Thongchai Thailand

NASA: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Posted on: February 20, 2020

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THIS POST IS A CRITICAL REVIEW OF A NASA YOUTUBE VIDEO [LINK] DESCRIBED AS “NASA’s Research on Climate Change Above and Beyond” WHERE WE EXPECT TO FIND THE CLIMATE CHANGE ROLE OF AN AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION. THE YOUTUBE LECTURE IS TRANSCRIBED AND PRESENTED AS A SERIES OF “CLAIMS” FOR EACH OF WHICH WE OFFER A RESPONSE. 

SPACESHUTTLE

 

CLAIM#1: NASA has unique capabilities because we have the point of view from space. With NASA’s carbon monitoring system you can see the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere decreasing in the spring and the summer. Plants and the oceans and the land surface are greening up and pulling the carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. And then in the fall and in the wintertime you’ll see the CO2 in the atmosphere increasing because plants and animals are releasing the carbon dioxide that was captured during the growing season.

RESPONSE TO CLAIM#1:  The seasonal cycle in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration is well known and has been well known for some time simply from Mauna Loa data as explained in a related post [LINK]  and as shown in the video display below. The red and yellow video displays created by a space exploration agency with a $20 billion annual budget are surely more colorful and more entertaining but the simple video below is a clearer expression of the essential data in this seasonal cycle particularly so in terms of the magnitudes and numerical values in these cyclical changes.

 

CLAIM#2 There is a graph called the Keeling Curve where you can see the summer and winter cycles. This process is very natural. Contrast that with old slow carbon. So this is a chunk of coal (speaker holds up a large chunk of coal). It was also made by plants. It also contains carbon dioxide that was in the atmosphere, but the carbon in this chunk of coal was taken out of the atmosphere 350 million years ago. And since the Industrial Revolution, we’ve been taking it out of the ground and using it for fuel. The burning of fossil fuel, whether it is coal, oil, or natural gas, has released this very very old carbon back into the atmosphere a lot faster than the plants and the oceans can take it out of the atmosphere. Bit by bit it is moving the Keeling Curve up. 1989 was the last time we saw atmospheric CO2 below 350 ppm. And it appears that 2016 will be the last time we see CO2 below 400 ppm.

RESPONSE-A TO CLAIM#2:  The NASA animated graphics showing the Keeling curve from 1979 to 2014 is very impressive and certainly useful in evaluating this system in terms of fossil fuel emissions. However, it is not clear that we need a $200 billion dollar space exploration agency to provide us with this kind of information when the same information is readily available from the University of California, San Diego (or from one of many such research institutions) in formats that are just as useful if not more so. The Keeling curve made freely available by the Scripps Institution, where the late great Charles David Keeling had worked, is shown below. There is nothing lacking in this chart in terms of information or useful presentation of information that suggests the need for technical assistance from a space exploration agency .  

RESPONSE-B TO CLAIM#2:  This is a response to the statement that the carbon in this chunk of coal was taken out of the atmosphere 350 million years ago. And since the Industrial Revolution, we’ve been taking it out of the ground and using it for fuel. The burning of fossil fuel, whether it is coal, oil, or natural gas, has released this very very old carbon back into the atmosphere a lot faster than the plants and the oceans can take it out of the atmosphere. Bit by bit it is moving the Keeling Curve up“. 

This argument is the the essence and the foundation of the theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming and Climate Change. It claims that since the carbon in fossil fuels is not part of the current account of the carbon cycle and therefore external to the carbon cycle, its introduction into the atmosphere is a perturbation of the carbon cycle such that the extra and external carbon from fossil fuels causes atmospheric CO2 concentration to rise as seen in the Keeling Curve 1979-2014 presented by NASA and 1960 to 2015 presented by Scripps. The evidence presented for this causation hypothesis is that atmospheric CO2 concentration has been going up during a time when the industrial economy was burning fossil fuels. In terms of the principles of statistics, this argument does not provide evidence of causation. Tyler Vigen’s collection of spurious correlations sheds some light on this issue [LINK] .

Correlation between time series data arises from two different sources. These are (1) shared trends and (2) the responsiveness of the object time series to the causation time series at the time scale at which the causation is supposed to occur. Only the second source of correlation has a causation interpretation. The first source, shared trends, is what creates all those spurious correlations demonstrated by Tyler Vigen. Therefore, to show that atmospheric CO2 concentration is responsive to fossil fuel emissions, we must first remove their trends. And if the causation occurs at an annual time scale, that is if year to year changes in atmospheric CO2 concentration is explained by annual fossil fuel emissions, then the detrended correlation between the two detrended series will show a statistically significant correlation at an annual time scale. Only this detrended correlation and not the observation that atmospheric CO2 concentration has been rising during a time of fossil fuel emissions, serves as evidence of causation, i.e., that fossil fuel emissions cause atmospheric CO2 concentration to rise at an annual time scale. Detrended correlation analyses of this nature are presented in related posts on this site. No evidence is found that the observed changes in atmospheric CO2 concentration during a time of fossil fuel emissions are caused by fossil fuel emissions  [LINK] .

A further investigation of the effect of fossil fuel emissions on atmospheric composition is presented in terms of the the carbon cycle. Carbon cycle flows are an order of magnitude larger than fossil fuel emissions. These flows are not directly measured but inferred and they therefore contain very large uncertainties. Although these uncertainties are declared, they are ignored when carrying out the mass balance that shows  what’s called the “airborne fraction” of fossil fuel emissions, that is the portion of fossil fuel emissions that is thought to remain in the atmosphere and thereby explain the observed rise in atmospheric CO2 driven by fossil fuel emissions. However, this computation is flawed because it does not include the uncertainties declared by climate science to exist in the estimation of carbon cycle flows. In a related post it is shown that when the uncertainties in carbon cycle flows declared by the IPCC are taken into account, it is not possible to detect the much smaller fossil fuel emissions because the carbon cycle balances with and without fossil fuel emissions. [LINK] . The carbon cycle mass balance and the detrended correlation analyses taken together show that no evidence exists to attribute observed changes in atmospheric CO2 concentration to fossil fuel emissions.

It is noted that in this presentation NASA embraces the theory that AGW climate change began after the Industrial Revolution when the Industrial Economy began to burn coal but their official position is that AGW climate change began in 1950. This contradiction requires an explanation.

CLAIM #3: And what the heck is 400 parts per million? What does that even mean? Well, we know from the analysis of ice samples from Antarctica that before the Industrial Revolution the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was about 275 parts per million (ppm). It had been there for thousands of years. Something has increased the number from 275 to 400. We are quite certain that it is due to the human activity of burning fossil fuels.

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RESPONSE TO CLAIM #3: It is claimed that the observed rise of atmospheric CO2 concentration from 275ppm to 400pppm was caused by fossil fuels. No evidence is provided to support that claim. Instead, the claim is supported by the statement that “We are quite certain that it is due to the human activity of burning fossil fuels“. Perhaps this claim is a reference to the scientific credentials of an AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION such that if scientists in such high places are “quite certain” it must be so. This claim is an Ad hominem fallacy. The implication is that if the very knowledgeable scientists at NASA are “quite certain” it must be true. This conclusion is therefore rejected because of the absence of evidence.

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CLAIM #4: We take these satellite measurements, and the variation over time of how the world is changing as facts. We’ve seen warming over the last century and a half …. very very meticulous measurements … and it shows a really sharp acceleration in the warming over the last four decades.

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RESPONSE TO CLAIM #4:  Presumably, the first two sentences are not related because taken together they imply the impossibility that satellite measurements have seen warming over the last century and a half. But perhaps the real message of this claim is the acceleration in warming seen by NASA with satellite measurements that they take as facts. Below are decadal warming rates for the twelve calendar months found in the global mean lower troposphere temperature measured by satellites for the four decades 1979-2018. The charts for the twelve calendar months are presented as a GIF animation that cycles through the twelve calendar months. Acceleration in the rate of warming will be evident in these charts as a rising trend in decadal warming rates. Such a rising trend is seen for the months of January, February, October, and perhaps November. No acceleration is seen in the other eight months of the year. The annual mean decadal warming rates are seen in the chart below the GIF animation. No evidence of acceleration is found in the annual mean decadal warming rate. These data are inconsistent with the claim of a “a really sharp acceleration in the warming over the last four decades“. 

nasa-gif

annualMean

 

CLAIM#5:  People have a hard time understanding what’s the big deal for a planet that it is warmer by 1C or warmer by 2C. The impact that we are worried about is being treated not at a 20-degree warmer world but they are being treated at a one degree warmer world.

RESPONSE TO CLAIM#5: It is true that 2C is 100% higher than 1C but 21C is only 5% higher than 20C but that is not the issue. The issue is that climate science had initially marked the point of “irreversible climate change” at 5C and proposed plans to limit warming to 5C. Later that danger point of warming that must be avoided was dropped to 4C and then again to 3C and then again to 2C and finally in 2018 IPCC released a special report lowering the “do not cross” line to 1.5C – only 0.5C warmer than today. If NASA and the other climate scientists really understand this warming phenomenon well enough to demand an overhaul of the world’s energy infrastructure, this slide from 5C to 1.5C requires a rational explanation.

 

CLAIM#6:  Over the last decade (2007-2016) we’ve seen the ice melting. We’ve seen the melting in the ?Wo? Pole, we’ve seen the ice melt really fast on Greenland. They’ve fallen off Greenland into the ocean. We’ve had Pacific Islands that have already had to be abandoned because of sea level rise. We can combine our data with global climate models and say how is sea level rise going to change in the next 5, 10, 15 years because if we continue on the path we’re doing there’s going to be a lot of coastal communities all around the world that are going to be flooded. As scientists, we’re taking the most precise data that we can. It’s open data. It’s factual. For instance the enormous droughts and fires that we have around the world that are directly related to a warmer climate. That has a huge impact on people, was unprecedented. If you have a warmer atmosphere that can hold more moisture. That’s what warmer atmospheres do, they can suck up more moisture. That means more convection, more big thunderstorms, more hurricanes, more extreme weather. That’s one of the likely outcomes of a warming world. We built our civilization around the current planet, our coastal cities, our food resources, our water resources … they’re all pegged to the climate … and there’s not much slack in the system. We’re already seeing the impacts and the impacts are going to increase. In a 2-degree warming world there will be more. And in a 3-degree warming world there’ll be even more … and when you’re looking at those kinds of scenarios, 3, 4, 5 degrees warmer – that are totally plausible.  If we go down that path, we’ll be looking at a different planet.

RESPONSE TO CLAIM#6: Claim#6 reads like the usual alarming climate scare stories we read in the newspapers everyday and does not appear to be a scientific argument from rocket scientists. For example in the large fluctuations in Greenland ice melt from gain to loss what is the significance that there was a loss in a specific decade?  And if there are Pacific Islands that have already had to be abandoned because of sea level rise, why have those islands not been identified and the data provided? And that sea level is going to change in the next 5, 10, 15 years also requires data and their interpretation. Is the sea level going to change in 5 years or 10 years or is it 15 years? and by how much will that change and how was that change interpreted as a calamity? And statements like this “We’re already seeing the impacts and the impacts are going to increase. In a 2-degree warming world there will be more. And in a 3-degree warming world there’ll be even more … and when you’re looking at those kinds of scenarios, 3, 4, 5 degrees warmer – that are totally plausible.” contain no useful information and suggest that the speaker has none to offer.

 

CONCLUSION: It does not appear from this presentation that NASA has the climate science expertise it claims to have and to which it apparently aspires. In terms of their aeronautics and space expertise, their role in AGW climate change that would best serve climate science and taxpayers is their priceless technology used for collecting the relevant data from space and making that data available to both taxpayers and climate scientists. Rocket scientists should not be involved in climate action strategies any more than climate scientists should be involved space exploration strategies.

5 Responses to "NASA: National Aeronautics and Space Administration"

Excellent review of a discouragingly erroneous public document. Thank You.
Typo on response #5– If NASA and the other climate scientists really understand this warming phenomenon well enough to demand an overhaul of the world’s energy infrastructure, this slide from 5C to 1.5C?
Maybe needs a “why”

Thank you sir. I will make that correction asap.

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