Ross McKitrick — the Canadian economist who has spent the last several years utilizing his expertise in statistical analysis to point out the disastrous flaws in climate change studies — has an article in the Financial Post on an important new climatological study which is unlikely to garner the level of journalistic interest of the I.P.C.C.‘s periodic apocalyptical soothsaying. That’s because, first, it weighs in on a fairly obscure scientific debate, and second, its conclusions conflict with the received warmist narrative.
The debate concerns warming trends for the global troposphere, the lowest layer of Earth’s atmosphere, which begins about one kilometer above sea level and extends up to roughly ten kilometers. According to McKitrick:
The troposphere climate record has been heavily debated for two reasons. First, it’s where climate models say the effect of warming due to greenhouse gases (GHGs) will be the strongest, especially in the mid-troposphere. And since that layer is not affected by urbanization or other changes to the land surface it’s a good place to observe a clean signal of the effect of GHGs.
McKitrick has been involved in this debate in the past, having written a paper in 2020, along with his co-author John Christy of the University of Alabama-Huntsville, pointing out that satellite and weather balloons report significantly less tropospheric warming than thirty-eight of the best known climate models had predicted for the years 1979-2014. Christy and McKitrick argued that this “points to a structural error in climate models.”
Of course the climate modeling crowd couldn’t accept this conclusion, so they began attacking the temperature record itself. Their theory was — if the instruments weren’t finding the same temperatures as the models were predicting, the instruments must be wrong! Perhaps this is a frivolous way to characterize their position — McKitrick goes to some lengths to demonstrate how difficult it is to get reliable tropospheric temperatures, since balloons and satellites are always moving. Still, rejecting inconvenient evidence is a characteristic move for the climate crowd.
Enter the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which has produced a new paper on the subject in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres. This isn’t the first time that NOAA’s scientists — headed by Dr. Cheng-Zhi Zou — has stepped into this debate, but in the past they’ve been on the other side. More than a decade ago Zou’s team released a data set called S.T.A.R. (Satellite Applications and Research), which seemed to demonstrate much more tropospheric warming than any other side in this debate. McKitrick explains that, though he himself wrote about its flaws at the time, S.T.A.R. “came close to validating the climate models… it was possible to point to the coolest of the models and compare them to the S.T.A.R. data and find a match, which was a lifeline for those arguing that climate models are within the uncertainty range of the data.”
Well now, to their credit, NOAA has owned up to their prior methodological issues, and having reevaluated S.T.A.R. in light of various critiques, they’ve released new findings which demonstrate that “the atmosphere has warmed at half the average rate predicted by climate models over the same period,” consistent with McKitrick and Christy’s findings, which they make a point to mention.
This is a major concession, and in a sane world it would drastically alter our public policy discussions, not to mention the way that climate science is taught and talked about out in the world. Of course, it won’t. Because the “Follow the Science” crowd is always the first to change course when they don’t like where the science leads.