Monday, April 30, 2007

Is the Earth still recovering from the “Little Ice Age”?

We were honoured by a visit from this curious chap shortly before I went off to the EGU. Some might recognise him as one of the "stars" of Durkin's swindle. Apparently he is Alaska's most famous sceptic, which sounds like praising with faint damnation to me, but never mind about that. I'm not sure why he was invited to speak, my guess is that our institute feels somewhat obliged due to our close relationship with IARC (a joint USA-Japan enterprise) which he helped to establish. He is certainly a deservedly well-respected scientist in his own field (auroral storms) but why anyone thinks this means he has much interesting to say about climate change is anyone's guess.

His argument goes something like this:
  • The IPCC says the planet has warmed by 0.6C, mostly due to anthropogenic GHGs.
  • The observed warming hasn't been exactly linear.
  • Therefore, the non-linear component must be due to other things that the IPCC is ignoring.
  • Therefore, the IPCC is wrong and GHGs have a rather small effect
Really, I haven't made this up - I don't think I could. It isn't even coherent, let alone correct. The full manuscript is on the page I linked to at the top.

He was actually very reticent in his presentation - always prefacing his comments with disclaimers about how he wasn't an expert on climate science, he was just putting forward some ideas. It's disappointing that he assumed that all climate scientists (even collectively) are as ignorant as he appears to be. He also spent a substantial portion of his time criticising the press for exaggeration - a point that the audience was keen to emphasise their agreement over, in what seemed like a transparent attempt to maintain the wa in a potentially embarrassing situation.

He had two specific criticisms of the AR4 SPM - firstly, that it didn't define "most" (in "most of the observed warming") and secondly, that it didn't show its working. In the question time afterwards, I explained that "most" was a common English word that meant "more than 50%" (at a conservative minimum) and pointed out that the SPM was merely a summary (that's what the "S" stands for): the details to justify that claim will be discussed in the soon-to-be-published (just out today, in fact) full report. All in all, it was two hours I could have more usefully spent in a number of other ways. It is often said that shame is a powerful motivating force in Japan, so hopefully his ramble will inspire some of my colleagues to displace him from his pedestal as one of Japan's most famous scientists!


William M. Connolley said...

If the obs warming isn't exactly linear, why is he saying "There seems to be a roughly linear increase of the temperature from about 1800"!?!

William M. Connolley said...

Oh... and I see he doesn't omit the "1970s ice age" nonsense, the mark of a true septic

James Annan said...

Don't waste your time trying to make sense of it :-)

Unknown said...

If only you'd kept up with the blogosphere, you'd have found this:

which might have least have given you some warning, even if you'd been unable to avoid the actual event.

I was confused when I read it. Glad to know I'm not alone.

James Annan said...

I'd seen that post, thanks, and wanted to see if he was for real. Sadly he is, although rather more evasive and self-effacing in person than on paper.

I see he has now added this to the comments on that blog post:

"Since I am not a climatologist, all the data presented in my note are found in papers and books published in the past; that is why I do not want to publish my note as a paper in a professional journal."

I guess Bill Gray says much the same about his "theory".


Hank Roberts said...

The link in the main post to Akasofu's home page now redirects to its new home:

It was Last modified: October 02, 2007. 12:52:57 pm

Noted because of the mention here:

(The fellow thinks his Akasofu, who he learned about from Joanne Nova, couldn't possibly be the same Akasofu you're talking about. He's wrong, near as I can tell.

James Annan said...

Definitely the same person!

Hank Roberts said...

Here's another take on his posting at PielkeSr., by an ex-student who goes through that posting point by point.

Click the link for that. I'll post just his statement of personal interest:
----- excerpt follows -----

Akasofu was also my former thesis-Ph.D. advisor while at the University of Alaska, in 1985-86. We had an irrevocable falling out after a seminar I presented (of my solar flare work) in the fall of 1985, which Akasofu viciously attacked. Basically, he insisted that the accepted paradigm for solar flares (of magnetic stress in active regions, followed by release of free magnetic energy) was false and that his 'theory' of external electrostatic triggering was more viable...."