A joint study between our two favorite government agencies, NASA and NOAA, reveals that more energy in the form of heat has been entering and staying in the Earth’s atmosphere than leaving…

The claim is that “the magnitude of the increase is unprecedented.” 

Below is a questioning of the study by former NASA scientist Dr. Roy Spencer, or, more specifically, of the mainstream media’s alarmist take on the study’s findings (this article was originally posted in 2021 on the now censored www.electroverse.net).

NASA’s Norman Loeb and co-authors examined the CERES satellite instruments’ measurements of how Earth’s radiative energy budget has changed. The period they study is rather limited though, 2005-2019.

The study includes some rather detailed partitioning of what sunlight-reflecting and infrared-emitting processes are responsible for the changes, which is very useful. The research also point out that the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) is responsible for a sizeable portion of what they see in the data, while anthropogenic forcings (and feedbacks from all natural and human-caused forcings) are presumed to account for the rest.

The main problem I have is with the media reporting of these results, writes Dr. Spencer.

The animated graph used in a recent Verge article shows a planetary energy imbalance of about 0.5 W/m2 in 2005 increasing to about 1.0 W/m2 in 2019:

A graph of the study’s results showing an insignificant trend upward from 2005-2019 [NASA/Tim Marvel].

First off, points out Spencer, the 0.5 to 1.0 W/m2 energy imbalance is smaller than any of the natural energy flows in the climate system that we know about. It is basically nothing, and can be compared to the estimated natural energy flows of 235-245 W/m2 in and out of the climate system on an annual basis, approximately 1 part in 300.

Secondly, since we don’t have global energy imbalance measurements before this period, there is absolutely no justification for the claim, “the magnitude of the increase is unprecedented.” 

To expect the natural energy flows in the climate system to stay stable to 1 part in 300 over thousands of years has no scientific basis, and is merely a statement of faith — we have no idea whether such changes have occurred in centuries past.

To conclude, there is no way the data can be called “unprecedented” as it’s the only data we have. And on top of that, it’s showing NOTHING–an increase of just half of a watt in 15 years.

But this is not to fault the CERES data, Dr. Spencer is keen to clarify: I think that NASA’s Bruce Wielicki and Norm Loeb have done a fantastic job with these satellite instruments and their detailed processing of those data.

What bothers me is the alarmist language attached to (1) such a tiny number, and (2) the likelihood that no one will bother to mention the authors attribute part of the change to a natural climate cycle, the PDO.

Further reading…

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