And a controversy really sells. For example, would you rather pick up a newspaper with the headline “Another Study Confirms What Everyone Already Knew”, or “Scientists Locked in Epic Battle over Question of Global Warming”? We are naturally drawn to controversy. It’s so much more interesting to readers.
Possibly that was the inspiration for a remarkable article entitled What happened to global warming? by Paul Hudson on the BBC just over a week ago (it was remarkable because it was published by the BBC, and apparently penned by a “Climate correspondent”).
Needless to say, it was picked up all over the world – in fact it was the most popular article on the BBC’s Science & Environment website for three days running, which takes some doing. It could probably have done so for longer, but the BBC chopped the link to it after three days (which is also unusual in itself – popular articles tend to sit around for a while longer than this).
Quite how the article ended up where it did is in itself a bit of a mystery, as Leo Hickman explains in the Guardian.
However, all of the above is a bit of a preamble – what I’m really interested in is Hudson’s choice of “solar scientist” Piers Corbyn as one of his named “sceptics” (the other was Don Easterbrook – what is it with geologists?).
What is interesting about Hudson’s choice is that Corbyn doesn’t have much of a track record.
He runs a UK company called WeatherAction that predicts the weather – for a fee. Fees range from £12 for a single 30 day forecast up to £550 for a 12 month subscription.
Fair enough – if he thinks he can do better than the UK’s Met Office – and if he can find punters willing to pay for his services – good luck to him.
I personally wouldn’t subscribe on two grounds:
- I am not that obsessed with the weather
- I would be reluctant to pay for a service unless I was pretty sure that it was the best
How good are Corbyn’s forecasts?
William Connelly wasn’t impressed.
Corbyn claims to have made around £20,000 from betting on weather ( in a 12 year period) before he was “banned” from the bookmakers William Hill. He claims a 40% return on his bets.
This cannot be verified, but to be honest I doubt if William Hill (a major UK gambling organisation) would be unduly worried about a punter winning an average of around £1600 a year.
So Corbyn is a weather forecaster – but of course weather is not climate. How much does he know about the climate?
He doesn’t appear to have published anything in the literature. However he is one of the regulars at The Heartland Institute conferences. This is handy, because they put their presentations up on their website – Corbyn’s latest PowerPoint presentation is here (they also have audio and video links if you prefer – I didn’t bother with them).
A lot of it is the usual stuff (CO2 is good for plants, etc.) and his sources include Joe D’Aleo.
According to Corbyn, the climate is mostly driven by the 22 year Hale solar cycle (although Solar -Lunar magnetic modulation, whatever that is, apparently also has an effect). Apparently global temperatures peak two years after each odd cycle maximum, and reach their lowest two years after each even cycle maximum. To get this to work he uses two year averages(!). This means that by his reckoning global warming didn’t stop in 1998 – it stopped in 2002/2003. He also says that we should expect temperatures to fall through to at least 2015 (slide 28), although below this he then extends it to 2030 or possibly 2040.
Landscheidt springs instantly to mind – indeed Corbyn uses one of the diagrams that Landscheidt used early on in his presentation.
I’m fairly sure his correlation isn’t very good – if I can find the time I’ll look into this a bit more. But slide 27 is interesting. Because 1964 & 1965 were cold, it just allows him to claim that temperatures are highest at even cycle maximum plus 2. If you just look at the previous Hale cycles, the warmest period (by a long way) is the solar minimum on the even cycle. :)
It is also curious that he hasn’t included cycles 22 & 23 in his charts. Ignoring the last couple of decades seems an odd thing to do.
In fact, there’s quite a lot of interest in solar variability and the Earth’s magnetic field. If you want to know more you could read this post at Real Climate (especially the section titled “Solar variability and climate: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”.
Near the end of his presentation Corbyn comes up with this (in my view, a hilarious classic):
Doubling CO2 increases CO2 Greenhouse heating of Earth’s surface by 3.8 W/m2. It also increases plant growth & therefore transpiration heat removal (cooling) by 43% to 45%. Now, 44% of 8.6 = 3.8 W/m2
3.8 – 3.8 = 0 So CO2 increase has no net effect on world temperatures.
Which reminds me – at no point in his presentation does Corbyn offer any credible explantion of why the world has warmed as much as it has in the last 30 to 40 years.
As mentioned earlier, Corbyn is a gambler.
So – should Hudson have chosen Corbyn as an example of a “skeptical” scientist?
In my view, no. Corbyn does have a degree in Physics – but he hasn’t published anything in the literature since graduating, and his solar analysis techniques are a secret (understandably, since he makes his living out of them).
But then, readers of tea leaves don’t publish their techniques, either. Hudson should have had tried harder.
Magazine cover from Modern Mechanix
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