Hume misrepresented study on the link between solar activity and global warming

››› ››› KATHLEEN HENEHAN

Fox News' Brit Hume cited "new research by University of Washington mathematicians [that] shows a correlation between high solar activity and periods of global warming" as evidence to support his claim that "[global warming] skeptics are increasingly certain that the scare is vastly overblown." But an August 9 New Scientist article on the mathematicians' research warned that "[c]limate-change skeptics may seize on the findings as evidence that the sun's variability can explain global warming -- but [the report's co-author] mathematician Ka-Kit Tung says quite the contrary is true." The New Scientist reported that Tung says his finding, in the New Scientist's words, "adds to the evidence that mainstream climate models are right about the likely extent of future human-generated warming."

During the August 21 edition of Fox News' Special Report, host Brit Hume cited "new research by University of Washington mathematicians [that] shows a correlation between high solar activity and periods of global warming" as evidence to support his claim that "[global warming] skeptics are increasingly certain that the scare is vastly overblown." But an August 9, 2007, New Scientist article (subscription required) on the mathematicians' research warned that "[c]limate-change skeptics may seize on the findings as evidence that the sun's variability can explain global warming -- but [the report's co-author] mathematician Ka-Kit Tung says quite the contrary is true." According to the article, Tung, who is a University of Washington professor of applied mathematics and an adjunct professor in Atmospheric Science, says his finding, in the New Scientist's words, "adds to the evidence that mainstream climate models are right about the likely extent of future human-generated warming." An August 20 post by Marc Morano, minority staff member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, which appeared on Sen. James Inhofe's (R-OK) "EPW Press Blog," includes a summary of the University of Washington study, as well as a Belgian study that Hume also mentioned.

In summarizing the report, which analyzed satellite data on solar radiation and surface temperatures between 1959 and 2004 and found that global average temperatures fluctuated by almost 0.2 °C between high and low points in the 11-year solar cycle, The New Scientist reported: "The finding adds to the evidence that mainstream climate models are right about the likely extent of future human-generated warming, Tung says. It also effectively rules out some lower estimates in those models." The article added:

Tung says his findings provide important real-world evidence that climate model predictions of global warming are correct. For instance, they show that the temperature changes are two to three times as strong in polar regions. On the face of it this is surprising, because the variation in solar radiation is greatest in the tropics. But Tung says "it reinforces the idea of melting ice as an amplification mechanism in the climate-change models."

[...]

In an as yet unpublished paper posted on Tung's website, he and Camp say this shows that a doubling of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere would cause a warming of between 2.3 and 4.1 °C within about a year. They say this makes the lower estimates of some models of climate change "unlikely".

This immediate warming, Tung stresses, is almost certain to be an underestimate of the overall effect of greenhouse gases, because extra warming is delayed due to the deep ocean heating up only slowly. "But our findings give a lower bound to the atmosphere's climate sensitivity that we have not had before."

Climate modeller Peter Cox from the University of Exeter, UK, says Tung has shown, without recourse to climate models, that a doubling of carbon dioxide would cause at least 2 °C of warming, "which is considered by many to be the threshold of dangerous climate change."

Media Matters for America has documented other media figures mischaracterizing studies or articles to make claims about the role played by the sun on global warming, including nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh and columnist John McCaslin.

From the August 21 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

HUME: And now the most interesting two minutes in television, the latest from the "Political Grapevine."

Many media outlets, such as the recent Newsweek magazine cover story, portray man-made global warming as a certified fact and those who deny it as conspirators. But skeptics are increasingly certain that the scare is vastly overblown.

A new study by Brookhaven National Lab scientist Stephen Schwartz contends that the Earth's climate is only about one-third as sensitive to carbon dioxide as the U.N.'s recent climate study claims. Schwartz's work will be published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

The study is just one of several peer-reviewed scientific studies challenging global-warming alarmism. The Belgian Weather Institute concludes that carbon dioxide does not have a decisive role in global warming, and a study by two Chinese scientists say CO2's role in warming is vastly exaggerated.

Plus, new research by University of Washington mathematicians shows a correlation between high solar activity and periods of global warming.

Posted In
Environment & Science, Climate Change
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Brit Hume
Show/Publication
Special Report with Brit Hume
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