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Lewin on Lamb

Bernie Lewin's new report for GWPF is a must-read. Exhaustively researched, beautifully written, and extremely insightful about how climatology was diverted from a scientific to a political imperative, you absolutely should not miss it.

Here's the press release.

London, 10 February: A new paper by Bernie Lewin and published today by the Global Warming Policy Foundation re-examines the legacy of the father of British climatology Hubert Lamb (1913-1997).

After leading and establishing historical climatology during the 1960s, Hubert Lamb became the founding Director of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (CRU). What is not widely known is that, in contrast to current research directions at CRU, its founding director was an early and vocal climate sceptic.

Against the idea that greenhouse gas emissions were (or would soon be) noticeably warming the planet, Lamb raised objections on many levels. “His greatest concern was not so much the lack of science behind the theory,” Mr Lewin said, “it was how the growing preoccupation with man-made warming was distorting the science.”

Lewin said that “Lamb was already sounding this warning as early as 1972; soon after that the entire science would be transformed.”As research into man-made warming began to dominate climate studies, Lamb worried that the recent advances in our understanding of natural changes were falling into neglect.

A foreword by eminent climatologist, Professor Richard Lindzen, explains how, “in this new paradigm, the natural variability that Lamb emphasized was now relegated to ‘noise’.” Speaking from his own experience, Lindzen says that “Lamb’s intellectual trajectory is typical of what many other senior climate scientists around the world experienced.”

Bernie Lewin is an historian of science investigating the global warming scare in the context of the history and philosophy of science. Over the last 5 years he has published many essays on various sceptical blogs, including his own, Enthusiasm Scepticism and Science.

Read the whole thing.

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Reader Comments (28)

I was pleased to see the new GWPF Paper re Lamb and Climate Forecasting methods.
It has been clear almost ab initio that the IPCC – GCM type models are useless for climate forecasting – see Section 1 at the following link.

It is also clear , as Lamb understood ,that it is not possible to make intelligent climate forecasts without consideration of where we are with regard to the natural millennial ( 960 – 1020) solar activity cycle seen in the temperature and other data -see Figs 5-9 in Section 2 .
The earth is just approaching, just at or just past this millennial peak. (Fig 9) The periodicity curve is not sinusoidal- there is about 650 years of general cooling and a period of relatively rapid warming of about 350 years. If we look at the neutron count record – Fig 14 which, together with the 10Be data ,is the best proxy for solar activity it is obvious that solar activity peaked in about 1991. There is a 12 year delay between the driver peak and the global RSS temperature peak which probably occurred in mid 2003 since when the earth has been in a cooling trend .

The sharp drop in solar activity seen at 2005-6 in Fig 13 should result in a noticeable cooling and a steepening of the cooling trend in 2017 -2018.. Check Section 3 for forecasts of the timing and amplitude of the coming cooling which should bring us to the depths of another LIA at about 2650.
The scientific quality of the IPCC modelling is appalling. Apart from the fact that such complex models are inherently incomputable, the modelers essentially operate analogously to taking the temperature trend from say Jan- June and then projecting it forwards linearly for 10 years or so. It is well past time that the GWPF publicized the fact that the IPCC model outcomes do not provide a basis for any meaningful discussion of future climates and that the historical Lamb type approach such as used on my blog is the only useful way ahead,
Using this approach ,it turns out that forecasting future climate change is reasonably simple ,transparent and so straight forward that even the politicians, and the MSM (especially the BBC ,the Guardian,NYT and WaPo) might be able understand. I think however the establishment climate community in the UK and USA have rushed too far down the modeling blind alley to ever find their way back to the real world.

Feb 10, 2015 at 5:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterDr Norman Page

Page 13

"The observed decline of global temperature since 1945 implies some
other factor exercising about three times as strong an effect (in the opposite
direction) as the carbon dioxide increase."43

43. Lamb, Climate: Present, Past and Future, pp. 46. See also p. 439.

So Lamb knew back then that the Sensitivity for CO2 was too high.

Feb 10, 2015 at 5:35 PM | Registered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

I've long felt that Lamb was the one person who could have nipped cagw hysteria in the bud. He's sorely missed.

Feb 10, 2015 at 6:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterBloke down the pub


"a ClimateGate e-mail where CRU people boasted of teaching incorrect Physics to students"

Can you link or copy? I don't doubt, but there were a lot of them..

Feb 10, 2015 at 6:58 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Diverted ? in reality it is and was nothing without a 'political imperative' .
The area is very much a creature of politics with heap of 'religions' zeal throw in , its why its supports often act more fundamentalists , see in religion or science, than actual scientists . Although to be fair there are those self serving bast**ds who are just looking to make a ton of cash out of it .

Feb 10, 2015 at 6:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

The evidence is a ClimateGate e-mail where CRU people boasted of teaching incorrect Physics to students.

NCC 1701E, very interested in a link to this email, if you have it available?

Feb 10, 2015 at 7:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterWijnand

I think however the establishment climate community in the UK and USA have rushed too far down the modeling blind alley to ever find their way back to the real world.

Dr Norman Page

They are not looking for a way back. It would be too painful for them.

Feb 10, 2015 at 7:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

I've long felt that Lamb was the one person who could have nipped cagw hysteria in the bud. He's sorely missed.

Bloke down the pub

He tried but retirement came too soon. After his retirement he lamented the path being forced on CRU by wigley et al and they saw the massive amount of money which could be made from their scam. After that they all sold their souls to the devil that is money. UKMO, NOAA, NCDC and all the socialist countries of europe.

Feb 10, 2015 at 7:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

It is trivially easy for anyone with access to existing CO2 and temperature measurement data-sets to falsify the statement that CO2 (at any level that ever existed) causes significant warming.

If CO2 is a forcing, a scale factor times average CO2 level times the duration divided by the effective thermal capacitance (consistent units) equals the temperature change of the duration. Thus the temperature responds gradually to a forcing. During previous glaciations and interglacials (as so dramatically displayed in An Inconvenient Truth) CO2 and temperature went up and down nearly together. This is impossible if CO2 is a significant forcing so this actually proves CO2 CHANGE DOES NOT CAUSE SIGNIFICANT CLIMATE CHANGE.

Feb 11, 2015 at 12:33 AM | Unregistered Commenterdan pangburn

For the record, GWPF Academic Board has a peer review policy and process. They can be consulted for detail. In my experience it involved open (not blind) reviews with two formal reviews (recommending for/against publication) and a number of other reviews where direct interaction between reviewer and author was encouraged. The main reviewers are listed in the acknowledgements. There were others who made important contributions, including our host at this blog. I would have thought that an excessive review process such as was undertaken for this paper would be tortuous for an author. In fact, in this case, it worked really well for me, especially in tightening up the precisions of the wording so as not to exceed the evidence.

[Slightly edited to remove reference to snipped comment. BH]

Feb 11, 2015 at 1:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterBernieL

Regarding Stephen Richards @ 7:11 & @7:14

I appreciate your responses to the other folks but unless you cannot for technical reasons, I urge you to format differently. Below this is an example using your words.

He tried but retirement came too soon.” [ Stephen Richards @ 7:14]

There is an obvious quote, then the name and place to find it. I change the part within the square brackets, maybe something such as [Churchill, 1943], as needed.
You need 'right angle brackets' – these look like the 'less than' and 'greater than' symbols of math. Look at the link below and note the line of code that gives bold text. To produce italicized text substitute em where the word strong is.
angle brackets

Note where you post on this site --- below the box --- the HTML allowed codes are shown.

Feb 11, 2015 at 3:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn F. Hultquist

The Goat Theory

Once you finished milking the Goat go and milk Climate Change for all its worth.

Feb 11, 2015 at 8:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

Hubert Lamb was just about the only eminent climatographer in the 1970s when the study of climate change in pre-computerised was a very slow process. As student I found Lamb logical, and the topic itself glacially dull in places. The threat at the time was global cooling as against warming and was based on empirical evidence such as oxygen isotopes in Caribbean corals. What would surprise Lamb would be the reliance on models as against evidence, and the presentism of the CAGW brigade. One of the challenges thrown out by the CAGW lobby is to name a reputable scientists in support of scrpticism, well here is one spinning in his grave. When all this blows over, and it will, future historians will put the global waming exaggeration, down to an over reliance on digital data in a 24 hour news age spun by journalists and environmentalists who ,importantly, have not even studied the subject seriously.

Feb 11, 2015 at 8:44 AM | Unregistered Commentertrefjon

Feb 11, 2015 at 3:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn F. Hultquist

Unless it prevent you from reading english I'll stay with my current efforts which I have been using since I passed my first english exam some 55 years ago.

Whilst I realise that speaking and writing french most of the day may have affected my english, I think it is still comprhendable and legible.

Thanks for the tips.

Feb 11, 2015 at 9:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

From the book “Omega – Murder of the Eco-system and the Suicide of Man, Paul K Anderson, 1971, chapter on "Controlling the Planet's Climate", J. 0. Fletcher (Rand corporation). Note the date.

".....the sharp global cooling of the past decade indicates that other, oppositely directed factors are more influential than the increasing atmospheric content of CO2. For example, Moller (1963) estimates that a 10 per cent change in CO2 can be counter-balanced by a 3 per cent change in water vapour or by a 1 per cent change in mean cloudiness.

Let it also be noted that the oceans have an enormous capacity to absorb CO2, this varying according to their temperature with colder oceans being able to store more of the gas. Thus, a warming of the oceans could also be a primary cause of the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere.

In summary, it appears that, other factors being constant, the CO2 generated by human activity could bring about important changes of global climate during the next few decades. But other factors, of course, are not constant, and have apparently been more influential than the CO2 increase in affecting the climate of recent years."

That comment is similar to the one from Lamb. The main thrust of the chapter was geo-engineering to warm up the planet, including deliberately melting the Arctic ice with a reagent.

"It is estimated that it would take only sixty American C-5 aircraft to deliver one kilogram per square kilometre per day over the entire Arctic Basin (10 million square kilometres)."

Feb 11, 2015 at 10:32 AM | Registered Commenterdennisa

Many apologies for the large number of typos in my earlier post. I do think in Welsh, but that is hardly an excuse.

Feb 11, 2015 at 11:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterTrefor Jones

[Snip: refers to snipped comment. BH]

'Here' the press release'...

Oddly, I don't see it reproduced or the article linked on the BBC website or in The Guardian...

Feb 11, 2015 at 1:02 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

The models are wrong because of the initial assumption that without GH gases the troposphere would have been isothermal. We know this assumption is made because we know the 255K temperature is at about 5Km altitude, and yet they say the surface would have been the same 255K. From there they get their sensitivity by assuming water vapor makes rain forests about 30 to 40 degrees hotter than dry regions and carbon dioxide adds a bit of warming also. In fact none of that happens.

The assumption regarding isothermal conditions is inherently applying the Clausius "hot to cold" statement which is just a corollary of the Second Law which only applies in a horizontal plane. That we know because it is clearly specified (as <A HREF="">here</A>) that the entropy equation is derived by assuming that changes in molecular gravitational potential energy can be ignored. It is those changes which actually cause the temperature gradient to evolve, so we must always remember that sensible heat transfers are not always from warmer to cooler regions in a vertical plane in a gravitational field
So they cannot prove that the Clausius statement they use to get their assumed isothermal conditions is correct in a vertical column of a planet's troposphere, and so they cannot prove the fundamental building block upon which they built the GH conjecture.

Any questions are probably already answered here:

Feb 11, 2015 at 1:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhysicsGroup

Exellent. Wonderful to have this nuanced, insightful analysis. Lamb was fading out/pushed aside as the downfall of climate science was getting underway. The CRU that he established was revealed to have become a centre of tawdry maneuverings and incompetent data management within in the intervening decades up to Climategate. One thing that struck me right away is that the author is quite generous to Tom Wigley, and presents him as something of a financial saviour for CRU, as well as someone who ensured some continuity for the kind of research work that Lamb was keen on, i.e. historical analysis rather than computer modelling. But the modelling was where the money was, aided and abetted by the alarums being raised. Alarums that could have and should have in my opinion been quashed by level-headed scientists familiar with the weaknesses of climate knowledge in general and computer modelling in particular. But that was not to be. Lamb was old school. Political agitation and fear-generating PR was the new. Climategate revealed some of the unedifying consequences for climate science.

I have only read the essay once so far, and was most disappointed by what seemed the all-too-sudden arrival of the end of it. I hope we shall see more from Bernie Lewin's researches in due course. In the meantime, I'm going back to read it again.

Feb 11, 2015 at 3:23 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

It is strange, and sad, that the work of this giant of the art and science of climatography should have his work just boxed up and held at the in UEA Library Archives.
No display, easy public access to view?

H.H. LAMB ARCHIVE (held in UEA Library Archives) listing available at -

Feb 11, 2015 at 7:23 PM | Unregistered Commentertom0mason

Sad also is the Wikipedia 'History of climate change science' page ( at )
Hubert Lamb is not mentioned in the body of the article and gets one footnote out of 56 (William Connolley, software engineer, writer, and blogger on climatology, gets three footnotes and a reference in the external links).

Could Lewin (anyone? - not me as my writting skill is at best rudimentary) update this and the Wiki biographical entry about HH Lamb that reads like he's an ardent warmist.

Feb 11, 2015 at 8:41 PM | Unregistered Commentertom0mason

John Shades,
Wigley is a complex figure in this story and there have been times I have felt that understanding Wigley might, for me, be the key to understanding how smart, self-respecting scientists could be seen to be supporting alarmism. I was very please to have his cooperation, which took many months to arrange, and which is duly acknowledged at the end.

It is true that at one point in the report I went out of my way to present Wigley in the best light (leaping forward to his 1996 Nature economic-scientific article against mitigation). However, there is something revealing in his CRU story that goes beyond moral judgement. When Wigley arrived in 1975 there was only a handful of staff. When he departed in 1993 there were around 50. The year Lamb retired Wigley landed the first grant from the USA DoE's Carbon Dioxide program. This funding would continue and grow every year so as to stabilized and grow CRU. Surely that tells you something about the whole transformation of the science irrespective of any moral judgement on Wigley.

The work for DoE was sober and the DoE assessments were moderate, including its assessment (1983) recommending against action. Backed by its assessments, DoE was on the moderate side of the debate in the discussion in 1986-7 when Tolba was pushing the USA for action.

Yes, Wigley took the money but he refused the full faustian bargain. He refused to declare 'detection' for DoE, for SCOPE 29 (1986), for IPCC FAR, nor the Rio Supp report in 1992. In SCOPE he refused to include any proxy graphs depicting global temperature trends (as most of the other reports had done so right back to 1975). He refused because he said that he found the data too unreliable. Climategate shows that he would not have supported Folland's insertion of Lamb's CET millennium graph in FAR for this purposes.

Wigley was always prepared to say 'we dont know' and he could be savage in his criticism of (pseudo)science supporting alarm. When the Met Office CO2 + Aerosols modelling paper (to support the SAR detection claim) was published in Nature, it came with a comment from Wigley that made it seem like we now know it is - a hurried fudge to quickly take account of the slower than predicted warming during the 1980s, and especially the 60s-70s warming pause. His support for Santer in the Ch 8 controversy looks to me as little more than solidarity with a younger colleague who had landed in a deep puddle. All of this I noted before I corresponded with Wigley and none of it we have (yet?) discussed.

We are lucky to have the Lamb archive. So much of the record for this story up to IPCC TAR is precariously held in the spare rooms of octogenarian participants. However, there is one item that I do regret is missing from the Lamb archive. It is also missing from CRU and not held at the UEA library. That is the 1972 Report on climate fluctuations that Lamb wrote for WMO in which he first expresses his concerns about the distorting effect on science of the growing obsession with the manmade effects and specifically that of CO2. That report was never really finalised by WMO but it was widely distributed from CRU in the early days. I have found only 2 surviving copies: one at the UK Met Library and one at the Australian BoM.

CRU did make a fuss about Lamb and some of his achievements for his centenary in 2013, and there was a conference at RMetSoc

I wrote about the Lamb wikipedia article and W. Connolly's involvement here:
I used to be an editor on Wiki in the early days on some very different topics. I am not sure that it is appropriate for me to dive in the Lamb article now but I guess we now have a legitimate secondary source to work from - there are page references in my report and in the set of quotes on my website.

Feb 12, 2015 at 10:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterBernieL

BernieL, thank you for these further insight into Prof Wigley's work/approach at the CRU, and if I may, I would like to commend you for your approach. I hope it will continue to be both productive in terms of our understanding of what happened 'back in the day' and sympathetic to the participants as we look back on them with our bits of knowledge about what happened next after particular events.

Feb 12, 2015 at 12:36 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

Bernie and others interested in this...

(1) Lamb archive -- at some point in the future there is likely to be more material, provided by Hubert Lamb's family, added to UEA library's Lamb archive. I haven't looked at any of it myself, so I don't know what it contains that might be of interest. Nor do I know how long it will take to be catalogued.

(2) Lamb centenary -- the papers presented at the Lamb centenary RMetSoc conference focussed on Lamb's scientific legacy (weather types, documentary evidence from log books, historical sources, North Sea storms, seasonal forecasting) and on how science has progressed in these areas since Lamb's time. This seems a more important and probably longer-lasting legacy than his views about AGW or the transformation of climate science which, though I encourage you to research them, seem interesting rather than important. Some of the presentations led to papers in a special issue of the RMetSoc's "Weather" journal, though they aren't open access as the open access fee was quite high. Joining the RMetSoc gives access to back issues of Weather I believe.

(3) Wikipedia -- I made some relatively minor edits to Lamb's wikipedia page last summer, to remove some inconsistency etc. But the page needs further improvement in my opinion needing to acknowledge both Lamb's scepticism about AGW but also that he was not completely dismissive. On the talk page, I noted this quote from p.365 of the 1995 edition of his Climate, History and the Modern World book:

"The expected temperature changes have been widely announced in an ever-increasing volume of meteorological literature... The alarm that has been raised over the dislocation which such great changes would be liable to cause is entirely proper, even though the actual net outcome when natural climatic variations also have their effect is by no means certain... Despite the... uncertainties involved... the potential for disorganization and disaster is so great that the meteorologists' warnings must be taken as a very serious matter."

Feb 12, 2015 at 2:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterTim Osborn

Tim Osborn,

It is always nice to see you joining the conversation at this site and I thank you for encouraging me to respond.

What is important in Lamb's legacy?
Perhaps you only disagree due to your views on the historical significance of the AGW scare, but, otherwise, you may have missed what is perhaps only implicit in my treatment of Lamb's legacy.

In the first place, Lamb's importance in the history of this science is that his historical work helped re-start the discussion of natural climate variation on the centennial and decadal scales; this despite the fact that some of his work was wrong (ask Tom Wigley), some has dated, and some has been misused (eg his millennium temp charts). I commend you, Phil Jones and others for taking the time of his centenary to reflect and consider what might be his most long-lasting contribution to the actual science (I agree that 'weather types' is up there, although I only touched on this wrt the North Atlantic Oscillation).

That said, the reason his views on AGW are more than interesting is due to the common perception in society of a scientific consensus on the topic. Lamb's story provides some background to this (supposed) consensus. For many folks today, it is quite a revelation that such an acute skeptical critique was made so early by a leader in the field. For many folks it is also a revelation that this was not only with Lamb: across the entire leadership of the science there were strong objections, if not a small revolt, against the transformation of their science during the 1980s (see page 33-4 of the report).

Lamb was not completely dismissive of AGW:
You seem to consider it important for balance to point out that Lamb was not completely dismissive of AGW--as though this is something that is uncharacteristic of sceptics. Indeed, Lamb was not dismissive. He goes to considerable lengths to discuss its arguments, the modeling and their (lack of) validation. Something he shares with many prominent contemporary sceptics is that he agrees that, in theory, there should be some effect from our emissions. What concerned him is the proposed great magnitude of this effect, and its empirical validation. Lamb's keynote address to the British Association at its meeting in Norwich (1984) is apposite. In it he concludes:

It seems therefore that increasing the CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere—the end-product of all our burning of fossil fuels and of vegetation—should raise the world’s temperature, although the effect may be smaller, perhaps very much smaller, than is usually supposed.

The extract from Climate History and the Modern World
As for your quotation from Climate History, I don't think it would be helpful if we were to slip into aping some degenerate theological discussion with a tit-for-tat on quotation. But you do raise an interesting dimension to Lamb's writing. What is he doing here?

Actually, this extract should be compared to the footnote inserted at the very end of Climate Vol II, where he says that the authority of considered and consensual science opinion (a WMO statement) completely contradicts and renders irrelevant his discussion of climatic forecasting and the future (my p27). In this regard, what you leave out in the first break of your quote is important: '...notably the World Climate conference organised by the WMO.' The 'expectation' has been 'widely announced' on its authority.

I am sure you are aware that this discussion comes in wind-up of a devastating attack on the (IPCC) predictions, which includes a reference to a composite graph (linked below). This graph he says 'makes it obvious that the CO2 climate theory is not doing very well as the sole explanation of the changes and that other causes of climate variation are also important.' He goes on: 'The common decision to treat the natural climatic variations as unforecastable 'noise' (ie random events) is plainly not satisfactory' He then talks about 'widely publicised expert opinion from the leading theoretical modelling laboratories' proposing that we can expect change that would bring world temperatures to a level which has not occurred in the last two million years...and the potential for disaster is a very serious matter. What is going on here?

My view is this: Lamb is writing a general book for a popular audience and so he is trying to be a little even handed about the prevailing view of science that has now swung heavily against his own view. He needs to at least present it. He does so only after giving his (minority) view plenty of airplay. However, even in turning to an account of the prevailing view (and its implications for public policy), there he still leave plenty of cautionary red flags.

These red flags qualify his account of warming alarm such that there is no contradiction with his criticism of its scientific foundation. Consider that the alarming predictions are due to 'theoretical modelling' only, that they require attention because they have been 'widely publicized', 'widely announced,' and due to authority of the WMO. Earlier, on p257, he compares the global temp trend graph from J Murray Mitchell (that he used in the first edition) with the 'most authoritative version' from the IPCC, but then, only to say, but anyway 'to declare a value for the world average or an area average to within some hundredths of a degree centigrade is an unattainable ideal.' And later, in a new final chapter added to the 2nd edition, he notes rather despairingly that the 'prospects of global warming are now spoken of on every side and are treated by many, including people whose decisions affect millions, as if the more alarming forecasts were already established as fact.' Clearly, Lamb's view is that they are not. Thus, in repeating the various claims and their alarming implication, Lamb is showing how scientific authorities have encouraged the prevailing view that the alarm is grounded in (empirical) science. Thus, in its context, an extract that you see as moderating Lamb's view does the opposite. It provides further evidence of his concern that the scare is distorting the science and distorted the public perception of how this science has informing policy.

The composite graph:

The old and the new global temperature trend compared:

Sourcebook of Lamb's scepticism:

Feb 14, 2015 at 10:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterBernieL


thanks for the follow up, which is useful and interesting. I haven’t got the various Lamb books/papers to hand and its a while since I read them, and as we don’t seem too far apart from each other in how we view Lamb’s scepticism, I agree there’s no need to trade quotations.

We agree, for example, that Lamb was not dismissive of CO2/GHG-induced AGW but was sceptical about it, or at least about its magnitude. However, an anonymous Wikipedia editor had claimed on the Lamb talk page that Lamb, in 1995, “was just as scathing about AGW as ever” and it’s in that context that I used the Lamb quote — to emphasize that, while the Wikipedia article on Lamb needs improvement, it needs to be done carefully by knowledgeable authors.

Now, to elaborate on why I consider Lamb’s scepticism interesting but not particularly important. The reason is that I view his scepticism as a combination of him being rather firmly rooted in the time when he undertook most of his work and some instances of him criticising strawman arguments concerning AGW (which may of course be the fault of the oversimplified ways in which global warming science has sometimes been presented, but nevertheless I would have expected someone of Lamb’s calibre to have thought more deeply about these issues, seen through to the more nuanced reasoning that is actually what supports AGW, and then addressed/criticised those). With more careful consideration of the further knowledge that accumulated in the latter decades of his life and especially since he died in 1997, would Lamb have been as sceptical if he were an active climatologist in 2015? We can only guess (though the recent slow down in surface warming would I’m sure have helped shape his view) — and that’s my point: what matters more is the degree to which reasoned scepticism is reasonable now, rather than in the 1970s or whenever Lamb’s opinions were most strongly established.

Just a couple of examples to illustrate what I mean.

Given how important Lamb clearly viewed the need to “establish the facts of the past record of the natural climate” and his work on reconstructing central England temperatures back to the MWP, it surprises me that Lamb hardly revisited or revised his record after his 1965 work. He could have reconsidered it in the light of three decades of progress and additional data, but didn’t.

Second, his consideration of the instrumental record and its comparison with the “CO2 climate theory” seem somewhat superficial or confused to me. Despite his concern about how accurately we can estimate global temperatures, he uses the global instrumental record in a rather mixed manner, updating series using potentially incompatible sources and presenting global mean anomalies that seem inconsistent with the separate NH and SH values. His comparison of an NH record with global temperature changes predicted from the “CO2 climate theory” may well make it obvious that this isn’t the sole explanation of temperature changes, but this is a strawman to criticise, since CO2-induced AGW excludes neither other influences on climate nor internal climate variability (which despite Lamb’s wish for it to be forecastable, remains not so). His concern that temperature records are hard to “reconcile with indications ... of a continuing colder climate than that before 1960, at least in the NH” is poorly established, in terms of when and where these other indications are present and what the level of indicated temperature is, and whether this is really in disagreement with the NH temperature record which does in fact show cooling extending past the mid 1970s and of course much regional deviation from his.

So I don’t dispute Lamb’s scepticism, but find it less important if “the analyst’s opinion” is based on somewhat vague assessment of dated information.

Feb 16, 2015 at 1:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterTim Osborn


Would Lamb have been as sceptical if he were an active climatologist in 2015?

Such an hypothetical is a waste of time. If you like, you can argue with a scientist-sceptic whether the evidence-base has improved so that even a dogged sceptic like Lamb would find it overwhelming. Versions of that argument rage across the internet every day. But don't bother pursuing that argument with the historian. While my investigation has a premise of doubt, my argument is purely historical:

Lamb and many leaders of the science during the 1970s did not approve of the global warming mitigation movement that came to the fore in the 1980s. They disapproved because they had doubts about its scientific ground. Moreover, many were concerned that the obsession with AGW was distorting the science.

If there is agreement on this historical case, then still the rating of 'interesting' or 'important' is likely influenced by ones own position on the science. So there you go: across the sceptical divide we can hardly do more than agree on the history while disagreeing on its significance.

Despite his concern about how accurately we can estimate global temperatures, he uses the global instrumental record in a rather mixed manner, updating series using potentially incompatible sources and presenting global mean anomalies that seem inconsistent with the separate NH and SH values.

I agree, this is a rather sloppy attack on the theory. However, the onus of proof remains with those making the extraordinary claim. Within science, the role of the doubter should be the easier one. And it usually is, with those making new and extraordinary claims--even on new and powerful evidence--often have way too hard a time persuading their peers. It is a curiosity of history that, in this case, the role of the doubter is so difficult--so difficult that many distinguished scientists had very good reason to hid their doubts throughout their careers.

Feb 16, 2015 at 2:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterBernieL

Nice discussion. A balloon of speciousness punctured promptly!

Feb 16, 2015 at 11:14 AM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

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