Dr. Sebastian Lüning was given permission to republish the interview at the Die kalte Sonne site here, adding his rebuttals and corrections. Lüning writes: “Thomas Stocker showed a number of memory lapses in the Weltwoche-Interview.”
What follows is the interview along with Lüning’s rebuttals in English. Because of the interview’s length, it will appear in 3 or 4 parts over the next few days. Some parts have been slightly shortened and edited.
The Stocker interview not only exposes misleading science, but also provides good hints as to how the IPCC intends to approach its 5th report.
WELTWOCHE: How do you explain the cold winters of the last years?
STOCKER: There’s been no long series of cold winters in Switzerland, every one was different. Basically I tell people, “You can’t look at the temperatures of one winter and at one station. Instead many years of very precise observations have to considered if you want to see a long-term trend.” And especially this winter there are ideas for explanations in the science.
Lüning: Every winter was different? To the contrary the last five years indeed do have something in common. Meteorologist Dominik Jung of wetter.net reported in February 2013: “With the current winter we now have five consecutive colder-than-normal winters.” This is visibly very awkward for Stocker, and so he just doesn’t mention it and hopes no one will notice.
WELTWOCHE: Some colleagues are aggressively pursuing the hypothesis that the cold winters are due to melting ice in the Arctic.
STOCKER: Yes, there are indications from a couple of studies – though I wouldn’t call it anything robust at this point – that the low sea ice cover is having an impact on the statistics of the frequency of high pressure regions. This is having a strong impact on the weather events at our latitudes, as we are currently experiencing now.
WELTWOCHE: The German colleagues who developed this hypothesis presented it to the media as truth.
STOCKER: I don’t pay so much attention to what these colleagues are saying, and it is not for me to comment on. The following is clear: We have to rationally approach the problem of communicating on the big problem of climate warming, that is to stick to the facts – this is valid for all sides. That’s a big challenge today when everything has to fit in the 140 characters of a tweet. With such a complex issue, it just doesn’t work: On one hand we have to communicate the facts, and on other hand also the uncertainties.
WELTWOCHE: The colleagues are tweeting these findings like they are sure: “The cold winters stem from the climate warming.”
STOCKER: That’s the statement from one ot two publications, but it’s no scientific consensus; forming a consensus is a tough job. At the IPCC we just can’t take every single paper from all institutes worldwide. It’s possible that in the coming report there will be a statement on that, on how ice cover in the Arctic influences the statistics of high pressure regions. But for now we are working on it.
Lüning: That’s a major blow to his colleagues at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), who quickly thought up the Arctic ice theory after the first cold winters showed up. Totally convinced, the dubious patchwork was presented to the media as the solution to the cold winter paradox. But now it’s official: the IPCC Co-Chair does not see any robust science in the Potsdam theory and no scientific consensus.
Here it would have been nice if Stocker had brought up another study on this, like the one from Mike Lockwood et al from 2010. This paper found a really convincing mechanism where weak solar phases could lead to cold European winters. Moreover, from Stocker’s very own institute, the Oeschger Centre for Climate Science in Bern, came a study in January 2013 written by Ulf Büntgen confirming that Eastern European cold phases over the last 1000 years occurred during weak periods of solar activity (see our blog article”Osteuropäische Kälteperioden während solarer Schwächephasen“). It’s hard to believe that Stocker suddenly cannot remember the latest research results coming from his very own institute.
WELTWOCHE: Us lay-people would much prefer to have experts who can tell us what’s ahead, and not experts who later explain why something didn’t happen like it was supposed to.
STOCKER: That’s right. That’s why at the IPCC we look back regularly: What did we say in the first report in 1990, the second in 1995, the third in 2001 and the fourth in 2007? We can show that the projections of the global mean temperature were extremely good already back in 1990. At the time we already had the most important blocks of the science in place in order to – of course within the uncertainties – reliably estimate the temperature development. But we never claimed, and we aren’t claiming now, that we can project the temperature 10 years down the road. Such a short-term forecast is not possible, and will never be possible. There’s the trend, and it will be overlaid with short term fluctuations. We’ve always communicated that.
Lüning: At this point Stocker is digging himself into a hole. Stocker claims outright that the IPCC projections were “extremely good“. This is untrue – and Stocker knows it. The real observed, measured temperature development is now departing from the IPCC projection range, and Stocker is keeping completely quiet about this fact, insisting the false projections are “extremely good”. Here he is intentionally misleading the unfamiliar readers. But luckily Weltwoche did not fall for his deception. Later in the interview Weltwoche comes back and presses Stocker on the point. But first Weltwoche repeats a question that Stocker had attempted to dodge.
WELTWOCHE: We would tend to believe the cold winter theory had it not come from the very same people who just ten years ago told us children would not know what snow is.
STOCKER: That’s why the IPCC avoids making such statements.
Here Stocker throws his climate-alarmist colleague Mojib Latif under the bus and distances himself from the failed predictions and media gaffe. A clever move on his part. Stocker is then asked once more about the failed IPCC projections.
WELTWOCHE: You emphasized that you had correctly predicted the temperature development. But that’s hotly disputed. In the draft of your report in the fall of 2012, you depicted a chart that showed the temperatures of the last years being below all the projections of the IPCC.
STOCKER: At the moment we find ourselves at the lower limit when you look at the last 10 years, but still within the communicated uncertainties.
Lüning: At this point Stocker was forced to admit after all that the IPCC’s projections were not “extremely good”, like he had claimed earlier. But hey, it was worth the try. Most other newspapers would not have noticed his error and Stocker’s version would have gotten through. Weltwoche turns up the heat:
WELTWOCHE: The very uncertain uncertainties
STOCKER: This is precisely why we specify uncertainties. But we also have to look back: Were there earlier periods where the global mean temperature stagnated over 10 or 15 years? Indeed we find several such windows in the last 100 years. So it’s nothing really unusual.
Lüning: Of course there have been cold phases in the past. And we noticed that the cold was always in sync with the cold Pacific and Atlantic Ocean cycles. The IPCC just doesn’t want to acknowledge this relationship and stubbornly claims the cold would never follow any system and would just disappear. This is the only way that the IPCC could so grandly fail with the temperature development of the last one and a half decades. At about 2000 the PDO began its downward phase. So it was clear from the start that we should expect cooling for the coming decades. If the IPCC had accepted this empirical forecasting tool earlier, it would have one less problem to deal with today. However, there’s a good reason why the IPCC refused to acknowledge the PDO’s obvious impact on the global temperature development: During the main warming phase of 1977-2000 the PDO climbed and remained at a warm plateau, taking the global temperature up a few tenths of a degree with it. These were a few tenths of a degree that the IPCC had already chalked up to CO2.
Weltwoche then brought up a topic over which some members of the IPCC have had sleepless nights:
WELTWOCHE: IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri recently admitted that there has not been any global warming for 17 years.
STOCKER: I can’t tell other colleagues what to say.
Lüning: What is he saying? Isn’t Stocker aware of the real measured temperature curve? The stop in warming is a fact. Even Pachauri admits it. Does Stocker seriously believe Pachauri made a mistake here? Weltwoche:
WELTWOCHE: He’s your boss.
STOCKER: My function together with the international team of authors is to summarize the science; that’s what we are doing right now. From the studies we are addressing the following: a) is such a stagnation usual, b) are we going to see such phases also in the future, and c) this is the most important point, there are in the meantime over 100 simulations of climate development using the latest models. The question is: Do we see simulations that show no warming between 1998 and 2012? We do find such simulations, not many, but one or two. We are simply living in a realisation of a climate system with its chaos of natural variability – in the single one observed of many possible physical ones.
Lüning: Here Stocker is spreading the full superbness of the IPCC. Using lots of impressive words, he’s trying to come up with reasons for the warming stop, but is sadly unable to come up with anything convincing. As expected, Stocker pulls out the old chaos models from his hat. He’s hoping that of the hundreds of simulations carried out, a few will be able to show a warming stop over the last 15 years. This would then be the proof that the models are “extremely good”. Is Stocker really so naive to think that this would actually serve as proof? This would be like someone picking all 49 numbers of a lottery and then later claiming he picked the 6 correct numbers!
(Interview continues tomorrow…)