Society Insults Members by Honoring Hansen

Published April 1, 2009

James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute, has been chosen as this year’s recipient of the American Meteorological Society’s highest award, the Rossby Research Medal.

I am appalled at this decision, which was announced January 14. Hansen has not been trained as a meteorologist—his formal education was in astronomy—and his long record of faulty global climate predictions and alarmist public pronouncements has become increasingly hollow and at odds with reality.

False Predictions

By presenting Hansen with its highest award, the American Meteorological Society (AMS) implies it agrees with his faulty global temperature projections and irresponsible alarmist rhetoric. This award is an insult to the large number of AMS members who do not believe human activities are causing a significant amount of the global temperature increase. It diminishes the AMS’s sterling reputation for scientific objectivity.

Hansen’s predictions of global warming before the U.S. Senate in 1988 have turned out to be very different from what has actually occurred. He cannot explain why there has been no significant global warming over the past 10 years and a mild global cooling between 2001 and 2008.

Most of the global warming we have observed is of natural origin and due to multi-decadal and multi-century changes in the globe’s deep ocean circulation resulting from salinity variations. These changes are not caused by carbon dioxide (CO2) increases.

Lack of Meteorological Knowledge

Having little experience in practical meteorology, Hansen apparently does not realize the extraordinarily complex nature of the atmosphere-ocean climate system cannot be accurately reproduced by numerical climate model predictions. Thus Hansen’s modeling efforts are badly flawed:

* His upper tropospheric water vapor feedback loop is grossly wrong. He assumes increases in atmospheric CO2 will cause large upper-tropospheric water vapor increases. This is very unrealistic. Most of his model-predicted warming follows from his invalid water vapor assumptions.

* His model does not properly incorporate the fundamental role of the deep ocean circulation (Meridional Overturning Circulation—MOC) and how the changing ocean circulation (driven by salinity variations) can bring about wind, rainfall, and surface temperature changes independent of radiation and greenhouse gas changes. His assumption that global warming is entirely a product of radiation changes and radiation feedback processes is a major deficiency in his model.

AMS Hijacked, Tarnished

AMS has been a wonderful beacon for fostering a new understanding of how the atmosphere and oceans function, but the organization’s strong, positive image is tarnished by its leadership’s capitulation to the lobbying of climate modelers and environmental pressure groups wishing to use AMS to promote their special interests. The organization’s effectiveness as an objective scientific authority has been greatly compromised.

We AMS members have allowed a small group of AMS administrators, climate modelers, and CO2 warming sympathizers to maneuver the internal workings of our society to support anthropogenic global warming (AGW) policies irrespective of what our rank-and-file members might think. This small, organized group of AGW sympathizers has hijacked our society.

Debate Stifled

Of all the country’s scientific societies, the AMS is the most relevant to the global warming debate because its members have the most extensive scientific and technical background in meteorology and climate. The AMS should have been a leader in helping objectively to adjudicate the claims of the AGW advocates and their skeptical critics.

The U.S. legal system is based on the idea that the best way to get to the truth is to have opposite sides of a contended issue present their views in open debate before a nonpartisan jury. Given the political pressure created by global warming concerns, it’s important to subject the science behind such claims to exactly that kind of debate.

Unfortunately, nothing of the kind has happened regarding AGW. Instead of organizing free and open debates on the basic physics and likelihood of AGW-induced climate changes, the leaders of the national meteorological society (with the backing of its AGW enthusiasts) have chosen to place their full trust in the climate models and deliberately avoid open debate. I know of no AMS-sponsored conference where the AGW hypothesis has been given open and free discussion.

The climate modelers and their supporters deny the need for open debate of the AGW question, claiming the issue has already been settled by their model results. They take this view because they know the physics within their models and the long range of their forecast periods are unlikely to withstand knowledgeable and impartial review. Thus they simply will not debate the issue.

To forestall criticism they have resorted to a general denigration of all those who do not support their AGW hypothesis, falsely and maliciously denouncing them as tools of the fossil-fuel industry.

What Working Meteorologists Say

My interactions over the years with a broad segment of AMS members have indicated a majority do not agree humans are the primary cause of global warming. These working meteorologists are too experienced and sophisticated to be hoodwinked by the lobbying of climate simulators and their associated propagandists.

I suggest the AMS conduct a survey of its members who actually work with real-time weather and climate data to see how many agree humans have been the main cause of global warming. Only then should it honor any individuals for their contributions to understanding of global temperature trends.

Bill Gray ([email protected]) is professor emeritus at Colorado State University, a Charney Award recipient, and a fellow of the American Meteorological Society.