not, to where now about everyone is agreed, it is in everyones best intrest to go to a clean energy source & conserve til this is accomplished & prepare for climate change.

A major three-year public awareness campaign was begun this month to help educate people on how they can help, supported by The Ad Council, Environmental Defense and the Robertson Foundation.

The evidence is overwhelming that even simple changes can be a big help and have a huge cumulative impact, Lubchenco said. If every American switched just three light bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs, it would be the equivalent of taking 3.5 million cars off the road. If everyone switched to a car with five miles-per-gallon better mileage, that would be equal to the taking another 150 million automobiles off the roads. Individual actions add up to big changes.

Hopefully spreading useful info as to how we can move in the right direction will shortly become a new objective of the media.
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538. snowboy
5:05 AM GMT on April 21, 2006
It may currently be higher, but the WU shear forecast looks different:

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