Jo Nova celebrates her success against the sceptic?

Looking at the recent posts by Jo Nova, it’s questionable if she actually took the time to read A Scientific Guide to the ‘Skeptics Handbook’. She makes the point repeatedly of how long it took for a rebuttal to her work to be produced and without much evidence claims that the rebuttal is weak – she is still victorious!?

I will concede that she has a valid point regarding the hot spot graph – a better graph could have been used. However, it still stands that there is little evidence that she actually read the handbook (don’t need to read it to pick on that graph).

Here’s a quick overlook of both handbooks plus some.

First Point


“The greenhouse signature is missing…”
“The is no sign of a hot spot…”

Cook et al.:

“There is a hot spot…”
“It is not a signature of the greenhouse effect…”

The two of them can fight over wind sheer all they like. However, Nova asks for evidence of an increased greenhouse effect due to the increase in CO2 emissions. Let’s look at it this way. The greenhouse effect is more or less the trapping of heat in the atmosphere due to certain gases; ie. greenhouse gases. These gases would somewhat limit heat getting to the surface from the sun, but also trap some of the heat that heads back out. The greater the concentration of these gases are, the greater the general trend of temperature over time. However, what would be most telling would be what happens at night; when little energy is coming in. This is the time of day where most heat is lost, but as the greenhouse effect increases, you would logically have more heat being trapped by the atmosphere, thus warmer nights:

In the Scientific Handbook, Alexander et al. (2006) graphs where used.
However, Alexander and Arblaster (2009) (Aussie data) could also have been used (modelled projections past 2000)
Klein Tank et al. (2006) could have also been used (Central and South Asia data, TN10 is cold nights, TN90 is warm nights)
Or Klein Tank et al. (2006) again, now a subset of stations with long data sets

Okay, so the nights are warmer… So what? We know the world is warming – how does this show that our CO2 emissions are causing the warming? We could look at the longwave radiation heading back out to space.

The Scientific Handbook uses Harries et al. (2001).

To paraphrase Griggs and Harries (2007), which carries on from the study above;
“Using the AIRS data with data from the IRIS project allows a difference spectrum to be generated for the period 2003–1970, a period of 33 yr. Changing spectral signatures due to CH4, CO2, and H2O on decadal time scales are observed using the new AIRS data, thus adding confidence to the previous 1997–1970 study.”

So nights are losing less heat and thus staying warmer, less of the energy within the wavelengths known to be absorbed by CO2 and CH4 (greenhouse gases) is being released out into space – is this not an indication of an increasing greenhouse effect and one that should be associated to anthropogenic industrial emissions?

It is also unlikely that the sun can be held responsible, which is summed up in the final paragraph of Benestad and Schmidt (2009);
“Claims that a substantial fraction of post 1980 trends can be attributed to solar variations are therefore without solid foundation, and solar-related trends over the last century are unlikely to have been bigger than 0.1 to 0.2C.”

Second Point


“CO2 lags climate change by as much as 800yrs and therefore is, at best, only a minor player in climate change.”

Cook et al.:

“CO2 historical lag doesn’t disprove it’s warming effect, it provides evidence of positive feedback.”

Think of it this way; you live in the frozen far north, how would you thaw out a patch to grow a crop? You could maintain heating devices around the patch or you could construct a hut that is covered with a material that allows short wave radiation to pass through, but not longwave radiation (ie. a greenhouse). That is to say, you could increase the thermal energy input or trap what’s available from the sun. I mentioned the frozen north because in both cases, as the area warms and thaws out, it releases methane from the permafrost. If you could do the same to a body of water, as it warms, CO2 solubility drops and the water releases CO2.

As Cook et al. discuss in their handbook and I’ve mentioned here; CO2 and CH4 are greenhouse gases which trap heat. If the concentration of greenhouse gases increases in the atmosphere, the atmosphere releases less heat (mentioned above) and in doing so allows more greenhouse gases to be released that has been trapped in various environments. The same can be said about turning up the heater (ie. solar activity) which will in turn release trapped greenhouse gases, thereby increasing the warming effect (positive feedback). Just because you used a heater for last years growing season to keep a patch warm, it doesn’t mean the greenhouse hut won’t work this year.

Third Point


“The world isn’t warming anymore…”

Cook et al.:

“Yes it is…”

What I feel is most telling between both handbooks is the scale of their graphs. Nova’s only covers the past 15yrs while Cook et al. goes right back to 1880. If you scan over Cook’s graph, you could rightfully make the point that in the 1960’s and into the 1970’s, people could be making the same claims as Nova is now, but then you look over the next 20yrs and you see a completely different picture – one Nova’s graph largely hides. If you go to ASMU, and check all the boxes, you end up with a graph of temperature values covering much of Nova’s graph period which looks like this:

The orange line is 2010 data to date.

2010 is proving to be a record braking year! As Cook et al. mention in their own handbook, the previous 12 months have been the warmest on record. Of course, Nova mentions that she disregards the fact that the previous decade is the warmest on record and she obviously does the entire temperature record up to date, except for what is presented in her piece and looks good to her argument.

At this point, Nova goes on to take the Anthony Watts approach and knocks a handful of weather stations. I believe that she must be aware that others have criticised this over and over again; both demonstrating that there is not a significant difference in the data series between poor and good sites and by pointing out the relative significance of the data sets provided by the US weather stations on a global scale. I’m sure that no evidence will ever change the perspective of a few people who need to believe that the science is wrong.

Forth Point


“The CO2 greenhouse absorption is already saturated…”

Cook et al.:

“The CO2 greenhouse effect is still increasing…”

The first point above already explains that more heat is being trapped in the atmosphere and in the second point it’s shown that both CO2 and CH4 related wavelengths of energy are less likely to escape the atmosphere. Throughout Nova’s handbook, she seems to accept climate change, but ignores the mounting science that it is our CO2 and CH4 emissions that are giving this change a significant boost.

Nova Continues

Here, Cook et al. end their piece, however Nova’s work goes on in classic style. First she states that a handful of people how have grown sceptical of climate science, then states that consensus means nothing and then goes on to support a petition of “sceptics”! Talk about mixing it up. Nova is right however; a consensus proves nothing but what the bulk of people believe to be the case.

However, to dispel the idea that the scientists are still debating whether or not climate change is largely the result of our actions and poses a real threat, here’s a few papers that have been published that are worth a read;

Anderegga, W. R. L., Prall, J. W., Harold, J., and, Schneidera, S. H. (2010) Expert credibility in climate change. PNAS. doi:10.1073/pnas.1003187107 (this one seemed to have upset Nova quite a bit)

Various contributors (2010) Letters; Climate Change and the Integrity of Science. Science. 328(5979):689 – 690. doi10.1126/science.328.5979.689

Oreskes, N. (2004) Beyond the ivory tower: The scientific consensus on climate change. Science. 306(5702):1686 doi: 10.1126/science.1103618

There are also a handful of references I’ve provided here and a fair number that I provided in the Innovation series. Scientific understanding is not the product of a consensus, but the result of research and debate. If the scientists argue, there is the outcry that the scientists are still out on the subject, if there is an effort to establish some sort of consensus or demonstration that most scientists tend to agree on the subject, the public outcry is now that the scientists are part of some “buddy system” and are involved in a conspiracy. There is no way to win in this argument, and as Dr. Glikson recently pointed out on Climate Shift, “If either party chooses not operate under those rules [to look at the evidence of the whole, and to reject deliberate distortions and accept the strength of logic], then they will tend to win (unfairly)”. This is clearly not an even playing field.

On the following page, Nova repeats herself; her first point, that CO2 historically (at her chosen point in time mind you), followed temperature change rather than led change, is probably correct for that time in history, but is incorrect in our current situation; her second point has also been shown to be wrong by Cook et al. and in this post – there is evidence of an increasing greenhouse effect, most noticeable when the bulk of thermal energy should be heading back outward (ie. night).

This then changes how you read the next part of this page; the first few, like the Innovation series, worry me the most. There are numerous bio-physical indicators of a changing world. Although we’re only looking at around a 0.83 degrees C trend increase since 1880 so far, we are seeing a dramatic reduction in ice mass (here, here and here), a shift in climate zones and a whole range of impacts previously mentioned in the Innovation series. Nova also likes to make a point that polar bears are doing just fine – the reality is found here. As for the stuff at the bottom of her list; it’s trivial and not used by anyone who understands any of the science.

Beyond here Nova’s becomes even more repetitive, so there’s no real point looking into it any further.


As mentioned earlier, Nova is quick to loudly assert with (cough) authority that climate change is occurring, has been since the 1700’s, but in no way is the result of greenhouse gases. What does she offer to be the cause? Nothing – but she’s dead sure that whatever it is, it’s not CO2. I personally feel that Cook et al. did a nice job summing up her work and provided quick and easy ways to answer her doubt. Yet Nova has walked away celebrating her work. Like her support of Watts work regarding weather stations, all I can only say is that a line from a recent New Science magazine is echoing through my head; “deniers just keep denying”. I guess she’ll only be convinced when someone finally produces a paper that concludes that they’ve found ninjas lurking in dark corners, spreading climate change lies and snatching bars of gold from the unsuspecting.

Finally, I make a call out to everybody who is concerned about our changing world, peaking oil and food and water security to limit themselves for indulging people like this and start looking forward and arguing about the best possible options for future planing. Cap and trade will most likely fail and such plans miss the point (see this presentation – it’s not too bad). This AGW debate is little more than time wasting. We need fresh eyes, not fresh lies.

Klein Tank A. M. G., Peterson, T. C., Quadir, D. A., Dorji, S., Zou, X., Tang, H., Santhosh, K., Joshi, U. R., Jaswal, A. K., Kolli, R. K., Sikder, A. B., Deshpande, N. R., Revadekar, J. V., Yeleuova, K., Vandasheva, S., Faleyeva, M., Gomboluudev, P., Budhathoki, K. P., Hussain, A., Afzaal, M., Chandrapala, L., Anvar, H., Amanmurad, D., Asanova, V. S., Jones, P. D., New. M. G., and, Spektorman, T. (2006) Changes in daily temperature and precipitation extremes in central and south Asia. Journal of Geophysical Research. 111. D16105. doi: 10.1029/2005JD006316
Alexander, L. V., and, Arblaster, J. M. (2009) Assessing trends in observed and modelled climate extremes over Australia in relation to future projections. International Journal of Climatology. 29:417-435. doi: 10.1002/joc.1730
Alexander, L. V., Zhang, X., Peterson, T. C., Caesar, J., Gleason, B., Klein Tank, A. M. G., Haylock, M., Collins, D., Trewin, B., Rahimzadeh, F., Tagipour, A., Rupa Kumar, K., Revadekar, J., Griffiths, G., Vincent, L., Stephenson, D. B., Burn, J., Aguilar, E., Brunet, M., Taylor, M., New, M., Zhai, P., Rusticucci, M., and, Vazquez-Aguirre, J., L. (2006) Global observed changes in daily climate extremes of temperature and precipitation. Journal of Geophysical Research. 111. D05109. doi: 10.1029/2005JD006290.
Harries, J., E., Brindley, H. E., Sagoo, P. J., and, Bantges, R. (2001). Increases in greenhouse forcing inferred from the outgoing longwave radiation spectra of the Earth in 1970 and 1997. Nature. 410: 355-357
Griggs, J. A., and, Harries, J. E. (2007) Comparison of Spectrally Resolved Outgoing Longwave Radiation over the Tropical Pacific between 1970 and 2003 Using IRIS, IMG, and AIRS. Journal of Climate. 20: 3982-4001 doi: 10.1175/JCLI4204.1
Benestad, R. E., and, Schmidt, G. A. (2009) Solar trends and global warming. Journal of Geophysical Research. 114. D14101. doi 10.1029/2008JD011639

4 thoughts on “Jo Nova celebrates her success against the sceptic?

  1. Nice job, Moth.

    Because Nova’s The Skeptic’s Handbook endorses the Oregon Petition (Petition Project) and Senator Inhofe’s dubious list, one must conclude:

    1) Joanne Nova did not do her research or did so without due diligence.
    2) Joanne Nova is intentionally misleading the general public.

    Either way, The Skeptic’s Handbook is NOT a reliable source for discussing climate change as you have pointed out.

    Joanne Nova ends The Skeptic’s Handbook with the following statement which reveals the true motivation of her document:

    “An emissions trading scheme is a bad solution to a problem that’s gone, fighting a cause that never was …”

    Doesn’t this sound like it comes from the fossil fuel industry?


    1. Cheers Scott.
      It was Mike at Watching the Deniers who pointed her out to me. Like Andrew Bolt, these people largely slip by me because I tend to avoid pop-media. I just happened to look at her blog out of boredom yesterday and noticed her celebrating and so I downloaded her’s and John’s handbooks (I hadn’t looked at either) and grabbed a few papers and annoyed my other half last night by putting this together (I’m starting to wonder if she’ll still be keen in saying, “I do!” late next year when she looks back at my current project! lol).
      I’m not sure what to make of Nova. I personally think that she got herself wrapped up in this (or some paranoid money/power conspiracy) and just finds whatever work suits her way of thinking. It is strange to watch unfold!


  2. I know you Aussies have suffered through a lot of heat and drought of late. We’re getting it up here as well. Now when we had two record blizzards within 4 days back in Winter the climate skeptics (deniers) were jumping up and down. But where are they now? This June was the second hottest on record. According to the Baltimore Sun June was “7 degrees (Fahrenheit) warmer than the 30-year average (1971-2000) used for comparisons, and more than 2 degrees warmer than the July average. Only June of 1943 was hotter, at 79.8 degrees. And back then they measured the official temperatures in downtown Baltimore. Official record-keeping in Baltimore began in 1871.”

    “The mercury at the airport reached 90 degrees or more on 16 days in June. The average is just under six days. This year’s tally was the second-highest on record, behind only the 18 straight 90-plus days recorded in June 1943. ”

    “We hit 100 degrees on June 24 and 27. Both days set new daily record highs. That was the first time Baltimore has recorded 100 degrees or more on two separate days in June. It was also the first 100-degree day in June since June 15, 1994, and just the 10th one-hundred-degree June day on record for the city. too (Maryland, east coast, U.S.). ”

    I note that we have already two additional days with temperatures climbing above the
    100 degree F level (104 in NYC and Washington). Now having a Ph.D. in atmospheric sciences I know that fluctuations in weather are not indicators of climate change. But when you add it to the abundance of evidence (i.e. melting glaciers, sea ice, permafrost, animal migrations) something seems to be happening.

    Thank for the good article.

    Henry S. Cole.

    Any how, the climate deniers are hiding in the shade, as we speak.


    1. I remember hearing all the noise about the snow storms in the US. As far as I can tell, such freak storms becoming more frequent is a sign of climate change, not a contradiction. After I read an article about Trump getting on Gore’s case, I retorted with, “a snow storm in winter disproves climate change like a bad hair piece disproves male pattern baldness”.
      I personally feel the most telling signs are those that are benign of our measurements/models; climate zone shift and environmental timing. Plants and animals don’t lie. Ice loss doesn’t lie. We may not know all the facts, but we are witnessing change – and so far the trend is less than a degree C! This is troubling and something that we’re largely taking for granted so far (ie. it’s mostly political discussions and mindless bickering on blogs – none of this is truly addressing the situation).
      Cheers for the kudos!


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