Watt about wondering Willis Eschenbach?

Firstly, credit to Sou at HotWhopper for the wondering part of the title. It seems too apt to not use it. It appears that either Willis Eschenbach is back from his tour of Great Britain or he’s had a moment to write a post for Watts Up With That (WUWT). It relates to the, soon to be released, IPCC AR5 report and is called Eruptions over the IPCC AR5.

The post discusses how volcanic aerosols influence surface temperature anomalies. Volcanic aerosols reflect sunlight back into space and hence have a cooling effect. Willis attempts to show that the effect is small by removing any long- and medium-term trends from the surface temperature record (essentially, it seems, by subtracting some kind of mean value from the surface temperature anomalies). Essentially, he appears to be considering only the variations about the mean and then shows that when he compares this with periods when there were volcanoes, there is a very small volcanic effect. It all seems a little silly to me as it seems like he’s removed most of the volcanic effect when he removed the trends, so all he’s shown is that volcanoes only have a small effect on the short-term, random variations.

Rather than actually discuss Willis’s post in detail, I thought I would – instead – highlight a particular paragraph. Willis says

I am a climate heretic. I say that the current climate paradigm, that forcing determines temperature, is incorrect. I hold that changes in forcing only marginally and briefly affect the temperature. Instead, I say that a host of emergent thermostatic phenomena act quickly to cool the planet when it is too warm, and to warm it when it is too cool.

So, according to Willis, surface temperatures don’t really respond to radiative forcings. Instead they respond to emergent thermostatic phenomena which, as far as I can tell, is simply another way of saying it’s all just magic.

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26 Responses to Watt about wondering Willis Eschenbach?

  1. Exactly, there’s a lot of magical thinking that goes along with climate denial. Which makes sense when you think about it. AGW has such a sound physical basis, it’s really hard to deny it without rejecting what we know about physics and turning to some unphysical magical alternative.

    Coincidentally, I’ve got a post tomorrow about our just-published response to Akasofu’s paper that describes his argument the same way, as magical thinking.

  2. Thanks. I think you’re right. It does seem like the only way to rebut AGW is to “hope” that somehow the fundamentals are all wrong and it’s something we haven’t yet considered.

    I read your response to the Akasofu paper. It was very good. I look forward to reading your post tomorrow.

  3. BBD says:

    What WW seems blind to is that he is arguing for an insensitive climate system where negative feedbacks dominate (this is tautological, I know). Such a climate system would be incapable of the known variability of past climate, so there is a teeny problem here.

    One… wonders how WW’s climate system would exit a glacial stage under orbital forcing. Especially since the change in TSI is spatial and seasonal, with global TSI almost unchanged. This would imply positive feedbacks, would it not?

  4. You actually make it seems that Willis’s ideas have more credibility than I had realised 🙂 Other than that, what you say seems completely correct.

  5. BBD says:

    How did I do that? WW says:

    Instead, I say that a host of emergent thermostatic phenomena act quickly to cool the planet when it is too warm, and to warm it when it is too cool.

    Which is odd, since I didn’t know there was a magical “correct” temperature to which these “thermostatic phenomena” return the climate system, nor can I see why, if WW is correct, we aren’t stuck in a glacial.

  6. On rereading your previous comment, I realised that I had missed the “seems blind to” so, no, you haven’t really made it seem that his ideas have more credibility than I had realised. Plus, I was only trying to, unsuccessfully, inject a bit of humour 🙂

    You’re right about the magical “correct” temperature. Willis doesn’t quite explain what sets this. My guess is he thinks that somehow we’re special and the planet is optimised for our existence. In fairness, he doesn’t actually say that explicitly so maybe he thinks it’s just coincidental that this magical “correct” temperature also suits us.

  7. BBD says:

    I think Wondering Willis has unintentionally introduced some humour to the topic.


  8. Fragmeister says:

    I spotted the “it’s magic” paragraph and hoped he might have something to back it up. Alas, not even Lovelock’s Gaia. Perhaps his trips around Stonehenge and Avebury unlocked his inner hippie. As Donovan said, you may as well try to catch the wind.

  9. BBD says:

    I’d be interested to hear Karsten’s view in the light of Neely et al. (2013). I wonder if Wondering Willis is premature in dismissing the longer-term effects of moderate equatorial volcanism?

  10. Martin says:

    I think the hotwhopper link has an “s” too much in the URL, and thus does not work.

  11. Sou says:

    Willis’ article shows his ideas are even weirder than your article suggests, Wotts. And that he can’t read a chart.

    He says that climate sensitivity from CO2 doubling is only 0.2 degrees Celsius. That’s despite the fact that temperatures have gone up 0.8 degrees while CO2 has only gone up 40% over the same period. Some of that rise is because of solar forcing early last century, but there’s been no additional solar forcing lately. Despite him putting up a chart to that effect Willis writes thattemperature over the period only changed by +/-0.3 degrees Celsius.

    Does confirmation bias make you go blind I wonder?

    BTW – thanks for the mention (and yes, Martin is correct) 🙂

  12. cartoonmick says:

    I love hearing debate from both sides, as each contain persuasive elements.

    Historically, science and politics have had many disagreements.

    Toss in some religious and business pressure, and anything can evolve (or not).

    “Only listen to advice which assists the cause”.

    Anyhow, it always gives me plenty of material for my cartoons.

    This is my latest . . . .




  13. RW says:

    “emergent thermostatic phenomena act quickly to cool the planet when it is too warm, and to warm it when it is too cool.”

    Course they do. And that’s why, when you look at the geologic climate record, it’s basically just a flat line with no evidence of wild extremes and sudden flips from one state to another. Oh, wait.

  14. Marco says:

    Maybe Willis is just doing a test: how many of the Wattsians are complete and true nutters, impervious to logic?

    One can hope, surely?

  15. RW says:

    Eschenbach seems to have a very fundamental mental block about seeing what the climate actually does.

  16. Indeed, there was much more that could have been said about Willis’s article. New someone else would probably cover the bits I missed 🙂

    Yes, Martin is correct. Now fixed.

  17. Very good. I’m sure this topic produces an amazing amount of material for your cartoons.

  18. I don’t know if you do this, but I sometimes read down the comments to see if anyone questions what is being presented in the post. It does happen, but not very often.

  19. He’s not alone, sadly.

  20. Pingback: Watt about Roger Pielke Jr? | Wotts Up With That Blog

  21. Lars Karlsson says:

    Maybe Willis thinks of Earth as a thermodynamically closed system….

  22. Maybe he does, but then he’d still be wrong 🙂

  23. Only very shortly (as the next AeroCom day starts waaay too early … which, as I coincidentally figured, runs parallel to some uncertainty workshop which Richard Tol seems to attend … freakin small world of science ;-))
    1) WW is a crackpot (probably wrong on all account … won’t read it)
    2) Neely et al. is a great paper which makes a convincing case
    3) So yes, enhanced stratospheric aerosol levels almost exclusively due to volcanoes (e.g. Nabro 2011)

  24. BBD says:

    Thanks Karsten – your input is valued for obvious reasons! BTW never meant that you should actually read WW – thankfully Wotts did that for us both. We owe him the usual debt of gratitude.

  25. Poptech says:

    Willis appears to believe in magic, especially the kind that makes him a “computer modeler”,


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