Letter in Liberty, December 2008, pp. 5-6

In the Air Tonight

In his response to Gaylord Olsen (Letters, November), Ed Contoski writes that "S. Fred Singer, in a paper in 2000, noted that since 1979 conventional thermometers have shown a rise of about 0.1 to 0.2 degrees C per decade but 'satellite data, as well as independent data from balloon-borne radiosondes, show no warming trend between 1979 and 1997 in the lower troposphere, and could even indicate a slight cooling (if one ignores the unusual warming of 1998 by El Nino.)'"

Contoski's evidence is out-of-date. In the August 11, 2005 issue of Science, three papers were published which reconciled temperature data from ground stations, radiosondes, and satellite data. Carl Mears and Frank Wentz of Remote Sensing Systems, in "The effect of diurnal correction on satellite-derived lower tropospheric temperature," identified an error by previous researchers at the University of Alabama at Huntsville (UAH), which when corrected brought satellite measurements in line with ground-based measurements. Roy Spencer at UAH acknowledged the error and noted that UAH provided their own set of corrections to their method which produced comparable results. A second paper by Steven Sherwood of Yale University, "Radiosonde daytime biases and late 20th century warming," showed that construction artifacts in radiosonde instruments resulted in higher daytime temperatures on older measurements, which, when corrected for, also showed a warming trend consistent with ground measurements. A third paper by Ben Santer of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, "Amplification of surface temperature trends and variability in the tropical atmosphere," examined the theory about how temperatures in the troposphere should relate to surface temperatures.

Roy Spencer of UAH, writing a critical response to these three papers, offered some critical questions but concluded that "at least some portion of the disagreement between satellite and thermometer estimates of global temperature trends has now been removed. This helps to further shift the global warming debate out of the realm of 'is warming happening?' to 'how much has it warmed, and how much will it warm in the future?'. (Equally valid questions to debate are 'how much of the warmth is man-made?', 'is warming necessarily a bad thing?', and 'what can we do about it anyway?'). And that is where the debate should be." (See http://www.sepp.org/Archive/weekwas/2005/Aug.%2013.htm and http://www.livescience.com/environment/050811_global_warming.html.)

It was these Science papers that changed Reason science writer Ron Bailey's mind about global warming in 2005, when he wrote "We're All Global Warmers Now: Reconciling temperature trends that are all over the place." (http://www.reason.com/news/show/34079.html)

It looks like Ed Contoski--and Liberty--hasn't caught up yet.

Jim Lippard
Phoenix, Ariz.

This letter was responded to by Contoski, who claimed that his information was not out-of-date but didn't actually respond to the Science papers, and in the March 2009 issue of Liberty (pp. 34, 54) by reader Jim Henshaw, who incorrectly accuses me of "the fallacy of extrapolating past trends into the future" and attributes my quotations of others to me. He didn't understand the point of the elimination of the disagreement between temperature sources, and goes on to talk about issues beyond the scope of my letter.