Hansen’s 1988 Predictions Redux

Reblogged from Watts Up With That:

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

Over in the Tweeterverse, someone sent me the link to the revered climate scientist James Hansen’s 1988 Senate testimony and told me “Here’s what we were told 30 years ago by NASA scientist James Hansen. It has proven accurate.”

I thought … huh? Can that be right?

Here is a photo of His Most Righteousness, Dr. James “Death Train” Hansen, getting arrested for civil disobedience in support of climate alarmism …

I have to confess, I find myself guilty of schadenfreude in noting that he’s being arrested by … Officer Green …

In any case, let me take as my text for this sermon the aforementioned 1988 Epistle of St. James To The Senators, available here. I show the relevant part below, his temperature forecast.

ORIGINAL CAPTION: Fig. 3. Annual mean global surface air temperature computed for trace gas scenarios A, B, and C described in reference 1. [Scenario A assumes continued growth rates of trace gas emissions typical of the past 20 years, i.e., about 1.5% yr^-1 emission growth; scenario B has emission rates approximately fixed at current rates; scenario C drastically reduces trace gas emissions between 1990 and 2000.] The shaded range is an estimate of global temperature during the peak of the current and previous interglacial periods, about 6,000 and 120,000 years before present, respectively. The zero point for observations is the 1951-1980 mean (reference 6); the zero point for the model is the control run mean.

I was interested in “Scenario A”, which Hansen defined as what would happen assuming “continued growth rates of trace gas emissions typical of the past 20 years, i.e., about 1.5% yr-1“.

To see how well Scenario A fits the period after 1987, which is when Hansen’s observational data ends, I took a look at the rate of growth of CO2 emissions since 1987. Figure 2 shows that graph.

Figure 2. Annual increase in CO2 emissions, percent.

This shows that Hansen’s estimate of future CO2 emissions was quite close, although the reality was ~ 25% MORE annual increase in CO2 than Hansen estimated. As a result, his computer estimate for Scenario A should have shown a bit more warming than we see in Figure 1 above.

Next, I digitized Hansen’s graph to compare it to reality. To start with, here is what is listed as “Observations” in Hansen’s graph. I’ve compared Hansen’s observations to the Goddard Institute for Space Studies Land-Ocean Temperature Index (GISS LOTI) and the HadCRUT global surface temperature datasets.

Figure 3. The line marked “Observations” in Hansen’s graph shown as Figure 1 above, along with modern temperature estimates. All data is expressed as anomalies about the 1951-1980 mean temperature.

OK, so now we have established that:

• Hansen’s “Scenario A” estimate of future growth in CO2 emissions was close, albeit a bit low, and

• Hansen’s historical temperature observations agree reasonably well with modern estimates.

Given that he was pretty accurate in all of that, albeit a bit low on CO2 emissions growth … how did his Scenario A prediction work out?

Well … not so well …

Figure 4. The line marked “Observations” in Hansen’s graph shown as Figure 1 above, along with his Scenario A, and modern temperature estimates. All observational data is expressed as anomalies about the 1951-1980 mean temperature.

So I mentioned this rather substantial miss, predicted warming twice the actual warming, to the man on the Twitter-Totter, the one who’d said that Hansen’s prediction had been “proven accurate”.

His reply?

He said that Dr. Hansen’s prediction was indeed proven accurate—he’d merely used the wrong value for the climate sensitivity, viz: “The only discrepancy in Hansen’s work from 1988 was his estimate of climate sensitivity. Using best current estimates, it plots out perfectly.”

I loved the part about “best current estimates” of climate sensitivity … here are current estimates, from my post on The Picasso Problem  

Figure 5. Changes over time in the estimate of the climate sensitivity parameter “lambda”. “∆T2x(°C)” is the expected temperature change in degrees Celsius resulting from a doubling of atmospheric CO2, which is assumed to increase the forcing by 3.7 watts per square metre. FAR, SAR, TAR, AR4, AR5 are the UN IPCC 1st, second, third, fourth and fifth Assessment Reports giving an assessment of the state of climate science as of the date of each report. Red dots show recent individual estimates of the climate sensitivity

While giving the Tweeterman zero points for accuracy, I did have to applaud him for sheer effrontery and imaginuity. It’s a perfect example of why it is so hard to convince climate alarmists of anything—because to them, everything is a confirmation of their ideas. Whether it is too hot, too cold, too much snow, too little snow, warm winters, brutal winters, or disproven predictions—to the alarmists all of these are clear and obvious signs of the impending Thermageddon, as foretold in the Revelations of St. James of Hansen.

My best to you all, the beat goes on, keep fighting the good fight.


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