September 2002

Scientists Still Baffled by Surface- Atmosphere Discrepancy

A new study in the September 2002 issue of the Journal of Climate takes another look at the discrepancy in temperature trends between the surface, measured by ground-based thermometers, and the atmosphere (more specifically the troposphere), measured by satellite-borne instruments, and concludes that we dont know why there is a discrepancy.

The temperature differential between the surface and the atmosphere is known as the lapse rate. From 1964 to 1979 the lapse rate decreased, meaning that surface and atmospheric temperatures were converging. However, beginning in 1980 the lapse rate began to increase and has continued to do so until the present time. Much of the winter-to-winter lapse rate variability in the high latitudes is dynamically induced, according to the study, but most of the change in lapse rate is over the lower latitudes or tropics.

The researchers, Gabriele C. Hegerl of Duke University and John M. Wallace of the University of Washington, attempted to account for this change by comparing the pattern to El Nio southern oscillation and other factors, but found that, “Trends in these patterns can account for only a small fraction of the observed trend in lapse rate.”

The researchers then ran the data through a climate model, both a control run and a run with greenhouse gas and aerosol forcings, which did a decent job of simulating short-term, monthly changes in lapse rate, but failed to simulate decadal scale changes. The model shows a tighter long-term coupling between the surface and atmospheric temperatures than is observed in nature. As this study shows, our understanding of heat transfer between the surface and atmosphere is still incomplete, and until this problem is resolved there is little hope that climate models can tell us anything about what the climate may be like in 10, 50 or 100 years.


  • The September 2002 issue of The Washington Monthly ran an article reminiscent of the “ozone hole over Kennebunkport” flap under Bush I about the possible effects of global warming on President George W. Bushs ranch in Crawford, Texas.

The article begins with an account of British Prime Minister Tony Blairs visit to the Bush ranch for a meeting with the “cowboy president.” President Bushs plans to take Blair on a tour of the ranch were ruined by severe thunderstorms and golf-ball-sized hail. The article fingers global warming as the culprit. “But that possibility apparently seemed as remote to Bush as the likelihood that the storm was a sign from God,” it said.

Theres a good reason why this twaddle may not have crossed President Bushs mind. It turns out that, according to data from the United States Historical Climatology Network, its getting cooler around Crawford. The nearest long-term temperature station to the Bush ranch is in Temple, Texas, 34 miles south of Crawford. It shows a cooling trend since 1890, and since 1920 the yearly average temperature has fallen by well over 2 degrees Celsius.


The Cooler Heads Coalition will hold a congressional and media briefing by Professor Richard S. Lindzen of MIT on September 30 from noon to 1:30 PM in Room 345 of the Cannon House Office Building. Lunch will be provided. Reservations are required. Those wishing to attend should e-mail their name, affiliation, and phone number to or telephone Myron Ebell at (202) 331-1010, ext. 216. Dr. Lindzen will be speaking “On the meaning of global warming claims.”

New York Wind Farms a Bad Decision

In August, New York Governor George Pataki announced a $17 million aid package to four private companies to develop wind farms in various parts of the state. But, according to Glenn Schleede, president of Energy Market & Policy Analysis, New Yorkers should be wary of the environmental claims of wind power.

The New York Energy Plan estimates that the eight wind farms, with a combined 250 wind turbines, would produce approximately 900,000 kilo-watt hours (kWh) of electricity per year. But this is a drop in the bucket compared to the states total electricity demand. For example, this amount equals 58/100 of 1 percent of the total electricity imported into New York in 2000. It is only 15 percent of the energy that will be produced from a single gas-fired combined cycle plant that is scheduled to come online in Athens, NY in 2003.

The wind power industry often claims that “electricity generated by the wind turbines will displace on a kWh for kWh basis electricity that would be generated by fossil-fuel generating units and any associated emissions.” But that simply is not true, says Schleede. “Such claims are generally exaggerated. For example, they do not take into account that any fossil-fueled generating unit that is kept available to back up the intermittent electricity from the wind farm will be giving off emissions while it is running at less than peak efficiency or in spinning reserve mode. Nor do they take into account the fact that other alternatives for reducing emissions are likely to be far more cost-effective.”

New Yorkers should also be aware that there is growing opposition to wind farms wherever they are proposed, in Europe, Australia and in nearly every state in the U.S., says Schleede. “Opposition is due to a variety of reasons including scenic and property value impairment, noise, bird kills, flicker effects of spinning blades after sunrise and before sunset, potential safety hazards from blade and ice throws, interference with telecommunications, and higher costs of electricity.”

Full Expensing of Capital Will Reduce Carbon Intensity

Several climate-related initiatives pose a serious threat to Americas economic future, according to Marlo Lewis, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. One such scheme is President Bushs proposal to expand the Department of Energys Voluntary Reporting of Greenhouse Gases program to include the awarding of transferable carbon credits for voluntary greenhouse gas reductions.

Currently, the DOE program is a simple voluntary reporting program with no regulatory significance. But, says Lewis, writing for Tech Central Station (September 10, 2002), the addition of the awarding of credits to companies that report greenhouse gas reductions will corrupt the “politics of U.S. energy policy” and “grow the greenhouse lobby.”

Under Bushs proposal, companies that begin to comply with Kyoto before it is ratified would be awarded credits that they could sell or use to offset future regulatory obligations. In the absence of a regulatory cap on carbon emissions, the credits are worthless. Only if Kyoto or a similar regulatory program were enacted would the credits yield dividends. “Credit-holders thus acquire cash incentives to support Kyoto, or lobby for its domestic equivalent,” says Lewis.

A credit scheme would be a zero-sum game where one companys gain is anothers loss. Every credit awarded in the voluntary early action period is one that wont be available during the mandatory period. Companies that dont or cant “volunteer” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions now will be penalized later under the mandatory cap, which means that the program isnt really voluntary.

Lewis argues that the Bush administration should stop legitimizing climate alarmism by playing games within the Kyoto framework. Instead, it should embrace non-regulatory, pro-growth policies that would also have the side benefit of reducing carbon intensity. Bush should lower tax barriers to investment by allowing companies to “deduct from current-year revenues, the full cost of capital investment,” says Lewis. Replacing the current system of capital depreciation with full expensing for all types of capital investment would eliminate barriers to economically efficient capital turnover.

A study in the August 28 issue of Geophysical Research Letters finds that there is a serious error in the global circulation models when it comes to predicting temperatures in the Earths polar regions. The study measured atmospheric temperatures, at the stratopause and mesopause regions (the atmospheric layers at about 30 and 50 miles altitude respectively), at the Earths poles. What the researchers found was that atmospheric temperatures at the South Pole are about 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than model predictions.

“Our results suggest that wintertime warming due to sinking air masses is not as strong as the models have assumed,” according to Chester Gardner, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and coauthor of the study. “But in all fairness, since no one had made these measurements before, modelers have been forced to estimate the values. And, in this case, their estimates were wrong.”

The researchers made temperature measurements from December 1999 to October 2001 using a laser radar system in combination with weather balloon measurements of the troposphere and lower stratosphere. Temperatures were recorded from the surface to an altitude of 70 miles.

It was discovered that at about 30 miles altitude it was much colder than model predictions, said Gardner. “The greatest difference occurred in July, when the measured stratopause temperature was about 0 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to about 40 degrees Fahrenheit predicted by the models.”

Gardner explains the significance of this finding: “After the autumnal equinox in March, radiative processes begin cooling the polar atmosphere. During the long polar night, the atmosphere above Antarctica receives little sunlight and is sealed off by a vortex of winds that spins counterclockwise. This stable polar vortex prevents the transport of warmer air from lower latitudes into the pole, and leads to extreme cooling of the lower stratosphere.”

The only source of heat during the winter comes from down-welling air masses, which warms the air by compressing it. “Current global circulation models apparently overpredict the amount of down-welling, because they show warmer temperatures than we observed,” said Gardner.

When the researchers plugged their results into the climate model at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, the difference was significant. “With the reduced down-welling, the predicted mesopause temperature near 60 miles altitude decreased from about minus 120 degrees Fahrenheit to about minus 140 degrees Fahrenheit, in better agreement with our measurements for mid-winter conditions,” Gardner said. “In the stratopause region, the predicted temperature decreased from about 35 degrees Fahrenheit to about 12 degrees Fahrenheit, also in better agreement with our measurements.”


  • The Bush Administrations Climate Action Report 2002 continues to undermine its position on global warming. In a major speech in Mozambique on September 1 just before his appearance at the World Summit, British Prime Minister Tony Blair stated, “They [the Bush Administration] accept the science, but they believe the targets are unachievable without unacceptable economic consequences.”

Ford Motor Co.s Th!nk electric car division is going the way of the Edsel. The company cites poor consumer demand and lack of government support for its decision to pull the plug.

Ford bought the Norway-based Th!nk in 1999 for $23 million and invested an additional $100 million to develop electric vehicle battery technology. “The bottom line is we dont believe that this is the future of environmental transport for the mass markets,” said Ford spokesman Tim Holmes. Instead, Ford will focus on developing fuel cell and hybrid gasoline-electric cars.

Fords thinking has undergone a rapid evolution recently, apparently due to mounting financial losses. Chairman William Clay Ford, Jr., a long-time environmentalist, began his tenure with several high profile environmental statements and commitments. For example, he pledged that Ford would increase the mileage of its SUVs by 25 percent in five years.

But economic realities now have him singing a different tune. He has begun appearing in Ford television commercials touting the companys powerful trucks, oohing and aahing over the Mustang, old and new, and claiming that he has gasoline in his veins.

Shortly after Governor Gray Davis signed into law a bill that would regulate greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, Mr. Ford appeared conciliatory, saying that he wanted to “lower the temperature” between the automobile industry and California regulators and that the states “love affair with the auto industry has grown stale.” But the company is now distancing itself from those statements. Ford spokeswoman Francine Romine said that the company still opposes the California emissions bill and that it is still considering participation in an Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers lawsuit against it (Greenwire, August 12, 2002).

The “Th!nk City” vehicle is a two-seater, with a plastic body, has a range of 53 miles and takes six hours to recharge. Moreover, it costs much more than similarly-sized vehicles. “Battery electric vehicles are not there yet technologically,” according to Jim Kliesch, a research associate with the nonprofit the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. “Nobody has found a way to build a battery that is cheap, can quickly recharge and allows you to drive long distances” (Reuters, August 30, 2002).