Climate-change science: duel of the hypotheses

by Bob Foster1
31 December 2000

Joint Standing Committee on Treaties inquiry into the Kyoto Protocol
second supplementary submission by RJ Foster

In climate-change science, the dominant paradigm could be called the ‘Greenhouse Effect’ hypothesis of global climate change.  This attributes all or most of the observed global warming at the Earth’s surface over the 140 years of the instrumented record to human-caused changes in the composition of the atmosphere.

Greenhouse is a phenomenon of the atmosphere.  Theory has it that human-caused greenhouse gas emissions trap heat in the lower atmosphere, and this extra warmth is redistributed, in its turn, upward to Space or back to the Earth’s surface.  It is this resultant surface warming which we call the ‘greenhouse effect’.  GHGs can’t warm the surface directly; the atmosphere must heat up first.  Thus, if there is no prior warming of the lower atmosphere, there can be no consequent ‘greenhouse effect’ attributable to it.

A global coverage of satellite-derived atmospheric temperatures is now available for 22 years, revealing only a modest warming in the Northern Hemisphere and a slight cooling in the Southern.  It shows a globally-averaged warming trend of under 0.05 0C/decade in the lower atmosphere, compared to some 0.13 - 0.19 0C/decade - ie three times as much - at the surface over a similar period.  Also, a less-complete coverage of atmospheric temperatures is available back to 1958 from balloon-mounted thermometers.  Although this longer record is largely over land and excludes the high latitudes, it agrees well with the global satellite data for their period of overlap.  Except for a single warming step at 1976/77, which appears to be unrelated to greenhouse, the balloon record shows no significant warming-trend in the atmosphere for the 43-year period of its availability.

The conclusion is inescapable: the ‘Greenhouse Effect’ hypothesis fails by empirical disproof.  Surface warming in the 20th century was in two roughly-equal tranches; the first was complete by 1944, and was followed by 32 years of slight cooling prior to resumed warming from 1977.  The earlier period of warming predates the main build-up of GHGs in the atmosphere; and the second, at 1977-2000, was not greenhouse warming.  Observed surface warming in the 20th century has some other cause.
1.  Robert J Foster is an Adelaide University engineer by qualification, a geoscientist with the Shell Group by experience, and latterly was GM Marketing at BHP Petroleum.  He is now a consultant in energy economics at 30A Vautier St Elwood, VIC 3184 Australia, phone (61) (3) 9525 6335 and fax 6345, and is a founding director of The Lavoisier Group Inc, which is putting to Australians a view on climate-change countervailing to that of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  Bob  is also a Councillor and Hon Treasurer of the Royal Society of Victoria, and Victorian representative on the Environment Committee of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Natural variability - particularly rebound from the inertially-related Little Ice Age (in the form of reinstated stronger northerly flow of warm water in the North Atlantic) and increasing solar magnetic activity (yielding positive feedback via reduced cloudiness)  provides a much more-plausible explanation of observed warming in the first half of the 20th century than does human-caused changes to the composition of the atmosphere.

I here propose the ‘Oceanic Impedance’ hypothesis of global climate change to explain the prominent surface warming in the latter part of the 20th century.  This sudden change marks the most significant climate-related event in the 20th century; and it stems from a single nonlinear transition between climate regimes at 1976/77.
At this time:
* Globally-averaged temperatures in the lower atmosphere jumped 0.3 0C.
* Sea-surface temperature in the central equatorial Pacific jumped 0.6 0C.
* SST in the southern California Current during upwelling season increased 11/2 to 3 0C.  Concurrently, the PDO index, an indicator of variation in the supply of cold, deep, water to the NE Pacific, made a step-change in the direction of reduced upwelling.
* The heat-content of the top 300 metres of the world’s oceans increased.  This jump was most clear-cut in the Atlantic, where wave activity in the NE Atlantic also strengthened.
* The ENSO index, relating to the eastern equatorial Pacific, made a pronounced step in the direction of its warmer (ie more-frequent El Niņo) phase.
* Upwelling-season SST in the eastern equatorial Pacific made a step-like warming.
* SST in the subtropical South Pacific at Raratonga (21 0S) peaked in 1976, and cooled about 2 0C over the following decade.

The 1976/77 event relates to a major re-ordering of oceanic heat transportation, and coincides with a change in the rate-of-change of the length of day.  LOD variations imply the involvement of inertial factors, and inertial changes impede the continuity of oceanic circulation  particularly in the geometrically complex North Atlantic Basin.

If we cut the nexus between climate change and GHGs in the minds of Government and public, the environment will be the winner.  The Kyoto Protocol can be left unratified, and the money and attention thus saved can be put instead toward our most pressing real-life environmental needs.  (Reducing the clearing of Queensland bushland might be one such.)  In all its manifestations  decarbonisation of power generation, allocation of emission permits, monocultural plantings as carbon sinks, and higher petrol prices  greenhouse is the most intrusive science/technology issue facing us today.  And yet, the Australian community has never had put the contending views on greenhouse science.

Indeed, Government is spending some hundreds of million dollars/year  ostensibly for an environmental cause  which is, in its practical effect, inimical both to the protection of Australia’s biodiversity and to the well-being of its people.  This funding is sustaining Australia’s academics, and agencies such as CSIRO, BRS and Met Bureau, as single-minded and uncritical advocates of a spurious ‘Greenhouse Effect’.  Yet, little or no government funding is aimed at giving policy-makers a contra view of the science.  On greenhouse, show me a dissenting scientist; and I will show you an unfunded scientist.


 1.1  Basis of the greenhouse debate
 1.2  Should Australia ratify the Kyoto Protocol?
 1.3  ‘Group Think’ in action
  1.3 1  What IPCC is now saying
  1.3.2  What the concerned public is now hearing
  1.3.3  Meanwhile, back home in Australia .....
 3.1..Measurement of surface warming
  3.1.1  Two tranches of warming
  3.1.2  A natural oscillation in surface temperatures
 3.2  Explaining the instrumented record: 1860-1944
  3.2.1  A role for the Sun?
  3.2.2  A role for the oceans?
  3.2.3..A role for the greenhouse effect?
  3.2.4  First tranche of 20th century warming: the drivers
 3.3 Explaining the instrumented record: 1945-2000
  3.3.1  The surface record
  3.3.2  Balloon-borne thermometers
  3.3.3  Satellite-borne microwave sounding units
  3.3.4  North/south differences in the atmosphere
  3.3.5  Atmosphere-surface comparisons
 4.1  Unavoidable technicalities
  4.1 1  IPCC’s definition of the ‘enhanced greenhouse effect’
  4.1.2  Explanations by Pearman and Lindzen
  4.1.3  Trying to make it clearer
 4.2  The atmosphere/surface miss-match
  4.2.1  The NRC study
  4.2 2  Explaining or dissembling?
  4.2 3  A further and better analysis
 4.3  The Greenhouse Effect hypothesis: hanging by a thread
  4.3.1  The forty-year wait
  4.3.2  Evidence from expert witnesses
 4.4  Conclusions on ‘Greenhouse Effect’ warming

 5.1  Problems with IPCC’s credibility
  5.1.1  Credibility and lowered forecasts
  5.1 2  Models as a psychological weapon
 5.2  The atmosphere fails a 20-year reconciliation
 5.3  IPCC’s hindcast against the known surface record
  5.3 1  A spurious validation
  5.3.2  Sulphate aerosols: another credibility problem
 5.4  The ‘great triumph’ which never was
 5.5  Nature denies Geoscience!
 5.6  Nonlinear transitions denied by Weaver and Zwiers
 5.7  Bad news from the Moon
 6.1  Recap of the longer-term record
 6.2  Evidence from the past half-century
  6.2.1  Who has heard of bioturbation - or the PDO index?
  6.2.2  Evidence from equatorial corals
  6.2.3 Atlantic storminess and the destruction of meaning
 6.3  The mid-70s climatic event: implicating the oceans
 7.1  Eliminating possible influences
 7.2  The beginnings of an explanation
 7.3  Associated rate-of-change variations in length of day
 7.4  Where is the evidence for inertially-driven climate change?
  7.4.1  Putting LOD changes to the test
  7.4 2  South Pacific: marching to a different drummer?
 7.5  Demise of the ‘Greenhouse Effect’ hypothesis
 8.1  Laying the Greenhouse ghost at last
 8.2  Nonlinear transitions on the grand scale
 8.3  Glacial/Interglacial continuity
 8.4  Explaining the Little Ice Age in inertial terms
 8.5  Modern-day surging of the West Antarctic ice-sheet
 8.6  Defining the ‘Oceanic Impedance’ hypothesis
 9.1  IPCC’s mistaken ‘Greenhouse Effect’ hypothesis
 9.2  Lifting the IPCC yoke from Australian policy-making
 9.3  A more-plausible alternative: the ‘Oceanic Impedance’ hypothesis
 9.4  The West Antarctic ice-sheet: surging or collapsing?
 9.5  A much bigger question
 9.6  A task for Government

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