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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Slamming on the Brakes: The Hazards of Dr. Easterbrook


Professor Emeritus Dr. Don Easterbrook

I am a simple Catholic layman who, once upon a time, was forced to utter my opinion about man-made climate change once I learned that my pope was going to address the matter at the United Nations and write an encyclical that talked about it. The fact is, I am a skeptic of man-made global climate change. I do not believe that man collectively is making the globe either cooler or hotter, though I do believe he controls the pollution and local climates of areas or regions. Beijing is a good example of that.

 


Two Chart Presentations: Mine and My Opponent's

One day, as I was happily presenting different facts and figures to my debate opponents, I decided to include:

- a chart of lower troposphere global temperature anomalies (1980 - 2010)
-a chart of solar irradiance that is compared to temperature (1880 - 2000)
-next to the above, a chart of CO2 that is compared to temperature (1880 - 2000)

This chart is by Dr. Don Easterbrook.


These charts are by Dr. Don Easterbrook. 
Note the total solar irradiance of the left chart; it ranges from 1967 to 1974 watts per meter squared.



All three of these charts were presented by Dr. Easterbrook at the 2009 International Conference on Climate Change. These charts have been used by Dr. Easterbrook to demonstrate a coming cooling trend, and the idea that solar radiance correlates with global temperatures. The CO2 chart was used by Dr. Easterbrook to demonstrate a lack of correlation between CO2 and temperature change.

One particular opponent said that my chart showing total solar irradiance looked strange somehow. At the time, I thought nothing of it. Yet, later in the thread, he showed me a picture of a graph that was an adaptation of data from differing studies.

This is a model projection of temperature and solar irradiance. It is compiled by Skepticalscience.com. The solar irradiance values come from two sources, N.A. Krivova, and PMOD. Note that the solar irradiance measures between 1365 and 1367.5.

In this graph, the total solar irradiance data was taken from two sources:

- solar irradiance data from 1880 until 1978 was taken from an astrophysicist named Natalie A. Krivova
- solar irradiance data from 1979 until 2009 was taken from a Swiss institution called PMOD (Physikalisch-Meteorologisches Observatorium Davos)

Something odd struck me about how Easterbrook's and my opponent's solar irradiance measurements compared with one another. In my opponent's chart, in 1995, the total solar irradiance measured just under 1366 watts per square meter of the planet. Yet, in the chart I provided, the solar irradiance measured just over 1971 watts per square meter of the planet.

So, that is about a 605 watt difference between the two charts. Dr. Easterbrook's chart says that there were 605 more watts of solar irradiance in 1995 than what PMOD reports. So, Easterbrook says there was an extra 605 watts of solar irradiance per square meter on planet earth in that year.

Surely 605 watts is not a big deal. Right? What is 1366 watts versus 1971 watts? Surely we can overlook this discrepancy, and just consider it all just one big approximation, right?

Wrong. Six hundred and five extra watts of solar irradiance per square meter is a big deal when talking about global temperature. Or, at least, it's a big deal to Dr. Easterbrook.

To get an idea of just what a big deal 605 extra watts of solar irradiance means, let us take a look at Dr. Easterbrook's paper, SolarVariability and Climate Change.


Solar Variability and Climate Change

This graph is Figure #36 in Dr. Easterbrook's paper. 


Easterbrook's caption for this figure reads as follows:
Correspondence of cold periods and solar minima from 1500 to 2000.  Each of the five named solar minimas was a time of sharply reduced global temperatures (blue areas).

On the left side, it lists solar irradiance in terms of watts per square meter on the planet.  The bottom lists the year.  Due to internet restrictions, the left side probably appears very difficult to read, so I have typed the numbers into a larger readable print. 

Red enlarged numbers are added by yours truly.
Note that the solar irradiance measures between 1363 and 1367.
As you can see on Easterbrook's graph, the year 1995, has the solar irradiance measured at 1366 watts per square meter on the planet.  Please note that in this chart, Dr. Easterbrook is more in line with my opponent's chart; and again, those values were tabulated by the Swiss-based PMOD.

Dr. Easterbrook argues that it is solar radiance that causes global temperature change.  So if we look at his listing of the solar irradiance of 1520, we see that the earth was receiving 1363.5 watts per square meter.  The earth was in the midst of the Little Ice Age at this time, so giving him the benefit of the doubt, we would conclude that the lower temperature is due to lower solar irradiance.  How much lower?  Only 2.5 watts.   

So, Dr. Easterbrook would have us believe that having 2.5 watts less of solar irradiance will help to cause a little Ice Age?  That 2.5 watts, then, surely is a big deal.  Each watt per square meter is a very very big deal if 2.5 watts takes us into a mini ice age. 

Remember Easterbrook's charts from the 2009 International Conference on Climate Change?  Remember what Easterbrook said the wattage per square meter in 1995?  He said we experienced 1971 watts of solar irradiance.  That 605 watt difference should be cooking us to death, when considering how dramatic for the world 2.5 watts are.  

Perhaps Dr. Easterbrook was not on top of his game during that conference.  Perhaps we can just give him the benefit of the doubt, and he screwed up when putting that graph together.  After all, he is a Professor Emeritus.  He's older, and he's not as sharp as he used to be. 

But then, after finding this embarrassing little discrepancy, I spotted another one that was worse.  He contradicted himself in his own paper. 


Figure #36 and Figure #37

Figure #37 in Dr. Easterbrook's paper is like Figure #36, in that it lists on the left side the global solar radiance in terms of wattage per square meter on the planet.  Unfortunately for Dr. Easterbrook, they are different.

Here is Figure #37:

Note that the solar irradiance measures between 1367 and 1373.


First off, it is easy to note that the caption underneath this graph has a sentence that trails off without a conclusion.  The second noticeable error is that any source for this graph has been left out or forgotten.  But the third, most embarrassing fact is that the values are different from Figure #36.  In this particular figure, by 1995, the solar irradiance measures at a whopping 1372 watts per square meter.  And again, his previous figure states that the 1995 levels measure at 1366 watts.  That is a whopping 6-watt difference from his own graph—which appeared in his paper just before this one. 

Again, if a difference of 2.5 watts per square meter is sufficient to send us into a mini ice age, then surely an increase of 6 watts per square meter should send our planet into full tropical mode.  If 2.5 watts is a big deal, how much more is six?

So, let's take a score.  Figure 37 looks remarkably similar to the chart from the 2009 International Conference on Climate Change, yet the graph line seems changed a little, and the wattage numbers on the left are completely different from one another.  Neither the graph from the conference, the graph from Figure 36, nor the graph of Figure 37 are similar; they are all different from one another, and they all were made by Dr. Easterbrook.  And finally, adding insult to injury, one of the graphs actually correlates with my opponent's graph in some small measure.


Skepticalscience.com

This website has a low reputation among people on my side of the aisle.  But I can honestly say that the attention they draw to Dr. Easterbrook is not without cause. 

In their post titled Don Easterbrook's Heartland Distortion of Reality, Easterbrook is taken to task for four faults, three of which I can agree with:

-  "From among many charts, he chose a single model run with an anomalous temperature spike in 2011
-  "He only presented the data from 2000 to 2011, which concealed the fact that the temperature spike in 2011 was a short-term anomaly
-  "He exaggerated his distorted IPCC temperature rise by a factor of two."

A forth objection the Skeptical Science group has, is that Easterbrook "chose a figure that represented model simulations of temperature responses only to greenhouse gas changes, which neglects for example the temperature response to the cooling effects of areosols."  I do not have a problem with the fact that Easterbrook was only representing greenhouse gas changes, because it is greenhouse gas—primarily carbon dioxide—that is the focal point of our nation's blame for global warming.  Carbon taxes have been introduced, not aerosols.  It is carbon dioxide—our very exhales—that have been labeled a pollutant.  In that regard, it makes sense to me that Easterbrook would have chosen greenhouse gas change models for his presentation.   

While I continue to disagree with Skeptical Science's stance that man-made global warming is a real phenomenon, hard empirical data is a language that all parties can speak and understand, and hard facts cannot be ignored. 

As someone who just days ago thought I could rely on Easterbrook, I became quite disappointed as I read of how a Skeptical Science contributor tried to inquire for the source of the professor's sources for his IPCC projections.  What had happened when that inquiry was made?  Easterbrook claimed he obtained his data from the IPCC website, but then went on to say that the data must have been altered or removed because he could no longer find it. 
Additionally, Easterbrook should never have made this error to begin with.  The caption of the IPCC figure he used was clear and explicit that it depicted model simulations responding to only the greenhouse gas forcing.  Even if the graphic in question depicted responses to the total global radiative forcing, to cherrypick a single model run and ignore the fact that it displays an anomalous spike in 2011 reveals exceptionally poor data analysis on Easterbrook's part.
It is painful to read how my opponents—those who believe that man is causing the earth to warm—are able to catch such errors among purported experts on my side.  Can those on my side of the fence not police their own?  From the skeptics on my side I have yet to see anything critical being written about this man.

Skeptical science went on to make another post about Dr. Easterbrook, lamenting how "Easterbrook is not explicit about his methodology."  And, in fact, it seems as if Dr. Don Easterbrook is completely evasive about where he draws his data from.  Pinning down source material for his charts can be difficult, and finding such sources can require some amount of digging. 


The Incorrigible Easterbrook

In June of 2012, a writer named Gareth at the New Zealand website, Hot Topic, recounts previous follies of Dr. Easterbrook.  Gareth mentions how the professor claims that the GISP2 core is an acceptable global temperature proxy.  He reminds us that it was wrong for Easterbrook to claim the IPPC predicted an entire degree of warming between 2000 and 2010.  Gareth goes on to mock how Easterbrook is using faulty Greenland graphs that were shown to be in error 18 months previously.  And finally, Gareth laughs at Easterbrook's assertions that we are entering a global cooling period—although, for me, the jury is still out on that one.  I can relate to most of Gareth's conclusions, but not all.

Another article that Gareth links to reveals the professor emeritus's recycling of a previous chart, and never does Easterbrook attribute the chart correctly to the original author, Robert A Rohde. 

Here is Robert A. Rohde's chart:

This chart is the original.


And here is Easterbrook's new unsourced version of it:


This chart is Easterbrook's new version of the original chart by Rohde.

I cannot decide what is more embarrassing, the fact that Easterbrook simply moved the temperature anomaly y-axis over to the left side, or that he kept the original font just the way it was.  Did Professor Emeritus Don Easterbrook honestly think that no one would find this out? 


What does this mean?

This all means that if you are a skeptic against man-made global warming, you should avoid the works of Dr. Easterbrook like the plague.  Imagine a jungle of road construction warning signs all around his name and his photograph.  Furthermore, any other global warming skeptical works that are based off of his research—especially if they use or include his charts—all such 2nd party works should also be avoided. 

In 2014, a Dr. David Deming responded to criticisms of Easterbrook by the Western Washington University geology faculty.  He said:

Their attack on Dr. Easterbrook is the most egregious example of pedantic buffoonery since the Pigeon League conspired against Galileo in the seventeenth century.

I have not read the WWU geology department's letter against Easterbrook, but one thing is certain.  Going over the details, the numbers, and the charts of Easterbrook in the manner that I have laid out is not pedantic buffoonery.  Going over these details has been absolutely necessary to reveal the shoddy work of a man considered prominent to my side's cause.  The higher that skeptics of anthropogenic global warming hold Easterbrook, the harder and more painful it will be when our side falls down for not keeping a clean house. 

Now, I am all for not throwing out the baby with the bath water.  I do not like how conservatives eat their own.  But when empirical data is loosely tossed around, it is quite humiliating.  I am reminded of an embarrassing episode of Glenn Beck, when he went hog wild in quoting the National Inflation Association, which ultimately turned out to be a pump-and-dump scam organization run by Johnathan Lebed. 

Can there be hope for Don Easterbrook?  Only if he methodically went back to explain and correct every single error he has made, and then went on to make a definitive presentation that set the public straight.  But as things are, Easterbrook is not one to attribute his sources very well. 

However, just because Dr. Easterbrook has ruined his reputation does not diminish the skepticism of man-made global warming.  Does this week's revelation give me pause?  Indeed.  However, now some new questions arise:

-Are there other researchers studying the effects of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, or was that idea completely from Dr. Easterbrook?
-Are there any other researchers who assert that the earth is cooling?  Or was it only Easterbrook? 
-Does anyone else assert that the sun itself also has a prominent role in the changing of the earth's temperature? 

And, of course, let's not forget that there are holes and contradictions in many pro-man-made global warming presentations.  There is much more to be said in this debate.  I still retain the opinion that I have had before. 

However, suffice to say, shining a spotlight on Dr. Easterbrook has exhausted me from the topic altogether.  So, perhaps I shall take a break from the global warming debates for a while, and simply wait until Pope Francis says something I disagree with again.  And ultimately, as a priest has recently told me, bantering back and forth on a forum sets each person in the forum up as an expert or someone whose opinion is of importance.  I would like to think Hirsch is important to somebody in these circles; however, not a one of you has met me or knows much about me at all outside of the forums, so my importance is unlikely.  And secondly, I do not claim to be an authority on this anyway. 

Ultimately, my taking people to task on this topic—and conversely, their taking me to task—has led to this newly-explored dead end of the debate.  At this point, I will have to back up, re-evaluate my sources, and double check their legitimacy in future debates.

Yet, for now, it is of no matter.  I am taking a hiatus from the conversation for now.  So, once again, I would like to say "point goes to my debate opponent, Leonhard" when it comes to Easterbrook's charts.  Maybe my opponents and I will pick up on this conversation later on. 




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