A Basic Error in Climate Models

Earlier this week the Obama administration put out a major report by The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) which predicts dire consequences if we don’t curb carbon dioxide emissions. The report is timed to influence major bills in the House and Senate, and it was the object of many media headlines, including a gloom-and-doom story by Tom Beal in the Arizona Daily Star today.

However, the report is pure junk science because it cherry-picks data to conform to policy and ignores much of the evidence, even evidence published by USGCRP in 2006.

In science, a hypothesis is a working assumption that must be tested by observation and experiment, and changed according to new information. In the realm of climate change, the scientific method of objective observation has been too often replaced by an ideology devoid of objective inquiry, one that embraces only evidence which supports the hypothesis and ignores conflicting information.

 Climate models used by USGCRP and the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) make a basic assumption about carbon dioxide that is wrong. Their assumption is one of positive feedback.

 Their hypothesis goes like this: carbon dioxide warms the oceans, which, in turn, causes water vapor to enter the atmosphere. Water vapor is a much stronger and more abundant “greenhouse” gas than is carbon dioxide, so water vapor enhances the warming effect of carbon dioxide – a positive feedback.

 The USGCRP and IPCC greenhouse models hold that the tropics should provide the most sensitive location for validation of the models. According to the models, temperature trends (rate of warming, not absolute temperature) should increase by 200-300% with altitude, peaking at around 10 kilometers – a characteristic “fingerprint” for green house warming. This “fingerprint” should look like the graph below.


This graph is from the report, U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) Synthesis and Assessment Product 1.1. 2006, Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere. This graph was adopted by the IPCC and appeared in its most recent report in 2007. Note: CCSP is now known as The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP). This graph appears on page 21 of the new USGCRP report issued Tuesday (June 16, 2009): Global Climate Change Impacts in the U.S.

 The graph above shows the hypothesis. The graph below shows the reality. Measurements from balloon-bourne radiosondes and from satellites show no increasing temperature trend with altitude.


Real observations show that the model-predicted “fingerprint” of anthropogenic, greenhouse warming is absent in nature.

[Additional source: Douglass, D.H. et al. 2007, A comparison of tropical temperature trends with model predictions, International Journal of Climatology DOI:10.1002/joc.1651].

The “no greenhouse signature” graph above appeared in the 2006 CCSP report but is missing from the new USGCRP report, perhaps because it conflicts with current policy.

This result of hypothesis versus real observations means that the models are wrong and greenhouse gases are not responsible for any significant 20th Century warming.

The basic error was the assumption of positive feedback. In actuality, increased water vapor in the atmosphere produces clouds which reflect sunlight back into space and thus has a cooling effect. This negative feedback, reflection, is, according to actual measurements, much stronger than the hypothetical positive feedback.

The USGCRP and IPCC modelers put out many scary scenarios from the “what if” games they play on computers, but all the scenarios are fatally flawed because of the erroneous assumption.

This point is emphasized by Dr. John Christy, Professor of Atmospheric Science and Director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (and IPCC Nobel laureate). “We have seen a rise in surface temperature, but whether or not that is due to CO2 is subject to debate. However, both satellite and radiosonde measurements show that rise in tropospheric temperature has been less than half of the surface temperature rise, not more as predicted.” “This is important,” says Christy, “because the quantity examined here, lower tropospheric temperature, is not a minor aspect of the climate system. This represents most of the bulk mass of the atmosphere, and hence the climate system. The inability of climate models to achieve consistency on this scale is a serious shortcoming and suggests projections from such models be viewed with great skepticism.” [Source: The 13 May 2003 Testimony of Dr. John Christy before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Resources.]

It seems that politics is driving government science. In a CCSP report published in June, 2008 (Weather and Climate Extremes in a Changing Climate) they concluded:

1. Over the long-term U.S. hurricane landfalls have been declining.

2. Nationwide there have been no long-term increases in drought.

3. Despite increases in some measures of precipitation, there have not been corresponding increases in peak streamflows (high flows above 90th percentile).

4. There have been no observed changes in the occurrence of tornadoes or thunderstorms.

5. There have been no long-term increases in strong East Coast winter storms (ECWS), called Nor’easters.

6. There are no long-term trends in either heat waves or cold spells, though there are trends within shorter time periods in the overall record.

End Post


  1. What did you expect from an administration that is hell-bent on implementing a cap-and-trade scam?

  2. First of all, there is a scientific consensus that carbon dioxide is the main atmospheric gas that creates the (currently livable) global average temperature – a consensus that goes back more than a decade.

    The central premise of this post would have us believe there is a worldwide conspiracy among leading scientists to fool the public and policy makers that the untrue is true. This carnad has been hauled out for years as an assertion without documentation as if it is adequate to refute more than three decades of the peer reviewed findings published in Science, Nature and other journals and synthesized by the UN Climate Panel, the US Academy of Sciences and others, detailing the evidence of human induced climate change.

    One could parse each assertion in this post, but I’ll just mention that the cites about the frequency of hurricanes, etc. miss the point, because the climate science points to the intensity of such events, not to how often they may occur.

    It is long past time to confront climate change, whatever one’s political agenda may be.

  3. First of all, I think it is marvelous that naked apes can find so many ways to overcomplicate their thinking.

    Next, I want to point out that the environment that successfully supported life on the earth has had a basic chemical composition for a long time….

    Now, naked apes are changing that composition, spending vast amounts of hot air to defend those changes as “insignificant”.

    Lastly, I posit that the naked ape is not intelligent enough, due to structural limitations on its intelligence (not to mention pride and foolishness) to know much at all about the changes it is making in its environment.

    It is simple: don’t change the chemical composition of your environment…to do so is arrogant. To defend significant changes in a working environment/ecosystem is a not a sign of logical thinking.

    To prove it…my challenge to you would be to ingest just the tiniest bit of any number of chemicals (like LSD, arsenic, whatever) and then tell me the chemical composition of the earth can be….whatever naked apes happen to make it with all their waste products.

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