The only thing we can be sure of about the future is that it will be absolutely fantastic. So if what I say now seems to you to be very reasonable, then I have failed completely. Only if what I tell you appears absolutely unbelievable, have we any chance of visualizing the future as it really will happen.

- Arthur C. Clarke (h/t Brin)

Friday, December 31, 2010

My Top Ten List

I find top ten lists of the year tedious. Nobody knows what is important about a year writing from within that year, except in the most extreme cases.

Herewith my top ten (or so) list of climate-science related events of the 20th century in chronological order. Off the top of my head. Any suggestions for stuff I've missed?

Happy New Year Y'All!

Stay tuned for the next in this series on New Year's Eve 2110!

TOP TWENTY OR SO CLIMATE EVENTS OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

ca. 1900: Bjerknes identifies the "primitive equations", the enhanced Navier-Stokes system for the atmosphere (including moisture state changes and rotational dynamics). Lays out a program for scientific meteorology.


1938: Callendar, G.S. "The Artificial Production of Carbon Dioxide and Its Influence on Climate." Quarterly J. Royal Meteorological Society 64: 223-40. (h/t WVhybrid) Callendar was the first to get a good quantitative understanding of the situation.

1942: Sverdrup; generalized linear theory of oceanography

1950: Charney Fjortoft and von Neumann: the first computer simulation of the atmosphere

1955: Suess, Hans E. finds the istopic fingerprint. "Radiocarbon Concentration in Modern Wood." Science 122: 415-17 (h/t WVhybrid)

1958: Charles Keeling's Mauna Loa CO2 time series begins (h/t Nosmo)

1963: Lorenz' treatise "The General Circulation of the Atmosphere"

1963: Lorenz paper brings "chaos" into physical sciences

1966: Arakawa first publishes on his global atmospheric model

1968: Bryan & Cox first global ocean dynamics model

1969: Bryan & Manabe first idealized-geography coupled climate dynamics model

1975: Bryan & Manabe first realistic coupled climate dynamics model

1975: Manabe & Wetherald first computational assessment of anthropogenic global warming (h/t Kooiti Masuda)

1975: Wally Broecker paper “Climate Change: Are we on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?” (h/t Kooiti Masuda)

1979: The Charney commission reports on the threat of global warming. concurring Jason report also written in 1979 with similar conclusions. These reports are quite similar to the IPCC position today.

1983: Luyten and Pedlosky: theoretical explanation of deep ocean flow

1990: IPCC first Assessment Report: "Thus the observed increase could be largely due to this natural variability; alternatively this variability and other human factors could have offset a still larger human-induced greenhouse warming. The unequivocal detection of the enhanced greenhouse effect is not likely for a decade or more."

1992: UNCED "Earth Summit" conference at Rio de Janiero and foundation of UNFCCC: committed signatories' governments to a voluntary "non-binding aim" to reduce atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases with the goal of "preventing dangerous anthropogenic interference with Earth's climate system."

1997: Kyoto protocol; A set of steps which, if implemented, would have left us far better off today, was signed by all parties, but never ratified by the USA. The senate was nearly unanimous in opposition. Mostly honored in the breach.

1998: Unprecedented amplitude El Nino event; the start of climate disruption?

22 comments:

Adam said...

2006: Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth energizes the political demonization of climate science by the American right wing.

Nosmo said...

Charles Keelings development of a sensitive CO2 instrument and setting up a station on Mauna Loa certainly deserves to be on the list.

Michael Tobis said...

Adam, wrong century along with something of a skewed interpretation.

Nosmo, yes.

Kooiti MASUDA said...

The year of Lorenz' treatise is 1967.

I do not think that the NRC Nierenberg (not Neirenberg) report was an effort for political opposition to climate science. Oreskes' view on this seems to have a bias based on the later actions of Nierenberg after he joined the G.C. Marshall Institute. It is true that that report introduced matters of economics.

I think that the Villach meeting in 1985 and ICSU SCOPE (Bolin) report in 1986 which resulted from it are more epochmaking for the issue of climate change to emerge in the policy making agenda. And I think that the Nierenberg report in 1983 was a preliminary but positive step towards it.

Concerning climate models, you (MT) seem to concentrate on achievements on models with realistic geography (albeit in low resolution). It is OK if it is the principle. If we include models with idealized geography, the first coupled climate models is of Manabe and Bryan in 1969.

Kooiti MASUDA said...

Though logically covered by the Charney report in 1979, the year 1975 may be remarkable in the recognition of what we call AGW now: Manabe and Wetherld's first AGCM experiment of CO2 doubling which essentially confirmed their 1-dimensional model result in 1967; Schneider's review of CO2-climate sensitivity (which included comments on the model used by Rasool and Schneider 1971); Broecker's prescient remark of "Pronounced Global Warming", which cited the two papers.

Michael Tobis said...

Thank you Masuda-san. These are very good suggestions and I have adopted most of them.

I did not spend a great deal of time thinking about the article. I just wanted to demonstrate some alternative to "best-of-the-year" lists. But if others contribute we may end up with a useful brief history.

I think perhaps Richardson's effort at numerical weather prediction should be included but I am unsure of the year at present.

Also Ooyama's breakthrough papers on tropical storm dynamics and some of the ENSO materials, perhaps going back to Rossby.

Kooiti MASUDA said...

Richardson's book on numerical weather prediction was published in 1922. And I was amazed that it included concepts of various "physical processes" which were realized in both climate models and NWP models in 1980s.

Bart said...

Jim Hansen's 1988 testimony seems a hallmark event to me.

Belette said...

Ahem. You missed the correction in the Times: "that Ronald Reagan had commissioned a report about global warming from William Nierenberg, the distinguished American scientist. This was incorrect: the US Congress requested the report from the National Academy of Sciences before Reagan’s election."

I'm not sure if pinning it on Reagan is important to your argument; but the substance is wrong too: you've been sold a pup by Oreskes: http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2008/11/nierneberg_concluded_oreskes_i.php

Michael Tobis said...

It's gone now.

I still believe there is some truth to Oreskes' version. But it's too controversial for a list like this.

frank -- Decoding SwiftHack said...

MT, Belette:

Regarding the start of organized global warming denial, perhaps the "Chapter 8" hullabaloo started by Singer and friends will be a better candidate?

-- frank

Belette said...

@mt: you're far too reasonable for this game :-). Go! And edit wikipedia, which is where a man with your diplomacy belongs. Now is a good time: all the wackos are banned (as well as some of the good guys).

Michael Tobis said...

Wm, I've been interested from the beginning. You'll first have to explain to me what happened in the WP saga so far. I can't make heads or tails of it.

Adam said...

Oops. Twentieth century. Right. My nomination for that period would be Hansen's 1988 appearance before Congress and the projections he made there.

[I stick with my claim it was Gore's AIT which did the most to get the wingnuts' knickers in a twist.]

Jim Bouldin said...

Chamberlin's early century work on greenhouse gases and climate sensitivity, though I'm not sure on the dates. Seems to me that he was the first of the early folks to approximately get it right. Arrhenius gets lots of press, but it seems to me that Chamberlin was more correct (and gets almost none).

WVhybrid said...

Hi Michael, Happy New Year. I really like this blog article, but I think there are some other important events in the history of climate change science that you didn't mention. First, in 1938, Guy Callendar presented the effect of CO2 on climate very clearly in his paper:

Callendar, G.S. (1938). "The Artificial Production of Carbon Dioxide and Its Influence on Climate." Quarterly J. Royal Meteorological Society 64: 223-40.

Then, most importantly, I think you left out the work by Hans Suess, that proved the source of CO2 accumulating in the atmosphere was from fossil fuels.

Suess, Hans E. (1955). "Radiocarbon Concentration in Modern Wood." Science 122: 415-17

Michael Tobis said...

Jim, Chamberlin was more on the geochemistry side rather than the atmospheric physics, as I understand it. But fair enough. Can you put a date to it?

Jim Bouldin said...

I can't quite put my finger on the right refs but basically Arrhenius overstated the sensitivity case. Chamberlin initially was more conservative on it, then accepted Arrhenius authority based on an 1896 paper, but then later regretted that he'd done so and went back to his more conservative view.

Chamberlin was a true geologist, with specialty in glacial geology. His resume is utterly incredible. Seems to me that he was the first one who truly integrated and evaluated the strength of evidence of a number of a different possible climate forcings (his "method of multiple working hypotheses").

An excellent discussion of these things and more is in:
Fleming, J.R. 2000. T. C. Chamberlin, Climate Change, and Cosmogony. Stud. Hist. Phil. Mod. Phys. 31:293-308.

Jim Bouldin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jim Bouldin said...

Another point is that Chamberlin pointed pointed out that Arrhenius' value of 4C per CO2 doubling apparently did not include water vapor feedbacks. He also pointed out that arguments that additional CO2 wouldn't absorb more radiation were faulty, in that they failed to consider that the atmosphere has depth (is not a thin slab) and so re-radiates at many levels. He accepted a value of 1.3 C per doubling (CO2 only) and then argued that including water vapor feedbacks would make it some unknown amount higher. I'm not sure if he ever stated a value though. This stuff's in (roughly): Huntington and Visser, 1922, Climatic Changes. [A good account of what the climate change thinking was in the early 20th Century.]

Jim Bouldin said...

Huntington and Visher that should be:

http://books.google.com/books?id=EtHaAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=Huntington+and+Visher&hl=en&ei=55wjTfjWGcOclge6luC6BQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCMQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

Michael Tobis said...

Wow. Great find!

And Chamberlin was at U of C. In four years there I think I never heard his name mentioned.