2010-09-05 20:42:59Basic rebuttal 25: Other planets in the solar system are warming
gpwayne
Graham Wayne
graham@gpwayne...
81.152.234.172

The Planets Suite: Everything you wanted to know about Climate Change in Outer Space

Argument 25: Other planets in the solar system are warming

The argument is this; other planets are warming. If this is happening throughout the solar system, clearly it must be the sun causing the rise in temperatures – including here on Earth.

It is curious that the theory depends so much on sparse information – what we know about the climates on other planets and their history – yet its proponents resolutely ignore the most compelling evidence against the notion. Over the last fifty years, the sun’s output has decreased slightly: it is radiating less heat. We can measure the various activities of the sun pretty accurately from here on Earth, or from orbit above it, so it is hard to ignore the discrepancy between the facts and the sceptical argument that the sun is causing the rise in temperatures.


TSI from 1880 to 1978 from Solanki. TSI from 1979 to 2009 from PMOD.

But if the sun’s output has levelled off or even diminished, then what is causing other planets to warm up? Are they warming at all?

The planets and moons that are claimed to be warming total roughly eight out of dozens of large bodies in the solar system. Some, like Uranus, may be cooling. All the outer planets have vastly longer orbital periods than Earth, so any climate change on them may be seasonal. Saturn and its moons take 30 Earth years to orbit the Sun, so three decades of observations equates to only 1 Saturnian year. Uranus has an 84-year orbit and 98° axial tilt, so its seasons are extreme. Neptune has not yet completed a single orbit since its discovery in 1846.

This is a round-up of the planets said by sceptics to be experiencing climate change:

  • Mars: the notion that Mars is warming came from an unfortunate conflation of weather and climate. Based on two pictures taken 22 years apart, assumptions were made that have not proved to be reliable. There is currently no evidence to support claims that Mars is warming at all. (Specific aspects of the 'Mars' argument are addressed in a separate post "Global Warming on Mars?")
  • Jupiter: the notion that Jupiter is warming is actually based on predictions, since no warming has actually been observed. Climate models predict temperature increases along the equator and cooling at the poles. It is believed these changes will be catalysed by storms that merge into one super-storm, inhibiting the planet’s ability to mix heat. Sceptical arguments have ignored the fact this is not a phenomenon we have observed, and that the modelled forcing is storm and dust movements, not changes in solar radiation.
  • Neptune: observations of changes in luminosity on the surface of both Neptune and its largest moon, Triton, have been taken to indicate warming caused by increased solar activity. In fact, the brightening is due to the planet’s seasons changing, but very slowly. Summer is coming to Neptune’s southern hemisphere, bringing more sunlight, as it does every 164 years.
  • Pluto: the warming exhibited by Pluto is not really understood. Pluto’s seasons are the least understood of all: its existence has only been known for a third of its 248 -year orbit, and it has never been visited by a space probe. The ‘evidence’ for climate change consists of just two observations made in 1988 and 2002. That’s equivalent to observing the Earth’s weather for just three weeks out of the year. Various theories suggest its highly elliptical orbit may play a part, as could the large angle of its rotational axis. One recent paper suggests the length of Pluto’s orbit is a key factor, as with Neptune. Sunlight at Pluto is 900 times weaker than it is at the Earth.

Claims that solar system bodies are heating up due to increased solar activity are clearly wrong. The sun’s output has declined in recent decades. Only Pluto and Neptune are exhibiting increased brightness. Heating attributed to other solar bodies remains unproven.

2010-09-05 20:58:01Author's note
gpwayne
Graham Wayne
graham@gpwayne...
81.152.234.172
This rebuttal was claimed by AdamK but not yet started. I took it on because I wanted to address all the 'planet warming' arguments - get them out of the way - and couldn't do that without taking on the core argument. Adam - if you read this, hope you don't mind. (JC - could you change the claim on this one please?)
2010-09-09 01:22:54
doug_bostrom

dbostrom@clearwire...
184.77.83.151
Looks good to me.
2010-09-09 04:09:46Approve
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.34.204
OK
2010-09-10 01:27:51Some more info
James Wight

jameswight@southernphone.com...
58.105.164.221
In my opinion, this group of contrarian arguments is one of the silliest (though it’s a close contest). It’s also pretty hypocritical of contrarians to complain that we don’t understand the Earth’s climate well enough to draw any conclusions, but a few scattered observations of other planets mean the whole solar system must be warming up.

Something you touch on, but I would emphasize more, is that all the outer planets have vastly longer orbital periods than Earth, so any climate change on them is probably seasonal. Saturn and its moons take 30 Earth years to orbit the Sun, so three decades of observations equates to only 1 Saturnian year. Uranus has an 84-year orbit and 98° axial tilt, so its seasons are extreme. Neptune has not yet completed a single orbit since its discovery in 1846, let alone since we’ve been able to make any climatic observations.

The argument that Pluto is warming is easily demolished. Pluto’s seasons are the least understood of all: its existence has only been known for a third of its 250-year orbit, and it’s never been visited by a space probe. The evidence for Plutonian climate change consists of just two observations made in 1988 and 2002. Although it is strange that Pluto’s atmosphere seems to be growing, we really don’t know enough (read: anything) about the Plutonian climate to draw any conclusions.

From the full list of skeptic arguments, I count eight bodies claimed to be experiencing warming: Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Enceladus, Iapetus, Neptune, Triton, and Pluto. Also, we don’t really have an exact number for the number of planet-like bodies in the solar system, so I’d change the start of the third paragraph to:

“The planets and moons that are claimed to be warming total roughly eight out of dozens of large bodies in the solar system. At least one other, Uranus, appears to be cooling.”

I’ve also discovered a couple of grammatical errors. In the second paragraph, “the rise in climate temperatures” doesn’t make any sense. In the Pluto paragraph, “will play a part” should be “plays a part” or “is playing a part”.

(Remember if you do decide to take any of my suggestions, you’ll need to change it in the Jupiter, Neptune, and Pluto versions as well.)
2010-09-10 04:45:04Basic rebuttal 25
jimalakirti

jimalakirti@gmail...
71.34.142.115

 Here are some observations for your consideration:

 The following sentence becomes garbled. There is nothing in the sentence to " ignore the evidence" of the last phrase. Perhaps "yet we resolutely ignore. . . ."

It is curious that the theory depends so much on sparse information – what we know about the climates on other planets and their history – yet resolutely ignores the most compelling evidence against the notion 

 But this sentence brings up an issue. We state that the sun hasn't increased activity in 50 years and we state it as our strongest rebuttal (because planetary climate data is so weak). Yet we leave that statement standing there (our strongest evidence), totally unsupported by further development. I think there should be a paragraph, perhaps with a graph of solar activity, that will convince the reader that the sun ain't doing nothin'. It would fit nicely either before or after the information about the planets.

2010-09-10 06:20:22Thumbs up.
villabolo

villabolo@yahoo...
76.93.65.8

Sorry I missed this one out of the others that I already thumbed up.

I don't want to sound redundant or anal on this small suggestion that I made on your other threads, but repeating the same thing several times can give that impression.

You might, just to polish this up, put the planets in order of their distance from the sun. Mars, Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto.

VILLABOLO

2010-09-10 06:23:51Here comes the thumb
villabolo

villabolo@yahoo...
76.93.65.8

Oops. Forgot the thumb.

VILLABOLO

2010-09-10 11:18:43
Nicholas Berini

nberini@gmail...
68.193.36.249

I think this is already really good so Im gonna thumb it - but I think James makes two very good suggestions (besides the grammar.)

This one (though the language may be a little strong); 

"It’s also pretty hypocritical of contrarians to complain that we don’t understand the Earth’s climate well enough to draw any conclusions, but a few scattered observations of other planets mean the whole solar system must be warming up." 

 

and this one (though this may slightly pass the basic level I never knew this and it's quite fascinating); 

 

"Something you touch on, but I would emphasize more, is that all the outer planets have vastly longer orbital periods than Earth, so any climate change on them is probably seasonal. " 

2010-09-10 12:58:24Pluto seasons analogy
James Wight

jameswight@southernphone.com...
58.105.164.221
Here’s an analogy which simplifies the point about the seasons of the outer planets:

The claim of global warming on Pluto is based on two observations 14 years apart. That’s equivalent to observing the Earth’s weather for just three weeks out of the year.

(You could make similar comparisons for the other planets – the numbers would be less extreme but the point would be the same.)
2010-09-10 19:29:16Seasonal variation?
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
91.33.124.196

- Along the line of what James Wight has been promoting, it would be useful to consistently indicate what fraction of the planetary year for which we have data (JW's equivalence in terms of "weeks out of year" would be easily understood).

- In all honesty, it might be fairer to state that apparent temperature trends may be seasonal, rather than that they are probably seasonal. With the brief sampling of data we have, all we could say is that any change cannot be distinguished from seasonal variations.

2010-09-10 22:47:35Changes coming...
gpwayne
Graham Wayne
graham@gpwayne...
86.158.204.104
Thanks all - I'm consolidating all the changes, after which I'll update all the versions to make them consistent.
2010-09-11 00:14:27Revision done
gpwayne
Graham Wayne
graham@gpwayne...
86.158.204.104

Everybody - thanks a lot for the contributions. Sorry about the duplication - nearly there now. I've changed tactics slightly, in that there is only one text now in all five rebuttals - this one. It is the most complete rebuttal, and each of the others had suggestions that were in this 'master' version, so in the end it seemed simpler just to do one text.

Can I suggest for the sake simplicity, everyone just comment further on this piece? When we're all happy, we can do the formalities with the other if any more thumbs are needed.

James - thanks, I lifted your text and put it straight in.

jimalakirti - thanks for all your suggestions, which are now addressed. I didn't do extra text for the sun's output, but I included a graph that adds emphasis.

Villabolo - OK, order now changed as the same (full) text is going into all the planet rebuttals.

Nick - I took on board the orbital period issue, but accusations of hypocrisy probably fall outside the remit of this rebuttal.

Neal - I agree and have moderated the statement to 'may be seasonal', which is more appropriate. Wasn't sure about putting too many figures in for seasonal observation - if you get the broad point, the individual timings are probably overkill.

2010-09-11 14:49:33Three weeks of the year
James Wight

jameswight@southernphone.com...
58.105.164.221
Graham, do you think you could squeeze in my “three weeks of the year” analogy? I think that would really bring it home to a layperson.
2010-09-11 17:08:00Added
gpwayne
Graham Wayne
graham@gpwayne...
86.158.204.104
OK James - now added.
2010-09-11 17:18:41
Rob Painting
Rob
paintingskeri@vodafone.co...
118.93.150.110
I like James' little addition, highlights the absurdity of the claims. Thumbs up from me.
2010-09-14 21:29:19Ready to go
James Wight

jameswight@southernphone.com...
58.105.164.221
I see the Jupiter rebuttal has already gone live, so I guess the whole set of "other planets" rebuttals are ready too. Although I've just thought of one final suggestion: you don't say much about supposed Martian warming here, so you might consider linking through to the longer rebuttal for "Mars is warming".
2010-09-15 16:36:59Damn!
gpwayne
Graham Wayne
graham@gpwayne...
86.158.204.104
Ah James - you're right. Should have thought of that, but better late than never...and thanks...
2010-09-15 18:37:06
Paul D

chillcast@googlemail...
82.18.130.183

I'm knew to the behind the scenes stuff.

But I wonder why basically all these planets rebuttals are required. Isn't there a way of routing people to the same generic rebuttal if they click on Mars, Neptune etc?

The generic rebuttal could have specific sections on each planet.

Or do you have separate rebuttals because you expect them to develop their own unique identities as knowledge improves?